Do you think you will be able to differentiate the weight difference between two objects? What if both are similar objects? Study shows that we can identify the difference when there is atleast 2 percent weight difference. We are living in times when false teachings are devised to look just like the truth but twisting the fundamentals of faith. The margin looks small for many to identify the truth from error. As Spurgeon rightly pointed out, we need to be able to discern truth from almost truth. Are we able to discern truth from error when we hear it? How can we identify and equip against such false teachings?
18 Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour. – 1 John 2:18
Who is more vulnerable? John in his epistle wrote about false teaching during his time and he addressed this part of the text to “Little children”. This term is same as in previous verses where he was referring to those who are in the initial stage of faith. “Little children” is also referred in 1 John multiple times but with a meaning of addressing his overall audience rather than a particular stage as in this verse. In previous post (Growing in faith) we saw the three stages in spiritual growth and the initial stages is “Little children” where we come to know our creator and respond to his love.
In this stage, we are starting to walk in the light of truth but still not able to with stand to the forces that pulls us away and not stable in our walk in this stage. Just as in the times of John, we do have false teachings around us trying to deceive us from the truth. We are more vulnerable when our root is shallow and we get swayed by teachings which may not be from the truth. As discussed in earlier post, growth may not come with time unless we are living in the word of God. It is very important to discern truth from false and continue growing in faith getting the nourishment for the true word of God.
22 Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son. 23 Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father either; he who acknowledges the Son has the Father also. -1 John 2:22-23
4 Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.2 Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: 3 And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world. – 1 John 4:1-3
How can we identify false teachers? John tells that false teachers denies the deity of Jesus and his finished work. By denying Christ they deny God the Father as well. They twist the truth and provide substitutes for Christ and mastermind all possible logical explanations to deceive people. In this modern scientific society, people can easily accept logical reasoning which pleases their earthly knowledge. John was addressing this kind of false teaching in his time and so true for our generation as well. The teachings are so subtle to differentiate that it entices the desires of flesh and lifts them up in place of Christ. John asks to perform this acid test and discern the truth.
Can we discern on our own? Remember John was addressing this to the new believer? How can a person who just started growing in faith discern this divisive teachings and for that matter anyone as a follower of Christ?
20 But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things. 21 I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and that no lie is of the truth.
24 Therefore let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father. 25 And this is the promise that He has promised us—eternal life.26 These things I have written to you concerning those who try to deceive you. 27 But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him.-1 John 2:20-21,24-27
God has given his holy spirit to guide us in his truth. He will teach us in all that we need to know Christ and to grow in his knowledge helping us to differentiate the fake ones. He will illuminate the word of God and gives us understanding of the truth. When we abide in the word of God and apply to our life, we remain in Father, Son and the Holy spirit and we will be sensitive to teachings which are not from God. When holy spirit teaches us, there is no place for a false teacher. There will be a red flag when we hear such teachings.
19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us. – 1 John 2:19
3 Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people. 4 For certain individuals whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord. – Jude 1:3-4
Even though the impact is more on the weaker faith, it doesn’t mean that there is no action needed from people who are stronger in spiritual growth. Most of the false teachers were once superficially connected to a body of Christ but they eventually got disconnected due to their difference in faith and try to deceive others. Those who know truth and discerned the departure of false teachers needs to defend the truth as John did in his time. It is the responsibility of all to contend for the faith and help our fellow brothers in Christ to identify false teachings.
Listen to the teachings around you. Do you hear Jesus getting lifted up as Christ or any other false substitutes taking his place ? Are we equipped with holy spirit and the word of God to discern the truth from error? Are we abiding in and contending for the truth?
Photo Credit: Nikos Koutoulas