Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Three Tests of 1 John 4:1-6

Note: You will need Teknia Greek font to read the Greek font correctly. This can be obtained at

In 1 John 4:1-6, the prepositional phrase ejk tou: qeou:: occurs no less than six times. How does John use this phrase to instruct his readers how to discern whether or not prophets they encounter truly speak in the name of God?

In this passage, the apostle John is attempting to give clear instructions on how to identify false teachers (and, by extension, how they may identify good teachers of God as well). There are three tests. First, there is the test of confession. The first usage of ejk tou: qeou: is found in verse 1. The issue here is one of belief. My translation of this verse was, "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but try the spirits, whether they are from God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world." "They are from God" was the translated portion of the phrase. This indicates that for John, believing a teacher is not a matter of blind faith. The issue is to test each teacher to see whether or not he aligned with the Word of God.

The second and third verses expand on this theme by explaining that the Word of God is in this case the incarnate Word—Jesus Christ. The true test of a false teacher is to see whether or not he can confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh. If he cannot do this, he is not a teacher from God.

Continuing the Johannine method of teaching by contrast (a very Jewish way of teaching), verse 4 puts ejk tou: qeou in the light of referring to believers. This is called the test of contrast. "You are of God, children, and have overcome them [the false prophets], since greater is he that is in you than that which is in the world" (my translation, brackets inserted comment). Therefore, it can plausibly be said that those who are of God are the ones who overcome; if one does not overcome, then he is not of God.

The final test of the three tests is the test of hearing or obeying the word of the apostles and sound doctrine. In order, the three tests for discerning false prophets are: confessing that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh, overcoming false doctrine/teachers, and believing and obeying sound doctrine and the apostles. In this way, one can identify true believers, and even know whether one believes himself!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please remember to see the comment guidelines if you are unfamiliar with them. God bless and thanks for dropping by!