1 John 4:1-21 Comments by Stephen Ricker
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Test the Spirits
Comments for Study 5

1 John 4:1-21
Memory Verse: 1

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I. Test the Spirits (1-6)

1. Who do the false prophets refer to? (2:19) How can we test a spirit whether it is from God or not?

1 John 4:1 "Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world."

* "Dear friends"-John addresses the Colossians (and the reader which includes me) in several ways in this letter; children, friends, etc. Because the Holy Spirit inspired this letter I can also believe that God, the Spirit is also addressing me in these ways. God considers me his friend.

* "spirit" -In Greek its "pneuma" meaning: a current of air, i.e. breath (blast) or a breeze; by anal. or fig. a spirit, i.e. (human) the rational soul, (by impl.) vital principle, mental disposition, etc., or (superhuman) an angel or demon. Although it doesn't apply here it also refers to the divine; God, Christ's spirit, and the Holy Spirit. In short it refers to a ghost, life, any spirit, and a mind.

* "do not believe every spirit" -Christians, including me, are not to be naive. We do not believe a person just because he says he is a Christian, nor just because he appears to be a spiritual person. Also if something appears and says it is an angle or even Christ himself, we should not believe him/it just because it says so no matter how impressive or supernatural he/it appears to be. Leaders/founders of sects of Christianity have claimed to have visitations from spirits saying they have a new, or extended, or more perfect, or refined revelation from God. There is a pattern in their new groups development as John points out in this document; most of their members have no control over sin and encourage it, especially sexual sins.

* "but test the spirits to see whether they are from God or not" -This applies to any spirit; even men and women; whether they call themselves a preacher, paster, shepherd, minister, ect.

* "because many false prophets have gone out" -Just as in John's day, today I see and hear many people who say they speak God's words, and may even use the Bible, but they are not from God. Any I come into contact with in a meaningful way, I am to test whether they are from God or not.

* "have gone out into the world" -this implies that they were with the people of God, the church; but left. They left because they could not accept the truth; as John points out they did not want to follow Jesus' commands. Having false prophets and cult leaders coming out of the church tells me among other things, that not all in the church (congregation) who confess the name of Jesus are in the true church of Jesus.

This is not to say that Martin Luther was wrong because he criticized the church's teaching of salvation by works. Actually, it is well documented that he never intended to leave the Roman Catholic church. He studied and taught the Bible at the University of Wittenbeerge, Saxony as a professor of Sacred Theology. Thus he learned and accepted the truth about salvation by faith alone. When he tried to teach it to others, hoping for reform, the good news of salvation by grace through faith was violently rejected. He was forced to run for his life.

1 John 4:2 "This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God,"

* This is a basic test of spirits. It is not the only one that a person should rely on.

* We should not be naive or afraid to test someone with questions.

* "Jesus" -Yeshua in Hebrew meaning salvation.

* "Christ" -Messiah in Hebrew meaning anointed and/or sent one, referring to his linage from King David, the Davidic Covenant.

* 'has come" -not that he will come. The work he was sent to do, save from sin and death is already finished. As he said on the cross just before he died, "It is finished."

* "came in the flesh" -The main error of the Gnostics. They claimed that Jesus was a spirit and/or that there were actually two Jesus' on the earth; a spirit Jesus and a physical Jesus. In order for the salvation to be perfect, Jesus had to come in the flesh. He had to be the Son of Man and the Son of God.

* Two questions we could use are:
    1) What does it mean to you personally to be called a Christian, a follower of Jesus?
    2) How does your believe in Jesus effect and/or change your every day living?

* Evangelism Explosion suggest these two questions:
    1) If you were to die today are you absolutely sure you will go to heaven?
    2) If you were to die and stand before God and he were to say to you, "Why should I let you into my heaven?" what would you say?

1 John 4:3 "but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world."

* "every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus" -All false prophets have rejected one or more of the truths about Jesus. Jesus, the one in my heart whom I read about in the Bible, is the main subject of true prophets and all true Christians.

* "This is the spirit of the antichrist" -not only the antichrist the person, but the spirit of the antichrist. Since Jesus' ascension many who had the spirit of the antichrist came into the world; the Gnostics, Mohammed, Spiritualism, Mormonism, Jehovah Witnesses, New Age, etc.

* "is coming" -the finally antichrist is possessed by Satan.

* "is already in the world" -those that come before the final one are controlled by either Satan or another evil spirit.

2. Why don't the believers need to be afraid of the false prophets? What assurance and encouragement does the author give to the readers by contrasting them to the false prophets?

1 John 4:4 "You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world."

* "overcome them" -not in physical battle, but spiritual battle we have resisted their temptation to sin.

* "the one who is in you" -God dwells with those who believe Jesus.

* "is greater" -I don't need to fear evil spirits for although they may harm me and throw insults at me, in the end they will not destroy me forever for God is greater. I will be with God forever. Jesus will raise me up again at his second coming. And I will live with him forever.

* "the one that is in the world" -Satan and his evil spirits are many. Their teachings and influences of sinful lust and self gratification is followed by many. They tell lies and mislead people to sin and corruption.

3. How do we recognize the spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood?

1 John 4:5 "They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them."

* "viewpoint of the world" -a view of the here and now, a view of the temporary, life for the moment. Godly people live with an eternal perspective.

1 John 4:6 "We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood."

* The only two viewpoints are a worldly viewpoint and a Godly viewpoint. One needs to recognize the differences and make a decision.

* We belong to a loving God.

II. This is Love (7-12)

4. Where does "love for one's brother" come from? (7) What do we have to do to draw love from God as we realize that it is not an innate virtue nor a learned behavior? In what sense does one who loves show that he has been born of God and knows God?

1 John 4:7 "Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God."

* "love comes from God" -Love only comes from God. Therefore it is impossible to love without knowing God.

* "Everyone who loves" -This is true love. Not selfish love; not a force of nature; superficial love; not liking another; not merely friends; not just feelings; but truth love.

* "has been born of God and knows God" -To truly love these two must be true. In order to love I must abide in God and remain in Jesus.

* John repeats this many times in this document/letter. He stresses God's love and love for each other.

* "born of God" -has a beginning initiated by God.

* Born of God, know God, abide in God, and remain in Jesus are emphasised.

5. Why does the author say that one who fails to love not only has no knowledge of God but is also not born in God? (8) What does the statement, "god is love" tell us about the essential nature and the motivation of all activities of God? Find the verses in the letter of 1 John where it is written: "God is..." (1:5, 2:29) What do they have to do with "God is love"?

1 John 4:8 "Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love."

* "Whoever does not love" -hate, envy, desire and others are not loving.

* "does not know God" -This is a powerful statement. I am not going to spend enough time for the depth of this statement.

* "God is love" -This tells me about the essential nature and the motivation of all activities of God. All God does comes from love. Everything is done for love for mankind as a whole as well as for his people and me. God is pure and holy. If evil were in his nature even a little then he could not always love. If he were not completely love than sometimes evil would overcome and beat him. Also, all God does is right. If he did wrong then it would not be in love, but in evil and it would hurt us.

* Verses in 1 John where it is written: "God is..." are:

1 John 1:5 "This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all."

1 John 3:20 "whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.

1 John 4:8 "Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love."

1 John 4:16 "And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.

6. How is God's love manifested in human history? (9) What is the purpose of loving? (John 3:16) How does this tell us that God's love involves concrete and objective acts? And that we ought to show our love for one another in deeds?

1 John 4:9 "This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him."

* "This is how God showed his love among us"-God did not just love me and all Christians, he also showed me his love for me. Love is practical. God's love involved action.

* "He sent his one and only Son into the world"-Most fathers love their sons dearly. They do not want any harm to come to them. But God let his son suffer on the cross and live in a world and a body that is cursed. He let this happen because he loved us and wanted us to be saved.

* "that we might live through him" -John 3:16 agrees and adds to this. It says, "For God so loved the world that he sent his one and only son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life." Jesus does to give eternal life, true life

* How does this tell us that God's love involves concrete and objective acts? If God would have said, "I love you," but did not do anything about our fallen state, then his actions would not have reflected our love. God sending his Son to save us that he loves us very dearly. It shows us that he does care and is more than willing to help us.

7. In the Hellenic world (the time of the writing of this letter) love was defined as "a cosmic principle, and the mystical craving for union with the eternal, or the insatiable craving of man for god." How is John's teaching about love different from the claims of the false teachers? How does God's presenting his Son as "an atoning sacrifice for our sins" tell us about the nature of his love?

1 John 4:10 "This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins

* "This is love" -In the Hellenic world (the time of John's writing this document) love was defined as "a cosmic principle, and the mystical craving for union with the eternal, or the insatiable craving of man for God:" John's teaching about love differs from the claims of these false teachers The bible teaches that man is basically sinful and selfish outside of God. There is no good outside of God. So man can not love, because love is opposite of these and they are against God. Man can not know what love is without the perfect example of love and then accepting it. Love is only given when we first accepting it from God. For God's love drives out sin and selfishness. Nothing else.

* God's presenting his Son as "an atoning sacrifice for our sins" tells us about the nature of his love.
    His love is sacrificial.
    His love is costly on his part.
    His love is unconditional.
    His love is wanting righteousness.
    His love is life giving.
    His love is forgiving and forgetting.

1 John 4:11 "Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another."

* "since God so loved us" -God's love involved action. Action completed it and made it clear to us.

* "we ought to love one another" -In the same way God loves me I should love others. In order for my love to be made complete it should be with acts of love.

* "one another" -This applies to those in the church. But does it apply to sinners? Of course because God loved me as a sinner.

8. How can we see God in the fullest manner - even more clearly that one sees him in a vision? (Exodus 24:11) How is God's love made complete in us?

1 John 4:12 "No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us his love is made complete in us."

* "No one has ever seen God" -Jesus said that he is the only one who has seen God the Father. Jesus is God to Son. Before he walked this earth with John and the other disciples other people did see him. For example Adam and Eve walked and talked with him. Enoch is said to have walked with God. Abraham had God come and visit him at the entrance of his tent. Jacob was told that he wrestled with God. And for example Exodus 24:9-11 says, "Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel went up and saw the God of Israel. Under his feet was something like a pavement made of sapphire, clear as the sky itself. But God did not raise his hand against these leaders of the Israelites; they saw God, and they ate and drank." Not only did John, the author of this statement walk with Jesus who is God incarnate, but as said in an earlier statement Revelation was written before this book. Therefore, John was taken into heaven and saw the glorious resurrected Jesus. Therefore, what John is saying here is the same as Jesus. No one has ever seen God the Father. what is said here is that God is spirit. And our human eyes, even our whole human body, can not see and experience God who is spirit. When God appeared to men in the past they saw what is known as a theophany. That is, god manifested himself in some form to these men so that the physical senses could detect him. Therefore, God was not revealed in all his fullness. In John 14:9 Jesus teaches the gist of what I just said.

* "God lives in us" -Since God is spirit. He gives us a new spirit by grace through faith in Jesus. God and man can again have fellowship because of this.

* "his love is made complete in us" -brought to completion; finished, accomplished.

* "if" -communion with God is conditional on our attitude toward others. Since God is pure (light) and loving. Then nothing impure (darkness) and hateful can reside in him. If we are impure and hateful we can not have communion with God.

III. Living in God and Living in Love (13-21)

9. How is "the reciprocal abiding" or "mutual indwelling of God and the believer" possible for Jesus' followers? (2:24, 4:13, 15) Who does John refer to when he says, "We" in verse 14?

1 John 4:13-15 "We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God."

* "we... us" -Believers in Jesus as Messiah and Lord.

* "seen and testify" -John heard God say that Jesus is his son on the Mount of Transfiguration.

* "Son of God" -of God in all ways.

* "testify" -We can all testify

* "acknowledges" -in heart, mind, soul, and action.

* Verse 15 goes against those who say that we can love, but do nothing else. We must love in truth, in God's way through Jesus.

10. How is it possible for us to have fellowship with God? What does this teach about faith being the only way for us to know God and his love?

11. How is it possible for us to have confidence on the day of judgement? Why do believers have no need to fear? What does the author say about the nature of gear in verse 18?

1 John 4:16-18 "And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love."

* "rely" -because by ourselves we fail.

* "confidence" -Some will be saved and yet have no confidence because they did not build their life on love, hope, and faith.

* "day of judgement" -John was writing to believers. Believer's lives will be judged like everyone else. However, since our sins are forgiven by grace through faith in Jesus, the believer's judgement will be to see how we used the new life was have been given in Christ Jesus.

* "in this world we are like him" -We do what he did because of what he done for us. Mainly are we obedience to his words. Does our lives resemble the obedience of love Jesus lives.

* "fear of punishment" -To be free of the fear of punishment we need to be confident of the love of God through Jesus.

12. What does John say about the source of genuine love? How is it possible for this love to become our own?

13. Why is love for God and love for neighbor inseparable? How is this related to our perfect love relationship with God - God's love for us and our own obedience to him? (20-21, Mk. 12:30-31, Jn. 13:34)

1 John 4:19-21 "We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, "I love God," yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother."

* "first" -Jesus' way.