1 John 4:1-6 True or False Prophets
Posted by adventbiblestudy on August 23, 2014
1 John 4:1-6 True or False Prophets
There seems to be more self proclaimed prophets these days than ever before. The Bible talks a lot about false prophets. Almost everyone from Moses to John the Revelator warned about false prophets and gave advise showing how to recognize a true prophet. Still after all those recorded messages, people still like to judge for themselves between false and true prophets. Some people claim prophecy is dead. They think it ended with John or some prophet after him. Many Christian denominations claim their church was formed by God’s last prophet. Many of those denominations are classified as cults by one or more other denominations. I guess some denominations think its okay for them to have a prophet, but claim every other prophets are a frauds and deceptions. The subject of prophecy has fractured Christianity for years. That’s why Jesus warned His disciples to stay away from it and not be like those other religious leaders. Instead Jesus introduced a new definition for prophecy. Jesus took them through the writings of Moses and all the prophets, explaining from all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. Then he said, “When I was with you before, I told you that everything written about me in the law of Moses and the prophets and in the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. And he said, “Yes, it was written long ago that the Messiah would suffer and die and rise from the dead on the third day. It was also written that this message would be proclaimed in the authority of his name to all the nations, beginning in Jerusalem: ‘There is forgiveness of sins for all who repent.’ (Luke 24:27, 44-47 NLTse). Jesus’ disciples and prophets would know how the prophecies about Him were fulfilled. John clearly explained the details.
1 John 4:1-6 NLTse Dear friends, do not believe everyone who claims to speak by the Spirit. You must test them to see if the spirit they have comes from God. For there are many false prophets in the world. (2) This is how we know if they have the Spirit of God: If a person claiming to be a prophet acknowledges that Jesus Christ came in a real body, that person has the Spirit of God. (3) But if someone claims to be a prophet and does not acknowledge the truth about Jesus, that person is not from God. Such a person has the spirit of the Antichrist, which you heard is coming into the world and indeed is already here. (4) But you belong to God, my dear children. You have already won a victory over those people, because the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world. (5) Those people belong to this world, so they speak from the world’s viewpoint, and the world listens to them. (6) But we belong to God, and those who know God listen to us. If they do not belong to God, they do not listen to us. That is how we know if someone has the Spirit of truth or the spirit of deception.
Its sad to see the world has drifted so away from the message Jesus gave His disciples to preach, people look at 1 John 4:2 as a cliché. People today look at acknowledging Jesus as, “He is my Savior,” and nothing more. They don’t know Jesus. They don’t know about the prophecies He fulfilled. When I talk to people obsessed with future prophecy, or doctrines, the law, or traditions, and ask them to explain the prophecies Jesus fulfilled, they stand there dumb stuck without an answer. That’s usually followed by firing off a few texts having nothing to do with the subject. That’s because that’s all they’ve been taught. I can see they never studied on their own. They only know how to repeat what they’ve been told and have no desire to study on their own. They have no idea how to talk with God and listen to His voice.
What does it mean to acknowledge the truth about Jesus? Following basic study rules we look at John’s introduction to his letter.
1 John 1:1-5 NLTse We proclaim to you the one who existed from the beginning, whom we have heard and seen. We saw him with our own eyes and touched him with our own hands. He is the Word of life. (2) This one who is life itself was revealed to us, and we have seen him. And now we testify and proclaim to you that he is the one who is eternal life. He was with the Father, and then he was revealed to us. (3) We proclaim to you what we ourselves have actually seen and heard so that you may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. (4) We are writing these things so that you may fully share our joy. (5) This is the message we heard from Jesus and now declare to you: God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all.
John used words like proclaim, testify, and message. What is the message John recorded? John repeated other key words, heard, seen, saw, revealed, and fellowship to draw attention to the answer. John made it clear – before you can acknowledge Christ, you have to see and hear Him first. Jesus has to be revealed to you before you can acknowledge Him. Therefore, true prophets will share their personal experience with Jesus. False prophets will not have the gift to share an experience – any experience with Jesus. They cannot tell you about someone they have never seen or heard.
Based on experience, I can tell you, false prophets love to use 1 John 4:1-6 to apply their own simple, easy to understand interpretation to it. Usually it is something along the lines of, “if you know Jesus exists…..” They don’t go back in John’s letter to find out what John was talking about and trying to teach. Neither will they tell their personal disciples to look back to find the answer. I got news for you. False prophets don’t want people to know how to study God’s Word. They use their own simplified interpretation of 1 John 4 which is as simple as their interpretations for symbols and prophecies. All of them lack depth and scripture to back up their claims. Their interpretations also lack basic study techniques like the one used here to explain the context of John’s letter.
So how do we test prophets? I hear a lot of preachers using 1 John 4 to make a point. But they never seem to finish their point. Have you ever heard a preacher explain how to test prophets? Is there a test sheet, list of questions to ask them, a way they can prove they are prophets? Preachers seem to use 1 John 4 to insinuate they are true prophets with all the right answers. But ask yourself and pay close attention to their sermon. Can they tell you how to test a prophet or are they decieving you with a slight of hand and a few fancy words? First of all, John tells us prophets have to show what they know about Jesus and His ministry. Prophets have to show a close relationship with Jesus. Can they explain the truth about Jesus? Can they explain how to share Jesus’ love? Do they know the gospels, those parables Jesus taught, how those parables are related, how those parables teach how to study and understand scripture, and how the Old Testament is related to the New Testament? Can those prophets explain what Jesus taught Paul, and how Paul applied that new found wisdom? Can those prophets explain why Jesus’ disciples couldn’t understand what Jesus taught them until after He rose from the grave? How many prophecies from the Old Testament can those prophets link to the recorded fulfillment in the New Testament? Can those prophets explain what Jesus is doing in Heaven now? Can they describe what life will be like in Heaven with Jesus? Have they seen visions of Heaven as they spend time at God’s throne learning from Him? Pay attention to what preachers teach. Compare what they teach to what you know Jesus wants people to learn.
Other books in the Bible explain features God’s prophets possessed. One of my favorites is Jeremiah. In the beginning of Jeremiah we see how God chooses and trains a prophet. Here are a few of the details from a small sample of verses.
Jeremiah 1:4-18 NLTse The LORD gave me this message: (5) “I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb. Before you were born I set you apart and appointed you as my prophet to the nations.” (6) “O Sovereign LORD,” I said, “I can’t speak for you! I’m too young!” (7) The LORD replied, “Don’t say, ‘I’m too young,’ for you must go wherever I send you and say whatever I tell you. (8) And don’t be afraid of the people, for I will be with you and will protect you. I, the LORD, have spoken!” (9) Then the LORD reached out and touched my mouth and said, “Look, I have put my words in your mouth! (10) Today I appoint you to stand up against nations and kingdoms. Some you must uproot and tear down, destroy and overthrow. Others you must build up and plant.” (11) Then the LORD said to me, “Look, Jeremiah! What do you see?” And I replied, “I see a branch from an almond tree.” (12) And the LORD said, “That’s right, and it means that I am watching, and I will certainly carry out all my plans.” (13) Then the LORD spoke to me again and asked, “What do you see now?” And I replied, “I see a pot of boiling water, spilling from the north.” (14) “Yes,” the LORD said, “for terror from the north will boil out on the people of this land. (15) Listen! I am calling the armies of the kingdoms of the north to come to Jerusalem. I, the LORD, have spoken! “They will set their thrones at the gates of the city. They will attack its walls and all the other towns of Judah. (16) I will pronounce judgment on my people for all their evil– for deserting me and burning incense to other gods. Yes, they worship idols made with their own hands! (17) “Get up and prepare for action. Go out and tell them everything I tell you to say. Do not be afraid of them, or I will make you look foolish in front of them. (18) For see, today I have made you strong like a fortified city that cannot be captured, like an iron pillar or a bronze wall. You will stand against the whole land– the kings, officials, priests, and people of Judah.
The first detail we see is, “I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb. Before you were born I set you apart and appointed you as my prophet to the nations.” God knows His prophets and begins preparations before they are born. This refers to the book God wrote about each life before they are conceived. God knows exactly what situations, trials, and events people will face and how they will shape their lives. Each step, each day, every trial and event is a building block, a lesson, details used to build character and knowledge.
One of the qualities God most admired in Jeremiah was his sincerity and humility. Jeremiah knew where he stood and didn’t overstep his bounds. Jeremiah thought he was too young and inexperienced to speak for God. And he was. So God told him. “Don’t say, ‘I’m too young,’ for you must go wherever I send you and say whatever I tell you.”
God knew the next thing Jeremiah needed was confidence. Notice – Jeremiah didn’t rely on his own confidence, he learned to rely on God’s confidence. God told Jeremiah, “don’t be afraid of the people, for I will be with you and will protect you. I, the LORD, have spoken!” Notice the big point here. God spoke and Jeremiah believed. If we don’t believe the message, how are we ever going to convince others? Confidence must be well rounded.
Here is the part of the lesson I like the most. God asked Jeremiah what he saw. The first symbol was an almond branch. God asked Jeremiah what it meant. Jeremiah was smart enough to ask God to provide the interpretation. This is the most important attribute a prophet must possess. Another important feature of a prophet is to tell or record exactly what God tells them. No more and no less. God gave prophets a long list of symbols. God’s prophets never guessed a the meaning of a symbol. God often provided the interpretation like He did with Jeremiah. Other times God revealed the meaning of a symbol to another prophet. This is the most important lesson to learn about symbols. When God reveals the meaning of a symbol to a prophet, God always provides unquestionable evidence in His Word. Often times with more than one scripture. The verse containing the symbol and verses containing the interpretation of the symbol will always share the same context. Both chapters will share key words. Both chapters will share the same lesson. God wrote every book of His Bible following His rules of context. A prophet will often provide scripture the symbol is found in and scripture the interpretation is found in. You test that prophet by comparing those chapters for context.
God often provided the interpretation of a symbol in the same book and chapter, like seen in Jeremiah chapter 1. That does not mean an almond branch always means God is watching and will carry out His plans. When looking at other books and chapters containing the symbol of an almond branch, context must be compared and agree with Jeremiah 1. The LORD gave me this message: “I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb. Before you were born I set you apart and appointed you as my prophet to the nations.” “O Sovereign LORD,” I said, “I can’t speak for you! I’m too young!” Proper context will share the theme of knowing, birth, or a similar theme such as a new beginning. The connecting chapter will also deal with a message. The connecting chapter may be a contrast teaching the same lesson.
God’s second example is just as confusing when we look at that symbol with human reasoning. What does a pot of boiling water have to do with an army? Of course this world is filled with people who will try to explain the details in an attempt to impress you with their wisdom. But Jeremiah didn’t. Jeremiah didn’t add a word. Jeremiah didn’t try over explaining the interpretation God gave. Jeremiah accecpted God’s explanation and recorded it exactly the way God dictated it. Notice how the similar words boiling and boil are used. Those are repeated similar words known as key words. Most people put the emphisis on the pot, even though the word boil is repeated to draw attention to it.
After Jeremiah passed the test, God told him, “Get up and prepare for action. Go out and tell them everything I tell you to say. Do not be afraid of them, or I will make you look foolish in front of them.” Jeremiah had a choice. Trust in God and deliver the message He gave him, or look like a fool. God also reminded Jeremiah to have confidence in His Word. As long as Jeremiah repeated everything God told him, exaclty they way God told him, there was no reason to be afraid.