There are so many “false prophets” in the church today that unless one knows (and applies) the biblical test for determining who is (is not) one of them, he is quite likely to be deceived by their teaching. What is the test?
In 1 John 4 we find it plainly spelled out—yet wrongly understood. The apostle wrote
Test the spirits to see whether they are from God . . . 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.
So, many go ahead and try to determine whether or not a group is Christian by asking whether they believe Jesus came in the flesh which (of course) is the wrong approach. By that test Romanism is a true religion!
“Wrong? How could that be wrong? Isn’t that the test John just set forth?”
No. It isn’t. The flesh test is for Gnosticism and similar errors. These people denied the physical existence of Christ’s body—claimed it was a phantom.
“Well, then, what is the test?”
It is found later in the passage:
. . . 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.
The first test is the specific application of the general test to a particular heresy (Gnosticism), of which the latter (v. 6) is the general test that applies to every heresy. The test is, then
WHETHER OR NOT ONE LISTENS TO THE APOSTLES
Today, that means, whether they agree with the apostolic Word (in the Bible) on any given issue. When the apostolic Word is applied to Gnosticism this doctrine is proven false (see John 1:14; 1 John 1: 1,2).
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