Greater Is He That Is In Me: The Real Meaning of 1 John 4:4
“Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” — 1 John 4:4, ESV
This passage of scripture is one of the most popularly quoted among Christians — right up there with John 3:16 (“God so loved the world”), 1 Timothy 1:7 (“God has not given us a spirit of fear”), and Romans 10:9 (“confess with your mouth”). It is a motivational verse for fearless living. Whether its dealing with a bad boss, an unfaithful friend, a critic, or with some unmet life goal, this verse is used to encourage Christians that they can overcome any perceived obstacle in their life.
What many fail to realize is that the writer John has a very specific purpose in mind for this statement that has nothing to do with bad bosses, unfaithful friends, or life dreams. Rather, John’s goal is to assure his readers that they have overcome the false prophets he introduces in verse 1: “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.”
It’s frustrating that Christians who quote 1 John 4:4 almost never mention it within the context of dealing with false teachers. In fact, many false teachers themselves use this very verse to support their health and wealth prosperity gospel. It is used as a motivational instrument to encourage people to have the courage to chase their own dreams and desires.
That’s probably why you’ll find it on coffee mugs and bookmarks, mouse pads and t-shirts in every Christian store and coffee shop. Many popular Christian songs include the verse in their lyrics, not to mention in top selling devotionals. To many Christians, 1 John 4:4 is just another in a line of marketable catchphrases.