1 John 3:24-4:6


Last week we focused on the topic of loving others – not just by words, but by actions and in truth.  We also learned that our conscience and effectiveness of our prayers are affected by how well we love others.  We also learned that the manner in which a person loves or doesn’t love others is a gauge as to whether God resides in Him.  The verses we are studying this week focus more on the aspect of “truth”, and how to identify or discern it.  John is going to provide us another indicator for whether God is inside a person.  Today we are going to learn about things that will help us successfully pass “The spirit test”.


One of my favorite TV shows is “Cops”.  Cameramen travel around with policemen as they respond to various situations.  I especially like the Cops show on G4 network because they seem to be more exciting than other stations- their episodes contain gun shots and dramatic car chases.  Often times when the policemen catch up to a car or suspect, they’ll find a small plastic bag that contains a white, powdery substance.  Upon first glance, you can’t really tell if the white stuff, is powdered sugar, flour or cocaine.  In order to determine whether they are going to arrest the suspect for possession of drugs, the policemen pull out a little test kit.  They mix the white powdery substance, with a liquid, and if it turns blue, they know they have found cocaine.


The title of this section in many Bibles reads, “Testing the spirits”.  Since this section pertains to accurately testing, discerning or figuring out something, much of what we’ll be doing as we study these passages is attempting to accurately interpret the key words using in this section. 


The most important thing to look for when you hear or see a phrase, whether it be in the Bible, or any book for that matter - is the speaker or writer’s intended meaning.  The first idea or definition that pops into your mind isn’t necessarily the right one.  Rather than just looking at a word or verse, you figure out the writer’s meaning by looking at the context of what He is writing about.  Since the entire Bible is the word of God, we can and will refer to other portions of scripture to help us understand what is being talked about in 1 John.


1 John 3:24 - Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.


            The first part of verse 24 should sound familiar to anyone who has been with us over the past several weeks – referring to the fact that the practice of obeying God is an indicator for whether someone has a relationship with God.  It is actually the second part of verse 24 where John switches gears a little bit.  Within this last sentence, John uses the word “know” twice.   In fact, within the next 6 verses of chapter 4, he uses the word “know” three more times. 


There are three primary ways that a person can know something.  By…


  • Experience – I know what it is like to have a broken nose, because it happened to me.
  • Information - Learn by someone else revealing information to you that you didn’t already know (for example, teachers).  Today, when we need more information in order to know something we often use the phrase, “just google it”.
  • Testing, examining something to determine the facts or truthfulness. 


In the verses we are studying today, John’s use of the word “know”, relates to these last 2 definitions, more so than knowing by experiencing it.  That will become more obvious as we continue.


As we look at verse 24, we should also clarify who John is referring to when he uses the word “us”.  John is including himself with the group of people he is writing to – anyone who claims to be a Christian. 


Verse 24 also contains the word, “spirit” in it, and this is the first time John has used this word in the book of 1 John.  It is important to make sure we accurately interpret the word spirit here because according to John, this spirit is the source of the knowledge he is going to talk about.  When you hear the word “spirits” – what immediately comes to mind?  There is a good chance it is one of the following definitions:


  • Alcoholic drinks – Talk about bar-hoping and sampling drinks on menu
  • Enthusiasm, liveliness - Talk about how to identify fun people to invite to a party.
  • A demon – Teach everyone how to cast out evil spirits.
  • God Himself - The third person of the trinity, the Holy Spirit which indwells all believers.
  • The principles influencing the way a human feels, thinks, decides – often associated with morality.


Let’s figure out what kind of spirit or spirits John is referring to.  What do we know about this spirit - this spirit was given to us (Christians) by God, and this spirit helps us know things.  I’m pretty sure we are going to be able to eliminate alcoholic drinks as a potential definition for the word spirit, because God isn’t a bartender, and we’ve all seen enough drunk people to know that alcohol makes you more stupid, acting like you know less, not knowing more.  Since this spirit was given to us by God, then we also know that it isn’t referring to evil spirits or demons, because God doesn’t allow or cause Christians to be possessed by demons.  If this spirit is the source of knowledge and since knowledge is something we gain from an external source (you aren’t born with it), the word spirit here can’t be referring to someone’s bubbly personality either.  So by process of elimination we are getting closer to figuring out how John is using the word Spirit in this verse. 


If your Bible is like mine, you’ll notice that the word Spirit in this verse is capitalized, which implies it is referring to the Supreme Being – God Himself.  John must be referring to the Holy Spirit, the third person of the trinity.  This definition is consistent with other portions of the Bible that describes the Holy Spirit as being given or living in, or indwelling believers/Christians – specifically at the moment they become believers or are saved (Acts 2:38 – Peter was preaching to people on the day of Pentecost, he encouraged the people to repent and be baptized, forgiven of their sins by Christ, and in doing so they would receive the Holy Spirit.  1 Corinthians 3:16 – Paul reminds the believers in Corinth that each one of them is the temple of God because the Holy Spirit lives in them). 


The most important point to remember from verse 24 is that all Christians have the Holy Spirit living in them, and this Spirit is the source of all spiritual knowledge.  The Holy Spirit is what enables us to know that God is in us (1 John 3:24) – not a certificate, etc. 

1 Jo 4:1  Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 


Upon first glance at this verse, you might be a bit confused or tempted to think John is being a little contradictory.  According to this verse it now sounds like there are many spirits, not just one (the Holy Spirit), and now we aren’t so sure that this spirit really even came from God.  As you have probably already figured out, John’s use of the word spirit in this verse has a different meaning.  Here the word is NOT capitalized, so it isn’t referring to the Holy Spirit.  Is John possibly talking about demons or evil spirits here?  I don’t think so because again the kind of spirit he is talking about now has the potential for coming from God.  In addition, he connects the word spirit to the fact that false prophets or teachers have gone out in to the world.  Whether or not there are people teaching false things has no bearing on whether demons or evil spirits exist.  Obviously we can eliminate the potential that John is talking about alcohol again because the spirit he is talking about is a kind of knowledge, and one that might come from God.  That leaves us with only two potential meanings of the word spirit in this verse, either the personality trait of enthusiasm or liveliness, or, the principles influencing the way a human feels, thinks, decides – often associated with morality.  So what kind of spirit is John talking about here?


In the first part of this verse, we see that John warns his readers to “test” the spirits.  The word “test” in this verse comes from the Greek word, dokimazo, which means to examine, prove, scrutinize, or deem worthy.  So John is warning his readers to be cautious and have discernment about these spirits.  He wants Christians to be careful that their knowledge isn’t being influenced by the wrong things or wrong beliefs.  In other words, be careful what you believe, and do that by using a test to figure out its accuracy or truthfulness.  If you also consider that John refers to the existence of false teachers, then in the context it is pretty clear he isn’t using the word spirit to mean how enthusiastic or lively someone is, but rather in the way they think or believe.


Within the New Testament, the word “test” is always used in context of something that is imperfect, that has the potential for being phony, failing or meeting certain expectations – people are tested by others, Satan, or God.  Since God is perfect, all knowing, all powerful He can’t be tested.  Bible says not to test God (Acts 5:9, 1 Corinthians 10:9). You will find verses that speak of non-believers, like Pharisees, or Satan who test Jesus – but the reason they tested Him was because they wouldn’t submit to Him as Lord, King, and Savior.


Now we know that throughout the passages we are studying, John uses the word spirit – either in reference to Holy Spirit (when capitalized) or to the principles influencing the way a human feels, thinks, decides – often associated with morality.  Now that we know this, we can better understand what John is writing about.


So in verse one, Christians are being encouraged to carefully figure out whether the things other people believe is consistent with the truth of God.  And one of the reasons why many people don’t have accurate beliefs is due to the existence of people teaching false information about God.  What John is saying here is something similar to what Paul wrote in Ephesians 4:14  - Need knowledge and maturity so that – “we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness [fn]in deceitful scheming;”


Just because someone feels strongly about something, thinks it to be true, or has made a decision about something, or can make a convincing case - doesn’t make it true.  Don’t be gullible.

 1Jo 4:2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God;

1Jo 4:3a and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God


If someone said to you, “I own the Burger King restaurant down on main street”, what would be a good way to immediately know if the person was lying?  One good test would be to ask him for the name of the hamburger that Burger King is most famous for.  If he doesn’t quickly say, “the Whopper” – you know he probably isn’t an owner of a Burger King restaurant.


            In verse 2, John reveals a similar technique for determining whether what someone believes is consistent with what God says and whether or not someone else is worth listening to for spiritual guidance.  He doesn’t include a whole litany of tests, he provides a short-cut – what does the person say about Jesus?  More specifically, does the person say the same thing about Jesus that the Holy Spirit does?


The Holy Spirit clearly identifies Jesus as the Son of God, sent to earth as savior for all mankind.  This is proven in many New Testament verses:

Matthew 3:16-17  - What God says about the son – “This is my son in whom I am well pleased”.  Holy Spirit in form of a dove descends on his shoulder.  John the Baptist testified to this as well (John 1:32).

Romans 1:4 – Paul confirmed this when he wrote, “Jesus was declared to be the Son of God, through the Spirit.”

1 John 5:6 – The Spirit testifies that Jesus came and died.


If the Holy Spirit is in someone, the person will say things that are consistent with what the Holy Spirit says.    If someone says anything about Jesus that is inconsistent with what the Holy Spirit says, then that person doesn’t have the Holy Spirit inside them. 

Imagine you are blind folded, and there is a four legged furry creature on your lap.  If a meow comes out of its mouth then you know the animal is a cat.  However, if you hear a bark, then you can definitely rule out cat as the animal on your lap.


In order to test someone’s spiritual beliefs, ask him this question, “Do you believe that Jesus is God, and that He was sent to this earth as a sacrifice for the sins of the world, and then He was raised from the dead, and some day He is coming back to earth to reign as King?”  If they hesitate or aren’t sure, then they fail the test.  If they say Jesus was a good man, good teacher, just one of many ways to heaven, or didn’t fully satisfy what was required in order for us to be saved, then they fail the test – they don’t have the Spirit of God.


When John says that it is of utmost importance what another individual believes about Jesus Christ, he uses the word “confess”.  In other words it isn’t enough to just hear someone say words about Jesus or God, – I believe in God, or I believe there was a man named Jesus who lived.  Satan and demons were able to do that (Matthew 8:28-29, Acts 19:15, Luke 4:41).  Confess implies more than acknowledging something as true. Confessing means admitting to the truthfulness of something and that which you are admitting to has personal significance.  You know by saying those words, you have committed to something, your reputation is on the line.  If someone confesses to murderer – he knows he is going to jail.  Not something to be taken lightly.

“I’m just saying…  - saying some words but aren’t attempting to imply anything.  However the listener interprets the words is fine.

Romans 10:9-10 - believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.


Confession is the act of saying what you believe in your heart to be true.


When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say the Son of Man is?"  They replied, "Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets."  "But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?"  Simon Peter confidently answered, "You are the Christ, [fn] the Son of the living God."  (Matthew 16:13-16).


Calling Jesus, Christ is significant – it implies He is the Messiah, the anointed one promised by God as the great deliverer.  We call Jerry Pastor and Obama President, but in those examples they are just one of many.  There is only one Christ.  So by calling Jesus, Christ, a person was admitting that He was the only name by which a person could be saved.


If the question on the test is “How do you know God lives inside you”, answers like… I like going to church., I like to sing religious songs, I do more good things than bad, I was baptized, don’t prove anything.  There is only one answer that is acceptable … “I believe and confess that Jesus Christ is the one and only Son of God, who came to earth to die as a sacrifice for my sins.”






1Jo 4:3a and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God

1Jo 4:3b this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world. 


Antichrist – the word antichrist is only used by John in 1 John and 2 John. Not used by other writers.  Anti-christ means the same thing as what you’d think – someone who is against Christ.  Someone who claims that Jesus isn’t who He said he was.  Someone with an anti-christ spirit has the belief that you don’t need Jesus to save you from your sins.


The word antichrist is used to refer to the one who comes on the world scene during the end times, and sets himself up as the primary opponent of Jesus, and will blaspheme and attempt to wage war against Jesus.  This antichrist figure is described in various ways throughout scripture, both in Old Testament prophecy, by Jesus, and in books like Thessalonians and Revelation.


But even if person isn’t THE anti-Christ, he can still have the same type of beliefs as THE anti-Christ. There are many people who are anti-Christ, so they could be called “anti-Christs” – they don’t believe Jesus is the Son of God and redeemer of sins.  People with these beliefs existed while Jesus walked the earth, soon after He was crucified and raised from the dead, and they sure exist today.  Just read comments on internet.




 1Jo 4:4 You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world. 


When you think of a child, what comes to mind?  On the negative side you think of someone who is silly, immature, and easily fooled. On the plus side you think of someone who is innocent, energetic, hopeful, and teachable. As opposed to older people who can be tired, depressed, and hardened. 


John often uses the phrase, “Little children” when referring to those he is writing to - maybe using that phrase as indication of their spiritual immaturity or potential to be tricked by others.  Or because these were teachable people who were dear to John because he had spent a significant amount of time discipling them.


Normally when you think of a child, you normally don’t picture someone who has been victorious or overcome anything significant.  But here, John refers to those he is writing to as little children who have overcome something - “them” - These spirits (false beliefs about Christ) or those people who have the spirit of the anti-christ. 


According to God, being like a child is an essential characteristic of someone who wants to gain entrance to heaven.


Matthew 18:3 - And he said: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 19:14 - Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."


The main reason Jesus described those with best potential for gaining eternal life is because children are dependant.  Unlike some adults who allow themselves to become dependant upon money, drugs, alcohol, and pleasure, children are primarily dependant upon someone else who is more mature, wiser, experienced, or powerful. 


In this verse, we learn that these people have overcome the spirits of incorrect beliefs.  It isn’t because of luck or determination, – no it is because of the fact that God is inside them and enables them to overcome.  John’s words are a reminder, a comfort, and confidence builder to these people that God is indeed inside them. 


Sometimes non-believers can be very convincing, educated, but that doesn’t make them right, they are not greater than God.  Even though in a spiritual sense and compared to God we are much like children, and can feel intimidated or scared, God is greater and we can depend upon Him to help us overcome.






 1Jo 4:5 They are from the world; therefore they speak as from the world, and the world listens to them. 

1Jo 4:6 We are from God; he who knows God listens to us; he who is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error. 


Imagine standing in the back of a room filled with two groups of people - Half are speaking English and half are speaking German.  What observation can you make about someone who walks in to the room and gravitates towards the people speaking German in order to listen to them? 


Who or what someone listens to reveals a great deal about the person.


In verses 4 and 5 we learn about two types of people, those that are from the world, and those who are from God.


Often the word “world” is used in the New Testament to represent people or a system, or philosophy whose outlook or thinking lacks the truth of God.  They lack the ability to discern spiritual truth, and as a result do or say things that reveal a bias towards things they can touch, see, feel rather than heavenly, eternal things, or God they can’t see.


For example, in gospel of John, John wrote that Jesus “was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him.” (John 1:10).  He referred to Jesus as a light that came “into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.” (John 3:19).


Worldly people tend to listen to those who affirm what they want to believe, or say things that seem to make logical sense to them, or preach a tolerant message.  In terms of salvation, worldly people often believe that multiple roads lead up the mountain to God, and entrance to heaven is tied to a person’s behavior.


The Bible is clear - you can’t know God using the wisdom of this world, it takes a wisdom that comes from God. 


Paul – Romans 12:2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will.


1 Corinthians 2:12 - We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us.


If I want to learn about God today, or understand Him, what’s the best way to do that – turn on the radio, TV, get on the internet, go chat with my buddies at the bingo hall, listen for His voice in the wind, expect Him to talk through circumstances?  No, in order to hear the truth about God, you need the Holy Spirit indwelling you and you need to listen to the Bible because it is His revealed word.   In order to be saved and have God reside inside you, you have to hear and believe in the words that say (verse) – Jesus is savior.


Another good indicator for whether someone has God inside them is how they react to the Bible. How do we make this connection?


John uses the word “We” and “us” – he is talking about those people teaching, listening to and adhering to the testimony of the disciples.  What were they teaching?  In order to answer that, we need to go back to a time just prior to the death of Jesus – the Lord’s supper (John 13-16). 


Even though the disciples had spent a significant amount of time with Jesus and saw and heard many things, they were just as forgetful as you and I.  So in order to help them out, Jesus said that when He was gone, they would be given a helper.  “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you. (John 14:26)”.


The Holy Spirit brought God’s word to the writers of the Bible, they taught other people these words and they wrote His words.  Now we have before us, the results of the work of the Holy Spirit revealing God’s truth to mankind. 


If a person tends to listen to and believe that message then that is an indicator the Holy Spirit is at work in his/her life.  If someone tends to ignore or scoff at the Bible then they are stifling the voice of God.  In order to differentiate between truth and error, a person needs the presence of the Holy Spirit and needs to spend time studying the Bible. 


So take a look at your answers and figure out if you pass the Spirit test.


Hopefully you have better ability to discern whether other people pass the test as well. 

This information is important so that we aren’t fooled by non-believers and worldly principles, but also points out people whom you could tutor and minister to, so that through the work of the Holy Spirit, He can help them see the errors in their beliefs and thinking, renew their spirit inside, and successfully pass the test.



























1 John 3:24-4:6




3:24     What kind of Spirit is this?


a)      An alcoholic drink

b)      Enthusiasm, liveliness

c)      A demon

d)      God Himself, the third person of the trinity, the Holy Spirit which indwells all believers.

e)      The principles influencing the way a human feels, thinks, decides – often associated with morality.


How does someone know God is inside him/her?




4:1       What kind of spirit is this?


a)      An alcoholic drink

b)      Enthusiasm, liveliness

c)      A demon

d)      God Himself, the third person of the trinity, the Holy Spirit which indwells all believers.

e)      The principles influencing the way a human feels, thinks, decides – often associated with morality.



4:2       What do spirits from God confess?




4:3       What is an anti-Christ?




4:4       What enables Christians to overcome spirits of the world?




4:5-6    What does a negative or skeptical reaction to God’s word indicate?