1 John 4:1
Verse (Click for Chapter)
New International Version
Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

New Living Translation
Dear friends, do not believe everyone who claims to speak by the Spirit. You must test them to see if the spirit they have comes from God. For there are many false prophets in the world.

English Standard Version
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.

Berean Study Bible
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God. For many false prophets have gone out into the world.

Berean Literal Bible
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

New American Standard Bible
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

King James Bible
Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.

Holman Christian Standard Bible
Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to determine if they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

International Standard Version
Dear friends, stop believing every spirit. Instead, test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

NET Bible
Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to determine if they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

New Heart English Bible
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

Aramaic Bible in Plain English
Beloved, do not believe all spirits, but be distinguishing between the spirits whether they are from God, because many false Prophets have gone out into the world.

GOD'S WORD® Translation
Dear friends, don't believe all people who say that they have the Spirit. Instead, test them. See whether the spirit they have is from God, because there are many false prophets in the world.

New American Standard 1977
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

Jubilee Bible 2000
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God because many false prophets are gone out into the world.

King James 2000 Bible
Beloved, believe not every spirit, but test the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.

American King James Version
Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.

American Standard Version
Beloved, believe not every spirit, but prove the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets are gone out into the world.

Douay-Rheims Bible
Dearly beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits if they be of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.

Darby Bible Translation
Beloved, believe not every spirit, but prove the spirits, if they are of God; because many false prophets are gone out into the world.

English Revised Version
Beloved, believe not every spirit, but prove the spirits, whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.

Webster's Bible Translation
Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

Weymouth New Testament
Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but put the spirits to the test to see whether they are from God; for many false teachers have gone out into the world.

World English Bible
Beloved, don't believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

Young's Literal Translation
Beloved, every spirit believe not, but prove the spirits, if of God they are, because many false prophets have gone forth to the world;
Study Bible
Testing the Spirits
1Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God. For many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2By this you will know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God,…
Cross References
1 Kings 13:18
He said to him, "I also am a prophet like you, and an angel spoke to me by the word of the LORD, saying, 'Bring him back with you to your house, that he may eat bread and drink water.'" But he lied to him.

Jeremiah 14:14
Then the LORD said to me, "The prophets are prophesying falsehood in My name. I have neither sent them nor commanded them nor spoken to them; they are prophesying to you a false vision, divination, futility and the deception of their own minds.

Jeremiah 23:16
Thus says the LORD of hosts, "Do not listen to the words of the prophets who are prophesying to you. They are leading you into futility; They speak a vision of their own imagination, Not from the mouth of the LORD.

Jeremiah 29:8
"For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, 'Do not let your prophets who are in your midst and your diviners deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams which they dream.

Matthew 7:15
Beware of false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.

1 Corinthians 12:10
to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in various tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues.

1 Thessalonians 5:20
Do not treat prophecies with contempt,

1 Thessalonians 5:21
but test all things. Hold fast to what is good.

2 Thessalonians 2:2
not to be easily disconcerted or alarmed by any spirit or message or letter presuming to be from us and alleging that the day of the Lord has already come.

2 Peter 2:1
Now there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies that even deny the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction on themselves.
Treasury of Scripture

Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.

believe not.

Deuteronomy 13:1-5 If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and gives …

Proverbs 14:15 The simple believes every word: but the prudent man looks well to his going.

Jeremiah 5:31 The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their …

Jeremiah 29:8,9 For thus said the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Let not your …

Matthew 7:15,16 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, …

Matthew 24:4,5 And Jesus answered and said to them, Take heed that no man deceive you…

Romans 16:18 For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly…

2 Peter 2:1 But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there …

try.

Luke 12:57 Yes, and why even of yourselves judge you not what is right?

Acts 17:11 These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received …

Romans 16:19 For your obedience is come abroad to all men. I am glad therefore …

1 Corinthians 14:29 Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge.

1 Thessalonians 5:21 Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.

Revelation 2:2 I know your works, and your labor, and your patience, and how you …

many.

1 John 2:18 Little children, it is the last time: and as you have heard that …

Matthew 24:5,23-26 For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many…

Mark 13:21 And then if any man shall say to you, See, here is Christ; or, see, …

Luke 21:8 And he said, Take heed that you be not deceived: for many shall come …

Acts 20:29 For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter …

1 Timothy 4:1 Now the Spirit speaks expressly, that in the latter times some shall …

2 Timothy 3:13 But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and …

2 Peter 2:1 But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there …

2 John 1:7 For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that …

IV.

(6) NOT ALL SPIRITS ARE THE RESULT OF THE SONSHIP: NECESSITY OF EXAMINING THEM (1John 4:1-6).

(a)The difference among spirits (1John 4:1).

(b)The measure (1John 4:2-3).

(c)The encouragement (1John 4:4).

(d)The condemnation (1John 4:5).

(e)Inference and conclusion (1John 4:6).

The mention of faith in 1John 3:23 had reminded St. John of the danger of intellectual, as well as of moral error. The mention of God's Spirit at the conclusion of the last paragraph gave him a form in which to clothe the discussion of truth and falsehood in its human manifestations. By "spirits" he means those tendencies towards good and evil (here especially with regard to thought and opinion) which may be considered as coming from the supreme power of God, on the one hand, and from the inferior power of the devil, on the other. Into the question what these influences are, whether, like the Holy Spirit, they are personal or not, he does not enter. Where one quality, or opinion, shows itself in different individuals, he identifies it and calls it a spirit. Religious fervour might take a form quite antagonistic to the real will and law of God. For Christians there was but one standard by which to measure all claims on their religious allegiance: confession that the man Christ Jesus was the Word. All that demurred to that plain fact, and the loyalty implied by it, belonged to the spirit of antichrist. His hearers, however, if he understood them rightly, need not fear. By virtue of their adherence to the truth, God was in them. In Him they had conquered the spirits of the world, and had but to claim their victory. The false teachers might be known, and must be condemned by the savour of the world that was in their method and their message, and by their popularity with what was opposed to God. The Apostles and those who taught with them could confidently before God put forward the grand claim that theirs was the spirit that came from Him, because they had held undeviatingly to the truth as manifested in Jesus.

(6 a.) (1) Beloved.--Whenever St. John uses this word, he has a strong and earnest exhortation in hand. (Comp. 1John 3:2-21; 1John 4:7.)

Try the spirits.--Comp. 1Corinthians 10:15; 1Corinthians 11:13; 1Corinthians 12:10; Ephesians 5:10; 1Thessalonians 5:21. It is most important to notice that this examination of truth and error is inculcated on all alike, not merely on an ordained and materially separate class.

Prophets, in the New Testament, preach rather than predict. (Comp. 1Corinthians 14:1-4; 1Corinthians 14:24; Ephesians 4:11.)

Are gone out into the world, either "from us," or else "have appeared in order to give their message." (Comp. John 6:14; John 16:28; John 18:37.)

(6 b.) Comp. 1Corinthians 12:3. The real humanity of the Saviour is the truth here specially emphasised.

(2) Jesus Christ is taken to imply all His history. (Comp. 1John 3:23, and 1John 4:6.)

Come is used of Christ in St. John's language for His mission and manifestation. (Comp. John 5:43; John 6:14; John 7:28-29; John 8:42; John 16:28; John 18:37.)

(3) Every spirit that confesseth not.--There is a curious old reading mentioned by Socrates, the historian, viz., "every spirit that destroyeth" (or, dissolveth) "Jesus Christ." It is, however, evidently a gloss, written against the Gnostics, which crept into the text. It is clear that this verse presupposes an evangelistic presentation of Christ before refusal to confess His historical person could be made. (Comp. 1John 2:18.)

(6 c.) This consolation is in the same manner as that in 1John 2:12, and is introduced by the same endearing phrase. He is sure they have held to the truth, and have the Sonship. (Comp. 1John 3:1-2; 1John 3:13-14.) God is in them, and therefore the victory is already theirs. Although they may still have to struggle, they have only to claim Christ's strength, and they have won. In making their choice between light and darkness, love and hate, good and evil, God and the devil, they became of the victorious party.

(4) Them--i.e., the antichrists, the false prophets, the spirits that are not of God. (Comp. 1John 2:13-14.)

He that is in the world--i.e., "the prince of this world," the devil.

(6 d.) As usual, a contrast. The reason of their success is at once their distinguishing mark and their condemnation. (Comp. John 8:37; John 8:43; John 8:47; John 18:37.)

(5) Hearing them.--This implies listening with attention and pleasure.

(6 e.) (6) We are of God.--The first side of the antithesis repeated, after St. John's manner, with a difference, we being substituted for ye, and meaning "the Apostles and those who taught with them." St. John feels the grave duty, in condemnation of Cerinthus and other opponents, to assert the genuine truth and divine authority of the apostolic gospel. There could be no spiritual pride in this; it was a conscientious obligation. God spoke in them, and their loyalty for bade alike disclaimer and accommodation. (Comp. John 18:37.) When heretics said, "Christ ought to have said this or that," the Apostles had only to reply, "But He did not say it."

Hereby know we.--The criterion here is much the same as in 1John 4:2-3, but regarded from a different point of view: attention to false innovators, or faithful adherence to the Jesus Christ of history.

Verse 1-1 John 5:12. - (2) The source of son-ship. Possession of the Spirit. Verses 1-6. - Confession of the Incarnation is the assurance that the Spirit of God, who is the Spirit of truth, is working in us, and not the spirit of error. The passage seems clearly to teach that there are two rival influences contending for power over the spirits of men. We must test men's spirits to see whether they are organs of the Spirit of truth or of the spirit of error. Verse 1. - Beloved (as in 1 John 2:28 and 1 John 3:18, the apostle again breaks out with a personal appeal into an earnest exhortation suggested by the statement just made), prove the spirits δοκιμάζετε τὰ πνεύματα. "The spirits" are principles and tendencies in religion: these need to be tested, for earnestness and fervour are no guarantee of truth. And to test these principles is the duty of the individual Christian as well as of the Church in its official capacity. Just as every Athenian was subjected to an examination δοκιμασία as to his origin and character before he could hold office, so the spirit of every religious teacher must be examined before his teaching can be accepted. This is no useless precaution; because, as Christ has come forth ἐξελήλυθε from God (John 16:28; comp. John 8:42; John 13:3; John 16:27), ninny false prophets have come forth ἐζεληύθασι from the spirit of error. But perhaps "have gone forth into the world" means no more than " have displayed themselves" in publicum prodierunt. There is probably no reference to the false teachers having "gone forth from us" (1 John 2:19). Besides Cerinthus and other Gnostics, there were the Nicolaitanes, astrologers, professors of magic, and dealers in charms, some of which seem to have had their origin in Ephesus, for they were known as "Ephesian letters." Apollonius of Tyana was eagerly welcomed at Ephesus, and it is not impossible that his visit took place during St. John's lifetime. Beloved, believe not every spirit,.... The apostle having mentioned the word "spirit" in the latter part of the preceding chapter, takes an occasion from thence to return to what he had been suggesting in the "second" chapter, concerning the many antichrists that then were, and whom he points out, and here cautions against. By "every spirit" he means, either every doctrine that is pretended to come from the Spirit of God, or every teacher, who professes to be qualified and sent by him, and to have his light, knowledge, and doctrine from him. Every true minister of the Gospel has the Spirit, and the gifts of the Spirit, more or less, to qualify him for his work; he is separated, and called to it by him, and receives his spiritual light find knowledge from him; it is he that teaches him sound doctrine, and leads him into all truth, as it is in Jesus, and brings every necessary truth to his remembrance; and who succeeds his ministrations to the good of souls: but there are some who call themselves the ministers of the Gospel, who, though they may have some natural abilities, and a share of human learning, and a notional knowledge of things, yet have never received either grace or gifts from the Spirit; nor have they been ever called by him; nor are their ministrations according to that divine word which is inspired by him, nor attended with his demonstration and power; wherefore, though some professing to have the Spirit of Christ are to be believed, yet not everyone; and though the Spirit is not to be quenched in any, nor prophesying to be despised, yet care should be taken what is heard and received: some persons are so obstinate and incredulous as not to believe anything that is declared, be the evidence what it will; as the Jews would not believe Christ and his apostles, though what they said agreed with Moses and the prophets, and was confirmed by miracles; and others are too credulous; at once receive every teacher, and embrace every upstart doctrine: this they should not do,

but try the spirits whether they are of God; not by human reason, especially as carnal and unsanctified; for though the doctrines of the Gospel are not contrary to true reason, they are above it, and not to be judged of by it, and are disapproved of and rejected by carnal reason; but by the word of God, which is the standard of all doctrine; and whatever agrees with that is to be received, and what does not should be rejected. And so to do is very commendable, as appears from the instance of the Beraeans, who on this account are said to be more noble than those of Thessalonica, Acts 17:11; and from the commendation of the church at Ephesus, Revelation 2:2. And this is what every believer, every private Christian should do; to them it belongs to read and search the Scriptures, and prove all things, and judge for themselves of the truth of doctrine; and to such a probation or trial of the spirits, spiritual light, knowledge, judgment, sense, experience, and divine guidance are necessary, which should be asked of God, and an increase thereof; and all such diligent searchers, and humble inquirers, are capable of making judgment of persons and doctrines, whether they are from the Spirit of God or not, for the Spirit of God never speaks contrary to his word: and the reason why such a trial should be made is,

because many false prophets are gone out into the world: such who pretended either to a revelation of future things, and to foretell things to come; or rather to a gift of prophesying, or preaching in Christ's name, to be "prophets" and spiritual men, and ministers of the word, but were "false" ones; who either predicted what did not come to pass, or rather preached false doctrine, by corrupting the word, and handling it deceitfully, and so imposed upon and ruined the souls of others, as well as deceived their own: and there were not only one, or two, or a few of these, but "many", as our Lord had foretold, Matthew 24:11; and which makes the reason the stronger for not believing every spirit, but trying them; and the rather, since they were not sent of God, hot called out by his churches, but were "gone out" of themselves; of their own heads, and without any mission from God or man: and "into the world" too; they were in every part of it, and especially where there were any churches of Christ; into which they first crept in privily, and at unawares, but afterwards became public preachers of the word, and then separating from them, set up openly in the world for themselves. CHAPTER 4

1Jo 4:1-21. Tests of False Prophets. Love, the Test of Birth from God, and the Necessary Fruit of Knowing His Great Love in Christ to Us.

1. Beloved—the affectionate address wherewith he calls their attention, as to an important subject.

every spirit—which presents itself in the person of a prophet. The Spirit of truth, and the spirit of error, speak by men's spirits as their organs. There is but one Spirit of truth, and one spirit of Antichrist.

try—by the tests (1Jo 4:2, 3). All believers are to do so: not merely ecclesiastics. Even an angel's message should be tested by the word of God: much more men's teachings, however holy the teachers may seem.

because, etc.—the reason why we must "try," or test the spirits.

many false prophets—not "prophets" in the sense "foretellers," but organs of the spirit that inspires them, teaching accordingly either truth or error: "many Antichrists."

are gone out—as if from God.

into the world—said alike of good and bad prophets (2Jo 7). The world is easily seduced (1Jo 4:4, 5).4:1-6 Christians who are well acquainted with the Scriptures, may, in humble dependence on Divine teaching, discern those who set forth doctrines according to the apostles, and those who contradict them. The sum of revealed religion is in the doctrine concerning Christ, his person and office. The false teachers spake of the world according to its maxims and tastes, so as not to offend carnal men. The world approved them, they made rapid progress, and had many followers such as themselves; the world will love its own, and its own will love it. The true doctrine as to the Saviour's person, as leading men from the world to God, is a mark of the spirit of truth in opposition to the spirit of error. The more pure and holy any doctrine is, the more likely to be of God; nor can we by any other rules try the spirits whether they are of God or not. And what wonder is it, that people of a worldly spirit should cleave to those who are like themselves, and suit their schemes and discourses to their corrupt taste?
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