Do Not Believe! (1 Jno. 4:1-6)
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error. – 1 Jno. 4:1-6
Scripture consistently urges us to believe. But this “belief” is not generic, vague or open-ended. It is belief in God, belief in Jesus Christ and belief in what the Holy Spirit has revealed, including this passage in First John.
Here, readers are told NOT TO BELIEVE: “…do not believe.” This is like the wisdom we have heard frequently: Don’t believe everything you hear. In our modern age of digital media, it can actually be said – don’t believe everything you hear, read or see! (Photographs and video images can be manipulated!)
John is talking about false teachers. They do not wear name tags (Hello, my name is _____ I’m a false teacher.) No. We bear the responsibility to test or verify what we are taught or told, by be fluent in truth. If I know what the Bible says, and/or if I will check what the Bible says when I’m taught something, that is the safeguard; that is the test.
In John’s time, there were some who would not confess that Jesus came in the flesh. John said, in essence, “therefore you know they are not from God.” John said – about himself and the other apostles – “We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us…”
We are accountable to “listen” to the apostles today by becoming students of the New Testament. One purpose is to “test the spirits” and know “the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.”