About Jesus Steve Sweetman
This Section - Chapters 4
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.