The Fourth Test: Does It Elevate the Truth?

By Dee Raptor

On Nov 30, 2020

A fourth and closely related test that ought to be applied to any supposed work of the Holy Spirit is this: Does the work emphasize spiritual truth and doctrinal clarity, or does it create confusion and promote error?

In 1 John 4:6, the apostle John wrote simply, “We know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.” The Holy Spirit, who is defined by truth, stands in stark contrast to the false spirits of delusion who are characterized by error and falsehood. When a spiritual movement is known for defending sound theology, denouncing false teaching, and detesting superficial unity—these are strong indications that it is a genuine work of the Holy Spirit.

Conversely, believers should be wary of any religious system that ignores sound doctrine, propagates falsehood, or happily endorses ecumenical compromise.

The sad fact is that biblical truth is rarely ever the hallmark of contemporary mainstream Christianity where spiritual experience is continually elevated above sound doctrine. As theologian Frederick Dale Bruner explains: “Pentecostalism wishes, in brief, to be understood as experiential Christianity, with its experience culminating in the baptism of the believer in the Holy Spirit evidenced, as at Pentecost, by speaking in other tongues. . . . It is important to notice that it is not the doctrine, it is the experience of the Holy Spirit which Pentecostals repeatedly assert.

At the practical level, Pentecostal churches regularly elevate experience over truth. Unbiblical practices like being slain in the Spirit are promoted, not because they have scriptural warrant, but because it makes people feel good. Women are allowed to be pastors in the church, not because the New

Testament permits it (1 Tim. 2:12) but because in our want for culture-brewed, self-defined theology, ‘’spiritual experience’’ consistently trumps biblical authority.

The absence of doctrinal discernment and theological accountability within charismatic circles has led some observers to voice serious concerns:

“...In its great emphasis upon experience with the Holy Spirit, the value of diligent study of theology is often overlooked.

That is putting it mildly. Doctrinally, the Charismatic Movement reflects the period of the Judges—the time in Israel’s history in which “everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judg. 21:25) as long as they can throw in the phrase ‘’The Lord told me…’’ or ‘’God said…’’.

A true work of the Spirit thrives on sound doctrine. It promotes biblical truth; it does not dismiss it or see it as a threat. Once experience is allowed to be the litmus test for truth, subjectivism becomes dominant and neither doctrine nor practice is defined by the divine standard of Scripture. Mainstream/popular theology which is usually centred on experiencing the power of the spirit often downplays doctrine for the same reason it demeans the Bible: it thinks any concern for timeless, objective truth stifles the work of the Spirit. It envisions the Spirit’s ministry as something wholly free-flowing, infinitely pliable—so subjective as to defy definition. Creeds, confessions of faith, and systematic theology are seen as narrow, confining, not elastic enough for the Spirit to work within.

In reality, the only thing good theology stifles is error, which is why sound doctrine is the single greatest antidote to charismatic deviations. Remember, the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth (John 16:13). Any work of His will elevate biblical truth and sound doctrine in the hearts and minds of His people.

Excerpted from Chapter 4 of Strange Fire by John MacArthur, pp. 71 - 74

About The Author

D. D. KUYET alias "Dee Raptor" is a Christian HipHop Artiste/Rapper. He is also a graduate of Food Science and Technology. He is a contributing writer at lightwk