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?
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, &c.—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).