1 John 4
1Beloved, 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.
2By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God;
3and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world.
A teaching is either of God and for God or from the devil and for the devil. The way to discern a false teacher and those who claim to have a revelation or word from God is to see if they believe that Jesus is the Christ and God in the flesh. There are many false teachings, cults, and religions that clearly do not believe in the deity of Christ. This is a clear indicator that a philosophy is not of God but of the devil and in the spirit of antichrist. If certain persons make predictions about the future and they fail to come to pass, then we have reason to discredit them. God is never wrong and His Word never fails. Teaching can never be in addition to God’s Word. We do not need any new revelation because God has given us all that we need for life and godliness already (2 Peter 1:3). Any who do add to His Word are storing up wrath and cursing for themselves (Revelation 22:18).
4You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.
5They are from the world; therefore they speak as from the world, and the world listens to them.
6We are from God; he who knows God listens to us; he who is not from God does not listen to us By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.
As children of God, we are from God and have thus overcome anything that is of the devil. Since Christ has conquered sin, death, and Satan, so we too in being His children are more than conquerors. Greater is God who is in us than any spirit of the antichrist or of the devil. We ourselves are weak compared to evil spirits, but Christ in us has all authority over sin, death, and the devil (Matthew 28:18). When the truth goes forth, it is obvious who is of the devil because they do not listen to the truth, understand the truth, receive the truth, or change in light of the truth. They don’t listen to the gospel, they don’t listen to sound reasoning about the person and deity of Christ, and they don’t appreciate the authority and inerrancy of the whole of Scripture. They tailor it to mean what they want it to mean. They do not have ears to hear or eyes to see. Such is the spirit of antichrist which is in the world. Those who do receive the Word of God are those who are Christ’s.
7Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.
8The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.
As John has emphasized repeatedly, the Christian must love his brother. Those who love their brothers and sisters are from God, born of God, and they know God. Those who do not love do not know God, are not born of God, and are not from God. God is love, so His followers must manifest this love. If they do not, we have reason to believe that they are not of us.
9By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him.
10In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
11Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
God manifested His love to us by sending His Son in the world to die for our sins. This is the definition of love in that God initiated love while we were yet sinners. It wasn’t that we loved God or that we were loveable. We were sinners and enemies of God (Romans 5:8). Yet God loved us and sent His Son to satisfy the penalty of God’s wrath for those who would receive Christ in faith. John’s challenge to us is that, if God has loved us even when we didn’t deserve it, so too must we love each other whether we deserve it or not. We are to initiate love and love freely, not because someone has done something for us. We love without expecting anything in return.
12No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us.
No one has ever seen God face to face because if they did, they would instantaneously die because of His perfection, holiness, and splendor. God is so wonderful that we can’t see Him. Yet we see Him in Christ, for those who have seen Christ have seen the Father (John 14:9). Though we haven’t actually seen the Father, Who is Spirit (John 4:24), we have seen His likeness in the human manifestation of His Son. If we want others to see God, we must let God’s love perfect us in love so that we love as He loved us. Our love in this way is again evidence that we are God’s. The world, though it hates us, should see that we love the people in it, though we don’t condone their rejection of Christ and sinful practices.
13By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.
God gave us His Spirit which enables us to better love others which in turn shows us that we are indeed sons and daughters of God.
14We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world.
15Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.
John says of his own experience and perhaps on behalf of some of those who also saw Christ after His resurrection that they have indeed seen and testify that God sent Jesus to save the world. They are sure of this fact, and they were eye witnesses of it. Salvation is for those who confess Jesus as God, for the spirit of antichrist denies Jesus as God. Those who are God’s continue to practice love and righteousness as Christ supplies the strength and ability to do so.
16We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.
17By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world.
18There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.
We as believers were drawn by the Holy Spirit to receive salvation by grace through faith in Christ. We came to know God through Christ and have become convinced us the love that God demonstrated to the world through Christ on our behalf. This shows that God is love, and it emphasizes the fact that His followers must manifest His character attribute of love by loving others. As we love others as God loved us, we demonstrate Christ to the world, thus perfecting the work of God’s love on our hearts. This gives us confidence in the day of judgment because we have evidence that God is at work in us, conforming us into the likeness of His Son by enabling us and motivating us to love. As God is love, so we are to be love to others in this world. When we love as God called us to love, we don’t have to fear the judgment of Christ because we know that we are His and are being used by Him faithfully and in accordance with righteousness. There is no fear when this kind of love is manifested in and through us, for we become even more confident that we are Christ’s and that Christ is pleased with our level of faithfulness. When we are Christ’s, we can be sure that we will not face the punishment of God’s wrath in hell. When we love, we can be sure that we are Christ’s; thus, we will not have to live in fear over the state of our eternity as if it is in jeopardy.
19We love, because He first loved us.
20If someone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.
21And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.
We don’t love because of something within ourselves. We love because Christ showed us love, taught us to love, and enables us to love by His Spirit within us. We can’t profess to love God and hate our brother at the same time. James repeats this over and over again so that the believers are sure to understand that love is evidence of salvation. We cannot love God whom we cannot see if we don’t love those whom we can see. Our actions are evidence of the faith that we have in what we hope for. God has commanded us to love our brothers and sisters, so we must do that. True believers do practice love, while those who are outside of Christ practice hate, for they are unable to love.