Friends, we are warned in scripture not to believe every spirit. Instead, disciples are to test to see whether an idea or word is from Elohim [‘God’, YHWH] or from Satan, the spirit of the world. The Bible also warns disciples about false prophets. On the surface, with so many divergent opinions and ideas, determining the truth might appear to be extremely difficult.
Speaking and reading in context is probably one of the most important issues when dealing with Scripture. I am not discussing a general context overall right now, but rather the context within a limited body of scripture, like something that you would casually sit down to read. (“Reading & Understanding YHWH’s Word“)
When you read an entire passage, do you “cherry pick”, looking for a single scripture that agrees with what you want to prove? Perhaps you know someone who does. When you find a scripture to make your point, do you consider the context of the verses or even the chapters surrounding the text? Context in scripture combined with understanding what is truly being said is probably the most important aspect of understanding scripture.
Some denominations have built theological statements and whole belief systems based on two or three scriptures scattered throughout the Bible that are out of context. In the same way, as you and I consider the text at any place in scripture, reading the entire passage is important in discovering the truth of what the Bible writer is telling you. Knowing the truth is important. Your life and the lives of others could count on what you understand somewhere down the line. (“Filling Your Life with Truth Instead of Deception“)
For example, on the surface, a teacher can take a piece out of 1 John 4, stating that “Every spirit which confesses that Yahshua [Jesus] Messiah has come in the flesh is from YAHWEH.” On the surface, this sounds really fine, but does scripture really support any random teaching from divergent ministries that admit the ministry of Yahshua [Jesus] existed? On the surface, that is exactly what 1 John 4:2 could be construed to say. This single scripture, by itself, could be used to prove that any ministry or religion that admits that Yahshua [Jesus] walked the earth to save the world is justified and approved by our Heavenly Father, while being good for teaching, reproving and setting things straight. Can you take every church pastor, television or radio evangelist at face value for being in harmony with scripture? I think you know better. Don’t sell out to fleshly convenience. (“Which Shepherd Do You Believe?“; “The False Shepherd and the True Shepherd“)
Valid teaching doesn’t conflict with the Bible, the Word of YHWH or make light of surrounding scriptural text. Reading 1 John 4 or any or other scriptural passage will shine the light of YHWH on your understanding when you are willing to read scripture in context first and then compare the understanding to the remainder of the Bible, carefully considered in context. This isn’t just for theologians. This is important for every Bible-believing, Bible-reading disciple of Messiah. (“Consenting to Fables of Men“)
Remember too, that chapter and verse in scripture did not always exist. While these aids really help to find the way in scripture, they don’t dictate context in scripture. For example, when reading 1 John 4, you probably want to consider 1 John 3 and 5 for a reasonable understanding at the very least, since John was writing a letter with a harmonious meaning designed to make multiple points in harmony and understanding. Remembering this keeps the true seeker of scriptural truth from engaging in “cherry picking” the Bible.
For example, just before 1 John 4, John writes this immediately preceding: “And whatever we ask, we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments, and we do the things pleasing before Him. And this is His commandment, that we should believe in the name of His Son, Yahshua Messiah, and love one another, even as He commanded to us. And the one keeping His commandments is guarded by Him, and He will dwell in him. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit which He gave to us.” – 1 John 3:22-24
This information and perhaps other details earlier in the chapter reveal important details to help the understanding of 1 John 4. In this case, John tells us that those that follow Messiah’s commandments must do things that are pleasing in Elohim’s sight. Through belief and full trust in Yahshua [Jesus] Messiah, exhibiting YHWH’s commands and keeping the commandment of love, the Holy Spirit [Sanctified, Set Apart Spirit] dwells in disciples of Messiah.
“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are from YAHWEH; for many false prophets have gone forth into the world. The Spirit of Elohim is known by this: Every spirit which confesses that Yahshua Messiah has come in the flesh is from YAHWEH. And every spirit which does not confess that Yahshua Messiah has come in the flesh is not from YAHWEH; and this is the Anti-Messiah which you heard is coming, and now is already in the world. Little children, you are of YAHWEH and have overcome them, because He that is in you is greater than he that is in the world. They are of the world; because of this they speak of the world, and the world hears them. We are of Elohim; the one knowing Elohim hears us. Whoever is not of Elohim does not hear us. From this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.” – 1 John 4:1-6, HRB
Here, John is discussing the very basis of Christian belief. We are to examine what is going on and being said around us for the Truth and Spirit of YHWH. As a disciple, you want to be able to recognize an element of the antichrist [antimessiah] when you see one, for example. As disciples of righteousness, you and I will overcome the spirit of the world through Yahshua [Jesus] and the Holy Spirit being stronger in us than the world. A disciple needs to be able to recognize the spirit of the flesh that comes from the world. This ability to recognize is called discernment. In this day, because of the Holy Spirit given to real disciples of Messiah, YHWH’s people hear Him. The world does not. Who we hear from, as disciples, determines whether we are really disciples or not. We know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.
Naturally, for a more complete understanding, you would do well to continue to read on as you come to fully understand what the Bible writer is telling you. The overall topic of 1 John is the function of love in the life of a disciple. Knowing this and other details may assist the understanding of the verses that we have just considered. (“Beware of False Teachers & Disciples“)
Through accurate Bible knowledge and YHWH’s Holy Spirit, a disciple comes to a more complete knowledge of Messiah. The Holy Spirit gives His disciples the power to love as He lives in your heart. He is your Counselor, binding you to Elohim’s Kingdom. Elohim’s love is active and sensitive to you when you reside in Him. You must know when you are confronted with the Spirit of Truth or the spirit of the world. The holy combination of knowledge and Holy Spirit reveals the light of YHWH in life. Even better, His love continues to be completed more and more in us as each disciple of Messiah learns to be more like Him. (“Disciples of Messiah & the Authority of Man“; “Authority: The Real Meaning of Romans 13“)
John says that your love, the love of a disciple, is like Elohim’s love. The world that you live in presents you with at least two choices of action. Elohim’s love as a source of action is different from the world. The world thinks that love should be self-centered. The thinking of the world easily contaminates the scriptural understanding of pure love. The world would have you believe that love always makes a person feel good or brings immediate benefit. The love of the world always strokes the flesh to make the flesh feel better. (“Real Love“; “The Antichrist & the War on Reality“)
Feeling good is not the love of YHWH. His love makes you more like Messiah. Elohim’s love expresses itself in purity. His love is not sinful, evil or selfish. Testing the spirit of conduct and words around you will reveal either YHWH or the rot of the world. Even a spirit of light that seems good can be from the world. “Test the spirits” to see if you are seeing a spirit of light or righteousness. A spirit of light usually involves a rush decision. YHWH takes His time and wants you to involve trust in Him. That trust is the beginning of relationship.
You know the world or a spirit of light from discernment. A preacher or another disciple can’t live his life on your shoulder. Your life and the decisions that you make are up to you. Another person is not your judge of right and wrong. Your relationship with YHWH through Yahshua [Jesus] Messiah is yours. Your relationship with Yahshua [Jesus] starts with accurate knowledge and understanding helps you to develop as a new man in Messiah, in deeper relationship with your Heavenly Father. You are never alone. YHWH will let you know. You simply have to believe that He will tell you while looking for Him to do what He promises. You do this by removing your opinion and having the humility to ask YHWH first. (“YHWH’s Track of Righteousness“; “YHWH’s Prayer Shawl of Protection“; “Living in an Apostate World“)