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First John: 1 John 4:1b-The Child of God Must Thoroughly and Critically Examine the Spirits Lesson # 143

First John   •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  50:24
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First John: 1 John 4:1b-The Child of God Must Thoroughly and Critically Examine the Spirits

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1 John 4:1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.
But test the spirits to see whether they are from God” is composed of the following: (1) conjunction alla (ἀλλά), “but” (2) second person plural present active imperative form of the verb dokimazō (δοκιμάζω), “test” (3) articular accusative neuter plural form of the noun pneuma (πνεῦμα), “the spirits” (4) conditional particle ei (εἰ), “whether” (5) preposition ek (ἐκ), “from” (6) articular genitive masculine singular form of the noun theos (θεός), “God” (7) third person singular present active indicative form of the verb eimi (εἰμί), “they are.”
The strong adversative conjunction alla is introducing a command which expresses a strong emphatic contrast with the previous prohibition John issues the recipients of First John.
Once again, we have the noun pneuma but this time we have the articular accusative neuter plural form of this word, which means “these spirits.”
As was the case the first time the word was used in this verse, pneuma pertains to a particular viewpoint communicated by any teacher through instruction which influences people.
Here this word refers to the false teaching propagated by false prophets which expresses a viewpoint which is contrary to the Spirit inspired teaching of the apostles and originates with Satan’s cosmic system.
The verb dokimazō means “to try to learn the genuineness of something by critical examination and thoroughly testing.”
The word pertains to thoroughly and critically examining a particular thing in order to determine if it is genuine, i.e. truth or not.
Here it speaks of the recipients of First John thoroughly and critically examining every viewpoint communicated by any teacher through instruction in order to confirm if it is from God or not.
The second personal plural form of this verb pisteuō means “each and every one of you, each one of you, every one of you” since the word refers to the recipients of First John as a corporate unit and is used in a distributive sense emphasizing no exceptions.
The present imperative form of the verb dokimazo is functioning as a customary present imperative whose force is for the recipients of First John to simply continue making it their habit of critically examining or thoroughly testing any particular viewpoint communicated by any teacher through instruction.
At this point in 1 John 4:1, the apostle John is employing the figure of ellipsis which means that he is deliberately omitting the present active infinitive form of the verb ginōskō which is egnōkenai (ἐγνωκέναι), though it is implied from 1 John 4:2 where it appears.
As was the case in 1 John 4:2, the verb here in 1 John 4:1 means, “to confirm” since John is attempting to inform his readers as to how they can be assured that a particular viewpoint communicated by any teacher through instruction is truth from God or not.
The infinitive form of this verb is an infinitive of purpose which indicates the purpose or goal of the action or state of its controlling verb.
It answers the question “Why?” in that it looks ahead to the anticipated and intended result.
The main verb in our context is the second person plural present active imperative form of the verb dokimazō, “test.”
Therefore, this would indicate that the purpose of the command which demands that the recipients of First John continue making it their habit of critically and thoroughly examining any teaching being propagated in the world is so that they can confirm if any teaching is truth from God or not.
The conditional particle ei is employed with the indicative mood of the verb eimi, “they are” in order to form the protasis of a first class condition which indicates the assumption of truth for the sake of argument.
The idea behind the first class condition is not “since” but rather, “if-and let us assume that it is true for the sake of argument that, then...”
The third person singular present active indicative form of the verb eimi means “to possess a particular characteristic” expressing the idea of these spirits possessing the characteristic which originates from God the Father, and which characteristic would be truth.
The third person singular form of this verb is referring to the singular form of the noun pneuma, which we noted refers to a particular viewpoint which is communicated by a teacher through instruction.
The noun theos refers to the Father which is indicated by the word’s articular construction which in the New Testament commonly signifies the first member of the Trinity unless otherwise indicated by the context.
The articular construction of this word also indicates that this word is in a class by itself expressing the idea that there were many gods being worshipped in the world by people but only one of them is worthy to be worshipped.
This word theos is the object of the preposition ek, which is a marker of source or origin of a particular thing expressing the idea that a particular teaching possesses the characteristic which originates from the Father.
The present tense of this verb eimi is a gnomic present which is used to describe something that is true any time.
1 John 4:1 Beloved, each and every one of you must continue making it your habit of not trusting in every spirit. But rather, if and let us assume that it is true for the sake of argument that any of you are to confirm they possess the characteristic originating from the one and only God (the Father) and each one you know that you must, then each one of you must continue to make it your habit of thoroughly and critically examining these spirits because many false prophets are traveling about in the world. (Author’s translation)
After issuing the prohibition in 1 John 4:1, the apostle John issues a command within a first class conditional clause which itself functions as a strong adversative clause.
This fifth class conditional clause expresses a strong emphatic contrast with the previous prohibition John issues the recipients of First John.
This first class condition indicates the assumption of truth for the sake of argument.
It is the presentation of reality and does not mean that the condition is true or means since!
But it does mean that as far as the portrayal is concerned, the point of the argument is based on the assumption of reality.
The idea behind the first class condition is not “since” but rather, “if-and let us assume that it is true for the sake of argument that, then...”
Here the protasis is “if and let assume that it is true for the sake argument that any of you are to confirm they possess the characteristic originating from the one and only God.”
This is a response first class condition which is expressing the idea “if and let assume that it is true for the sake argument that any of you are to confirm they possess the characteristic originating from the one and only God and each one of you know that you must.”
The apodosis is the previous command dokimazete ta pneumata (δοκιμάζετε τὰ πνεύματα), “each one of you must continue making it your habit of thoroughly and critically examining these spirits.”
Usually, the protasis is followed by the apodosis.
However, as he did in 1 John 3:20, John is flip flopping the usual order in a conditional clause.
If we reverse John’s order, it would read: “if and let us assume that is true for the sake of argument any of you are to confirm they possess the characteristic originating from God and each one of you know that you must, then, each one of you must continue to make it your habit of critically and thoroughly examining the genuineness of these spirits.”
Therefore, the strong emphatic contrast is between trusting in every teaching in the world with that of thoroughly and critically examining the various teachings in the world in order to confirm if they possess the characteristic of truth which originates from the one and only God.
The recipients of First John were to continue making it their habit of thoroughly and critically examining every viewpoint communicated by any teacher through instruction in order to confirm if this viewpoint is truth originating from the one and only God.
This command applies to each one of the recipients of First John without exception.
Again, in 1 John 2:12-14, John affirms that the recipients of this epistle were remaining faithful to his apostolic teaching and thus were already obeying this command which he more than likely had taught them many times in the past.
Thus, like the prohibition, this command is preventative maintenance designed to protect the fellowship of these believers with the triune God.
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