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
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!
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
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
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
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
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
b. Someone read Mark 16:20; Acts 14:3; Romans 15:19;
(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.)
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
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
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
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?
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
(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
IV. NEXT WEEK: "How God is Love," 1 John 4:7-21. Study!