1 John 4:1, “1 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.”
In verse 1 the Apostle John is writing to a group of people who have heard about Jesus, but never seen Jesus, and the Apostle John writes, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit.”
The phrase “do not believe every spirit” is reminding us that we live in a spiritual world. Yes, we live in a physical world that we can see, smell, hear, taste, and touch, but we are also living in a spiritual world, and in verse 1 John writes “We live in a spiritual world, and we need to test the spiritual world to see if it is true or false.”
When you see the phrase “false prophets” it doesn’t mean crazy people with googely eyes that you can smell coming a mile away. No, the Apostle John is talking about invisible forces at work intentionally creating confusion and leading people astray.
The word, “spirit” in verse 1 means “spirit of the age” or “ways of thinking.” It means there are messages coming at us all the time through movies, music, education, friends, school, and even through this blog.
Therefore, the Apostle John writes, “Beloved, we must test every spirit.” We must be on the alert. We must consider the messages and test if they are true or false. There are two primary views in our culture about Jesus today. The first is that there are people who believe Jesus is God in the flesh who has come to provide the means for men, women, and children to be reconciled to God by grace through faith in Jesus.
The second is that Jesus is not God in the flesh, but simply one of many ways to consider in life, therefore, we must test both of these claims to see if they are true or false. Lets take the second one first.
Is Jesus just one of many spiritual leaders to consider?
The biggest strength to this position is that it sounds humble, wise, and inclusive of others. But, the biggest problem with this position is that it is incredibly sneaky, because at first glance this position sounds like observations on religious beliefs in the world, but this position is actually a belief system.
For someone to say “Jesus is just one of many spiritual leaders to consider” is an exclusive statement cloaked in inclusive language. The position is a position of power cloaked in humility. The position is a belief system covered in observations. Consider the illustration.
In the 1800’s there was a poem about blind men touching an elephant, and they are all touching the elephant at different places and coming to different conclusions.
One blind mans says, “I am touching a snake because it is long and flexible.” Another blind man says, “I am touching a tree because it is strong and sturdy.” Another says, “I am touching a wall because it is wide and thick.”
Each blind man is having a different conclusion because they are only touching parts of the elephant; therefore, some will say, “It is similar with different belief systems of the world and they all touching different parts of the elephant.”
But, the author of the poem is placing himself in the position of power. The author of the poem has sight where the others are blind. This position sounds very humble with an attitude like, “Who can really know?” But, the position of the author is that the author knows how many blind men are there and that the blind men are touching an elephant. The author is in the position of power.
When someone says, “Nobody has a belief system that is superior” they are making a faith statement of superiority. When you make claims that all people should be inclusive then you have just made an exclusive claim.
I am sure many will push back and say, “No, they are just trying to make sure people are more tolerant of other faiths in the world.” But, just imagine being at the office on Monday, or your classroom and saying, “Hey, everyone, who wants to come to church with me on Sunday?”
It makes our stomachs hurt just thinking about such an invitation. But, why? I thought this position promoted learning, cross-cultural experiences, exchange of ideas, but instead we are hesitant to offer those invitations because are fearful of losing our jobs, getting locked out of social circles, or being mocked by our friends.
Why? It is because this position of “Jesus being one of many ways to consider” is a belief system, and it is a belief system that is exclusive, therefore, we must test the truthfulness of this position by examining the behavior’s that are created.
Next week we will “test” is Jesus God in the flesh?