test the spirit of a man
Test the Spirit of a Person
beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: And every spirit that confesses not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of Antichrist, whereof you have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world (I Jn. 4:1–3).
The idea of these Passages is that Believers are to stop believing every spirit. Paul finds the source of false doctrine in demons who actuate the false teachers who propound heresy (I Tim. 4:1). Thus, these spirits are human beings actuated either by demons or by the Holy Spirit.
The exhortation is to try these individuals, whoever they might be, to see whether they are of God or not. The word “try” in the Greek is “dokimazo,” which means “to put to the test for the purpose of approving, and finding that the person put to the test meets the specifications laid down, to put one’s own approval upon him.” Thus, the Bible teacher, for instance, was not to be put to the test for the purpose of condemning him, but with the intent to approve him. The brother was not to be treated as a heretic before he had shown himself to be one.
The reason for putting visiting teachers to such a test was that many false prophets “are gone out into the world.” In the Greek, the words speak of an action that is taking place presently. They have gone out; as a present result, they are in the world of mankind, and they have established themselves among the people.
John now gives the test which will prove that the Holy Spirit is actuating a teacher. If that teacher confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh, that is proof of the fact that he is a true Believer and is actuated by the Holy Spirit. What does John mean by this?
The statement, “Jesus Christ is come in the flesh,” refers to the Incarnation, and what that means. The name “Jesus” means “Jehovah saves.” “Christ” means “The Anointed One.” It speaks to the fact that the God of the Old Testament, Who, in the Person of His Son, became incarnate in human flesh without its sin, died on the Cross to satisfy the just demands of His righteous Law, which man broke, and raised Himself from the dead in the Body in which He died, to become the Living Saviour of the sinner who places his Faith in Him in view of what He did for him on Calvary’s Cross.
John says that the person who teaches that is actuated by the Holy Spirit; likewise, the teacher who does not agree with that doctrine is not of God. Such a teacher is actuated by the spirit of Antichrist, who denies and is against all that the Bible teaches regarding the Person and Work of the Lord Jesus.
(Our thanks to K. Wuest for most of the above material on the Person of Christ.)
To simplify the statement, John, in essence, is saying, “Christ and the Cross must be the Object of Faith.” If that is denied in any way, the person is not of God. That’s the reason that we look askance at many of the modern schemes which claim to be of God, such as the “Purpose Driven Life” doctrine, the “Government of Twelve (G-12)” doctrine, the “Word of Faith” doctrine, etc.
The last one openly repudiates the Cross. The G-12 claims to believe the Cross, but then turns to works to effect one’s Sanctification, which, in effect, denies the Cross. In no way could one come to the conclusion that the “Purpose Driven Life” theory looks to the Cross at all. It is a religion of supposed ethics, which God can never accept.
John the Beloved, who wrote this Epistle, is saying, “Such is not of the Lord.”
As it regards doctrine, Christ and His Cross are always the deciding factor!
~J. Swaggart Ministry