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Mark 1 New International Version

21 They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. 22The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law. 23Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an impure spirit cried out, 24“What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!”

This impure spirit acknowledged that Jesus was the Holy One of God.

1 John 4

1 Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3but 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.

Didn't the impure spirit acknowledge that Jesus Christ came in the flesh?

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  • 1 John 4 is in the aftermath. I don’t see how your question is relevant to the incarnation. Maybe I don’t understand the question – Nihil Sine Deo Feb 4 at 21:37
  • "1 John 4 is in the aftermath" might be the answer. I don't know. – Tony Chan Feb 4 at 21:49
  • Where, or why do you assume it’s an either or? Satan or God? – Dave Feb 5 at 1:17
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This is an excellent question because of the important point it reveals about spiritual truth. First, let me record that the phrase "Spirit of God" occurs 19 times in the NT and ALWAYS means the Holy Spirit, eg, 1 Cor 12:3.

We have two clear statements of Scripture about people being motivated by the Spirit of God:

  • 1 Cor 12:3 - Therefore I inform you that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.
  • 1 John 4:1, 2 - 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 will know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God.

This must be understood in the terms set out in 1 Cor 2:14 -

The natural man does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God. For they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.

Therefore, the very reason that people, humans, cannot discern spiritual truth is because we are fallen, sinful humans with "fleshly" minds and bodies. It is precisely for this reason that we need the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit, or, Spirit of God (1 Cor 12:3) to understand the unseen spiritual world. Jesus made the same comment:

John 16:13 - However, when the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all truth. For He will not speak on His own, but He will speak what He hears, and He will declare to you what is to come. He will glorify Me by taking from what is Mine and disclosing it to you.

Now to Mark 2:21-24 and the point of all this. The truths about humans do not necessarily apply to demon spirits which is the subject of Mark 2. Of course spirit beings, whether evil or holy understand spirit things because they are spiritual beings. The demons knew who Jesus was as recorded a few verses earlier in Mark 1:34 -

And He healed many who were ill with various diseases and drove out many demons. But He would not allow the demons to speak, because they knew who He was.

James is even more specific:

James 2:19 - You believe that God is one. Good for you! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.

It is only we fleshly, sinful, fallen humans that need the enlightenment of the Spirit of God to understand spiritual realities - the demon spirits understand these things already.

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This answer was inspired by a comment from Nihil Sine Deo.

Was the Capernaum spirit from God or from Satan?

It was from Satan.

After Jesus' death and resurrection, Satan acquired a better understanding of the Cross. Then he wanted to change the story to that Jesus didn't come in the flesh as the Son of God to lie to the new believers.

1 John 4:3 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.

This is confirmed in John's 2nd letter:

2 John 1:7 

I say this because many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist.

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  • Wow, quite a good Satanic motive to deceive once he himself has been outwitted by Jesus on the cross. Changing narrative is definitely a strategy by the father of lies. – GratefulDisciple Feb 5 at 1:49
  • Exactly. If only I could write like you :) – Tony Chan Feb 5 at 15:53
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Not the truth as just an information matters, but how this truth is held and pronounced. For example, if, say, in 1939, a Nazi statesman would invite another Nazi statesman in his house, and at a good German schnapps they would laughingly say: "How ridiculous is our Fuhrer's ideas about Jews, for we know that they are decent people, but he stupidly persecutes the poor fellas; but why should we care, aren't we benefiting from this? So, let's drink to the Fuhrer's health one more shot!" Now those two bastards said truth, but this does not make them any better; on the contrary, they are even worse with all their truth than those Nazis who were sincere in their following Hitler's hateful ideology. Why? Because they kept truth without obeying its imperative.

The same with demons: they say truth, know it, but the modality of this knowledge stinks in nostrils of God, for they know and hate what they know, or rather, they both hate and are dreaded at Whom they know: "even demons believe and tremble" (James 2:19). Or did not the demon indwelling a soul of a servant girl made her shout a true thing? "These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim unto you the way of salvation!" (Acts 16:17). Yes, indeed, but this did not avail for any good either for this demon or for the girl, if only by that Paul expelled it from her and she lost the ability of demonic soothsaying.

Moreover, forget about poor demons: how many Christians are there who proclaim Christ who has come in flesh, but proclaim without caring to fulfil His commandments, for they still love their sins more than Him. Will such a lukewarm or even indifferent proclamation avail for their salvation? You understand that this is 100% rhetorical question.

Thus, not only the proclamation of truth matters, but also the modality of this proclamation; if one proclaims salvational truth without an intention of salvation and without love and devotion, then this one proclaims his own condemnation.

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