1 John 4: Test False Prophets and Love One Another


(21 verses, 3:25 to read)

What I am about to READ:

We are called to test false spirits and to love our neighbors.


1: Here John calls upon all Christians to keep testing “the spirits.” The “spirits” are the false prophets, the same “many antichrists” spoken of in 2:18, that have gone out into the world. These false prophets (“pseudo-prophets”) pretend that their source is the Holy Spirit, but are betrayed by their poisonous teachings against Jesus Christ.

2-3: We are called to keep testing for the source of the man’s confession. We’re not called to examine his heart – whether or not a so-called prophet is a nice guy or makes us feel good about ourselves. We must examine what comes out of his mouth! This is the test: does he confess Jesus Christ, who has come in the flesh?

4-6: With the gentle touch of a father speaking to his dear children John reminds his readers that the source and object of their faith is God, who’s “greater than he who is in the world.” The world is the devil’s domain. False prophets are from the world; from the devil’s domain. They speak the world’s language, and the world loves them for it! But those who are from God, who know (believe) God and hear His word “know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.”

7-21: In this section John expounds upon the “new commandment” that runs throughout his letter. Love one another! John makes it clear that God is the source of all love, and this love is shown in action. God’s love was made manifest in sending His Son, Jesus Christ, to be the perfectly sufficient, appeasing sacrifice for our sins (vv. 9-10). Even though we did not love Him, He loved and continues to love us. In response to God’s love for us, we now love one another (v. 19). Our love for one another is not conditional; “whoever loves God must also love his brother” (v. 21).


Our love for one another is evidence of our faith; evidence that we abide in God and He abides in us (v. 12). But, if we were to look only at our love we’d see a love that falls woefully short of its mark. So, we must look to the source of our love: God. We know that we abide in Him and He in us – not because we love – but because He has given us the Holy Spirit (v. 13)! Once again, the source of all love, God Himself is acting upon us. He loves. He sends His Son. He gives us the Holy Spirit. We who are loved, forgiven, and given the Holy Spirit cannot help but love God and one another.


Although John is certainly writing against ALL false teachers, he very likely had a false prophet named Cerinthus (and his followers) in mind when he wrote this letter. Cerinthus and his followers formed a Gnostic sect that taught that Jesus was just a man given special “knowledge” and “abilities.” Cerinthus is a prime example of a spirit who fails the test. Can you think of any false prophets today that wouldn’t pass the test described in 1 John 4:1-6? If so, why? Post below, or join the conversation in our Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/dailybiblemeditation/

Sub Cruce,

Pastor Kevin Zellers, Jr.


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