The Word of God says,

Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world (1 John 4:1)

Many televangelist claim miracles happen and profess the name of Jesus. Some have claimed they witnessed terminally ill people get healed and such. There have been some high profile preachers from around the world who have been accused of staging miracles and preaching the "gospel of prosperity" for their own gain. What is the way to test whether they are false prophets taking care not to touch the Lord's anointed? I went through a similar post, but am concerned with teachers who say they are doing it in the name of Jesus.

2 Answers 2


The Bible gives several ways.

One of the easiest is if their predictions don't come true:

When a prophet speaketh in the name of the LORD, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him (Deuteronomy 18:22).

Another is if they speak contrary to Scripture:

And when they shall say unto you, Seek unto them that have familiar spirits, and unto wizards that peep, and that mutter: should not a people seek unto their God? for the living to the dead? 20 To the Law and to the Testimony: if they speak not according to this Word, it is because there is no Light in them" (Isaiah 8:19-20).


But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than that which we have preached to you, let him be accursed. (Galatians 1:8)

Along the same vein, if you know your Scripture, you'll know what Christ-Like behavior and attitudes are, and will be able to use your malarkey detector to sniff them out.

You will know them by their fruit. Grapes aren't gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles, are they? (Matthew 7:16)


The question is about false preachers - not prophets. Who are preachers? Are they not anyone who explains or teaches about God?

We could put the 'church fathers' (CF) in this category - them and their writings which have become the creeds largely accepted by Christendom the world over for many centuries.

How do we know if they represent God at all?

Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world 1 John 4:1

Now the Bereans were more noble-minded than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if these teachings were true. Acts 17:11

the NIV puts it, "to see if what Paul said was true."

How did they test the teachings of Paul? By comparing to the scriptures. When we compare the CF to the scriptures we find divergent beliefs and doctrines being espoused, taught and eventually made the new 'law'. Things which have no foundation in any verse, let alone the whole bible that offers a consistent narrative about one God the Father and His human son Jesus and their presence with us in spirit.

We know here are different spirits at work in this world - God and His spirit for good and the devil and his spirit and power in the world in this age for evil.

Now we have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit from God 2 Cor 2:12

you used to walk ... conformed to the ways of this world and of the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit who is now at work in the sons of disobedience. Eph 2:2

Clearly, any may be directed to follow either spirit. Unless God expressly acts to draw a new believer into His realm, they will remain in the realm of the world and under the governance of the devil. (until such time as they are made fully aware of Jesus and the kingdom he presides over)

So any one who teaches about God may also be subject to the 'world' and not even know it. If we compare to the word - the truth once delivered, we will soon see if they speak truth or not! (This comparison is of course based on the premise that any errors introduced into the text are made apparent and accounted for)

We examine the word to see if what is taught is true. Only God can lead this endeavour. The Apostles taught consistently that there is one God - He is the Father. They taught of the human Jesus who is the Christ. They did not teach of the person of the Holy Spirit (this is answered elsewhere)

They certainly did not insist that this doctrine of a trinity - a 3in1 God become the mandatory doctrine necessary for salvation!

To even the untrained mind, this presents a mystery worth pursuing to see if the CF speak the truth or are false teachers as we have been warned about already.

You have heard that the Antichrist is coming, and already many such antichrists have appeared. 1 John 2:18

For many will come in My name, claiming, 'I am the Christ,' and will deceive many. Matt 24:5

The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits 1 Tim 4:1

We must compare to the word of God, His son's words, His appointed Apostle's words. If a teaching in contrary to these - we are required, warned, to examine and decide for ourselves.

There is a slightly humorous yet important incident described in Acts 19, an imposter was made known, and subsequently, they began burning books of things not of the word of God - a lot of them!

some of the Jewish exorcists, who went from place to place, attempted to use the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had the evil spirits, saying, “I order you in the name of Jesus whom Paul preaches!” Now there were seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, doing this. But the evil spirit responded and said to them, “I recognize Jesus, and I know of Paul, but who are you?” And the man in whom was the evil spirit, pounced on them and subdued all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. This became known to all who lived in Ephesus, both Jews and Greeks; and fear fell upon them all and the name of the Lord Jesus was being magnified. Also many of those who had believed kept coming, confessing and disclosing their practices. And many of those who practised magic brought their books together and began burning them in the sight of everyone; and they added up the prices of the books and found it to be fifty thousand pieces of silver. So the word of the Lord was growing and prevailing mightily.

  • The test (of the spirits) is given right in the text from 1 John 4:2-3: "By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already." There are those who do not confess that he came in the flesh but, rather, they confess that he did not exist prior to being made flesh. This is the spirit of antichrist. Jul 12, 2021 at 13:12
  • Yes, that is the test for the good spirit - but not for the other spirits. We know God's spirit by the son He sent being flesh - not God also, for that is making the text say that which is not present or vaguely implied. We know other spirits are false because they teach other than the truth God already provided - Jesus the man, not Jesus the God/man.
    – steveowen
    Jul 12, 2021 at 13:43
  • Every spirit that does not confess is not from God but is antichrist. The confession or lack thereof reveals both. He "has come" in the flesh. The voice is active, indicating that the subject performs the action rather than being acted upon. He was not created (passive), he came (active). Jul 12, 2021 at 13:58
  • @MikeBorden Jesus Christ has come, i.e., is the person of Jesus of Nazareth who resurrected and ascended - the same Christ who was prophesied by Moses, who Abraham was told of, who was in the mind of God from before Abraham. Trying to parlay this into a grand metaphysical argument about a certain kind of literal pre-existence seems a stretch, IMO. Jul 21, 2021 at 17:05
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    @MikeBorden re Jesus coming down from Heaven, see revisedenglishversion.com/John/6/38 . Jul 23, 2021 at 17:10

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