As John wraps up his discussion of the antichrist, he ends with a discourse of how can we know to whom we belong. In 1 John 3:19-24, he answers this question by reminding us that God is greater than our hearts. God is greater than our feelings or our spiritual experiences. Therefore, it is our acts of love and not our unreliable hearts that demonstrate our abiding in Christ. In 1 John 4:1-6, John goes further and reminds us that mere spiritual inspiration is not the criterion of truth rather it is the source of that inspiration and our response to it.
Just as there is light, life, and love in opposition to darkness, death, and detestation, there is the Spirit of God and the spirit of the antichrist. Both provide prophetic inspiration. The former leads us into communion and truth, and the latter leads us into heresy and schism.
The Hebrew Scriptures repeatedly warn against false and misleading prophets. (e.g. Deut. 13:1-5, Jer. 23:9-40, Ezek. 13) The discernment of whether a prophet is false and misleading is whether the prophet prophesies wrongly about who God is. (Deut. 13:2, Jer. 23:13, Ezek. 13:3). John continues in this tradition.
The test of whether a spirit is from God or the antichrist is the spirit’s confession concerning who Jesus is. The actual terms of the confession in v.2 are uncertain. John could be saying that the correct confession is that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh. In this reading, the issue is the Incarnation with the antichrist’s docetic teaching that Jesus was not in the flesh but only here as a spiritual being. An alternative understanding of the Greek is that Jesus is the Christ come in the flesh. In this reading, the issue is Jesus’ identity as the Christ with the antichrist taking the Jewish position that Jesus was not the Christ. (see, John 9:22). Regardless of the interpretation, the spirit of truth leads people into a correct understanding of God in Christ Jesus whereas the spirit of error leads people into an incorrect understanding and into separation.
Victory of God in Christ
Just as John reminds us that God’s power overcomes our uncertainties (1 John 3:20) so John also reminds us that God’s power overcomes the spirit of the antichrist, the spirit of error, and the spirit of the world. (v.4). It is in Jesus that this power has been manifested. (John 16:33). The Greek word for “overcome” is nikao which means to conquer, prevail, or subdue. John wants to make us aware of the lying spirits but not to fear them. For when we abide in Christ, we abide in Christ’s victory and subjugation of these spirits. It is Christ who fought the battle, and Christ who won the battle. Ours is simply to live into this reality.
Dinner is at 6:30. The menu is pork roast with roasted Brussel sprouts and baby potatoes, and cannoli for dessert. Discussion about 7:30 followed by Compline. All you need to bring is a Bible and a discerning heart.
Little children, you are of God, and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.1 John 4:4