Is it Real? 11 Biblical Tests of Genuine Salvation – John MacArthur (10/11)
:: 10 – Can You Discern between Spiritual Truth and Error? ::
So far we’ve taken nine tests for determining the presence of saving faith. In the tenth is the one time John actually used the word test: “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. 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” (1 John 4:1-3).
Every false religious system in the world violates that test. Adherents of such systems consistently attempt to undermine the biblical truth about who Jesus Christ is and what He accomplished–that He is Savior and Lord, who came in human flesh to be “delivered over because of our transgressions, and … raised because of our justification” (Rom. 4:25). Can you tell when someone is presenting false teaching about the person and work of Christ? That is the watershed issue of the Christian faith.
False teachers “are from the world; therefore they speak as from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God; he who knows God listens to us; he who is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error” (1 John 4:5-6). John was saying a true believer will listen to the truth and not deviate into error about Christ’s glorious person and work. Suppose someone says, “I used to believe in Jesus Christ, but now I’ve seen the light: Christ really was an angelic being–or an emanation from God, a divine spirit without the human element, or just a man and not divine.” Any such heresies reflect an unregenerate heart.
From the moment of your salvation, there’s one thing you’re clear about and that’s who Christ is and what He did, or you wouldn’t be saved. It’s the Holy Spirit who made that clear to you. This test is not moral or experiential but doctrinal. True believers know truth from error because the Spirit of Truth indwells them. “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ,” John says, “is born of God” (1 John 5:1). That’s the same doctrinal test again. When you believe the right thing about Christ, you’re born of God.
It’s good to be a believer, but it’s also good to be skeptical. As John says, “Do not believe every spirit” (4:1, emphasis added). For the sake of your spiritual life and health, don’t believe everything you hear, see, and read. Instead, “Test the spirits to see whether they are from God.” That requires the ability to think biblically. The Greek text implies conducting a rigorous, ongoing examination of whatever and whomever you expose yourself to. Why go to all that trouble? “Because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”
The conquering of the city of Troy is one of the most famous stories of antiquity. Greek soldiers had laid siege to the city for over ten years, but were unable to conquer it. In exasperation Ulysses, a brilliant strategist, decided to have a large wooden horse built and left outside the city walls as a supposed gift to the unconquerable Trojans. The Greeks then sailed away in apparent defeat. The curious and proud Trojans brought the wooden horse inside their fortified walls. That night Greek soldiers hidden inside the horse crept out and opened the city gates to let their fellow soldiers into the city. The soldiers massacred the inhabitants, looted the city, and burned it to the ground. Ever since, the Trojan horse has been a symbol of infiltration and deception. Throughout its history, the church has embraced many Trojan horses filled with false prophets.
Satan has effectively used enemies disguised as gifts to lure people away from the truth of God and into destructive error. Today’s church is in a particularly severe state of confusion because of its weak doctrine, relativistic thinking, worldly methodology, inaccurate interpretation of Scripture, lax internal discipline, and spiritual immaturity. What is sorely needed is spiritual discernment–the skill of separating divine truth from error (1 Thess. 5:21).
Perhaps you are discerning in the everyday affairs of life. You read nutritional labels because you want to be healthy. You read the fine print of the stock market report before making financial investments. If you need surgery, you carefully select the right doctor. Maybe you’re highly analytical about politics and can accurately assess a plethora of domestic and foreign issues. Or maybe you’re an armchair quarterback who evaluates offensive and defensive strategies. All that is fine, but can you discern between divine truth and error?