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

These small group studies of 1 John contain outlines, cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, and applications.  Visit our library of inductive Bible studies for more in depth inductive studies on this and other books of the Bible you can use in your small group.

1 John 4 Inductive Bible Study Guide – Test the Spirits


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. Test the spirits (1-3)

Discussion Questions

  • 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”?


1 Timothy 4:1-2 – The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron.

1 Thessalonians 5:20-22 – Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil.

Acts 17:11- Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.

1 John 1:1-4 – That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our joy complete.

Revelation 13:1-8, 2 Thessalonians 2:3-8 – Two passages which give more insight into the Antichrist.

Verse by Verse Commentary

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. Do not to blindly believe everything we hear or read. This was bad enough at the time of John when false teachers would infiltrate fellowships 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.

2 Peter 2:1 Bible Verse

Application: 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 a very loose standard toward 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.

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

Discussion Questions

  • 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?
  • 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 – Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

Philippians 4:13 – I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

Ephesians 6:10-18 – A description of the armor of God.

1 Peter 5:6-9 – Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.

Revelation 22:18-19 – I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this scroll: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this scroll. And if anyone takes words away from this scroll of prophecy, God will take away from that person any share in the tree of life and in the Holy City, which are described in this scroll.

Verse by Verse Commentary

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 telling yourself over and over, “I 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 truth? 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 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.

1 Corinthinas 10:13 Bible Verse

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. 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. Remembe