Summary: The mention of faith in 1John 3:23 had reminded the Apostle John of the danger of intellectual and moral error. After the last paragraph, the mention of God’s Spirit gave him a form to clothe the discussion of truth and falsehood in its human manifestations.
COMMENTARY 1 JOHN, CH. 4
Greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world.
King James Bible
Testing the Spirits
1Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. 2Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: 3And every Spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that Spirit of Antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world. 4Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world. 5They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them. 6We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the Spirit of truth, and the Spirit of error.
Love Comes from God
7Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. 8He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. 9In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. 10Herein 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 ought also to love one another. 12No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us. 13Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit. 14And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world.
15. Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God. 16And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. 17Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world. 18There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. 19We love him, because he first loved us. 20If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? 21And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.
The mention of faith in 1John 3:23 had reminded the Apostle John of the danger of intellectual and moral error. After the last paragraph, the mention of God’s Spirit gave him a form to clothe the discussion of truth and falsehood in its human manifestations. By “spirits,1-3,” he means those tendencies towards good and evil (here especially about thought and opinion) which may be considered as coming from the supreme power of God, on the one hand, and from the low power of the devil, on the other. Into the question of what these influences are, whether, like the Holy Spirit, they are personal or not, he does not say. Where one quality, or opinion, shows itself in different individuals, he identifies it and calls it a spirit. Religious fervor might take a form quite antagonistic to the actual will and law of God. There was simply one standard to measure all claims on their religious allegiance: a confession that Christ Jesus was the Word. All that objected to that plain fact, and the loyalty implied by it, belonged to the Spirit of Antichrist. His hearers, however, if he understood them rightly, need not fear. By their adherence to the truth, God was in them. In Him, they had conquered the spirits of the world and had only to claim their victory. The false teachers might be known and should be condemned by the world in their method and message and popularity with what was opposed to God. The Apostles and those who taught with them could confidently before God put forward the grand claim that theirs was the Spirit that came from Him because they had not deviated from the truth as presented by Jesus.