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  • Joe Steenholdt

1 John 4:1–6 - The Ultimate Test

Scripture is the sufficient source for knowing and testing what is true.


1 John 4:1–6 (NIV)

Dear friends, 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. 2 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 the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.

4 You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. 5 They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. 6 We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood.


Listen to passage & devotional:


Belgic Confession of Faith, Article 7: The Sufficiency of Scripture

We believe

that this Holy Scripture contains

the will of God completely

and that everything one must believe

to be saved

is sufficiently taught in it.

For since the entire manner of service

which God requires of us

is described in it at great length,

no one—

even an apostle

or an angel from heaven,

as Paul says—

ought to teach other than

what the Holy Scriptures have

already taught us.

For since it is forbidden

to add to or subtract from the Word of God,

this plainly demonstrates

that the teaching is perfect

and complete in all respects.

Therefore we must not consider human writings—

no matter how holy their authors may have been—

equal to the divine writings;

nor may we put custom,

nor the majority,

nor age,

nor the passage of time or persons,

nor councils, decrees, or official decisions

above the truth of God,

for truth is above everything else.

For all human beings are liars by nature

and more vain than vanity itself.

Therefore we reject with all our hearts

everything that does not agree

with this infallible rule,

as we are taught to do by the apostles

when they say,

“Test the spirits

to see if they are of God,”

and also,

“If anyone comes to you

and does not bring this teaching,

do not receive him

into your house.”



The first letter of John is an excellent overview of the basics of the faith. John covers many of the same subjects repeatedly so that these young Christians can build a solid foundation on the truth of Jesus Christ, who came in the flesh and died on the cross as a substitute in our place. Many false teachers were causing confusion on these foundational truths, and John wrote this letter to encourage and equip them.

The apostle John has the same goal as his gospel account in this letter, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13). Just as Paul’s urgency in Galatians, John knows eternity is at stake when it comes to advancing the pure and unadulterated gospel. So he tells them how they can test what is true and false—and how we can continue to test any “spirit of the age.”

Dig Deeper

Last summer, our minivan started to idle roughly. Just by how it acted like when it was about to stall, we knew something was not working correctly. Then, the check engine light confirmed further that something was amiss. Sure enough, a car computer scanner tool revealed a code showing a misfire in one of the cylinders. That spark plug had gone bad, so it was not running as it should.

We cannot run every lecture, book, song, movie, sermon, or social media post we hear through a scanner tool to check for error codes. Yet, in our modern culture, we are bombarded with more messages than ever. Social media companies have figured out how to give us more of what we like, adjusting algorithms to keep us returning for more time on their app. They aren’t interested in knowing the truth as they keep your attention. How do you know who and what to trust?

Even with the change in media, our source and test for the truth remains the same: the Spirit of God acknowledges and confesses Jesus, the Son of God, as the Christ—the Messiah—who came as true God and true man for the salvation of His people. The one revealed to us in Scripture and assured by His Spirit.

As you compare the message and how it lines up with the Bible and interpret Scripture in light of Scripture, you can also ask yourself this question as part of the test: ‘Does this cause me more confusion about Christ or diminish my trust in Him or lead me away from worshiping him?’ Anything that does those things is the spirit of the antichrist.

Certain messages may get more attention and applause in the world at large, but the most important part is if the message we cling to draws us closer to God and glorifies Him. We can be thankful He has given us His infallible and sufficient Word for such a task.

  • ACKNOWLEDGE WHO GOD IS: God is light and in Him is no darkness at all;

  • ALIGN YOUR LIFE WITH GOD'S WILL: Pray that you will continue to familiarize yourself with God’s Word so you may test what is from God;



Read the New Testament in a year! Today: Acts 24


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