How do I Test the Spirits?
“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).
As John wrote to the Christians of his time, he warned of dangerous spirits bearing false messages and required them to test the spirits. In modern times the idea of testing a spirit makes us think of Ouija boards and palm readers. Is John telling Christians to dabble in the realm of the spirits to determine their origins?
Although it may pique your curiosity, no, John is not telling Christians to engage in any form of witchcraft or sorcery to test the spirits. Every type of sorcery and witchcraft is to be repented from by those who desire to follow Christ (cf. Gal. 5:19ff; Acts 19:17ff). So how could Christians test the spirits without engaging in any type of dark arts? John answers this question in two parts.
The first part is found in 1 John 4:2-3, where John says that a spirit from God will confess Jesus has come in the flesh, while a false one will not. The second part is found in 1 John 4:6, where John says that every spirit from God will agree with the words of the apostles. According to John’s instructions, testing the spirits means considering the message.
If a speaker proclaims the truth of the coming of Christ in the flesh and agrees with every teaching of the apostles, then the spirit from which his message has proceeded is from God. If, however, the speaker’s message denies Christ’s coming in the flesh or disagrees with any apostolic teaching, then the spirit has not come from God, and the spirit, along with its message, is to be rejected.
Christians today are responsible for carrying out these instructions whenever religious teaching is delivered, whether formally or informally. If the message disagrees with the teaching recorded in the New Testament, then it is to be rejected. If, however, it agrees completely with the teaching of the New Testament, then it is beneficial for Christians and will lead to further godliness. In John’s time, the message was the key. In our time, the message is still the key. Beloved, test the spirits to see if they are from God!