Pastoral Reflection

November 20, 2020

“Test the Spirits”

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…
1 John 4:1-3

Have you heard of The Gospel of Thomas? The Gospel of Mary? The Gospel of Judas? The Gospel of Peter? How about the Apocryphon of John?

There are many other Gospels. How come we accept only the four Gospels in the canon? There were some reasons why the early church accepted only the four Gospels as the inspired Word of God.

One of them was that only the four Gospels, (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) were written in the first century. Matthew, Mark, and John were eyewitnesses of Jesus. Though Luke was not, his Gospel was based on personal interviews of eyewitnesses of Jesus.

But all other gospels were written after the first century. Most of them were written in the third and fourth century. The earliest one was in the late second century. They were too far removed from the eyewitnesses of Jesus Christ. When it comes to eyewitness accounts of Jesus, no other gospels come close to the fabulous four. They are in a league of their own.

Another reason was that most of them were “Gnostic” gospels. Gnosticism was a false teaching rejected by the early church. The Gnostics believed that Jesus was a spirit on earth, not a physical human being. That was a denial of the humanity of Jesus. They believed Jesus to be a “revealer of wisdom” who can lead people to a secret knowledge about salvation. But they did not believe in Jesus himself as the savior of the world.

The false prophets John had in mind in our text are the teachers of an early form of Gnosticism. John tells his “little children” to test every spirit to see whether they are from God or not.

How can you test the spirits?
John says that every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God. John focuses on the incarnation because that is what Gnosticism denied. But that does not mean that this one truth of incarnation is the single standard for spiritual discernment. For us, the standard is the essential beliefs of Christianity. What are the essentials?

Apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:3-6

3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive.

What’s essential is that Christ, as the second person of the Trinity, came in human flesh, died for our sins and was raised on the third day in accordance with God’s plan. That he appeared to his followers and was taken up to heaven to sit at the right hand of God Almighty. And anyone who believes in Jesus as their savior and lord will be justified, or declared righteous, and become God’s children. That Christ will return to judge the nations, and establish his kingdom on a new earth. Basically, it is the good news, the gospel. Anyone who denies even a part of the gospel message is the antichrist.

Here, John tells us another way to see if we are truly God’s children.
God’s children have the Spirit of God. We know we have the Spirit if we confess that Jesus is Lord and believe in our hearts that God raised Jesus from the dead. And of course, this confession should lead to a submissive life to the commands of Christ, which is to love God and love others. And that is what John will discuss in the next section of this letter.

I made the confession of Jesus as my savior and lord at a Christian boys camp near Hallstead, Pennsylvania, when I was in 8th grade. At some point in our life, we have to make a commitment to follow Jesus as our Lord. But some Christians who grew up in church cannot recall when they have made such a confession. For those who cannot remember, the important thing is one’s confession in the present.

Are you trusting in Jesus as your savior and following him as your lord NOW ? Can you now confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and do you believe in your heart that Jesus rose from the dead? Are you submitting yourself to Christ’s commands now? If you can say yes to these questions, you can be assured that you are saved and that the Spirit of God dwells in you. You are a beloved child of God!

Pastor Joe
Friday, November 20, 2020