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Bible Commentaries
1 John 4

Godbey's Commentary on the New TestamentGodbey's NT Commentary

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Verses 1-6



1. “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but prove the spirits, because many false prophets have come out into the world.” We are to try and prove the spirits, excarnate and incarnate, and especially the latter, i. e., the spirits which are in the living bodies. My spirit is writing these pages in the using of my bodily instrumentality. You hear a man preach; his spirit speaks through his body. The false prophets in this chapter are identical with the Antichrists in Chapter 2. Hence you are to try them by the Word of God, and if so you will utterly discard them.

2. “In this know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ came in the flesh, is of God.”

3. “Every spirit that confesseth not Jesus is not of God. This is the spirit of Antichrist, whom you have heard, that he cometh and now is already in the world.” John, in his second epistle says, “Confesseth that Jesus Christ is coming in the flesh.” Then he exhorts us not to receive them into our houses nor to bid them God speed. “For he that biddeth them God speed is partaker of their evil deeds.” These scriptures plainly reveal the attitude and character of these Antichrists, or false prophets, against whom John gives us this solemn warning. Their peculiar differentia is that they do not bring with them the great doctrine of the Christhood.

(a) The omnipotent spiritual Christ has always been in the world (entering immediately after the fall), in the Old Testament known as Jehovah, the Excarnate Christ, and in the Gospel dispensation as the Comforter, the Holy Ghost, the successor of the risen Christ, to prepare the world for His return.

(b) The God-man Christ came on the earth, expiated the guilt of the world on the cross and ascended up to heaven, receiving the perfect

and satisfactory approval of the Father, who enthroned Him Mediatorial King at His right hand, to reign till the Father makes His enemies His footstool. Then He will descend on the throne of His glory, cast out Satan, and reign over this world forever. Daniel 7:0. As God out of Christ can show no mercy to His fallen subjects, the entire plan of salvation in all ages is involved in the Christhood which the Holy Ghost is sent to reveal and its benefits to impart. The Holy Ghost came on the day of Pentecost as the successor of the risen Christ, to remain in charge till his return, having the sole right to rule the Church. Satan, having suffered defeat in the Father’s dispensation, and in that of the Son, is now fighting in his last ditch, stirring earth and hell against the Holy Ghost, the Representative of the Christhood. Hence you see that the men who do not preach the work of Christ and the Holy Ghost are Antichrists, i. e., opponents of Christ or supplanters of Christ, and false prophets, i. e., do not “preach with the Holy Ghost come down from heaven.” The Gospel preacher preaches that Christ has come and redeemed the world by His blood, and that He will come and reign over it, casting out Satan. He also preaches the glorious work of the Holy Ghost in regenerating the sinner, sanctifying the believer, and transfiguring the saints. All others are to be discarded, having failed to satisfy the tests of the Christhood.

4. John congratulates the children of God because they have conquered these false prophets and Antichrists.

5. These are the carnal preachers, so popular with the world. Their name is legion today. Look out and try them by the Word of God. Do they preach the great truths of the Christhood, with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven?

6. How significantly is this prophecy verified this day. If a man preaches the truth with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven, only the sainted few will hear. Let him come forth with carnal eloquence, pomp and power, the world will bear him. Popular churches will be thrown open, and all agape to swallow down Satan’s bait. God help us all to obey this command, “Try the spirits, if they be of God,” as the world is full of false prophets leading millions into hell.

Verses 7-10



7-9. The attributes of God are omnipotence, omnipresence and omniscience, but the essence of the divine nature is love, i. e., the heavenly agapee, which is utterly alien from human love, so positively heterogeneous as in no way to be comparable with it. This same agapee, divine love, constitutes the sum and substance of the Christian religion. As this love is only native in the heart of God, none but God, i. e., the Holy Ghost, can confer it. Holiness is simply another name for Holy Ghost religion. Hence all antiholiness religion is essentially diabolism from beginning to end, and can lead only to hell. The agapee, divine love, is imparted in regeneration (Romans 6:5) and made perfect when all of its antagonisms are removed in entire sanctification. It is like the wheat in the stock, intrinsically clean and pure, but extrinsically encumbered with chaff, straw, dirt and other impurities, till the steam thresher sweeps them all away. So the regenerated man needs the baptism of the Holy Ghost and fire to consume all the trash Satan put in him at the fall, and leave the heavenly agapee to reign without a rival.

10. This indefinable agapee came all the way from heaven to die for a lost world.

Verses 11-21



11. “Beloved, if God so loved us with divine love we ought to love one another with divine love.” This purely unselfish love to all mankind is the universal test of a Christian character.

12. “No one hath ever seen God [with the physical eye, but we see Him, i.e., perceive Him, with our spiritual senses]. If we love one another with divine love, God abideth in us and His love has been perfected in us.” The Greek present tense means constancy and perpetuity, which only obtain in case of perfect love, the malevolent affections being utterly expurgated, so they no longer rise and interrupt the constant flow of love.

13. The clear testimony of the indwelling Holy Spirit must settle every problem in Christian experience. He never fails to witness to His own work. When He imparts this divine love, He speaks to your heart and tells you so. When He sanctifies you, making perfect your love, His testimony is never delinquent. Here you can detect false religion. It has no witness of the Spirit.

14. While the Holy Spirit is our witness, we are the world’s witnesses.

15. This does not mean a buncombe confession made by wicked people, manipulated by demagogues, but the experimental testimony which none can have till Jesus saves them.

16. “God is divine love: he that abideth in divine love abideth in God.” All this follows as a logical sequence from the fact that the divine agapee is the nature of God. Hence you see the transparent fallacy of all Satanic efforts to counterfeit God’s religion. He would as well undertake to counterfeit God. Surely with his own people he does constantly counterfeit both God and his religion, but he signally fails every time with God’s true people.

17. Here you see perfect love, i. e., entire sanctification, is absolutely necessary to prepare us for the judgment. “As He is so are we in this world.” Perfect love makes us like Jesus, even while in this world. Her false religions all stumble. If we live in this world like Jesus we will certainly meet Him with a shout when He comes.

18. “There is no fear in divine love.” The fear is the depravity, which is destroyed in sanctification, leaving us perfectly free from fear. Perfect love casts out fear. Fear is here used in its universal sense, and means all fear. If you have perfect love you fear neither poverty, scandal, persecution, death, judgment nor eternity.

19. “We love Him because He first loved us.” If He had not so loved as to come and save us by putting His love in us, it would have been as impossible for us to love Him as for a devil.

20. “If any one may say, ‘I love God,’ and may hate his brother, he is a liar, for he that loveth not his brother, whom he has seen, how is he able to love God whom he has not seen?” Our physical senses assist our spiritual, meanwhile this divine agapee is the same in the heart of God, angel or man, intuitively reaching out after every object in which it can rest. Hence the very fact that we do not love men with divine love whom we see with our physical eyes, is demonstrative proof that we do not love God, who is only discernible by our spiritual senses.

21. “And we have this law from Him, that whosoever loveth God with divine love loveth also his brother with divine love.” This law is indefragable as the divine nature. Love can not keep from loving, just as light can not keep from shining. It is the nature of this love to be drawn toward every human being, as the magnet to the pole. Hence the very fact that you do not love the entire human race with an ardent human love, homogeneous to that which brought Jesus down to die, is demonstrative proof that you are destitute of this divine love, and no Christian. After receiving this wonderful agapee in regeneration, it will be antagonized in your heart more or less by the malevolent affections, till utterly destroyed in sanctification. Then the divine love in your heart, as in the heart of Jesus, will move out on eagle’s wings to every human being in all the world. John Fisher, a devout preacher of the Gospel, having been arrested by the edict of Bloody Mary, and imprisoned in the Tower of London, when led out to the scaffold to have his head cut off, fortuitously opening his Greek Testament, with a simultaneous prayer, “Oh God, direct my eye to the Scripture you want to comfort me in this awful hour,” lit on this beautiful paragraph, expository of perfect love. Having read it he closed the book saying, “Glory to God! It is enough for time and eternity.” In a moment the bloody axe-man severed his head from his body, his heroic spirit, encircled by angels, winging its flight to heaven.

Bibliographical Information
Godbey, William. "Commentary on 1 John 4". "Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ges/1-john-4.html.
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