We are commanded to test the spirits

by Mike Ratliff

19 Do not quench the Spirit; 20 do not despise prophetic utterances. 21 But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; 22 abstain from every form of evil. 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22 (NASB) 

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. 

1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 1 John 4:1 (NASB) 

1 Ἀγαπητοί, μὴ παντὶ πνεύματι πιστεύετε ἀλλὰ δοκιμάζετε τὰ πνεύματα εἰ ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ ἐστιν, ὅτι πολλοὶ ψευδοπροφῆται ἐξεληλύθασιν εἰς τὸν κόσμον. 1 John 4:1 (NA28)

1 Beloved, believe not every spirit, but test the spirits if they are of God because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 1 John 4:1 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

What a rich verse! It is addressed to true believers who are in fellowship with our Lord. These αγαπητοί would include all of us who are truly in Christ. The verb here is πιστεύετε, 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 NASB as “false prophets” is ψευδοπροφῆται, 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 NASB as “have gone out” is ἐξεληλύθασιν, 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.

2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; 3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world. 1 John 4:2-3 (NASB) 

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 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.

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.

4 You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world. 5 They are from the world; therefore they speak as from the world, and the world listens to them. 6 We are from God; he who knows God listens to us; he who 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 (NASB) 

This is very clear. False prophets speak from the world. 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!

4 thoughts on “We are commanded to test the spirits

  1. Perhaps you have a post or series that addresses the following…

    Dealing recently with one young man who wants to start his own 1,000,000 souls saved evangelistic organization. Founded on his training in the NAR at Bethel Church Redding, CA…a group with extensive worldwide influence. He has 5 C’s (Campus, Culture, etc.) instead of 7 Mountains. And bases his belief on visions, direct revelations and miracles, “healing the blind”, casting out devils and prophetic words. Also has some connection with the International House of Prayer (IHOP) movement.

    This is so sad. Impossible to communicate with him and he wants money.
    A good resource is the now older Strange Fire Conference materials.


    That’s a good place to start, but there may be more. Can’t present him with the Bethel problems, since is says he now operates independent of them.

    There really is much of this in the so called visible professing “Christian” sphere out there.

    I really have difficulty listening to this type of ministry. Jesus does give us one hard text, they quote back…..

    Mar 9:38  And John answered him, saying, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name, and he followeth not us: and we forbad him, because he followeth not us.
    Mar 9:39  But Jesus said, Forbid him not: for there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me.
    Mar 9:40  For he that is not against us is on our part.

    And Paul writes:

    1Co 12:1  Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant.
    1Co 12:2  Ye know that ye were Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led.

    1Co 12:3  Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.

    1Co 12:4  Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.
    1Co 12:5  And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord.
    1Co 12:6  And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all.
    1Co 12:7  But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.
    1Co 12:8  For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit;
    1Co 12:9  To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit;
    1Co 12:10  To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues:
    1Co 12:11  But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.


  2. Those who are different ministries, but preach the same Gospel are what Jesus was referring to. Those who take bit and pieces of the truth, but then add on to and make things up and use that to make money or become famous or for any other purpose other than bringing God glory are FALSE!!!


  3. “Bits and Pieces of the Truth”….So True.
    And Old John Gill wrote about Paul’s warning of added leaven and he wasn’t baking bread!
    1 Corinthians 5:6
    Your glorying is not good,…. Their glorying in their outward flourishing condition, in their riches and wealth, and in their ministers, in their wisdom and parts when under such an humbling dispensation; and especially if their glorying was in the sin itself, and their connivance at it, it was far from being good, it was very criminal, as the consequence of it was dangerous:

    know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? This, in nature, is what everybody knows; and the proverb, which is much used by the Jews (f), was common in the mouths of all, and the meaning of it easy to be understood: thus, whether applied to the leaven of false doctrine, nothing is more manifest, than when this is let alone, and a stop is not put to it, it increases to more ungodliness; or to vice and immorality, as here; which if not taken notice of by a church, is not faithfully reproved and severely censured, as the case requires, will endanger the whole community; it may spread by example, and, under the connivance of the church, to the corrupting of good manners, and infecting of many.

    The even older John, the Apostle, was actually given a vision and a word about failure disciple. Read those words in Rev 2 in letters to Pergamum and Thyatira.


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