1 John, chapter 4 has so many little nuggets of wisdom as it deals with two topics: discerning false prophets and loving one another. Just because someone says that they have a message from God, doesn’t mean that we have to believe them. There are many ways that John tells us in this chapter that we can test teachers, pastors, and other believers to see if what they are saying really is from the Lord.
We can start by checking their words to see if they match up with what God says in scripture. Then we can test their commitment to the body of believers like it says in 1 John 2:19. We can look at their lifestyles like it says in 1 John 3:23-24, “those who obey his commandments remain in fellowship with him and he with them.” We can also look at the fruit of their ministry. It says in chapter 4, verse 6, “But we belong to God, and those who know God listen to us. If they do not belong to God, they do not listen to us. That is how we know if someone has the Spirit of truth or the spirit of deception.” But the MOST important of all the tests is what John refers to in verse 2, what do they believe about Christ?
Church, I think that we need to pause here to reflect on the fact that yes, when John wrote this book in 85-90 AD, he was warning the believers of that time about the false teachers, but he was also writing to warn us of false teachers. If this message was important then, it is even more important now. The false prophets of John’s day did not have social media, internet or television to be able to spread false truths, but WE do. We really have to be able guard our hearts and minds to falsities that swirling around in the cloud out there. It’s too easy today to fall for Tik-Tok theology where often the Tweet-able truths of these false teachers don’t stand up against the truth of God’s word. Sometimes they are not big, huge obvious un-truths. Sometimes they come in the guise of a thought that makes us go, “hmmm, that sounds good…I really like that” so when that happens, it’s a great time to use these tests that John has given us to be able to weed out false doctrine.
Okay, now we are going to pick back up in verse 7. This is where John starts talking about the importance of loving one another. John is actually known as the love apostle so it should be no surprise that he likes to put emphasis here. Love is often thought of as a feeling, but in reality, love is an action. It is a choice as we see modeled in 1 Corinthians 13. God loves us so much that He sent Jesus to die on the cross for us, a brutal and agonizing death. Jesus in His life are on Earth, showed us perfectly what it means to love and how to do it. And now we have the power of the Holy Spirit to help us to love.
Let’s read verses 7 and 8, “Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” It doesn’t say love is God. It says God is love. Often times, in our world today, there can be such a shallow definition of love. The word love and concept of love has been so weakened over time that I think our understanding of it has diminished in some ways. The world is trying to teach us to think that love is what ever makes you feel good, so you have a right to do what ever you want in order to obtain the love that you deserve. This is actually the opposite of real love — it is selfishness. If we truly know God, then it will show in the way we love and treat others. When we love one another, the invisible God reveals Himself to others through us.
I like how verses 9 and 10 puts it. “God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.”
There are five really good key things to point out here… love explains…
Why God creates - because He loves, He creates people to love.
Why God cares - because He loves us, he reaches out to sinful people.
Why we are free to choose whether we will follow Him - God wants a willing, sincere, loving response from us.
Why Christ died - His love for us moved Him to offer a solution to the problem of sin.
Why we receive eternal life - God’s love will express itself forever.
Jesus is God’s only Son. While we are called sons and daughters of God, only Jesus gets to live in this special, unique relationship with Him.
John ends the chapter in verses 17-20 by talking about as we live in God our love grows more perfect, so we don’t need to have fear of judgement day because we can live in confidence of His love. Now I really love what verse 18 says, “Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love.” Wow. That really made me stop and think, have I really allowed myself to FULLY experience His perfect love? His love quiets our fears and gives us confidence and peace.
Let me end with this. it is easy to say we love God when it doesn’t really cost us that much. The real test of our love for God comes from the way we treat the people around us everyday. Our spouse, our kids, extended family members, our co-workers, other believers. We CANNOT truly love God while neglecting to love other people. People created in His image. So you have two challenges form this chapter today…to be on the look out for false teaching that we may be inadvertently accepting as truth by putting them through the tests John gave us, and two, to love the people around us to the best of our ability.