The Christian Criterion

 “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”—1 John 4:1 (NKJV)

In reading through John’s first epistle, something becomes quite evident: He was totally committed to warning the Christian Church about the spiritual attacks that Satan was launching against them. Specifically, he warned them against the attack of spiritual deception. Then, as now, it’s the enemy’s agenda to employ false prophets to infiltrate and infect the body of Christ with deceptive doctrines and to lead us away from God’s truth.

In no uncertain terms, John commands his audience (and us) to “test the spirits,” which means we are responsible to examine every spiritual teaching that comes our way to see if it’s true or false. I think most of us agree that this is a good thing, but many are also wondering, “How do I do that, exactly?” John goes on to give us a standard of measurement: “By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God” (1 John 4:2 NKJV).

Here’s a criterion for true Christianity: whether or not someone teaches that Jesus came in the flesh. In other words, if someone asserts that Jesus was incarnated in Bethlehem, took upon Himself an actual human body, became 100% human (while simultaneously being 100% God), then that person is speaking spiritual truth. God’s Spirit is behind that teaching. 

But watch what John goes on to say: “And every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world” (1 John 4:3 NKJV).

If a person teaches that Jesus didn’t come in the flesh, if they say He was simply an apparition or just some sort of spiritual being, then you can mark it down they’re not speaking for God. In fact, John goes so far as to tell us that they’re an extension of the same satanic agenda that will eventually inspire the Antichrist!

Wow, hard language! But necessary, because the stakes are eternal, and Christians need to know the difference between what’s spiritually true and false. John’s heart was to show us how we can make that determination. May we be faithful to follow up!  

DIG: What was John particularly committed to doing for the Christian Church?

DISCOVER: What’s one criteria John gives for spiritual truth and error?

DO: How can you strengthen your sense of spiritual discernment? In the same way that someone would make a workout plan to strengthen their physical muscles, spend time in prayer and study to create a workout plan (Philippians 2:12) that will strengthen your spiritual discernment muscles. 

About the Author

Pastor Dan Hickling

Pastor Dan Hickling serves our online community, also known as the Calvary Chapel Online Campus. He and his wife Becky have been married for 22 years and have two children, Lauren and Danny. Both Dan and Becky have been part of the CCFL church family for 22 years and have served in full time ministry for 20 of those years.