Today: [1 John 4:] Contrasting the Spirit of Anti-Christ and the Love of God. In chapter 4 John defines for us the working of the spirit of anti-Christ that functions already in the world around us. The defining characteristic for those who are of God and those who are not is what does one believe about Jesus and does that belief manifest in an outworking of the Love of God toward others?
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[1Jo 4:1-21 KJV] 1 Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. 2 Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: 3 And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that [spirit] of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world. 4 Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world. 5 They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them. 6 We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error. 7 Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. 8 He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. 9 In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. 10 Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son [to be] the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. 12 No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us. 13 Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son [to be] the Saviour of the world. 15 Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God. 16 And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. 17 Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. 19 We love him, because he first loved us. 20 If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? 21 And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.
Chapter 4 begins with a statement that not everything spiritual is godly. For this reason, we are to try the spirits. Even in the early years of the church, the instance of false prophets was very common according to John. This is very concerning, and of course, the question is how do we know those that approved of God and those who are not? John gives us an indication in v. 2. Any influence, teaching, prophet or spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God. Every spirit that confesses that Jesus did not come in the flesh is not of God but is the spirit of anti-Christ that was already working even in the first century.
It was a common belief in the early centuries of the church that Jesus only appeared to come in human form. The reasoning what that if Jesus is God and God is not a man then Jesus didn’t really come to earth as a man but only appeared to do so.
Variations on this theme contend that Jesus didn’t actually die on the cross but just swooned or portrayed himself as dying but did not because God cannot die. Other beliefs concluded that Jesus only subjected the physical body of the man called Jesus while the part of him that was God ascended to heaven before his death occurred. These beliefs may seem strange to us, but according to recent polls, only 25 percent of Christians in the Western world believe that Jesus rose again. Only 27 percent of those polled believe in the return of Christ in any form. This shows us the pervasiveness in our day of what John clearly defines for us as the spirit of anti-Christ very effectively influencing not only individual Christians but Christian culture as a whole.
What are we to conclude then? We are of God (v. 4) the apostle declares, and as children of God, our mandate is to overcome the spirit of the world and the influence of the world that continually works to erode our faith in the fundamental tenets of the gospel. By the year 325, the major doctrines of the church were under such assault that a church council convened of Christian leaders throughout the civilized world. A set of core beliefs was drafted that became known as the Nicean creed which reads as follows:
I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.
And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made.
Who, for us men for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried; and the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.
And I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of Life; who proceeds from the Father and the Son; who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; who spoke by the prophets.
And I believe one holy catholic and apostolic Church. I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins; and I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.
This creed is still widely accepted by the Catholic church, the Eastern Orthodox church, and most Protestant churches. The embrace of these fundamental beliefs defines for us those who are of the world and those who are of God.
The world (v. 5) speaks of the things of the world, and the world hears them. Those that are not of God do not hear those that are of God. If the world does not listen to us or receive the testimony of our faith, does that mean we have failed to become relevant? Or does it mean that we are of God and therefore those that are in error naturally would not hear what we have to say? Today’s church is so plaintively desiring to be accepted by the world that we consider the scorn of the world to be the failure of the church. John’s perspective is much different. If the world hears us not it is because we are of God; therefore by this, we know (v. 6) the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.
Because we are living out our faith in such a hostile environment (v. 7) we are to love one another. Every one that loves is born of God. What kind of love are we talking about? It is more than tolerance and acknowledgment. God is love (v. 8). Love is who God is as well as what He does. How does love manifest? The love of God is manifest in the gift of His Son. God so loves that He gave. We demonstrate love by our liberality. The absence of benevolence is a deficit of love. If God so loved that He gave (v. 11) so we ought to love one another and allow that love to be perfected in us (v. 12).
John again reiterates (v. 14) that he is speaking concerning what he personally witnessed of the life and resurrection of Christs. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the son of God dwells in God and God in him. Again another litmus test of the faith. Who is Jesus to you? John declares that Jesus is God. Many maintain they are Christians, but their belief in Jesus is instead that he was a good man whose importance to us is as an example of altruism and kindness. He is much more than this. He is the light that lights every man that comes into the world. He is the Logos – that which proceeds from God and gives all things their created reality.
Not only do we believe God but we embrace expectations regarding our own lives because of that belief. Because we believe that belief works itself out in our lives in our love one for another. Herein we are bold believing (v. 17) that as He is so are we in this world. Because as He is so are we then we have no fear. Perfect love predicated on faith in Jesus casts out all fear. If we are fearful, John declares it is indicative of a deficient or defective understanding of Jesus who Jesus is and who He is to us.
Why do we love Jesus? Because He first loved us. Theology defines this as God being the first principle of all things. God is always first. No man comes to the Father Jesus taught – except the Spirit draw Him. If we say we love God but hate (def. love less) we are a liar John states. If we cannot love our brother made in the image of God how can we say that we love God whom we have never seen? Here is the commandment of God handed down to us through the son that our love for God is only validated through our love one for another.
What is this love? Is it tolerance? Is it unconditional acceptance and total approval of one another? God so loved the world that He gave, but even in this He never stopped being a righteous judge. On what basis do we love? We love those who do not deserve love. When Jesus said freely we have received freely give the wording means that we received the love of God that we did not deserve; therefore we are to love others though they are undeserving. This kind of love does not look at you and love you because you are so deserving and good and perfect. We look at those around us as conclude how undeserving they and we ourselves are undeserving as well of receiving the love of God and we decide to love anyway. This is the love of God that we are commanded to demonstrate toward one another from a posture of humility and not the obscene narcissistic version of love that the world embraces today.
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