“They are of the world.  Therefore they speak as of the world, and the world hears them. 
We are of God.  He who knows God hears us; he who is not of God does not hear us.  By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.”

The Apostle John, in his first epistle, is writing to his ‘little children…so that [they]may not sin.”  (ch.2 v.1)  A significant portion of this letter is in the form of a warning.  Warnings about enemies, apostates, Satan, and false teachers are all included. 

In chapter four, he exhorts us:  “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”  (v.1)

Then John gives us a comparison in verses four and five.  He first tells us that the false prophets are ‘in the world,‘  and ‘the world hears them.’   As opposed to those of us who ‘are of God…’ and ‘…know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.’  

So those who are in the world listen to the false teachers and accept their teachings.  These people cannot/choose not to discern the error that they ‘hear.’  They do not compare the teachings to Scripture.  (Acts 17:11)   They just go along having their ears tickled. 

Whereas those who are of God hear the teachings of Scripture and recognize the the difference between the truth and error.  A key word in verse five is ‘know.’  


Word study from Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary:

Know– from the Greek verb meaning  “to be taking in knowledge, to come to know, recognize, understand,” or “to understand completely.”



Christians should  ‘know’  the difference between the world and its spirit of error and God and His spirit of truth.


And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding, that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His son Jesus Christ.  This is the true God and eternal life. 
Little children, keep yourselves from idols.  Amen.
(1 John 5:20-21)