Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit (Part 3)

In his prior two articles, Part 2 and Part 1, David began reviewing Jonathan Edwards’ writing, “The Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God”. Edwards explained some marks that may be good, but do not necessarily prove that a certain work was indeed inspired by the Holy Spirit. Some football teams or rock bands have done marvelous works with the characteristics that Edwards mentions, but they were clearly not the work of God’s Spirit of Truth.

The important question then, is what are the marks of a work that is done by the Spirit?

How should we could judge any activity and determine if it is produced by God’s Spirit or not? Edwards provides the answers from 1 John 4.

1. When Biblical Jesus is lifted up.

This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world. (2,3)

When people are interested in Jesus, respect him, seek for him and love him more then they did before – it is a true mark that the action is produced by Holy Spirit. Biblical Jesus means Jesus who was described in Bible. Jesus who came as the man, which was born from the Spirit and the virgin. Jesus who is the Son of God and the Christ. Jesus who became the only Savior for mankind, without whom we have no hope. Just Holy Spirit could lead human to this Jesus. And any false spirit could not and never will not do it. The spirit of antichrist can just draw and preach some another, mystical Jesus, who is not the Biblical Savior from sins.

2. When the Spirit acts against Satan’s kingdom.

You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. 5 They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. (4,5)

The one who is in you (Holy Spirit) is opposite to the one in the world. By “the world” the Apostle means human’s lust and corruption (1 Jn. 2:15, 16). So the Spirit which reduced people’s desire toward world sinful pleasures and honors, and instead makes them to sincere seek the God’s kingdom and righteousness is the Spirit from God. This Spirit shows to people the horror of sin and hell, waking up their conscience and compels them to look for the salvation. Satan will not drive out Satan (Mk 3:23). So Satan will never wake up the conscience, which is a God’s representative in one’s soul and will never inspire the sincere fear for sin to the person.

3. When the Bible is respected as true and inspired by God.

We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood. (6)

Here “us” means Apostles and Prophets who were inspired by Holy Spirit to bring God’s message and will in the world. The Holy Spirit will move people to have a greater regard for Scripture, moving people to regard the Bible as true, moving people to regard the Bible as divinely written. Satan will never motivate people to respect the Bible and to apply to it for guidance for their lives and salvation. He will not let them to ask answers from God’s lips. Satan does not speak like Abraham did, “They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them” (Luke 16:29). Neither will Satan speak like the voice from heaven concerning Christ, “Listen to him.” (Luke 9:35). The Spirit of Truth always leads us back to the written text of the Bible.

4. When people see the world and themselves like they really are.

This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood (6b)

Here the Spirit of God is described as the Spirit of truth who is imitated by false spirits. If the Spirit convinces person it the things which are true – this is the Spirit of truth. So if the Spirit convinces the person that there is God, who is holy and hates sin, that life is short, that there is another world, and there will be God’s judgment – this could not be a false spirit. The Holy Spirit does not ignore or gloss over or try to change the facts of our life. The Holy Spirit leads people into the light and truth, while Satan is the king of darkness and lies.

5. When people love God and love their neighbor more.

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. (7, 8)

Almost all following verses of the chapter talks of love. He talks of love like it was the very nature of God’s Spirit. He talks of love like it’s presence in the person is the same as God’s Spirit presence. So the true love toward God and God’s people, which is based on God’s love revealed in Gospel, is really true mark of God’s Spirit work.

Yes it is true that among those who is led by false spirit could be some kind of false love as well. For example if they are hated by all other people because of some particular qualities, sure they will love and welcomed those who are similar to them in this point. But this love is based on their love toward themselves. And then it will make them even more proud of these qualities. This love is very similar to love between pirates. But Christian love always comes from God’s wonderful grace and follows along with our humbleness.


  1. David, I think this article is of critical importance for us to consider, especially today, on this Pentecost Sunday.

  2. http://www.amazon.com/Surprised-Power-Spirit-Jack-Deere/dp/0310211271
    Has anyone read this book? My next book on the queue…