New Defender's Study Bible Notes
4:1 try the spirits. Every pastor, teacher, evangelist or other Christian who professes to speak authoritatively and seeks to influence others in spiritual matters should be examined by the elders or other mature Christians before allowing him to speak in the church or other Christian group. True men of God will be led by the indwelling Holy Spirit, and the Scriptures which He inspired. False teachers are influenced by demonic spirits (note I Timothy 4:1), and their teachings—even with respect to the Scriptures—should be rejected.
4:1 false prophets. Even in John’s time, there were many false prophets, false apostles and false teachers plaguing the church (note, e.g., Matthew 24:11; II Corinthians 11:13; II Peter 2:1), and they will get even worse in the last days (e.g., Mark 13:22; II Timothy 3:13; 4:3-4). It is more urgent than even in John’s day to be able to discern the true and false teachers (that is, the Holy Spirit versus the seducing spirits and to recognize which is illuminating the professed teacher).