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Discernment – 1 John 3:24-4:6



Text: 1 John 3:24b – 4:6

John draws a series of stark contrasts, to draw the believer’s mind to the great differences that pertain between Christians and unbelievers. Let’s just see some of those sharply clear contrasts…

1. We have Contrasting Constraints .
The first contrast that we see here is the difference in the ‘spirit’ which constrains and controls our being.

  • The Christian is under the Control of the Holy Spirit. 24b. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us. The Holy Spirit indwells every single believer. 1 Corinthians 12:13. In fact, John tells us here that the fact of the in-dwelling Spirit is our assurance that Christ is in us, as we are in Him. Ephesians 1:12-14 Now, notice a great contrast here…
  • The unbelieving world is under the control of Satan. V1 Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: In Biblical days, the sense of there being a vague ‘spiritual realm’ was much more acute than it is today. ‘Spirits’ were everywhere. Often these ‘spirits’ would manifest themselves in strange ways, in strange behaviours.

Sometimes,the messages that appear to be Christian are false! Now, for John, the point was that believers should TEST THE SPIRITS. Learn what is the Word of God, and what is a FALSE PROPHECY. John writes, Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God:
HOW WILL THEY MAKE THAT ASSESSMENT? How will they determine which is which? Firstly, by noting that:-

2. We have Contrasting Confessions . V 2-3
Real Christians Confess Christ. They confess his proper person, his actual bodily manhood, and they confess his divinity, for he is Christ, the Messiah, God’s anointed One. They confess then, that He is Lord, that all of history is summer up in him, and that all of the Old Testament promises find their fulfilment in Him, that He is the focus of every scripture passage and that He is our Sovereign, our King. Real Christians know who Jesus is. On the other hand…
False prophets do NOT confess Christ. Instead, because they are motivated by unbelief, they:

  • Cause splits and divisions in the church. because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Acts 20:28-30,
  • Have an incorrect view of Jesus, every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God:
  • Are doing the devil’s work. this is that spirit of antichrist, To take away anything from the wonderful person of Christ is to deny his saving ability and to cause grave harm to our own souls, and thus to do the devil’s work for him. 1 Corinthians 15:16-17,
  • False prophets are liars. Implied here is the underlying fact that these false teachers are distracting the church from truth.

There are some very simple tests and some profound warnings in the scripture for and about false prophets. Deuteronomy 13:1-3 Deuteronomy 18:22

3. We have Contrasting Citizenships .
John now contrasts which kingdom we belong to, God’s Kingdom or the kingdom of this world:-

  • We are ‘Of God’. 4 Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.
  • They are ‘of the world’. 5 They are of the world: Verse 5 could be translated,  They proceed from the world and are of the world.

We overcome error, through the intervention of the Holy Spirit, indwelling us, who applies God’s Word to our hearts, and shows us the stark division between truth and error. We are on the winning side.

4. We have Contrasting Caricatures.
The way that the world views and portrays the faithful, bible believing Christian is vastly different from the way it sees the ‘false prophets’ – those within ‘Christendom’ who adopt and live by a non-biblical worldview.
False prophets get an audience in this world. therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them. They speak as the world speaks and so the world listens to them. They call themselves Christians, and they claim to be representing the Christian church, but they speak with the worlds:-

  • Morality. Because the world listens to false prophets.
  • Opinions. The world loves clergy that align themselves with popular causes – the world loves the idea of female clergy… But that’s because the Bible teaches that it is not a woman’s role to preach or exercise authority in the church.
  • Beliefs. Don’t the liberal-driven media love the false prophets who allow for ‘theistic evolution’.
  • Methods. As some of the false prophets who write inspirational, purpose driven, best life now type books, so-called Christian books, based on management techniques, with a few out of context Bible verses dropped in here and there, and watch them sell.

The world loves the false prophets. They speak out of the vile moral and economic mess that is this world, and the world is only too keen to listen to them. But…
Biblical Christians get no audience and are often vilified for their faith. 6 We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us.
The idea conveyed in the phrase ‘knoweth God’ here is the idea of one seeking to understand more of God, to get a proper revelation and knowledge of him. Romans 10:17.   Compared with the false prophets, we are caricatured as extremists and intolerant, fundamentalists and we should expect no other reaction than that.

So, John told us what spirit is within them, motivating and controlling them, he has told us about the difference in the way they speak of Christ, he has reminded us that we are part of God’s kingdom, – the kingdom that will ever prevail, and be victorious, and he has reminded us that while the world loves the words and pseudo-wisdom of the false prophets and laps up their advice with eager ears, and hates the preaching of the gospel – yet there are those who will seek after God’s Word and will respond to the message of the crucified Saviour, by trusting Christ.

From → 1st John

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