One of John's central concerns is determining who belongs to God and who does not. More specifically, he is concerned as to whether we belong to God or remain under the influence of Satan. He also wants us to be clear that not all teaching that purports to be from God is truly from Him. Much of what claims to pass as "Christian" is not such thing and comes from the Devil.
One sign that we do not belong to God, according to John, is a claim to sinlessness. He says:
If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. (1 John 1:8-10)Teaching like this seems to be precisely the sort of thing John has in mind here.
Two further signs are offered in chapter 4:1-3. John says:
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. (1 John 4:1-3)It is a sign of unbelief, and Satanic influence, for one to deny "Jesus has come in the flesh" i.e. he is not fully man. It is similarly significant if one argues "Jesus is not from God" i.e. he is not fully God himself. Teaching like this (1) seems to be in mind here.
On top of that, in the studies I have been preparing (though throughout the letter John offers further tests), he says:
They [false teachers] 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. (1 John 4:5f)In other words, true believers will listen to God's word in scripture. They will hear the teaching of the apostles and reject things that don't accord with it. They certainly will not teach things that cannot be found, or cannot be tested, by the words of scripture. John seems to be aiming at teaching like this and this:
“The Bible can’t even find any way to explain this. Not really. That’s why you’ve got to get it by revelation. There are no words to explain what I’m telling you. I’ve got to just trust God that He’s putting it into your spirit like He put it into mine.” Joyce Meyer (What Happened from the Cross to The Throne? audio)The most concerning thing here is not the warning against false teachers themselves. It is far more troubling that John says "they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us". In other words, if you are swept up in such false teaching - you listen to it and believe it over and against the clear teaching of John in these passages - it is a sign that you are not saved yourself.
For most of us - certainly those who move in my circles - this sort of false teaching doesn't tend to be pushed. Amongst our church members, there aren't usually people standing up and teaching these sorts of heretical views. What is far more likely, and troubling, is people in our congregations may hear such things and be swept away with it. They themselves aren't teaching it but they are imbibing it and ultimately responding to it.
Heed John's warning, best to ignore anyone who comes with such views.
- Joyce Meyer audio