“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God…” (1 John 4:1, ESV)
After warning believers against a gullible approach to spirits (i.e., teachers), John then commands believers to test the spirits.
The word test is an interesting word packed with meaning.
Ultimately, however, the word means to evaluate. Evaluations are a routine part of life. Employers consistently evaluate their employees with annual evaluations. These are times when managers or supervisors sit down with the employee and discuss their performance at their job. I spent over five years as an Assistant to the Store Manager with Walmart. Though there were challenges, one of my favorite aspects of the work was giving associates evaluations. We would discuss their strengths, their areas of opportunity, and ways to help them develop. Of course, some evaluations were more enjoyable than others. Some had to be encouraged to develop in several areas. One of the tasks of an ASM was to evaluate. The sports world is no stranger to evaluation, either. Athletes are evaluated for their performance. Their statistics are evaluated to see their proficiency in their respective sport. Managers evaluate the effectiveness of coaches. Arm-chair quarterbacks evaluate the passing games of their team’s QB. We need to evaluate. It is a necessity.
Think about heading on a road trip. One of the important steps is to evaluate your motor vehicle to make sure it is running properly and ready for the trek. Doctors evaluate aging individuals for maximum health and to detect any potential health issues.
John tells believers to test, to evaluate, the spirits. This is a command. For the believer, to test or not to test is not the question. Believers must evaluate spirits. I mentioned a few modern heresies (though they are not really modern) in the previous post. That is just one example of why believers need to evaluate the spirits.
Another reason would be to simply look at popular, “Christian” books. CBN (Christian Broadcasting Network) has Jesus Calling by Sarah Young as their number one book they recommend believers purchase. Now, if one were to test Sarah Young’s book, one would find several issues (biblically speaking) with it. Here are a few websites you can check it to see why evaluation (testing) is needed for believers.
Tim Challies: "10 Serious Problems with Jesus Calling"
Southern Evangelical Seminary & Bible College: "Jesus Calling by Sarah Young: A False Jesus?"
Sean McCausland, "Book Review: Jesus Calling, by Sarah Young"
We do not have an option for testing. We need to test. We must test. Now the question is, “How do we test?” I am glad you asked! You will have to wait until next time to find out (or you could just continue reading 1 John 4:1-6).