You wouldn’t buy a home unless you’ve first inspected it. You’d check the foundation and wiring and roof and things like that. Only after the home has been inspected and approved would you purchase it.
If we’re so careful before accepting something temporary, how much more careful should we be before accepting teaching which deals with things that are eternal?
“Test all things,” the Bible says and “hold fast what is good.” (1 Thessalonians 5:21)
But how do we tell the difference between good and bad bible teaching? In Acts 17:11 the believers were commended because they “received the word with all eagerness, examining the scriptures daily to see if these things were so.” In other words they didn’t just accept whatever was being taught to them, they studied for themselves to make sure it was true.
That’s how we tell good bible teaching from bad. We compare someone’s teaching to what God has told us in the Bible. We must read our Bibles and know what’s in it. If someone’s teaching matches God’s Word then we accept it. If it doesn’t then we are to have nothing to do with it. The good bible teacher who is being used by the Holy Spirit isn’t telling you what to believe, he’s showing where in scripture you can find the answer.
Let’s look at 1 John 4:1-6 for a little more insight.
TEST THE SPIRITS
“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.” (v. 1)
John first tells us to not believe every spirit (in other words don’t believe every teaching) because the world is filled with false prophets (or bad bible teachers).
This is especially true in our day. In 2 Timothy 3 we learn that in the last days many people will have “a form of godliness but deny its power” and that wicked men and deceivers will grow “worse and worse.” We’re warned to stay away from such people. John then gives us two tests that help us do that.
TEST #1 – WHAT DO THEY SAY ABOUT JESUS?
“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,” (v. 2)
A good bible teacher teaches about Jesus. The good teacher teaches that Jesus “is God” (John 1:1) who “became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14), that He is the “Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29), that He “died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.” (1 Cor 15:1-4)
Too many teachers focus more on healing or prosperity than they do on teaching people how to know Jesus. While those things may be wonderful they should not be placed above Jesus and His work on the cross.
The good teacher will also teach that a relationship with Jesus comes first because “no one comes to the Father, but by me [Christ]” (John 14:6). The good teacher knows that once a relationship has been established with Jesus everything else will fall into place according to His will (Matthew 6:25-34).
Jesus said, “the volume of the book it is written of me” (Psalm 40:7). In other words, Jesus isn’t just a “part” of the Bible He is the “centerpiece” of the Bible. Everything in the Bible points to Jesus and good bible teaching will reflect that.
This is in sharp contrast to what we find in verse 3.
“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.” (v. 3)
John says those who deny that Jesus is from God have the spirit of antichrist. Now antichrist mean “against God” but it can also mean “in place of God”. This goes back to watching out for deception. 2 Corinthians 11:14-15 tells us that “Satan disguises himself as an angel of light” and that we shouldn’t be surprised that his followers “disguise themselves as servants of righteousness.”
This spirit of antichrist manifests itself in many different ways. Some will teach that Jesus was a good man and no more, or that He wasn’t raised from the dead. While others may twist the Bible around by misquoting scripture or taking it out of context or not even using any scripture at all.
TEST #2 – WHO LISTENS TO THEIR MESSAGE
“They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them.” (v. 5)
Chuck Swindoll once said, “whenever you hear the world say ‘this is great’ that’s something you want to stay away from!” Jesus tells us that “the world hates Him because He testifies of it that its works are evil” (John 7:7). Because the world is against God it will always embrace a message that allows them to continue rebelling against Him. John warns us to be careful not to embrace such a message.
“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.” (v. 6)
“My sheep,” Jesus said, “hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27). When we decide what teaching to accept we ask the question: “Do I hear His voice in this? Can I hear Him clearly or is His voice faint or is it not there at all?” We know His voice because we have His words recorded for us in the Bible and we have the Holy Spirit within us who will “guide us into all truth.” (John16:13)
A FEW MORE VERSES TO KEEP IN MIND
- “Not that there is another gospel, but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if any one is preaching to you a gospel contrary to that which you received, let him be accursed.” (Galatians 1:6-8)
- “First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by the impulse of man, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” (2 Peter 1:20-21)
- “’How may we know the word which the LORD has not spoken?’ When a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word which the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously, you need not be afraid of him.” (Deuteronomy 18:21-22)
- “If a prophet arises among you, or a dreamer of dreams, and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or wonder which he tells you comes to pass, and if he says, ‘Let us go after other gods,’ which you have not known, ‘and let us serve them,’ you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or to that dreamer of dreams; for the LORD your God is testing you, to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul” (Deuteronomy 13:1-3)