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Test the Spirits February 24, 2014

Posted by flashbuzzer in Books, Christianity.
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Here are my thoughts on 1 John 4:1-6.

Summary: John begins by telling his readers to examine everyone who boasts that he is endowed with the gift of the Holy Spirit to perform his office as a prophet; this stems from the fact that many impostors have adulterated God’s Word. He then presents the following rule by which they can distinguish between true prophets and impostors: only true prophets will confess that God the Father sent God the Son, who has eternal divinity, to become a real man. On the other hand, impostors, who do not make this confession, belong to the kingdom of Antichrist, which is carrying on its evil work in secret; it has yet to openly exalt itself.

John then states that believers belong to the kingdom of Christ; they will certainly conquer these impostors, since God is more powerful than Satan. John concludes by stating the following facts:

  • since impostors have Satan as their prince, unbelievers will acknowledge their teachings
  • since true prophets submit to God, believers will acknowledge their teachings while unbelievers will reject them.

Thoughts: In this passage, John exhorts believers to assess the veracity of anyone who claims to be a prophet. Calvin offers some thoughts on this point in his commentary on verse 1:

But here a difficult question arises: If everyone has the right and the liberty to judge, nothing can be settled as certain, but on the contrary the whole of religion will be uncertain. My answer to this is that there is a double test of doctrine – private and public. The private test is that by which everyone settles his own faith, relying wholly on the doctrine that is known to come from God…The public test is the common consent and polity of the church…it is necessary for the faithful to meet together and seek a way by which they may agree in a holy and godly manner.

One can infer that the outcome of the “private test” for each believer will impact the outcome of the “public test.” Since Calvin states that the outcome of the private test hinges on “the doctrine that is known to come from God,” I wonder if he is referring to the pure Gospel message. Now it must be noted that rational believers have offered varying interpretations of the pure Gospel message; for example, Catholics and Protestants still debate the salvific role of faith and works. This implies that two rational believers can each perform a private test and obtain a different result; consequently, I wonder if believers can “agree in a holy and godly manner” when performing a public test. Perhaps Calvin assumed that only believers whose private tests yielded results that were similar to that of his private test would participate in a public test. Of course, other Protestants disagreed with him on various points; did he engage them in any public tests?

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