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My natural inclination is to trust ministers and the clergy. The Apostle John advises otherwise. He knows that there are a lot of lying preachers out there. They sound spiritual but are not proclaiming the truth of God and of his son Jesus, the Messiah.

I need to do a better job of examining what people tell me against the good news of God. Even the devil quoted scripture to Jesus. God’s goal for me is that I be wise.

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus the Messiah has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already.[1]

1 John 4:1-3

So … how do we know. Is there a test? Here is the good news. There is a test. The test is Jesus. Does the religious leader put their faith in Jesus (who came in the flesh-and-blood) as the Messiah and Son of God? There are a lot of religious leaders who talk about God. Do they have faith in Jesus?

We have good news! Want to know how to be saved? Click here or here for more.

4:1 spirit Refers to the spiritual source of a teaching or doctrine. According to John, every teaching about the Messiah originates from a spiritual source. A teaching is either true and from the Spirit of God, or false and from the spirit of deceit.

test the spirits Believers derive their ability to test truth and falsehood from their anointing by God, their knowledge of the teachings of Jesus, and the work of the Holy Spirit in them. They can determine a spirit’s origin by examining whether its teaching reflects the love of the Messiah.

because many false prophets Testing is necessary because of the presence of false teaching—which, based on the terminology used by John, was derived directly from an evil spiritual power.

4:2 Spirit of God Refers to the source of true teaching about our Master Jesus the Messiah.

confesses Jesus Christ has come in the flesh A true spirit from God will confess Jesus’ true humanity.

4:3 does not confess Jesus Refers to denying Jesus’ humanity. John is opposing a group of people who hold this view, which goes against Jesus’ identity.

it is coming, and now it is John commonly uses phrases such as this, which further identifies this letter with the Gospel of John.[2]

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Jn 4:1–3.

[2] John D. Barry et al., Faithlife Study Bible (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012, 2016), 1 Jn 4:1–3.