Serving God’s People

I. Introduction

I remember as a kid playing games upstairs in the hallway with my sister and brother. Sometimes we played Chinese Checkers, Monopoly, Hot Wheels, occasionally we would work on jigsaw puzzles. Or we might just play Solitaire with a deck of cards.
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We didn’t always get all the pieces back in the box. Hot Wheels cars or section of the racetrack would go missing, some marbles from the Chinese Checkers. It was ok, though, we could still play.

But other games, not so much. I remember how frustrating it was to work on a jigsaw puzzle for hours and then get stuck, looking for a particular piece that was missing. Eventually, we’d have to just give up. We’d push all the pieces back in the box, probably dropping another piece or two under the table, and then put the box back on the shelf.
We’d never work on that puzzle again. Why we didn’t throw it out, I don’t know.  Probably the same logic all of us use when looking at 3-day old leftovers in the fridge. It looks ok, but I’m not going to eat it. Better to leave it in the fridge a few more days until it definitely goes bad, then throw it out.
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And playing Solitaire without a full deck – and I’m talking about the deck of cards, not my brother or sister playing without a full deck. Or me. Hard to play to play Solitaire when you only have 50 or 51 cards.

You know what’s interesting about playing Solitaire with only 51 cards? It doesn’t really matter which card is missing, whether it’s the 8 of spades or the jack of diamonds. The game is crippled and unwinnable without all the cards. Every card is important.

II. 1 Corinthians 12:4-7, Many Spiritual Gifts but One Spirit

Our study today is from 1 Corinthians 12 on Spiritual Gifts, so let’s open our bibles and we’ll begin with 1 Corinthians 12:4-7 –

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.

I found it interesting the full Trinity is listed here. The same Spirit, the same Lord, the same God. Each one of us is unique. Some are more unique than others. We are all very different, from our experiences, our desires, our abilities. But the source of all spiritual gifts is from God. The energy to use the gift is from God. Even where we live, work, worship and apply our spiritual gifts is from God.

Biblical scholars posit that Paul wrote this letter to the church at Corinth to help direct their spiritual gifts. The Corinthians apparently were using their gifts for their own benefit and to try build themselves up, perhaps saying that one person’s gift was more important than another’s, sort of like the 9 of clubs saying that it’s more important than the 8 of hearts. But Paul says here that the purpose of the gift given to each believer is for the common good. You can tell it’s a spiritual gift if it benefits others, not yourself. The gift each person is given is for the common good of God’s people.

Does everybody have a spiritual gift?

When I was a younger Christian and first heard about spiritual gifts, I thought it sounded like a good idea. Maybe they sold them in the gift shop. Or maybe spiritual gifts were something only spiritual people had. And being a young Christian, I just didn’t have any. Or if I did, maybe this was my spiritual gift:

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I don’t think “pew sitting” is a spiritual gift. Maybe I didn’t have a spiritual gift.
But 1 Corinthians 12:12 says, “but to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” Not to some people. Not even to most people. But to each one. Including me. Including you.

Corinthians 7:7 puts it this way,
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But each of you has your own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that.

The NASB version translates this as “his own gift;” the King James translates it as “his proper gift from God.” The Greek word used is “idios” (ἴδιος) and implies that the gift has been “fitted” to you. Like going to DSW to buy shoes. One person may be buying hiking boots in size 10, and another person is getting running shoes in size 8. They are fit for the purpose, unique to you and the purpose God has.

III. 1 Corinthians 12: The Various Gifts

What are these gifts? Let’s continue with verses 8-10,

For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues.

This isn’t the entire list; Paul only listed some of the spiritual gifts here. If we look further down the page in verse 28,

And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues.

Is that all? No, Paul also wrote about gifts in Romans 12:6-8,

Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith; if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.

Some study guides also list some gifts described in Ephesians 4:11:apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers, but those seem to be describing church leadership positions more than gifts. But in any case, in none of these verses does Paul say this is an exhaustive list of the spiritual gifts, and differing biblical studies may list anywhere from 16 to 26 spiritual gifts.

I debated about whether to get into the gifts themselves. Maybe I’ll just talk about the most important ones. But if we get anything out of this lesson today, I think it’s that each one of us is uniquely valuable with unique gifts given to us for the purpose of building the church up. I couldn’t even decide how to limit the discussion of gifts; could I prioritize them? And that means I’m not understanding my own lessons, like somehow that 7 of spades is more important to the church than the 9 of diamonds. Every gift is important, duh. And no gift is more important than another.

So I selected the gifts described in 1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 12, bearing in mind that there may be other gifts that may be used for building up the church that are not specifically spelled out in scripture. And also I want to stress that a gift is not the same thing as a talent. One can have a talent for singing, for instance. But singing can be exhibited in a way that can does not bring glory to God. But this is a fairly complete list and as we go through these, see if they stir up a passion within you.

The ones listed in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10 include word of wisdom, the word of knowledge, faith, healing, miraculous powers, prophecy, distinguishing between spirits, speaking in tongues and interpretation of tongues.

Slide12• Word of Wisdom. This is described as a “word” of wisdom so it is likely Paul was describing a speaking gift. Biblical wisdom is available to all believers and is different than human wisdom – you probable remember Proverbs 3:5,

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.”

If you lack biblical wisdom, just ask. James 1:5 says,

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.

So when Paul says “Word of Wisdom,” Paul probably means someone gifted in understanding and speaking forth biblical truth in such a way to apply it to life situations.

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• Word of knowledge. Also a speaking gift, this gift involves understanding truth with insight from the Holy Spirit, who understands biblical text and can explain it to others. At my wife’s church is a pastor that can explain the book of Daniel using the book of Revelation in a way that makes me go “wow, so that’s what that meant.” I believe he has the gift of the word of knowledge.

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• Faith. Don’t all believers have faith? Of course they do, or they wouldn’t be believers. In fact, some of these gifts are shared by all believers to some extent. But some seem to be ably to rely on faith, depend on faith, exhibit faith with a strong, unshakeable confidence that God will answer. Remember the movie, “War Room?” Miss Clara has just heard that God has answered a prayer, and this was her reaction:

That is somebody with the gift of faith.

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• Healing. God still performs miracles, especially in healing. In the first century, the apostles healed the lame and raised the dead as evidence their message was from God. Most biblical scholars put this gift in a special category of gifts called the sign gifts, available only to those that preached the word in the first century and had direct contact with Jesus. When people are miraculously healed today, God now does it directly and miraculously and not through men, otherwise the hospitals would be full of these gifted people raising people from the dead. Another of the “sign” gifts is –

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• Miracle powers. This involved performing supernatural events that could only be attributed to the power of God. Paul, Peter, Stephen, and Phillip all exhibited this gift in the book of Acts.

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• Prophecy. This doesn’t mean telling the future; the Greek word is “prophēteia” (προφητεία) and means to talk with “divine inspiration and declaring the purposes of God, whether by reproving and admonishing the wicked, or comforting the afflicted, or revealing things hidden.” The gift of prophecy is the gift of preaching the Word of God. In many ways, Dr. Young prophecies when he speaks from the pulpit. Peter puts it this way in 1 Peter 4:11 –

“Whoever speaks, let him speak, as it were, the utterances of God; . . . so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever.”

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• Distinguishing between spirits. This same gift is mentioned in 1 Corinthians 14:29,
Let two or three people prophesy, and let the others evaluate what is said.

This gift is dedicated to spiritual discernment in the truth because many false prophets twist and distort the truth. Those with the gift of discernment can help separate truth from error, as it is said in 1 John 4:1,

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

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• Speaking in tongues and interpretation of tongues. This gift has differing opinions, some saying that it is a speaking gift of earthly languages like those mentioned on the day of Pentecost in the book of Acts, and others say it is an “ecstatic” or “heavenly” language like those taught in the Pentecostal churches. It is a legitimate gift of the spirit, but speaking in tongues comes with a lot of guidelines described in 1 Corinthians 14. Many misinterpret the gift of tongues as a sign of salvation or of a special closeness to God, which it is not.

Romans 12:6-8 has another list of gifts from Paul –

Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith; if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.

Some of these duplicate those we just reviewed, but there are some new ones listed –

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• Service. This is a general term for all ministry within the church. Those wonderful classmates of ours that write us cards and letters during Wednesday night outreach or handle our class administration every week or write our weekly newsletter or arrange lunches or welcome new visitors or direct our class or lead us in prayer or any other effort that provides help to one another in the church.

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• Teaching. This one isn’t important, let’s skip it. Ok, no seriously, this gift is much like prophecy that Dr. Young has, and certainly one who prophesies probably also has the gift of teaching. But while prophesying involves proclaiming God’s revelation, teaching is the systemic and regular instruction in God’s Word, any place where God’s Word is taught. I certainly don’t claim any special revelation, and I am not a preacher, but with the good Lord’s guidance, perhaps I can faithfully share what God says in His Word. The Great Commission tells us to “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, . . . teaching them to observe all that I commanded you.” For all of us whenever we tell someone about Jesus, we owe it to them to give a faithful and truthful message about the good news.

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• Exhortation. This is from the Thesaurus version of the bible. Most people would use “encouragement.” This gift enables one to advise, plead, warn, strengthen, comfort one another. I think the talent of singing, when used in worship, usually is part of the gift of exhortation, to encourage others. The Christian walk is not always a walk of roses and sunshine. We go through thorny patches, we go through storms. And we need those in our lives with the gift of encouragement to stay faithful, trust in the Lord’s goodness and mercy. I thank the good Lord for those that have an uplifting word of encouragement during difficult times. Sometimes the gift of encouragement can strengthen a weak believer into resisting sin. In Hebrews 10:24-25, the gift of encouragement is described like this –

Let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.

Should the gift of encouragement be used sparingly or only in emergencies? Hebrews 3:13 says,

Encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,”

So only encourage people today.

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• Giving. Like most of the other gifts, we are all to give generously to one another. Luke 3:8,11 says,

Let the man who has two tunics share with him who has none; and let him who has food do likewise.

But some have the gift of giving that gives sacrificially. And one with this gift gives *of* himself, not *for* himself. Most that have this gift never receive recognition because they feel all the recognition should go to the Lord. And while giving can refer to money, it can also refer to time and effort. Any time somebody gives up something sacrificially to a brother or sister in Christ to bring glory to the Lord, they are exhibiting the gift of giving.

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• Leading. This is also sometimes called “administration” and the Greek word used means “to guide” and refers to someone who pilots or guides a ship. Here’s a favorite poem of mine about leadership, I saw it years ago on a business trip, it’s called “The Leader,” by Roger McGough:

I wanna be the leader
I wanna be the leader
Can I be the leader?
Can I? I can?
Promise? Promise?
Yippee I’m the leader
I’m the leader

OK what shall we do?

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The funny thing about those with the gift of leadership is that most of them didn’t ask to lead. They just led. They saw something that had to be done, and they made it happen. They made it happen now, they made it happen as soon as they saw the need.

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• Mercy. Demonstrating sympathy, genuinely caring about the needs of others to strengthen and encourage them. They may visit hospitals or jails or the homeless or the poor or the handicapped, those with this gift find joy in ministering to others who need help.

IV. 1 Corinthians 12:20-27, We Are All the Body of Christ

In the rest of today’s scripture, Paul describes how all these gifts fit together. 1 Corinthians 12:20-27 says,

As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.
Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.

And the 10 of spades cannot say to the 9 of hearts, “I don’t need you.” No gift is greater than another; the director and the pastor and the janitor and the secretary and the trombone player all work together to bring glory to God. Whatever gift you have, use it. The more you use it, the more God will give you opportunities to use it. It’s like learning to play the piano. You may have the gift, but you have to practice.

V. Conclusion

Of course you have a spiritual gift that can be used for the common good of the body of Christ. It’s like a muscle, and some muscles atrophy and shrivel if they are not used. But if you exercise your spiritual gift for the glory of God, you will find that God provides more and more opportunities as your spiritual muscle grows stronger.  Together, the muscles and the eyes and the hands and every part of the body grow stronger when we all practice our spiritual gifts. What is your gift?

Bree shared this link a few months back; it’s a questionnaire that you answer that will help you figure out your spiritual gift. Everyone has one; find yours and share it with us because the rest of the body needs you.

Spiritual Gift Test

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To God be the glory. Amen.

Is This of God?

  I.      Introduction

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We’ve been discussing heresies and false doctrines in the church during our study of 1 John, and today we’re going to tackle false prophets and the antichrist. Let’s open up to 1 John 4 and read verses 1-6 to get an overhead view before we begin.

Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.

 

You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood.

II.      Do Not Believe Every Spirit, 1 John 4:1-2

This is my 9th year of teaching the bible at Second, and I’ve learned a great deal during this period. The biggest thing I’ve learned is probably that I know a lot less than I thought I knew. Every lesson has life lessons for me that I didn’t know the year before. The preparation for each lesson, if they are to be meaningful, seem to include some common traits. I have to pray for God’s message to be clear, I pray for God to use me as He wills. Then I read and meditate on the scripture.   I create an outline to be organized, I come up with examples and stories that illustrate the point. Then I begin reading commentaries.Slide2

For the most part, I stick to those commentaries with excellent reputations – Warren Wiersby, Matthew Henry, John Piper, but if I feel the need to branch out from there, sometimes I go a’googling. The sheer amount of false teaching on the internet is overwhelming. For every site that says “beware these false prophets” is another site that says, “no, beware *those* false prophets.”

I wanted to give some examples of false prophets for today’s lesson, but I found that a difficult thing to do. For one thing, we are all sinners. That includes you, me, false teachers and good teachers. We just studied that a couple of weeks ago in 1 John 1:8-10 –

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

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I originally wanted to give some examples of false teachers, but that turned out to be harder than I thought. I can find plenty of examples of biblical error – prosperity gospel, name it and claim it, prediction of the end time, being saved through works, even people who themselves claimed to be God – but false doctrine isn’t the same thing as being a false teacher or even a false church. The truth is truth, and a falsehood is false, but actually proclaiming somebody as a false teacher rather than just saying something false seems rife with dangers of being judgmental.

Besides, I don’t think that’s actually the purpose of 1 John 4, for me to identify false teachers for you. I think the purpose of 1 John 4 is to train you to identify false teaching on your own.

If we are all sinners, then being a sinner doesn’t make one into a false teacher. If it were so, then all teachers would be false teachers. Just as saying something in error doesn’t make you false teacher. If I stand here and tell you that some angels have 6 legs like an insect, that’s not true. Angels may have four wings (Ezekiel 1:6) or maybe six wings (Isaiah 6:2), but not six legs, don’t be ridiculous.

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So if saying something false or being a sinner doesn’t make one a false teacher, what if the teacher says it very very earnestly? What if I was very sincere that angels had six legs? No, saying something earnestly doesn’t make it true. What if I also sent food and clothing to the Philippines, would that make what I said true?  What if I read it on the internet?

Let’s go back to our scripture and see if we get a better clue as to how to recognize a false prophet. 1 John verse 1 says,

Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God

Test the spirits. What John is asking us to do is use discernment to see if the person we’re listening to is being driven by the Holy Spirit or if he’s being driven by something else (and we’ll get to that in a moment).

What do I mean by discernment? It’s one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit; each and every one of us have at least one gift, given freely by the Holy Spirit for the purpose of building up the church. Some of us have more than one.

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The Greek word for the gift of discernment is “diakrisis” and means being able to distinguish, discern, judge or appraise a person, statement, situation, or environment. In the New Testament it describes the ability to distinguish between spirits as in 1 Corinthians 12:10, and to discern good and evil as in Hebrews 5:14. For some it comes easily as a gift, and for all of us, it is a sign of spiritual maturity. As we study and learn and practice and serve, our ability to discern what is of God and what is not should improve. When we hear somebody trying to teach us spiritual truth, in order to discern if it is spiritual truth, we should test it in 3 ways –

  • Test with Truth.  The Book of Truth, by definition, leads to truth.  In Acts 17, the Apostle Paul arrived in Thessalonica and began to teach in the Jewish synagogue, explaining that Jesus is the Messiah and why He had to suffer and die and rise from the dead.  Some of the Thessalonian Jews were jealous, formed a mob and started a riot, chasing Paul out of the city.  Paul then went to Berea and began to teach the same message in the synagogue, but (Acts 17:11), “Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.”  God says it’s noble to seek the truth.  Whether it’s our pastor, whether it’s me, and probably especially if it’s Chris, question our teaching.  Open your bible and read for yourself if what we say is true.  A teacher that is being led by the Holy Spirit will welcome an opportunity to build each other up and correct any errors.  It’s ok.  We encourage you to read the truth for yourself.
  • Test with Love.  Just testing to see if it’s true is not enough.  It must also pass the test of love.  1 Corinthians 13 says that if we speak the truth without love, we are only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.  Truth without love is just noise.  The Old Testament in many places demonstrates the truth of God’s wrath which is meaningless without His message of love and mercy in Christ Jesus.  And it is not love to encourage people to be comfortable in their sin.  Truth must be spoken in love; love must be spoken in truth.
  • Test that it leads to Jesus.  Any test of spiritual truth must lead to Jesus.  Fellowship?  Must lead to Jesus.  Tithing?  Must lead to Jesus.  Service?  Must lead to Jesus.

1 John 4:2 goes on to say,

This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God.

“Every spirit that acknowledges Jesus Christ.” Some translations use “testify Jesus Christ” or “confess Jesus Christ.” In other words, the Holy Spirit testifies that God is in your life when you confess Jesus is Lord. When you genuinely confess Jesus Christ, believers can know that you have the Holy Spirit.

But I think you see the problem here. Is that all it takes? What if I ask Andy Atheist from off the street and into the sanctuary and offer him $500 to say, “Jesus Christ is Lord.” Do you think he will do it? I think so. Words, then, are not enough, but that’s what it seems 1 John 4 is saying. “Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God.”

John Piper tells a story of meeting with the African chaplain of the Banso Baptist Hospital in Cameroon. The chaplain was asked if he was making any spiritual impact on the patients, and he said that the Christians were very open to his help. Most of the Muslims and the followers of the tribal religions would simply agree with him as quickly as they could in order to get him to leave them alone. So do such confessions prove that the person is of God, or that the spirit with which they speak is the Spirit of God?

The key to understanding this verse is probably the word “confess”. John also uses the same word in 1 John 1:9,

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins.

What does the word “confess” mean here? Does it mean just mouthing the words? “Yeah, yeah, yeah, I did it, so what?” That’s a confession. But mere words cannot be enough, because in Matthew 7:21, Jesus says,

Not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter the kingdom of heaven

Jesus is essentially saying confession is not enough. The key to understanding this, then, must be to understand what John means by the word “confess.” Both times, John uses the word “homologeō” which itself comes from two separate Greek words, “homou” (this is the easy word) meaning “together as one, at the same place and time.” And the other word you may be familiar with, “logos.” It’s used 331 times in 316 verses in the King James version. That means some verses use “logos” two or even three times per verse throughout the New Testament. It means the Word, something said, something thought, reasoning and motive, a decision, an intent. When Jesus spoke, it was called “logos.”

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Matthew 24:35, Jesus says,

Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words (logos) shall not pass away.

So when John says, “confess” Jesus Christ, he is saying “homologeō” Jesus Christ.” It’s more than just saying “confess” or “acknowledge.” It is saying a decision to be together, as one, at the same time, in the same place, with the Word of God, in thought and action and deed.

1 John 4:2 can then be shown this way:

This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that (homologeō) that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God.

When you’re listening to a teacher or a pastor and you are trying to decide if his teaching is false, it is fair to examine his life. The teaching must be taught in truth, must be taught in love, and must point to Jesus. The teacher’s words, thoughts, actions, deeds, his lifestyle must acknowledge that Jesus Christ is fully man, fully God, and died to save your sins and mine.

So when I listen to a teacher, I’m listening to hear if he or she teaches the whole truth. “Name it and claim it” or the prosperity gospel takes certain scripture and packages it nicely with a ribbon or bow on top so that if you give money to their ministry you will reap riches, but ignores other biblical truths about the purpose of pain and suffering. If I examine their lifestyle and see they are buying multi-million dollar jets to fly around the world while their congregation is living on food stamps, they are not homologeō in their words, actions and deeds. And if I hear preachers preaching that people are going to hell for their beliefs but do not mention the love of Jesus that can save them from their sins, their message is missing the good news of the bible. And if their message is about hope and love and peace but do not give credit to our Lord and Savior, it is an incomplete message and is not from the very Lord they are ignoring.

III.      Who Is the Antichrist? 1 John 4:3

So if the message is not from the Holy Spirit and we discern that the message is not of truth, not of love, and does not point to Jesus, and the teacher is not homologeō with Jesus Christ, where is the message coming from?

1 John 4:3,

but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.

The spirit of the antichrist.

Every teaching that is not homologeō with the Word of God is from the spirit of the antichrist. In the spiritual conflict between Jesus and Satan, compromise and neutrality is not possible. There are only two eternal destinations, there is no third, and every soul is bound for one or the other.

There may be some confusion about who the antichrist is in this passage. How can the antichrist be coming and already here? In the Book of Revelation, the apostle John refers to the Antichrist by the title “the false prophet.” The Antichrist, with a capital “A”, is the ultimate manifestation of false prophecy and the many “false prophets” are but precursors to the ultimate Antichrist. John confirmed this is 1 John 2:18 when he said, “Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour.” The Antichrist is not here yet – at least I hope not – but the spirit of the antichrist, those who oppose Christ Jesus, have been with us for thousands of years.

The spirits of the antichrist are alive and well in America. Jesus says in Mark 10:8 that “At the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” And in Romans 8, we know that God eventually gives sinful people over to their shameful lusts and unnatural sexual relations. And as I’m studying this and writing this, breaking news pops up on my computer that the US Supreme Court legalizes gay marriage in all 50 states. The spirits of the antichrist are alive and well and legalizing sin that separates us from God our Father.

Our laws and our institutions must necessarily be based upon and embody the teachings of The Redeemer of mankind. It’s impossible that it should be otherwise; and in this sense and to this extent our civilization and our institutions are emphatically Christian… This is a religious people. This is historically true. From the discovery of this continent to the present hour, there is a single voice making this affirmation… we find everywhere a clear recognition of the same truth… These, and many other matters which might be noticed, add a volume of unofficial declarations to the mass of organic utterances that this is a Christian nation. Church of the Holy Trinity v. United States, The United States Supreme Court, 143 U.S. 457, 12 S.Ct. 511, 36 L.Ed. 226 (1892)

I would say that the spirits of the antichrists have been at work for a long time and have been quite successful.

We are all on the front line of spiritual warfare, determining what is good versus what is evil. Scripture tells us that God loves the sinner who repents and that God hates sin, and we are to do the same. Too often Christians are too meek, content to let the world run roughshod over us and our faith.

IV.      The One Who Is In You, 1 John 4:4-6

Fortunately, we do not have to fight this battle on our own. In fact, if we try to fight this battle on our own, we have already lost. The spirit of the antichrists are clever and they are numerous. And we are losing the battle daily. We are like children facing giants.

If you told me a child, a mere boy of 12, could turn away the Philistine army and save Israel from annihilation, I would tell you that you are crazy. But David was armed with more than just a stone. David said to Goliath,

You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.

If we attempt to battle evil under our own might, we will lose. But our Lord is a mighty warrior. 1 John 4:3 says

You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.

We are not in the battle alone. The Holy Spirit lives in all of those who trust in Jesus Christ, and Jesus has conquered death itself. The battles we may lose mean little. Our Lord has already won the war for us.

We need to keep in mind who we are battling. Our battle is not against our rulers, our nation, the Supreme Court. Our battle is not with coworkers that malign us, and it’s not with neighbors who mock us. Our battle is with the spirits of the antichrist. Ephesians 6:10-12 says

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the whole armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

We are mighty warriors for the Holy Spirit, clothed in the Armor of God and wielding the Sword of Truth. We may not win every spiritual battle, as this week’s Supreme Court ruling shows. But the spiritual war is already won.

Our challenge is to identify what messages are coming from the Holy Spirit and which are coming from the spirit of antichrists. We need to be well versed in the Sword of Truth and be good Bereans and study the Scriptures for Truth.

Don’t let the spirit of the antichrists throw scripture at us to silence us, telling us not to judge. That’s not what scripture means. We are to use righteous judgement with careful discernment to beware of evildoers and false prophets and to beware of judging hypocritical, self-righteous judgement and against judging someone when we ourselves are sinning worse.

It is our charge, our duty, to understand the Truth coming from the Holy Spirit and to recognize falsehoods coming from the evil one. We do this, not through our own power, but to be like little children and allow the power of the Holy Spirit do convict us of good and evil. If we are homologeō with the Holy Spirit, one together with Him in heart, mind, and spirit, then we can indeed do all things through Christ who strengthens us.

  V.      Conclusion

I want to wrap up this study of 1 John 4:1-6 with these words from 2 Timothy 4:1-8. We all have expiration dates, and we all want to live a life well-lived. There is nothing is this world worth fighting for except the love of Jesus Christ and the love of our neighbor. Everything else is just shiny trinkets to distract us from the spiritual battles of this earthy realm.

In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage — with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.

 

For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.

Rely on the Holy Spirit of Truth, and fight the good fight. Test the spirits to see if they lead to truth, love, and Jesus. Be homologeō, one together in purpose and faith that Jesus Christ died for us and was raised to sit at the right hand of the Father to pay for your sins and mine. For by his sacrifice, he lives in us, and the one who lives in us is greater than the one who is in the world.

To God be the glory.