Study No.10 (1 John 4:1-6)
Review (1 John 3:11-24)
God’s love is the mark of God’s people. This is a love unknown to the world. In the world the unsaved always love those who love them but have little or no time for those who hate them or reject them and speak evil against them. God has demonstrated His love in sending the Lord Jesus to die for sinners and for rebels and haters of God and for adulterers and murderers and for all the wickedness in man. Our sins were laid on Him at the cross and God treated Him as a sinner even though He was sinless that He might treat us as His sons and daughters, who by nature and by birth are great sinners and rebels in His sight (Romans 5:6-8) (2 Corinthians 5:19-21) (Ephesians 1:5-8).
We are commanded to love and this is not an option for us as believers. In fact love is the royal law of heaven and those who love with God’s love shed abroad in their hearts by the blessed Holy Spirit fulfil all of the moral and spiritual requirements of God’s perfect law, because love is the fulfilling of the law (Romans 5:5) (Romans 13:10). Our faith in fact is one that works by love (Galatians 5:6).
John tells us that Cain belonged to Satan and did his bidding. When Cain was contemplating killing his brother Abel God warned Cain and gave him the opportunity not to go through with his murderous intent. However, Cain went ahead and murdered his brother proving that Cain was of the evil one, being Satan, who was a murderer from the beginning when he rebelled against God (John 8:44). Those in the world by and large hate Christians because they stand for righteous living that pleases God and by the way they live for God expose the dark deeds of the unsaved (John 3:19-21). This love is to be a continuous action for a believer in the Lord Jesus. When we possess and express this love to our brothers and sisters in the Messiah we will not hold grudges and feelings of malice towards them. John equates hate with murder. The intent of the heart is the same as the actual action. This command to love our brothers and sisters in the Messiah will express itself practically. If we see a brother and sister in need and have the means to help them but choose not to do it then we are not acting in love even though me may be professing we have it.
So John says let us love with our deeds rather than just with our lips. If we love God and love our brothers and sisters in the Messiah in this way then we will have the inward assurance that we are at peace with God. When we feel condemned if we are walking in love, then the assurance and peace of God we need, will come and reign within us (Colossians 3:15).
When we are walking in love by faith and our hearts are at rest and in peace before God, then we have the assurance that whatever we ask for according to God’s will He will give it to us (Mark 11:22-25). Having said this we must ask in faith but making sure at the same time we do not harbour un-forgiveness towards a brother or sister or towards anyone else for that matter. To hold a grudge and to refuse to forgive someone who has offended us is to place ourselves in a position where God cannot forgive us (Matthew 6:14-15). The secret of receiving from the LORD is to be obeying His Word and by doing those things that please Him. God has commanded us to believe in the name of His Son and to love our fellow believers. In this way the whole world will know we are disciples of the Lord Jesus because we will be speaking and acting just like He would. If we are living by His commandments and they are actively at work in us and through us then He Himself also lives in us because we have His Spirit dwelling on the inside of us.
Exposition (1 John 4:1-6)
(Vs.1) “Beloved, 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.”
In His Olivet discourse in Matthew Chapter 24 the Lord Jesus warned His disciples about wars, rumours of wars, earthquakes, pestilence and famine one time but also warned about spiritual deception four times. Spiritual deception comes in various forms and through false prophets and teachers and we are to test the spirits. When we hear a prophecy, a teaching or see a manifestation of a gift or hear about a dream or a vision we must test them by the Word of God. Not all supernatural manifestations or awe inspiring teachings are from God.
We must always ask “what does the Bible teach about this?” One of the reasons we have so much spiritual deception undetected in many churches is because the believers do not know their Bibles. False prophets are those with a false anointing. They may have the ability to charm and mesmerise or enchant others with their stirring speech and persuasive manner, but is what they are teaching according to the Word of God? The specific test John mentions here is the crucial one and it concerns the true nature of the Lord Jesus.
(Vs.2) “By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Messiah has come in the flesh is from God.”
Once again the Greek word John uses for “know” is the word “Ginosko” that denotes an inner supernatural revelation to one’s inner spirit. If we have been spiritually reborn from above by the blessed Holy Spirit and He is living in us, then we will believe in the deity of the Lord Jesus, namely that He is God manifested in the flesh. The Greek text also says; “every spirit that confesses that Jesus Messiah has come into the flesh is from God.” In other words He lived eternally with God in heaven and came into a flesh and blood body at His incarnation at conception in Mary’s womb. In other words the Lord Jesus pre-existed from all of eternity and was manifested in a flesh and blood body and tabernacled among us (John 1:1-5, 10, 14-15). All religious cults deny the deity of the Lord Jesus and also within Christendom there are those who do not believe that the Lord Jesus pre-existed from all eternity and this is what John is getting at. Once you have been born again by the Spirit you will believe in the Tri-Unity within the Godhead (the Trinity) In fact John clearly tells us that the spirit that denies the incarnation is the spirit of antichrist. And so John continues…
(Vs.3) “… and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world.”
From the commencement of His public ministry the Lord Jesus deity was constantly brought into contention by the religious leaders who could not and would not accept that Jesus being the Son of God was in fact proclaiming Himself to be God and equal with God. For this they wanted to stone Him (John 5:17-18). The apostles also believed that the Lord Jesus came down to earth from heaven to tabernacle among us. The word “antichrist” has two meanings in the Greek language of the Bible.
Firstly, it means “to be against Christ,” in other words the spirit of the antichrist hates the true Christ and wants to replace him with another ‘Christ’ or Messiah. Satan has to turn believers from the real Christ so that he can replace him with a false Christ. A false Christ is one with a false anointing who does not teach the truth.
Secondly, it means “to replace the true Christ with a false Christ.” Today within wider Christendom many are preaching a Jesus that is not the Jesus of the Bible. They may have the right Jesus but have Him all wrong. While they emphasize miracles, signs and wonders and His love, they neglect the weightier matters of the law such as repentance, holiness, sin, hell and coming judgement, not to mention their neglect to teach God’s people about the last days, about Israel and about the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus and our spiritual preparedness to meet Him when He comes back.
Once again John’s primary focus is on those who deny that the Lord Jesus eternally existed with God and became flesh. This doctrine is perfectly fine with Satan as he always lays truth and error side by side. The apostle Peter calls this “secretly introducing destructive heresies” (2 Peter 2:1). Already Satan has the unbelievers in the world against Christ but wants to see a false Christ within Christendom, one who does not fit the Biblical one. Historically they have the right one but they do not have the right one Biblically. Once again even in John’s time he was writing his letters to show that the Lord Jesus was the eternally existing God manifest in flesh in His Son the Lord Jesus.
(Vs.4) “You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.”
The spirit of the antichrist is a very stubborn and spiritually seductive spirit to combat. Satan always attacks the person of the Biblical Lord Jesus as revealed in the Bible especially that truth that concerns the deity and of the Lord Jesus. The Gnostics who had once been a part of the fellowship and had now left could not accept this truth. They could not see how God being without sin could live in a flesh and blood body as they considered all flesh sinful and separated the physical from the spiritual. They were saying you could have dreams, manifestation and revelations as much as you like and have all kinds of mystical spiritual experiences and that these were acceptable. As for committing sin, they said it was unavoidable and inevitable because all flesh was sinful and the flesh did not matter in relation to what was spiritual. It was an early form of antinomianism. They could not accept but rejected the Word of God as revealed to John and the apostles about the true nature of the Lord Jesus and the fact that He came to save us from our sins, not in them! (Matthew 1:21).
Now dreams, manifestations, revelations and prophecies have their place within the Body of the Messiah but they must all be subject to the teaching of God’s Word and subject to the control of the Holy Spirit, not man’s manipulation of the emotions. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth, not doctrinal error. Many today claim unity of the Spirit especially those involved in Ecumenism and even in interfaith associations but where there are false and deceptive doctrines you will not find the real presence of the Holy Spirit.
Undoubtedly these Gnostics in John’s time would have had a strong influence on younger believers who like young lambs are easily led astray and wander into the jaws of the wolves surrounding the flock. The blessed Holy Spirit within the believer is greater in strength, power, wisdom and theology than all of the spirits in the world. There are many spirits doing their deceptive work as they wander through the atmosphere and work on the minds of unbelievers and those within Christendom who are not born again or that are under spiritual seduction and deception through false prophets and teachers with their dreams and visions and unbiblical manifestations of one sort or another.
The spirit of the antichrist we are told in the Bible will manifest itself in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders that will pave the way for the coming of the Antichrist himself (2 Thessalonians 2:9-11). Those who have the Holy Spirit in their inner spirit and know what God’s Word says will have the power to overcome these spiritually deceptive and seductive spirits that mark all antichrists and will be fully manifest in the Antichrist when he arrives on the scene.
Those who are spiritually perishing are those who refuse to love the truth and be saved. Added to this God Himself will send a powerful delusion to those who have chosen to follow and submit to the spirit of the Antichrist. The spirit of the antichrist appeals to the world and those who are motivated by this spirit belong to the world, not to God. And so John continues…
(Vs.5) “They are from the world; therefore they speak as from the world, and the world listens to them.”
The Lord Jesus himself said; “If the world hates you, understand that it hated Me first. If you were of the world, it would love you as its own. Instead, the world hates you, because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. Remember the word that I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will persecute you as well; if they kept My word, they will keep yours as well” (John 15:18-20).
When we see Cain persecuting and killing Abel we see this very clearly illustrated. The spirit of the antichrist was at work in Cain’s life. He brought offerings to God that were the results of his own hands when he had worked the fields but the ground was cursed and his offering rejected because by works, even by trying to keep God’s commandments, shall no flesh be justified in God’s sight. Justification in God’ sight comes through saving faith in the Lord Jesus (Romans 3:19-34) (Ephesians 2:8-10).
On the other hand Abel presented the first portions of his firstborn flock to God as a substitutionary sacrifice for his sin and God accepted it on the basis of the shed blood. Out of jealousy and evil intent Cain killed his brother Abel. The spirit of religion always persecutes the Spirit of Christ. Those with a false anointing will always attract a crowd and we have plenty of these false teachers around today applying their wares and peddling God’s Word for profit.
Most of the Mega-Churches today are going down this road if the truth be known with their overemphasis on miracles, signs, wonders, money, healing, dreams and visions and heady mesmerising overly amplified music and these things replacing the plain teaching of God’s Word. When they are confronted they refuse to listen because of the pride of their hearts. In reality they seek and love the praises of man more than the praises of God! No wonder the unsaved in the world and the undiscerning in the Church flow into their meetings having itching ears that they want scratched (2 Timothy 4:3). These spiritual ‘gurus’ are from Satan being imposters, deceivers and enchanters and themselves deceived! (2 Timothy 3:13).
By and large today Christian television especially on the internet has been hijacked by these men and women being in reality hype artists with a false anointing. They are in the delusion of believing their own publicity. Those who really love the Lord Jesus and really have the Spirit of truth within them still in these churches will eventually recognize these wolves in sheep’s clothing and depart from them. Others who know better choose to stay and God sends them a powerful delusion so that they can no longer respond to the truth even when they hear it because their consciences have been seared as with a hot iron and they are incapable of believing unto eternal life (1Timothy 4:2). It is a very dangerous thing spiritually to reject ones conscience! It can in fact make shipwreck of one’s faith (1Timothy 1:19).
(Vs.6) “We are from God; he who knows God listens to us; he who is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.”
Apostolic authority was the hallmark of every true Assembly (Wee read in the Book of Acts that after 3,000 were saved that first and foremost they gave themselves to ardent devotion to the apostle’s doctrine (Acts 2:42). Doctrine is important because it shapes the way we live. Those who really belong to God know by the inward revelation and witness of the Holy Spirit that the Word of God given through the apostles is the very “Spirit-breathed Word of God.” Yet again John uses the word “Ginosko.” This inner revelation or knowledge goes deeper than the intellect. We can understand the truth of the Bible to a certain degree intellectually but when it comes to embracing it as the very Word of God and profitable for all teaching, rebuking, exhortation and training in righteousness, it must become revelation to our inner spirit. Once we have received the revelation knowledge of the truth as revealed in the Bible then we will be able to discern truth from error.
Today we still have apostolic doctrine in the New Testament and this should be the measuring yardstick for all doctrine and teaching and prophecy. Today we have ‘super apostles’ running around saying that they are equal to the apostles and declaring doctrines they say are an extension of God’s Word today. They go beyond what is written which we are commanded in scripture not to do (1 Corinthians 4:1) (Deuteronomy 4:2; 12:32) (Proverbs 30:5-6) (Revelation 22:18-19). We have the complete Canon of scripture. There is no more scripture but only a deeper understanding of the scriptures that have already been written. If Christians knew their Bible better they would not follow these false teachers as the world follows them because these teachers are of the world and usually they are lovers of money more than lovers of God.
Just look at the opulent lifestyles of the hyper faith prosperity preachers today with their multi-million dollar mansions, their flashy cars, expensive jewellery and staying in five star hotels, living in the lap of luxury, and with their designer clothes and their multi-million dollar jets and you will find the money changers in the Temple profiteering on the blood of the lamb and fleecing the sheep out of their hard earned money. Scripture itself calls them “An accursed breed!” These men and women do not have the Spirit of truth but the spirit of error; in fact it is part and parcel of the spirit of the Antichrist. Those who are of God and know Him by revelation knowledge and have His Spirit will know the truth when they hear it and obey it!
Continuing to live in and by the Word of God and not giving up when things get tough will make us a true disciple of the Lord Jesus and empower us to be His faithful bond slaves to life’s end! The Lord Jesus Himself said; “If you continue in My word, you are truly My disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32). The secret to knowing the truth is to continue reading, studying and searching the scriptures daily. This was true of the Bereans at Berea to whom Paul had been preaching. We read about their response to Paul’s doctrine; “Now the Bereans were more noble-minded than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if these teachings were true” (Acts 17:11).