Last time we were together we discussed the why of John’s command to test the spirits. Believers are commanded to test the spirits, to use discernment. It is not optional. But we turn our attention now to the how of testing.
In 1 John 4:1, John offers the command to test, provides the basis for the test, and the reason for the test. In verses 2-3 John provides the how of testing. Knowing the how is important for anything we do.
Knowing how to change the oil in your vehicle prior to changing the oil in your vehicle is vital. You can do tremendous damage to your vehicle if you make mistakes during this process.
The same could be said of making a cake. If one does not know how to make the cake, the order in which to mix the ingredients, the measurements, and even the time and temperature in the oven, then one cannot enjoy the warm, fluffy delight of a cake (strawberry is the best, by the way!).
Likewise, knowing the how of testing is vital. If God provides us a command, it is consistent with His just and righteous character to provide the how, and He does so through the aged apostle John. John write,
“By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God.” (ESV)
John tells us that we will not the veracity of the spirit based upon their confession of Christ, specifically His humanity. We have mentioned different heresies that have plagued the church throughout her existence, so we will not recount that again. It is important to remember that the church has been, is, and will be beset by false doctrine until the Lord returns. It is a good reminder, then, that we must test the spirits.
While this test is not exhaustive, it is an excellent test. How do teachers, preachers, and philosophers relate to Jesus Christ? Do they proclaim Him to be the Son of God, fully God and fully man, without sin? The Second London Baptist Confession of Faith provides an excellent summary of what we must believe about Jesus Christ,
The Son of God, the second person in the Holy Trinity, being very and eternal God, the brightness of the Father's glory, of one substance and equal with him who made the world, who upholdeth and governeth all things he hath made, did, when the fullness of time was come, take upon him man's nature, with all the essential properties and common infirmities thereof, yet without sin; being conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary, the Holy Spirit coming down upon her: and the power of the Most High overshadowing her; and so was made of a woman of the tribe of Judah, of the seed of Abraham and David according to the Scriptures; so that two whole, perfect, and distinct natures were inseparably joined together in one person, without conversion, composition, or confusion; which person is very God and very man, yet one Christ, the only mediator between God and man. ( John 1:14; Galatians 4;4; Romans 8:3; Hebrews 2:14, 16, 17; Hebrews 4:15; Matthew 1:22, 23; Luke 1:27, 31, 35; Romans 9:5; 1 Timothy 2:5 )
How do you know if a spirit is from God? How do you know if someone is a believer? You know this by their relationship to Jesus Christ. Now, it is important to remember this is not an exhaustive test. This test is not like a battery test at the local automobile supply store. This is like a pass-fail test for the veracity of the individual. But perhaps it would help to provide an example.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (also known as the Mormon Church), holds a certain belief about Jesus.
Now, this group of people claims to be Christian. While there is much that could be written here, I want to offer one quote from The Book of Moses (referred to as The Pearl of Great Price), 6:9,
“In the image of his own body, male and female, created he them…”
This passage refers to God’s Creation of human beings. But notice the language, “in the image of his own body…” That is, God has a physical body at one point. Now, what does this have to do with Christ? Well, it negatively impacts the doctrine of the Trinity (a point that LDS already have an issue with), particularly the spiritual composition of God the Father (see John 4:24). This, in turn, affects one’s views of Christ. In addition to the nature and origin of Christ, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints also adds to the work of Christ (you can see an example in 2 Nephi 25:23).
While this post is not about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, it does help to have an example of how to test the validity of what individuals are saying. Jehovah’s Witnesses provide another example. Jehovah’s Witnesses also deny the deity of Christ, His co-creative power, and the biblical fact that Jesus is Jehovah. It is important to test the veracity of the teachings of Jehovah’s Witnesses in accordance with their views of Jesus. This is one way that we can test the spirits.
Brothers and sisters, we must test the spirits in accordance with “sound doctrine.”
 See: Titus 1:9; 2:1; 2 Timothy 4:2-4; and 6:3.