1 John 4:1 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.We learn from this passage that there are spirits behind those who falsely prophesy. We also know that true prophecy from God goes forth in "forth telling" as well as "foretelling". Anyone who correctly exegetes the Word of God based on what the Holy Spirit has taught them is prophesying, whether in preaching, teaching, witnessing or foretelling. Therefore the above verse applies to those who call themselves apostles, prophets, evangelists, teachers or preachers. We know that 1 John 4:1 is speaking, in this specific case, about those who are talking about Jesus and whether or not they are acknowledging that God came in the flesh. But if we think about this concept a bit we will realize that it can also apply to anything that would degrade the character of Jesus Christ such as a denial of any of the core doctrines; especially of the Trinity, the dual Nature of Christ, salvation, His second coming, and even the authority and inerrancy of Scripture. So testing the spirits is essential in making sure we are in fellowship with those who truly have the Spirit of Truth.
John 16:13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.Those who have been born again and have received the Spirit at the moment of true belief, receive the Spirit Who IS Truth. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Jesus Christ. Those who have the Spirit of Christ belong to Christ and have the Spirit of Truth Who will guide them into "all the truth".
Romans 8:9 You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ.Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6). Those who claim they are Christians yet continue to live in lies clearly are not walking in the Spirit of Truth. They have deceived themselves because what they have given themselves over to is the spirit of falsehood, the spirit of error.
1 John 4:6 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.When you find a person who claims to be a Christian but will not listen to the truth or has no interest in it, you have already tested them and they have proven themselves to have the spirit of error. We are then called to admonish (Titus 3:10) and rebuke them (Titus 1:13, 2 Tim. 2:25), praying that they will repent (Matt. 5:44).
Western Christians do not readily think about the spiritual condition of liars and false teachers. That is because of their Western paradigm of mostly ignoring the ramifications of the spirit world in favor of the temporal. But John reminds us that there are spirits behind false teachers. Demonic spirits are the ones prompting them to espouse the lies they espouse or to not accept truth when it is revealed to them. They may not even realize who they are working for or against, but Paul tells us that behind those who masquerade as servants of the Lord, but are liars, is their master Satan.
2 Cor. 11:12-15 And I will keep on doing what I am doing in order to cut the ground from under those who want an opportunity to be considered equal with us in the things they boast about. For such people are false apostles, deceitful workers, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve.I am sorry to be so blunt about this issue, but Christians have got to get their minds into a Biblical paradigm on this. False teachers, false prophets, false apostles, etc. are advancing the cause of the enemy, not the cause of Christ. Therefore it is imperative that we try to admonish them and, if they refuse to stop what they are doing and repent, to reject and avoid them.
Titus 3:10 A man that is an heretic after the first and second admonition reject; (KJV)A heretic is defined by Peter as one who lays error alongside of truth, secretly introducing destructive heresies.
2 Peter 2:1 But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them-- bringing swift destruction on themselves.Christians are to reject those who preach a false gospel because they are condemned by the Lord..
Galatians 1:8-9 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!Even Paul, a foundational Apostle, encouraged his listeners to test his teaching against the written Word of God, and he stated that those who teach must not "go beyond what is written.".
Acts 17:11 Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.Believers are to be discerning.
1 Corinthians 4:6 Now, brothers, I have applied these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, so that you may learn from us the meaning of the saying, "Do not go beyond what is written." Then you will not take pride in one man over against another.
Phil. 1:9-11 And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ-- to the glory and praise of God.Though we are no longer bound to keep the Mosaic Law we are now under the Law of Christ, which is love, which the Holy Spirit writes on our hearts.
Proverbs 15:14 The discerning heart seeks knowledge, but the mouth of a fool feeds on folly.
Proverbs 17:24 A discerning man keeps wisdom in view, but a fool's eyes wander to the ends of the earth.
Proverbs 18:15 The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge; the ears of the wise seek it out.
Proverbs 28:7 He who keeps the law is a discerning son, but a companion of gluttons disgraces his father
Proverbs 3:21 My son, preserve sound judgment and discernment, do not let them out of your sight;
Matt. 22:37-40 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”Why do we test teaching against the Scriptures? Because we are commanded to remain in sound doctrine, to keep the faith, to follow the teachings of the prophets, Apostles and Jesus Christ.
Galatians 5:14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Hebrews 10:16 “This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord. I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.”
2 Timothy 4:3 For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.False teachers are liars and do not remain in sound doctrine.
Titus 1:9 He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.
Titus 2:1 You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine.
1 Timothy 1:10 for adulterers and perverts, for slave traders and liars and perjurers -- and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrineWe are warned by the Lord to test every spirit because many false prophets have gone out. How do we test the spirits? By comparing what they are teaching and prophesying to the Scriptures, and if they are living in the fruit of the Spirit. How do we do that? First we must be a believer in Christ to test anything rightly.
Romans 12:2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is-- his good, pleasing and perfect will.Then we test our own words and actions to be sure we are in the Faith and in sound doctrine.
2 Corinthians 13:5 Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you-- unless, of course, you fail the test?
Galatians 6:4 Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else,How much are we supposed to test? Everything.
1 Thessalonians 5:21 Test everything. Hold on to the good.If we are to test then are we to judge? Certainly. We are not to judge hypercritically (Matt. 7:1) -- in other words, judging someone while doing the same thing ourselves. We are not the final judge of anyone's salvation. But we are to judge what people teach and prophesy. Paul commanded those who listened to him to judge what he was saying, even though he was a true foundational apostle.
1 Corinthians 10:15 I speak to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say.We must learn to judge rightly, now, because someday we will judge the earth and the angels with Christ.
1 Corinthians 6:2-3 Or do you not know that the Lord’s people will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life!We are told by the Lord to judge those inside the Church because God judges those outside. We are to reject heretics and expel wicked men from the assembly of believers because if they are allowed to remain they will leaven the whole lump.
1 Corinthians 5:12-13 What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. "Expel the wicked man from among you."We are to test prophecy to see if it comes true and is biblical. A true prophet who is foretelling and claiming to be hearing from the Lord will be 100% accurate because he will be worshipping God in Spirit and in truth and speaks the truth. We must reject false prophets and remove them from the assembly of believers.
Duet. 13:1-5 If a prophet, or one who foretells by dreams, appears among you and announces to you a miraculous sign or wonder, and if the sign or wonder of which he has spoken takes place, and he says, "Let us follow other gods" (gods you have not known) "and let us worship them," you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer. The LORD your God is testing you to find out whether you love him with all your heart and with all your soul. It is the LORD your God you must follow, and him you must revere. Keep his commands and obey him; serve him and hold fast to him. That prophet or dreamer must be put to death, because he preached rebellion against the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt and redeemed you from the land of slavery; he has tried to turn you from the way the LORD your God commanded you to follow. You must purge the evil from among you.This admonition to expel wicked men from the assembly of believers in the Old Testament is mirrored by Paul in 1 Cor.
False prophets may have a good track record, but they are never 100% accurate. However, they may be able to fool people into thinking they do. That's where the teaching test comes in, and why it should be the first test of discernment. Some prophets can look really good, but if they are teaching heresy you can be sure it is a test from God to see if you will "love Him with all your heart". John tells us that if we love the Lord we will obey His commands (John 14:21, 15:10; 1 John 5:2-3; 2 John 1:6). The Bible commands us over and over again to test, discern and judge teaching, prophecy and fruit. We must reject heretics who are unrepentant. If we do not obey the Lord in this, we are proving that we do not really love Him.
Deuteronomy 18:20 But a prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded him to say, or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, must be put to death."We don't put false prophets to death today, but we are to remove ourselves from their presence.
Deuteronomy 18:22 If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the LORD does not take place or come true, that is a message the LORD has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously. Do not be afraid of him.We are not to be "afraid" or concerned with what false prophets predict because they have another spirit and are liars. The Lord is against those who give false prophesies.
Jeremiah 23:32 Indeed, I am against those who prophesy false dreams," declares the LORD. "They tell them and lead my people astray with their reckless lies, yet I did not send or appoint them. They do not benefit these people in the least," declares the LORD.Those who follow false prophets will share in their judgment
Jeremiah 27:15 'I have not sent them,' declares the LORD. 'They are prophesying lies in my name. Therefore, I will banish you and you will perish, both you and the prophets who prophesy to you.'"
Jeremiah 5:31 The prophets prophesy lies, the priests rule by their own authority, and my people love it this way. But what will you do in the end?We are not to even listen to false prophecy.
Jeremiah 23:31 Yes," declares the LORD, "I am against the prophets who wag their own tongues and yet declare, 'The LORD declares.'
Ezekiel 13:9 My hand will be against the prophets who see false visions and utter lying divinations. They will not belong to the council of my people or be listed in the records of the house of Israel, nor will they enter the land of Israel. Then you will know that I am the Sovereign LORD.
Jeremiah 23:16 This is what the LORD Almighty says: "Do not listen to what the prophets are prophesying to you; they fill you with false hopes. They speak visions from their own minds, not from the mouth of the LORD.False prophets are often those who claim they had a dream or a vision of the Lord or from the Lord.
Jeremiah 23:25 "I have heard what the prophets say who prophesy lies in my name. They say, 'I had a dream! I had a dream!'Jeremiah was told by God about the motivations on false prophets, but the end result is that they are not really in communication with God or walking in the Spirit of truth.
Jeremiah 14:14 Then the Lord said to me, “The prophets are prophesying lies in my name. I have not sent them or appointed them or spoken to them. They are prophesying to you false visions, divinations, idolatries and the delusions of their own minds.Three of these motivations are certainly tied to another spirit. False visions are a way for the enemy to delude people, who then pass that delusion to others.
2 Timothy 3:13 while evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.Liars tend to leaven others with their lies. Using divination, as many modern false prophets do who get alleged messages from God through natural means, is another way the spirit of error can deceive people into thinking they are hearing from "God".
Ezekiel 22:28 Her prophets whitewash these deeds for them by false visions and lying divinations. They say, 'This is what the Sovereign LORD says'-- when the LORD has not spoken.Then there are those who have given themselves over to fallen angelic beings, spirit guides, who idolize them ... also those who follow false apparitions like the Marian apparitions around the world. But false prophecy can also come from people deluding themselves. So we need to try to ascertain if a person is simply self-deluded or deluded by another spirit.
We also need to apply the test of fruit to test for the Spirit of truth or spirit of error.
Matt. 7:15-20 "Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.The final test is to compare the words and actions of any teacher or prophet with the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:18-25. Notice that the passage above comes right after the passage most "Christians" quote today to try to make a case that we are not to judge at all, namely Matt. 7:1. If you read on you realize that "judge not" is not to be applied to every situation. The Bible has specific criteria on how to judge and how not to judge. In judging fruit, it is also helpful to look at the list of things in Galatians 5:18-25 that are the opposite of the fruit of the Spirit. If a person falsely prophesies, even once, they are likely using divination and false visions. Are they trying to build a following and promote themselves, gaining fame? Then they likely have "selfish ambition". Do they promote "drunk in the Spirit"? That's the sin of "drunkenness". If they are stripping the poor of their money with crooked money-raising schemes, that's not the fruit of kindness. If their meetings are marked by wild manifestations, they do not have the fruit of peace or self-control. If they are cocky mockers they do not have the fruit of gentleness.
Gal. 5:18-25 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law. The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.Those who keep in step with the Spirit will evidence that in telling the truth and accepting and fighting fror the truth. Those who are out of step with the Spirit may be self deluded or being influenced by another spirit. Those who do not have the Spirit have no conscience about telling lies and have no love of the truth.
Revelation 21:8 But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”Those who continue to falsely prophesy, teach false doctrines, make claims to be foundational apostles, make money off of false healing claims, etc. will end up having God put on them a powerful delusion, and with that comes irrevocable judgment.
2 Thessalonians 2:9-11 The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with how Satan works. He will use all sorts of displays of power through signs and wonders that serve the lie, and all the ways that wickedness deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie ...
That being said, it is then imperative that we test the spirits for many liars have gone out and are infiltrating the churches today.