Dear friends, do not believe everyone who claims to speak by the Spirit. You must test them to see if the spirit they have comes from God. For there are many false prophets in the world. This is how we know if they have the Spirit of God: If a person claiming to be a prophet acknowledges that Jesus Christ came in a real body, that person has the Spirit of God. 1 John 4:1-2
Jesus was concerned about what other people thought of Him. It wasn't because He was interested in His reputation or His social status, but rather that He wanted people to understand the truth. He wanted His disciples to know what they believed because He knew that the evil one would twist it up in people's heads. This is why, in a conversation with His disciples one day, he asked the question, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" (Matthew 16:13). As the disciples answered, he prodded deeper, "Who do you say I am?" (Matthew 16:15). In many ways, we live in a world with lots of different opinions about who Jesus is and how He lived. We have to learn to separate others' opinions from the truths that we read about in the Bible.
In the last chapter of the book of 1 John, John challenges believers, "Dear friends, do not believe everyone who claims to speak by the Spirit. You must test them to see if the spirits they have comes from God. For there are many false prophets in the world. This is how we know if they have the Spirit of God: If a person claiming to be a prophet acknowledges that Jesus Christ came in a real body, that person has the Spirit of God" (1 John 4:1-2). He writes this because there was false teaching spreading rapidly, and He wanted to encourage believers not to fall prey to that teaching.
John's reminder in the book of 1 John is poignant for us today. You see, false teaching still spreads quickly and rapidly all over the world, and we must be careful to watch out for it so that we are not deceived by it. When we understand that Scripture warns against false teaching, we can sort fact from fiction. This also keeps us from being deceived.
The way to combat lies and false teaching is to know the truth. One of the ways we can do this is to know for ourselves what we believe to be true about Jesus. We must know what we know to be true so that, when we are presented with false teaching, we can call it out. This reminder to look out for false teachers, may not be one of the things we are often thinking about, but John reminds us that it should be something that we are constantly remembering. When we have a firm grasp on what we know to be true, we can guard against the false teachings that we hear. We have to be people who are committed to believing, studying, and teaching what is true, and rebuking what is not.
Just like Jesus' disciples were called to answer the question, "Who do you say that I am?", it is time for you and I to answer the question, too. Take out your journal or a notebook and answer this question, "Who do I say Jesus is?" observe who you believe Jesus to be based on what you have read in the Bible and you have been taught by trustworthy teachers. Friends, this is the most important question we can answer. It defines our relationship with Him, and it protects us from false teaching of others.
Read 1 John 4:1-21 (NLT)
Dear friends, do not believe everyone who claims to speak by the Spirit. You must test them to see if the spirit they have comes from God. For there are many false prophets in the world. This is how we know if they have the Spirit of God: If a person claiming to be a prophet acknowledges that Jesus Christ came in a real body, that person has the Spirit of God. But if someone claims to be a prophet and does not acknowledge the truth about Jesus, that person is not from God. Such a person has the spirit of the Antichrist, which you heard is coming into the world and indeed is already here.
But you belong to God, my dear children. You have already won a victory over those people, because the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world. Those people belong to this world, so they speak from the world’s viewpoint, and the world listens to them. But we belong to God, and those who know God listen to us. If they do not belong to God, they do not listen to us. That is how we know if someone has the Spirit of truth or the spirit of deception.
Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.
God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.
Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.
And God has given us his Spirit as proof that we live in him and he in us. Furthermore, we have seen with our own eyes and now testify that the Father sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. All who declare that Jesus is the Son of God have God living in them, and they live in God. We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love.
God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world.
Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love. We love each other because he loved us first.
If someone says, “I love God,” but hates a fellow believer, that person is a liar; for if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we cannot see? And he has given us this command: Those who love God must also love their fellow believers.
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