Tests of False Prophets. Love, the Test of Birth from God, and the Necessary Fruit
of Knowing His Great Love in Christ to Us.
1. Beloved—the affectionate address
wherewith he calls their attention, as to an important subject.
every spirit—which presents itself in
the person of a prophet. The Spirit of truth, and the spirit of error,
speak by men's spirits as their organs. There is but one Spirit of
truth, and one spirit of Antichrist.
try—by the tests (1Jo 4:2, 3). All believers are to do so: not merely
ecclesiastics. Even an angel's message should be tested by the word of
God: much more men's teachings, however holy the teachers may seem.
because, &c.—the reason why we
must "try," or test the spirits.
many false prophets—not "prophets" in
the sense "foretellers," but organs of the spirit that inspires them,
teaching accordingly either truth or error: "many
are gone out—as if from God.
into the world—said alike of good and
bad prophets (2Jo 7). The
world is easily seduced (1Jo 4:4, 5).
know … the Spirit of God—whether
he be, or not, in those teachers professing to be moved by Him.
Every spirit—that is, Every
teacher claiming inspiration by the Holy
confesseth—The truth is taken for
granted as established. Man is required to confess it, that is,
in his teaching to profess it openly.
Jesus Christ is come in the flesh—a
twofold truth confessed, that Jesus is the Christ, and
that He is come (the Greek perfect tense implies not a
mere past historical fact, as the aorist would, but also the present
continuance of the fact and its blessed effects) in the
flesh ("clothed with flesh": not with a mere seeming
humanity, as the Docetæ afterwards taught: He therefore was,
previously, something far above flesh). His flesh implies His
death for us, for only by assuming flesh could He die (for as
God He could not), Heb 2:9, 10, 14, 16; and His death implies His LOVE for us (Joh 15:13). To deny the reality of His
flesh is to deny His love, and so cast away the root which produces
all true love on the believer's part (1Jo 4:9-11, 19). Rome, by the doctrine of the
immaculate conception of the Virgin Mary, denies Christ's proper
3. confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the
Lucifer, Origen, on Mt 25:14, and Vulgate read, "Every spirit
which destroys (sets aside, or does away with)
Jesus (Christ)." Cyprian and Polycarp support English Version text.
The oldest extant manuscripts, which are, however, centuries after
Polycarp, read, "Every spirit that
confesseth not (that is, refuses to confess) Jesus" (in His person, and
all His offices and divinity), omitting "is come in the flesh."
ye have heard—from your Christian
already is it in the world—in the
person of the false prophets (1Jo 4:1).
4. Ye—emphatical: Ye who confess Jesus: in contrast to "them," the
overcome them—(1Jo 5:4, 5); instead of being "overcome and brought
into (spiritual) bondage" by them (2Pe 2:19). Joh 10:8, 5, "the sheep did not hear them":
"a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know
not the voice of strangers."
he that is in you—God, of whom
he that is in the word—the spirit of
Antichrist, the devil, "the prince of this world."
5. of the world—They derive their spirit
and teaching from the world, "unregenerate human nature, ruled over and
possessed by Satan, the prince of this world" [Alford].
speak they of the word—They draw the
matter of their conversation from the life, opinions, and feelings of
the world heareth them—(Joh 15:18, 19). The world loves its
6. We—true teachers of Christ: in
contrast to them.
are of God—and therefore speak of
God: in contrast to "speak they of the world," 1Jo 4:5.
knoweth God—as his Father, being a
child "of God" (1Jo 2:13, 14).
heareth us—Compare Joh 18:37, "Every one that is of the truth,
heareth My voice."
Hereby—(1Jo 4:2-6); by their confessing, or not
confessing, Jesus; by the kind of reception given them respectively by
those who know God, and by those who are of the world and not of
spirit of truth—the Spirit
which comes from God and teaches truth.
spirit of error—the spirit
which comes from Satan and seduces into error.
7. Resumption of the main theme (1Jo 2:29). Love, the sum of
righteousness, is the test of our being born of God. Love
flows from a sense of God's love to us: compare 1Jo 4:9 with
1Jo 3:16, which 1Jo 4:9 resumes; and 1Jo 4:13 with
1Jo 3:24, which similarly
4:13 resumes. At the same
4:7-21 is connected with the
immediately preceding context, 1Jo 4:2 setting forth Christ's incarnation,
the great proof of God's love (1Jo 4:10).
Beloved—an address appropriate to his
love—All love is from
God as its fountain: especially that embodiment of love, God
manifest in the flesh. The Father also is love (1Jo 4:8). The Holy Ghost sheds
love as its first fruit abroad in the heart.
experimentally, and habitually.
8. knoweth not—Greek aorist: not
only knoweth not now, but never knew, has not once for all
God is love—There is no Greek
article to love, but to God; therefore we cannot
translate, Love is God. God is fundamentally and essentially
LOVE: not merely is loving, for
then John's argument would not stand; for the conclusion from the
premises then would be this, This man is not loving: God is loving;
therefore he knoweth not God IN SO FAR AS
God is loving; still he might know Him in His other
attributes. But when we take love as God's essence, the argument is
sound: This man doth not love, and therefore knows not love:
God is essentially love, therefore he knows not God.
9. toward us—Greek, "in our
into the world—a proof against
Socinians, that the Son existed before He was "sent into the world."
Otherwise, too, He could not have been our life (1Jo 4:9), our "propitiation" (1Jo 4:10), or our "Saviour" (1Jo 4:14). It is the grand proof of God's
love, His having sent "His only-begotten Son, that we might live
through Him," who is the Life, and who has redeemed our
forfeited life; and it is also the grand motive to our mutual
10. Herein is love—love in the
abstract: love, in its highest ideal, is herein. The love was
all on God's side, none on ours.
not that we loved God—though so
altogether worthy of love.
he loved us—though so altogether
unworthy of love. The Greek aorist expresses, Not that we
did any act of love at any time to God, but that He
did the act of love to us in sending Christ.
11. God's love to us is the grand motive for
our love to one another (1Jo 3:16).
if—as we all admit as a fact.
we … also—as being born of
God, and therefore resembling our Father who is love. In proportion
as we appreciate God's love to us, we love Him and also the
brethren, the children (by regeneration) of the same God, the
representatives of the unseen God.
12. God, whom no man hath seen at
any time, hath appointed His children as the visible recipients of
our outward kindness which flows from love to Himself, "whom not
having seen, we love," compare Notes, 1Jo 4:11, 1Jo 4:19, 20. Thus
4:12 explains why, instead
4:11) of saying, "If God so
loved us, we ought also to love God," he said, "We ought also to
love one another."
If we love one another, God dwelleth in
us—for God is love; and it must have been from Him dwelling
in us that we drew the real love we bear to the brethren (1Jo 4:8, 16). John discusses this in 1Jo
his love—rather, "the love of Him,"
that is, "to Him" (1Jo 2:5),
evinced by our love to His representatives, our brethren.
is perfected in us—John discusses this
4:17-19. Compare 1Jo 2:5, "is perfected," that is, attains its
13. Hereby—"Herein." The token
vouchsafed to us of God's dwelling (Greek, "abide") in us,
though we see Him not, is this, that He hath given us "of His Spirit"
3:24). Where the Spirit of
God is, there God is. One Spirit dwells
in the Church: each believer receives a measure "of" that Spirit in the
proportion God thinks fit. Love is His first-fruit (Ga 5:22). In Jesus alone the Spirit dwelt
without measure (Joh 3:34).
14. And we—primarily, we
apostles, Christ's appointed eye-witnesses to testify to the facts
concerning Him. The internal evidence of the indwelling Spirit (1Jo 4:13) is corroborated by the external
evidence of the eye-witnesses to the fact of the Father having "sent
His Son to be the Saviour of the world."
"attentively beheld" (see on 1Jo 1:1).
sent—Greek, "hath sent":
not an entirely past fact (aorist), but one of which the effects
continue (perfect tense).
15. shall confess—once for all: so the
Greek aorist means.
that Jesus is the Son of God—and
therefore "the Saviour of the world" (1Jo 4:14).
16. And we—John and his readers
(not as 1Jo
4:14, the apostles
known and believed—True faith,
according to John, is a faith of knowledge and experience: true
knowledge is a knowledge of faith [Luecke].
to us—Greek, "in our case" (see
on 1Jo 4:9).
Compare with this verse, 1Jo 4:7.
17, 18. (Compare 1Jo 3:19-21.)
our love—rather as the Greek,
"LOVE (in the abstract, the principle of
love [Alford]) is made perfect (in its
relations) with us." Love dwelling in us advances to its
consummation "with us" that is, as it is concerned with
us: so Greek. Lu 1:58,
"showed mercy upon (literally, 'with') her": 2Jo 2, the truth "shall be with us for
boldness—"confidence": the same
Greek as 1Jo 3:21, to
which this passage is parallel. The opposite of "fear," 1Jo 4:18. Herein is our love perfected,
namely, in God dwelling in us, and our dwelling in God (1Jo 4:16), involving as its result
"that we can have confidence (or boldness) in the day of
judgment" (so terrible to all other men, Ac 24:25; Ro 2:16).
because, &c.—The ground of our
"confidence" is, "because even as He (Christ) is, we also are in
this world" (and He will not, in that day, condemn those who are
like Himself), that is, we are righteous as He is
righteous, especially in respect to that which is the sum of
righteousness, love (1Jo 3:14).
Christ IS righteous, and love
itself, in heaven: so are we, His members, who are still "in this
world." Our oneness with Him even now in His exalted position
2:6), so that all that
belongs to Him of righteousness, &c., belongs to us also by perfect
imputation and progressive impartation, is the ground of our
love being perfected so that we can have confidence in the
day of judgment. We are in, not of, this world.
18. Fear has no place in love. Bold
confidence (1Jo 4:17),
based on love, cannot coexist with fear. Love, which,
when perfected, gives bold confidence, casts out fear
(compare Heb 2:14, 15). The design of Christ's propitiatory
death was to deliver from this bondage of
fear hath torment—Greek,
"punishment." Fear is always revolving in the mind the punishment
deserved [Estius]. Fear, by anticipating
punishment (through consciousness of deserving it), has it even now,
that is, the foretaste of it. Perfect love is incompatible with
such a self-punishing fear. Godly fear of offending God is quite
distinct from slavish fear of consciously deserved punishment. The
latter fear is natural to us all until love casts it
out. "Men's states vary: one is without fear and love; another,
with fear without love; another, with fear and love; another, without
fear with love" [Bengel].
19. him—omitted in the oldest
manuscripts. Translate, We (emphatical: WE on our part) love (in general: love alike
Him, and the brethren, and our fellow men),
because He (emphatical: answering to "we"; because it was He
who) first loved us in sending His Son (Greek aorist of a
definite act at a point of time). He was the first to love us: this
thought ought to create in us love casting out fear (1Jo 4:18).
20. loveth not … brother whom he hath seen,
how can he love God whom he hath not seen—It is easier for
us, influenced as we are here by sense, to direct love towards one
within the range of our senses than towards One unseen, appreciable
only by faith. "Nature is prior to grace; and we by nature love things
seen, before we love things unseen" [Estius]. The eyes are our leaders in love.
"Seeing is an incentive to love" [ŒCUMENIUS]. If we do not love the brethren,
the visible representatives of God, how can we love God, the
invisible One, whose children they are? The true ideal of man,
lost in Adam, is realized in Christ, in whom God is revealed as He is,
and man as he ought to be. Thus, by faith in Christ, we learn to love
both the true God, and the true man, and so to love the brethren as
bearing His image.
hath seen—and continually sees.
21. Besides the argument (1Jo 4:20) from the common feeling of men, he here
adds a stronger one from God's express commandment (Mt 22:39). He who loves, will do what the object
of his love wishes.
he who loveth God—he who wishes to be
regarded by God as loving Him.