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Bible Commentaries

Gann's Commentary on the Bible

1 John 4

Verse 1

1 John 4:1

Paragraph: 1John 4:1-6 -

Warning Against False Teachers

1. Many False Prophets Have Gone Out Into the World v.1-3

Believe not every spirit -- (me? panti pneumati pisteuete). “Stop believing,” as some were clearly carried away by the spirits of error rampant among them, both Docetic and Cerinthian Gnostics. Credulity means gullibility and some believers fall easy victims to the latest fads in spiritualistic humbuggery.

Spirits -- "The spirits are teachers, prophets -- men who claim to have a special revelation from God." - Frank L Cox

"In all ages of the church persons have arisen who claimed to possess supernatural powers, or to have received special revelations. John does not say that they all are insincere and time-serving; but he reminds us that they may be, and that their claims must always be the delusion of fanatical enthusiasts; they may be the lies of fanatical impostors." - Homiletic Commentary.

Many -- Then and now!

Prove the spirits -- (dokimazete ta pneumata). Put them to the acid test of truth as the metallurgist does his metals. If it stands the test like a coin, it is acceptable (dokimos, 2 Corinthians 10:18), otherwise it is rejected (adokimos,. 1 Corinthians 1:1; 2 Corinthians 1:1-7).

Test -- try, prove. "run an assay on them as a metallurgist does his metals, and determine whether they were of God. They were to be able to do either by exercising miraculous power in the discernment of spirits (1 Corinthians 12:4-11), or by comparing the claims of these men with the known teaching of the Holy Spirit through properly accredited representatives. Today we test such teaching by comparing them with the New Testament. Isaiah 8:20

Prophet -- One who spoke as a spokesman of God.

Verse 2

1 John 4:2

b. This is how you can know God’s Spirit. -2

1) The Spirit from God confesses that Jesus Christ came in human form (fleshly).

2) The Spirit of the anti-Christ rejects Christ’s coming in the flesh. 1 John 4:3

c. You heard the enemy of Christ was coming, he is already here now. v.3

Spirit of God -- A prophet truly inspired of God.

Come in the flesh -- "It is interesting to observe that the heretics -- did not deny Christ’s Divinity, but his humanity." "If there were teachers in ancient days who denied Christ’s humanity, there are teachers in modern days who deny his Divinity." - Frank L. Cox.

Verse 3

1 John 4:3

That confessing not -- Test of the false prophet. See Deuteronomy 13:1-3; Deuteronomy 18:21-22;

Come in the flesh. -- The Spirit of the anti-Christ rejects Christ’s coming in the flesh. v. 3

You heard the enemy of Christ was coming, he is already here now. v.3

Heard before -- They had been previously warned. cf. Acts 20:28-30

Now already -- These false teachers, antichrists, were already present when John wrote this.

AntiChrist -- simply means one against Christ. Note that John does not indicate one particular person as "the Anti-Christ" who is yet to come, still in our future (or present secretly) as some false doctrines today maintain.

Verse 4

1 John 4:4

New Paragraph: The Need for Brotherly Love

Overcome -- is from a perfect verb, thus indicating that John’s readers had earlier reached a decision regarding the nature of these teachers and had rejected them; and an abiding conviction yet remained with them of this matter.


2. You Belong to God. vs.4-6

a. You have defeated the false teachers. v.4

b. God’s Spirit in you is greater than Satan in the world. v.4

c. The false teachers belong to the world -- v.5

1) What they say (teach) is from the world.

2) It is the world who listens to them.

d. We belong to God. v.6

1) Those who know God listen to us (inspired apostles).

2) Those not of God not listen to us (apostles).

e. Therefore: we know which Spirit is true, and which is false.

Verse 5

1 John 4:5


c. The false teachers belong to the world -- v.5

1) What they say (teach) is from the world.

2) It is the world who listens to them.

Being unspiritual in nature, they are unspiritual in speech. Being unspiritual, they attract the unspiritual.

Verse 6

1 John 4:6

Spirit of truth -- refers to a "disposition friendly to and favorable toward the truth."


d. We belong to God. v.6

1) Those who know God listen to us (inspired apostles).

2) Those not of God not listen to us (apostles).

e. Therefore: we know which Spirit is true, and which is false.

"Wherever there is Divine inspiration there is essentail harmony with other Divine inspiration."

Verse 7

1 John 4:7

Is born -- God’s children look like Him. "God is love!"

"The spirit of truth is also known by a man’s dispostion." - Frank L. Cox

1John 4:7-21 Godly Love

1. We should love each other. -v.7-10

a. Because love comes from God - v.7

1) Ones who love become God’s child

2) And know God.

b. Those who don’t love do not know God. V.8

1) Because God is love.

c. God showed his love in sending Christ into the world. V.9

1) So that we could have life through him.

d. This is real love: v.10

1) Not our love for God

2) God’s love for us

a) He sent Christ to die and take away our sins.

Verse 8

1 John 4:8

Loveth -- is translated from the present active participle of agapao. He who does not continue to love does not know (is without acquaintance) God.

Knoweth not -- is aorist active indicative (ouk egno ton theon) "has not once known", hence has never known God, Thus, was never genuinely converted.

Verse 9

1 John 4:9

Only begotten -- is μονογενη, and signifies the-only-one-of-its-kind, and was so used to distinguish Jesus from all other sons of God.

Verse 10

1 John 4:10

Herein is love -- Real love can be seen in God’s love or us, look at the cross! Romans 5:8

Propitiation -- The word occurs here and in 1 John 2:2 only. It means that which is most fitting, appeasing, or perfectly answering the need.

The essentials of a sacrifice are two: 1) a priest to offer, and 2) a victim to be offered. Christ was both, in that he offered up himself for our sins Hebrews 9:14.

Verse 11

1 John 4:11

We ought also -- We need to love those God loves. John 13:35


1John 4:7-21 Godly Love

2. How We Should Imitate God’s Love - v.11-12

a. God loves us and we should love each other - v.11

b. If we love each other God lives in us -v.12

1) (Though no one has ever seen God)

2) God’s love is made perfect in us.

Verse 12

1 John 4:12

Seen God -- The noun "God" is without the article here, and thus, reference is made to the divine nature, and not the the first person of the Godhead exclusively. The word God is properly applied to each of the divine persons of the Godhead, since it is the name of the nature which each possess in common. Since there is but one divine nature, there is but one God. Each of the persons of the Godhead possesses the divine nature, and thus each is properly referred to as God. It is hence entirely in order to say, "God, the Father (1 John 4:9)" and "God, the Son (1 John 1:1-3)", and "God, the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:3-4)". The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit do not constitute three separate Gods; there is but one God (Deuteronomy 6:4). These three divine personalities are of but ONE essence, ONE nature, and this one nature is God, and the only God.

God dwelleth in us -- See note at Ephesians 3:17 for "Indwelling"

Verse 13

1 John 4:13

Dwell (abide, live) -- Thus, Christ dwells in us as well as the Holy Spirit.

How the Spirit dwells in us must be learned from other passages such as Galatians 3:2, "Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?" which is a rhetorical question, put in this manner for emphasis. The word of truth --the gospel-- is the instrument by which the Spirit exercises his influence on both saint and sinner (cf. Romans 8:9, Galatians 4:16, etc).


1John 4:7-21 Godly Love

3. We know that God loves us -v.13-16

a. We know we live in God and He lives in us - v.13

1) Because He gave us his Spirit.

b. The Father sent His Son to be the Savior of the world -v.14

1) We have seen His Son

2) We testify of it to the world

c. Jesus is the Son of God - v.15

1) Whoever confesses this has God living inside him

2) And this one live in God.

d. We know the love God has for us -v.16

1) And we trust that love

Verse 14

1 John 4:14

Have seen -- from theaomai, means to behold with adoring wonder.

Verse 15

1 John 4:15

Confess -- is in the aorist tense and has the force of that which is difficult to render into English, and reveals that the confession is a once-for-all act by which the one making it is commit to this concept of Christ with all the faculties of mind and body.

Confess -- see Romans 10:10 See James 2:24 note "Being Saved" for the important part confessing our faith in Christ plays in our salvation.

See Ephesians 3:17 note on "Indwelling"

Verse 16

1 John 4:16

We know -- (egnōkamen). Perfect active indicative, “we have come to know and still know”

The last part of 1 John 4:16 ought to be taken as the conclusion of the paragraph, rather than the start of a new one. John again affirmed the reality of the abiding experience enjoyed by all Christians who love. BKC

Verse 17

1 John 4:17

Day of judgment -- 2 Corinthians 5:10


4. God is Love - v.16b - 18

a. Those who live in love live in God. V.16

1) And God lives in them.

b. This is how Love is made perfect in us: v.17

1) We can be without fear on the day God judges us

2) Because in this world we are like him.

c. Where God’s love is, there is no fear - v.18

1) Because God’s perfect love drives out fear.

2) It is punishment that makes a person fear

3) So love is not made perfect in the person who fears.

Verse 18

1 John 4:18

Fear -- is not that which the Psalmist declares is "the beginning of wisdom" (Psalms 111:10), a reverential, godly fear, which shrinks from any action which would displease God, the fear which an obedient child has for a loving father (1 Peter 1:17); but terror, dread, slavish fear, such as is characteristic of a slave in the presence of a cruel and heartless master.

Verse 19

1 John 4:19

He first -- God loved us before we loved him (John 3:16). Our love is in response to his love for us. Agapōmen is indicative (we love), not subjunctive (let us love) of the same form. (Note that there is no object express here for "we love" in many MSS.)


5. How We Show Godly Love - v.19-21

a. We love because God first loved us - v.19

b. Those saying they love God but hate their brethren are liars -v.20

1) They don’t love brethren whom they’ve seen

2) How can they love God whom they’ve not seen.

c. God commands that if we love Him we must also love our brothers and sisters.

Verse 20

1 John 4:20

Someone says -- John emphasizes the futility of professing to love God while at the same time hating one’s brother. As spokes get nearer to the center of the wheel, so they get nearer to one another. Thus, as we get closer to the Lord, the more we will love our fellow believers. BBC

Verse 21

1 John 4:21

From Him --

From him -- (ap’ autou). Either God or Christ. See Mark 12:29-31 for this old commandment (1 John 2:7.).

That he who loveth God love his brother also - This seems to be a summary of John’s statements in this chapter. . .cf. John 13:34-35. Compare John 15:12, John 15:17.

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Bibliographical Information
Gann, Windell. "Commentary on 1 John 4". Gann's Commentary on the Bible. 2021.