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 John 4:1–6
Karen Jobes writes:
Today as in John’s time there is the problem of professing Christians who speak and act in ways that contradict other professing Christians, sometimes in terms that are mutually exclusive. John’s point in the first century is still valid today, that not everything done and said by a professing Christian is necessarily of the Holy Spirit; they be speaking for the spirit of the world that has distorted their understanding of the truth of Jesus Christ and His significance. The adjudicator of truth about God now is the same as it was for John – the apostolic witness, but now it has been inscripturated in the NT. No teaching that contradicts or is inconsistent with those of the NT can be accepted as truth about or from God, regardless of who says it.
John argues here that to know God truly is to find the source of that knowledge in the earthly life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ as John and other apostolic witnesses attest to it. The ongoing work of the Holy Spirit coheres with that testimony, as Jesus Himself promised, and claims to the authority of the Spirit do not justify “[going] beyond … the teaching of Christ” (2 John9). No believer can claim to outgrow the need of atonement and think they are being led to do so by the Holy Spirit. A claim that human religion has evolved beyond the need for blood atonement cannot be received as from God’s Spirit. Claims for a socially constructed morality that shuns biblical instruction in favor of relativism are of the world and not of God.
John’s concerns in this passage are still at issue today, for the apostolic teaching that John used to separated truth from error has been inscripturated in the NT. Those who embrace its teaching are “of God.” Those who reject or distort its message are sadly self-deceived. If such people find a voice of leadership in the church, they will lead others, not to sound Christian theology, but to what John called antichrist teaching.
MEMORY WORK – Shorter Catechism Q/A 79
Q. 79. Which is the tenth commandment?
A. The tenth commandment is, Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is thy neighbor’s.