A mark of spiritual maturity is unbelief as well as belief. It is as important that we do not believe certain things as it is that we do believe others. John indicates that this is a widespread problem. And Jesus also warned of this: “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves (Matthew 7:15).” It emphasizes the fact that we live in a world of deceit, and we are greatly pres-sured to conform to these things.
In John’s day there were teachers going about performing certain signs, perhaps giving predictions of things to come or manifesting tongues, miracles, and other such things. It is of this that John writes and says, “Do not believe these spirits—until you have weighed and examined it.” Don’t be gullible, don’t believe just anyone who comes along. It is important to note that there is here a very clear recognition of what the Bible teaches all the way through—that behind the false prophet or false teacher is an evil spirit. There is a true Spirit, the Holy Spirit of truth, the Spirit of love, and just as He speaks through people, so evil spirits also speak through people. When we hear men and women talking about religious things or values, do not gullibly swallow everything they say, especially if they appear to be attractively setting forth something about love and sweetness and concern for others.
We are in much greater danger than the those of John’s day. In that time, there was a widespread recognition of the existence of invisible spirits. The ancient world recog-nized these as gods and goddesses and bowed down to them. This kind of teaching was much easier to accept in the first century than it is in our day. Now we pride ourselves upon the fact that we have grown beyond this. People are intellectually unable to accept this kind of thing today. As a result, we expose ourselves without any defense at all to the control of these evil spirits.
But if we are going to follow the words of Jesus, we must accept what He says is the explanation of the power behind evil in the world. He makes clear that it comes from a host of evil spirits. Part of the blindness of our generation, resulting in chaos and an-archy, is a direct result of people in their pride saying, “I reject the whole concept of evil spirits and demons.” The blindness of that attitude precludes any defense against it. If we are going to be Christians, we must look at the world as Christ sees it. And Christ knew that evil spirits exist. He knew that evil spirits use people to bear their message and do their bidding. And Christ warned His disciples to be on guard against them. John, one of His disciples, in turn warns us against the same. Can we do any less than to be on guard, and warn others?
Test the spirits.