Phyllis Beveridge Nissila
Note–the 3 verses below are taken from the Interlinear Bible, thus, the unfamiliar syntax and (lack of) punctuation.
- For three there are bearing testimony in heaven the Father the Word and the Holy Spirit and these three one are (1 John 5:7 ).
- …but the fruit of the spirit is love joy peace patience kindness goodness faithfulness (Galatians 5:22).
- But when comes the Helper whom I will send to you from the Father the Spirit of truth who from the Father goes forth he will bear witness concerning me (John 15:26).
It seems that a lot of people these days are experiencing what they claim are dreams, visions, words, prophecies, experiences, gold dust, feathers, etc., they believe–or have been told–are “from God.” But how can we know for sure? And in these days of rapidly escalating so-called “end of days” (aka, “end of the Church Age”) events, it is important to know for sure lest we sell all and rush off to some distant shore (literally or figuratively) leaving the “posts” that Jesus wants us to occupy at home, work, school, church, and/or elsewhere.
Whereas God speaks in every era to His people both great and small in ways He chooses, He has given us guidelines, standards, a rubric, if you will, to help us ferret out the wheat from the chaff; truth from lies, or that which is just the result of perhaps good intentions but a lack of spiritual discernment. But of course there are also false prophets who know exactly why they lead us astray, usually for purposes of power, profit, and/or to profane the name of the Lord.
So referencing the opening verses, there are basically three ways to know if what we are hearing or reading or experiencing is really a “word (or experience) from God.” This is the test:
Is the “word from God” verified by all three aspects/Persons of the Trinity, as delineated in the first verse, above?
In other words, there are three witnesses–Who agree with One Another–on Whom we can rely.
For example, if the Word of God says “Thou shalt not kill,” and Jesus verified this (“The greatest commandment is love”) which the Holy Spirit reinforces (by reminding us of everything Jesus said), then when some smooth talking “religious leader” comes along and says it’s okay to abort children then this is not God’s voice/message. What the voice of God will convey, for those who have permitted abortion in their lives (both women and men), is that He will forgive them if they repent. (But that’s not all–He will also comfort and restore those who turn to Him for help in the aftermath.)
Does acting on the “word from God” result in the “fruit of the spirit” as listed in the second verse cited above?
In other words, when one has discerned and acted on what one believes to be God’s Word verified by all three Persons (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) the “fruit” results, immediately or at length.
This does not necessarily mean that the same kind of fruit will follow “in the world,” as the expression goes. For example, cessation of persecutions or misunderstandings (aka a return to external peace in those situations) might not necessarily result right away, or ever, in this world, from obeying the Word of God, but the peace that is from Jesus Christ will. And Jesus’ peace guides us.
Is the “word from God” from a source that aligns with the other Persons of the Trinity or from some other source?
This takes more study. There are all kinds of “spiritual experiences” these days that seem to be genuine. Many of them, on closer examination, are nowhere found in the Scriptures, in the teachings of Jesus (that the Holy Spirit is sent to reinforce), or in the teachings of the early church.
Some people might also have been taught that words and practices based on extra-biblical tradition are as weighty as those verified by the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (leadership citing the circular argument that God can change His mind unilaterally, if you will, because he’s God) but consider what Jesus said:
Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked, 2 “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat!”
3 Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? 4 For God said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’ and ‘Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.’ 5 But you say that if a man says to his father and mother, ‘Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is a gift devoted to God,’ 6 he is not to ‘honor his father’ with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition. 7 You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you:
8 ‘These people honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
9 They worship me in vain;
their teachings are but rules taught by men’.” (Matthew 15:1-9).
ANOTHER LONGER ANSWER
Just as in any other serious pursuit, knowledge and the wisdom to apply that knowledge takes dedication and study. One of the best overall summaries of what this may entail is found here in the little book of James. It is short enough that I quote most of it, yet it is packed with a powerful message. The bolded portion is my frequent reminder of the importance of perseverance in these matters.
2 Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various [c]trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces [d]endurance. 4 And let [e]endurance have its perfect [f]result, so that you may be [g]perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
5 But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and [h]without reproach, and it will be given to him…
19…But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God. 21 Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all [v]that remains of wickedness, in [w]humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls. 22 But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his [x]natural face in a mirror; 24 for once he has looked at himself and gone away, [y]he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. 25 But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but [z]an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in [aa]what he does.
IN A NUTSHELL
In other words, the more we diligently study the genuine words of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit Who work synchronously as One God, the easier and easier it becomes to ferret out the words of false gods, teachings, traditions, and experiences.
BEST ANSWER–WHAT JESUS SAID
Beloved, 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. 2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God;3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist* (I John 4:1-3).
*”Spirit of antichrist” aka Satan, the confuser, obfuscater, word-smither, deceiver, hater, he-who-can-even-masquerade-as-an-angel-of-light-er, and ultimate destroyer. That is, he destroys us if he can.
Don’t let him.
Stay in the Word.
P.S. In my own studies, I find it most useful to go to the original languages. A starting place is to search for the Scripture of interest and include in the search words, “Interlinear Bible” and then scroll down to the exact nuance in the specific verse cited–or as close to it as scholars can get from this distance in time, which is nevertheless much more precise than relying on only modern-day interpretations…which is a whole entire blog post of its own…
At any rate, as original meanings of the text are revealed, the principles of God’s Word are clarified.