After John speaks about the need for spiritual discernment he tells us about a test that we can apply that will reveal what kind of spirit/prophet we are dealing with. "This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world" (1 John 4:2-3).
At first glance, this "test" appears far too narrow to be useful in the complicated world in which we live. But closer examination reveals that this is not the case. This test goes to the heart of Christianity and to the heart of everything when viewed from God's perspective. What we think of Jesus is more important than anything else. If we do not see him as the Christ or Messiah, the anointed of God, the very Son of God, then we have made a critical mistake. Spirits and prophets that come from God acknowledge that Jesus is the Chirst and that he has come in the flesh. In other words, they acknowledge his divinity and humanity. This is central. Non-negotiable. There is absolutely no room for compromise. To make this doubly sure, John comes at it negatively as well. Every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. There is no neutrality. The lines are clearly drawn. The spirits/prophets are either from God or they are against God. Its another case of black and white in a grey world. It reminds us that in a world of "perspectives" there is truth and error.
But also notice that there is something very sinister involved with the failure to acknowledge the truth about Jesus. John links this denial with the spirit of antichrist, a spirit which is already active in the world and at the end of the Gospel age will be embodied in a man who will lead the final rebellion against the true and living God. Wrong views of Jesus, in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Colossians 2:3), are very serious and failure to submit to him is ultimately catastrophic!
There is one other thing that we should observe. It is worth noting that the test John supplies is a doctrinal test. This reminds us that doctrine is not unimportant to biblical Christianity. We live in a day when doctrine is undervalued; we live in an age which in many ways is anti-intellectual. The hype surrounding the Da Vinci Code is a case in point. Dan Brown's novel is full of historical, religious and theological errors. Yet many educated people who should know better persist in saying that it persents a possible alternative explanation of Jesus. This is sheer nonsense. But it reveals the extent to which people are prepared to go to escape reality and the historical Jesus who challenges their ungodly lives and the fantasy worlds they inhabit. Although we live in a technologically advanced society, with our computers, ipods, and an endless array of other gadgets, we must not make the mistake of thinking that people are historically, philosophically or theologically advanced as well. In many profound and tragic ways we are returning to a new barbarism that will destroy far more than many realize unless God is gracious and comes to us in a new and sweeping reformation and revival.
To be continued...