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1 John 4 – Summary Exposition
- 1 John 4.1-3. Those who deny that Jesus is Messiah Christ in the flesh are false prophets and false spirits. John again brings up the controversy put forward by false prophets who are motivated by demons. They claim that Jesus is not God. Believers are to apply a test: the doctrine of Jesus Christ, Christology. The demons, through false prophets, deny the deity and humanity of Jesus Christ. These are ones who are of the anti-Christ faction.
- I John 4.1. We are to test the spirits (δοκιμαζω dokimazo to put to the test, examine, present active imperative, 1 Corinthians 11.27; Galatians 6.4; Romans 2.18) because there are many false prophets in the world These are false spirits working through false prophets. To test means to listen and think about what is taught by supposed Bible teachers that attempt to instruct us about new or strange ideas. There are many false propjets (false teachers) propagating false ideas. Anti-Christ spirits speak through them. Some of the ideas are works salvation, sign gifts today, fake healers, excess authority, Jesus is not God, new revelation
- 1 John 4.2. What was the primary test in John’s day? Do these prophets confess that Jesus Christ did come in the flesh—true deity and true humanity in one person? There is much meaning in this confession. In John’s terminology this meant the man Jesus is God in the flesh, God’s prophesied and anointed divine creator, redeemer, savior, and king of the world as he wrote in John 1.1-18, 29; 10.30; 20.19-31; 1 John 1.1-4; 1 Corinthians 1.2; 12.3; Romans 10.9; Philippians 2.11.See the doctrine of the hypostatic union.
- 1 John 1.3. Those spirits directing the prophets to say that Jesus Christ did not come in the flesh are not from God.
- There were also false prophets and doctrines of demons (Matthew 7.15-20; Acts 20.29; 1 John 2.18; 2 John 7; 2 Peter 2.1; 1 Timothy 4.1; Ephesians 6.10-12).
- Acts 19.6, 21.10-11 tell us that the Holy Spirit spoke through true prophets in the first century.
- John’s points: 1. we are to be careful to think biblically about what we see and hear, and therefore test the spirits in the world. 2. We must never waver from the doctrine of the hypostatic union—Jesus Christ is undiminished deity and true humanity in one person forever. 3. Christology, as John emphasized in chapter one is foundational to our Christian lives.
- 1 John 4.4-6. God’s children in John’s audience have overcome the false spirits because God’s Spirit lives in them and he is stronger than Satan, the false spirits, and their prophets. This can be true for all believers. The world listens to the false prophets (1 John 5.19). What is said is a matter of viewpoint—God’s biblical viewpoint versus the world’s viewpoint, also called the doctrine of demons. God’s apostles and teachers speak from God. Those who know God—know intimately as John has already written—pay attention to God’s message through his apostles and teachers. They are able to tell the difference between what the Holy Spirit teaches and what the false spirits teach through the false prophets. The Spirit of truth is the Holy Spirit in view of 1 John 4.2, 4. See 1 John 3.24, 4.13; Ephesians 2.2, 2; Corinthians 4.4.
- 1 John 4.4. John calls his readers little children, a diminutive title for endearment here. They belong to God. Because they belong to God they have the Holy Spirit, the one in them, and because they have the Holy Spirit they have and they can overcome the false prophets working under the false spirits or demons (overcome, νικαω nikao in the perfect active indicative, probably intensive perfect for the readers at that time; to win, conquer, overcome). Since we have the Holy Spirit, as we listen to God’s word and believe it we are able to overcome false teachers’ message. We have that ability. The world refers to the viewpoint of the world in contrast to God’s viewpoint. See I John 5.19; John 12.31, 14.30, 15.19, 16.11, 17.14; 1 Corinthians 2.12; 2 Corinthians 4.4; Ephesians 2.12, 6.12; 1 John 2.15-17.
- 1 John 4.5. They who revise God’s word are natives of the world and hold the world’s viewpoint. The world listens to them, not to God or believers.
- 1 John 4.6.Those who know God listen to God’s apostles, and those who do not know God do not listen. So, this is one way to know who is a spirit of truth or error.
- 1 John 4.7-8. Believers are to love one another with the love which God produces in believers. This is godly love, and is different in source and kind from human love. The natural condition of the one born from God is love. Like father like son. This love is that daily love (everyone who loves, present participle of αγαπαω agapao) that comes only from one born of God (perfect tense of γενναω gennao, to give birth) and who knows God intimately at that time (present tense of γινωσκω ginosko). “Does not know God” the person does not have intimate fellowship with God.
- 1 John 4.9-11. God made his love clear to us by sending his Son into the world so we might have eternal life. Love began with God. God’s love motivated the incarnation. Propitiation means God accepted the sacrifice of his Son for the sins of everyone. Think of the Old Testament mercy seat in the Holy of Holies. That is where God’s justice, mercy, and love joined for Israel’s benefit. Godly love, then, is sacrificial. The application for us is that we love other believers. God set the pattern for love (1 John 4.11). See the doctrine of removal of the sin barrier.
- 1 John 4.12-13. Even though no one has seen God (He is Spirit, John 4.24), when we love one another four things are true.
- 1. The invisible God dwells in us. 2. God’s love (subjective genitive) is accomplished, made complete, perfected in us, 3. This love comes from the Holy Spirit, 4. so because God’s love (godly love) is accomplished in us at that time
- we conclude that God actually abides in us and we in God.
- That God abides is us and we abide in God is especially evident when God’s love is working through us to other believers. This is a mutual relationship between God and the believer. See John 15 and 1 John 1.7.
- 1 John 4.14-16. John repeats what he began with in chapter 1—that he and the apostles saw, heard, and touched the Jesus, the Son of God.
- 1 John 4.14. the apostolic band physically experienced Jesus on earth. See 1 John 1.1-5. Jesus, the son of God is the savior of the world (doctrines: removal of the sin barrier, unlimited atonement. The incarnation and ministry of the Holy Spirit are central to John’s themes of Christology, abiding, and godly love (see John 3.16; 1 John 1.3-4).
- 1 John 4.15.The person who confesses (`ομολογεω homologeo, admit acknowledge, confess, to assure, agree, profess, claim, in the present active subjunctive) that Jesus is the Son of God—possibly in association with other believers—is giving witness to the truth about Jesus who came into the world, the Messiah, in accord with John’s statements See John 1.29, 34, 36; 11.17-46; 20.30-31; 1 Corinthians 12.3.
- 1 John 4.16. This band of believers experienced (know and believe, perfect tenses) God’s love personally. God is love. His nature is love. Whoever abides, dwells in Godly love must by necessity also abide-dwell in God and God in him.
- 1 John 4.17-21. God first loved us, and we are to love God and other believers. John mentions love 46 times in 1 John. We continue to learn that godly love (that which God produces in the believer through the Holy Spirit) is a 1. mark of a believer 2. a responsibility of a believer, and it 3. gives us confidence in our Christian life.
- 1 John 4.17. Abiding in God brings with it abiding in love. Love produces confidence for the coming judgment seat of Christ. Love and confidence go t
- ogether. Fear and confidence do not go together. Jesus loved. He did not fear. So when we have godly love working, we also do not fear judgment. And, we show God’s character the way we live in the world.
- 1 John 4.18. Are we focusing on the Lord or on possible judgment? Godly love removes fear of judgment. Love is God’s nature. He does not fear nor does he face punishment. Love removes fear. One who is experiencing and expressing godly love is under God’s direction and so will not fear the judgment seat of Christ
- 1 John 4.19. God initiated this love; it was sacrificial; it was known by God sending his son (1 John 4.9-10, 19). First John 4.11 teaches that it is also our responsibility to love. Even though no one has seen God because he is spirit, yet his existence and character become evident by our godly love for others (1 John 4.12-14). Biblical Christology (“confess that Jesus is the Son of God”) is inseparable from abiding in God (meno μενω, to remain, to continue, and in John’s context to remain in fellowship with God) and experiencing and expressing godly love (1 John 4.15-17).
- 1 John 4.20-21. Furthermore, love of God and hate of a spiritual brother are not compatible. The conclusion is that if one loves God he should also love his spiritual brother.