SOMEBODY asked me one time about a preacher on a certain website to find out if they’re any good. I responded by saying, “Whether they’re on the internet, in a book or preaching from a pulpit in the church of Christ, we are to test every person to determine if their teaching aligns with God’s teachings.
That is the meaning of the verse in 1John 4:1; “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God:” Then the writer added; “because many false prophets are gone out into the world.”
The Apostle John was warning that some will teach error, “false prophets.” The Apostle Peter had a similar warning, except that he said some false teachers would come from among the Christians; “But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.” [2Peter 2:1]
Is there a way to determine between a false teacher and a true teacher from God? Yes, there is, and we MUST prove for our own knowledge what is being taught. [1Thessalonians 5:21]
TESTING THE TEACHER
In John’s 1st letter, he gives us two tests…..
TEST ONE – Do they deny that Jesus Christ came in the flesh? A true teacher will say that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh [1John 4:2]. Some folks are denying that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. [2John 1:7]
TEST TWO – Does the teaching match what the Apostles taught? We perform the test by matching it to what the Apostles taught as they were taught it by the Holy Spirit.
Looking at verse 6 of John’s 1st letter he tells us how to know the difference between truth and error, “We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error.”
The Apostles were told what to teach and what to write by the Holy Spirit [John 16:13]. Also in 2Timothy 3:16 Paul wrote, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God…..” He also said, “How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words,” [Ephesians 3:3].
In Galatians 1, Paul wrote, “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed” [Galatians 1:8].
He warned us in the 1st Corinthian letter, not to follow men further than what we can see in the word of God, “….that ye might learn in us not to think of men above that which is written, that no one of you be puffed up for one against another.” [1Corinthians 4:6b]
TWO OTHER TESTS
Though not mentioned by John, we can read about two more tests…..
TEST THREE – Moses answered this question, “How shall we know the word which the LORD hath not spoken?” [Deuteronomy 18:21-22]
When a prophet makes a statement in the name of the Lord, if what he says does not take place and his words do not come true, then his word is not the word of the Lord. Certain modern denominations have made some predictions that have NOT come to pass. By this test, they are NOT from God.
TEST FOUR – This test is to be used if someone claims to do a wonder (miracle) or a sign [Deuteronomy 13:1-3]. If their teaching, doctrine, contradicts what God has already revealed, they are to be rejected. It matters not whether they were able to perform the sign or to give a wonder. This is very similar to what John taught in the second test. (BTW – signs, wonders & tongues have ceased 1Cor 13:8)
PERFORMING THE TEST
At the beginning of the church, as the inspired men and Apostles taught, folks performed these tests. We read of one such group in Acts 17, the Bereans. The writer notes that these were “more noble (honorable).” Why were they nobler? Simple, because they, “received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.”
Look closely at this passage, the context shows that it was the Apostle Paul, along with Silas, who are teaching. God COMMENDS the Bereans for performing the tests for the Apostle Paul! Compare that to some denominations, even today, who CONDEMN the examination of scripture and tell their members that they are unable to know the truth unless the leadership teaches it.
The title asks if you are noble. We can be noble too, when we search the scriptures, just as they did. A message repeated yesterday and remains today, SEARCH THE SCRIPTURES. [Isaiah 34:16; Luke 16:29; John 5:39; 2Timothy 2:15, 16].
A final word. Let’s note one other thing that the Bereans did. It says that they searched the scriptures DAILY. I was studying with a brother in Christ the other day and he punched me right in the heart when he said, “We would all be better off if we INCREASED to weekly our DAILY STUDY.” Did you catch it? He is suggesting, and I agree, that we’re falling short in our daily reading of God’s word. So, I ask you, nay, I ask myself, Am I more noble?