“Do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God.” Some people in the church received the gift of distinguishing between spirits (1 Cor 12:10). Jesus said, “We can tell them by their fruits. “Fruit” includes attitudes, words, thoughts, and deeds.
How do we test whether a spirit is from God?
The bible gives us some examples of distinguishing between spirits:
– “Every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist.” (1 Jn 4:3) It refers to those who do not acknowledge that Christ came in flesh. “Such a man is the antichrist – he denied the Father and the Son.” (1 Jn 2:22) This refers not only to unbelievers but also to some Christians who do not acknowledge Christ as the saviour but only regard Him as a saint or a great man and deny the resurrection, ascension, and return of Jesus.
– “They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; not whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognise the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood.” (1 Jn 4:5-6) This spirit of falsehood tempts people to attend to worldly things and win men’s favour, for Satan is the god of the world. Paul calls it the “spirit of the world,” (1 Cor 2:12), which does not understand spiritual things and regard them as foolishness (1 Cor 2:14). They do not listen to those who belong to God. We have received the spirit of truth, which enables us to penetrate all things and transcend all the worldly teachings. We must not abandon our faith or the secrets of the truth. We should guard against the spirit of falsehood and the spirit of the world, which might mislead our fellow believers to follow the patterns of the world.
– “They are spirits of demons performing miraculous signs, and they go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them for the battle on the great day of God Almighty.” (Rev 16:14) They can control men’s hearts and stir up dissension. They are vile in the human bodies they possess. “Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all.” (Acts 19:16) Demon-possessed people can hurt themselves as well as others (Mk 5:5). From his outward behaviour, we can tell that a person is demon-possessed.
– “Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the great! She has became a home for demons and a haunt for every evil spirit, a haunt for every unclean and detestable bird. For all the nations have drunk the maddening wine of her adulteries.” (Rev 18:2-3) Demons are evil spirits that lure people into shameful ways and lustful deeds (2 Pet 2:2, 18). Evil spirits that enter our hearts may arouse inner filth and incline us to friendship with the world (Jas 4:4).
– “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.” (1 Tim 4:1) Evil spirits use Satan’s so-called deep secret (Rev 2:24), such as hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world, to take people captive and turn them away from the truth (Col 2:8). In the churches, false teachers have secretly introduced destructive heresies (2 Pet 2:1), perverted the Gospel (Gal 1:7), distorted the bible (2 Pet 3:16), exceeded the teaching of Christ (2 Jn 9) and taught false doctrines (1 Tim 6:3; Heb 13:9). We should be on guard against heresies taught in confusion with the biblical truth as well as other philosophies.
– “Now the Spirit of the Lord had departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord tormented him.” (1 Sam 16:14-15) Possession by evil spirits manifests in disturbance and deranged language (1 Sam 18:10). There is no spiritual or physical stability. Therefore, Saul’s servants could tell that Saul was tormented by an evil spirit. Although Satan can masquerade as an angel of light, it cannot escape those who can distinguish between spirits. A slave girl possessed by an evil spirit followed Paul and shouted, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.” Paul became so troubled that he drove out the demon in the name of Jesus (Acts 16:17-18). Evil spirits admit that God is the Most High, and they recognise the children and servants of God (Mk 5:6; Lk 4:34). They cannot conceal the calamities, turmoils, and disturbance they cause in those whom they possess.
Although anointing by the Holy Spirit may manifest in vibration of the body, shedding of tears, or singing and speaking in tongues, there is gentleness in behaviour. It is all very orderly and does not involve undue shaking, falling or shouting. It is peaceful, kind, joyful, with self-control. Moreover, when a church gathers in prayer, preachers are there to lead and will not allow undue disturbance by evil spirits.
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