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. Remember that the truth of God will set you free. Lies (unlike what Satan told Eve would happen in the garden) will enslave us.

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

Discussion Questions

  • 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?
  • 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?
  • What does verse 10 tell us about the source of love and the cause of our love?
  • Who loved who first?
  • How should knowing that God took the initiative to love us, effect our attitude?
  • 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 – Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will.

Deuteronomy 7:7 – The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples.

2 Corinthians 8:9 – For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.

James 1:17-18 – Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.

Leviticus 16:15 – He shall then slaughter the goat for the sin offering for the people and take its blood behind the curtain and do with it as he did with the bull’s blood: He shall sprinkle it on the atonement cover and in front of it.

Ephesians 1:13 – And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit.

Verse by Verse Commentary

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.

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 cannot 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. We would have been content to live in our sin and self will without ever seeking Him. 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. His love should drive us, motivating us to be more like Him and in turn pour out this same type of love to those we meet.

Recently there was been a famous story in China of an American college student 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 social media account. 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 like this is rare.

The darkness and selfishness is so thick that even extremely small acts of kindness stand out. Unfortunately there are far more stories like the one with a little girl hit by a car injured beside the road and eighteen people walked by without helping.

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.

Ephesians 1:14 Bible Verse

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

Discussion Questions

  • How does God abide in us?
  • 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 to face 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?


John 3:36 – Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.

John 5:24 – Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.

2 Timothy 1:7 – For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.

Romans 8:14-15 – For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry,“Abba, Father.”

1 John 2:28 – And now, dear children, continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming.

Verse by Verse Commentary

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 orphanages 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, finding it easy 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). Nothing can separate us from His love (Romans 8:31-39).

4. Verse 19 is inscribed on my and my wife’s 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. We have learned about God’s love and the command to love others for several chapters now. 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? What is a new way you can show love to others this week?

1 John Bible Study Guide – If you enjoy this study, download our complete study on 1 John or you can get the paperback version from Amazon.

Study 1 John 5:1-10
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