I recently was directed to 1 John 4 where the Apostle directs Christians to “not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone into the world.” (v.1).
Well how are ‘we’ supposed to evaluate or test who we should believe? For these ‘false’ prophets are there and apparently pretty pervasive.
John gives us the answer in specific terms: their view of Christ (vv. 2,3). Those who were opposing the early church were undermining the biblical teaching of who Christ is. But how did they do this?
“Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us.” (1 John 4.6)
This is quite remarkable. The Apostle John is here drawing a line in the theological sand to distinguish between right and wrong revelation, or perhaps better demonic and biblical. John is appealing to the authoritative revelation that has come through the Apostles and the Prophets as the cornerstone of the church (Eph. 2.20).
As the early church was recognizing what God had determined to be canonical, they were continually straining out the theological germs of unbiblical teaching (i.e. attacks on Christ’s person). This appeal by the Apostle to the standard of truth is a refreshing keyhole into how the early church dealt with theological attacks. We see the Apostle Paul do the same thing in 2 Corinthians and Galatians, among other places.This is a helpful reminder to us today to follow the same pattern of submission that is modeled by the Apostle John. Christians need to find themselves submitting to what God has chosen to reveal through the Apostles and Prophets as the authoritative standard for evaluating not only false teaching but also everything else in life (2 Tim. 3.16-17).