|1 John 4:1 |
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1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but try the spirits to see whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.1 [The false prophets are those who did not have the patience to stay in the cross; and being tempted to preach before being perfected by the Spirit, they fell away from the true believers to go out into the world, teaching a different gospel and a different Jesus. John is warning the true Christian believers to beware of those who come dressed in sheep's clothing, claiming to be Christians, just as Jesus warned us about false prophets that would come, and so did Jude, and Paul, and Peter also warn us. They appear to be Christians, but deny the cross, deny the possibility of perfection, deny the possibility of union with Christ and the Father, promise liberty to those just beginning repentance, and promote lawlessness covered by what they call "grace."]
1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but try the spirits to see whether they are of God because many false prophets have gone out into the world. John is not suggesting that you try the heavenly beings, (demons and angels of God), to see if they are of God, (as verse 2 explains below). He is speaking of those many men who call themselves Christians that have gone out into the world as false prophets as antichrists, (even 2000 years ago).
You are to try the spirits of people who are attempting to teach or preach to you. What do you suppose a false prophet would be preaching, which differed from what the apostles preached?
Verse 5 in this chapter states: "They are from the world, therefore they speak as from the world, and the world hears them."
For the world would have a Christ to excuse them living any way they choose, but those of the truth, would have a Christ to change them to live pleasing to God, whatever the price.
Verse 6 in this chapter states: "We are of God; he who knows God, hears us; he who is not of God, does not hear us. By this we recognize the spirit of truth from the spirit of error." Not everyone can believe the true hope: freedom from sin, purity, restoration to the image of God before the fall, and then beyond that to union with Christ in the Kingdom of Heaven. Those whom God has given the hunger for more of Him, can hear with joy. Those who love their life in the world, cannot believe the true hope and cannot hear.
Here is what God said he would do with those ministers whom he never sent, nor directly authorized to preach or teach, nor spoke to them with words to preach: I will bring, upon them an everlasting reproach and perpetual shame that will never be forgotten, Jer 23:40.
Preaching for a salary is the error of Balaam, which is spiritual adultery, loving wages and profit — both Peter and Jude had some very grave things to say about those who solicit donations or preach for a salary. Woe to them! For they have gone in the way of Cain, have run greedily in the error of Balaam for profit, and perished in the rebellion of Korah. They have a heart trained in covetous practices, and are accursed children — for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness.
Here is what God said would happen to those teachers and preachers who tell people still sinning they are righteous: He who says to the wicked, "You are righteous;" him will the people curse, nations will abhor him; Pro 24:24
George Fox was frequently approached by people who had very high-minded claims and high notions of their spiritual maturity. Since Fox was in the kingdom, he could see their heart, and he would respond with a simple question: "What is the first step to peace?" (The answer you can find in How to Benefit from the Changing Power of God by Waiting on the Lord.)
For more, see George Fox's excellent writing on the False Teachers in Christianity.