NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY
by Dr. Robert R Seyda
FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN
CHAPTER FOUR (Lesson I) January 17, 2022
NOTE: Now we have one of, if not the most outstanding LOVE chapters in the Bible from the Apostle John. The word “love” (appears 25 times in 21 verses (NIV.) Here are the main maxims we can take from this chapter.
♦ We should love each other because love comes from God.
♦ Everyone who loves has become God’s child.
♦ Everyone who loves has a personal relationship with God.
♦ Anyone who does not love does not have a personal relationship with God because God is
♦ It is how God showed His agápe-love to us: He sent His only Son into the world to give us life
♦ True love is God’s agápe-love for us, not our love for God.
love each other the same.
♦ No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us.
♦ If we love each other, God’s agápe-love has reached its goal – it fulfills its purpose through us.
♦ We know the love that God has for us, and we trust that love.
♦ God is love. Everyone who lives in love lives in God, and God lives in them.
♦ If God’s agápe-love is made perfect in us, we can be without fear on the day when God judges the
♦ Wherever God’s agápe-love is, there is no fear because God’s perfect love takes away all worry.
♦ It is His punishment that makes a person fear. So His agápe-love is not made perfect in the one
♦ We love because God first loved us.
♦ If we say we love God but hate any of our brothers or sisters in His family, we are liars.
♦ If we don’t love someone we have seen, how can we love God? We have never even seen Him.
♦ God gave us this command: If we love God, we must also love each other as brothers and
4:1a My dear friends, many false prophets are in the world right now. So, don’t believe every one of them, but examine their doctrines to see if God inspires them.
Sometimes we think that spiritism – mental telepathy, clairvoyants, psychics, and others are new to the western world, but they were already around even during Moses’ time. He warned the people, “A prophet or someone who explains dreams might come to you and tell you that they will show you a sign or a miracle. And the sign or miracle they told you about might come true. Then they might ask you to follow other gods (gods you don’t know) and say to you, ‘Let’s serve these gods!’ Don’t listen to them because the Lord your God is testing you. He wants to know if you love Him with all your heart and all your soul. You must follow the Lord your God. Respect Him. Obey His commands and do what He tells you. Serve the Lord.”
They were also informed: “Do not go to mediums or wizards for advice – they will only make you unholy. I am the Lord your God.” Even in Jeremiah’s day, things like this were not only prevalent but had invaded the Jewish religion. So Jeremiah received this message from the Lord: “A terrible and shocking thing has happened in the land of Judah. The prophets tell lies. The priests will not do what they were chosen to do, and my people love it this way!” Finally, things got so bad that God had to send another message, “Don’t let your prophets and those who practice magic fool you. Don’t listen to the dreams they have. They are telling lies, saying that their message is from Me. But I didn’t send it.”
John begins chapter four in the minor key and warns against false teachers. Beloved, God loves every believer with the same amount of love. God loves that miserable believer just as much as He loves the faithful. John’s readers were susceptible to false teachers. The Greek text says, “Stop believing every spirit.” They were already in the process of giving credibility to false doctrine. John’s readers were so naive that they believed anything that the false teacher Cerinthus had to say. He was very eloquent and personable. He was a marvelous salesman; he could sell anything to anyone, but his message was from the evil one. Many people flocked to hear him. God calls on us to disbelieve and be critical of teaching, which does not measure up with instructions from God’s Word.
The word “but test the spirits” is a term of strong contrast. Instead of being gullible enough to believe all religious leaders, we test their teaching by the Word of God. John puts the word “spirits” here for people who claim special revelation, but this revelation is not from God. Many religious types will represent the Word or even a prophet from God, but they do not teach sound doctrine. Mature believers “testthe spirits.” The word “test” means to make it undergo examination for approval. “Find out whether you approve or disapprove of any given teaching by comparing their teaching to the statements of the Word.” God has a regulation for testing doctrine objectively; the Bible is the ultimate standard for truth. We find all we know of Jesus there. The Bible is the only reliable criterion for determining whether the truth about Him and the truth itself is from God.
We must distinguish false teachers from true teachers. The acid test of a false teacher is their view of the person of the Anointed One. Much religious teaching does not find its source in God; it is not “of God.” What a prophet says must agree with previously revealed truth – they must speak with the authority and approval of the Lord. Also, the prophecy must come to pass. Believers must clearly understand the Word of God before they can be spiritually self-sustaining and distinguish truth from error.
The world was full of false prophets back in John’s day. There were not just a few but “many” false prophets. In verse one, the word “because” explains why we must test religious people to see if they are genuinely from God. The reason is that “many false prophets are out in the world,” representing themselves as God-sent. The words “gone out” indicate that they are already influencing John’s readers [perfect tense]. They are not about to go out; they have already spread their bogus teaching. They were eloquent and persuasive, so they attracted a large audience. They went out from John’s congregation but not as ordained prophets. Had they been ours, says John, they would have continued with us; but some went out that they might become better known and exercise more significant influence.
John then explains that they “slipped” out because they “crept in” in the first place. They were spiritual sneaks. No one noticed them coming in. They did not walk in the front door, but they sneaked out the back door. All along, they were traitors undermining the message of Jesus the Anointed One. They are in the church as part of the furniture. That is why it is hard to detect their error. “For certain men crept in unnoticed, long ago marked for condemnation. Several ungodly men, who turned the grace of our God into sensuality and denied the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus the Anointed One.” False prophets always appear outwardly religious.
The specific doctrine whereby we test to find whether a teacher is false or true is the Gospel of the Anointed One. If any person denies either the deity or the humanity of the Anointed One, they are a false teacher. Some of John’s readers had come to believe that Jesus did not come in the flesh as a human. However, every spirit that confesses that Jesus the Anointed One has come in the flesh is of God. Therefore, one test of truth revolves around Jesus the Anointed One. Cerinthus, a Gnostic, taught that Jesus was not truly human. By denying the physical, historical humanity of the Anointed One, they attacked the fundamental doctrine of Redemption. The death of the body of the Anointed One was necessary to pay for our sins. If this did not happen, then it undermines the teaching of salvation.
The word “confesses” means to identify. If anyone does not identify with and acknowledge the humanity of the Anointed One, they are fakes. Belief in the incarnate Son of God is a touchstone of the Christian faith. Sincere acknowledgment that the Messiah came in the flesh to forgive sins is the heart of Christian belief. Jesus took part in our life; by regeneration, we participate in Jesus’ life.
So here we have the Apostle John proclaiming with an earnest personal appeal in response to the statement he just made, “prove the spirits.” “The spirits” are principles and trends in religion: these need examining because earnestness and enthusiasm are no guarantee of truth. And to test these principles is the duty of the individual Christian as well as of the Church in its official capacity. Just as every Athenian underwent an inspection related to origin and character before holding office, religious teachers must examine their motivation before their teaching can be approved. It is no useless precaution; because, as the Anointed One came from God, many false prophets are motivated by a spirit of error, including Cerinthus, Gnostics, Nicolaitans, astrologers, professors of magic, and dealers in charms. Many seem to have had their origin in Ephesus. However, they welcomed Apollonius of Tyana at Ephesus, possibly during John’s lifetime.
 Deuteronomy 13:1-4
 Leviticus 19:31
 Jeremiah 5:30-31
 Ibid. 29:8-9
 Ephesians 1:6
 1 John 4:2-3
 Deuteronomy 12:1-5; 18:20-22; Jeremiah 23:9-22; 28:9
 1 John 2:19
 Jude 1:4
 John 16:28; cf. 8:42; 13:3; 16:27
 Acts of the Apostle 19:13-20
 Ibid. 18:24