1 John 4:4
Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.
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1 John 4:4-6. Ye — Who abide in the truth taught you from the beginning; are of God, and have overcome them — Namely, these seducers, in all their snares and delusions: that is, the doctrine to which you adhere has prevailed against those who deserve the name of antichrist, (as undoubtedly all who oppose the Christian interest in some measure did,) and as you have the true miraculous gifts of the Spirit among you, to which they falsely pretend, it is soon seen that the advantage is clearly on your side. Because greater is he that is in you — Namely, the Spirit of Christ; than he — The spirit of antichrist; that is in the world — The Son of God, who stands at the head of that interest in which you are embarked, and who aids you by the mighty communications of his Spirit, is infinitely too strong for Satan, the great head of the apostacy, and for all his confederates. Thus, the issue of the divine government will be, that truth and virtue shall be finally victorious over error and wickedness, because God, the Patron of truth and virtue, possesseth far greater power and wisdom than the evil spirits who promote error and wickedness. They — Those false teachers; are of the world — Of the number of those that know not God; therefore speak they of the world — From the principle, wisdom, and spirit, that actuate worldly men; and, of consequence, the world heareth them — Namely, with approbation. “Lest the faithful should be discouraged by the success which false teachers oftentimes have in spreading their errors, the apostle observes that their success arises generally from their accommodating their doctrines to the prejudices and evil inclinations of the world. Wherefore, from the prevalence of any doctrine no argument can be drawn in favour of its truth.” We — Apostles; are of God — Immediately taught and sent by him, and have approved ourselves to be so by such irresistible evidence, that I may now venture to say, he who knoweth God — And experiences the governing influence of his fear and love, heareth and regardeth us; but he who is not of God heareth not us — Neither believes nor obeys our word; but, by rejecting our testimony, attended as it is with such evidence, he proves himself destitute of all true religion. Hereby we know — From what is said 1 John 4:2-6; the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error — “This mark, by which St. John directed his disciples to judge of teachers, is not to be understood of their hearkening to the apostles personally, but of their receiving their doctrine with that submission which was due to persons inspired by the Spirit of God. Wherefore, though the apostles be all dead, yet as they still speak in their divinely-inspired writings, John, in this passage, declares that their writings are the test by which the disciples of Christ are to judge both of teachers and of their doctrine.”

4:1-6 Christians who are well acquainted with the Scriptures, may, in humble dependence on Divine teaching, discern those who set forth doctrines according to the apostles, and those who contradict them. The sum of revealed religion is in the doctrine concerning Christ, his person and office. The false teachers spake of the world according to its maxims and tastes, so as not to offend carnal men. The world approved them, they made rapid progress, and had many followers such as themselves; the world will love its own, and its own will love it. The true doctrine as to the Saviour's person, as leading men from the world to God, is a mark of the spirit of truth in opposition to the spirit of error. The more pure and holy any doctrine is, the more likely to be of God; nor can we by any other rules try the spirits whether they are of God or not. And what wonder is it, that people of a worldly spirit should cleave to those who are like themselves, and suit their schemes and discourses to their corrupt taste?Ye are of God - You are of his family; you have embraced his truth, and imbibed his Spirit.

Little children - Notes, 1 John 2:1.

And have overcome them - Have triumphed over their arts and temptations; their endeavors to draw you into error and sin. The word them in this place seems to refer to the false prophets or teachers who collectively constituted antichrist. The meaning is, that they had frustrated or thwarted all their attempts to turn them away from the truth.

Because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world - God, who dwells in your hearts, and by whose strength and grace alone you have been enabled to achieve this victory, is more mighty than Satan, who rules in the hearts of the people of this world, and whose seductive arts are seen in the efforts of these false teachers. The apostle meant to say that it was by no power of their own that they achieved this victory, but it was to be traced solely to the fact that God dwelt among them, and had preserved them by his grace. What was true then is true now. He who dwells in the hearts of Christians by his Spirit, is infinitely more mighty than Satan, "the ruler of the darkness of this world;" and victory, therefore, over all his arts and temptations may be sure. In his conflicts with sin, temptation, and error, the Christian should never despair, for his God will insure him the victory.

4. Ye—emphatical: Ye who confess Jesus: in contrast to "them," the false teachers.

overcome them—(1Jo 5:4, 5); instead of being "overcome and brought into (spiritual) bondage" by them (2Pe 2:19). Joh 10:8, 5, "the sheep did not hear them": "a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers."

he that is in you—God, of whom ye are.

he that is in the word—the spirit of Antichrist, the devil, "the prince of this world."

Their being born of God, and their participation of a directive and strengthening influence from him, kept them from being overcome by the plausible notions, the alluring blandishments of the flesh and sense, the terror of persecution used towards them by these antichristian or pseudo-christian tempters; and enabled them to overcome, because the Divine Spirit in them was stronger than the others’ lying, impure spirit.

Ye are of God, little children,.... This, with what follows, is said for the comfort of the saints, and to deliver them from the fears of being drawn aside by the delusions of the false prophets, and antichrists; since they belonged to God, were his elect, and therefore could not be finally and totally seduced; they were the children of God by adopting grace, and could not become the servants of men; they were born of God, and so were kept by the power of God unto salvation, as all that are begotten unto a lively hope are; they were enlightened by the Spirit of God, and had a discerning of truth from error, and therefore could not be imposed upon:

and have overcome them; the false prophets, being in a good cause, fighting the good fight of faith, and having good weapons, particularly the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, and invincible arguments from thence; and also gracious assistance from the Spirit of God, who gives a mouth that none can shut, and wisdom that none can resist; as well as an inward experience of the truth, and power of Gospel doctrines: a testimony within themselves, which will stand the whole shock and opposition of the enemy: the Vulgate Latin version reads, "and have overcome him"; antichrist, whose spirit was then in the world; or the world itself, or Satan, the god of the world; and so the Ethiopic version reads, "and have overcome the evil one", as in 1 John 2:13; the reason of which victory, and which adds to the comfort and support of saints in their present warfare, is,

because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world; by "he that is in the world" is meant either the devil, the prince and god of the world, and who goes up and down in it, dwells in the hearts of the men of it, under whose influence they are, and in whom he works effectually; or antichrist, whose spirit was now in the world, and whose doctrine was propagated by the false teachers, in whom he began to appear; but he that is in the saints, either God who dwells in them, and their in him, 1 John 4:15; is mightier than the man of sin, and his emissaries, to keep and preserve from all corruptions, and every false way; or Christ, who dwells in their hearts by faith, and is stronger than the strong man armed, and able to save and deliver out of his hands; or the Spirit of God; and so the Arabic version reads, "the Spirit that is in you"; who is in the saints, as a spirit of regeneration and sanctification, as a spirit of adoption, and the earnest of their inheritance; he is able to carry on the work of grace in them, and finish it, and will do it; and he, as a spirit of truth, is more powerful than the spirit of error; and when the enemy comes in like a flood, or pours in a flood of errors and heresies, he lifts up a standard against him, causes him to fly, and secures the saints from being carried away with it: compare with this the Septuagint version of Psalm 124:1, "if it had not been the Lord who was on our side"; which render it thus, "if the Lord had not been in us".

{3} Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.

(3) He comforts the elect with a most sure hope of victory: but yet so, that he teaches them that they fight not with their own power, but with the virtue and power of God.

1 John 4:4. After the apostle has characterized the twofold πνεῦμα, he directs the attention of his readers to the relationship in which they stand to the false prophets.

ὑμεῖς ἐκ τοῦ Θεοῦ ἐστε] A contrast to those who are ἐκ τοῦ κόσμου; believers are of God, because the πνεῦμα which animates them is the πνεῦμα τοῦ Θεοῦ.

καὶ νενικήκατε αὐτούς] αὐτούς is not = antichristum et mundum (Erasmus), but τοὺς ψευδοπροφήτας, in whom the antichristian nature dwells.

νενικήκατε is to be retained as perfect, comp. chap. 1 John 2:13; Calvin inaccurately interprets: in media pugna jam extra periculum sunt, quia futuri sunt superiores. John could say to his readers: νενικήκατε, not only inasmuch as in them was mighty the strength of Him who had said: θαρσεῖτε, ἐγὼ νενίκηκα τὸν κόσμον, and inasmuch as they in Him were sure of ultimate success (Neander, Düsterdieck), but also inasmuch as their opponents with their seductive arts must have been put to shame by their faithfulness, and must have been repulsed by them (Ebrard, Braune). The cause of this victory, however, did not and does not lie in the human power of believers, but in the fact ὅτι μείζων ἐστὶν ὁ ἐν ὑμῖν ἢ ὁ ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ;

ὁ ἐν ὑμῖν, i.e. ὁ Θεός (according to Grotius, Erdmann, and others: ὁ Χριστός); as the believer is of God, God remains in him as the soul of his life; ὁ ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ, i.e. ὁ διάβολος, “whose children the antichrists are” (Lücke). Instead of the more particular ἐν αὐτοῖς, John uses the more general ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ, in order thereby to signify that they, although they were for a while in the Church, belong nevertheless to the κόσμος, which the following words expressively bring out.

1 John 4:4. ὑμεῖς emphatic (cf. 1 John 2:20; 1 John 2:27, 1 John 3:14), as contrasted with the deluded world. The faithful are God’s delegates (ἐκ), bearing their Master’s commission and continuing His warfare (John 20:21), and they have shared His victory (νενικήκατε). αὐτοὺς, i.e., the false prophets (1 John 4:1). Eum (Vulg.); “Quem nisi Antichristum?” (Aug.). ὁ ἐν ὑμῖν, i.e., God (cf. 1 John 3:24); ὁ ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ, i.e., ὁ ἄρχων τοῦ κόσμου τούτου (John 12:31; John 14:30).

4. Ye are of God] As in 1 John 2:20 the Apostle passes abruptly from the false teachers to his true children with an emphatic pronoun, made still more emphatic here by the asyndeton. Ye, in marked contrast to them, are of God.

and have overcome them] By withstanding the seducers they have proved their superiority. In the masculine ‘them’ (αὐτούς) the Apostle passes from the antichristian spirits to the false prophets who are their mouth-pieces. Comp. ‘And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him; for they know not the voice of strangers’ (John 10:5): thus the stranger is defeated.

because greater is He that is in you] Not in their own strength has the victory been won, but in His whose word abideth in them (1 John 2:14). It is precisely for this reason that they may have confidence against all spiritual enemies: it is not confidence in themselves (1 Corinthians 15:57 especially Ephesians 6:10-17).

he that is in the world] ‘The ruler of this world’ (John 12:31), the devil, the father of these lying teachers (1 John 3:10; John 8:44), whose works Christ came to destroy (1 John 3:8). By saying ‘in the world’ rather than ‘in them’, the Apostle indicates that they belong to ‘the world’. “S. John constantly teaches that the Christian’s work in this state of probation is to conquer ‘the world’. It is, in other words, to fight successfully against that view of life which ignores God, against that complex system of attractive moral evil and specious intellectual falsehood which is organized and marshalled by the great enemy of God, and which permeates and inspires non-Christianized society” (Liddon).

1 John 4:4. Ὑμεῖς, ye) who acknowledge Jesus Christ.—νενικήκατε, ye have overcome) ch. 1 John 5:4-5.—[αὐτοὺς, them) the false prophets.—V. g.]—ὁ ἐν ὑμῖν, who is in you) God.—ὁ ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ, who is in the world) the spirit of antichrist, or the evil one.

Verse 4. - Ye are of God. The ὑμεῖς is in emphatic opposition to the false teachers (comp. 1 John 2:20). They are on one side, and the apostle's readers on the other, and it is from this standpoint that they are to "prove the spirits." St. John knows nothing of any neutral position from which the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error can be criticized "with absolute impartiality." "He that is not with me is against me." This assumed neutral position is already within the domain of error. Ye have overcome them. "Them" means the false teachers; but in what sense have St. John's "little children" overcome them? He may be speaking by anticipation; confident of the victory, he writes of it as an accomplished fact (comp. John 16:33). But it is better to take the statement literally. By refusing to listen to the false teachers (John 10:8) the sheep have conquered them: the seducers have "gone out" (1 John 2:19), unable to hold their own within the fold. Nor is this wonderful: the one side have God with them, the other Satan. Ο ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ here is equivalent to ὁ ἄρχων τοῦ κόσμου τούτου (Luke 12:31). Just as God is in believers and they in God, so the world is in the evil one (1 John 5:19) and the evil one in it. 1 John 4:4Have overcome

See on 1 John 2:13.


Compare 1 John 3:20.

In you

The Christian society. Compare John 6:56; John 14:20; John 15:4-10; John 17:23, John 17:26; Galatians 2:20 (of the individual).

He that is in the world

In 1 John 5:19, the world is said to be in the evil one. Compare Ephesians 2:2.

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