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Bible Commentaries

E.M. Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament

1 John 4

Verse 1

1Jn 4:1. The spirits means those men who profess to be speaking by inspiration, such as John mentions in the closing verse of the preceding chapter. The false teachers used that claim to obtain attention from the uninformed. The brethren are warned not to believe every man who makes such a claim, but first try them which means to test and examine them by the rule that is given in the next verse.

Verse 2

1Jn 4:2. Nobody denied that a person lived on earth by the name of Jesus Christ, but some denied that He was divine in a body of flesh. That was equivalent to saying that He was not the divine Son of God. That would also mean that Christ had no authority or saving virtue. It was generally known that a person was predicted to come into the world to fulfill the law and the prophets, and to effect a plan of salvation on the merits of His blood. But it was denied by some that the person known as Jesus Christ was the expected one. Hence if a man acknowledged the divinity of Christ it was evidence that he was inspired by the Holy Spirit. Paul teaches this also in 1Co 12:3 where he says, "No man can say Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost" or Spirit.

Verse 3

1Jn 4:3. This verse merely sets forth the opposite of the preceding one, and completes the rule by which the brethren may try the spirits, thus avoiding the misfortune of being misled by the antichrists and other false teachers.

Verse 4

1Jn 4:4. The disciples had overcome them (the antichrists) because they were the children of God. He will care for those who trust in Him, and that will insure them the victory over the enemy because God who is in them is greater than the "wise men" of the world who were trying to seduce them.

Verse 5

1Jn 4:5. They (the antichrists) are of the world, which means they are interested in worldly practices. That is why they are opposing Christ because he condemns their evil ways. But the people of the world will hear their false teaching because it encourages their unrighteous life.

Verse 6

1Jn 4:6. We has special reference to John and the other apostles because they had been inspired to write the truth. To know God means to have come into close fellowship with Him by obedience to the word that was given by the Spirit. All such persons would logically be inclined to hear the apostles. The conflict between truth and error still is the concern of the apostle. That conflict is determined by whether a man is of God or of the world.

Verse 7

1Jn 4:7. The apostle again comes to the subject of love which seems to have been very near to him. He has a sound reason for such interest in that subject, namely, love and God are inseparable. For that reason if a man is born (begotten) of God he is sure to exhibit love also since it is the family trait of God's children.

Verse 8

1Jn 4:8. On the basis of the affirmative as shown in the preceding verse, if a man does not have love as a predominant factor in his life, it is proof that he has not yet become acquainted with God.

Verse 9

1Jn 4:9. This verse corresponds with Joh 3:16.

Verse 10

1Jn 4:10. The example of love was set by the Father and not by man. That is why we have the brief but comprehensive statement in verse 19.

Verse 11

1Jn 4:11. If God was willing to love us first even when we were in sin, we ought to love each other since no one of us is any more worthy than another.

Verse 12

1Jn 4:12. No man hath seen God literally, but we may exhibit evidences of spiritual knowledge of Him by having love for the brethren. If we do so it will cause God to dwell in us or in our midst spiritually. His love is perfected or made complete in us when we follow His example of loving the children of God,

Verse 13

1Jn 4:13. This is the same in thought as chapter 3:24; see the comments there.

Verse 14

1Jn 4:14. John and the other apostles could testify, because they had seen the evidences that the Father has sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world.

Verse 15

1Jn 4:15. See the comments at verses 1-3.

Verse 16

1Jn 4:16. Known and believed. There is no conflict between these words as might be concluded because of the difference technically between them. The things that were known were the evidences, and what they believed was based on those evidences, namely, that God had a great love for man. The latter part of the verse has been explained in a number of the preceding verses.

Verse 17

1Jn 4:17. Love made perfect means it is complete, and God made it Possible for man to have that perfect (or complete) love, to give them boldness in view of the judgment day. As he is. so arc we. To be confident with reference to the judgment, we must be on good terms with God in this world. That can be accomplished only by manifesting that unselfish love that was first shown by the Lord for us.

Verse 18

1Jn 4:18. The Bible does not contradict itself, and when it appears that it does there is always an explanation for it. We know we are commanded to fear God (1Pe 2:17), but our present verse says that perfect love will cast out fear. The explanation is very simple which depends on the meanings of the original Greek word phobos. Thayer gives us two definitions of the word as follows: "1. fear, dread, terror," and "2. reverence, respect." As we have seen frequently before, the particular meaning of any word must be determined by the connection in which it is used. The connection here shows John is using it in its had sense which would made it read, "There is no dread or terror in love." If we love God and manifest it by loving our brother, we will not have any dread at the thought of meeting God in the judgment.

Verse 19

1Jn 4:19. This is commented on at verse 10.

Verse 20

1Jn 4:20. John has previously made this same charge, but he adds a logical reason for it here. It certainly is as easy to love a brother who is with us and whose fellowship we can enjoy, as it is to love God whom we cannot see now and must love on the basis of faith.

Verse 21

1Jn 4:21. On the basis of the reasoning in the preceding verse, John commands the disciples not to attempt loving God it they will not love the brethren also, for their profession of love will be rejected.
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Bibliographical Information
Zerr, E.M. "Commentary on 1 John 4". E.M. Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/znt/1-john-4.html. 1952.