Read 1 John 4
On Denying the Incarnation
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. 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, 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.
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. 5 They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them.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.
God’s Love and Ours
7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 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. 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.11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
13 This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. 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 them. 17 This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. 18 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.
19 We love because he first loved us. 20 Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. 21 And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.
We could simplify this chapter into this one thesis statement: what we believe impacts how we live. We know this truth, but so often we try to disconnect what we know from how we live. But the truth is we act out what we believe. John warns of false teachers and how they can persuade and appear true, so we must be be wise and discerning and test what is true. If the foundation isn’t that Jesus is the Christ, it isn’t the gospel – it isn’t true. We must be able to discern truth from error and live in a way that supports, not denies, our beliefs.
The truth John’s expressing is that not only is love from God, God is love. It’s who He is. It’s His essence, His nature; and, since we are made in His image, it’s our nature, too. Our love for God is not measured by what we know or what we say, it’s measured by what we do. God has always made the connection and interlaced loving Him and loving His children. We cannot disconnect them.
Verses 9 and 10 clearly define what love is: it’s visible (God showed); it requires action (God sent); it’s sacrificial (gave His one and only); it’s unconditional and undeserving (while we were sinners); it addresses sin (an atoning sacrifice for sin). We only need to look at these two verses to know what God thinks of us. We are loved. Fully. Wholly. He doesn’t love some future version of you, He loves you now.
How does this knowledge impact our actions? His love gives us confidence (no fear, vs. 18) to love others the way we are loved, not just with words, but in deed and action. Regardless if someone deserves it or not. Our worth and value doesn’t come from someone else’s response to our love. Our value and worth is secure, paid for by Jesus. The world will know we are His children by our love. Not by our “right-ness,” our political support or statements, our knowledge of the Bible, or our self-righteousness. We have an answer for an unbelieving, hurting world: love. The way God showed us through Jesus.
- What observations about God stand out in this chapter?
- Think about John, one of the closest people to Jesus when Jesus walked the earth. He heard the laugh of the Messiah. Saw the Savior heal the sick and blind and lame. Ate breakfast with Jesus after Jesus conquered death. Of all the things John could have said, why this message? How does that impact you?
- Who is difficult for you to love? What is one step you will make to move toward that person today?
By the Way
According to early Christian tradition, a false teaching circulated in John’s day that differentiated between Jesus (a man) and Christ (a supernatural being). Some of the false teachers John’s referring to in this chapter taught that Christ descended on Jesus at his baptism and departed at the crucifixion. To this lie, John responds with a resounding, “NO! Jesus IS Christ.” There is none like Him. No not one.