Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?”
(Genesis 3:1 ESV)
Did God actually say? Did He really say that?
Often times I think I may be like Satan when someone says to me “God said to me.” Really? You heard God’s audible voice? God audibly told you this? I cringe at the words “God spoke to me.” Or her sister phrase, “God’s calling me to.” Or her cousin, “I’m doing it for God.” And even the phrase “wherever the Holy Spirit leads.”
Is doing something for God automatically means that God likes it? The Holy Spirit literally took your hand and brought you somewhere?
The reason why I cringe at these phrases is because often they’re used in a flippant manner by people who are trying to justify what they mean, say, or do. But we need to think through the way we use language. In my experience, when someone says, “God told me this,” they usually mean they thought about something that they never thought of before, or that something came into their mind or heart and they believe it to be a good or right idea. So, most of the time, I take that phrase to mean “I was thinking” or “I felt.”
But this is where we need true Biblical knowledge. We need a full understanding of God’s word.
Just because someone thinks or feels a certain way doesn’t mean that’s God’s will. And just because I may ask, “did God actually say that to you?” doesn’t mean I’m doubting the words of God. In fact, my thought is to doubt that God actually told that person. However, I will not doubt the sincerity of what that person is thinking to do.
This is where having a truly Biblical knowledge keeps Christians in the protection of God. God’s word tells us to test the spirits. If someone comes to you believing they have a word for you, or telling you that God told them something, you are not obligated to believe that what they say is from God. God’s word gives us the authority to test.
Here is where God’s word tells us to test:
1 John 3:23 – 1 John 4:6
And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us. Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. 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 Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error. (ESV)
I want to explain this a little and then end this post.
We see that John is telling Christians that they know God abides in them by the Spirit God has given them. And we know the Spirit abides in them by their loving one another and by their belief in Jesus Christ.
So in knowing the Spirit they have, they are told to test the spirits. They ought not to believe every spirit. They are to test them. And John is saying they will know the Spirit of God by their confession that Jesus Christ came in the flesh.
John is attacking a very specific problem that arose in the church called Gnosticism. It basically believed Jesus didn’t really come in the flesh because material things are evil, and Jesus wasn’t evil, so he actually didn’t have a body. I would love to talk about how some Christians do the same today but still try to say they believe Jesus saved them, and yet here John very clearly says they are anti-christ’s, but that’s not my purpose now. My purpose is demonstrating that John is telling those whom he is writing to that they must carefully listen and test the spirits. They must see if they are truly from God. And in this passage, the way John is talking about testing the spirit is a testing by seeing if they are actually from God.
What I want to pull away from this is this: Though John is saying that we need to test and see if other people and teachers are truly from God, I want to apply it and say, are those words someone is speaking to you truly from God.
The person may be a Christian who is talking to you. They believe Jesus came in the flesh, they are loving one another, and you see evidence that they have the Spirit of God in them. However, just because someone has the Spirit of God does not mean they obey God in every area. Nor does it mean their thoughts about everything conform to God’s will. So we must test and ask if it’s truly from God, if it aligns with scripture, and if it’s something that is necessary to heed.
Thankfully, the Bible is a protection in many ways. It protects us from abusive pastors who will tell you that you must do x, y and z. But it also commends us to honor our pastors in a doubly kinda way. We are told to seek wise counsel, and hopefully that comes from pastors and Christians around us. But, if anything in contrary to scripture then you have authority to disregard it but also the responsibility to point out the error.
We must question if God actually told that person, because we want to truly obey God and not man. But if the God speaks to us in His word, and it is clear, then we must never ask “Did God really say?”
Yes. Of course He said it. It’s right there.