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Test the spirits
- Jacob Ninan
"Beloved, 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" (1Jn.4:1). We should note that this warning is given in the context of false prophets (we can add false teachers and miracle workers too). Even when Christians with knowledge of the Bible are preaching, we must be aware of the possibility that some of them may be false workers, or at least that some parts of what they say may be false. This is for our protection. The example John gives here of testing the spirits is about checking if these people can confess that Jesus came in the flesh (vv.2,3). But is that all we need to see?
These are the last days, and according to Jesus there will be a proliferation of false teachers, prophets, miracle workers, etc. We can't believe everyone we hear just because they are using the Bible, or they are known to be gifted people. Some of them could be influenced by deceiving spirits who inject their influence on them. That is why we have to test these spirits to see of they are from God. In other words, we need to check if what we see, hear and experience is from God.
The first thing we need to check is whether what they preach is in agreement with what God says in His word, the Bible (Ac.17:11). But since we know that sometimes Satan himself quotes from the Bible, we should look beyond the words into the spirit behind. That is what this warning is about.
Just take an example. There are many preachers now whose trademark is that they touch people on their head and people fall down, supposedly 'slain in the Spirit'. Shall we just examine the fruit of this experience? Did the people who fell down become more pure in their life through the operation of the Holy Spirit in their lives using the word of God? Have they started loving God more, not just emotionally but by giving up things that were displeasing to God in their lives? Or did they just get up and feel mighty thrilled by their experience? This is how we judge false teachers 'by their fruit' (Mt.7:15,16). Those who went to a 'revival' meeting, heard 'soul stirring' music and moving sermons, said many hallelujahs and returned home excited, but they had no change in their lives inside them--would we call that good fruit or deceitful fruit?
A sadder thing is when some of these preachers are deceiving people knowingly and deiberately.
It is high time we started thinking about such nuances, asking such questions and refusing to be tranquilised by popular opinions. It is for our safety and the safety of those who are under our care.
The spirit of the Antichrist is already at work (2Jn.1:7), even though who he is has not yet been revealed. This development will only become stroger and wider till he gets revealed. Is it not necessary for us to keep ourselves close to the Lord, rely on His word and keep away from everyone who operates with a deceiving spirit?