By Stan Brown
I John 4:1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.
After elucidating the exhilarating concept of mutual abiding, we in Him and He in us, John reminds his readers that there are false prophets out there. They stand in direct contrast to the Holy Spirit who indwells us. John will spend a little time discussing the concept of antichrists which he introduced in 1John 2:22 Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son. We must be aware that both within and without the church there are spirits who are on a mission from Satan to destroy that fantastic relationship that we have directly with the Father and the Son. Sometimes, believers can perpetuate lies as they themselves are deceived by the great deceiver (Satan). But remember we have the Spirit of God residing within us to combat the errors of Satan. James 4:7 Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. The mutual abiding life is one of submission to God.
John has just told us about an amazing relationship facilitated by the Holy Spirit. In contrast, he now says that there are a lot of spirits out there who will tell lies about who God is. John has also talked about living out truth and love. The false spirits perpetuate the lies of Satan. There are a whole bunch of them out there. Jesus said “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves (Matt. 7:15). They are sometimes tough to distinguish because Satan is a liar and a good one at that. John is going to tell us in the following verses how they may be recognized. In the previous verse he has brought us to the place of mutual abiding. When we remain there, we can be safe from all attacks but this warning is given to the beloved. Wherever we are in our relationship with the Lord we must be on the lookout for false prophets. The result of their work will always be division rather than unity.
It is sometimes easy to become arrogant about where we are in our Christian life. Satan and his allies will attack with a vengeance. He wants us to pay allegiance to himself. He wants no mutual abiding with God. John will next tell us how to recognize the false spirits.
This may seem a little depressing as John includes this warning just after he has spoken of the thrilling relationship we may have with God. I would rather take it as encouraging. He is merely telling us to never become complacent in our relationship with God. There are all sorts of deceptions out there. The exciting thing is that as we abide together (God and me) we know who God is and can recognize the falsehoods of Satan. The Holy Spirit is not the only spirit at work in the world but He is the most powerful (omnipotent) and the most loving. He will always help us walk in the light.
1Cor. 9:27 but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.