These small group study notes of 1 John 4 contain outlines, cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, lessons to learn, and applications. Feel free to print them, copy them, or share them. I only ask that you remember these are are personal study notes and are only meant as a supplement to your own study, not a replacement. I hope you can find some helpful information inside. Visit our inductive Bible study main page for more studies on this and other books of the Bible.

1 John Chapter 4 Inductive Bible Study Notes, Cross References, Outline, and Discussion Questions

1 John 4

I.                    Test the spirits (1-3)

II.                 The Holy Spirit in us is greater than the spirits of error in the world (4-6)

III.               Love one another because God loved us (7-14)

IV.               Abiding in Christ will cause us to love others (15-21)

I.

What spirits is John referring to?

Are there this kind of spirits still in the world (demons)?

Did you ever see one? Since we don’t see them, in what ways will these spirits spread their lies?

In what way or ways should we test the spirits?

How can we tell then if someone is teaching the truth or a lie (in other words if it is the Holy Spirit speaking through them or a demonic spirit)?

What is the “spirit of the antichrist”?

Cross-references:

1 Timothy 4:1-2, 1 Thess 5:20-22, Acts 20:28-30 – False teachers.

Acts 17:11- Examined the Scriptures daily to see if what Paul said was true.

1 John 1:1-4 – John and the apostles saw Jesus themselves. They were eyewitnesses and know He is true.

Revelation 13:1-8 – THE antichrist.

2 Thessalonians 2:3-8 – The man of lawlessness.

1.       Just as the Holy Spirit is behind good teaching from the Word, Satan and his demons are behind evil teachings, heresies, false prophecies, and lies. While we do not see these spirits face to face, we must realize that they are there. They exist. Our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against spiritual forces of wickedness. So it would also be accurate when commanded to “test the spirits” to say we should “test the teachings” or the “teachers” we are exposed to.

2.       Basically these verses tell us not to blindly believe everything we hear or read. This was bad enough at the time of John when false teachers would infiltrate fellowship to spread their heresies. It is many times worse now. Why? Internet, radio, TV, and the like make it extremely easy for false teachers to have a platform for spreading their views. Recently I have heard many cases where young believers searched for things about the Bible online only to encounter false teachings. But they themselves maybe didn’t know they were false teachings since they were a new believer. So what test should we perform to see if we should believe something?

3.       The test John gives is to see what the teacher says about Christ. Does he confess Christ? His deity? His humanity? If someone really believes in Christ, then they will believe everything that Christ says as well. So if someone is teaching something contradictory to what Jesus taught, he is a false teacher. For example, Jesus said not even He knows the time of His return. If someone who says they believe Christ then goes on to make a prophecy saying when He will return, we know this person is a liar and doesn’t really confess Christ. Perhaps he is using Christ as a cloak for his own personal gains. Another example could be where a pastor endorses divorce. Jesus said that anyone who divorces for any reason other than adultery is an adulterer himself. Jesus also quoted the Old Testament as God’s Word many times. In other words, logically speaking, a person who confesses Christ must also believe everything Christ taught as well as all of Scripture. So if you are not sure what to believe, compare what the false teacher says with what is taught in the Bible. If it doesn’t agree, the teacher is not from God, but is being used by Satan actually.

4.       This person is in fact under the influence of the spirit of the antichrist. What is this spirit? It is not necessarily one person (although there will be one antichrist). Neither is it necessarily one spirit. Rather, it is the mindset and system that sets itself against Christ. Many false teachers and horrible world leaders have been under the influence of evil spirits. Although they are not the one antichrist referred to in Scripture, they are antichrists because they are against Jesus and they are using the influence they have to turn people away from God.

II.

Who have we overcome? (verse 4) What does it mean to overcome?

How have we overcome? So then who is it really doing the overcoming?

Who is in us? What are some Bible verses that show us the Holy Spirit is in us?

Knowing that the Holy Spirit is in us, how does this impact your life? What applications can we make from this?

How will the Holy Spirit’s indwelling help us to combat these false teachings and the evil forces of Satan?

Matthew 19:26- With God all things are possible.

Philippians 4:13 – I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.

Ephesians 6:10-18 – The armor of God which can help us resist the evil one.

1 Peter 5:6-9 – The devil is like a roaring like. Resist him and stand firm in the faith.

Revelation 22:18-19 – No one should add or take anything away from Scripture.

1.       All believers have already overcome Satan. Before we trust in Christ, we are slaves of Satan. After we trust in Christ, we are free of him. In other words, we have won the battle against him or overcome him. This is a fact. It is a very encouraging spiritual truth. Every single believer was and is victorious over Satan. We are free of his power and we are no longer his followers or slaves. It is time to rejoice! But it is not time to get prideful because…

2.       This victory does not come from ourselves. By ourselves we could never escape Satan’s clutches. Try as we might to escape his chains, we would only find ourselves chained even tighter. Just deciding you won’t sin, won’t work because we are sinners and sinning is in our nature. This is the essence of the gospel. We cannot save ourselves. We needed help. So why can we have victory over Satan? Because greater is He who is in us than He who is in the world. Who is in us? The Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit has ripped off our chains and set us free. He has given us the strength and resolve to say “NO!” to sin. He has convicted us when we were about to sin and used our consciences to warn us about what is right and wrong.

3.       How do you feel about this verse? For me I am excited. I feel grateful and thankful to God for coming to my aid when I most desperately needed it. I also feel guilty because sometimes I didn’t take the way of escape offered (1 Corinthians 10:13) and ignored the warning bells in my mind and sinned anyway. I had all the resources I needed to do what was right, but instead chose to go back to the old way of life. However, I also feel confident. I feel confident to face the future because I know that God is with me. I know that He will give me strength any time I ask Him. I know that He will have the final victory over Satan and I can experience this victory as well in my own life. We don’t need to fear. We don’t need to fail. He will strengthen us. What applications can we make from this verse?

4.       The worldly people listen to these false teachers and false guides. They are predisposed to listen to them because they want their ears tickled. For example, Gnostics said that sin is acceptable and we can do it without fear of punishment. What sinner doesn’t like to hear that? Most people would gladly accept this as truth because that is what they want to believe. However, those who are from God must not fall for it. We must evaluate everything we hear in light of the Bible.

5.       Also verse 6 shows us that those who are not from God will not listen to us. Sometimes I have seen those who profess to be believers have a hard heart towards God’s Word. They don’t want to listen to it because they have another idea. If this is a habit/practice, then likely this person does not know God at all.

6.       John refers to the spirit of truth and the spirit of error. Remember that the truth of God will set you free. Lies (unlike what Satan told Eve in the garden) will enslave us.

III.

How did John model this type of love for the brethren?

How can we love others when sometimes it is so hard? If you find that you are not as loving as you should be, what can you do to become more loving? In other words, where can you get love?

Explain the statement “God is love.”

What example is given showing us God’s love in action? If people looked at your lives, would they be able to find great examples of love or only reasons to think you are not very loving?

What does verse 10 tell us about the source of love and the cause of our love? Who loved who first? What does this tell us about how we should love God? What does this tell us about how we should love others? How should knowing that God took the initiative to love us, effect our  attitude? What doctrine does this connect to?

Why does John say “no one has seen God at any time?” What is his point?

Who is “we” in verse 14?

Ephesians 1:3-5 – He took the initiative to choose us.

Deuteronomy 7:7 – God did not choose the Israelites because they were good.

2 Corinthians 8:9 – Christ for our sakes became poor.

James 1:17-18 – Everything good we have is from God.

Leviticus 16:15 – Day of Atonement in Old Testament. Jesus is our atonement.

Ephesians 1:13 – We were sealed with the Holy Spirit.

1.       John tells his readers to love one another. But notice that he practices what he preaches. He calls them “beloved” many times as well as “little children.” He had great affection for them and devoted his life to teaching them the truth. As some of us here in this study group are teachers, we must be sure that when we tell others to love we are doing it ourselves.

2.       These verses are probably the most famous in the whole book of 1 John. From these verses we learn:

a)         The source of love. God is the source of love. He loved us. If we want to love others we must learn how to from God and be strengthened to by God.

b)        The mark of a believer: Those who are born again will love others. This is our distinguishing mark. Is that what people see when they look at your life?

c)         The Supreme Lover: God is love. Have you ever stopped to consider what this means? This is a famous phrase in the Bible and I’m sure I have heard it hundreds of times. What does it mean to you? It is not “God loves.” Love is not just something God does now and then or even often. It is who He is. It defines the essence of His character. Sometimes people have asked me why God created the earth and humans. I can never give a definitive answer because the Bible doesn’t say and God hasn’t told me, but I suspect it is at least partially related to the statement God is love. Because God created us, He has even more opportunities to express this key essence of His character than before. A loving mother and father may want more kids so that they can show love to more people. God creating us would be akin to this.

d)        The greatest example of love: What is it? The ultimate example of love is Christ offering Himself as a sacrifice for us. Nothing will EVER beat this. What application can we make from this? Because Christ loved us so much, don’t you think we should love Him back?

e)         The initiator of love: We did not initiate the relationship between God and us, God did. Some movies will portray aliens. Some of them show us reaching out to aliens in peace. Well, we didn’t reach out to God. We did everything possible to spite Him and incur His blistering wrath. In spite of our sin and basic repulsiveness, God chose to love us. He made the first move. It is our responsibility to respond to that.

f)         The response of love: God did all of that for us. So what? What is the point? John tells us in verse 11 that because of God’s love we should love others. This is not complicated logic. We see it in the parable of the two debtors. The master forgave the one who owed so much money. He should have been so grateful for this that he in turn would act the same way and forgive his fellow slave. But he didn’t. God’s love is not just the object of a theological discussion. It is not just a cold, hard, fact. It is to drive us, to motivate us to be more like Him and in turn pour out this same type of love to those we meet. Recently there has been a famous story in China of an American college student living in China who gave French fries to an elderly lady. This young man has been dubbed “American French fry brother” in Chinese. In the course of several days he has 9000 followers on his Chinese “Twitter” account (weibo). He is a national sensation and almost a folk hero. He is admired far and wide for his kindness in taking a few minutes out of his day to help this elderly lady. It’s great that he did this and I think we can learn from him about showing love to others. At the same time, the fact that this small act of kindness has become so famous and gone viral is a testament to the sad state of affairs in our world today. Love and kindness is so lacking there is a real void. The darkness and selfishness is so thick that even extremely small acts of kindness stand out. There are far more stories like the one where the girl was hit by the car and 18 people walked by without offering help. Another recent one happened in Dongguan. A Brazillian tried to stop a thief from stealing a woman’s purse. They started beating him. Over twenty people including two security guards watched while he was beaten senseless without doing anything to help him. In this backdrop, consider how really loving someone can stand out.

g)        Although we haven’t seen God, we have seen the results of His love for us. Perhaps loving others like this can warm people’s hearts to God when logic or evidence of His existence can’t.

h)        The Holy Spirit is the down payment guaranteeing God will do all of the things He has promised us.

IV.

We have looked at before how we abide in God, but how does He abide in us? What would the term “mutual abiding” imply to you?

How does it logically connect that if we abide in love, we abide in God? What would a person abiding in love look like? When someone sees you, do they see someone abiding in love?

How can we have confidence in the judgment?

What does it mean that there is no fear in love? Can you give any examples of how this works?

Why do we love God? Why are we able to love others?

What is a test we can do to see if we are loving God or not?

John 3:36, 5:24, 1:12 – If we believe in God we are saved. Here it is described as confessing Christ.

2 Timothy 1:7 – God has not given us a spirit of timidity.

Romans 8:14-15 – We are adopted by God so don’t need to fear Him.

1 John 2:28 – We don’t need to fear His coming if we are abiding in Him.

1.       In verses 15-16 we see more about abiding with Christ. We can learn more about this in John 15. This word “abide” shows us that our relationship with Christ is not just a believing a fact (ie: intellectual assent). It is a personal relationship. It is a vibrant and living relationship. It truly affects our life inside and out

2.       We can have confidence in the day of judgment because God has forgiven us of our sins. His greatest demonstration of love ever (the cross) has taken away our sins and made us “positionally” holy.

3.       Love drives out fear. An opposite example would be that hate stimulates fear. Hitler hated the Jews and they were rightfully fearful of him. A husband who angrily beats his wife will make her fear him, but she will never feel love. There are many cases in the orphanage of little children who are afraid of people. They shirk back when you try to touch them, give them food, or play with them. Why? Because they have been abused horribly. They are afraid of people now because of their experiences. This is very different than a child raised in a loving home. He feels secure and content. This kind of kid finds it much easier to make new friends and be close with people he doesn’t know well. Why? He trusts them. He is not afraid of people because the love from his parents have conditioned him to believe that people are good and kind. All of this is to say that God’s love casts out our fear. He has adopted us as His sons and daughters and loves us accordingly. We don’t need to be afraid of the future because He is with us (thy rod and thy staff comfort me). Romans 8:31-39. Nothing can separate us from His love.

4.       Verse 19 is inscribed on Christy’s and mine wedding ring. We not only love God because He first loved us. We love each other because He loved us first. His love has changed us. His love empowers us to love others as well. If we didn’t experience God’s true love, we wouldn’t be able to love others truly either.

5.       Verse 19 is a review of the logic that loving God and hating the people around us is incompatible.

6.       Verse 20 is a review of God’s command to love others. We are not loving God if we don’t love others.

7.       This is several weeks now where we have learned about God’s love and the command to love others. I’m pretty sure we know we should do this. Are we doing it? Did you each fulfill your application you made last week to love others in deed and in truth? Let’s make a new application this week to add another way to love someone close to us that we aren’t already doing.

Series on 1 John Chapter by Chapter

1 John 1 1 John 2:1-14 1 John 2:15-29 1 John 3:1-10
1 John 3:11-24 1 John 4 1 John 5:1-10 1 John 5:11-21

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