Bible Study: 1 John 4

By Jacob Toman

This is part of a Bible study series where we are examining each chapter of 1 John and asking challenging questions about the text.  In addition to this series of articles, we’ll also be focusing some questions on our Twitter and Facebook pages, as well as in our sermons and other Bible studies we conduct with people in our community, around the book of 1 John.  We hope that this series will help you learn not only about this particular book of the Bible, but also how to better examine and benefit from God’s word.  Enjoy!

In 1992, European recording artist Haddaway asked the question that soared to the tops of song charts in the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy, and many other countries. The question is one that philosophers, heart broken teenagers, and poets have asked for ages.

“What is love?” John uses love 27 times in this chapter! It is certainly not a stretch to say love is one of the central aspects of John’s focus here. Dive into 1 John 4 and let’s challenge ourselves by asking: what is love?


1 Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.
2 This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God,
3 but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.
4 You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.
5 They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them.
6 We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood.
7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.
8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.
9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.
10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
13 This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit.
14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.
15 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God.
16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.
17 This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus.
18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
19 We love because he first loved us.
20 Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.
21 And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.


  1. How does John address his audience? (Hint: See verse 1, 4, 7, and 11)
  2. John mentions God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit. How does John describe the ACTIONS each of the members of the Trinity?
    • God the Father (Hint: See verse 9, 10, and 14)
    • God the Son (Hint: See verse 9, 10, 14, and 15)
    • God the Spirit (Hint: See verse 2, and 13)
  3. Where does love come from according to John? (Hint: See verse 7, 10,  and 16)
  4. John seems to leave out too many details on what loving one another means. What does it look like to love one another? (Hint: See verse 17 and 21)