Test the Spirits

by Mike Ratliff

For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Do not let your prophets and your diviners who are among you deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams that they dream, for it is a lie that they are prophesying to you in my name; I did not send them, declares the LORD. (Jeremiah 29:8-9 ESV)

I read with amazement the claim by Jay Bakker that he heard directly from God in a dream that homosexuals were a persecuted people and that homosexuality is not a sin. Either he is lying or he really did hear from an entity whom he claims to be God. The Word of God gives us a very clear test for this sort of thing. The “message” being uttered, if it is truly from God, will not contradict His Word at all. It will not be contrary to the clear doctrines of our faith that have been given to us via Sacred Scripture. We are commanded to test the spirits of all who claim to be speaking for God. I have been criticized by many over the past several years whose points of contention with me are never from the Word of God, but from their false doctrines or human philosophy. On the other hand, when we do have an issue with someone who is obviously a false prophet, we must rebuke them in obedience to God’s Word and that means we cannot do so from the same platform that is used by the detractors of God’s truth. No, we must use the Word of God only. 

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)

Christians have been indoctrinated over the last several years with the concept that it is wrong to stand against and rebuke professing Christians who are obviously teaching heresy and are leading many astray. In fact, the Word of God tells us that those with the wisdom and discernment given to them by God are to stand firm and confront those who prove by their words and actions that they are not from God while professing to be. We are not (μη ) to believe (πιστευετε) every (παντι) spirit (πνευματι ). The verb πιστευετε (believe) is in present tense, imperative mood, and active voice. This is a command. Since it is preceded by μη (not), this is a command to stop doing something. What are we to stop doing? The word πιστευετε in this context refers to Christians not being gullible, therefore, they are to stop automatically believing every ‘preacher’ who claims to have a word from God simply because they make that claim. John tells us in v1 that there is a definite spiritual influence on ‘preaching’ or ‘teaching’ that professes to be from God. These influences guide the speaker’s speech and actions. Therefore, we are able to test (δοκιμαζετε) them and, in fact, we are commanded here to do that since this verb is also in present tense, imperative mood, and active voice, but is not negated by a μη . Therefore, this is a command to always test the spirits of everyone who claims to speak for God or have a message from God. This word, δοκιμαζετε, refers to the action of proving a thing whether is be worthy to be received or not. To do this requires that we use the discernment God gives His people that enables them to distinguish the truth of a matter or a message and that means checking all they say against what God’s Word says.

In vv2-6 John tell us that no message can claim to be from God that denies the truth of the incarnation of our Lord. All who teach that Jesus is not God are not from God. All who deny Jesus Christ as the Messiah and God are of the spirit of the antichrist. Those who preach and teach messages counter to the essential Orthodox doctrines of the Church are of the world, not of God. All who attempt to dilute the Gospel with the ways of the world are not of God. We can clearly see this because the world listens to them and loves them while it still rejects the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Any who preach outside the clear demarcation lines of the Gospel in attempts to diminish the exclusivity of the Gospel are not of God, but of the spirit of error.

Therefore, I pray that all reading this will prayerfully examine their own receptivity of certain ‘preachers’ and ‘teachers’ who preach outside the lines like an ‘outlaw.’ This should also explain to many why certain preachers can be so popular outside of the Church that they are invited to speak to people of other religions or even totally secular audiences. The message of the Church to the world is not coolness or anything in an attempt to attract them to a religious body or group using things that appeal to the flesh. No, the message of the Church to the world is the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. We are commanded by our Lord to make disciples from all over the world. We do not do that by any means other than preaching the Gospel.

Soli Deo Gloria!

8 thoughts on “Test the Spirits

  1. When I see another article about Jay Bakker, I just shake my head, so to speak, because I know it’s about error. Instead of good news that we are sorely lacking these days!

    I’m starting to believe that there isn’t much help or hope for this man, because it seems as if he’s fallen in the category of those erroneous teachers that Paul was warning Timothy about in 2 Tim. 3:1-9.

    Christians have been indoctrinated by worldly Christians, knowing that those that are spiritual teach the things of God. It’s appalling to see the amount of deception abounding these days. But we were left with a record in the holy writ, that this would happen, did happen & shall happen.

    Sad to say, is it’s hard to embrace this when you first come into the faith!, but the wheat will grow with the tares(weeds).

    We must be like The Bereans, who tested all things to see if they were so!

    I bring a pad & 2 pens(1 red the other black or blue) with me most times I go to church, while testing everything said.


  2. Thanks, Mike. Very helpful and timely article! Doing some standing against some false teachers with friends and family, so this was encouraging.


  3. Mike, I have a Catholic friend who wants to get together and “get his mind around sola scriptura” which is really a trap he is setting for me. Can you direct me to sources which point to the biblical proof of this? I can guess where he is going with this but I would like your help. Already today I jazzed his mind when we talked of evolution and Christianity when I told him that there could be no creatures to evolve since death did not enter into the creation until the sin of Adam and Eve. He is studying to be a deacon in the RCC and I care about him and his family. Thanks.


  4. “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.”

    These few verses above are so poignant. It is there, when dealing with others about the Truth of God and the Truth of the Bible, that most of us, who do belong to God, are attacked.

    I know in my own life that when you share Truth with Christians who are really believers, but have had incorrect teaching, they are open to receiving the correction and the Truth – even if it takes time. I had to go through this in my own life, but always there was a desperation to know the reality of God’s Word and God Himself – even if it went 180 to what I had originally believed since day 1.

    Too many folks choose not to accept the simplicity of what the Gospel really is and would rather go off after ‘preachers’ who are charismatic and smooth tongued and who preach what their followers want to hear instead of what they need to hear – testing absolutely nothing and as long as the name of Jesus or God or the Holy Spirit is mentioned, never giving it a second thought. I also think that their egos get puffed up that they can understand such ‘clever’ teaching and such philosophical thinking and so feel so ‘clever’ themselves, and us stupid Christians don’t have a clue. Well I for one am prepared to be a “stupid, simple child of God”, as Oswald Chambers so aptly puts it.

    Man has not changed and if we ever think that man back then during the time of Paul was any different to us as people inside, I am afraid we are mistaken. Man has not changed and neither has Satan’s attack of ‘Did the Lord really say…’. It is blatantly obvious that this still goes on with an even greater onslaught, because time is indeed short.

    We have, as you say in your own words, been falsely taught to believe that we cannot and should not speak out against the wrong unbiblical teaching or cause conflict of any sort at all. Jesus says in Matthew 10:34 “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. The Greek meaning of peace in Strongs is: set at one again or join and sword is: war, judicial punishment. ( I am sure you would have much more to add to these words)

    Can you imagine how this modern ‘church’ with their philosophers would respond to Jesus Himself saying the things now, that He said back then, but trying to ‘take Him on” now? They would surely shout “Crucify Him” all over again.

    We need to stay so absolutely close to Him and in His Word, that there is not even space for a slip of paper to get between us and Him.

    Bless you dear brother


  5. John,

    You are going to have a tough time convincing your friend about Sola Scriptura if he is as deep in the hierarchy of the RCC as that. This protestant doctrine is continually under siege by the Roman Church because if it is true then what they are doing is proven to be rebellion and only another man-made religion. Go here for some help brother. Remember, only the Holy Spirit can open your friend’s heart to the truth.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff


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