“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.”
This phrase refers to the previous part of the verse. We can distinguish truth and error from the special revelation of God’s Word. To those who know the Word, divine revelation is a self-evident fact.
we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error
It is important to distinguish between truth and error. Those with the “spirit of error” do not respond to the truth; they do not hear the Bible as God’s Word. Those with the “spirit of truth” have God’s truth at heart. The Bible is characteristically their criterion of truth. They will acknowledge that Jesus came out of heaven as the Son of God and stepped foot in the flesh.
Protection from error is found in loyalty to the criterion of truth in God’s Word.
Men of our day ever learn but cannot come to conclusions about the truth because they cannot accept the idea that there are absolutes. Finite man cannot come to infinite truth autonomously. He needs God and he needs a revelation of God in the Bible. Christians come to truth through the self-evident Word of God.
2 Ti 3: 7 “…always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
2 Pe 2: 2 “And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed.”
The Word of God calls the Holy Spirit “the Spirit of truth”. The Holy Spirit is truth and He imparts truth. We secure protection from error in loyalty to the truth from the Spirit of truth (2:7, 24; 3:11; 2 Jn 5, 9).
Jn 14: 16 “And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever— 17 “the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.”
Jn 15: 26 “But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me.”
Jn 16: 13 “However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.