Copr. 1997, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.  All Scripture references are to the NIV unless otherwise noted. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard. 

INTRODUCTION: Our lesson this week continues the thoughts we discussed in the last few verses of last week's lesson. Let's review 1 John 3:18-24. John tells us that "God is greater than our hearts;" meaning that we need to have a proper understanding of God's will in order to have a right-formed conscience. He then says we know that we live "in Him" by the Spirit He gave us. Thus, we need to have this triad working for us: 1) Study of the Bible to understand God's will; 2) This study to be guided by the Holy Spirit; and, 3) Thus formed, our conscience will be an "indicator" of whether we are on the path of light. Let's press on with this week's additional light!


     A. Read 1 John 4:1. What do you think John means by "spirit" when he tells us to "test the spirits?"

          1. Is the "spirit" different than the "prophet?"

          2. Can a prophet have both "false spirits" and "true  spirits?"

          3. Is "testing the spirits" an ongoing thing? Should a prophet who once shared God's spirit be continually tested to determine whether each new revelation is from God? 

               a. Remember Balaam of Numbers 22? Could you trust him in Numbers 22?  How about when he did what was reported in Joshua 13:22; 2 Peter 2:15 or Revelation 2:14?

               b. This afternoon, if you want to expand your thinking about true and false prophets, you should read the very interesting story found in 1 Kings 13. The relevant part for this discussion is found in vv. 1-24.

     B. Read 1 John 4:2-3. What test do we apply to determine whether a spirit is true or false?

          1. Do you think that the spirits John is talking about all claim to be from God? (It seems so.)

          2. One commentary I read said that John is not warning us about those who try to trick others into thinking they have a gift from God, this is a warning about those who have genuine evil spirits.
               a. Do you see a difference? (The devil does not have the power of God. He too depends upon "tricks."This seems to be only a matter of degree.  The trick becomes more sophisticated as the devil becomes more personally involved.)

          3. Let's look at this test for just a minute. John says (v. 2) "Jesus Christ has come in the flesh." What does he mean by "has come?" (Means Jesus existed before He was born. Thus, He was God before He came to this earth.)

               a. What does he mean by the phrase, "in the flesh?" (That Jesus became man.)

          4. Is that it? Is the test this simple? Just ask whether Jesus is fully God and fully man?

               a. I can understand why the devil would want to deny that Jesus was fully God. Why would he want to deny that Jesus was fully man? (Redemption and sympathy.Jesus cannot come as the "second Adam" and be our substitute if He is not fully man.  He cannot have walked in our shoes if He was not fully man.)

     C. Our lesson says (rightly) that miracles are not the test. But then it continues (Monday): "Why are there so few miracles in the church today? God wants us to believe for His sake and truth's sake -- not because of spectacular signs and wonders. Reliance on miracle-working produces the wrong kind of faith."

          1. Do you agree miracles produce the "wrong kind of faith?"
               a. If so, what kind of faith is "wrong?"

          2. Is this attack on miracles a concept based upon Scripture? (Read 1 Cor.12:8-10)

               a. Is the Spirit's gift of healing and miracle working as "time bound" as the gift to distinguish between spirits? (The lesson suggests that the time for healings and miracles is past, but the gift of distinguishing between spirits is still going strong.)

               b. Someone read Mark 16:20; Acts 14:3; Romans 15:19; Hebrews 2:4.

          (I suggest the real reason we see few miracles is that we believe "they will produce the wrong kind of faith!" We need to have faith in the Spirit's present power to perform miracles through us. John 14:12-14.)

     D. Having shown that miracles have been used by God as proof of who He is, should we look beyond the miracle to see what is being promoted? (In Matt. 24:24 Jesus warns of false christs and false prophets who "will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect..." Thus, we need to stand by John's test to see if the prophet is loyal to the doctrine of the incarnate Christ.)

     A. Is this test of the spirits just a matter of correct doctrine? Does our view of the exact nature of Jesus' divinity and incarnation have a practical impact on our day to day living?

     B. Let's read 1 John 4:4. Who does John say we have overcome?(False spirits, the antichrist attitude, the world)

     C. Why have we overcome? (Because Jesus/the Spirit of God is in us.)

          1. Does this put "flesh" on the bones of the doctrine of the nature of Jesus? (God is "with us" because Jesus has reconciled us to God. (Colossians 1:18-22) This "doctrine" for testing the spirits is key to our confidence that we have overcome!)


     A. Read 1 John 4:5-6. Remember the path of light and the path of darkness that we have repeatedly heard about from John? John once again describes the characteristics of those on the two paths. [Draw paths on board.]

          1. What do these verses say will characterize those on
          each path? 
                 Light                                   Darkness

                From God                           From the world
                Know God                          Speak: viewpoint of world
                Listen: God's view            Not listen to God's view

     B. What seems to be key to being on the path of light? (Knowing God.)

          1. How do we get to know God?

     C. Looking at this chart, how hard is it to move from the path of darkness to the path of light?

          1. What are the obstacles to changing? (Those on the path of darkness do not want to listen to God.  If they are not willing to listen, how difficult this is!  Worse, they are probably not motivated to listen to God's word because the  world listens to them. The worldly ideas reinforce each other.)

          2. What lesson is there in this? (That we need to get off the path of darkness (if we are on it) as soon as possible. The further you go along the path, the more difficult it is to hear God's view.  The "cure" for being on the path to darkness is to get to know God.)

     D. John seems to suggest that the spirit in the world is the spirit of antichrist. (1 John 4:3, 5-6) Just what does it mean to have the spirit of the antichrist? (v.2 not acknowledge the divinity of Christ or the fact that He became a man.)

          1. The teacher's helps ask "why do some Protestant churches refer to the papacy as the antichrist?" (I like the "some Protestant churches.")

               a. Is it possible that a religious power could have the antichrist attitude?

               b. Is it appropriate to try to pin that label on any single organization or person? (John makes it very clear that this an attitude. Any person or organization that undermines the deity or incarnation of Christ is adopting the antichrist attitude.)

                    (1) Jesus says this about His miracles in John 14:12 "I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father." Is a religious organization that denies Jesus' promise that those who have faith in Him will do greater miracles displaying an antichrist attitude?

IV. NEXT WEEK: "How God is Love," 1 John 4:7-21. Study!