An Expositional Study of 1 John Part 7: An Exposition of 1 John 4:1-6 -- By: D. Edmond Hiebert

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 146:584 (Oct 1989)
Article: An Expositional Study of 1 John Part 7: An Exposition of 1 John 4:1-6
Author: D. Edmond Hiebert


An Expositional Study of 1 John
Part 7:
An Exposition of 1 John 4:1-6

D. Edmond Hiebert

Professor Emeritus of New Testament
Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary, Fresno, California

The first six verses of chapter 4 form a unit on the conflict between two spiritual realms, “the spirit of truth and the spirit of error” (v. 6). They show no close connection with what follows and are best viewed as an elaboration on the reference to “the Spirit whom He has given us” (3:24). The conflict now presented forms the final aspect of the conflicts of the faith that John had been depicting since 2:18. He had already dealt with the conflict between truth and falsehood (2:18–28), the conflict between the children of God and the children of the devil (2:29–3:12), and the conflict between love and hatred (3:13–24). Now John marked the supernatural character of this conflict as ultimately involving “the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.”

Beloved, 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. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; and this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world. You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world. They are from the world; therefore they speak as from the world, and the world listens to them. We 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 (1 John 4:1–6).

John now showed the importance of the proclamation of a sound Christology for confidence and victory in the Christian community.

Those who are truly of God must adhere to the apostolic message concerning Jesus Christ, who constitutes the very heart of the Christian gospel. Those who reject that message thereby reveal their anti-Christian character.

John urged his readers to test the spirits to determine their true identity (v. 1); he ga...

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