1 Loved ones, do not believe [the message of] every spirit [i.e., every person claiming to be a teacher], but test the spirits [i.e., require proof that they and their message are genuine] to see whether they represent God [or not], because many false prophets have begun circulating throughout the world.
2 Here is how to know [who is speaking from] the Holy Spirit of God: Every spirit [i.e., person] who proclaims that Jesus Christ has come [to earth] in a physical body is [speaking] from God. [See I Cor. 12:3]. 3 But every spirit who does not proclaim [this truth about] Jesus is not [speaking] from God. And this [person] represents the spirit of the antichrist [See 2:18-22; II John 7], whom you have heard would come. Well, now he is already here!
4 [But], you people are [followers] of God, little children [i.e., dear ones], and you have overcome them [i.e., these false teachers] because He who is in your lives [i.e., the Holy Spirit, See 3:24] is greater [i.e., more powerful] than he who is in [i.e., dominates] the world [i.e., Satan. See II Cor. 4:4]. 5 These [false teachers] are part of the world, so [naturally] they speak [a message endorsed] by the world and the world listens to them. 6 We [who preach the true Gospel] represent God; the person who knows God listens to our message; the one who does not belong to God does not listen to us. This is how we can know [the difference between those speaking by] the Holy Spirit of truth and [those speaking by] the spirit of [Satan's] error.
7 Loved ones, we should have love for one another, because love comes from [the very nature of] God, and every person who [continually] loves [others] has been [spiritually] conceived by God [See 2:29; 3:9], and knows [he is in fellowship with] God. 8 The person who does not love [others] does not know God [as Savior], for [the very nature of] God is love. 9 Here is the way God's love for us was demonstrated; He sent His one and only Son into the world so that we could have [spiritual] life through Him. 10 Here is [the essence of] love: [It is] not that we loved God [first], but that He loved us [See Rom. 5:6-8] and sent His Son to be a "covering over" [i.e., atonement, 2:2] for our sins. 11 Loved ones, if God loved us that much, we should also love one another. 12 No person has gazed upon God [at any time]; [but] if we love one another, God [continually] lives in our hearts, and His love is made complete within us.
13 This is [one way] to know we live in [fellowship with] God and that He lives in our hearts: [It is] because He has given us His Holy Spirit [to live within us, See 3:24]. 14 And we [apostles] have seen and are [reliable] witnesses that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world [See 1:2; 2:2]. 15 Whoever proclaims that Jesus is the Son of God, God [continually] lives in that person's heart, and he lives in [fellowship with] God [See 2:23]. 16 And we have known [with certainty] and have believed [with assurance] that God has truly loved us. God's [very nature] is love and the person who [continually] loves [Him and others] lives in [fellowship with] God [continually], and God [continually] lives in that person's heart.
17 Here is what a complete love will do for us: It will give us boldness in [facing] the judgment day, because the way Jesus acts [regarding love] is the way we should act [while] in this world. 18 There is no [reason for] fear if one [really] loves, but a complete love removes fear [from us] because fear produces punishment [i.e., mental anxiety], and the person who is [always] afraid does not have a complete love. 19 We love [God and others] because God has first loved us.
20 If a person says, "I love God," yet [in reality] hates his brother, he is a liar. For the person who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot [possibly] love God, whom he has never seen. 21 And this is the [greatest] commandment [See Matt. 2:37-38] we have received from Him: [It requires] that the person who [claims to] love God should also love his brother.