About Jesus     Steve Sweetman

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ch. 4:1-6   ch. 4:7-24


Test The Spirits (ch. 4:1-6)


John opens chapter 4 with the words “dear friends”.  Before it was “dear children”.  By using such words it is as though he is pleading with them.  They add more emphases to what he is about to say.


John has been speaking about false teachers. Now he turns to false prophets.  He says “do not believe every spirit”.   He says to test the spirits to see if they really come from God or not.  Where else would a spirit come from?  Of course, a spirit could come from the devil.  False prophets were in the church in John's day as they are in the so-called church today.  There are so many voices in the church today that it is hard to separate the true voice from the false voice, but if you know your Bible the separation can be made.  


John equates false prophets to false spirits.  I therefore conclude the satan is behind the false teaching in the church.  It's more than a product of man.  It's a product of the devil. 


The context tells us that the Holy Spirit should clue us in concerning false prophets.  But also the teaching of the Bible should help us know what is true and what is untrue.  The readers that John writes to did not have the New Testament in one concise book as we do, so they had to know what men like John, Peter and Paul taught and compare other teaching with theirs. 


In verse 2 the first rule to test a spirit is to see if the spirit, or the so-called prophet believes that Jesus has come in the flesh according to John.  John is speaking of the Deity of Christ here.  Jesus, the Son of God was born into human existence.  This is the basis to all we believe.  If a person does not believe this, then he cannot be a true Christian, and what he teaches is then not Godly.  Cerinthus did not believe in the Deity of Christ and therefore his teaching was wrong.


I’m not convince that John is speaking about secondary teachings here.  An example of a secondary teaching is the pre-tribulation rapture.  Some believe this teaching and some don’t.  One can be a true Christian no matter where he stands on this doctrine.  I say that John might not be speaking about secondary doctrines here because the test he gives us to test the spirits by is whether someone believes in the Deity of Christ.  He doesn’t give any other rule to test by.  So what I’m thinking John is meaning here concerns the primary doctrines of Christ, those teachings that pertain to who Jesus is and our salvation.  


Christians should be able to vigorously discuss and debate secondary issues such as a pre-trib rapture without separating over.  When it comes to primary doctrines of Jesus and salvation, there should be no debate.  One problem some have is that they incorporate secondary issues into the circle of primary issues.  This causes undue problems and unnecessary division.   


In verse 2 John says that anyone who acknowledges that Jesus has come in the flesh is from God, that is, he is a true believer.  Beyond this point we may differ on certain issues, but we cannot differ on this issue.


In verse 3 John says that those spirits who don’t believe that Jesus has come in the flesh is the spirit of anti-christ.  He says that this spirit of anti-christ is now actually in the world.  The anti-christ himself, that is, the main anti-christ, not his underlings is yet to come.  But before that day comes, the spirit of anti-christ was in the world in John’s day and is in our day as well.  This spirit promotes the idea that God has not come in the flesh in the form of Jesus His Son.  Many people in the world today are motivated by the spirit of anti-christ.


In verse 4 John is telling his readers that they have “overcome them”.  The “them” refers to the false teachers and prophets who have the spirit of anti-christ.  The reason why his readers have over come them is because “greater is He who is in them, than he that is in the world”.  The Spirit of God dwells in his readers.  The Spirit of God tells us who is real and who is false.  The Spirit of God is able to help us not give into the wrong teaching of these men.  This shows us how important the Holy Spirit is to the life of the believer and the success of the church.  If churches refuse to embrace the Holy Spirit, they will stray from the truth.  There is no doubt about that. 


In verse 5 John says that these false teachers and prophets are of the world, and we know the world is of the devil.  The world listens and follows these men, because they belong to each other, but true Christians don’t follow the false teachers because they are not of the world.  What John is saying here is that there are only two sides that one can be on.  Either he is on the side of God or the side of the devil.  I used to think there was a third side, and that was the side of man, but there is no third side.  Man is either on God's side or the devil's side.  There is no in between.    


John makes a dramatic statement in verse 6.  He says, “we are from God, whoever knows God listens to us”.  What John is saying is that the anti-christ teachers and prophets are not from God, even though they may claim to be from God.  Those who listen to these men are not from God either.  Those who listen to John and his fellow apostles are from God because they listen to them.


John then says, “this is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood”.  What John is clearly saying here is actually another rule to test the spirits by.  This rule is that those who listen to him are from God and those who don’t are from the spirit of anti-christ.  Once again, these are pretty drastic words.  This shows us the position that John held in the church in those days.


We have to be careful how we use John's words that he speaks here.  Some Christian leaders repeat exactly what John says here.  They say, "if you don't listen to me, then you are not of God."  They say this in order to dominate others under them.  That should not be why a leader should say these words.  As a matter of fact, I say that Christian leaders are on a sub-level compared to John.  Pastors today cannot claim to be on the same level of inspiration as those who wrote the Bible, or so I believe.  So a pastor must really be careful if he uses these words today   


God’s Love And Ours (ch.4:7-24)


In verse 7 John continues to press down on the topic of love.  He admonishes his readers to love one another.  The love mentioned by John is “agape” love.  This is the kind of love that God has for us.  It is a selfless love, meaning, you think of the other person over yourself. Yet as we said before, this love is built on the foundation of truth.  We love according to truth.  We stand on the side of truth at all costs.  If a brother sins, we don’t condone the sin.  We don’t brush it off in the name of love.  God doesn’t do that, neither should we.


John says that those who love in such a way are born of God.  The question could be asked then, can non-Christians love in this selfless way that John is talking about?  Maybe to a degree they can.  One thing is sure.  Many non-Christians do a better job at loving than Christians. 


John is not saying that loving in this manner gets one saved.  He is also not saying that just because one loves with agape love means he is saved.  Such love is one way in which you can tell that someone is actually born of God.  There are other Scriptures to consider when thinking of these things.  If one has not given his life to Jesus in trusting faith, then it doesn’t matter how much they love.  They are not born of God.  The point that John is making here is that true Godly love follows real faith.


John says that those who love also know God.  They are born of God and also know Him.  To really love in the way that John is speaking about on a continual basis one has to begin to know God, not just know about Him.  Being born of God, born of the Spirit begins this knowing process.  A personal relationship with God helps us with the ability to love.


On the other hand, in verse 8 John says that those who don't love aren’t born of God and don’t know Him.  Why does John say this?  Because “God is love”.  God is the epidemy of love.


One thing we should note here is that John is not addressing non-Christians.  He is addressing Christians.  He is addressing the church where there are false teachers.  The matter of love here is strictly in the context of determining who is really of God and who isn't.  The false teachers were not of God for many reasons.  Their lack of love is just one reason.  John does not address the topic of non-Christians, if they can love or not.  I'd suggest that John wouldn't think that a non-Christian can have real "agape" love, but that might be debatable.   


So, in verses 7 and 8 we need to understand that there are varying aspect to love.  John is speaking of the highest level of love, and that is the way God loves.  When it really comes down to it, man can't love in the same way God does.  The Christian, if he is a real Christian, can begin to love as God loves, but still can't totally love as God does.  If that is so, then non-Christians can't love with "agape" love   


In verse 9 John tells us how God showed His love to us.  He says that He sent His One and Only Son into the world to live among us.  From a human standpoint we can’t understand the seriousness of such love.  So God sent His Son to earth.  How hard could that be?  Jesus pre-existed before His incarnation.  It is my understanding that He was perfectly joined in Spirit with God His Father.  When He came to earth He left that existence and became separated from the Father.  Upon Jesus' ascension He returned to be with His Father, but not in the same form of existence.  He now has some type of glorified body.  By implication then, Jesus is not in the same form of existence as He once was before His incarnation and is somewhat separated from His Father in this new existence. He is not separated geographically, if you could use such a term.  He sits at God’s right hand.  Yet physically He is separated, not like He once was when He was the Eternal Word of God.  This in my thinking, and is derived from other passages in the Bible.  If this is the case, then you have a slight clue to how much God and Jesus loved us.  Jesus’ existence has been eternally changed because of what He has done for us.   So this is the love that John is talking about here, and that is why I say that non-Christians can't love in this way, and even Christians can't without help from God. 


In verse 10 John makes it clear that we did not love God.  He loved us by sending His Son to be “an atoning sacrifice for our sins”.  Jesus was the perfect blood sacrifice that made it possible for us to be friends with God as He originally planned in the Garden of Eden. This is what the word “atone” means.


We can't love God because fallen man does not have the ability to do so.  We can only begin to love God after receiving His Spirit


In verse 11 John tells his readers that because God so loved us, we should love one another in the same way.  This is they way it should be with all aspects of our relationship with Jesus.  We should relate to our brothers and sisters in Christ the same way we relate to God, and we should relate to Jesus much better than we do.   We take Him for granted way too often just as we take each other for granted way too often.


In verse 12 John says that “no one has ever  seen God”. God is a spirit.  God is so majestic and powerful that we cannot stand in His presence.  I’m not convinced that we will ever see God.  We will see Jesus, and as the Book of Hebrews says, He will be our high priest forever.  We will always need Jesus to represent us before the Father.  He will always be our mediator because we are unable to approach God on our own, or so I believe.


What John says here he heard Jesus Himself say.  In John 1:18, that's John's gospel book, not this letter, Jesus said that no one has ever seen God, except God's only Son.  So if you think you will see God in the future, you must consider what Jesus said and see how that fits into things.


John then says in verse 12 that God lives in us.  I think what he is saying is that we won't see God, but we will see Him in our brother in Christ if we demonstrate God's love. 


What does it mean when John says that "God's love is made complete in us"?  I see God's love as a circle of love.  He shows love to us.  We show that same love to others, that reveals God to the world.  Other's return that love to both their brothers and to God.  The love that God showed to us is not complete, if it is not passed on to others.  


In verse 13 John says that “we know we live in Him because He has given us His Spirit”.  God’s Spirit lives in the individual believer.  This is yet another way in which John says that we know we are born again.  He’s told us that if we follow him, we are born of God.  If we love we are born of God.  Now if we have the Spirit, we are born of God. 


In verse 14 John says that “we have seen and testify that God sent His Son to be the Saviour of the world”.  John seen Jesus first hand.  He saw and touched Him.  I guess you have to decide whether to believe John or not.   


When John says that Jesus was sent to be the Saviour of the world, does this mean all in the world will be saved as some say?  No.  You need to consider the multitude of verses that say that “whosoever believes will be saved”.  Jesus died for the whole world, but not all in the world want His salvation.


If Jesus is indeed the Saviour of the whole world, then Mohamed and others can’t be saviours.  This is the Christian gospel that separates us from other religions.   


In verse 14 John says that anyone who “acknowledges” that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, lives in God and He in him.  The Greek word “homologeo” is the word translated  as acknowledge in this verse.  It literally means to speak the same thing.  To me this means that we must agree and speak the same thing as God speaks concerning His son.  This speaking, like true faith, is not merely mental ascent to the truth.  This speaking has to be a conviction of the heart.   So here is yet another way in which we can tell that a person is a true Christian.  John has given us a number of ways in which we can tell the true from the false.  Remember, he is writing these things to help his readers see that the false teachers like Cerinthus should not be followed.


In verse 16 John says that we know and rely on God’s love.  Rely is faith and trust.  As one relies on anything for what that thing can provide, so we rely solely on Jesus for the salvation that He provides.  I often say that we have given our lives to Jesus in a trusting relationship.  We trust Him with our whole lives which includes our salvation. The “knowing” of Jesus is a result of this trusting relationship.


In the last half of verse 16 John says that “God is love, and whoever lives in love, lives in God”.  Remember, we are talking about God’s kind of love here.  The selfless love that continues at all times comes from God.  This kind of love is impossible for man without the Holy Spirit. 


In verse 17 John says that if we have such a love between us then God’s love is complete.  As I said earlier, God loves us, but it is not His intension that this love should stop with us.  We must share God's love with others.  This completes the circle of God's love.  The love of God has completed its journey to and through us and eventually returns to Him in our adoration of Him and obedience to Him.


If this is truly the case, that is, if we really do love as we should, then John says that we will have “confidence on the day of judgment”.  There will be a day of judgment or else John would not have told his readers of this day.  On that day, we may have some confidence, depending on how we live in the world.  John says our confidence will be intact because we presently live like Jesus lived while on earth. 


Verse 18 is a well known verse.  John says that “there is no fear in love” and that love drives out fear.  If you have a loving relationship with someone, you don’t fear that person.  There’s nothing to hide and there’s nothing to be ashamed of.  Perfect love destroys any kind of fear.  Yet fear still exists in many areas of life’s relationships, all because of a lack of love.  This does not mean we will be arrogant on the Day of Judgment.  I do believe we will fall on our knees in divine adoration and humility because of the love of God.  We will not even know how to express our thanks to Jesus for His great love.  That being said, we certainly will not have to fear being punished by the Almighty God. 


In verse 19 John says that “we love because he first loved us”.  John might be saying here that if we do express the love of God to others, it is because we have received this kind of love from God and are able to express it to others.  He might well be implying that one cannot express true love without receiving God’s love first.  It's almost like love has never been expressed in the world until Jesus died on the cross and expressed  ultimate love.


In verse 20 John uses the word “liar” again, which he has used before and is not afraid of using it again.  He says that if any of us who claim to love God and hate his brother is a liar.  One cannot have the love of God in him and hate his brother at the same time.  I believe John is speaking of hate here, not merely a dislike.  There are some we like better than others.  We get along with some better than others.  Some may irritate us to no end, but it doesn’t mean we hate them. 


John ends this chapter by reminding his readers of the commandment that he has spoken of before.  The command is that if we claim to love God, we must love our brother.  This is a command of Jesus and nothing less.  How we love our brothers in Christ shows how much we love Jesus.



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