PMW 2019-050 by Chris Hume (The Reformed Hope)
We may be surprised by many things when we reach heaven. I dare not contend with J.C. Ryle who said that the thing which will surprise us most is how much more we ought to have loved Christ while on earth. But I think there is another reality which will also greatly surprise us when we reach heaven. And that is this: the depths of the spiritual battle that was waged for the souls of men and women during our lifetime. Take any saint—whether in the first century under the persecution of Nero, or suffering under Rome during the Inquisition in the 13th century, or faced with oppression by the secular government in China today—and behind the scenes in his life, the spiritual battle is of the intensest kind.
I think we will be surprised to finally understand the depth of the conflict which was introduced to us in Genesis 3:15, where we are told that God “put enmity between” the serpent’s seed and the seed of the woman (whom many commentators consider to be Christ). Commenting on this verse, John Gill notes that Christ “has been implacably hated by Satan and his angels, and by wicked men, so he has opposed himself to all them that hate and persecute his people.” I think we will be surprised to realize the depth of the battle that has raged—of which Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness gave us a glimpse of the craftiness, subtlety, and desperation of the enemy of our souls. I think we will be surprised to realize the skirmishes and clashes that have occurred in the spiritual realm, and of which we perhaps unknowingly participated in via prayer, discipleship, evangelism, loving our brothers and sisters in Christ, a word of encouragement, a word of rebuke, sharing a gospel tract, speaking up for the weak, not giving in to sin. I think when we reach heaven, we will be like the servant of Elisha, who had his eyes opened to see the fiery angelic army encamped around Dothan.
Do you remember that story? The king of Syria is ticked off because Elisha keeps warning the king of Israel about his battle plans. Finally, the king of Syria has enough and basically says, “That’s it. I am going after this prophet Elisha.” A massive Syrian army comes at night and surrounds the city of Dothan, where Elisha was. In the morning, Elisha’s servant is afraid and says, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” (2 Kings 6:15). Elisha says—and doesn’t this remind you of what John says in 1 John 4:4?—”Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them” (2 Kings 6:16). What he prays next is what I believe happens every time the Holy Spirit, through the Word, reveals to us an aspect of the spiritual battle that is occurring—he prays: “O LORD, please open his eyes that he may see” (2 Kings 6:17). The Lord opens his eyes and he saw that the “mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around” (2 Kings 6:17).
Christianity and the World Religions:
By Derek CooperCooper. Examines the rival worldviews found in Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism, Judaism, Islam, and irreligion. He engages these worldviews from a Christian perspective.
See more study materials: www.KennethGentry.com
In this article, I want to pull back that veil and give us a glimpse of the spiritual reality that is occurring in the world today. I can assure you of this: the spiritual battle that is raging now is no less intense than when those chariots of fire rallied around the prophet of God against the Syrian army. The New Testament contains vivid imagery of warfare (Ephesians 6:10-20, 1 Timothy 1:18). This imagery points us to the spiritual reality of a great warfare between Christ and Satan. One text in particular shows us the reality of spiritual warfare: 1 John 4:1-6.
“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. 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. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.”
The Command of 1 John 4:1
The book of 1 John contains only a handful of explicit commands. Based on my count, there are about 8-12 commands in total. Compare this with Paul’s letter to the Ephesians or Colossians, which can contain over a dozen mandates in each paragraph. Or consider 1 Peter, which contains about one command every three verses. 1 John is different.
Now, every single command given in God’s Word ought to be something you take very seriously. Psalm 119:47 says: “For I find my delight in your commandments, which I love.” We can sing that song and yet not live it out. Let’s state an obvious but often overlooked reality: if you don’t know the commands of God, then you cannot find your delight in them, love them, or obey them. There is a story I heard probably eight years ago, I still remember it quite well. It was John MacArthur talking about a man who, on one occasion, was up into the early hours of the morning, reading, reading, reading the Bible. His companion asked him what he was doing. And he said something to this effect: “I am rereading the New Testament to make sure that I haven’t missed any command from my Lord.” That story stuck with me because of the seriousness and passion that man had for his Lord and for obeying his commands. But that man was simply doing what Jesus said. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” 1 John is full of tests to see if you are in the faith. Here’s one: don’t claim to love Jesus Christ if you don’t even know his commandments.
All the commands in 1 John, I believe, can be broken down into four categories. These categories can be remembered by the acronym FLAT. Faith commands. Love commands. Abide commands. And Testing commands. I encourage you, like that diligent Christian in that story did, to take some time to go through 1 John. Noting the commands the Spirit of Christ gives through the Apostle John. And I think you will be able to see how each one fits within this structure.
1 John: Salvation, Heresy, Assurance
20 downloadable mp3 sermons by Ken Gentry
First John is a much neglected epistle that deals with crucial issues: it explains salvation, warns against heresy, and demonstrates the assurance of salvation. Very helpful, especially for new Christians.
See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com
So here’s the list of commandments I found in 1 John. Some are repeated, so I will only list the first reference—and there may be one or two more depending on how you read the sentence. Nevertheless, these are the main ones I found:
Do not love the world (2:15)
Abide in him (2:27)
Let no one deceive you (3:7)
Love in deed and in truth (3:18)
Believe in Christ (3:23)
Love one another (4:7)
Keep yourselves from idols (5:21)
Do not believe every spirit (4:1)
The text of 1 John 4:1 is not a suggestion, it is not an opinion, it is a command that is to be obeyed. This is not optional. If you love Jesus, you will delight in knowing and doing his commands. The command given here is this, 1 John 4:1a: “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God.”
Here’s what John does: he gives the command (v. 1a), he gives the reason for the command (v. 1b), he gives an example of how to obey this command (v. 2-4), and then he ends with encouragement for obeying this command (v. 5-6).
So let’s follow John’s logic here. First of all, understand this command. The command could be summarized as this: Don’t believe everything you hear—think critically about everything! We are called to (1) not uncritically believe every spirit and (2) to test the spirits.
Now, why does John use the term spirits? This could throw you off if you do not understand what he is getting at. You may think, I am not an exorcist or shaman priest, how in the world do I test a spirit? To understand this, we have to understand the context of John’s letter. John, perhaps a very old man at this point, is writing this letter to a group of Christians living in Asia Minor. In fact, John may have been in Ephesus when he wrote this letter. Ephesus was a highly idolatrous city. John wasn’t ministering in the “Bible Belt” in the 1950’s (not that there weren’t problems then). He was ministering to a small group of Christians living among various pagan religions that did not acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord. In this letter John has to correct various false teachings that have arisen in the very early church. Errors that you have no doubt noticed if you’ve studied 1 John:
the teaching that man can be free from sin this side of eternity
the teaching that someone can be truly converted and yet be characterized by sin
the teaching that someone can love God and yet not love his brothers and sisters in Christ
Behind all these doctrines (or teachings), John says, there is a spirit. There are two ways to look at this, both of which could be true methinks. (1) There is a literal evil spirit behind every false doctrine. And (2) the ethos or essence of any teaching is described as the “spirit” of the teaching. I believe John is saying, behind every teaching, every idea, every worldview, there is a spiritual entity. Whether it is a literal spirit for every false doctrine, or an army of spirits that constantly work to spit out false doctrines into the world, I don’t know. Ultimately, these spirits that influence mankind come from one of only two sources: God or Satan. Thus John says examine, test, try, analyze every spirit, every doctrine, every teaching, everything to see its source. Does this come from God or does it come from Satan?
If you want to break it down, the negative part of the command is to not be simple minded and believe everything. Proverbs 14:15a: “The simple believes everything.” The positive part of the command is to test the spirits. That means you are critically thinking about any teaching, any idea, any movement, any action. Proverbs 14:15 again: “The simple believes everything, but the prudent (or the wise) gives thought to his steps.” Friends, if your Christianity is a thoughtless Christianity, then I have no doubt that it is a dangerous place you are in.
We are here given two errors to avoid: one is being simple minded and believing whatever is in style—an error younger people may be prone to fall into. The other error is to not believe anything that isn’t already a part of our established thinking. . . .
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Tagged: 1 John 4:1, false prophets
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