“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.” I John 4:6 NASB
John started the fourth chapter of I John with a warning. He said in I John 4:1, “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.” How are we to test the spirits? John stated “We are from God; he who knows God listens to us.” As established earlier, John was an apostle who taught with authority. We see in Acts 2:42 that the New Testament church among other things was devoted to the apostles teaching. What did they teach? They taught the Word of God.
Jesus spent forty days after His resurrection opening the apostle’s eyes to the Scriptures. The Scriptures He opened their eyes to was the Old Testament, thus they taught the Old Testament. We also know that one of qualifications for a book to be included into the New Test was that it had to be written by an apostle or someone directly associated with an apostle. When John stated, “We are from God.” Who is the “we” he is referring to? The apostles. Clearly, the teachings of the apostles that the New Testament church was devoted to was the whole of the Bible, both the Old and New Testaments.
Here John warned of the false prophets who have gone out into the world. We test those who claim that they are of God with the authority of God’s word. If they fail to line up with God’s word, they are false prophets. Let’s be clear though. We can have doctrinal differences with other Christians who are truly Christians. We simply disagree on certain subjects. One can believe in a pre-tribulation rapture while the other believes in a mid or post-tribulation rapture and another doesn’t believe there will be a rapture at all. I am a very solid pre-tribulationist. I personally believe that the pre-tribulation rapture is abundantly clear in scripture. Does this mean that I should view anyone who believes otherwise as a false prophet? Of course not. Christians can and will disagree on a variety of issues. However, a false prophet is one who denies the fundamentals of the faith such as the person and the work of Christ, along with the means and method of salvation. John said in I John 4:2-3, “By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; 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.” Remember, John told us who the antichrist was in I John 2:22 when he wrote, “Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son.”
In Revelation Jesus told John to write to the seven churches in Asia. The first of those churches was the church of Ephesus. (Revelation 2:1-7). Jesus praised this church for putting to the test those who called themselves apostles and were not. By proving that they were not apostles and indeed false prophets, they protected the integrity and true teaching of the church. We also find Paul in II Timothy 6:20 instructing Timothy to “guard what has been entrusted to you.” What was Timothy entrusted to? What did he need to guard? The church. Timothy was the pastor of the church of Ephesus. Guarding and protecting the church from false teachers was planted in Ephesus DNA from its very beginning. For this reason, Jesus praised the church.
The Bible warns that in the last days false prophets will be in abundance. II Timothy 4:3 warns, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires.” I have no doubt that we are now living in that day.
While the world is easily led astray, Jesus assured us that His sheep know His voice. (John 10:4). John has declared that the evidence of the one who knows God is that he listens to them, thus listens to the true teachings of the Word of God. The one who doesn’t know God may hear the Word of God and know the Word of God but refuse to listen to the Word of God. For this reason, he has not discerned what is good and evil. He thinks he knows best and is therefore in rebellion against God. However, the one who knows God will test the spirits through the power of the Holy Spirit, of which we will discuss in the next section, and the truth of the Word of God. Since he listens to God, he will obey God accept His truth and reject evil.