Friday, July 31, 2009

8/1- Test the Spirits I John 4:1-3

Devotional using scripture, quote from John Calvin and thoughts for the day each day- on the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth.

8/1- I John 4:1-3 Test the Spirits

1 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. 2 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, 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.

Calvin abridged: Many people have abused the name of Christ in order to serve their own errors. Some have made a half profession of Christ in order to find friends, and then they injured the cause of Christ. Most of the spiritual confusion centers around Christ himself. What the Apostle says consists of three parts: He shows the faithful a dangerous evil (telling them to beward); He prescribes how they are to beware of this evil (distinguish between spirits); and then he shows them a particular error (those who believe Jesus didn’t come in the flesh).
“Many false prophets have gone out into the world”- It should be noted that Satan had already seduced many, so we should not be surprised to find false prophets today. It is a perpetual problem whenever the Gospel is conveyed that Satan attempts to pollute and corrupt its purity by its errors. In our day many monstrous sects have surprised some, even to the point that some give up on faith altogether. They don’t find a quicker way to escape the errors. But this is foolish- shunning the light of truth, but casting themselves into the darkness of errors.
“Do not believe every spirit”- When the Church is disturbed by discords and contentions, many, as it has been said, being frightened, depart from the Gospel. But the Spirit prescribes a far better remedy, that is, that we should not receive any doctrine thoughtlessly and without distinguishing between them.
“Spirit”- this is speaking of the one who boasts that he is filled with the gift of the Spirit in order to be a prophet. No one was permitted to speak in his own name, but credit was given to the Holy Spirit that the prophets might have more authority. People were called “spirits” who represented the Holy Spirit by what they said. God desired that his Word be received from a prophet as if he himself had appeared from heaven. But here Satan interposed, and having sent false teachers to adulterate God’s Word, giving also the name “spirit” that they might more easily deceive. False prophets have always claimed whatever honor God’s true servants obtain. The Apostle could have said that any person should be believed. But false prophets claim the Spirit, he notes that it is frivolous and meaningless. “Test the spirits” – since not everyone is a true prophet, the Apostle declares that we should examine and try the spirits, and this is addressed to everyone- even the faithful.
How can we make any discernment? The ones who say that the word of God is the rule by which everything is measured say something, but not the whole. Doctrines ought to be tested by God’s Word, but unless the Spirit be present, the word will avail little, for the meaning will not be clear. Gold is the standard, but only those who understand the art of gold can make the standard real. The Apostle would have commanded this in vain if there were no power of judging supplied. The godly will never be left destitute of the Spirit of wisdom about what is necessary, provided they ask from the Lord. The Spirit will only guide us when we render all our thoughts subject to God’s word. But if everyone has the liberty to judge, nothing is certain. There are two kinds of trials of doctrine- public and private. Private is the trial by which everyone settles their own individual faith. Public trial refers to the common consent and polity of the Church.
4:2- “This is how you know”- Christ is the object of our test- what we believe about Christ is the key. As long as we abide in Christ there is safety; but when we depart from him, faith is lost and all truth is rendered void. “Christ came” refers to his divinity; “in the flesh” means he was a real man, of the same nature as us, that he might become our brother except he was free from every sin and corruption. The cause of his coming must be noticed too- for he did not come for nothing- and so his office and work are remembered. 4:3- “This is the spirit of the Antichrist” – this is added to make the impostures more detestable. The spirit of the Antichrist had already come- meaning that it was already in the world carrying on its secret work of iniquity. But as it was not complete with superstition and false dogmas, he says it would come.

Thought- Just because something, someone, some action is spiritual does not make it true or right. In our day, people lump the spiritual together, drawing no distinctions- with one as good as another. But such thought is wrong-headed, and naive. Some see so many options about religion or belief, that they choose not to believe and not to do the work of discernment. Calvin says the Word- but not just the Word is our source for discernment- the Spirit must also be at work. Our task is to abide in Jesus through his word and Spirit. Today- on our way to Peru, I am thinking about the religion there- a syncretism of Christianity and the old Inca.
There are so many different beliefs, how do you decide what is true. It is not just the Word, but also the Spirit- that makes the Word live and distinguishing- sharper than a double edged sword.

Prayer- Holy Spirit- guide us into all truth- for you are truth. Keep us close to Jesus.

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