Internet Verse Search Commentaries Word Analysis ITL - draft

1 John 4:1


Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, 1  but test 2  the spirits 3  to determine 4  if they are from God, because many false prophets 5  have gone out into the world.


De 13:1-5; Pr 14:15; Jer 5:31; Jer 29:8,9; Mt 7:15,16; Mt 24:4,5; Mt 24:5,23-26; Mr 13:21; Lu 12:57; Lu 21:8; Ac 17:11; Ac 20:29; Ro 16:18; Ro 16:19; 1Co 14:29; 1Th 5:21; 1Ti 4:1; 2Ti 3:13; 2Pe 2:1; 1Jo 2:18; 2Jo 1:7; Re 2:2

NET © Notes

sn 1 John 4:1-6. These verses form one of three units within 1 John that almost all interpreters consider a single unit and do not divide up (the other two are 2:12-14 and 15-17). The subject matter is so clearly different from the surrounding context that these clearly constitute separate units of thought. Since the Holy Spirit is not the only spirit active in the world, the author needs to qualify for the recipients how to tell if a spirit comes from God. The “test” is the confession in 4:2.

tn According to BDAG 255 s.v. δοκιμάζω 1 the verb means “to make a critical examination of someth. to determine genuineness, put to the test, examine.”

sn Test the spirits. Since in the second half of the present verse the author mentions “false prophets” who have “gone out into the world,” it appears highly probable that his concept of testing the spirits is drawn from the OT concept of testing a prophet to see whether he is a false prophet or a true one. The procedure for testing a prophet is found in Deut 13:2-6 and 18:15-22. An OT prophet was to be tested on the basis of (a) whether or not his predictive prophecies came true (Deut 18:22) and (b) whether or not he advocated idolatry (Deut 13:1-3). In the latter case the people of Israel are warned that even if the prophet should perform an authenticating sign or wonder, his truth or falsity is still to be judged on the basis of his claims, that is, whether or not he advocates idolatry. Here in 1 John the idea of “testing the spirits” comes closer to the second OT example of “testing the prophets” mentioned above. According to 1 John 4:2-3, the spirits are to be tested on the basis of their christological confession: The person motivated by the Spirit of God will confess Jesus as the Christ who has come in the flesh, while the person motivated by the spirit of deceit will not confess Jesus and is therefore not from God. This comes close to the idea expressed by Paul in 1 Cor 12:3 where the person speaking charismatic utterances is also to be judged on the basis of his christological confession: “So I want you to understand that no one speaking by the Spirit of God says, ‘Jesus is cursed,’ and no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit.”

tn The phrase “to determine” is not in the Greek text, but is supplied for clarity.

tn “False prophets” refers to the secessionist opponents (compare 2:19).

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