Good news: About three-quarters of all Americans believe Jesus was a real person, born in Bethlehem. These people will even say He’s the Son of God. Less than half, however, according to a recent study by LifeWay Research, think Jesus existed prior to the Incarnation. They don’t view Him as coeternal with the Father.
That’s a problem because most Americans see Jesus as only human and not divine. This false belief must be rejected. Here John urges believers to exercise spiritual critical thinking skills and “test the spirits to see whether they are from God” (v. 1). False teachers and “antichrists” existed in John’s time and still exist in our world today (1 John 2:18). In John’s day, Gnostics were teaching that Christ did not come in the flesh (vv. 2–3). Those who believed in a real Incarnation were from God, while those who did not were not.
While it’s important for us to discern false teaching, we can rest assured that God is “greater” and has already won the victory over it (vv. 4–5). Many teachings may be popular with the world, but they are not from God. Again, John contrasts the two kingdoms: One is marked by light, truth, life, and salvation. While the other is darkness, lies, death, and condemnation.
Being sure of our identity in Christ (assurance of salvation) and discerning true versus false teaching are two sides of the same coin. The Holy Spirit inside us testifies to the truth that we are God’s children. The same Spirit helps us determine what beliefs and teachings are biblically true or untrue. When we listen to Him, individually and as a church, we stay on the right path (v. 6).
>> Be on your guard. Don’t be deceived. There are many false teachers today (2 Tim. 4:2–4). These influential men and women command large audiences and sell many books. Just because it is popular doesn’t mean it is biblically sound.
We are easily deceived, Lord. Teach us to rely on Your Spirit’s leading. The better we know Your voice and Your ways, the better we can recognize those who truly serve You and resist deceivers.