First John: 1 John 4:1c-Many False Prophets Are Traveling About in the World Lesson # 144
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.
“For many false prophets have gone out into the world” is composed of the following: (1) conjunction hoti (ὅτι), “for” (2) nominative masculine plural form of the adjective polus (πολύς), “many” (3) nominative masculine plural form of the noun pseudoprophētēs (ψευδοπροφήτης), “false prophets” (4) third person plural perfect active indicative form of the verb exerchomai (ἐξέρχομαι), “have gone out” (5) preposition eis (εἰς), “into” (6) articular accusative masculine singular form of the noun kosmos (κόσμος), “the world.”
The conjunction hoti is employed with the indicative form of the verb exerchomai, “have gone out” in order to form a causal clause which is expressing the reason why the recipients of First John must obey the previous command here in 1 John 4:1.
The noun pseudoprophētēs means “false prophets” since the word pertains to a person who deliberately attempts to deceive others by claiming to be a prophet from God and is not and thus proclaims that which is false.
This word is modified by the adjective polus, which means “many” since the word pertains to a large but indefinite number of individuals and thus, this word pertains to a large indefinite number of individuals who are false prophets.
The articular form of the noun kosmos means “the world” and refers to the world in its arrangement of the inhabitants of the earth in tribes and nations or peoples (Acts 17:26; John 3:16; 1 Cor. 4:9; 1 John 2:2; 2 Pet. 2:5).
The third person plural perfect active indicative form of the verb exerchomai means “to go out, to go forth.”
The noun kosmos is the object of the preposition eis, which means “into” since the word is functioning as a marker of presence in a place.
Therefore, this prepositional phrase marks the people of the world as the place in which these false prophets are present.
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)
The apostle John presents the reason why the recipients of First John must continue to make it their habit of obeying this command.
He asserts that they must do so because many false prophets are traveling about in the world.
By identifying these unregenerate antichrists who taught an incipient form of Gnosticism and docetic Gnosticism as “false prophets,” John is describing these individuals as people who were deliberately attempting to deceive others.
They were not only deceiving the non-believer but also attempting to deceive even those in the Christian community by claiming to be sent by God and communicating His full council to them.
Again, these individuals were the proto-Gnostic teachers who rejected the hypostatic union of Jesus Christ (cf. 1 John 1:1-3).
As we noted, John mentions these individuals in 1 John 2:18-19 and describes them as “antichrists” in verse 18.
He also asserts that they never belonged to the Christian community in verse 19 indicating that they were never declared justified by the Father through faith in His Son Jesus Christ.
Therefore, in 1 John 4:1, the recipients of First John must obey the command to continue making it their habit of thoroughly and critically examining the various spirits in the world or in other words, various teachings, by means adhering to John’s apostolic teaching which is inspired by the Holy Spirit.
In other words, if a teaching contradicts John’s Spirit inspired apostolic teaching, then it is from the devil and is emphatically not from God.
It is not truth but rather a lie from Satan and his cosmic system.
The Spirit will confirm John’s apostolic teaching is truth from God and will confirm this teaching as truth from God when it is communicated by someone else such as a pastor or an evangelist and this is all taught by John in 1 John 2:18-27.
1 John 2:18 Children, it is the last hour. To be specific, as each of you heard that Antichrist is certain to come, in fact, now, many antichrists are in existence. Each of us can confirm from this that it is the last hour. 19 They departed from us but in fact they were never a part of our fellowship because if and let us assume that it is true for the sake of argument they had been a part of our fellowship, they would have in fact remained with us. On the contrary, this departure took place in order that they would demonstrate that each one of them are by no means a part of our fellowship. 20 However, each one of you possess an anointing from the Holy One. Consequently, each one of you possess knowledge (of the truth). 21 I am by no means writing to each of you at the present time that each of you are ignorant of the truth but in fact that each of you are possessing knowledge of it and in addition that never does any lie originate from the truth. 22 Who is the worst type of liar? It is none other than the person who at any time does say, “Jesus is unequivocally not the Christ.” This person is the antichrist: the person who unequivocally rejects the Father as well as His Son. 23 Anyone who does at any time reject the Son, unequivocally does not possess a relationship with the Father. The person who does at any time acknowledge the Son, does possess a relationship with the Father also. 24 In contrast to them, what each of you have heard from the beginning must continue to remain in each of you. If what each of you have heard from the beginning remains in each of you, indeed each of you will also live in fellowship with the Son as well as in fellowship with the Father. 25 Correspondingly, this is the promise which He Himself promised to each and every one of us, namely the life, which is eternal. 26 I am writing to each of you concerning those who are attempting to deceive each of you. 27 However, this anointing which each of you received from Him lives within each of you. Consequently, each of you have absolutely no need that anyone teach you. Quite to the contrary, because His anointing teaches each one of you about everything, namely what is true so that it is never a lie likewise in the same way, it has taught each of you, continue to make it your habit of living in fellowship with Him. (Author’s translation)
Now, these “false prophets” in 1 John 4:1 who John describes as “antichrists” in 1 John 2:18 and asserts never were believers in the first place were never justified because they rejected the hypostatic union of Jesus Christ which is indicated by the prologue of this epistle and John statements here in 1 John 4:1-6.
The reason why these antichrists departed from the fellowship of the Christian community was that they rejected the incarnation and resultant hypostatic union of the eternal Son of God, Jesus Christ and this is also indicated by John’s statements in 1 John 2:22-23 as we noted earlier.
Now, these false prophets had gone out from Satan and his cosmic system and organization into the presence of the people of the world in order to spread their false doctrine about the person of Jesus Christ.
They went out from Satan and his cosmic system in the sense that they have been deceived by this system with regards to the person of Jesus Christ and have been deceived by this system into communicating this false doctrine regarding the person of Jesus Christ to other human beings.
Therefore, in all these passages, 1 John 1:1-4, 2:18-27 and 4:1-6 John is demonstrating his concern for the Christian community in the Roman province of Asia with regards to this incipient form of Gnosticism which denied that Jesus of Nazareth was a human being.
Consequently, they were denying that Jesus of Nazareth was both God and man which is called in theology the “hypostatic union,” which is the basis for the Christian community’s eternal relationship and fellowship with the Father, Son and Spirit and this communicated by John in 1 John 1:3.
Therefore, the apostle John taught in 1 John 2:18-27 and 1 John 4:1-6 that the child of God can confirm if a particular prophet is teaching truth from God or not by comparing their teaching to John’s Spirit inspired apostolic teaching.
If it does not agree with his apostolic teaching which is inspired by the Holy Spirit, then they are a false prophet.
If it agrees with his teaching, then they are a genuine prophet of God.
This Spirit inspired apostolic teaching is recorded in the Greek New Testament.
Thus, the importance of the child of God learning their Bible in order to be able to discern if a particular teaching is truth from God or a lie originating from the devil and his cosmic system.
In fact, in 1 John 3:24, John asserted that the Spirit is not only the instrumentality but also the source which the Father uses to confirm with the believer that they are experiencing fellowship with Him and vice versa.
In this passage, John is teaching that if the child of God obeys the Spirit inspired command to believe in the name of the Father’s Son, Jesus Christ to be declared justified by the Father and obey the command to love one another, then, they will experience fellowship with God but if they obey the teaching of the false prophets and antichrists, then they will not experience fellowship with God.
Correspondingly, if the child of God obeys the Spirit inspired teaching of the apostles such as John regarding the person of Jesus Christ, namely that He is the God-man, then they will experience fellowship with God.
If they don’t obey this teaching and instead obey the false doctrine communicated by the antichrists or false prophets, then they will not experience fellowship with God.