We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood.1 John 4:6 NIV
In John’s day, much as it is in our world today, there were many false teachers leading people away from the truth. Sometimes it can be hard to distinguish those proclaiming the truth from those preaching falsehood. But John gives us two tests in 1 John 4:1-6 to help us know how to recognize the Spirit of truth and distinguish it from false teachers.
The first test is found in verses 1-3 of this chapter. The false teacher will deny that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh. There is much you might read into this. But at the very least, the false prophet denies that Jesus is from God, that he was human, and that he was the Christ, God’s messiah who came to bring salvation to a lost world. Anyone who preaches salvation in any other name than Jesus is a false prophet.
Test Against the Scripture
The second test comes in this verse. We no longer have John and the other apostles living among us. But we can still listen to their voices through the pages of the Bible. If someone teaches something that is contrary to what is taught in the Scripture, then their teaching is not from God.
But we need to be careful here. It can be tempting to assume that everyone who disagrees with my understanding of the Scripture is wrong. They may be. Or, just as likely, I may be wrong. But what John is referring to here are those who find their “truth” outside the pages of the Scripture. They may sprinkle selected verses into their teaching, but at its heart, it is contrary to what is found in the Bible. So, be like the Bereans and test what you hear against the Scripture (Acts 17:11). And reject what does not conform to it.