The Word of God warns us that seeking the truth is important. Knowing how to do it avoids many problems. This is a spiritual activity, not a logic one. Here I show some principles the Apostle John and Jesus taught about it.
Seeking the Truth – 1 John 4:1
Do you question your beliefs and other people`s beliefs and doctrines before accepting them? It is wise to do that, no matter how much authority and following they may have. John warns us about false teachers spreading destructive heresies (1 John 4:1).
In many other places, the Word of God warns us about testing doctrines, teachings, beliefs, and the spirit people. This is important because there are many false teachers and false teachings that can easily spread their ideas to receptive believers.
The Letter vs. the Spirit of the Word
I remember that it was a common practice in Charismatic and Pentecostal circles in the seventies to ask people to repeat, “Jesus Christ came in the flesh” to test their spirit. Some may still do it today. A poor interpretation of 1 John 4:2-3 produced this teaching.
However, that is not what these verses are saying. The Greek word that the King James Version translated as to confess should be interpreted as ‘to agree with’. It is not a matter of asking to say something but to discern what they are saying.
Often we must read between the lines to find the implications of a doctrine. Other times the impact is clear.
In the book of Acts, the Jews of synagogue at Berea received the Word with all readiness when Paul visited them. However, they searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so. (Acts 17:10-12).
That was good.
In many other places and synagogues, the Jews were not as fair-minded. They rejected the truth that Paul was preaching and even persecuted him.
Testing Your Beliefs
That shows another aspect of testing doctrines and beliefs. We should test even our beliefs to see if they really agree with the Scriptures. Our beliefs can block us from receiving the truth.
Testing our beliefs is not a sign of unbelief. It is a sign of seeking the truth more than wanting to be right.
We have limited understanding. If we want to grow, we must change some of our beliefs.
Be wary of those who think they know it all.
Then, what do you test, and how?
How Can You Test?
First, you can test only to the degree of your preparation.
For example, you cannot test if a mathematical theorem is valid if you do not have the proper mathematical education. This principle applies also to spiritual truth. However, in this case, to the level of education, you must add the level of spiritual development and discernment.
You don’t acquire these abilities overnight. Therefore, in some cases, it is wise to refer to others with more experience than us, who we trust.
Second, what should you test?
Testing the Source of Information
Jesus warned us about false prophets (Matthew 7:16-20). He gave us the criterion to discern them. Look at their life and their fruit. Do not go by what they say. If their fruits are bad so is the tree they come from.
Sometimes, it may be difficult to find the truth about somebody. Then you should use caution.
This test will reduce many problems.
Testing the Message
Knowing the Spirit of God (1 John 4:2)
Here John was addressing the doctrines of the Gnostics who denied the Jesus Christ that came as a man. He explains that these doctrines are not coming from the spirit of God but that of the antichrist.
Today, many other doctrines have spread, coming from the spirit of the antichrist. They deny the divinity of Jesus Christ and His resurrection. To de-mythologize the Bible, they reduce it to a powerless collection of men’s ideas.
You are of God, therefore you know the Spirit of God.
We should test any doctrine or belief against the Word of God. Scriptures were not the result of men’s ideas. The Holy Spirit inspired men to write them (2 Peter 1:20-21).
Because we are born of God, the Holy Spirit is in us to guide us in all truth. He will give us victory over these false teachers and their teachings (1 John 4:4). He will show us the proper understanding of Scriptures (John 16:13, 1 Corinthians 2:14).
Those who follow the lusts of the world will naturally also follow these false teachers (1 John 4:5).
Because the Holy Spirit dwells in you, therefore you know the Spirit of Truth.
Knowing We Abide in Him (1 John 4:13)
A key factor in this testing is the spirit we have.
You may have noticed that after you were born again, you could understand Scriptures better than before. This is because your spirit now was in greater communion with God’s Spirit (John 3:3,5).
Because of your increased fellowship with God, you will manifest the fruit and gifts of the Holy Spirit in your life.
From this evidence, you will know that you dwell in Him and He dwells in you.
The Finished Work of Jesus
An element to consider always in testing doctrines and understanding, is the revelation that Jesus brought to us, and the change in the state of believers after His death and resurrection. Now we are in a New Covenant with God.
All the Scriptures pointed to Him (Luke 24:27). Jesus fulfilled all God’s promises. In Him the promises become available to all believers who take them by faith (2 Corinthians 1:20).
Therefore, today as we read Scriptures, we must understand them in the light of Jesus’ finished work. We must acknowledge as completed all that He has achieved through His death, burial and resurrection.
We should reject any doctrine, interpretation or idea that does not agree with Jesus’ complete victory and the victory that we have in Him (Romans 8:37).
As you abide in Him, you know that you are more than a conqueror.
Questions to Consider
- How can new believers be protected from false teaching?
- How important has been your relationship with God for discerning false teachings?
- Have you followed some doctrines that later you found to be wrong?
- Why are there different groups of Christians that have different doctrines and support their views with Scriptures?
© 2014 – 2019, Pastor Maurizio. All rights reserved."Seeking the Truth by Testing the Spirits",