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Manufacturers and service companies often try to sell you on their product by encouraging you to try it out first. One of my favorite examples of this marketing strategy is the one used by Amazon for books on a Kindle device. You can download a sample of a book you’re interested in. You get to read a portion of the book before you decide to purchase it. You get to try it before you buy it. And then, of course, there are car dealers. If you see a car you like, you can take it for a test drive. You get to see what it feels like to drive it before deciding to take the plunge and buy it.
In the first letter of the apostle John, we read that we must test those who claim to be speaking by the Spirit to see if the spirit that they speak by is from God. Jesus warned against the appearance of false prophets, those who would come in sheep’s clothing but who were ravenous wolves in disguise, seeking to tear us down and pull us away from God (Matthew 7:15). He warned that one day there will be those who will come in His name, even proclaiming to be the Christ. But their real motive will be to lead us astray. We need to be alert to those who claim to be speaking by the Spirit but are actually teaching false doctrine.
But, how do we do that? We need to test them, just as we test drive a car or read a sample of a book on a Kindle. And the test is simply this: If they are claiming to speak for God they will acknowledge that Jesus Christ came in the flesh, in a human body. If they acknowledge this, then they have the Spirit of God. If they do not acknowledge this truth about Jesus, but rather teach that He only “appeared” to be human, then they are not from God but have the spirit of the Antichrist (1 John 4:1-3).
Jesus is the Word made flesh. He came to earth and dwelt among us (John 1:14). He came to earth in a human body, a body that would be given through death to provide salvation for our souls and eternal life. Anyone who teaches anything contrary to this and claims to be speaking by the Spirit is nothing more than a false teacher or a false prophet. A person who speaks by the Spirit will bear witness to the truth about Jesus because the Spirit of God is the Spirit of Truth (John 15:26).
When presented with teaching that seems off and that may contradict the Word of God, we always need to remember to test that teaching in the way that God’s Word has shown us. Scripture clearly warns that there will be deceivers who go out into the world, deceivers who do not confess that Christ came in the flesh (2 John 7). Jesus also warned that false christs and false prophets will rise up, even performing signs and wonders, and they will deceive and even lead believers astray (Mark 13:22). We can avoid being among those who are led astray by testing what these false christs and false prophets teach. Try it before you buy it!