Monday, April 22, 2013

Teaching You Cannot Trust

John the Apostle, in his first letter, not only writes about who and what we can trust, he also tells us what we cannot trust.

What you believe about Jesus matters. John wrote to clarify that a true believer in Jesus will be shown by certain distinguishing marks: faith, obedience, love. We have previously seen that John says we can trust that Jesus had a real human body and that, at the same time, He was and is really God. Believing that Jesus is God, who took on a human body in order to rescue us, really matters.

But that means that you cannot trust any alternative teaching about Jesus.

You cannot trust teaching that denies the full divinity or full humanity of Jesus.

John tells us this in clear, stern terms:

Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to determine if they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit who confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God. But every spirit who does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist; you have heard that he is coming, and he is already in the world now. (1 John 4.1-3, HCSB)

What in the world does that mean? Since they did not yet have the Scriptures that we now know as the New Testament, God provided prophets for the churches. They spoke from the Holy Spirit. They preached the gospel. Many prophesied and taught, and most of them taught the truth.

However, John was saying that some were speaking from another spirit, the spirit of the antichrist. Simply put, they were spreading lies. So John said the church should test these prophetic statements ("test the spirits"). The statements should be tested against other known truth. And one way to know that a prophetic statement was not from God was if it denied the humanity of Jesus, and by implication, the divinity of Jesus. This kind of teaching, John says, is not true, and you cannot trust it. (You can see this type of warning also from Paul in 1 Thessalonians 5.20-22.)

Notice that the "spirit of the antichrist" has been around since even the first century A.D. He has been deceiving people for a very long time. So John says to be on guard, because you cannot trust teaching that denies the full humanity (or full divinity) of Jesus.

If Jesus was not really a man, then He didn't die in your place, and you are hopeless. But He was, and He did. It matters.

If Jesus is not really God, then He didn't have the power or authority to save you and you are helpless. But He is, and He does. It matters.

Is your life marked by genuine faith?