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‘The life-giving fountain belongs to you, and your light gives light to each of us’ (Psalm 36:9). Praise God for your life in Christ. Pray for light to distinguish truth from lies.


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Bible passage: 1 John 4:1–6


1 John 4

Test the Spirits
 1Dear friends, 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. 2This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.

 4You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. 5They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. 6We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood.


New International Version (NIV) Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society


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The audio version of the passage is taken from the Contemporary English Version (CEV).


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Fully human
As the news about Jesus spread, so did different opinions about who Jesus was and what he had come to do (v 1). A major heresy in John’s time was docetism, the belief that Christ was a divine being who temporarily took human form in Jesus. John is adamant. Jesus Christ came in flesh, meaning he was fully human (vs 2,3).

We don’t face the same heresies as the first-century Christians, but we are bombarded with messages about the world, about who we are, about how we came to be. These philosophies may call into question who Jesus was and even the very existence of God. If we run each message past the test in verse 2, it will help us know which messages to listen to and which to ignore.

Resurrection power
These verses remind us that the world divides into two camps: those who reject Christ and those who accept him. One thing is sure: if we belong to Christ, we will be rejected just as he was (vs 3,6; see also John 15:18–20).

Jesus’ rejection resulted in resurrection power which we also share. That power is far greater than the power of the deceiver at work in the world (v 4).


Respond


Pray for preachers and leaders of God’s people to remain true to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Penny Boshoff


Deeper Bible study


‘Test the spirits’, says John (v 1). The word translated ‘test’ is that used for checking for counterfeit coinage. Today we may be more at risk of being swindled on the internet and credit cards. We still need to be ‘wise as serpents and harmless as doves’ (Matthew 10:16, AV).

The Greek world was alive with people promoting new ideas, as Paul observed in Athens (Acts 17:21). Reading between the lines in this letter we can detect that there were people in Ephesus who had deviated from the faith they had originally been taught. They had apparently claimed to have learned the truth about God from some source other than Jesus Christ. They seem to have been teaching that Jesus was not the Messiah. Their influence was confusing the church.

We need to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. We are aware of the many different religions that surround us and are appalled at some of the things they teach. It’s easy to point the finger at practices that are radically different from our own; less easy to think Christianly about what is socially acceptable. There are false teachings in our own churches too – appealing to our love of money and power in ways that sit so comfortably with our lifestyle that we never notice. This scheme or that, someone claims, will appeal to the youth culture around us, or lead to church growth or gain us some publicity. In a world that is excited by big numbers – whether of people in our building or ‘likes’ on Facebook – it is easy to be seduced. Success, as our culture sees it, is not our goal. We need discernment as much as John’s original readers did. The price of gullibility is the adulteration of the gospel for which Christ gave his life.

Annabel Robinson


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Bible background: Watch out for the antichrist


● The term antichrist is only used five times by John in his letters (1 John 2:18,22; 4:3; 2 John 7) and nowhere else in the New Testament. Four are singular and one plural.

● One refers to the spirit of antichrist (1 John 4:3).

● The Greek word can mean either someone who opposes Christ or someone who claims to be Christ.

● John is writing about those who deny that Jesus is the Messiah (1 John 2:22), that he is from God (1 John 4:3) or that he has taken human flesh (2 John 7).

● Paul does not use the term but his teaching about the man of lawlessness (2 Thessalonians 2:1–12) has a similar figure in mind.

● The beasts in Revelation representing the Roman state and the cult of Emperor worship have a similar meaning.

● Jesus speaks of people who will come and claim to be Messiahs (Mark 13:5,6).

● Jewish thinking, which has roots in the Old Testament but which took a new twist in the two centuries before Jesus, featured both a false prophet and an end-time tyrant who embodied all that was evil.

These passages seem to point to one future individual, the final embodiment of evil, who will oppose Jesus and set himself up in place of Jesus. But before then the same spirit of rebellion and disobedience will be found in many others – including the false teachers whom John opposes and those who, like the emperor Domitian, demand worship and oppose the church. We can see the same spirit at work today.

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Comments
  • Rachael Hampton | Friday, 30 September 2016

    The way to detect a counterfeit is to know the original thoroughly. Holy Spirit may we be sensitive to your light, giving us unease, and revealing what is false. What a trumpet call of confidence is v4 We have already overcome the spirits of antichrist, because the One Who dwells in us is greater than the spirits of the world! We need that reminder when we are mired in the pressures of everyday living. Ruth, your song reminds again what others have been saying: as we make the moves to know God, He responds - abundantly - and our love for Him increases. May we fix our minds and keep them fixed on things that are above, because we know that as we draw near to God, He will draw near to us. Hallelujah!

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