Conflicting Spirits (Study Questions)

Here are the discussion questions that accompany my message from this past weekend at Eastbrook Church entitled “Conflicting Spirits.”

Discussion Questions

  1. There is a lot of talk about God and spirituality in the world today. What do you think it means to be ‘spiritual’?
  2. This week, we are bringing together two sections of 1 John, 2:18-27 and 4:1-6. Both of these sections talk about truth and falsehood, and the importance of discernment. Take time to read these two sections. What words or phrases do you see repeat throughout these sections?
  3. The word ‘antichrist’ only occurs in the 1 and 2 John, but this concept appears in other New Testament writings (i.e., 2 Thessalonians 2; Matthew 24; Mark 13; and Revelation 12-13). It can sometimes refer to a precise individual at the end of human history, but at other times refers to those who reflect ways contrary to God. Who is John talking about here in 1 John 2:18-27?
  4. What is the simple, yet definitive, test of whether someone is of God or the antichrist?
  5. What would you describe as John’s main concern or impulse in these sections of 1 John?
  6. In these two passages, John uses a variety of words to talk about the Holy Spirit of God: ‘anointing’, ‘Spirit of God’, and ‘Spirit of truth’.  What characteristics of the Holy Spirit do you notice from John’s words here?
  7. What do you think it means to hold to the truth in the face of deceiving spirits or teaching? Is there a time in your life when you encountered this sort of conflict?
  8. Name one specific way you will respond to the message and study this week? Write it down, reflect on it, and put it into practice this week. If you are in a small group, discuss this with one another.

2 thoughts on “Conflicting Spirits (Study Questions)

  1. Peter Leithart makes some interesting comments on I John 4:1-6. He writes:

    False prophets are also known by ears (vv. 5-6). This works two ways. On the one hand, false prophets find eager ears in the world. Tongue and ear make a pair. Lying spirits speak from the world, and the ears that listen are also worldly. The world listens to them because they speak from the world (v. 5). So, one test of false teaching is to ask who listens to them. Of course, success isn’t necessarily a sign of falsehood. Jesus drew great crowds. But if a prophet receives approval from people who live according to the flesh, who are dominated by the lust of the eyes, the lusts of the flesh, and the boastful pride of life — that’s a sign that the prophet is a false prophet. On the other hand, false prophets open their ears to something other than the apostolic voice. John makes the astounding claim that “the one who knows God hears us” (v. 6). Listening to the apostles is a test of whether someone is a child of God or a child of the devil. This claim is even more astounding if as seems likely, John is alluding to the Jewish shema (“Hear!”). Israel is knowable as the people that respond to Yahweh’s “Hear, O Israel”; the new Israel is known as the people that respond to the apostolic “Hear.”

    — Peter Leithart, From Behind the Veil: The Epistles of John Through New Eyes [Athanasius Press; Monroe LA; 2009], pp. 137-138

    • Yes, Jon, that is a good comment. The Apostle John does make mention of the character of the hearers in 4:6, which is important for us. In my message, I talked about the call for God’s people to be a discerning community that can test what is heard. It reminds me of the words in 2 Timothy 4:3: “For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.”

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