Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. 1 John 4:1 KJV
What exactly does “try the spirits” mean? I suppose the first thing we should understand is that our God is a spirit according to John 4:24. He created us in His image and we are made up of 3 parts: a body, a soul and a spirit. Our spirit can be a spirit of God or it can be a spirit of the world. A few ways to define a spirit of the world can be that it is separated from God and has no personal relationship or knowledge of Him.
We know that there are spiritual forces that are against God and everything He has created. Throughout the Old Testament there were examples of people who called themselves “prophets” but truly were not sent from God. They spoke what they thought sounded good or whatever might have gained them favor with the people.
Then the Lord said unto me, The prophets prophesy lies in my name: I sent them not, neither have I commanded them, neither spake unto them: they prophesy false vision and divination, and a thing of nought, and the deceit of their heart. ~ Jeremiah 14:14
For thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel; Let not your prophets and your diviners, that be in the midst of you, deceive you, neither hearken to your dreams which ye cause to be dreamed. For they prophesy falsely unto you in my name: I have not sent them, saith the Lord. ~ Jeremiah 29:8-9
The scriptures are two examples that clearly show that people can prophesy in the name of God but the message is not necessarily from Him. This is a perfect reason why we need to have our own personal relationship with God. We need to know how He communicates with us and are there scriptures that confirm it.
If we look up what the word “try” in the Strong’s dictionary it is the Greek word dokimadzo. It means to test (literally or figuratively) by implication and to discern or examine. So as a person hears a prophecy spoken by someone else they must discern and examine it. Many times it is already something that the Lord spoke to you personally and this is a second confirmation or maybe even a third one. God wants to help us hear Him clearly so He is kind enough even to tell us 2 or 3 times if we need to be sure.
When the Apostle John wrote this letter to the church he was warning them to be careful because there are false prophets that have gone out in to the world. They are deceiving people and leading them down wrong paths. A message from God always has these 3 characteristics:
- Edification – builds you up
- Exhortation – encourages
- Comfort – helps you feel less worried
If you can feel these when you hear a word spoken over you in the name of the Lord and you heard that in your own personal time with the Lord as well, then you know you can rest easy. You either need to start heading towards that path or you are on it and He is helping you have some peace on your journey. God is so good and loves us very much! He is our helper in time of need.