SUMMARY.--How to Distinguish the Spirits of Truth and Error. Love a Proof that We Are Born of God. God's Great Love for Us. How We Secure the Indwelling of God. How Love is Made Perfect.
1-6. Believe not every spirit. The last chapter has closed concerning the Spirit, but some are moved by other spirits than that of Christ. Try the spirits. Test the spirit that moves teachers and see whether it be of God. Verse 2 tells how to test. Because many false prophets. There were many false teachers in that age as well as in ours, and some claimed to be inspired. 2. Every spirit. He who confesses from the heart that Christ has come in the flesh shows that he has the Spirit of God. In the flesh. One of the heresies was that Christ had come but that there had been no incarnation. 3. Every spirit that confesseth not. If Christ is denied, it is not God's Spirit, which always speaks truth, but that of antichrist. See notes on 2:18, 19. 4. Ye . . . have overcome them. The saints had overcome these false prophets, because they were of God, and the Spirit in them was mightier than the evil spirit, that of the prince of the world, which was in the false prophets. 5. They are of the world. The false teachers. They are not of God. The world hears them because they are of its spirit and speak of it. 6. We are of God. Hence speaks God's message, and those that know God accept the message. Hereby know we, etc. By the principles given in verses 2-5 we distinguish between the spirit of truth (the Holy Spirit) and that of error.
7-11. Love one another. He that is born of God must love because the Father is love; hence love shows that we are of him and know him. On the other hand (8) he who knows not God does not love. 9. In this was manifested the love of God. Christ is the supremest manifestation. See notes on John 3:16. 10. Herein is love. Love manifested. The heights of love are shown, not only in sending the Son, but sending him to be a propitiation for our sins; to become a sin offering for us, and to die for us. See notes on 2:2. 11. Beloved. If we are of God, and God so loves us, we must love one another.
12-16. No man hath seen God. He is invisible to mortal eyes, yet we may have a sense of his presence in us. If we love each other he dwells in us. His love is perfected. It is made complete by our loving each other. It is incomplete unless his love for us is supplemented by brotherly love. This love in us is the proof that God is in us. 13. Hereby know we, etc. We know that God dwells in us by the Spirit given us. But we know we have the Spirit by its fruits. The first and greatest of these is love. See Gal. 5:22. 14. We have seen and do testify. See John 15:27. This is John's personal testimony as an apostle. 15. Whosoever shall confess, etc. In verse 2 confession of Jesus Christ in word and life is declared proof of the indwelling Spirit; here it is proof of God dwelling in us, which means the same thing. 16. We know and have believed (Revision). The love of God is a matter of knowledge and was a matter of faith. Love binds us to God.
17-21. Herein is our love made perfect. When love is perfected in us we will have no fear of the judgment day. Those who love God supremely will not be terrified at his presence. Because as he is, so are we, etc. The great ground of boldness is that we are as Christ; purified like him, made sinless like him, filled with love like him and appear at judgment in his likeness. This transformation begins when we are converted, hence, in this world. 18. There is no fear in love. There may be reverential fear, but there is no terror. Fear of God gives way to love. Fear hath torment. Because it fills us with forebodings. 19. We love him. His wonderful love in Christ fills every redeemed soul with love. 20. If a man say. Yet no one can claim to love God who hates his brother. We cannot love the unseen God when we hate the brother who is in God's image. 21. This commandment. It is God's will that he who loves the Father should love the children also.