There used to be a television game show entitled “Truth or Consequences.” Most people who are old enough to remember will associate that show with Bob Barker. He was the game show host for approximately twenty years. The contestants on the show were given the responsibility of determining the truth about people, places, events or things by answering questions. At the conclusion of each show they would reveal the truth about the topic of discussion. You and I have been given the task of discovering truth or facing the consequences.
1 John 4:4-6, “You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are of the world. Therefore they speak as of the world, and the world hears them. We are of God. He who knows God hears us; he who is not of God does not hear us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.”
1 John 4:4-6 MSG, “My dear children, you come from God and belong to God. You have already won a big victory over those false teachers, for the Spirit in you is far stronger than anything in the world. These people belong to the Christ-denying world. They talk the world’s language and the world eats it up. But we come from God and belong to God. Anyone who knows God understands us and listens. The person who has nothing to do with God will, of course, not listen to us. This is another test for telling the Spirit of Truth from the spirit of deception.”
Peter gives a warning to us about the false teachers that infiltrate the body of Christ:
2 Peter 2:1,2, “But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed.”
Verse 4a: “You,” (humeis), is emphatic, “yes you, you are from God.” Never forget your divine heritage. As born again believers we belong to God, through Christ, “You are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.” (1 Corinthians 3:23). “If we live, it’s to honor the Lord. And if we die, it’s to honor the Lord. So whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord” (Romans 14:8 NLT). You are not only a special people, born of God and called children of God, you are also different from those people who belong to the world. “Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1John 5:5).
Verse 4b: “Overcome,” The Greek word is nike (yes, like the goddess of victory, the sportswear brand, the US Coast Guard ship and more). The verb is nikao, victor, to vanquish, to subdue, one who prevails, conquers, to overcome enemies in battle, to surmount difficulties. John uses the perfect tense which pictures the permanence of our victory over the antichrist spirit! Hallelujah! Victory in Jesus! When He died on Calvary and rose from the dead three days later, he achieved and assured effective, eternal victory over the evil one!
The “Overcomers” are followers of Christ who successfully resist the power and temptation of Satan and the world’s system. Paul uses the Greek word hupernikao in Romans 8:37, “Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” An overcomer is not sinless, but holds fast to faith in Christ to the end. He does not turn away when times get difficult or become an apostate. Overcoming requires complete dependence upon God for direction, purpose, fulfillment, and strength to follow His plan for our lives (Proverbs 3:5,6).
“May we be happily ignorant of what it is to be vanquished by the powers of evil, and remain like the British drummer boy who did not know how to beat a retreat, for he had never had any use for such a thing. May we not know the dishonor and misery of being overcome of evil, because divine grace continually giveth us the victory. When we are overcome of evil, even for a moment, it discovers the sad weakness of our spiritual life. We must be babes in grace and sadly carnal still, if sin is allowed to master us. If we were stronger in the Lord and in the power of his might we should overcome the world itself by faith…” –C.H. Spurgeon
Jesus calls us to overcome; this was clearly expressed in His letters to the seven churches in the Book of Revelation.”
•"To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God." (Revelation 2:7)
•"He who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death." (Revelation 2:11)
•"To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it." (Revelation 2:17)
•"To him who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations." (Revelation 2:26)
•"He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels." (Revelation 3:5)
•"Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will he leave it. I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on him my new name." (Revelation 3:12)
•"To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne." (Revelation 2:21)
Verse 4c: “He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.”
We overcome the world because He overcame the world. “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)!
“The only man that ever conquered this world—was complete victor—was Jesus Christ. When He shouted on the cross, “It is finished!” it was the shout of a conqueror. He had overcome every enemy. He had met sin and death. He had met every foe that you and I have got to meet, and had come off victor. Now if I have got the spirit of Christ, if I have got that same life in me, then it is that I have got a power that is greater than any power in the world, and with that same power I overcome the world…I have often said to myself that I’d like to have been there on the day of Pentecost alongside of that maid when she saw Peter preaching.
Why, I suppose she said, ‘what has come over that man? He was afraid of me only a few weeks ago, and now he stands up before all Jerusalem and charges these very Jews with the murder of Jesus.’
The moment he got his eye off the Master he failed; and every man, I don’t care who he is—even the strongest—every man that hasn’t Christ in him, is a failure. John, the beloved disciple, was noted for his meekness; and yet we hear of him wanting to call fire down from heaven on a little town because it had refused the common hospitalities.” – D.L. Moody
Acts 1:8, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you.”
Corrie ten Boom said, “There are two great forces at work in the world today: the unlimited power of God and the limited power of Satan.”
Verse 5a: “They, “ who are they? False teachers of all varieties! The world’s delegates, messengers, representatives The false prophets who have “crept in unnoticed…ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Jude 4) Those who are energized by the spirit of antichrist.
In contrast, Jesus when speaking of disciples (including us) says "I have given them Your word. And the world hates them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world” (John 17:14).
Verse 5b: “are of the world…”
“The world system is built around the principle of taking glory from God and transferring it to proud, self-willed man. That was Satan’s original temptation to Eve in the garden. He challenged God’s Word and suggested to Eve that if she ate the forbidden fruit, she would become like God, knowing good and evil (Genesis 3:1-5). Any teaching that detracts from God’s glory and sovereignty and exalts man by feeding his pride is satanic at the core.”–Steven Cole
“World” Greek, kosmos: in this passage is used in it's ethical sense, the world that is in rebellion against God. The world that is in opposition to God. Kosmos is the world system. It involves the world’s values, pleasures, pastimes, and aspirations. John says that the world lies in the grip of the evil one (1John 5:19), that it rejected Jesus when He came (John 1:10), that it does not know Him (1 John 3:1), and consequently that it does not know and therefore also hates His followers (John 15:18,19, 20, 21; 17:14). –adapted from James Montgomery Boice
Verse 5c: “Therefore they speak as of the world…”
They speak with the same godless language as the godless world speaks. This is the evidence of their origin from the world, not from God. They are "of the world." The one revealing thing about them is that they say what the world wants to hear; therefore, they are almost invariably popular.
This is certainly seen in the media. It is getting more and more difficult to watch movies and television because of the language. Every year the censors broaden the use of profanity in the media. It started with a “damn” in “Gone with the Wind” in 1939, and now almost any filthy language is permitted.
“He who comes from above is above all; he who is of the earth is earthly and speaks of the earth. He who comes from heaven is above all” (John 3:31).
Luke 6:45, “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart[a] brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”
Ephesians 4:29, “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.”
Colossians 3:8, “But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth.
Colossians 4:6, “Let your conversation be always full of grace…
2 Timothy 2:16-18 MSG, “Stay clear of pious talk that is only talk. Words are not mere words, you know. If they’re not backed by a godly life, they accumulate as poison in the soul.”
Verse 5d: “and the world hears them.”
Apparently these false teachers were drawing a big crowd. The world was listening to them. When you tell the world what it wants to hear, you will always gain an audience. When a false teacher ignores the unpopular fact that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23), then he tells people that they are good and that God will help them fulfill their desires, they will gain a following. But the problem is, that message is not from God. It is from the world and the god of this world. “But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them” (2 Corinthians 4:3,4.
The lesson for us is, don’t judge the success of a ministry by its size! Judge it by its faithfulness to the truth of the gospel as revealed in the Bible. God judges success by our faithfulness to Him and His word, not numbers.
“Have you noticed it? Let one of these theologians come out with some startling statement that denies some basic fundamental Christian truth and it is spread across the papers immediately. Soon they form a ‘school of thought’ and this begins to spread and others jump on the bandwagon. The world listens to them. Why? Because they are saying what the world wants to hear. And what is that? Well, if you analyze what they are saying, you will find that running as an undercurrent through everything they say is a basic assumption of the greatness and glory of man. That is it. The world loves to hear man exalted. How smart we are. How mature we are. How we have ‘come of age’ at last. How we are right on the verge of being able to manipulate every earthly power to our advantage. How clever we are at solving the problems of earth. That is said in the face of the most astounding and appalling chaos existing on every side and growing every moment. Isn't it amazing that man can have such intellectual pride in the face of such appalling failure? Yet that is what the world wants to hear and so the popularity of these false teachers is assured.–adapted from Ray Stedman
It is easy to feel overwhelmed by false prophets. We may feel unprepared. Never forget false teachers are very well-versed in their heresy. John encourages us in by telling us two things. First, The battle is already won. John writes, “He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (Verse 4). In other words, we should not be intimidated as we stand for the truth. Second, John reminds us that the difficulty centers on the fact that we are coming from a different starting points. John tells us “They are of the world. Therefore they speak as of the world, and the world hears them” (Verse 5). “We are of God. He who knows God hears us” (Verse 6) –Adapted from Rev. Bruce Goettsche, unionchurch.com
Verse 6a: “We are of God…”
The Bible is very clear that all people are God’s creation (Colossians 1:16), and that God loves the entire world (John 3:16), but only those who are born again are children of God. We become God’s children when we accept Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. By this new birth we are adopted into God’s family through our relationship with Jesus Christ.
Galatians 3:26, “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.”
Ephesians 1:5, “Having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will…”
John 1:12, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.”
Romans 8:16,17 “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.”
1 John 3:10 NLT, “So now we can tell who are children of God and who are children of the devil. Anyone who does not live righteously and does not love other believers does not belong to God.”
Verse 6b: “He who knows God hears us…”
Teachers who are from God teach God’s revealed Word as the only source of truth, “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth” (John 17:17). “The entirety of Your word is truth…” (Psalm 119:160).
anyone who is not from God does not listen to their teachings. The completed, written revelation of the Old and New Testaments is therefore the sole authority by which Christians must test all spiritual ideologies. John 8:47, “He who is of God hears God’s words… ” “But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14).
Verse 6c: “He who is not of God does not hear us.”
We Christians have the truth. John 14:6 Jesus reveals himself as “the Truth,” and if you know Jesus “the Truth” lives in you. And those who know God listen through sanctified ears, because the Holy Spirit within them reveals to them the truth of the Word of God.
But there are some that do not hear us. This demonstrates that they are not of God. That is how the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error can be detected, by whether such men speak in accordance with the true men of the Spirit, with the true Apostolic doctrine. “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63)
Verse 6d: “By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.”
The enemy of truth is subtle and cunning. We should not be surprised by the increase in lies and spiritual error as we near the return of Christ. The Bible says this will happen (Matt. 24:11), and God wants us to be aware of false teachings and teachers so we can stand firm in His Word. We must be discerning and not simply accept what people say is true.
Matthew 24: 3-5; 11,12, “Now as He (Jesus) sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, ‘Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?’ And Jesus answered and said to them: ‘Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many…Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.”
2 Timothy 4:3-5 MSG, “You’re going to find that there will be times when people will have no stomach for solid teaching, but will fill up on spiritual junk food—catchy opinions that tickle their fancy. They’ll turn their backs on truth and chase mirages. But you—keep your eye on what you’re doing; accept the hard times along with the good; keep the Message alive; do a thorough job as God’s servant.”
The bible says “we shall know the truth and that will make us free” (John 8:32); conversely errors, lies deception of the devil will put us into bondage, and Christ has not called us into bondage but into freedom. “For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father’” (Romans 8:15).
The late A. W. Tozer had some wise counsel on “How to Try the Spirits” (adapted from, Moody Monthly [12/79]. He posed seven tests to apply to any teaching:
(1) How does the teaching affect my relationship with God? Is He magnified and glorified, or diminished?
(2) How does the teaching affect my attitude toward the Lord Jesus Christ? Does it magnify Him and give Him first place? Or, does it subtly shift my focus onto myself or some experience?
(3) How does the teaching affect my attitude toward Scripture? Did the teaching come from and agree with the Word? Does it increase my love for the Word?
(4) How does the teaching affect my self-life? Does it feed self or crucify it? Does it feed pride or humility?
(5) How does the teaching affect my relationships to other Christians? Does it cause me to withdraw, find fault, and exalt myself in superiority? Or, does it lead me to genuine love for all that truly know Christ?
(6) How does the teaching affect my relationship to the world system? Does it lead me to pursue the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life? Does it lead me to pursue worldly riches, reputation, and pleasures? Or, does it crucify the world to me?
(7) How does the teaching affect my attitude toward sin? Does it cause me to tolerate sin in my life or to turn from it and grow in holiness? Any teaching that makes holiness more acceptable and sin more intolerable is genuine.
Conclusion: It takes constant discernment on the part of true believers to avoid the pitfalls of false teachers. Be sure that you are a child of God (Verse 4) so you will be able to recognize the spirit of error, even if it is presented by attractive people whom you admire. Jude 4 says they “crept in unawares.” Be certain that you know the Word of God well enough to recognize error.
Before I accepted Christ I was invited to a “bible” study in a home of friends whom, I know now were “Jehovah witnesses.” I came home to Marlena, my born again wife, all excited about what I had learned. I remember saying, “That’s the first time religion ever made sense.” Well she was discerning, knowing immediately that I had been exposed to error. How did she know? By the Holy Spirit or truth who lived in her. “We (believers) know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error” (Verse 6).
**Unless otherwise noted, the New King James Version of the Bible was used. Also The New Living Translation (NLT); The New American Standard Bible (NASB); The Message (MSG); The New Century Version (NCV); The Amplified Bible (AMP); The King James Version (KJV), The New Life Version (NLV); English Standard Version (ESV); J.B. Phillips New Testament; Easy to Read Version (ERV); Common English bible (CEB); NET Bible (NET) and The Living Bible (TLB).