1 John Part 12

John begins chapter four with a warning, one that is especially pertinent in this hour. There are many conflicting teachings in the church that cannot all be true. I won’t go into all the examples, I invite you to do what John said, test the spirits, for he does tell us how.

1  Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2  By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, 3  and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world. 1 John 4:1-3 (NKJV)

John’s teaching here builds on what he previously taught. He stated that we could experientially know Jesus through the inner witness of the Holy Spirit but goes on to warn his readers not to simply accept the prompting of any spirit. We need to test the spirits. This applies not only to finding out whether or not a certain speaker or teacher confesses that Jesus has come in the flesh. (This was what the Gnostic heretics he was contending against denied, that Jesus had come in the flesh). It also applies to spirits that speak to our mind and heart. We can address them in our mind and “test” them to see if they acknowledge that Jesus came in the flesh. Many believers have been deceived and gone astray because they listened to spirits other than the Holy Spirit and never tested the source. I have personal experience with walking down some wrong rabbit trails but being brought back to truth by the Holy Spirit taking me to the scriptures over and over again.

The term rabbit trails is interesting. I don’t know how many people have ever gone down a literal rabbit trail. I have been walking around the bush all of my life. Where I grew up in northern Alberta I could walk out the end of our vegetable garden, cross a dirt road, and be in the bush. The area was mainly willows and was littered with rabbit trails. When I was younger, and much smaller, I crawled down many of them. The never went straight from point A to point B. They were always filled with twists and turns and you could easily lose your sense of direction because they were at the bottom of the forest, making it difficult to know which direction you were going. False spirits are like that. They may hold some promise but generally lead to nothing or nowhere.

4  You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. 5  They are of the world. Therefore they speak as of the world, and the world hears them. 6  We are of God. He who knows God hears us; he who is not of God does not hear us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error. 1 John 4:4-6 (NKJV)

John, with his shepherd’s heart, goes on to encourage his readers, and by extension us, by saying that we have overcome these false teachers and false spirits because the one who conquered all through the cross is the one who lives in us! This brings us back to abiding in Him because our victory is in the cross and His resurrection. As we rest in Him He gives us discernment and we know what is and is not from the Holy Spirit. Those who are of Christ reflect His nature. Those who are of the world will ultimately produce the fruit of the world.

7  Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8  He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. 9  In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. 10  In this 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 also ought to love one another. 1 John 4:7-11 (NKJV)

Here John expresses something that challenges our modern day definitions of both love and conversion. John states unequivocally that those who love are born again. This means two things. One, those who are not born again lack the capacity to truly love in the way scriptures defines love. Two, this love must be different than either our sentimental or emotional concepts of love or everyone is born again because any average individual has loved in the generally accepted sense of strong feelings of love/compassion toward another individual.

So how do we understand this? John defines God as love. What he is saying is that love is His nature, character, and essence. What we need to understand is that this is not merely a sentimental love. It is a very passionate and emotional love but it is also a love that expresses itself in discipline and wrath. It is our Father, who is love that commanded the killing of whole nations by Israel. It is our Father, who is love, that will pour out upon the earth the judgments described in the Revelation of Jesus Christ and other prophetic books. It is our Father who is love who will not, and cannot, tolerate sin in His kingdom so will ultimately completely expunge it.

Our Father revealed His love by sending Jesus to die a tortuous death on a cross and to receive the sins of the world upon Himself in our place. This is the greatest act and example of love on the part of Father, Son and Spirit. The Holy Spirit had to endure the same terrible loss and separation as the Father when He departed from Jesus. This is the example set before us that we might choose. The choice is one of loving others with His love and laying down our lives for others, not because we will feel better, but because it is what is best for them. Jesus did not go to the cross because it felt good, but He did go because of love (see Jn. 3:16, for God so loved the world….). He went knowing that ultimately He would experience the joy of seeing many of us set free and being conformed to His image through receiving His nature (Heb. 12:2). We need to do what is best for others so they can come into a relationship with the world’s greatest lover, Jesus. This is what it means to love.

12  No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us. 13  By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. 14  And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world. 15  Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16  And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him. 1 John 4:12-16 (NKJV)

The ‘point’ of this passage is very much to the point! The only opportunity people have to see God is to see Him in His people, us! If we love one another He abides in us because this love is an expression of His nature in and through us. We further abide in the Father by confessing the Son. The Gnostics denied the Son and yet claimed to have the Father. It is impossible to deny the Son and possess the Father. If we confess, not just with our lips, but by our lives, that Jesus is the Saviour, then we abide in love, which means we abide in Him. We know this not by reason of ‘reason’ but through the internal witness of the Holy Spirit. We have the abiding inner witness of the Spirit when we are walking in the light in Him; abiding in love.

17  Love has been perfected among us in this: 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 casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. 19  We love Him because He first loved us. 20  If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? 21  And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also. 1 John 4:17-21 (NKJV)

John here sums up his previous point. If we are walking in love then we will have confidence on the day we stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ. This is not because we are focused on our deeds but because we are focused on “Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will,” (Eph. 1:11). When we pursue a true love relationship with Him He produces through us that which He delights in here and will honour on that day. As we focus on loving Him we will know Him and His character will be manifested through us in concern for others. Our love for Him is a response to His first loving us. Not a response to His feelings for us but a response to His supreme act of sacrifice on the cross, based on how He felt about us. If we have come to the place of perfect, that is, mature love, we will have no fear of appearing before the Judgment Seat.

In closing this section John is clear that if our love does not lead to action it is not truly love. We cannot love God and hate our brother. They are mutually exclusive attitudes. That is not to say we will never be angry or struggle with these feelings. It says we will exercise our will to draw on His grace and act in love toward our fellow believers no matter how we may feel. Ultimately this will lead to our feelings coming into agreement with our behaviour when our behaviour is based on His written word and agrees with His heart.

1 John Part 11

In the last portion of chapter 3 John begins to open up our hearts, spiritual open heart surgery if you will.

18  My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. 19  And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him. 20  For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things. 21  Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God. 22  And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight. 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. 24  Now he who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us. 1 John 3:18-24 (NKJV)

In laying this out John follows in the footsteps of Jesus and deals with the fact that not only do we need to manifest the right behavior, it needs to come from a right heart. John leaves no room for a person to claim to be a believer when they do all the right “religious” things with all the wrong motives. Our hearts need to be right and out of a relationship of intimacy with Jesus we need to discern how to invest the time and goods He has invested in our lives. We are called to be good stewards.

A good way to assess whether we are walking in love, this will come up again shortly in chapter 4, is our motive. The great evangelist Charles Finney defined love as ‘disinterested benevolence.’ Terms we don’t normally use today so what do they mean? What Finney meant was that Christian love sought what was in the best interest of the other party without any regard to a personal agenda or personal gain. That is, we seek to do what is right simply because it is right and will help others.

A key aspect John addresses here is that our heart is not always a reliable guide. Our subjective feelings and experiences need to be measured against the word. If we have repented and committed our lives to Him then we can use John’s test of obedience to see if we are truly born again. Then even if our heart has been condemning us we can stand on the truth of His word until we come through to the place of assurance. The words translated condemns and condemn in verses 20 and 21 are the same Greek word and literally mean to “note against” or blame.

Kataginōskō, from <G2596> (kata) and <G1097> (ginosko); to note against, i.e. find fault with :- blame, condemn.  Strong’s Talking Greek & Hebrew Dictionary.

What John is trying to do here is reassure those who believe they have failed. He is trying to bring us back to a place of confidence in our prayer lives and relationship with Jesus. He closes this line of thought by saying that, whether we feel like it our not, if we do what He says with a right heart attitude we will come to the place of experientially knowing we are born again via the Holy Spirit’s indwelling inner witness. When we pair an obedient life with abiding in intimacy with Jesus we can then be confident that our prayers are heard and will be answered if we are praying in the Spirit (that is, as He leads). For those of us with many unanswered prayers (yes I have my hand raised) I believe we need to seek to learn how to more deeply lean into His heart and then pray what He lays on our hearts rather than what we would like to see happen, often out of noble motives. After all, this same John wrote of Jesus.

19  Then Jesus answered and said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner. 20  For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself does; and He will show Him greater works than these, that you may marvel. John 5:19-20 (NKJV)

I pray we all see well what our Father is doing so we can come into agreement with His strategic purposes.

1 John Part 10

In verses 10-17 John continues to teach on what identifies a true Christian.

10  In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother. 11  For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another, 12  not as Cain who was of the wicked one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his works were evil and his brother’s righteous. 13  Do not marvel, my brethren, if the world hates you. 14  We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death. 15  Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. 16  By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 17  But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? 1 John 3:10-17 (NKJV)

Here John highlights the fruit of true conversion and provides a test to measure whether we are really born again. This once more takes us back to his refutation of the Gnostic heresy that teaches that what we do with our bodies does not really matter. John shows that if we are born again it will be manifested in love toward other believers. Not the love of saying “God bless you,” but the love of doing that ministers to the spiritual and material needs of others. We can know that we have passed from death to life, that is, we have been born again, if ‘we love the brethren.’ What does it mean to ‘love the brethren?’ having compassion on them and ministering to their needs. Which in practice is laying down our lives.

If we want to lay down our lives it helps to understand what it means. If we think in terms of military or law enforcement someone may lay down their life by losing it in the exercise of their duty. That is one aspect and a very significant one. Yet in most of our day to day lives we will never be in this situation. Yet Paul said, ‘I die daily.’ It helps to think of our lives as having a bank account with a set amount of money in it that we can spend. If we spend it on ourselves it is gone. If we spend it on others it is gone from our current account but is then deposited in an eternal bank account, an investment that goes on ahead. We choose where to spend our life but only one way of spending is a true investment. This does not mean spending every waking moment seeking to help others; that in general becomes legalism. It does mean living with a larger purpose so that all our time and energy is ultimately connected to a larger life purpose and goal, serving Jesus and His kingdom.

If we reflect on this, is there a better way to invest our lives?

1 John Part 9

As we move further into chapter 3 we encounter some difficult sayings. Hard truths that can lead us to doubt our conversion. At the same time John wrote these hard truths to be clear that the Gnostic position that what we did with our bodies did not matter was untenable. He wanted his readers to know that our lifestyle as a believer is critical in demonstrating our faith. To help clarify this section I have included the same few verses from the Amplified translation as it captures some of the tense in the Greek.

4  Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness. 5  And you know that He was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin. 6  Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him. 7  Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous. 8  He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil. 9  Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God. 1 John 3:4-9 (NKJV)

4  Everyone who commits (practices) sin is guilty of lawlessness; for [that is what] sin is, lawlessness (the breaking, violating of God’s law by transgression or neglect—being unrestrained and unregulated by His commands and His will). 5  You know that He appeared in visible form and became Man to take away [upon Himself] sins, and in Him there is no sin [essentially and forever]. 6  No one who abides in Him [who lives and remains in communion with and in obedience to Him—deliberately, knowingly, and habitually] commits (practices) sin. No one who [habitually] sins has either seen or known Him [recognized, perceived, or understood Him, or has had an experiential acquaintance with Him]. 7  Boys (lads), let no one deceive and lead you astray. He who practices righteousness [who is upright, conforming to the divine will in purpose, thought, and action, living a consistently conscientious life] is righteous, even as He is righteous. 8  [But] he who commits sin [who practices evildoing] is of the devil [takes his character from the evil one], for the devil has sinned (violated the divine law) from the beginning. The reason the Son of God was made manifest (visible) was to undo (destroy, loosen, and dissolve) the works the devil [has done]. 9  No one born (begotten) of God [deliberately, knowingly, and habitually] practices sin, for God’s nature abides in him [His principle of life, the divine sperm, remains permanently within him]; and he cannot practice sinning because he is born (begotten) of God. 1 John 3:4-9 (AMP)

Two key verses in the passage above are 6 and 9.

6  No one who abides in Him [who lives and remains in communion with and in obedience to Him—deliberately, knowingly, and habitually] commits (practices) sin. No one who [habitually] sins has either seen or known Him [recognized, perceived, or understood Him, or has had an experiential acquaintance with Him].

9  No one born (begotten) of God [deliberately, knowingly, and habitually] practices sin, for God’s nature abides in him [His principle of life, the divine sperm, remains permanently within him]; and he cannot practice sinning because he is born (begotten) of God. 1 John 3:4-9 (AMP)

What John says in chapter 3 needs to be consistent with what he wrote in chapter 1, and it is. There John wrote the following.

8  If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9  If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10  If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us. 1 John 1:8-10 (NKJV)

John cannot on the one hand tell us that if we sin after conversion we can repent and receive forgiveness and on the other hand tell us that if we sin after conversion we are not a Christian. His point is brought out in the Amplified. If we deliberately and intentionally sin, without any sense of conviction from the Holy Spirit we should in fact question the validity of our conversion. There is a great difference between struggling against sin and pursuing it.

If we have been converted we can lean into 3:9. The word translated as ‘seed’ in the NKJV is sperma.

σπέρμα sperma noun Seed, offspring, posterity.

The Complete Biblical Library Greek-English Dictionary – Sigma-Omega.

When we turn to Jesus in repentance we can trust in the accomplished fact of Jesus carrying away our sins at the cross. The implication of this is that because He has carried away our sins we will obviously not continually practice sin because we have a continuing relationship with Him instead of sin. It brings home the truth Paul taught that when we were born again our spirit received a new nature “created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24). This is where the ‘sperma’ comes in. A seed carries within it the DNA that will be reproduced in the person or plant. In our case we received a spiritual seed, Jesus DNA in our spirits. So to paraphrase what John is saying. If we continually, deliberately, and habitually sin it shows that we have never really come into a relationship with Him. We have never been born again. The ‘sperma,’ the nature of Jesus is not in us. Again, this is not referring to someone who is striving against sin but rather someone who habitually sins without concern for the consequences. That is, sin is their habit or practice. It is in fact their nature. For those of us who have His ‘sperma’ within us let us cooperate with His Spirit to see this nature manifest in our daily lives.