One characteristic of the Johannine writings (John, 1, 2, and 3 John, Revelation) is the large number of antitheses used by the apostle. In 1 John, for example, we have seen John contrast the darkness of sin and the light of God in order to explain how believers must walk (1:5–10). John also has used the contrast between love and hate to define those who are really of the truth (2:10–11).
In today’s passage, John returns to a discussion of the world as he contrasts those who are of the world with those who are of God (4:5–6). As we have seen, when John speaks of the world in this epistle, he is speaking of the evil world system that sets itself in opposition to God (2:15–17). Believers are not to love this world system because to be of the world is to be against the Lord (John 15:18–25).
For the past few days, we have seen how we might recognize those who possess the Holy Spirit and those who, like the false teachers troubling John’s original audience, possess the spirit of antichrist. It is clear from today’s verses that those who possess the spirit of antichrist are those who are of the world (1 John 4:5). Any teacher who sets his affections on the things of this world can be recognized as not from God. We should not be alarmed when those who mold their instruction according to the sinful norms of the culture gain an audience from the world since John tells us this is sure to happen.
In contrast to those who are of the world, stand those who are of God. In verse 6, John writes, “we are from God” and that those who know and possess the spirit of antichrist do not listen to those who are from God. While all orthodox believers can rightly claim to be from God, the contrast with the false teachers alluded to in verses 1–5 tells us that when John uses the word we, he is referring primarily to those with a special commission from God (the apostles).
Thus, in this verse John is making an explicit claim for apostolic authority. In doing so, he is merely reiterating Jesus’ statement that all who receive His apostles receive Jesus Himself (Matt. 10:40). Today we receive the apostles by heeding their canonical writings, thereby revealing, like John’s original audience, that we are of God.