Trying Spirits


#1

I recently witnessed something that was at least unusual.

I saw a young man who discribed himself as “Wiccan” go into convulsions while others were praying for him.

This was a very unorthodox, pseudo Christian prayer circle (and while I believe he was the only Wiccan there, he was welcome, and he complained of feeling overshadowed by something lately.)

The convulsions became violent, and he appeared to lose consciousness before they “performed an exorcism.”

When he came to, he didn’t seem to know where he was or what had happened.

I don’t know if anything supernatural was going on, but what made it convincing is that I noticed the hairs on top of his head trembling ever so slightly as soon as they started praying for him, and watched this almost imperceptible trembling grow into a full blown convulsion.

(I’m not sure you could cause your body to start trembling so slightly, and if he did he was a very good actor.)

Anyway, I’m wondering how you would know if a spirit was of God, if you actually had a personal encounter with one?

! John 4:2 seems to say that ANY spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ came in the flesh is of God, but a demonic spirit seems to have acknowledged the preaching of “Jesus Christ come in the flesh” as a message from God in Acts 16.

Now it happened, as we went to prayer, that a certain slave girl possesed with a spirit of divination met us, who brought her masters much profit by fortune telling. This girl followed Paul and us, saying “These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us the way of salvation.” And this she did for many days. But Paul, greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” (Acts 16:16-18.)

So was this spirit “of God” because it confirmed the message of Paul and his companions (that Jesus Christ had come in the flesh)?

If you actually encountered a spirit, could you tell that it was from God by asking it this test question?

If not, what does 1 John 4:2 mean?

(It says “every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ came in the flesh is of God.”)

I’ve never understood this.

Is there a contradiction here?

Does anyone have any thoughts?


#2

I think it is mostly a matter of context here.

The circumstances for advice on how to know a spirit is from God is basically; that if it denies Christ came in the flesh, you can write it off as a liar.

In the case of the girl, it was more about “guilt by association” - the faith did not need to be associated with the occult, or worse; with money grubbing fortune tellers. So the fortune teller’s meal ticket was effectively exorcised. Which may have even been an act of mercy for the girl being abused for money.

There is alot around it perhaps, but that is my summary of the matter.


#3

Yes.

That’s said in 1 John 4:3.

But what about verse 2?

Does that mean that any spirit that doesn’t deny that Jesus came in the flesh is of God?

The spirit in this girl didn’t deny this.

Montanus, Priscilla, and Maximilla didn’t deny this.

The book of Mormon doesn’t deny this.

Is 1 John 4:2 a test question for spirits?

Is any spirit that confesses that Jesus came in the flesh of God?

That’s what the text seems to say, but is that what it means?

If not, what does it mean?

(That’s what I don’t understand.)


#4

Yeah, I never bought that interpretation of 1 John either. I was a part of a prayer group where we were taught that if you just say “Jesus is Lord” you can judge any spirit by its nature, but someone brought up the point that an evil spirit could just say “Jesus is Lord” and make it through the test. Later it was revealed that the group had been a sort-of secret haven for homosexuality (don’t want to go into too much detail here).

John was dealing with a special group here that was propagating a sort of proto-gnosticism that claimed that Jesus didn’t actually come in the flesh but was just a spirit being. This is why he emphasizes at the very beginning that they saw, felt and touched him and were directly intimate with him in a very tangible way. I think we try to make the messages of the epistles way too transcendental. I think John was talking about their particular situation and what kinds of spirits were coming to deceive them. The only attack they were getting was that of the proto-gnosticism kind, thus any spirit that wasn’t a part of that agenda AND affirmed what John said about Jesus having come in the flesh was from God.


#5

Hi Michael

I agree 100% with stellar-renegade. The text in John is clearly not a ‘test’ for spirits. You are right to reference the text in Acts.
I believe that if we are truly walking with God then His Spirit will commune with ours and we will know whether the other spirit is/is not of God.
“By this shall all men know that you are my disciples - if you have love one for another.” This ‘test’ for discipleship also applies to spirits because being a disciple is the Spirit of Christ in us. Love always desires and works for the welfare of the beloved.
I know of no better test but I’m still listening.

God bless you


#6

Yes, Jesus said to test false prophets (and by extension spirits) by their fruits. Do the produce fruit of the flesh or of the spirit?


#7

That makes a lot of sense to me.

Thank you.


#8

I’ve read several commentaries on Acts 16:16, and many of them make observations similar to Adam Clarke’s here:

Verse 17. These men are the servants, such a testimony could be given in such a case; every syllable of it true, and at the same time full, clear, and distinct. But mark the deep design and artifice of this evil spirit: 1. He well knew that the Jewish law abhorred all magic, incantations, magical rites, and dealings with familiar spirits; he therefore bears what was in itself a true testimony to the apostles, that by it he may destroy their credit, and ruin their usefulness. The Jews, by this testimony, would be led at once to believe that the apostles were in compact with these demons, and that the miracles they wrought were done by the agency of these wicked spirits, and that the whole was the effect of magic; and this, of course, would harden their hearts against the preaching of the Gospel. 2. The GENTILES, finding that their own demon bore testimony to the apostles, would naturally consider that the whole was one system; that they had nothing to learn, nothing to correct; and thus the preaching of the apostles must be useless to them. In such a predicament as this, nothing could have saved the credit of the apostles but their dispossessing this woman of her familiar spirit, and that in the most incontestable manner; for what could have saved the credit of Moses and Aaron, when the magicians of Egypt turned their rods into serpents, had not Aaron’s rod devoured theirs? And what could have saved the credit of these apostles but the casting out of this spirit of divination, with which, otherwise, both Jews and Gentiles would have believed them in compact?

If this spirit had such a “deep design and artifice,” it wasn’t really confessing the Jesus Paul and Silas preached at all.

It was trying to lead people away from Him by tainting their ministry with guilt by association.


#9

Here’s a link to 1 John 4:2 at BLB.
Then I scroll down to find the word which is translated “Confesses” and click on it and arrive at the lexicon entry here.

I see from the lexicon entry that the Greek word translated “confesses” is homologeō. It is a compound word and I can click on the parts to find that homo=same and logeo=Word. I also recognize the English word “homologous” comes from this greek word. I look this up at dictionary.com and think about what I find there and its far deeper than just a connection by verbal assent.

I also question whose flesh the verse is talking about? And I don’t think its talking about Jesus’ flesh because everyone contemporary to Jesus, and all the demons, and Satan acknowledge that Jesus came in flesh, so that interpretation doesn’t make any sense as a test. Whose flesh, then? I think its talking about the flesh cloaking the spirit in question.

1 John 1:14 says “and the Word (logos) became flesh and dwelt among us”

Has that same Word become flesh in me?
Do I resemble Jesus?
Am I homo-logos the same-Word in my flesh as Jesus was in His?

My conclusion from MY study of the word is that it is not a mere verbal assent that JC came in the flesh.
IMO a more accurate rendering would communicate that the way we can test whether a spirit is from God is by looking at how the fleshly tent of that spirit is behaving. Anyone who walks around LOOKING LIKE, TALKING LIKE, ACTING LIKE Jesus is the one who is from God.

As for the wiccan having convulsions, it sounds very like some of Jesus’ encounters. I think that people have Christ and antichrist spirits at war within them and may manifest a Christlike spirit in one encounter and an antichrist spirit in another. If you look at Jesus’ encounter with various spirits in people, the whole countenance, the behavior, the health of those people change once the evil spirit is expelled from them.

And I’m pretty sure that’s totally confusing. I know what I mean but I’m having a hard time communicating it!


#10

Thank you Gem.

I was wondering if anyone might think the following passage is relevant to this topic heading?

But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ. For if one comes and preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted, you bear this beautifully. (2 Cor. 11:3-4.)


#11

Over and over again in the gospels and acts, people have “evil spirits” or “demons”.
They are said to be “healed” when Jesus or one of His disciples rebukes or drives out the intruder.
Sometimes they ask for this. Sometimes someone else asks on their behalf. Sometimes it’s done without anyone asking (like the girl you mentioned in Acts 16:16 who was being exploited for her divination power, she is being “annoying” so they cast out the evil spirit).

I wonder if familiar spirits trouble everyone? Perhaps we all need to be healed?


#12

I was wondering if what Paul said about “another Jesus” might have anything to do with how we interpret 1 John 4:2?


#13

My answer would just be in the sense that “Confess” in 1 John 4:2 means to have a very close resemblance to, (homologue= even genetically related!) Am I “twins” with Jesus?

If I say with my mouth “Jesus is Lord” and then act like the devil (accuser of the brethren), that would be “another Jesus” Paul is talking about.


#14

Thank you Justin.

As I said, that makes a lot of sense to me (and is the interpretation that makes the most sense to me right now.)

But (anyone), what would have caused evil spirits to change their agenda from the time and place of Paul’s encounter with that demon possesed girl, the time and place John was latter writing to, and our own time and place?

Without going into too much detail, there are reasons this is of personal interest to me right now.

I’ve heard a couple of things (from human beings, in altered states of consciousness, not voices in my own head) that are very strange, not easy to explain, and how I understand them depends a lot on how I interpret this passage,

Any help here would be appreciated.


#15

I’ve looked at quite a few commentaries on 1 Jon 4:2, and these are the comments I found most interesting.

The verb “confesses” (Greek …, literally, “says the same thing”) denotes not mere verbal acknowledgement, but an open and forthright acknowledgement of the message as one’s own position. The present tense marks it as an ongoing acknowledgement.

An Exposition of 1 John 4:1-6


#16

I have my own beliefs due to my paranormal experience within Christianity, on what exactly spirits (and by contrast demons) are.


#17

I’ve been looking at commentaries on 1 John 4:2 (and 2:18.)

Some say the “test” of 4::2 was only for the time John directed his letter to, the time was immediately before the fall of Jerusalem (when "many false Christ’s and false prophets were to arise), and the Greek (in 2:18) doesn’t say “it is the Last Hour,” but “it is a last hour.”

If all of that is true, it seems to me that 1 John 4:2 doesn’t necessarily mean that every spirit that today confesses “Jesus Christ come in the flesh” is necessarily of God.

Does that make any sense?