Testing the Spirits.* 1Beloved, do not trust every spirit but test the spirits to see whether they belong to God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.a 2This is how you can know the Spirit of God: every spirit that acknowledges Jesus Christ come in the flesh belongs to God,b 3and every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus* does not belong to God. This is the spirit of the antichrist that, as you heard, is to come, but in fact is already in the world.c 4You belong to God, children, and you have conquered them, for the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. 5They belong to the world; accordingly, their teaching belongs to the world, and the world listens to them.d 6We belong to God, and anyone who knows God listens to us, while anyone who does not belong to God refuses to hear us. This is how we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of deceit.e
God’s Love and Christian Life. 7* Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God. 8Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love. 9In this way the love of God was revealed to us: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might have life through him.f 10In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins.g 11Beloved, if God so loved us, we also must love one another. 12No one has ever seen God. Yet, if we love one another, God remains in us, and his love is brought to perfection in us.h
13* This is how we know that we remain in him and he in us, that he has given us of his Spirit. 14Moreover, we have seen and testify that the Father sent his Son as savior of the world. 15Whoever acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God remains in him and he in God. 16We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us.
God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him. 17In this is love brought to perfection among us, that we have confidence on the day of judgment because as he is, so are we in this world.i 18There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment, and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love. 19We love because he first loved us. 20If anyone says, “I love God,” but hates his brother, he is a liar; for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God* whom he has not seen.j 21This is the commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.k
* [4:1–6] Deception is possible in spiritual phenomena and may be tested by its relation to Christian doctrine (cf. 1 Cor 12:3): those who fail to acknowledge Jesus Christ in the flesh are false prophets and belong to the antichrist. Even though these false prophets are well received in the world, the Christian who belongs to God has a greater power in the truth.
* [4:3] Does not acknowledge Jesus: some ancient manuscripts add “Christ” and/or “to have come in the flesh” (cf. 1 Jn 4:2), and others read “every spirit that annuls (or severs) Jesus.”
* [4:7–12] Love as we share in it testifies to the nature of God and to his presence in our lives. One who loves shows that one is a child of God and knows God, for God’s very being is love; one without love is without God. The revelation of the nature of God’s love is found in the free gift of his Son to us, so that we may share life with God and be delivered from our sins. The love we have for one another must be of the same sort: authentic, merciful; this unique Christian love is our proof that we know God and can “see” the invisible God.
* [4:13–21] The testimony of the Spirit and that of faith join the testimony of love to confirm our knowledge of God. Our love is grounded in the confession of Jesus as the Son of God and the example of God’s love for us. Christian life is founded on the knowledge of God as love and on his continuing presence that relieves us from fear of judgment (1 Jn 4:16–18). What Christ is gives us confidence, even as we live and love in this world. Yet Christian love is not abstract but lived in the concrete manner of love for one another.
* [4:20] Cannot love God: some ancient manuscripts read “how can he love…?”
b. [4:2] 1 Cor 12:3; 1 Thes 5:21.