1 John 4
1Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. 2Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: 3And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world. 4Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world. 5They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them. 6We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error.
With so many heresies bombarding the church today, it is somewhat encouraging to read John’s words from the end of the first century. Somehow I imagine that we’ve done something wrong; that we went to sleep and forfeited the high ground of sound theology. But if the apostles weren’t successful in getting the infant church into the second century untarnished, what makes us think we’ll have pristine orthodoxy?
Paul “marveled” that the Galatian church had abandoned the true gospel (Galatians 1:6) and said he would turn over to the devil "Hymenaeus and Philetus; who concerning the truth have erred."
The Bible warns us “Do not believe every Spirit”. Not everyone holding a Bible is a true teacher.
Interestingly, behind the voice, every doctrine, every teaching, there is a spirit. False spirits give false teachings; only the true Holy Spirit of God teaches us the Word of God.
“Many false prophets have gone out into the world”. Rob Bell is one of the current abusers of God’s truth. I could name 100 more.
Notice that John did not say we can tell false spirits by their works. He said we can identify that they are false spirits by their message. This was the acid test of a false prophet under the Old Covenant as well (Deut. 13:1-5). And the primary message false teachers avoid is a discussion of Jesus Christ. He is come in the flesh to save us from our sins. That message is likely to be avoided by many.