“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because 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 of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already here” (1 John 4:1-3-NKJV).
We must be very careful not to believe everything we hear just because someone says it is a message inspired by God. There are many ways to test teachers to determine if their message is truly from God. One is to check their words with what God says in the Bible. Other tests include their commitment to the body of believers (1John 2:19), their lifestyle (I John 3:23, 24), and the fruit of their ministry (1 John 4:6). But the most important test of all, says John, is what they believe about Christ. Do they teach that Jesus is fully God and fully man? The world is full of voices claiming to speak for God. Therefore, try the spirits by the Spirit (of God).
So many people run around looking for a word that sounds like it’s from God. They believe everything they hear. Sadly, many ideas and doctrines printed and taught are not true, and not of God. We, as children of God, should verify every message we hear, even if the person who brings it says its from God. If the message or prophecy is from God, it will be consistent with Christ’s teachings.
Exploring the Definition of the Spirit of Discernment
The gift of discernment enables a person to judge whether the one who speaks in tongues or performs miracles does so by the power of the Holy Spirit, or by a false spirit. Moreover, the gift of discernment means distinguishing between spirits. The definition of discernment also includes the supernatural ability to “separate out so as to investigate by looking throughout.” Discernment is examining the thoughts and intents of an individual’s heart. Discernment means to discriminate or determine; prove; scrutinise; test. The foregoing definitions can correctly be translated into discerning.
There is a vast difference between natural intuition or “hunches” and the divinely inspired gift of discernment. The secular definition of the word, “Intuition,” is: “The ability to know or understand something immediately, without conscious reasoning.” This can be a natural or innate ability.
The Coming Antichrist
The antichrist will be the master of deceivers; the embodiment of all that is evil, and he will be readily received by an evil world (Thessalonians 2:3-10).
False teachers are very popular with the world because, like false prophets of the Old Testament, they tell people what they want to hear. The apostle John warns that believers who faithfully teach God’s Word will not win any popularity contests in the world. People do not want to be confronted with their sins. Read what the prophet Isaiah wrote under the inspiration of God centuries ago: “This is a rebellious people, Lying children, Children who will not hear the law of the Lord; Who say to the seers, ‘Do not see,’ And to the prophets, Do not prophesy to us right things; Speak to us smooth things, prophesy deceits” (Isaiah 30:9-11).
Old Testament False Teachers
“Then the prophet Jeremiah said to Hananiah the prophet, ‘Hear now, Hananiah, the Lord has not sent you, but you make this people trust in a lie. Therefore, thus says the Lord; Behold, I will cast you from the face of the earth. This year you shall die, because you have taught rebellion against the Lord.’ So Hananiah the prophet died the same year in the seventh month” (Jeremiah 28:15-17).
The false prophets told the people what they wanted to hear, even though they knew it was not true. This is the mark of false prophets. The people in Jeremiah’s day needed a true friend like Jeremiah, who brought God’s painful, corrective word. A true man of God speaks the truth no matter how much it hurts to hear. Seek those to be close to you who speak the truth even though their correction is painful. Anyone who flatters you by telling you lies is not a true friend.
True and False Ministries and False Ministers
“For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works” (2 Corinthians 11:13-15).
There are many false ministers who view the work of God as a business; a vocation from which they can make a profit, and generate a huge financial income. The apostle Paul took great effort to separate himself from these false teachers in order to silence those who only claimed to do God’s work.
Satan “transformed” means Satan masquerading. Nothing can be more deceitful than Satan, the prince of darkness, disguising himself as an angel of light. By the same token, when the false teachers claimed to represent Christ, they were, and are, lying shamelessly. Satan and his servants can deceive us by appearing attractive, good, and moral. Many unsuspecting people follow smooth-talking, Bible quoting leaders into cults that even take them from their families and force them to practice immorality and deceit.
Do not be deceived! Our impressions alone are not an accurate indicator of who is or isn’t a true man or woman of God. It may help to ask the following questions:
1. Do their teachings confirm Scripture? (Acts 17:11)
2. Do the teachers affirm or proclaim that Jesus Christ is God who came into the world to save people from their sins (John 4;
3. Is their lifestyle consistent with biblical morality (Matthew 12:33-37)?
Great Deception in the Last Days
“Now the Spirit explicitly says that in the latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their conscience seared with a hot iron…” (1 Timothy 4:1, 2).
The “latter times” began with Christ’s resurrection and will continue until His return, when He will set up His Kingdom and judge all mankind.
False teachers, ministers and ministries were and are still a threat to the true Church. Jesus and the apostles repeatedly warned against them (Mark 13:21-23; Acts 20:28-31). The danger Timothy faced in Ephesus seems to have come from certain people in the church who followed some Greek philosopher who taught that the body is evil and only the soul matters. They refused to believe that the God of creation is good, because His very contact with the physical world soiled him. Though these Greek-influenced church members honored Jesus, they could not believe that He was truly human. Their teachings, if left unchecked, would distort Christian truth, and thus confuse and lead well- meaning people astray.
It is not enough that a teacher or pastor appear to know what he is talking about. He must be disciplined and morally righteous, especially when he says he is speaking on God’s behalf. If his words contradict the Bible, his teaching or preaching is false. Paul was warning Timothy not only of this specific problem, but of any teaching that caused the believers to dilute or reject parts of their faith. Such false teaching can be very direct or extremely subtle.
Doctrines of Demons
Why did Paul say the false teachers taught “doctrines of demons?” Satan deceives peoples by offering a clever imitation of the real thing. The false teachers gave, and are giving stringent rules (such as forbidding to marry or eat meat, and this made them feel disciplined and holy.
Most of the false teachings have their origins in the pits of hell. Even so, they appear good, wholesome and righteous,. We must look beyond a teacher’s methods and teaching to his teaching about Jesus Christ. His attitude towards Christ reveals the true source of his message.
If it were possible, the very Elect would be Deceived!!
“For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect” (Matthew 24:24). How amazing! Even those who are the closest to God would be deceived by the false anointing, false teaching and false preaching in these, the end times. Satanic devices of deception will become so incredibly shrewd in these days that one must strive to be as close to God as he can, to avoid being fooled by the tactics of the devil. 2 Corinthians 2:11 clearly warns us: “Lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices.”
If you do not presently possess the gift of discernment, pray that God will bestow this all-important gift upon you.
As God hid Moses in the cleft of the rock on Mt. Sinai on that fateful day, ask the Saviour to hide you the cleft of His divine protection, and shelter you securely under the safety of His Almighty wings during these times of unprecedented deception and trickery by so-called men of God who have only their own selfish interests at heart.
Ask the Lord God to teach you to know His voice. Remember, as Jesus said, “My sheep know My voice, and will not follow a stranger.”