Hello friends, welcome to another post on 1 John! Today’s passage will be a bit shorter. We’ll be going through 1 John 4:1-6. As always, try to read the text beforehand or feel free to follow along as we go! Hope you guys enjoy it!

1 John 4:1-6

1 Dear friends, 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. 2 This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.

4 You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. 5 They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. 6 We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood.

False spirits and prophets

Today’s passage discusses a pretty interesting topic: false spirits and false prophets. The topic shows up quite frequently, both in the New and Old Testaments. (This is sort of off-topic and really for your own personal interest, but some really interesting passages/stories that come to mind for me are: Deut 18:14-21, 1 Kings 22:13-28, and Matthew 12:43-45). And what today’s passage teaches us is how we are able to discern whether or not if a spirit is from God, or something else…

John starts off the passage with a pretty important command. He tells us: 

Dear friends, 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. (1 John 4:1)

Something that I think we often tend to forget is that outside of Jesus, God, the Holy Spirit, and Satan, the Bible teaches us that there are many spiritual forces that reside in our world. We will often think of them as “supernatural forces,” but they are closer than we think. These forces can even exist in everyday things like sexism, racism, classism, etc. John describes these forces as “from the world” and “[speaking] from the viewpoint of the world.” Is this to say that everything that goes against God stems from an evil spirit? To be totally honest, I haven’t done enough research to give you an answer (but maybe you could look it up yourself!). It is something worth considering, though. 

In the next couple of verses, John gives us two pretty comforting truths:

  1. We are able to recognize these spirits 
  2. These spirits have little power over us 

The first truth shows up in in verses 2-3, where John gives pretty clear criteria on whether or not we can tell a spirit is from God:

This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world. (1 John 4:2-3)

Pretty clear, right? It all rests on Jesus. If the spirit acknowledges that Jesus is Lord and is from God, then we know it’s legitimate. But, if the spirit fails to acknowledge Jesus, who is from God, then it’s not from God, but rather, is the “spirit of the antichrist.” 

We need to be filled with the Spirit of Christ

The next truth shows up in verse 4:

You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. (1 John 4:4)

John tells us that we have overcome these spirits. Why? Because the spirit that is in us is greater than whatever false spirits the world can conjure up. I originally didn’t intend to write on this, but at the beginning of the post I mentioned a verse from Matthew:

43 “When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. 44 Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. 45 Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation.” (Matthew 12:43-45)

Jesus tells us of a parable where an impure spirit resides in a man. The spirit leaves for a while and ends up coming back. It leaves readers thinking: well, how do we stop the spirit from coming back? There is a very crucial detail in the parable that tells us that during the return, the spirit “finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order,” and I think that is the key to understanding the passage; the only way someone is able to guarantee themselves free of an evil spirit is to replace that vacant spot with a much more powerful one. And John gives us the same conclusion; because of the much more powerful Holy Spirit that resides in us, the evil spirits of the world have absolutely no hold on us. What a comforting promise. 

As I mentioned previously, today’s passage is a bit shorter and so the post (unsurprisingly) will be a bit shorter as well. I’ll be ending it off here, but not before leaving you guys a question or three to think about:

  1. How much do I really consider the possibility of evil spirits being involved in my day-to-day life?
  2. Am I filled with the Spirit of Christ, who will protect me from evil spirits? 
  3. How much time/or effort have I spent trying to discern some of these spirits? Is it something I should put more consideration into? 

Thanks for reading, and hope to see you again! 

Read more posts in Jason’s 1 John Series. 

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About the Author

Jason Cheong

Jason is a third-year economics student involved at P2C-S at UofT. While he’s not slacking off and distracting others to also slack off, he enjoys video games, eating out with his friends, reading the Bible, and making blog posts about them.

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