I John Chapter Four

 

v1. "BELOVED; BELIEVE NOT EVERY SPIRIT, BUT TRY THE SPIRITS WHETHER THEY ARE OF GOD: BECAUSE MANY FALSE PROPHETS ARE GONE OUT INTO THE WORLD.

 

            It is evident that 1 John was written as a warning against a false philosophy (Gnosticism) and as a response to the activities of certain false teachers.  Too, the apostle John desired his readers to be certain to enjoy the blessings of being in Christ.  In order to accomplish this, however, the Christian must continue his "walk in the light" (I John 1:7).  The apostle pointed out two major barriers that hinder this walk; they are (1) falling in love with the world (I John 2:15-17) and (2) falling for the alluring lies of false teachers (prophets) (I John 2:18-22; 3:7; 4:1-6).

 

I John 2:18 "LITTLE CHILDREN, IT IS THE LAST TIME: AND AS YE HAVE HEARD THAT ANTICHRIST SHALL COME, EVEN NOW ARE THERE MANY ANTICHRISTS; WHEREBY WE KNOW THAT IT IS THE LAST TIME."

 

Matthew 24:4-5, 24 "AND JESUS ANSWERED AND SAID UNTO THEM, TAKE HEED THAT NO MAN DECEIVE YOU.  FOR MANY SHALL COME IN MY NAME, SAYING, I AM CHRIST; AND SHALL DECEIVE MANY."  v24. "FOR THERE SHALL ARISE FALSE CHRISTS, AND FALSE PROPHETS, AND SHALL SHOW GREAT SIGNS AND WONDERS; INSOMUCH THAT, IF IT WERE POSSIBLE, THEY SHALL DECEIVE THE VERY ELECT."

 

I Thessalonians 5:21 "PROVE ALL THINGS; HOLD FAST THAT WHICH IS GOOD."

 

II Peter 2:1  "BUT THERE WERE FALSE PROPHETS ALSO AMONG THE PEOPLE, EVEN AS THERE SHALL BE FALSE TEACHERS AMONG YOU, WHO PRIVILY SHALL BRING IN DAMNABLE HERESIES, EVEN DENYING THE LORD THAT BOUGHT THEM, AND BRING UPON THEMSELVES SWIFT DESTRUCTION."

 

Revelation 2:2  (Jesus to the church at Ephesus) "I KNOW THY WORKS, AND THY LABOUR, AND THY PATIENCE, AND HOW THOU CANST NOT BEAR THEM WHICH ARE EVIL: AND THOU HAST TRIED THEM WHICH SAY THEY ARE APOSTLES, AND ARE NOT, AND HAST FOUND THEM LIARS."

 

The phrase "believe not every spirit" conveys the thought: "stop believing every spirit."  Christians are not to be gullible, especially our elders who are responsible for what we are taught in our congregations, but rather we are  to have the attitude of the Bereans: "NOW THESE WERE MORE NOBLE THAN THOSE IN THESSALONICA, IN THAT THEY RECEIVED THE WORD WITH ALL READINESS OF MIND, EXAMINING THE SCRIPTURES DAILY, WHETHER THESE THINGS WERE SO" (Acts 17:11).

            John commanded the saints to "prove the spirits" - to prove by trial, to test those who were claiming to be prophets inspired by Jehovah (cf. I Thessalonians 5:19-21).  "Every spirit" was defined by John as meaning every prophet, every teacher pretending or claiming that his message is from or has its origin in, God’s Word.

It will serve us well to remember that the watchwords for the true teacher of Jehovah were (and still are) "THUS SAITH JEHOVAH" (Deuteronomy 18:15-22; Jeremiah 4:3; I Peter 4:11)

Thus, John wanted his readers to be discerners (diakrisis, and all that that family of words implies) of prophets and teachers coming to them.

 

v2.  "HEREBY KNOW YE THE SPIRIT OF GOD: EVERY SPIRIT THAT CONFESSETH THAT JESUS CHRIST IS COME IN THE FLESH IS OF GOD:"

 

After giving the command and stating the need to test the spirits/prophets, John said, "here is the test."  Quite literally, "every spirit {teacher} who admits, confesses, or declares Jesus Christ is come in the flesh [human nature], of God he is."  The origin of the message of these teachers or preachers may be discerned by their teaching.  It is not merely a formula of words which John has in mind here, but the very essence of Christianity.  It is not merely a confession of His identity, but rather a profession of faith in the Christ "openly and boldly" as the Incarnate Lord.

 

I John 5:1 "WHOSOEVER BELIEVETH THAT JESUS IS THE CHRIST IS BORN (BEGOTTEN) OF GOD: AND EVERY ONE THAT LOVETH HIM THAT BEGAT LOVETH HIM ALSO THAT IS BEGOTTEN OF HIM."

 

I Corinthians 12:3 "WHEREFORE I GIVE YOU TO UNDERSTAND, THAT NO MAN SPEAKING BY THE SPIRIT OF GOD CALLETH JESUS ACCURSED: AND that NO MAN CAN SAY THAT JESUS IS THE LORD, BUT BY THE HOLY GHOST."

 

v3.  "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."

 

Here John presented the negative part of the "acid test" by which the measure of certain teachers then working might be discerned and identified.  The construction of this verse suggests a reference to the Gnostics' heresies; both of which denied the Incarnation (for different reasons).  We must conclude that John was saying that in acknowledging Jesus Christ was both human and Deity; the teacher proved this claim of being guided of Jehovah in his message (cf. I Corinthians 12:3).  Is that sufficient today?  No, because there are many that uphold Jesus as being both human and Deity that teach false doctrines and false practices of all sorts.

It appears significant that the Holy Spirit chose to use the neuter form ("it") in reference to the "spirit of anti-Christ" as opposed to a masculine or feminine form (indicating a person).  This helps us to understand that the spirit of anti-Christ is the predisposition or attitude on the part of all false teachers to oppose Jehovah's chosen messengers and His message, rather than a personal monster who is to make a dramatic and stupendous appearance at the end of the present age.

 

I John 2:22 "WHO IS A LIAR BUT HE THAT DENIETH THAT JESUS IS THE CHRIST?  HE IS ANTICHRIST THAT DENIETH THE FATHER AND THE SON."

 

II Thessalonians 2:7 "FOR THE MYSTERY OF INIQUITY DOTH ALREADY WORK: ONLY HE WHO NOW LETTETH will let, UNTIL HE BE TAKEN OUT OF THE WAY."

 

II John 7  "FOR MANY DECEIVERS ARE ENTERED INTO THE WORLD, WHO CONFESS NOT THAT JESUS CHRIST IS COME IN THE FLESH.  THIS IS A DECEIVER AND AN ANTICHRIST."

 

v4.  "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."

 

            John again expressed his love for the brethren to whom he wrote.  The last three verses of this section (4-6) all begin with emphatic personal pronouns.  Here it is referring to those who had obeyed the Gospel of Christ.  In this verse he turned his attention more to the readers rather than to the false teachers.  Those brethren had overcome the seductions of the false teachers by listening to and obeying the Word of God (II Peter 2:20), which the apostles and the true prophets had given (I Corinthians 4-6; Acts 2:42-47; John 17:17-21).  "BECAUSE GREATER IS HE THAT IS IN YOU THAN HE THAT IS IN THE WORLD" is indeed reassuring.

 

John 16:33 "THESE THINGS I HAVE SPOKEN UNTO YOU, THAT IN ME YE MIGHT HAVE PEACE.  IN THE WORLD YE SHALL HAVE TRIBULATION: BUT BE OF GOOD CHEER; I HAVE OVERCOME THE WORLD."

 

I Corinthians 2:11-12 "FOR WHAT MAN KNOWETH THE THINGS OF A MAN, SAVE THE SPIRIT OF MAN WHICH IS IN HIM? EVEN SO THE THINGS OF GOD KNOWETH NO MAN, BUT THE SPIRIT OF GOD.  NOW WE HAVE RECEIVED, NOT THE SPIRIT OF THE WORLD, BUT THE SPIRIT WHICH IS OF GOD; THAT WE MIGHT KNOW THE THINGS THAT ARE FREELY GIVEN TO US OF GOD."

 

Ephesians 2:2  "WHEREIN IN TIME PAST YE WALKED ACCORDING TO THE COURSE OF THIS WORLD, ACCORDING TO THE PRINCE OF THE POWER OF THE AIR, THE SPIRIT THAT NOW WORKETH IN THE CHILDREN OF DISOBEDIENCE."

 

I John 5:4  "FOR WHATSOEVER IS BORN OF GOD OVERCOMETH THE WORLD: AND THIS IS THE VICTORY THAT OVERCOMETH THE WORLD, even OUR FAITH."

 

v5.  "THEY ARE OF THE WORLD: THEREFORE SPEAK THEY OF THE WORLD, AND THE WORLD HEARETH THEM."

 

v6.  "WE ARE OF GOD: HE THAT KNOWETH GOD HEARETH NOT US.  HEREBY KNOW WE THE SPIRIT OF TRUTH, AND THE SPIRIT OF ERROR."

 

These two verses are complementary.  "They" (autoi) (v.5), refers to the false prophets/teachers; "we" (hemeis)(v.6). refers to the true apostles/teachers.  Hemeis is in direct antithesis to autoi of verse 5, and if the autoi are the false prophets/teachers then the hemeis must be the true teachers, the apostles of Christ (Acts 1:13ff; 2:14; Galatians 1:15-2:9; II Peter 1:12-21; Ephesians 4:9-11; II Timothy 2:2).  The world is the audience of the false teachers (John 15:19); "he that knoweth God" is the Christian.  The language is such that it means "one who keeps on knowing God," not one who just has a one time meeting (II Timothy 2:15; Luke 13:24f).  "Spirit of Truth" is a reference to a disposition favorable toward the Truth and "spirit of error" is a disposition friendly towards error.  Therefore, we can discern which message is from God and who is following God.  YES, WE CAN KNOW!

 

John 3:31 "HE THAT COMETH FROM ABOVE IS ABOVE ALL: HE THAT IS OF THE EARTH IS EARTHLY, AND SPEAKETH OF THE EARTH: HE THAT COMETH FROM HEAVEN IS ABOVE ALL."

 

John 10:27 "MY SHEEP HEAR MY VOICE, AND I KNOW THEM, AND THEY FOLLOW ME:"

 

I Corinthians 14:37 "IF ANY MAN THINK HIMSELF TO BE A PROPHET, OR SPIRITUAL, LET HIM ACKNOWLEDGE THAT THE THINGS THAT I WRITE UNTO YOU ARE THE COMMANDMENTS OF THE LORD."

 

Just as Jesus declared that there are only two ways a man can go religiously (Matthew 7:13-14), there are only two groups of people to whom we can listen: either to "the world," and be lead to death, or to the inspired men of the Scriptures and be led to life.

            If men desire (want) to get to the Father, and become one in God and Jesus Christ; it is through Jesus that they must go (John 14:6; 6:66).  However, Jesus declares that this unity can only be accomplished by listening, believing and obeying the apostles word (John 17:17-21).  The apostle declared of the body of Christ, the church, that it was "built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the chief cornerstone" (Ephesians 2:20).  Since we know that the Bible was given by revelation (2 Peter 1:16-21; Deuteronomy 29:29) and that it was written by inspiration (2 Timothy 3:16-17) so that man could understand and know the will of God for him (John 7:17; 8:31-32; 2 Timothy 3:15-17), we must conclude that it is the inspired men of Jehovah that we are to hear and obey for spiritual direction (cf. Jeremiah 10:23; Proverbs 14:12; 1 Corinthians 14:37; 2 John 9-11, et al.)!

Therefore we must be faithful to listen, heed and do the Word (James 1:22-25; cf. Proverbs 30:5-6).  We are not to listen to the philosophers, politicians, or professional orators of the day, but the message of God as given by His inspired men.  When men (none of whom are inspired) speak today, they are to deliver only that which is authorized by the inspired men (1 Peter 4:11).  Thus, we must hear the inspired men when it comes to:

    Church growth: not some so-called "Center For Church Growth."

    Church government: not the Law of Moses, the Boston Church or

    denominationalism.

    The family: not some infidel, worldly clinical psychologist.

    Salvation: not what mother or the Pope says.

    Morality: not what my "heart"/emotions or society dictate.

    The history of man: not the evolutionist and those who also teach science so called.

    We must hear what Jehovah has said!  The necessity of listening to the inspired men is clear from reading Matthew 7:13-14.  God's true people listen to and are directed by the inspired Word (James 1:22-27; Matthew 7:24ff; 1 Corinthians 14:37; Psalms. 119:1-16; 105).

 

v7. "BELOVED, LET US LOVE ONE ANOTHER: FOR LOVE IS OF GOD; AND EVERY ONE THAT LOVETH IS BORN [begotten] OF GOD, AND KNOWETH GOD."

 

I John 3:10 "IN THIS THE CHILDREN OF GOD ARE MANIFEST, AND THE CHILDREN OF THE DEVIL: WHOSOEVER DOETH NOT RIGHTEOUSNESS IS NOT OF GOD, NEITHER HE THAT LOVETH NOT HIS BROTHER."

 

I John 3:11  "FOR THIS IS THE MESSAGE THAT YE HEARD FROM THE BEGINNING; THAT WE SHOULD LOVE ONE ANOTHER."

 

I John 3:23  "AND THIS IS HIS COMMANDMENT, THAT WE SHOULD BELIEVE ON THE NAME OF HIS SON JESUS CHRIST, AND LOVE ONE ANOTHER, AS HE GAVE US COMMANDMENT."

 

It is plain that John aimed his teaching about love at the church "Beloved, let us love one another."  We as imperfect children of God are ever in need of the exhortation to love one another.  Lack of such love causes grievous harm to the growth and welfare of the Body of Christ.

Not only are we paralyzed internally by a lack of brotherly love, but we present a distasteful picture of hypocrisy to those we are trying to reach.  If there is one thing that all men know about the teaching of Christ, they know that he emphasized love.

Not only are we to love one another because to do otherwise would cripple the activity of the church and blight its appeal to the lost, but because love is the very essence of what it is to be a child of God.

            We are to love one another not only because of the practical benefits of such love to the cause of Christ, but simply because "love is of God."

            We must allow John to define what this love is.  How do we know that we truly love the brethren?  "By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments" (1 John 5:2)  Love of one another, therefore, by which all will know we are disciples of Christ, is tied to loving God and keeping His commandments.  How do we know that we truly love God?  "For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous" (I John 5:3).

            This must come as a shock to our liberal brethren and we sometimes wonder if they ever read these passages.  They brand such ideas as legalism; but this is the doctrine of the inspired apostle of love and is not man-made legalism.  John was not speaking of an empty, hypocritical, go-through-the-motions "obedience."  What he was talking about is obedience from the heart, obedience born of sincerity and conviction, obedience whose only aim is to please God.

The love of our liberal brethren is a love with no doctrinal content and no absolute imperatives.  It is a subjective, emotional love, rather than the objective, obedient love that John teaches.  "Everyone that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God," is the equivalent of saying "Everyone that obeys from the heart the commands of God is born of God and knoweth God."

 

v8.  "HE THAT LOVETH NOT KNOWETH NOT GOD; FOR GOD IS LOVE."

 

I John 4:16 "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."

 

He that loves not does not know God because he has not obeyed the commandments of God (1 John 2:3; 5:3).  Loving God consists of our sincere desire to please God by doing His will, not our own.  When we place our wills, our wants, our "think-so’s" ahead of God's will we can in no way be said to love God.

Saul saved the best of the herds and flocks of Amalek to sacrifice to God, “and Samuel said, "Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord?  Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams" (1 Samuel 15:22).

 

In view of such statements, which shows the true Bible picture of love: the soft voice of liberalism that says, "Don't worry about commands and do's and don't's and such legalism?  Just be sincere and mean well and the Lord's grace will take care of everything else?" or the man who careful searches the Scriptures so he can know and do only what the Lord has authorized, because he sincerely wants to do the Lord's will and not his own?

 

v9.  "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."

 

John 3:16  "FOR GOD SO LOVED THE WORLD, THAT HE GAVE HIS ONLY BEGOTTEN SON, THAT WHOSOEVER BELIEVETH IN HIM SHOULD NOT PERISH, BUT HAVE EVERLASTING LIFE."

 

Romans 5:8 "BUT GOD COMMENDETH HIS LOVE TOWARD US, IN THAT, WHILE WE WERE YET SINNERS, CHRIST DIED FOR US."

 

Romans 8:32  "HE THAT SPARED NOT HIS OWN SON, BUT DELIVERED HIM UP FOR US ALL, HOW SHALL HE NOT WITH HIM ALSO FREELY GIVE US ALL THINGS?"

 

Love that is not demonstrated is not love.  "My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue, but in deed and in truth." (1 John 3:18)  John exhorted us to do more than just say we love one another.  Unless we love in deed we do not, in truth, love.  God did not simply declare His love for us; He showed it by what He did.

 

v10.  "HEREIN IS LOVE, NOT THAT WE LOVED GOD, BUT THAT HE LOVED US, AND SENT HIS SON TO BE THE PROPITIATION FOR OUR SINS."

 

Love in its original and pure form dwells in God, not in us.  "We love him, because he first loved us" (1 John 4:19).  Our love of God is reflective of His love of us as the moon's light is reflective of the sun's light.  We have learned from God's love that we should love.  We have learned through God's love what it is to love.  We have been moved by God's love for us, not our love for Him.

God's love is pure in that it is motivate by nothing other than itself.  God's love is not inspired by our loveliness.  "But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8)  The manifestation of the love of God in the gift of Christ was unconditional.  He did not wait until we turned to Him.  He gave before, while we were yet sinners.


 Titus 3:3-5  "FOR WE OURSELVES ALSO WERE SOMETIMES FOOLISH, DISOBEDIENT, DECEIVED, SERVING DIVERS LUSTS AND PLEASURES, LIVING IN MALICE AND ENVY, HATEFUL, and HATING ONE ANOTHER.  BUT AFTER THAT THE KINDNESS AND LOVE OF GOD OUR SAVIOUR TOWARD MAN APPEARED, NOT BY WORKS OF RIGHTEOUSNESS WHICH WE HAVE DONE, BUT ACCORDING TO HIS MERCY HE SAVED US, BY THE WASHING OF REGENERATION, AND RENEWING OF THE HOLY GHOST;

 

v11.  "BELOVED, IF GOD SO LOVED US, WE OUGHT ALSO TO LOVE ONE ANOTHER."

 

Matthew 18:33  Jesus in the parable of the unmerciful servant "SHOULDEST NOT THOU ALSO HAVE HAD COMPASSION ON THY FELLOWSERVANT, EVEN AS I HAD PITY ON THEE?"

 

John 15:12 "THIS IS MY COMMANDMENT, THAT YE LOVE ONE ANOTHER, AS I HAVE LOVED YOU."

 

God first loved us with no conditions, in spite of the fact that we were unlovely and frequently unlovable.  He did because His very nature is love.  If God so loved us, who are we to deny love to one another?

Like His love, our love is to seek the good of the one who is loved.  We are genuinely to desire the very best for them.  There is to be no room in our hearts for hatred, malice, envy, or misplaced sentiment.  It is easy to confuse such misplace sentiment with love.  It is easy for us to forget that our love of others must conform to the commands of God (1 John 5:2).  Since Christian love is the desiring and doing only what is best for others, our knowledge of what is best must be learned from God's Word.

It is important to understand the meaning of the Greek word that is in these passages translated "love," AGAPAO.  This word does not denote strong emotional attachment, but rather a sincere desire to seek the other's well-being.  It is an act of the will and is commanded.  We can love in this way those who do not love us, those who do us harm, those who are not lovable, and even those whom we do not know personally.  The other word in the Greek New Testament translated "love" is PHILEO.  This is the love of emotion, the attachment and affection we feel for those we know and admire.  THAT IS NOT THE WORD THAT JOHN USES IN THIS WRITING.

 

v12.  "NO MAN HATH SEEN GOD AT ANY TIME.  IF WE LOVE ONE ANOTHER, GOD DWELLETH IN US, AND HIS LOVE IS PERFECTED IN US."


 1 Timothy 6:15-16  "WHICH IN HIS TIME HE SHALL SHEW who is THE BLESSED AND ONLY POTENTATE, THE KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS; WHO ONLY HATH IMMORTALITY, DWELLING IN THE LIGHT WHICH NO MAN CAN APPROACH UNTO; WHOM NO MAN HATH SEEN, NOR CAN SEE; TO WHOM BE HONOUR AND POWER EVERLASTING. AMEN."

 

The declaration that no man has ever seen God is found several times in Scripture.  Yet we are told that some in the Old Testament (most notably Moses) did see God.  There is no contradiction here since it is obvious that no man has seen God as He actually is, in His full glory; but God did at times in the Old Testament take a human form and appear as a man.  It was such manifestations that Moses and others saw.

There are many statements in the Bible regarding the indwelling of Deity.  They are statements emphasizing the spiritual relationship which we or others have with God.  It is surely a mistake to take such statements as facts of geography, describing the literal location of Deity.  As we fill our hearts and lives with love, God dwells in us.

 

v13.  "HEREBY KNOW WE THAT WE DWELL IN HIM, AND HE IN US, BECAUSE HE HATH GIVEN US OF HIS SPIRIT."

 

            The first century Christians possessed the miraculous manifestation of the Holy Spirit.  That this is true of those to whom John was writing can be seen from:

 

1 John 2:27 "BUT THE ANOINTING WHICH YE HAVE RECEIVED OF HIM ABIDETH IN YOU, AND YE NEED NOT THAT ANY MAN TEACH YOU: BUT AS THE SAME ANOINTING TEACHETH YOU OF ALL THINGS, AND IS TRUTH, AND IS NO LIE, AND EVEN AS IT HATH TAUGHT YOU, HE SHALL ABIDE IN HIM."

 

            Thus, they knew in two ways through this manifestation of the Spirit that they dwelt in God and He in them.  First, they knew simply because they possessed such a miraculous anointing that they were approved of God.  God gave His Spirit only to those who obeyed Him (Acts 5:32).  Second, they knew as a result of the revelation given to them through the Spirit.  John had already told them that their anointing taught them all things.  By comparing their lives with God's will they could know if they were in the grace of God.

Although we do not have the miraculous gifts of the Spirit today, we do have the result of those first century gifts, the written Word of God.  By comparing our lives with its teaching we can know if we dwell in God and He dwells in us.

 

v14.  "AND WE HAVE SEEN AND DO TESTIFY THAT THE FATHER SENT THE SON TO BE THE SAVIOUR OF THE WORLD."

 

It is apparent from certain verses in 1 John that he was interested in refuting a heresy that Jesus had not actually come in the flesh: "Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: and every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God..." (1 John 4:2-3).  "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life" (1 John 1:1)

 

            It seems to have been a doctrine of some early Gnostics in the church that while on earth Jesus merely had the appearance of a fleshly body, but not in reality.  This is of course a direct denial of the doctrine of incarnation.  It denies that Jesus was a man.  It would also negate His death and resurrection since these would have been mere illusion.  John said here and elsewhere that he and the other apostles were witnesses of the fact that Jesus actually was here in the flesh.  He said that it was the Father who sent the Son into the world to be its Savior.

            John was able to testify to the reality of Jesus as a man because he had actually seen Him.  Let us forever repudiate the denominational terminology about "witnessing for Christ."  "To witness" means to see something.  To be a witness is to testify to what you have seen personally.  The apostles were actual witnesses of the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ.  They were in a position to know firsthand the truth about Him.  No one living on earth today is in this sense a witness of Jesus Christ.  We have not seen Him or heard Him speak save in the pages of Scripture; but then most modern day "witnesses" only attempt to tell what God has done in their lives. Much, if not all, of such testimony consists of flights of imagination, wishful thinking, and sheer guesswork.  Such may be emotionally persuasive, but it is not the way we are to reach people.

We live in the age of "King Self."  Men have always been selfish, but now we are being told that we ought to be selfish.  We are told to fulfill ourselves, assert ourselves, and look out for "Number One."  Husbands and wives are abandoned, children are ignored and mistreated, the unborn are murdered, and elderly parents are shelved in the pursuit of self-gratification.  Self-denial, living for others, selflessness--these are the new "sins" in the eyes of the world.  Millions of miserable people spend million of hours each week talking to therapists about self.  How sad they do not know that to escape from misery you must escape from self.  Happiness and fulfillment do not come form serving self, but in serving God and others.  Read Luke 9:23-24

A more terrible shame it is that from many of our pulpits now we are hearing the "gospel of self."  More sermons are preached in some pulpits about how to have a good self-image and how to love yourself than are preached convicting men of their sins and calling them to repentance.  We hear love preached, but too often it is not the rigorous, doctrinal, tough love that John preached.  It is a sort of warm, fuzzy love with no sharp edges; a love that always feels good, and never demands study, obedience or discipline.  Brethren, let us love God and one another, but let it be true love and not a pale counterfeit.  God is love.  Only His Word can tell us what love really is.

 

v15. 15Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God.”

 

            John doesn’t teach here that we are to just confess Christ as lip service to the fact that deity of Jesus abides in God and God in him.  Even the most liberal of our brethren, or the most rebellious of our denominational neighbors will concede this.  A great many people today claim to confess Christ in their worship and their lives.  Even the demons or devils confessed Christ (Mark 1:24).  But that is not what is under discussion here.  John is talking about a different kind of confession.  Jesus himself said:

 

Matthew 7:21-2321Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. 22Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? 23And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”

 

            John was dealing first of all with false teachers.  The Ebonites declared that Jesus was a mere man; the Cerentians maintained that his human body was, for a period of time, occupied by an “aeon” (or demon) called Christ; the Docetae argued that he only appeared to possess a body, but was, in reality, only a shadowy phantom.  The confession that John is contending here is a repudiation of all of these false teachings and also any half-hearted, I’ll do it my way worship or service to God but rather a complete surrender of our will to the will of the Lord, that surrender expressing itself in willing obedience to his commands.  Jesus also said:

 

John 14:23 “…If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.”


            In addition the verb tense “confesseth” indicates a once for all act in ones life through which we make a commitment to Christ with all of our being, faculties and mind.

 

v16. “16And 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.”

 

            The KJV says we have known, the ASV says we know; the original language is in the perfect, active tense and means that we have come to knowledge of God’s love, we continue to possess knowledge of God’s love, have believed this knowledge and continue to believe God’s love for us.  This is the answer to Jesus prayer:

 

John 17:25-2625O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee: but I have known thee, and these have known that thou hast sent me. 26And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them.”

 

            This verse also combines the ideas presented in verse 8 and verse 15.  One who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him because God is the epitome, the essence of love.

 

v17. “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.”

 

            Because the love of God abides in us and we abide in God then we can come to the day of judgment with boldness and confidence as children of God.  We are affirmed, assured, anchored in our faith and the fact that we are the children of God.  The more we perfect our love for God and our fellowman, the more confident we can be about our eternal salvation.  We will not only work at obeying God commandments concerning our immediate salvation and worship of Him but our lives will fit that pattern that Jesus gave us, turn and read Matthew 25:34-40.

            The world may say: But why should we feel this kind of confidence in our salvation?  Well, John answers that as well:

 

v18. “18There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.”

 

            Love excludes this kind of fear, confidence eliminates this kind of fear.  But let’s make sure we know what kind of fear we’re talking about.  We’re not talking about that kind of fear that we find in:

 

Psalms 111:10 “THE FEAR OF THE LORD is BEGINNING OF WISDOM: A GOOD UNDERSTANDING HAVE ALL THEY THAT DO his commandments: HIS PRAISE ENDURETH FOR EVER.”

 

This is a reverent, godly fear which avoids any action that would displease God.  John is not talking about the kind of fear that Peter indicates:

 

I Peter 1:17And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man’s work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear:

 

But John is taking about the terror and dread that would cause us to want to find a pile of rocks to crawl under if God returns and we’re not prepared.  This kind of fear does not exist in our lives if we love God, because if we love God we will keep his commandments; we will enjoy the opportunity to gather for worship.  And consequently we can be confident in our salvation and we will be ready to meet the Son of God when he returns.

 

v19. “19We love him, because he first loved us.”

 

            A simple statement of fact.  We love God because God so loved us that he gave his only begotten Son to die for our sins.  John 3:16

 

v20. “20If 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?”

 

            Again and again in these verses John has emphasized that it is impossible for us to separate our love of God from our love of our fellowman.  This is the essence of what Jesus was teaching in:

 

Matthew 22:37-3937Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38This is the first and great commandment. 39And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”

 

            People would say that John is being pretty harsh wouldn’t they?  But what men have characterized as the “Apostle of Love” was very firm in his approach to this subject.  In fact he was somewhat indignant that there could be those that would claim to love God but not love their brother, or their fellowman.

 

v21. “21And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.”

 

            John closes this series of thoughts with this admonition.  Though his teaching on the subject of love is supported by analogy, by common sense, by the inspiration of John himself he adds the capper.  It is the testimony and commandment of Jesus Christ.  He stated it several places; one example

 

John 13:34-3534A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. 35By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”