GREATER IS HE THAT IS IN YOU
1 John 4:1-6 Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: and every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world. Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world. They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them. We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error.
Beginning with 1 John 2:18, the apostle John warns all Christians of antichrists that had already come to oppose the preaching of the true word of God, and were assured that they were to come and do so in the future. An Antichrist is identified as anyone that denieth that Jesus is the Christ; ...that denieth the Father and the Son (1 John 2:22). One can deny God and His Son, Christ Jesus, either by the things verbally proclaimed, or by inference, from their actions. John continues the thought of denial in the lesson text. He warns all children of God that they believe not every spirit. These are the deceivers that profess to be messengers of God, who are sent to be the spiritual leaders of mankind. Jesus, Himself, warned His disciples and the multitudes that gathered around Him, to Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in My name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many (Matt 24:4b-5).
To avoid being misled by these deceiving spirits (these false prophets), Christians are urged to try the spirits whether they are of God. And why? The reason is because many false prophets are gone out into the world to deceive as many Christians as possible. 1 John 2:18 assured us that there were many anti-Christian false teachers at the time he wrote this epistle. And today, the world is filled with preachers that profess to be "sent by God" and yet teach nothing but false doctrine to satisfy their own sinful, covetous desires. John says of these false prophets, to try them. Do they confess that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh (and) is of God? The hidden question in this verse is, do they teach what Jesus Christ, and His inspired disciples, taught? If so, heed their teaching; if not, consider them to be an antichrist, and flee from their presence. And while fleeing, warn as many family members, neighbors, and fellow Christians as you possibly can of their false teaching.
What a great complement was paid, by John, to the faithful Christians addressed in this epistle. He said to them, Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them, that is, they had overcome the spirit of antichrist;they had overcomethe false prophets in their midst, who were trying to lead them astray from the truth of God's word, which was taught to them through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. The Satan-inspired evil spirit of false teachers cannot withstand, and continue, when tried by the Holy Spirit-inspired teaching of the word of God. This was John's admonition - to continually test the message of every preacher and teacher, by comparing it to the inspired message found in the New Testament. They were to try the spirits whether they are of God.
Where is the power that allows a Christian to try, and overcome, the evil spirits that teach false doctrine? The answer is, from God! The Spirit of God dwells in all of His faithful children. The same Spirit that raised up Jesus from the dead, will dwell in every believing Christian (Rom. 8:11). When one allows Him to dwell in them, by believing and obeying His word, our heavenly Father tells us, just as He told the faithful children of Israel, I will be their God, and they shall be My people (See Lev. 26:12, & 2 Cor. 6:16).
Referring to anti-Christian false teachers, John says that they are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them. John said of himself, and other inspired writers of God's word, We are of God. To know God is to hear, and believe His word, as taught by the Holy Spirit-inspired messengers of God through Christ Jesus. Those that oppose God and His Son, Jesus Christ, are antichrists. They refuse to hear God's word, and thus teach worldly doctrine. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error. With knowledge of the Word of God, all that desire to do so, are able to distinguish between gospel truths, and the errant teaching of false preachers. John assures us of this by saying because greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world.