Test the Spirits

by Mike Ratliff

Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil. (1 Thessalonians 5:19-22 ESV)

God has called His people to discernment. If you listen to many so-called Christians in our time, you would think the very opposite. In fact, to question the veracity of someone’s teaching is considered the ultimate case of uncouthness in these so-called postmodern times. I find it very interesting that this concept works only in one direction. These who hold to this sort of “ministry” are very quick to point fingers at those of us who do proclaim that God’s Word is The Truth and we are all called to obey Him. We are seen as being immersed in legalism when we draw lines that are precise and unyielding based entirely from clear biblical teaching. However, those of us who do this are anything but that. Instead, we are being obedient to what God tells us to do in His Word. We must test every spirit. 

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. (1 John 4:1 ESV)

1αγαπητοι μη παντι πνευματι πιστευετε αλλα δοκιμαζετε τα πνευματα ει εκ του θεου εστιν οτι πολλοι ψευδοπροφηται εξεληλυθασιν εις τον κοσμον (1 John 4:1 WHNU)

Love ones (αγαπητοι), not (μη) all (παντι) spirit (πνευματι) trust (πιστευετε) but (αλλα) prove (δοκιμαζετε) the (τα) spirits (πνευματα) if (ει) from (εκ) the (του) God (θεου) they are (εστιν), because (οτι) many (πολλοι) false spokesmen (ψευδοπροφηται) have gone out (εξεληλυθασιν) into (εις) the (τον) world (κοσμον). (1 John 4:1 word-for-word translation from Koine Greek to English)

What a rich verse! It is addressed to true believers who are in fellowship with our Lord. These αγαπητοι would include all of us who are truly in Christ. The verb here is πιστευετε, which simply means to believe or have a mental persuasion about something. It is in present tense, imperative mood, and active voice so it is a command to do something with continuous or repeated action. This would be how we walk before the face of God, how we walk through each day. This verb is negated with the word μη so we are being commanded to NOT walk through each of our days or how we walk before the face of our God in our devotion to Him a certain way. We are told to not believe all spirits automatically. We are told to be discerning and not gullible. Also, when someone teaches from God’s Word or claims to speak for Him they are being guided or influenced spiritually. We are told that it is imperative to test what they teach to see if they are from God or not.

The word translated in the ESV as “false prophets” is ψευδοπροφηται, which literally says they are “pseudo-prophets.” In Greek, this word describes religious imposters. These are false prophets and in our time, they are in pulpits, on TV, on the Radio and in print practically everywhere we turn. The word translated in the ESV as “have gone out” is εξεληλυθασιν, which describes people being spread outward from a source. This verb, however, is in perfect tense, indicative mood, and active voice. Bill Mounce describes this tense as being used to express great theological truths. He says, “It is used to describe action that was brought to completion and whose effects are felt in the present—the present, of course, from the time frame of the writer. Because it describes a completed action, the action described by the perfect verb normally occurred in the past.” Applying that to this verse, what do we see? Evil through false prophets being taught as if it is God’s Truth is a theological certainty.

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 4:2-3 ESV)

2εν τουτω γινωσκετε το πνευμα του θεου παν πνευμα ο ομολογει ιησουν χριστον εν σαρκι εληλυθοτα εκ του θεου εστιν  3και παν πνευμα ο μη ομολογει τον ιησουν εκ του θεου ουκ εστιν και τουτο εστιν το του αντιχριστου ο ακηκοατε οτι ερχεται και νυν εν τω κοσμω εστιν ηδη (1 John 4:2-3 WHNU)

In (εν) this (τουτω) you know (γινωσκετε) the (το) spirit (πνευμα) of (του) the God (θεου); all (παν) spirit (πνευμα) that (ο) confesses (ομολογει) Jesus (ιησουν) Christ (χριστον) in (εν) flesh (σαρκι) having come (εληλυθοτα) from (εκ) the (του) God (θεου) is (εστιν),  and (και) all (παν) spirit (πνευμα) that (ο) not (μη) confesses (ομολογει) the (τον) Jesus (ιησουν) from (εκ) the (του) God (θεου) not (ουκ) it is (εστιν); and (και) this (τουτο) is (εστιν) the (το) of the (του)) antichrist (αντιχριστου), that (ο) you have heard (ακηκοατε) that (οτι) he comes (ερχεται), and (και) now (νυν) in (εν) the (τω) world (κοσμω) is (εστιν) already (ηδη). (1 John 4:2-3 word-for-word translation from Koine Greek to English)

This is very clear. We can discern that a prophet is of the spirit of God, that is, that he is from God, if he confesses (ομολογει) that Jesus Christ has become incarnate from God as a man. This was in response to the Gnostic teachings that were starting to take hold in the Church when John wrote this epistle. They were teaching that Jesus was indeed God, but that He was not a man and had no real body. In our day, we have the Emergents embracing the religious teachings of many false prophets from other religions that paint a different Jesus than Jesus Christ. They teach a Jesus who is not from God, but is of their own imaginations. This is, of course, the product of evil spirits attacking the deity of Christ. Jesus Christ is God and yet, at His incarnation, came to His people as a man. He is fully God and fully man. It is this, and only this, that enabled Him to be the propitiation for the sins of His people. He died to pay the price for their sin. Any teaching of a different Jesus or one that tries to say that He did not come as a Man to do this very thing is one who is of the antichrist (αντιχριστου).

Listen carefully to this warning my brethren. Any teaching about Jesus Christ that is contrary to what we are taught by the Spirit of God through His Word is of the antichrist. This is demonic deception. This perverts the Gospel and distorts our Lord’s true nature. Therefore, we must test the spirits. We must not automatically believe every preacher or Bible teacher or prophet, et cetera. Check out what they teach with the Word of God and listen to the Holy Spirit continually as you do this.

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)

4υμεις εκ του θεου εστε τεκνια και νενικηκατε αυτους οτι μειζων εστιν ο εν υμιν η ο εν τω κοσμω  5αυτοι εκ του κοσμου εισιν δια τουτο εκ του κοσμου λαλουσιν και ο κοσμος αυτων ακουει  6ημεις εκ του θεου εσμεν ο γινωσκων τον θεον ακουει ημων ος ουκ εστιν εκ του θεου ουκ ακουει ημων εκ τουτου γινωσκομεν το πνευμα της αληθειας και το πνευμα της πλανης (1 John 4:4-6 WHNU)

You (υμεις) from (εκ) the (του) God (θεου) are (εστε), little children (τεκνια), and (και) you have conquered (νενικηκατε) them (αυτους), because (οτι) greater (μειζων) is (εστιν) the one (ο) in (εν) you (υμιν) or (η) the one (ο) in (εν) the (του) world (κοσμω). Themselves (αυτοι) from (εκ) the (του) world (κοσμου) are (εισιν) through (δια) this (τουτο) from (εκ) the (του) world (κοσμου) they speak (λαλουσιν) and (και) the (ο) world (κοσμος) them (αυτων) hears (ακουει). We (ημεις) from (εκ) the (του) God (θεου) are (εσμεν), the (ο) one knowing (γινωσκων) the (τον) God (θεον) hears (ακουει) us (ημων), who (ος) not (ουκ) is (εστιν) from (εκ) the (του) God (θεου) not (ουκ) hears (ακουει) us (ημων). From (εκ) this (τουτου) we know (γινωσκομεν) the (το) spirit (πνευμα) of the (της) truth (αληθειας) and (και) the (το) spirit (πνευμα) of the (της) deceit (πλανης). (1 John 4:4-6 word-for-word translation from Koine Greek to English)

This is very clear. False prophets speak from the world, τουτο εκ του κοσμου λαλουσιν. The Greek word used to say “they speak” means “to talk at random.” It is speaking without wisdom and this is the best the world can do. Those who are of God have the Spirit of God and are then able to hear the truth and know that it is the truth. Those who live in the Word of God are better able to do this than immature Christians who don’t. This is why it is imperative for us to teach right doctrine and teach our people to get into God’s Word for themselves. Notice that those who are not of God do not listen to us when we speak the words of truth. This is the product of unbelief. Do not for a second believe that this is limited to those who are pagans or atheists. There are innumerable people who profess to be Christian who are in unbelief and are, therefore, not of God because they do not hear the truth and believe it.

My brethren, we are in an apostate time, but God has His own people who are not in darkness. We hear the truth and know that it so. However, those who are professing to be Christians, but who are actually of the world prove this by their rejection of God’s Truth as The Truth while embracing the beliefs of the age. In our age, it happens to be the elevation of uncertainty as a virtue. How stupid! However, let us understand that this very thing, when taught and embraced by professing Christians proves that they are false. They are of the world and no matter how religious they are, they are not in Christ and He is not in them.

Let us make sure we test the spirits, all of them. That includes what I teach here my brethren. Please check out what I teach with what the Word of God says. Know this, that traditions of men do not, nor will they ever, equate to the Word of God and His good doctrines.

Soli Deo Gloria!

10 thoughts on “Test the Spirits

  1. Hi Mike 😀
    What you have shared here is of utmost importance and sadly the most neglected of all the warnings.

    “However, those who are professing to be Christians, but who are actually of the world prove this by their rejection of God’s Truth as The Truth while embracing the beliefs of the age. In our age, it happens to be the elevation of uncertainty as a virtue. How stupid! However, let us understand that this very thing, when taught and embraced by professing Christians proves that they are false. They are of the world and no matter how religious they are, they are not in Christ and He is not in them.”

    I have seen too many follow after the false leaders, simply because they hear the name of ‘Jesus’, ‘God’ or the ‘Holy Spirit’ mentioned and are taken in by things like, any type of manifestation supposedly in the name of the Lord or, “I have a new word from the Lord, God is going to do a new thing!”. It is like their ears are stopped and their ability to check things out (discern) has vanished (if it was even there to begin with). So few people really check things or preachers or writers out, and take things at face-value.

    I watched a few friends go totally frantic and become utterly obsessed when the whole God TV thing hit the airwaves with Todd Bentley. I hear he is beginning a new thing yet again and my prayer is that these friends may have learned from the last time, but some I know will not. SOme I lost as friends when I spoke to them about it all.

    I have heard that people are already flocking and clamouring for this man yet again… 😦

    When I read such articles, I am always gently reminded by the Holy Spirit how narrow the road is. It is very sobering.

    Bless you


  2. Mike:
    Amen..thanks for the post. Anybody who names Christ should be held accountable to the Word of God but especially those in teaching positions. I once encouraged my BSF leader about her holding fast to Biblical truth and her answer was “I would be terrified to teach anything else!” How much we need men in pulpits to possess such fear of God.


  3. Steph,

    Thank you my sister. Todd Bently reminds me somewhat of Simon Magus (Simon the Magician) in the book of Acts. He is a charlatan and an evil doer, but multitudes flock to see the “show.” Very sad indeed. Yes, the way to our eternal place with our Lord is indeed very narrow.

    Be blessed my sister.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff


  4. Wendy,

    Sounds like your BSF leader and I have much in common. Same here. I would be terrified to teach anything else. I am held by God. I am His to do with as He pleases. What a wonderful place it is though! The enemy and his pawns can threaten and attack all they want, but I am in a place they cannot come and have no power over me whatsoever because I am in Christ and you are as well. All truly in Christ are in that narrow place of eternal life and even if the enemies of the truth kill us, all they are doing is sending us to be home to be with our Lord that much sooner. To God be glory!!!

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff


  5. Luke 21:8 “…for many will come in my Name, saying, ‘I am He,’ …’Do not go after them.’ ”

    This is what we are seeing today.

    Mike, thank you for the Truth of this message!


  6. Hi Mike!
    This was very encouraging. The bible says if we lack wisdom to pray for it and I believe we must pray for discernment also and He will grant us that as well. I may make copies of this, if OK with you, to give to my women’s bible study. I wish I could say I have a large group of Christian girlfriends who believe as I do to give this to, but there are only one or two. Most will take this, read it and do nothing. I have even been called a rebel (in a somewhat joking manner but not entirely meant as a joke) by the bible study leader. I took that as a compliment. 🙂
    I am slowly seeing false teaching coming into my church. Some Rob Bell stuff in the youth group, and some promoting of IHOP from a couple who attend. Now there is a speaker coming this weekend to “ignite our prayer life.” I looked at his website and he promotes IHOP. I thought Mike Bickle of IHOP had kept himself rather loosely associated with Todd Bentley, but recently that has changed and he has openly promoted him and the false “prophet” (or whatever he is) Rick Joyner. I had not intended to go to the prayer meeting at our church in the first place, but after finding out the IHOP endorsement, I am discouraged at this development. Does it not even concern our pastor? Rob Bell is one thing…but Joyner, Bentley and Bickle are from very rotten and bizarre roots. Surely pastors know about the origin of this movement….if I can find it out in the short time I have been a believer have not they done so too?
    Thanks for the encouragement and instruction. May God bless you this day!


  7. I miss BSF. It was a great help in gaining biblical knowledge. This sums it up nicely:

    Gal 1:8 But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! 9 As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!

    Thank you Mike and all who responded thus far.

    May God bless.



  8. Diane,

    Yes, you are describing how these things creep in to a Church. While it is discouraging to see this, we should not be taken by surprise by them for God’s Word makes it clear that this is what is going to happen in this age. You may be a rebel 🙂 , but in a good way. You are not submitting to error and the false teachings that are trickling into your fellowship.

    There are times that my wife asks me to go with her to the local Lifeway Christian store in our city. I dread it, but I go. It is totally amazing to me to go down those shelves and see solid works by solid men of God while right next to them are books that are by the most bizarre heretics there are. It is like there is no standards of Christian authenticity used in this. I feel like taking my shoes off when I leave, shaking off the dust against them in a testimony against their compromises. Sigh.. In any case my sister, don’t be discouraged, but remain faithful. God knows what you are doing and why.

    Feel free to print out this stuff and pass it around. I would be interested in what the reaction will be. 🙂

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff


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