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Another way to test “the spirit of truth and the spirit of error” is to see who listens to them. As servants of God, we have “conquered,” or overpowered through God, the false teachers, prevailing over their endeavors to draw us away from the truth found in the Word of God.
1 John 4:4–6. Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
4 You are from God, little children, and have conquered them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. 5 They are from the world; therefore, they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. 6 We are from God; he who knows God listens to us; he who is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.
Warnings might make us question if we have listened to false teachers and become Antichrist. No! You have overcome the antichrists, for you have successfully resisted the lure of the false prophets. The one who is in you (the Holy Spirit; Rom. 8:9) is greater than the one who is in the world (Satan; 1 John 5:19), who is called “the prince of this world” (John 12:31).
The antichrists and false prophets are cut out of the same piece of cloth as the world. As a result, they speak to the same values as the world, so the world listens to them. They are from the world, but we are from God. So when the apostles (and possibly other true witnesses) speak from God, those who are born of God listen to them. The Holy Spirit convicts of sin (John 16:8), calls to righteousness (John 16:8), and illumines the mind to the truth of Scripture (1 Cor. 2:12–14).
The world does not listen to the things of God. The person without the Spirit “does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor. 12:14). The ministry of the Holy Spirit lets us discern the spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood. Therefore, prayer, meditation, and spiritual sensitivity are the primary factors that protect us from being deceived by false doctrine—not raw intelligence or academic learning.
By David Walls, Max Anders, and Edward D. Andrews