Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world. You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood. – 1 John 4:1-6
Throughout His earthly ministry, Jesus insisted that the way people responded to Him would have eternal consequences. Indeed, unless people repented and believed that Jesus was the Messiah, the Light of the world, and Immanuel – God with us – they would die in their sins. Decades later, the Apostle is simply saying the same thing as he applies Christ’s truth to the crisis in the church:
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.
It is vital for us to grasp that this not simply the correct answer on a theology exam. Remember the good news which John declared back at the beginning of chapter 2:
My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. … He is the propitiation for our sins!
Who has a propitiation for their sins? Those who believe in Jesus Christ. Those who deny Jesus – are slandering God who has born witness to His Son by raising Him from the dead. And those who slander God by denying that Jesus Christ is God come in the flesh – are still in their sins and under the wrath of Almighty God. To deny who Jesus is and what He has done, is to turn the good news of the Gospel into the most pathetic story that has ever been told.
MEMORY WORK – Shorter Catechism Q/A 86
Q. 86. What is faith in Jesus Christ?
A. Faith in Jesus Christ is a saving grace, whereby we receive and rest upon him alone for salvation, as he is offered to us in the gospel.