During the First Great Awakening many people rebuked the preachers by saying that it was a work of Satan. They cited 2 Cor 11.14 which says that even Satan can appear to be a minister of light. That is, even ministers can be workers of evil – looking like a shepherd, but being a slaughterer.
The same can be said about individuals who claim they are Christians…they can appear to be of the light, but they are children of the devil (1 Jn 3.10).
Although Jonathan Edwards wrote his Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God to respond to the critics of the First Great Awakening at large, I believe the five marks can be used to distinguish a work of the Spirit of God in the individual as well.
I will just list them:
1. Raises people’s esteem of Jesus (1 Jn. 4:7)
• embrace why God has done things the way he has
• confessing Jesus is vital to this esteem
2. Operates against the interests of Satan’s kingdom
• 1 Jn 4:4
• redirects men away from sin (which is Satan’s purpose for men)
3. Establishes in men a greater regard for holy Scripture
• it certainly must be from God if men heed the Word of God more
• the devil would never want people to regard the Word of God because it glorifies God and sanctifies men
• Lk 16:29
• Satan hates the Word of God
4. Leads people to the truth
• verse 6b: “spirit of truth and the spirit of error”
• There are spirits that mimic God’s spirit but are false. A spirit of God confirms biblical truth: Hell is real, men need a Savior, Jesus is God
• Leads you to embrace doctrines that are pervasive in Scripture.
5. Operates with spirit of love toward God and man
• Verse 7, 12-13
If the fruit that is manifest in someone’s life looks like the marks above, more than likely his heart has been worked on by God. Edwards’ book is a detailed study of 1 Jn 4. As more and more people claim they are Christians (without any way to distinguish them from the world) it is important for ministers and the congregant to discern whether he is, in fact, a Christian – and to be able to counsel friends and family who speak with their lips but deny Christ with their loves.[[These observations are taken from Dr. Thomas Nettles’ class on Jonathan Edwards]]