Having highlighted the importance of personal responsibility and doctrinal understanding in connection to testing the views of others, John them mentions a third way by which God’s people are protected from error. It is important to realise that we are not being asked to select one of the three methods and use it as our preferred option. Instead we are to use all three. The third help is the presence of the Spirit. What does John say about his work?
First, John points out that the Spirit enables his people to overcome false prophets. The language that he uses indicates that he is speaking about spiritual warfare in which God’s people resist and overcome a Satanic ploy to defeat them. Believers discover that, despite implementing their personal responsibility and understanding of the truths of the faith, the infiltration by the enemy goes on. In such situations they discover that divine help is given to them as they make use of the other two weapons. Their resolve to be loyal to Jesus deepens and their desire to understand the Bible’s teachings increases, and that is the evidence that the Spirit is at work within. This is how such overcome. But if there is no resolve to adhere to Jesus and no desire to appreciate doctrines, there is no evidence that the Spirit is present.
Second, the indwelling Spirit leads his people to listen to the words of the apostles. We should note John’s use of pronouns in verses 4-6: ‘you’ in verse 4 refers to believers; ‘they’ in verse 5 refers to false teachers; ‘we’ in verse 6 is a group different from both the ‘you’ and the ‘they’. John gives a straightforward explanation: whoever belongs to God will be led by the Spirit to accept the teachings of the apostles; a failure to accept their teachings is clear evidence of the absence of the Spirit.