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The Letters of John
BC Weekly Digest Monday, August 24 1998 In this issue: 1 John 4:4-6 1 John 4:2-6 1 John 4:7,8 1 John 4:7,8 1 John 4:3 1 John 4:1 1 John 4:4-6 1 John 4:4-6 (OPV) 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 [what] they speak [is] of the world, and the world listens to them. 6 We are of God. He who knows God listens to us. He who is not of God, does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error. === 4:4 "You are of God" What a great comfort and encouragement to know that we belong to God. As Peter assures us: "But ye are a elect race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for [God's] own possession, that ye may show forth the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light: who in time past were no people, but now are the people of God: who had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy" (1 Peter 2:9,10 ASV). 4:4 "And have overcome them" The false teachers had attempted to lead John's readers astray. They had defeated them, however, by adhering to the truth. 4:4 "Because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world" In chapter two John said the young men had overcome the evil one (1 John 2:13,14). "For whatever is born of God overcomes the world, and this is the victory that has overcome the world, our faith! And who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?" (1 John 5:4,5 OPV). God is greater than Satan who is in the world. Jesus had declared: "Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out" (John 12:31 ASV). He also says of His followers: "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who hath given [them] unto me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch [them] out of the Father's hand" (John 10:27-29 ASV). The safety of Jesus' sheep depends on their knowing His voice and following Him (rather than false teachers, for example). They then have the full protection of the Father. Notice that Jesus says they are in His hand and in the Father's hand. It has been a comfort to me in difficult times to think of myself as being safely enfolded in the hand of God. 4:5 "They are of the world" John already said what this means: "Do not love the world, nor the things that are in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the vain glory of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world" (1 John 2:15,16 OPV). 4:5 "Therefore [what] they speak [is] of the world, and the world listens to them" The crucial question we must ask whenever we hear a teacher of religion is what Jesus asked the Jews about John's baptism: "Was it from heaven, or from men?" (Luke 20:4 ASV). Just as the sheep of Jesus recognize His voice and follow Him, so people of the world are attracted to speech based on the principles and attitudes of the world. This is also why Jesus said: "Take heed therefore how ye hear: for whosoever hath, to him shall be given; and whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that which he thinketh he hath" (Luke 8:18 ASV). 4:6 "We are of God. He who knows God listens to us. He who is not of God, does not listen to us." This is true because by definition they who are of God are also they who speak the word of God. This applies in first instance to the Apostles and inspired writers of the New Testament. But it also applies to us when we faithfully speak that same word. We need not be surprised that the world does not listen to us when we proclaim the word of God. The world did not listen to the very Son of God. When Jesus sent the seventy, He told them: "He that heareth you heareth me; and he that rejecteth you rejecteth me; and he that rejecteth me rejecteth him that sent me" (Luke 10:16 ASV). 4:6 "By this we know the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error" This is the ultimate test for us all. Are we willing to listen to the word of God? If we are willing to listen to God, by means of a thorough knowledge of His word we can also successfully test the spirits to know whether they are of God (1 John 4:1). Roy Davison ------------------------------ 1 John 4:2-6 1 John 4:2-6 1 John 4:2 "By this you know the Spirit of God. Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God"(OPV). A long time ago, I had a great deal of difficulty with this verse. Yet the meaning, while appearing to be so generic like John 3:16, is very specific. No one else but a Christian has any reason to believe that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, has come to this earth to save man. Our spirits confess that He is King when we truly submit to His will and His alone. There are many today, as we have noted above, who preach for some agenda or purpose other than to please God. Yet neither their doctrines nor their lives depict a true sense of righteousness because they are serving their own lusts. 1 John 4:3 "But every spirit that does not confess Jesus. is not of God, and this is the [spirit] of the antichrist, which you heard was coming, and now is in the world" (OPV). The antichrist is rightly defined as one whose affections have turned from Christ to those of his own desire. A brother can error on certain minor or difficult points, without being classified as an antichrist. What makes one an antichrist is the fact that he no longer puts God first in his life. Antichrists are these same satanic "angels of light" whom we have previously noted. And, Satan, that old reprobate, is the chief antichrist. 1 John 4:4 "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" (OPV). John reaffirms their position in God's heavenly plan. He assures them that they are of God and, being thus, are not of Satan. They have overcome by serving God who is more powerful than Satan. 1 John 4:5 "They are of the world. Therefore[what] they speak [is] of the world, and the world listens to them" (OPV). How true. All we need to do is to listen to the radio or television and hear those merchants of Satan peddling their deadly wares. They have such huge followings because what they are selling appeals to the world. The world is inherently lazy. Most men want the easy life, not the hard one. I am reminded of the old song "Farther Along" which tells of the struggles of this life for a Christian. He wonders why the sinner seems to have it easy. It is because the man of the world is attracted by "easy doctrines" and lies that are bandied about by false teachers who are nothing more than merchants of spiritual death. 1 John 4:6 "We are of God. He who knows God listens to us. He who is not of God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error"(OPV). We are indeed of God because we do His will! And because we have an intimate and faithful relationship with God we are able to teach those who love God. Those who are not willing to serve God will not hear us because they are aware that we are God's servants and His teachers. By this acceptance or rejection, we know the spirit of truth as well as the spirit of error that motivates those whom we would teach. Attitude plays a gigantic part in accepting God. If we love Him, we will do His will and not our own (John 14:15). Howard Justice ------------------------------ 1 John 4:7,8 1 John 4:7,8 (OPV) 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. === 4:7 "Let us love one another, for love is of God" Followers of Christ love one another. Jesus said: "A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; even as I have loved you, that ye also love one another" (John 13:34 ASV). "This is my commandment, that ye love one another, even as I have loved you" (John 15:12 ASV). "These things I command you, that ye may love one another" (John 15:17 ASV). Paul wrote: "Owe no man anything, save to love one another: for he that loveth his neighbor hath fulfilled the law" (Rom 13:8 ASV). "But concerning love of the brethren ye have no need that one write unto you: for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another" (1 Thes 4:9 ASV). Peter admonishes: "Seeing ye have purified your souls in your obedience to the truth unto unfeigned love of the brethren, love one another from the heart fervently" (1 Peter 1:22 ASV). John encourages brotherly love: "For this is the message which you have heard from the beginning: that we should love one another" (1 John 3:11 OPV). "And this is His commandment, that we should believe in the name of His Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another according to the commandment He gave us" (1 John 3:23 OPV). "Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God. If we love one another, God abides in us and His love is perfected in us" (1 John 4:11,12 OPV). "And now I entreat you, lady, not as though I were writing a new commandment to you, but that which we have had from the beginning, that we should love one another" (2 John 5 OPV). 4:7 "Everyone who loves is born of God and knows God" John uses simple words, but is never superficial. Some have misused this passage to teach falsely that anyone who loves others is acceptable to God, even if he does not obey Christ in other areas. But "one another" is not stated here, but "he who loves." This is the deepest, broadest, most all-inclusive sense. This is loving God with our whole being and loving our neighbor as ourselves. He explains in his second letter: "And this is love: that we walk according to His commandments" (2 John 6 OPV). It simply is not possible to have genuine love for God and man without obeying Christ. Everyone who loves in this sense is indeed "born of God and knows God." 4:8 "He who does not love, does not know God" It is not possible to know God without being warmed by, and radiating, the love of God. 4:8 "For God is love" Some mistakenly believe that love is God. Then God would be defined by our concept of love. But it is the other way around. God defines love. "And we have known and have believed the love which God has in us. God is love, and he who abides in love, abides in God, and God abides in him" (1 John 4:16 OPV). Roy Davison ------------------------------ 1 John 4:7,8 1 John 4:7,8 1 John 4:7 "Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God, and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God" (OPV). Again, John refers to his fellow saints as "beloved" because he realizes that all who are of God are beloved indeed. They are beloved of God because He gave His only begotten Son for all who would turn and follow Him. He commands Christians to love one another. This is the standard of behavior since we are of God and God is love (1 John 4:8). As Christians we must place our love in God because He first loved us. "While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). As we will soon see, John reminds Christians that it is the redemption through Christ Jesus that demonstrates God's love for us. Because of the nature and character of God, they who follow after Him must love one another. There are times when we may become unhappy with the activities of a fellow saint, but God has given us a system that utilizes that first essential of "love" to settle our differences. It is far too common today to hear brethren making blanket applications of condemnation on the spur of the moment for their well-intentioned but misled brethren. Such should not be the case. Let us never draw the line in the sand with our brethren until every avenue of reconciliation has been exhausted on their behalf. Because we are of God, we must love God, else we have not God. It is so simple. God demands that we love each other just as He loved us and that we should be willing to bend over backwards in order to reach a just and Scriptural resolution of our problems. When we behave like God toward our fellows, then we will know how it is that God loves us. As a result, we will know God. The Greek verb here is the word "ginosko" which infers far more that simply understanding the existence of God. It infers that we have an intimate knowledge of God and understand and imitate His character. Sometimes we use the term, "too get inside of one's mind" which is exactly what we strive to do as followers of God and Christ. In John 10:1-16, Jesus tells the parable of the sheepfold. In verses 4 and 5 we see a demonstration of what it is to "know" Him. "And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers." They who truly know God will follow no other. 1 John 4:8 "He who does not love, does not know God"(OPV). How simple this statement really is! Either you have God or you don't. There is no other way. Either you must love like God and be willing to sacrifice everything you have or you cannot really understand the character of God. And you cannot be counted as one of His. Loving God demands that we give full devotion to Him. He will accept no less. Howard Justice ------------------------------ 1 John 4:3 Relative to 1 John 4:3 the question has been asked: Is confessing Christ come as the son of God in the flesh just a verbal statement or does confession include a dedicated and honest belief and lifestyle, further mentioned as 'abiding' in Christ? It is not enough just to assent to the existence of Christ ( if so the demons who believe would be saved (James 2:19), - nor is it sufficient to confess Him as Lord without practicing what He teaches (Matthew 7:21-27). Jesus was the word incarnate, He became flesh and in His human body gave us both instruction and example; - - we must become 'letters of Christ', living epistles that put into our flesh His divine nature (2 Corinthians 3:2,3, 18; 2 Peter 1:3,4). People should be able when they see us to read His message! We see then in the context of 1 John 4 how necessary it is to refute the gnostic-like error of those who deny that Jesus lived and suffered for us in a human body! He does know our suffering and our problems and has set us an example to follow. Beholding Him, we are changed, transformed into His likeness. In Him was found all the attributes of divinity in His human body - and in Him we also have all the fulness of life (Colossians 2:9,10). Through the knowledge of Him, we too partake of the divine nature (Read again 2 Peter 1:3,4). When we have put off the old man with all his doings, and have put on Christ and His divine attributes, then we are renewed after His image and we can confess Him with our mouths and in our lifestyle ( Colossians 3:5-16; Romans 13:14: Galatians 3:27 ). Are we confessing Him in word and in deed? J.Lee Roberts ------------------------------ 1 John 4:1 The question has been submitted: In connection with 1 John 4:1, reference was made to 2 Corinthians 11:12-15. We see that the end of the false teachers shall be according to their works. Does Scripture tell us the outcome or end of those that may worship under such teachers? Are we accountable to God for worshipping under such? If so, should we just stop going to worship service? Should we invite others to come worship with us in such situations? === First, may I say that questions like this need serious and prayerful consideration. The person asking used the expression "under such teachers." I assume the question has to do with those not in leadership. Before one leaves, efforts should be made to correct the false teacher. It may even be possible to mark a false teacher and remain for a while in the congregation. Apparently, this was the case in Thyatira. "The woman Jezebel" was teaching and misleading saints but there were some who did not hold her teaching (Re 2:24). Somehow, faithful Christians were able to resist her false teaching and remain there. When every scriptural effort has been made to correct a false teacher and it is impossible to get him/her to leave, then it is time to consider making a move. Also, when the worship is corrupted (and the contribution is worship), it becomes necessary to go elsewhere. Jesus had something to say about the blind leading the blind (Mt 15:14). Personally, I do not have one thin dime to support a false teacher. When the leadership refuses to do anything about a deplorable teaching situation, when individual efforts to do so fail, after much prayer, something has to be done. Should faithful Christians leave and worship elsewhere and invite others to come with them? Without a doubt, there comes a time when this is necessary. Should others be invited to go elsewhere too? By all means! Do not hesitate to do so. A false teacher in another state was heard to say in class. "If something is taught that bothers you, just keep quiet about it and don't make waves." Of course, he wanted to continue spewing out his poison without any opposition. Faithful members ought to put a stop to that kind of teaching before it damages the congregation beyond repair. I was once in a church where conscience would not permit me to continue to serve under the elders. My influence to change the situation became nil. I began sending my contribution elsewhere. For the sake of my wife and family, and our example before other Christians, my wife and I together decided to leave. The change was refreshing and beneficial in many ways. Similar accounts may be multiplied. I have yet to hear of anyone who regretted making the change. Charles Hess.