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LESSON 8 - TESTING THE SPIRITS (1 JOHN 4:1-6)

     Copr. 1997, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.  All Scripture references
     are to the NIV unless otherwise noted. Suggested answers are
     found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses
     a blackboard. 

INTRODUCTION: Our lesson this week continues the thoughts we
discussed in the last few verses of last week's lesson. Let's
review 1 John 3:18-24. John tells us that "God is greater than our
hearts;" meaning that we need to have a proper understanding of
God's will in order to have a right-formed conscience. He then says
we know that we live "in Him" by the Spirit He gave us. Thus, we
need to have this triad working for us: 1) Study of the Bible to
understand God's will; 2) This study to be guided by the Holy
Spirit; and, 3) Thus formed, our conscience will be an "indicator"
of whether we are on the path of light. Let's press on with this
week's additional light!

I. TESTING

     A. Read 1 John 4:1. What do you think John means by "spirit"
     when he tells us to "test the spirits?"

          1. Is the "spirit" different than the "prophet?"

          2. Can a prophet have both "false spirits" and "true 
          spirits?"

          3. Is "testing the spirits" an ongoing thing? Should a
          prophet who once shared God's spirit be continually
          tested to determine whether each new revelation is from
          God? 

               a. Remember Balaam of Numbers 22? Could you trust
               him in Numbers 22?  How about when he did what was
               reported in Joshua 13:22; 2 Peter 2:15 or
               Revelation 2:14?

               b. This afternoon, if you want to expand your 
               thinking about true and false prophets, you should
               read the very interesting story found in 1 Kings
               13. The relevant part for this discussion is found
               in vv. 1-24.

     B. Read 1 John 4:2-3. What test do we apply to determine 
     whether a spirit is true or false?

          1. Do you think that the spirits John is talking about
          all claim to be from God? (It seems so.)

          2. One commentary I read said that John is not warning us
          about those who try to trick others into thinking they
          have a gift from God, this is a warning about those who
          have genuine evil spirits.
          
               a. Do you see a difference? (The devil does not have
               the power of God. He too depends upon "tricks." 
               This seems to be only a matter of degree.  The
               trick becomes more sophisticated as the devil
               becomes more personally involved.)

          3. Let's look at this test for just a minute. John says
          (v. 2) "Jesus Christ has come in the flesh." What does he
          mean by "has come?" (Means Jesus existed before He was
          born. Thus, He was God before He came to this earth.)

               a. What does he mean by the phrase, "in the flesh?"
               (That Jesus became man.)

          4. Is that it? Is the test this simple? Just ask whether
          Jesus is fully God and fully man?

               a. I can understand why the devil would want to deny
               that Jesus was fully God. Why would he want to deny
               that Jesus was fully man? (Redemption and sympathy.
               Jesus cannot come as the "second Adam" and be our
               substitute if He is not fully man.  He cannot have
               walked in our shoes if He was not fully man.)

     C. Our lesson says (rightly) that miracles are not the test.
     But then it continues (Monday): "Why are there so few miracles
     in the church today? God wants us to believe for His sake and
     truth's sake -- not because of spectacular signs and wonders.
     Reliance on miracle-working produces the wrong kind of faith."

          1. Do you agree miracles produce the "wrong kind of 
          faith?"
          
               a. If so, what kind of faith is "wrong?"

          2. Is this attack on miracles a concept based upon 
          Scripture? (Read 1 Cor.12:8-10)

               a. Is the Spirit's gift of healing and miracle 
               working as "time bound" as the gift to distinguish
               between spirits? (The lesson suggests that the time
               for healings and miracles is past, but the gift of
               distinguishing between spirits is still going
               strong.)

               b. Someone read Mark 16:20; Acts 14:3; Romans 15:19;
               Hebrews 2:4.

          (I suggest the real reason we see few miracles is that 
          we believe "they will produce the wrong kind of faith!"
          We need to have faith in the Spirit's present power to
          perform miracles through us. John 14:12-14.)

     D. Having shown that miracles have been used by God as proof
     of who He is, should we look beyond the miracle to see what is
     being promoted? (In Matt. 24:24 Jesus warns of false christs
     and false prophets who "will appear and perform great signs
     and miracles to deceive even the elect..." Thus, we need to
     stand by John's test to see if the prophet is loyal to the
     doctrine of the incarnate Christ.)
     
II. OVERCOMERS

     A. Is this test of the spirits just a matter of correct 
     doctrine? Does our view of the exact nature of Jesus' divinity
     and incarnation have a practical impact on our day to day
     living?

     B. Let's read 1 John 4:4. Who does John say we have overcome?
     (False spirits, the antichrist attitude, the world)

     C. Why have we overcome? (Because Jesus/the Spirit of God is
     in us.)

          1. Does this put "flesh" on the bones of the doctrine of
          the nature of Jesus? (God is "with us" because Jesus has
          reconciled us to God. (Colossians 1:18-22) This
          "doctrine" for testing the spirits is key to our
          confidence that we have overcome!)

III. OVERCOMERS v. THE ANTICHRIST ATTITUDE

     A. Read 1 John 4:5-6. Remember the path of light and the path
     of darkness that we have repeatedly heard about from John?
     John once again describes the characteristics of those on the
     two paths. [Draw paths on board.]

          1. What do these verses say will characterize those on
          each path? 
          
          Light                         Darkness

          From God                      From the world
          Know God                      Speak: viewpoint of world
          Listen: God's view            Not listen to God's view

     B. What seems to be key to being on the path of light? 
     (Knowing God.)

          1. How do we get to know God?

     C. Looking at this chart, how hard is it to move from the path
     of darkness to the path of light?

          1. What are the obstacles to changing? (Those on the path
          of darkness do not want to listen to God.  If they are
          not willing to listen, how difficult this is!  Worse,
          they are probably not motivated to listen to God's word
          because the  world listens to them. The worldly ideas
          reinforce each other.)

          2. What lesson is there in this? (That we need to get off
          the path of darkness (if we are on it) as soon as
          possible. The further you go along the path, the more
          difficult it is to hear God's view.  The "cure" for being
          on the path to darkness is to get to know God.)

     D. John seems to suggest that the spirit in the world is the
     spirit of antichrist. (1 John 4:3, 5-6) Just what does it mean
     to have the spirit of the antichrist? (v.2 not acknowledge the
     divinity of Christ or the fact that He became a man.)

          1. The teacher's helps ask "why do some Protestant 
          churches refer to the papacy as the antichrist?" (I like
          the "some Protestant churches.")

               a. Is it possible that a religious power could have
               the antichrist attitude?

               b. Is it appropriate to try to pin that label on any
               single organization or person? (John makes it very
               clear that this an attitude. Any person or
               organization that undermines the deity or
               incarnation of Christ is adopting the antichrist
               attitude.)

                    (1) Jesus says this about His miracles in John
                    14:12 "I tell you the truth, anyone who has
                    faith in me will do what I have been doing. He
                    will do even greater things than these,
                    because I am going to the Father." Is a
                    religious organization that denies Jesus'
                    promise that those who have faith in Him will
                    do greater miracles displaying an antichrist
                    attitude?

IV. NEXT WEEK: "How God is Love," 1 John 4:7-21. Study!
ave faith in Him will do greater miracles displaying an antichrist attitude? IV. NEXT WEEK: "How God is Love," 1 John 4:7-21. Study!