John cautions his readers not to believe everyone who claims to be led by the Spirit, but to test them (v. 1-6). He then exhorts them to manifest brotherly love in keeping with the character and example of God’s love as demonstrated in the sacrifice of His Son (v. 7-21).
Points To Ponder
· When John talks about spirits here, to what is he referring?
· What did the false prophets apparently believe (or not believe) about Jesus?
· What is so important about acknowledging that Jesus has “come in the flesh?”
· Are false prophets still an issue today?
· What is the source of love?
· What is the difference in God’s love versus human-generated love?
· What is the relationship between fear and love?
· How should God’s love impact our love for one another?
Observation: What does the passage say?
True and False spirits – how to distinguish?
Love comes from God
The gift of the Spirit
Loving God, loving others
Record observations and write questions that come to mind from each verse.
1. What are the main points of this chapter?
2. Why should we not believe every spirit? (v 1)
3. If we are truly led by the Spirit of God, what will we confess? (v 2)
4. What did John say about the coming of Antichrist? (v 3)
5. What did John write about their (and our) ability to overcome? (v 4)
6. How can we discern between the spirit of truth and the spirit of error? (v 6)
7. Why should we love one another? (v 7‐8)
8. How was God’s love for us manifested? (v 9‐10)
9. How can we ensure that God will abide in us? (v 12‐16)
10. When we love one another as we should, what does it give us? (v 17-18)
11. If we claim to love God, but hate our brother, what does that make us? Why? (v 20)
Interpretation: What does the passage mean?
1. “Do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits” – This means we shouldn’t believe everything we hear or read, just because someone says it is a message inspired by God. Christians should have faith, but there’s no need to be gullible. The best test of all? If the message truly is from God, it will be consistent with God’s Word (the Bible) and with Jesus’ teachings. (v. 4 1-2)
2. Evil is obviously stronger than we are. John assures us, however, that God is stronger. (v. 4)
3. What makes false teachers so popular with people (going all the way back to the OT prophets) is that false prophets tell people what they want to hear, instead of what they need to hear. (v. 6)
4. John says, “God is love” but what people often hear is that “love is God.” What’s the difference? The world thinks that love is what makes a person feel good, but that is the absolute opposite of what love really is – in fact, that is pure selfishness. Real love expresses itself as God did in Christ – it involves sacrifice and loving others more than ourselves. (v. 8-10)
5. When we become Christians we receive the Holy Spirit. God’s presence in our lives gives us the power to live righteous lives. The manifestation of the Spirit’s work in our lives demonstrates that we really know God and draws others to Him. (v. 13)
6. The relationship between love and fear is that fear cannot co-exist with God’s love. For the believer, what is the worst thing that can happen to you? Death? No problem, to be absent from the body is to be in the presence of the Lord (2 Cor. 5:8). Possibly worse? Someone dies you love dearly – again, no problem, you will join them for eternity in the presence of the Lord (assuming they and you are both believers) (v. 18). Do you believe this?
7. God’s love is the source of all human love; genuine love is never self-generated by us. In its purest form, God’s love spreads like wildfire. (v. 19)
Application: How does this passage apply to me?
1. What keeps you from loving others the way you are told to love in this passage?
2. What are some specific ways you have experienced the power of God abiding within you?
3. In this passage, John teaches that loving God helps you love others. Do you find it easier to love God or to love others in your life?
4. How does it help you to know that the source of all love is God and we don’t have to try to conjure it up on our own? (v. 16)
5. If you want to do a better job at loving others, how should you go about it? (v. 16)
6. Do you ever struggle with the fear of death or of Judgment Day? What insight from this passage can you use to bolster your confidence or the confidence of others who may be experiencing fear and doubt?
7. Does fear affect your ability to love and receive love from others? How does fear hinder your relationships of love with God and others?
8. Verse 19 reveals that your love for God is a response to His love for you. What are some ways that you can keep a fresh sense of God’s love for you? How does a proper view of His love impact your daily life?
9. The fact that we are like Christ in love demonstrates that God, who is love, lives in us. We are supposed to be walking, talking reflections of his love. How well are you going that these days? How can you do a better job of this starting right now?
10. What is one thing you learned this week that you can directly apply to your life?
The Holy Bible, New International Version © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society
Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland
Serendipity Bible for Groups Third Edition, Zondervan Publishing Grand Rapids © 1998
The NIV Study Bible, 10th Anniversary Edition, Zondervan Publishing Grand Rapids © 1995
Life Application Bible New Revised Standard Version Tyndale House Wheaton © 1988, 1989, 1990