1 John 4:1
Our Bible reading for today comes from the first letter of John the fourth chapter and the first few verses. He says:
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. (1 John 4:1)
I’d like you to imagine that if you’re a parent you have a child in third grade and let’s say that your little third grade daughter is coming home from school learning math and she tells you that two plus two equals five. And you correct her and you say no, two plus two equals four, honey. And she said no, my teacher taught us two plus two equals five. And you would say well I need to talk to your teacher.
So let’s say go and talk to the teacher and the teacher said well I believe two plus two is actually five. So how would you handle that. Well you’d probably go to the principal. Let’s say that the principal decided to back up the teacher and said well at our school we’re going to teach that two plus two equals five.
Now it’s not a very big thing. It’s just one digit. For goodness sakes goes from four to five. That’s not a lot, but I bet you’d pull your daughter out of that school if both the teacher and the principal refused to change because you know it’s wrong. And you know that even though it’s a tiny little error, at the same time it could throw off your child’s bank account some day, it could throw off something that they did in a business that they worked for. They could lose a job over this. Even though it’s one tiny little digit, that error is just enough to make a dramatic change in your child’s life. So you would rightly pull them away from such a teacher.
Now the same is true when it comes to spiritual matters. God has given us His Holy Word. And in that word he teaches us about our sins our need for a Savior. He teaches us about what Christ our Lord has come to do for us: to pay for our sins and earn heaven for us so that by faith in him we have the promise of a future with the angels in heaven. That’s a wonderful truth that he has taught us.
And yet God warns us like we see through John that there might be people inside of the Christian Church who teach things incorrectly and mix in a little bit of error even though most of what they teach is right. He says “don’t believe every spirit” that means don’t just assume that because someone is a pastor or teaching you something about God that it’s going to necessarily be right. He says “test the spirits to see whether they are of God” and the way we do that is taking every doctrine that someone teaches, every teaching they teach, and lining it up with Scripture and saying to ourselves “is this exactly what God would have us believe and know from his Word?”
It’s only that Word of God that can take us out of our graves some day to heaven. And so our Lord wants us to protect that precious truth he has given us by making sure to test those who teach us that Word. Amen.