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Bible Commentaries
1 John 4

Garner-Howes Baptist CommentaryGarner-Howes

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Verse 1

1) "Beloved, believe not every spirit " (Greek agapetoi) "beloved ones", an affectionate address to all ages of believers. (pisteuete) trust ye-(me) not. (Greek panti pneumati) (just) any or every spirit. John warns that some spirits should not (must not) be trusted. There are "seducing spirits", 1 Timothy 4:1.

2) "But try the spirits" (Alla) but, strong contrast - (Greek dokimozete) "test ye or prove ye," the spirits. Put the spirits on trial, on examination; Do they speak and cause men to act according to the revealed Word of God? If not they are to be rejected as emissaries, servants, agents of Satan. 1 Timothy 4:1-3; 2 Timothy 4:3-4; 2 Corinthians 11:13-15.

3) "Whether they are of God": Fallen, deranged, demon spirits - enemies of God, work through men - depraved men, to oppose God and Holiness. Note the maniac of Gadara, Mark 5:1-20; Mark 7:24-30, and deceptive miracle workers. Revelation 16:13-14.

4) "Because many false prophets are gone out into the world." 1) Our Lord warned of "false" or lying prophets. Matthew 7:15-23; Matthew 2) Paul did, 2 Corinthians 11:13-15; Acts 20:27-31; Acts 3) Peter did, 2 Peter 2:1-3; 2 Peter 3:1-7. These false prophets have (Greek ekseleluthasin) "Gone out of their own accord -, or will". They were not (Greek stello) sent or authorized of the Lord.

Verse 2


1) "Hereby know ye the Spirit of God:" John asserts that one may know or recognize the Spirit of God, in contrast with the spirits of demons, as follows:

2) "Every spirit that confesseth". Every spirit, or each spirit that confesses, acknowledges, or affirms the following is of the kind and nature of the Holy Spirit:

3) "That Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God." (Greek eleluthota) is having come, or has already come. (Greek en sarki) "in flesh" and any spirit or person that does not acknowledge, confess, or affirm that the (Jesus) Savior, (Christ) anointed one, has already come "in flesh" or "flesh likeness," can not be of God. 1 John 4:13; Hebrews 1:3; John 1:14-18. Christian truth and falsehood may be determined by one’s concept of who Jesus Christ was and is.

Verse 3

1) "And every spirit that confesseth not." Spirits control men to hinder them from confessing or acknowledging who Jesus is. Even the legion of demon unclean spirits in the demon possessed man of Gadara knew who Jesus was, but hindered him until rebuked by Jesus. Mark 5:1-13.

2) "That Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God." The Pharisees, Sadducees, and scribes, and elders of Israel (as a whole) did not confess that the Savior (deliverer) anointed had come in the flesh. Such was enmity against God, and identified them as religious unregenerates, unsaved, Matthew 5:20.

3) "And this is that spirit of antichrist." This very attitude, adamant spirit, of denying the Holy Spirit begetting and virgin birth of Christ in the flesh is the spirit of the antichrist. Matthew 1:18; Matthew 1:22-23; Luke 1:34-35; Galatians 4:4-5.

4) "Whereof ye heard that it should come." Jesus warned of the anti-Christ’s coming and demon possession of those who rejected the Savior. John 5:43; Matthew 7:15; Matthew 24:45; Matthew 23-26.

5) "And even now already is it in the world." The term "anti" - "Christ" means against, or posing instead of Christ. Even fake healers and pseudo-miracle workers are dominated and directed by the anti-christ spirit. Acts 19:11-20 describes seducing and deceiving spirits in seven sons of Sceva, a fraudulent miracle worker whom Paul encountered. See also Acts 13:6-12.

Verse 4

1) "Ye are of God, little children." John knew the profession and fruits of those to whom he wrote. Hence he affirmed they were of God. God’s nature, spirit and attributes. 1 John 4:13; 1 John 5:13.

2) "And have overcome them." (Greek nenike-kate) means "ye have conquered them," the anti-Christ spirits, spirits of demons. That one "in Christ," begotten of the Spirit, is greater than that one in the world. John 6:63; 1 John 3:24.

3) "Because greater is he that is in you." The Holy Spirit indwells children of God, 1 John 4:13; Romans 5:5; Romans 8:9; Romans 8:11; Romans 8:26-27; Ephesians 5:18. Christ too indwells the believer to empower him, John 17:23; John 17:26.

4) "Than he that is in the world." The "He" that is in believers, (Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit) is each "greater" than the "he" that is in the (Greek kosmo) world order, (the devil and his deranged demon spirits) Jesus is greater than:

a) the "Prince" of devils Mark 3:22-23.

b) the "Prince" of this world. John 12:31; John 14:30; John 16:11; Hebrews 2:14.

Verse 5

WORLDLINESS - Mark of False Teachers

1) "They are of the world." The "they" of the world (world order) are false teachers and prophets whose spirits are to be tried (tested) by the Word. 2 Timothy 3:1-8.

2) "Therefore speak they of the world." Their language, conversation, is concerning depraved things. Out of the abundance of the unregenerated heart their tongues wag. Their affections are motivated by a desire for things material, temporary. Luke 6:45, Matthew 12:34-36.

3) "And the World heareth them." In keeping with the principle "everything after his kind," it is natural for the unsaved, the unregenerated to follow the spirits of false prophets who too are unregenerated. John 8:44; 2 Peter 2:1-3; 2 Peter 2:18-19; 1 John 2:15-17.

Verse 6

1) "We are of God." John uses a double affirmative, "We, we are," meaning absolutely are (Greek ek tou theou) out of God. Our nature, desires, and Divine attributes of faith, hope, and love have origin in Him, as born Sons of God.

2) "He that knoweth God heareth us." (Greek ho ginosko). The one (anyone) knowing (Greek ton theon) the God, hears or (Greek akouei) gives heed to us." John affirms that sheep follow and know the voice of other sheep and the shepherd. Those who love the voice of false teachers are themselves generally deceived or unsaved. John 10:3-4; John 10:14; John 10:27; Matthew 7:17-23.

3) "Hereby know we the spirit of truth." The thread of unity of thought continues from 1 John 4:1. The Spirit of truth is in harmony with the Spirit inspired and recorded Word of truth. John 17:17. The same Spirit that inspired the Word also condemns spirits whose emissaries contradict the inspired Word of truth; John 16:13; Ephesians 6:10-18; 2 Peter 3:1-3.

4) "And the Spirit of error." There is a spirit of error (Greek planes) meaning delusion or deception, in the world of the unregenerated. 1 Corinthians 2:12-14; 1 Corinthians 2:16; 2 Peter 3:17.

Verse 7

1) "Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God;" John appeals to all children of God to show, manifest their love, for one another because love originates in and emanates from God - it should emanate from each of His children, Matthew 5:14-16.

2) "And everyone that loveth is born of God." Progressive love manifest toward God, His church, His Word, and one another, says to the world, "These are born of God." John 13:34-35; Hebrews 13:1.

3) "And knoweth God." To know God is to be an holder or possessor of eternal life, John 17:3. One may have or hold an experimental, and personal knowledge of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, John 14:7; 2 Timothy 1:12. Let it be remembered "everyone that loveth is born of God and knoweth God," 1 Thessalonians 4:9.


"How do I know that Christ is mine turn to Romans ten and nine

Confessing Him, trusting Him, Savior Divine,

Divine, I know He is mine."

Verse 8

1) "He that loveth not knoweth not God;” John asserts that one void of active love does not know God, in effect does not have eternal life or salvation, John 17:3.

2) "For God is love." Just as God (in essence of nature) and attitude toward His creation is love, even so His children progressively and actively reflect this attribute. John 3:16; Romans 12:9-12; Romans 13:8-10.

Verse 9

1) "In this was manifested the love of God toward us." The birth, life death, and resurrection of Christ, John asserts, was an (outshining-manifestation) of the love of God for men. 1 Timothy 3:16; John 17:6; Hebrews 1:3; Romans 5:8.

2) "Because that God sent his only begotten son into the world." Jesus Christ is called the (Greek monogene) only begotten Son of God five times in the New Testament. Acceptance of this affirmation identifies true believers. Rejection of it is the mark of an infidel - whether religious or secular. John 1:14; John 1:18; John 3:16; John 3:18; 1 John 4:9.

3) "That we might live through him." (Greek hina "in order that", introduced the purpose of our Savior’s being begotten of the Holy God (the Holy Spirit) - we might live in (di) through Him. Note purpose clauses of John 3:16-17.

Verse 10

1) "Herein is love, not that we loved God." The occasion, source, or origin of love is not in or of man, but of God, man’s Maker and Redeemer. God took the initiative and acted creatively, motivated by His own love, to redeem men in and from their loveless state and impart to them His love. Romans 5:6-8.

2) "But that he loved us." Before the foundation of the universe God loved and purposed to love the world, His creation, and humanity and provide for their redemption through His Son." 1 Peter 1:18-21.

3) "And sent his Son." Galatians 4:4-5; Titus 3:4-6 affirm that God sent His Son on a mission of mercy and redemption which He fulfilled, in the fullness of time, or according to God’s schedule.

4) "To be the propitiation for our sins." The term "propitiation" means a "mercy sacrifice" concerning, or on behalf of our sins. 1 John 2:2; Romans 3:25-26. Had not Christ have become an acceptable, holy "mercy sacrifice," each unsaved should have had to have given himself as an "unholy judgment sacrifice" to pay for his own sins. Unholiness can never atone for unholiness. Man could never have paid for his own sins. This is why it was necessary for Christ to be Holy Ghost begotten and virgin born.


Verse 11

1) "Beloved, if God so loved us." Love for life is man’s highest love. Love for life is greater than love for tangible and intangible things of Earth. God loved more than things when He gave his only begotten Son to be a sacrifice payment for man’s sins, that man might live forever. Love "so amazing, so Divine" demands my best, my all. Romans 5:6-8.

2) "We ought also to love one another.” (Gr. opheilomen) means "we owe or are obligated" to love one another. It is a debt of gratitude to God that each begotten of the Father should cultivate and show love for each other, as for him. John 13:34-35. As the child should love the parents, the student should love the teacher, the country should love the soldier who jeopardizes his life for his people, so should God’s children love Him even more.

Verse 12

1) "No man hath seen God at anytime." (Greek oudeis) "not one" man (Greek popote) ever or at anytime (Greek tetheatai) has beheld, gazed upon, or comprehended God. Jesus Christ His son has manifested His nature and attributes, but the world "knew Him not." John 1:10-11; John 1:18; John 14:9; Colossians 1:15, 2 Corinthians 4:4.

2) "If we love one another, God dwelleth in us." Love of God’s children, one for another, is an evidence that one is a member of God’s family, is a child of God. It is Divinely given in regeneration and should be cultivated to Christian maturity. 1 John 4:7; Romans 5:5; John 13:34-35; Galatians 6:2; Romans 13:8; Romans 13:10.

3) "And his love is perfected in us." The love of God is, (Greek teteleiomene) having been completed, matured, or perfected in those who actively, progressively show love for each other. This is the will of our lord for each in Him, especially in His church. Matthew 5:48.

Verse 13

1) "Hereby know we that we dwell in him," It is a thought of "Blessed Assurance" that those saved - those abiding in Christ can know it. One need not go thru life doubting or uncertain about his salvation. For instance consider: 1 John 4:7; 1 John 5:1; 1 John 5:13; 1 John 3:2; 1 John 3:14; Romans 8:14; Romans 8:16; Romans 8:28; 2 Corinthians 5:1.

2) "And he in us." The love of the Shepherd, in giving His life for His sheep, validates His claim that they dwell in His bosom (center of His affection) and He in them. John 10:11; John 10:14-15; John 10:17-30; John 17:23.

3) "Because he hath given us of his Spirit. (Greek hoti ek tou pneumatos autou) "because out of His own spirit" (dedoken hemin) "He has given to us". This Spirit (Holy Spirit) is said to be our Lord’s in nature, kind, purpose and agreement.

1) By it He was begotten, so are we. Matthew 1:18; Matthew 1:20; Luke 1:35; John 3:5; John 6:63; 2 Corinthians 3:6.

2) By it He was sanctified and annointed, so are we. Matthew 3:16; Luke 3:22; Acts 1:8; Acts 2:4; Luke 4:18; 2 Corinthians 1:21; 1 John 2:20; 1 John 2:27.

3) By it He was led, so are we. Matthew 4:1; Romans 8:14-16.

4)By it He was raised from the dead, so shall we be. Romans 8:11; 1 Peter 3:18; Ephesians 1:13-14; Ephesians 4:30.

With Divine assurance children of God may victoriously sing: "Born of His Spirit and washed in His blood."

Verse 14

1) "And we have seen and do testify." (Greek kai hemeis tetheametha) and we have beheld (gazed upon) and (Greek marturoumen) we bear witness -eyewitness testimony - a valid method of establishing fact. 1 John 1:1-4.

2) "That the Father sent the Son." That the Father had (Greek apestalken) "sent on a mission" the Son. They had seen the Son and heard His Father’s voice claiming Him and seen the Holy Spirit sanctifying and identifying Him both at His baptism and transfiguration. Matthew 3:16-17; Matthew 17; Matthew 1-5.

3) "To be the Saviour of the world." John 3:17 reads "that the world through him might be saved." Luke 19:10 asserts that He "came to seek and to save that which was lost." Christ was sent the "Son Saviour" of the "kosmos," created universe. Romans 1:16.

Verse 15

1) "Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God." (Greek hos ean) whoever confesses’ that Jesus is the Son of God. In order, this confession of true heart nature, always follows belief - it is not a mere concession that Jesus is the Son of God. Romans 10:10.

2) "God dwelleth in him and he in God." The confession, to be genuine, must be a fruit of salvation and follow belief from the heart. Romans 10:10; God, the Trinity, (Greek meni) abides, dwells, or remains in him and he in God. Acts 10:46-47.

Verse 16

1) "And we have known and believed." John witnesses that both he and other apostles and disciples had recognized and trusted the "love " object of God’s love - Jesus Christ, who had been sent to save them. John 14:18.

2) "The love that God hath to us." God has or holds love to or toward His children today. He not only loved in the past but also progressively loves still, - "Love so amazing so Divine demands my best my all." His love motivates His intercession for me today, Hebrews 7:25.

3) "God is love." Love is not God. It is one of His attributes which He gives to every child of His. God is love - in essence or essentially of His nature. 1 John 4:10.

4) "And he that dwelleth in love." The one or anyone abiding, remaining, or continuing in the love affection, compassion, and concern for the world.

5) "Dwelleth in God, and God in him." That kind of person dwells in God and God dwells in him. John simply asserts that this high holy affection for the lost, and a lost world, is testamentary, visible, and audible evidence that one is saved. The tree is known by its fruit, as the dog is known by his bark, the bird by his song, feathers or flight, and the fish by his fin. Galatians 5:19-25. The love-life is evidenced by love deeds. James 1:22; James 2:18.

Verse 17

1) "Herein is our love made perfect." If God loved, gave, and sacrificed His Son for believers, then believers who receive His gift of love must respond to this love in giving and sacrificing for those whom their God loved and progressively loves still. In pursuit or manifestation of this love the believer’s love is said to be made perfect or mature.

2) "That we may have boldness in the day of judgment." (Greek hina) "In order that" we, as love practicing believers, may have, hold, or possess (Greek parresian) "bold confidence" in the day of judgment, at the judgment seat of Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:9-11; Hebrews 4:16.

3) "Because as he is". God is or exists in recognized and recognizable love only thru His children, His Word, His Spirit and His Church. By love’s affections and deeds thru His children, His salvation is made known to the world. Matthew 7:16-19.

4) "So are we in this world." As His children are dependent on the daily, continuing love of God, blessings of God, and intercession of His Son, so is He dependent on the love of His children and their deeds of faithfulness to save the lost; John 20:21; Matthew 28:16-20; Mark 16:15-16.

Verse 18

1) "There is no fear in love.” (Greek phobos) exists not in love - or fear has no essence of being in (Greek agape) Divine love. True love in motivation power excels fear, subdues or resists fear. Such manifests itself in the soldier’s love for his country, the mother’s love for her child, and our Savior’s love for man. Hebrews 12:2-4.

2) "But perfect love casteth out fear." Mature love (ekso Ballei) tosses out or casts aside fear, Peter and John did when threatened, Acts 4:17-21; Acts 5:28-29; Paul did Acts 27:21-25; Acts 21:10-13; Daniel 6:10.

3) "Because fear hath torment." Fear has or holds in essence of its nature torments or punishment. Fear is the spirit of bondage of sin. Fear exists as a very fruit of sin consciousness, guilt. Fear is the voice of the soul saying there’s judgement or danger ahead, Romans 8:15.

4) "He that feareth is not made perfect in love." The one (anyone) having unrestrained or continuing fear has not matured in the love of God, Divine love. For matured Divine love in the believer enables him, like his Lord, to cast out or toss aside fear, except in the reverential sense of respect for God, and as Abraham, Romans 4:18-25.

Verse 19

1) "We love him." (Greek hemeis agapomen) double affirmative, (we, we really love) God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit - the trinitarian God. 2 Corinthians 5:14-15.

2) "Because he first loved us." Such love is logically an outgrowth of, and an acknowledgment of His "initiative love." He, the great God, in order, first loved us. His love is antecedent to and the fountain head of all genuine love. 1 John 3:1.

Song. "The Love of God."

The love of God is greater far, Than tongue or pen can ever tell. It goes, beyond the highest star, And reaches to the lowest hell. The guilty pair, bowed down with care. God gave His Son to win. His erring child, He reconciled and Pardoned from his sin.

0 love of God, how rich and pure!

How measureless and strong! It shall forevermore endure! The saints and angels song!

Verse 20

1) "If a man say " (Greek ean tis) "If or when a certain one says" is (hypothetical). - John asserts that when or if any person claims or affirms "lip-love", without accompanying love - deeds, or service, "watch out."

2) "I love God and hateth his brother." His claim "I love the God," accompanied by a despising attitude toward his brother, taking lightly or ignoring’ responsibility toward his brother, as Cain who asked "Am I my brother’s keeper", watch out; he is a fake, a fraud. The love of God begets love for His creation.

3) "He is a liar." The claimant to love, who doesn’t hold and show it, is a liar. His nature is that of the Devil. His spiritual "identification-station" is John 8:44; 1 John 2:4-5.

4) "For he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen," If one claims to love God whom he has never seen, yet does not love, or holds in despising, his brother whom he has seen, the necessary inference is that his claim is empty, invalid, and false. The principle of "everything after his kind" prevails in the spiritual as well as physical world.

5) "How can he love God whom he hath not seen?" Rhetorically, John simply asserts he can not, it is not possible for him to love God. His claim is counterfeit. He is a deceiver. John began this chapter admonishing "try or test the spirits." He then sets forth the method of testing false teachers, prophets, and laymen by the fruits of a love life that follows Jesus. Galatians 5:25.

Verse 21

1) "And this commandment have we from him" (Greek kai tauten) and this - (ten entolen echomen) the commandment we have, hold, or possess (apo autou) from Him - From God through His son, Divinely dispatched.

2) "That he who loveth God love his brother also." (Greek hina) means "in order that" (Greek ho agapon ton theon) the one loving the God (agapa) should love (or loves) (Greek kai (also) ton adelphon autou) the brother of him or his brother. Genuine, Divine love, manifested in love’s service and fellowship of believers toward each other validates to the world true discipleship, John 13:34-35. To neglect to cultivate this fellowship causes a cloud, a mist, a fog of doubt to overshadow the life of the professor, and men to question his integrity. 1 John 3:17.

Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on 1 John 4". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/1-john-4.html. 1985.
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