1 Beloved, don’t believe2 every spirit, but examine3 the spirits to see if they are from God, because many false-prophets have gone out into the world. 2 In this way, you will know the Spirit of God: Every Spirit who professes4 that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh5 is from God. 3 And every spirit that doesn’t profess Jesus is not from God; and this is the spirit of antichrist6, which you have heard that is coming and is now in the world already. 4 You are from God, little children, and you have conquered them7 , because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. 5 They are from the world, for this reason, they speak from the world’s perspective8 and the world listens9 them. 6 We are from God; the one who knows God listens to us, but whoever is not from God doesn’t listen to us10. From this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of misleading11.
I must admit, I have not reviewed this text in a long time and I can honestly say to you that this text doesn't speak to me the way that it once did. I've done much studying on early Christianity and one of the biggest problems that early christians had was the belief that Jesus was not a man and was pure spirit. Early christianity had many beliefs. One of those beliefs gave rise to a group of people that came to be known as Gnostics. Gnostics believed that they had received "special" knowledge from God about Jesus and about salvation. One of the main ideas that they had was the thought that there was no way for God to die in sin to become an ultimate sacrifice for people's sin. This gave way to the idea that Jesus didn't die at all, which gave way to Jesus was not a man, but a spirit that could not die. This is an over-simplification of one view that the Gnostics had, but I believe that idea is why John wrote this passage in today's Blog. I would encourage you to study early Christianity and all of the different beliefs that were floating around at the time. It will help you to understand the New Testament much better and why things were written like they were.
1 ψευδοπροφῆται (false-prophets)
“pseudo-prophets”. pseudo means phony, artificial, fake, or deceptive. False-prophets teach false teachings. John is identifying how the “wrong” spirit has gotten distributed among the people of the world.
2 πιστεύετε (believe)
or “have faith in”
3 δοκιμάζετε (examine)
“Test”. Make sure the spirit is genuine.
4 ὁμολογεῖ (professes)
5 Jesus Christ has come in the flesh
This is a somewhat strange test as a spirit could tell a lie. It’s possible that this passage is directed toward the Gnostics of the day. During the first and second centuries, most Gnostics didn’t believe that Jesus was a man and that he didn’t have a real body. They believed that Jesus only seemed to have a real body because they didn’t think that God could die in sin as it was portrayed that Jesus did for mankind. So, it you asked them if "Jesus came in the flesh?", then they would have to say "no".
6 τοῦ ἀντιχρίστου (of antichrist)
Antichrist is the complete opposite of Christ. In other words, if you didn’t believe that Christ came as a man, then you believed the opposite of what Jesus was.
7 νενικήκατε αὐτούς (you have conquered them)
In other words, the true believers of God didn’t fall victim to the heresies of other teachings.
8 ἐκ τοῦ κόσμου λαλοῦσιν (they speak from the world’s perspective)
Greek: “they speak from the world”. "Perspective" has been added for clarity. In other words, they speak from what the world believes or how the world sees it and not how God sees it.
9 ἀκούει (listens)
10 doesn’t listen to us
Greek: “doesn’t hear us”. In other words, they didn’t believe the truth about Jesus, so they are not from God. They don’t hear because they don’t believe what we believe.
11 τῆς πλάνης (of misleading)
Most translations render this “of deception”. The word is the noun form of the greek verb πλανάω, which means “to lead astray” or “to lead off the path”. It is interesting how John uses the idea that a "spirit" is to blame for the mis-teaching. It adds to the validity of what John says is true and what he says is not true. To be influenced by a "spirit" would have really driven the idea home for the early christians.
Ἰωάννου α 4·1 Ἀγαπητοί, μὴ παντὶ πνεύματι πιστεύετε ἀλλὰ δοκιμάζετε τὰ πνεύματα εἰ ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ ἐστιν, ὅτι πολλοὶ 1 ἐξεληλύθασιν εἰς τὸν κόσμον. 2 ἐν τούτῳ γινώσκετε τὸ πνεῦμα τοῦ θεοῦ· πᾶν πνεῦμα ὃ ὁμολογεῖ Ἰησοῦν Χριστὸν ἐν σαρκὶ ἐληλυθότα ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ ἐστιν, 3 καὶ πᾶν πνεῦμα ὃ μὴ ὁμολογεῖ τὸν Ἰησοῦν ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ οὐκ ἔστιν· καὶ τοῦτό ἐστιν τὸ τοῦ ἀντιχρίστου, ὃ ἀκηκόατε ὅτι ἔρχεται, καὶ νῦν ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ ἐστὶν ἤδη. Ἰωάννου α 4·4 ὑμεῖς ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ ἐστε, τεκνία, καὶ νενικήκατε αὐτούς, ὅτι μείζων ἐστὶν ὁ ἐν ὑμῖν ἢ ὁ ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ. 5 αὐτοὶ ἐκ τοῦ κόσμου εἰσίν, διὰ τοῦτο ἐκ τοῦ κόσμου λαλοῦσιν καὶ ὁ κόσμος αὐτῶν ἀκούει. 6 ἡμεῖς ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ ἐσμεν, ὁ γινώσκων τὸν θεὸν ἀκούει ἡμῶν, ὃς οὐκ ἔστιν ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ οὐκ ἀκούει ἡμῶν. ἐκ τούτου γινώσκομεν τὸ πνεῦμα τῆς ἀληθείας καὶ τὸ πνεῦμα τῆς πλάνης.