Life-Study of 1, 2, & 3 John, Judeby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
In this message we come to 4:1-6. These verses stand as a particular section. Apparently this section has nothing to do with either the preceding section or the following section. As we have seen, the preceding section is concerned with loving the brothers. The following section returns to the matter of loving the brothers. Therefore, 4:1-6 stands between two sections concerned with loving the brothers. We may wonder, then, how 4:1-6 is related to these sections.
I believe 4:1-6 is inserted for at least two reasons. The first reason is related to our need to discern the spirits. In 3:24 John speaks of the “Spirit whom He gave to us.” Because the Spirit is mentioned here, John goes on to the matter of discerning, proving, trying, the spirits. There is more than one kind of spirit in the universe. Hence, we need John’s warning to prove the spirits.
First John 4:1-6 is a parenthetical section warning the believers to discern the spirits that they may recognize the false prophets. This warning is related to the mention of the Spirit in the preceding verse, 3:24, the Spirit whereby we know that the Lord abides in us. A similar warning was given in 2:18-23. The expressions “every spirit” and “the spirits” in 4:1 refer either to the spirits of the prophets (1 Cor. 14:32) motivated by the Spirit of truth, or to the spirit of the false prophets actuated by the spirit of deception. Hence, there is the need to discern the spirits by proving them to see whether they have their source out of God. This is the reason John says in verse 1, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but prove the spirits whether they are out of God.” To prove the spirits is to discern them (1 Cor. 12:10) by putting them on trial.
I believe that a second reason for John’s inserting 4:1-6 is to warn the believers that although we need to love the brothers, we should not receive false prophets and antichrists. We should love all men, including our enemies. However, we cannot receive a false prophet or an antichrist.
In the early years of my ministry, we found it necessary to inoculate the saints against modernism. A number of professors and others in the universities had been influenced by modernistic teachings concerning Christ and the Bible. The modernists taught that Christ is not God, that He was an illegitimate son of Mary with Joseph, that He was a great philosopher, and that He died on the cross not for redemption but as a martyr. Furthermore, the modernists did not believe in the Bible. In particular, they did not believe in the miracles recorded in the Scriptures.
When we stood up to oppose modernism, some friends said to us, “Shouldn’t we love them? Shouldn’t we receive them?” We, however, practiced John’s word in his second Epistle: “If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not say to him, Rejoice!” (v. 10). To love a person is one thing, but to receive one who is a false prophet or an antichrist is an altogether different thing.
John realized that it was necessary for him, when speaking about loving the brothers, to say a word regarding false prophets and antichrists. We must prove the spirits and stay away from the false prophets. Although we need to love the brothers and even all men, we should never receive a false prophet or an antichrist.
In 4:1 John tells us that “many false prophets have gone out into the world.” In Matthew 24:24 the false prophets differ from the false Christs. But here the false prophets are the antichrists (v. 3), those who teach heretically concerning the Person of Christ (2:18, 22-23). The “world” in 4:1 does not refer to the universe or to the earth; rather, it refers to the people, to human society on earth, who are the components of the satanic world system.
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