The Lord's People Are to Try the Spirits (1 John 4:1-6)
1. This morning we studied the information given in 1 John 4:7-19. 2. This evening we are concentrating on the information presented in vs.1-6. 3. As we study these verses we must remember that John wrote this letter to Christians who were being influenced by some people he called "antichrists." a. Some of the "antichrists" denied that: 1) Jesus is the Christ (2:22) 2) Jesus came in the flesh as the Son of God (4:3). b. According to 2:18, there were many "antichrists." c. John mentioned their origin in 2:19. d. John warned against their influence in 2:26. 4. Because of the abundance of false teachers, John instructed the Lord's people to "try the spirits."
I. JOHN WROTE THIS LETTER TO PEOPLE HE DEARLY LOVED
A. John referred to those who first read his letter as: 1. "my little children" (2:1a) 2. "brethren" (2:7a) 3. "beloved" (4:1a). B. These expressions indicate that John had strong feelings for the Christians who first received his letter. C. I mention this because some people have the mistaken idea today that love should lead us to overlook things that are wrong. D. John's love led him to address some unpleasant issues that existed.
II. (vs.1) JOHN INSTRUCTED HIS FELLOW CHRISTIANS TO "TRY THE SPIRITS"
A. John identified the "spirits" he was writing about in vs.6b -- "the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error." B. Before John said, "try the spirits," he first said, "believe not every spirit." 1. In other words Christians must not accept blindly everything that is taught. 2. Spirits must be "tried" [tested, proved] because: a. there is a spirit that is from God -- "the spirit of truth" b. there is a spirit that is not from God -- "the spirit of error." C. Why was "trying the spirits" so important? 1. (vs.1b) "Many false prophets are gone out into the world." 2. These false prophets claimed to be speaking on behalf of God. D. John originally wrote his letter to Christians who had received "an unction" ["anointing"] (2:20, 27). 1. Spiritual gifts existed in the early church (1 Corinthians 12:8-10). 2. "Discerning of spirits" was one of the gifts. 3. Christians who possessed this gift could determine whether spirits were of God. E. Christians who did not possess this gift needed to follow the example of the Bereans (Acts 17:11).
III. (vs.2-3) JOHN REVEALED THE BASIS FOR "TRYING THE SPIRITS"
A. (vs.2a) "Hereby know ye the Spirit of God." 1. (vs.2b) "Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God." 2. Teachers from God can be detected by what they teach. 3. True teachers taught what John wrote in John 1:1-3, 14. B. (vs.3) How could the "spirit of antichrist" be detected? 1. "Every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God." 2. How are Christians to react to such teachers? (see 2 John 9-11)
IV. (vs.4-6) GOD'S CHILDREN ARE DISTINGUISHED FROM CHILDREN OF THE WORLD
A. The children of God 1. (vs.4) God's children have a special strength because of who is in them -- through God's strength, false teachers can be overcome. 2. (vs.6a) God's children listen to those who teach the truth. B. The children of the world 1. (vs.5) Children of the world speak of the world, and the world hears them. 2. (vs.6b) Children of the world do not listen to those who teach the truth.
V. THESE ISSUES ARE ADDRESSED IN MANY PASSAGES
A. Matthew 7:15-20 B. Romans 16:17-18 C. Galatians 1:6-9 D. Titus 1:10-11 E. 2 Peter 2:1-3 F. Jude 4, 12-13, 16-19
1. John wrote to Christians who were being influenced by "the antichrists." 2. We need to listen carefully to the things he wrote. 3. Unfortunately, there is still an abundance of false teachers. 4. Let us continue in the Lord's Word (John 8:31-32).