Ferry Lake Baptist 8/20/17
When Unbelief is Acceptable

I John 4:1-6


We ended last week talking about assurance of our salvation, assurance that comes from the Holy Spirit living in us and today John begins talking about the spirit of anti-Christ which he mentioned earlier in chpt. 2:18 “Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour.”

The last thing I want to do is to hurt anyone or offend anyone, but I have to preach what I believe God is showing me in the truth from the Word of God. I have told you before as we have begun this study that for the believer, who is indwelt by the Holy Spirit at the time of salvation, can know truth from error by means of the Holy Spirit. But it’s important you seek guidance from Him while studying the Word or listening to a trusted pastor who is true to doctrine.

In today’s society, all the way back to John’s day there is false doctrine coming from churches and specifically from so called preachers, evangelists, Pastors, and self-proclaimed prophets. Remember that was the problem facing John at the time of his writing these 3 epistles, that of Gnosticism. A lot of what is being said today has a lot of good sounding stuff but tucked away inside the stuff is error, twisting of scripture, “A lie” and so John warns us today to use discernment that is from God to know truth from error. This is one time “When Unbelief is Acceptable”.

Text: I John 4:1-6

3:24 John writes, “The one who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. We know by this that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.”

The Reason for Unbelief              vs. 1 “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.”

A.      John gives his readers a very serious warning and it’s just as serious of a warning for Christians today. I believe this is one of the most important messages the true church can hear today.

B.      Paul also gave a warning and direction for such situations, in Eph. 6:11-12Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.”

1.       The word for schemes means “craft, or deceit, a cunning device or wiles plural of the Devil.”

2.       The spiritual forces are angelic and demonic beings’ intent on cheating, deceiving, and lying to the human race and especially to distract from the truth of God’s message and Messiah.

C.      John says, Test the spirit” and the word test is “dok-im-ad'-zowhich means “to test, examine, prove, scrutinise (to see whether a thing is genuine or not), as metals (by fire)” “to recognize as genuine after examination, to approve, deem worthy”[1] 

D.      spirit - The word as used here refers to “one in whom a spirit is manifest or embodied, hence one actuated by a spirit, whether divine or demonical” (Thayer). Paul finds the source of false doctrine in demons who actuate (triggers or motivates) the false teachers who submit heresy. Thus, these spirits are human beings actuated either by demons or the Holy Spirit. In this case they would be the teachers, pastors, and evangelists who circulated around the local churches.[2]

1.       1 Timothy 4:1 “But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons,”

2.       So how does the average person know whether the spirit is of God or of Satan?

E.       John Phillips writes “In a day when so-called “Charismatics” avidly seek extrabiblical revelations by means of “tongues,” utterances, and spirit-instigated “prophecies”, Satan is all too willing to oblige.”

“We must beware of the incredible gullibility of those who speak in tongues or who listen avidly to those who claim to have the gift of prophecy and who accept without question and as gospel truth the communications they receive.”[3]

F.       False teachers and preachers lure millions in, promising them fulfillment, happiness, and more but never discuss sin and the consequences of it and how to be saved from the penalty. It’s all about God wanting them to have material blessings.

1.       The word deceive is found in the NT 19 times and it always is used in reference to the Devil and his works, folks John is right on, “do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God.

2.       Just like in the garden, Satan sends the spirit of anti-christ and he can really flower things up to make them sound so spiritual, but “test the spirit” and John tells us how to do that.

3.       Next John gives us…

The Basis for Unbelief                   vs. 2-3 “By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; 3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world.”

A.      Confesses as used here - describes Jesus as already come in the flesh (his actual humanity, not a phantom body as the Docetic Gnostics held

1.       Docetism was an early Christian heresy that promoted a false view of Jesus’ humanity. The word Docetism comes from the Greek word, which meant “to seem”; according to Docetism, Jesus Christ only seemed to have a human body like ours. They believe Him to be a phantom of some sort.

2.       Combined with the belief of Gnosticism, Its derived from the Greek word gnosis, meaning “to know.” In the case of Gnosticism, Basically, the Gnostic believes in acquiring special, mystical knowledge as the means for salvation.

B.      But John says, The knowledge of who to accept or who to reject comes down to a simple test.
1.      Every spirit that confesses that Jesus has come in the flesh is from God

2.      Every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God.

C.      Illus: I read an interesting story of the forerunner of present day charismatic movement and modern denomination Edward Irving (1792-1834) Irving was deposed from the Presbyterian church because of his beliefs concerning the continuing of using the sign gifts such as tongues, prophecy healing and raising of the dead. Dr. D.M. Panton, author of a number of books and periodicals, including the Dawn magazine, attended some of the tongues speaking meetings of the Irvingites in order to test spirits making utterances. He and his colleagues applied the test demanded here by John and discovered for themselves how subtle, evasive, and deceptive the spirits (naively believed to be the Holy Spirit) turned out to be. Please allow me to read from Dr. John Phillips commentary on I John……

Pgs. 129-130      

D.      Illus: I told you a month ago of a well-known bible scholar who I had all of his commentaries, as do many pastors even conservative ones. His writing style was very easy to read and understand, his exposition of the Greek language was awesome, but for so long I never read the dangerous parts of his work, I then I found that this man did not believe in the miraculous virgin birth of Christ. Most of Christ’s miracles he explained away as not miracles but misunderstandings of what really happened. But one day the Holy Spirit made it clear to me I didn’t need to read anymore of his material, and it’s all been burned.

1.       The spirit that I heard said, no more! Don’t read that anymore! Don’t pick it up!” His words contradict God’s words. I listened to that Spirit. Why did I listen? because first the Holy Spirit is given to me as trustworthy guide and because when I compare what the Spirit said with what Scripture said, I had no doubt of the truth.

2.       This man didn’t confess the deity of Christ in His incarnation in Bethlehem, born of a Virgin that Isaiah prophesied Isaiah 7:14 (KJV) “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

3.       He didn’t believe Matt. 1:18 “Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.”

4.       Now William Barclay wrote some great material all around the 28 books he wrote but in the middle, was the denial that God had come in the flesh. I don’t know what he knew if he did know what Satan was doing with him, but I know this was the spirit of the anti-Christ that denied that Christ being God, had come in the flesh.

5.       You can’t accept the sinless savior without the miracle of the virgin birth!

The Evidence for Unbelief           vs. 4-6 You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; (the false teachers) because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world. 5  They are from the world; therefore they speak as from the world, and the world listens to them. 6  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.

A.      John first identifies his readers as children of God because they’ve believed the truth from the Spirit of God as to who Jesus was and what He did, that He indeed was God in the flesh.

B.      John said 2 chpts back in 1 John 2:13I am writing to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I have written to you, children, because you know the Father.”

C.      He says here now in chpt. 4:4 “you’ve overcome the false teachers and preachers because you have the Holy Spirit living in you, he says, “Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.”

1.       But “they are from the world and the world listens to them

D.      Folks I know I’m probably going to offend some, but when I think about what Joel Osteen and his Pastor partner wife are doing, how they are deceiving so many with the largest church in America today, people are flocking to him.

1.       They don’t hear the gospel message, they don’t hear about sin in our lives or the consequences of sin or evening being set free from the bondage of sin, through Jesus Christ and His payment for sin.

2.       Instead while giving nobody hope of eternal life, gives them lies straight from Satan, through the spirit of anti-Christ, that they can be free by their own beliefs and positive thoughts. That God wants them to live well and have nice things and that God is a loving God who wants them to be free from negative people and negative thoughts etc.

3.       How do I know, because when I was a new Christian. I listened to him and at first I thought wow that’s a uplifting message, but then I believe the Holy Spirit began giving me discernment that he’s not preaching the bible, he’s not preaching the truth of God’s word. And I never watched him again other than news clips of his heresy.

4.       What does the name anti-Christ mean, anti can either mean against or it can have the meaning of seems to be or like. We have to be careful that we aren’t duped by Satan.


By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.” Folks there is a time “When Unbelief is Acceptable” When the Spirit of God says, “That’s not of God, or that teaching is false doctrine, that is not a book to read" etc. You may have been caught up in the bondage of false teaching, spirits of anti-christ, but you can be free in Jesus Christ today.

If you don’t have that true Spirit of God living and guiding you in all truth, will you come and ask Jesus to save you and He will give you that gift today. You don’t have to do anything to prove your salvation, all you have to do is repent of your sins and come in faith believing Jesus is God’s Son come as God in the flesh, sinless to die for sinners on the cross.

[2] Word Studies from the Greek New Testament; Taken from Preceptaustin.org (I John 4)

[3] The John Phillips commentary series; Exploring the Epistles of John pg 124-125