Fundamental Tests of Genuine Christianity Part 5

Part 3 of the Doctrinal Test

by Mike Ratliff

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 Christ 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. Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error. (1 John 4:1-6 ESV)

Some good friends of this ministry sent me an email yesterday with a link to a sermon by Dr. Erwin W. Lutzer of the Moody Bible Hour. The sermon, Exposing The Secret, was about the book The Secret by Rhonda Byrne. This book is being hyped by Oprah Winfrey as a must read. I highly recommend that you listen to the sermon. Dr Lutzer has biblical discernment. Oprah has none. What makes the difference?

We have worked our way through 1 John to chapter 4. In this study we will look at vv1-6. In this part of his epistle he gives us part 3 of the doctrinal test. Remember, John’s epistle is all about showing the reader the differences between genuine and counterfeit Christians. So far we have looked at parts 1 and 2 of his doctrinal test and parts 1 and 2 of his moral test. If you have not read the previous 4 posts in this series I suggest that you stop here, go read them then come back here.

Spiritual discernment is sorely lacking in the 21st Century Church. How can we contend such a thing? What is not biblical Christianity is being pushed upon us with the demand that it be called Christian. Along with this, there is a huge push to combine all religions into one with a counterfeit Jesus at its center. It seems that only a few Christians see this for what it is. How could this be so? Genuine Christianity is not a ‘World Religion.’ None of those religions’ are of God because they are contrary to His truth. Let us see John’s position in this.

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 Christ 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 John 4:1-3 ESV)

False doctrine, which is supposed ‘Christian’ doctrine, but is false, is subject to innumerable warnings in scripture. Ever since Genesis 3, Satan has worked to distort and deny God’s Word. False doctrine does that very thing thereby proving who is its source. Satan is behind all false teachers and their doctrine. In v1 John commands Christians to not believe every spirit. The Holy Spirit is behind all biblical doctrine, but false doctrine comes from demonic spirits who are subject to Satan. Christians must view all Christian doctrine with a healthy skepticism. I have had some come to this ministry decrying our stance of utterly shunning teachers and preachers who have been proven to be heretics. They claim that we can still learn from them. This is being too open-minded. This opens the mind up to evil and deception regardless of ones good intentions. We are to emulate the Bereans (Acts 17:11.12) who searched the scripture to see if what Paul preached to them was so. As a result, they believed. If Paul had been teaching heresy they would have known and would have rejected him and his doctrine. This is how we are to approach any new teaching to see if it is contrary to the clear reading of scripture.

The heretic will always question the validity of God’s Word. This is the very same argument Satan used in the Garden against Eve. He asked, “Has God really said….?” We know what happened after that. This is why we MUST NOT listen to these people, but shun them, handing them over to God for judgment. Why? John tells us in this passage that the spirit of the antichrist is in every false teacher. That means that a demonic spirit is behind them. These men and women who are controlled by these evil spirits are their physical expressions.

In v2 John tells us the criteria we must use in determining whether the spirit behind a doctrine or teaching is the Holy Spirit or an evil spirit. What is it? True biblical doctrine will always point to Jesus Christ as having come in the flesh. Genuine biblical doctrine teaches that Jesus Christ was fully man and fully God. It teaches that, because of this, He was the lamb of God. As a man, but sinless, He was the only possible acceptable sacrifice that God poured out His wrath upon in order to redeem those who believe, repent, and receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour. False teaching of Jesus will attack various areas of this, but they all have in common an attack on the real purpose of Jesus incarnation. Some teach that His sacrifice was still not enough to save us. We must still work to gain salvation. Others teach that if crucifixion was what God used to save us then anyone could have died for our sins. Others teach that Jesus was not God, but a created being, et cetera. Any teaching that is contrary to Jesus Christ, the Son of God, being incarnated as a man who was sinless and whose sacrifice was 100% sufficient to save His people, and the fact that He rose from the dead on the 3rd day, is heresy and is of an evil spirit who is subject to Satan.

In v3 John tells us that the Antichrist, the final antichrist will have the same doctrine as these who attack the biblical Jesus Christ. We also know that Jesus taught us that when this fellow does come it will be with great deception. Many who profess to be Christians will follow Him. Therefore, we must be discerning. Is this deceptive time we are in now the prelude, the table setting if you will, of him being revealed?

Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error. (1 John 4:4-6 ESV)

Teachers of biblical doctrine are those who preach God’s Word. Those who are genuine believers hear the Word and listens. They know it is truth and follow it. On the other hand, false teachers are of the world so they preach the way the world wants. Those who are not of Christ are of the world and they love preachers who stay away from sin, Hell, and repentance. I heard Bill Clinton speak not long ago about a former preacher of his who abandoned preaching ‘Hell Fire and Brimstone’ sermons to preach the social gospel. He said this with great admiration and appreciation. Jimmy Carter was there applauding his speech. These men replace the Gospel, which is God focused, with a man-focused message that is all about the here and now, not eternity. This is not Christianity my brethren. This is taking something Christians should do, good works, and make them the total focus of their ‘religion,” such as it is.

False teachers, being demoniacally inspired, deny God’s Word or attempt to change it by taking away or adding to it. This is the spirit of error and we must be discerning and not be yoked to these people in any way.

Part 3 of the doctrinal test is whether Christians are discerning about false doctrine or not. Those who embrace false doctrine prove that they are not discerning and probably not regenerate because John told us that the Holy Spirit reveals whether a teaching is of God or not. Sound doctrine is vital for the health of the Body of Christ while false doctrine is poison and must be revealed for what it is in order that God’s people can avoid it.

SDG

15 thoughts on “Fundamental Tests of Genuine Christianity Part 5

  1. I just watched another informative video on Oprah’s New Spirituality. I am more horrified at how many people accept this with open arms, than I am at how deceived she is. Even someone with a small exposure to Jesus and his gospel should recognize its heresy and leave. This is not just subtle deception, but right in America’s face. As I see the numbers of individuals who accept what she teaches, I have to say, “Is America really a Christian nation?”

    There is so much delusion.

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  2. Thank you Mike. Here’s why I enjoyed this article:

    I sometimes get frustrated by the lack of teaching about false teachers and our need to be on the watch for them. I get this way because Jesus told us to “see that no one deceives you” (Mat 24,, also many other warnings, like Mat 7) and almost every epistle deals, to some degree, with false teachers/teachings. If the Bible considers this to be such an important issue, why do we rarely hear about it today? If we were faithful to the Scriptures, we would be faithful to teach about these issues as well.

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  3. I was reading this passage today at lunch, what good timing. Here’s my question. John states “every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God”, what does this mean about non-messianic Jews?

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  4. “Although the Bible primarily focuses on the human agents propagating false doctrine, it also deals with the source of false doctrine: Satan and his demons.

    Behind all false teachers are invisible demons. No false teacher teaches from his own wisdom; a demon or demons inspire him to teach. False teachers are mouthpieces for Satan.” – John MacArthur

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  5. Josh,

    I am not deluded into believing that the USA is a Christian nation. No, it is a pagan nation. Most of what is called Christianity in it is not. Praise God that He has His remnant that refuses to compromise!

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

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  6. joel,

    non-messianic Jews are not believers. Jesus said that the only way to God is through Him. Every supposed ‘biblical’ teaching that excludes Christ as the only way is of Satan.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

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  7. People that I know believe everything the pastor says. If you point out the compromises they don’t care.

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  8. Joel,

    It is impossible to be born into eternal salvation. The Bible explains that all men must be born again by the Spirit. The reason for this is because men who are not born of the Spirit are still ruled by their carnal nature. The nature of Adam ( the sinful nature). This is why we are enemies of God by birth.

    The carnal nature can only be overcome and crucified by the Spirit of the Lord. Men’s works do not crucify the flesh, because our works and efforts only feed it or gratify it. Success for the believer comes when the Holy Spirit indwells him, he is dead to the world through Christ, and he had died to sin and self.

    In regard to natural Israel. The Lord has brought them back into the promised land in unbelief. This “earthly” favor on unbelieving Jews is a sign to the church as well as the rest of the world. Unfortunately, a time is coming when there will be a winepress (judgment). That time is probably going on now because their land is being divided by Gentile nations. The physical nation of Israel will be there from now on, even though they are going through tribulation. Many will die in the current and coming judgment, but God will not destroy the nation completely. He has promised to preserve a remnant of natural Israel in every event which the Bible refers to as the winepress.

    In regard to the end-times. Natural Israel will undergo (and is now) a series of judgments which will not wipe them out completely nor take them completely out of their land like in the days past. God has prospered them greatly and blessed them by returning them into that land.

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  9. Lukewarm is irritating Mike. They are the ones that go ho hum when you get passionate about something you read in the Bible, a great lesson like this one, or a great sermon.

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  10. I find it very sad actually. The lukewarm believer has one foot in the world and one foot in the church. I believe they have become satisfied with their perceived salvation, but they are self-focused. Many may very well be genuine believers, but many others are not. God is merciful, we must pray that God wake up those who are His.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

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  11. I’m sorry Mike. I had the spirit of crankiness as I didn’t get enough sleep. I do pray for them. Have a safe and restful vacation and beware of poison ivy. 🙂 God Bless your family.

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  12. Wasn’t that a good message from Pastor Lutzer? This world of ours and especially the U.S. is sure messed up. Oh, and Deb, we say ditto to Mike about the poison ivy or oak………… 🙂

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