1 John 4:4, “ Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.”
In studying 1 John, one of the General Epistles, we need to keep in mind the original context, so that we might understand and be faithful to the intent of the biblical writer, John, the Apostle. Several of the General Epistles deal with the rise of false teaching and the impact of these false teachers upon the original audience. In 1 John, these teachers taught a proto-Gnostic heresy that denied the Incarnation, the importance of loving fellow Christians, and personal holiness.
John’s original audience in 1 John did not follow these false teachers, but resisted them, successfully. Their resistance is made clear in today’s text, 1 John 4:4, which tells us today, John’s audience had overcome the spirit of the antichrist lying behind the denial of the Incarnation by the proto-gnostics (1 John 4:2-4). Though John’s audience had resisted the false teachers, even so, it resulted in many orthodox Christians doubting their salvation. Instead of leading them to question their salvation though, John’s audience overcoming the false teachers should have lead to assurance that their redemption in Christ alone was real and genuine. See, they had overcome this false teaching, not because of their strength, or feelings. Instead, they overcome through Jesus and are indwelt in the Holy Spirit, the One who is greater than the one in the world (1 John 4:4).
The Holy Spirit dwells is in all true Christians (1 John 3:24; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20). As God’s people, we enjoy the testimony of His presence as He moves to lead us to cry out, “Abba, Father” (Galatians 4:6). The presence of the Holy Spirit, manifests itself in objective ways, in particular, by having Christians hold firmly to the orthodox teachings of the Apostles. The Holy Spirit also gives Christians faith confess the Incarnation (1 John 4:2). Additionally, the Holy Spirit enables God’s people to affirm every other essential doctrine. By making this confession, Christians demonstrate they have the Holy Spirit and are enables to resist falsehood, as did, John’s original audience.
False teaching is only overcome by biblical truth. Christians can only know biblical truth, if they, will submit themselves to the Holy Spirit of truth, Himself. Christians must surrender daily to Christ, asking Him to illuminate through the Holy Spirit, the Word of God, and empower them for service, for His glory. Without His guidance, Christians will not overcome the world (Galatians 5:16-26).
The majority of the greatest Reformed theologians in church history, men like John Calvin and John Owen were known for their understanding of the person and work of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is often called, sadly, today, the forgotten person of the Trinity. We need to ask ourselves two questions, “Do we, as Christians, treasure, the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives? As we study the Scriptures, do we ask the Holy Spirit to illuminate and inflame us with a passion for God and people?” As you study, minister, counsel, or anything else, please ask the Holy Spirit to make you a humble, teachable, useful vessel in the service of making disciples who make disciples, for the glory of God, and the good of all humanity.