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A call to love one another, live without fear and test false teachers
This week we are going to continue with our series from 1 John. We are up to chapter 4. Last fortnight in chapter 3 we saw three things…
In chapter 3 John wanted us to know that…
Chapter 4 has some more warnings and some more encouragements for us as Christians. As with the other chapters before it, John wants us to be on track in our relationship with Christ and with one another.
The title of this message today is “A call to love one another, live without fear and watch out for false teachers”.
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. 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 We know that we live 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 his Son to be the Saviour of the world. 15 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he 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 him. 17 In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. 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 If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. 21 And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.
1. A warning against false teachers
In verses 1-6 John gives us a warning against teachers who speak of things not from the Spirit of God.
1 John 4:1-3 NIV – “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.”
John recognised that false teachers with ulterior motives were coming into the church to lead people astray. John warns us to test the spirit that is behind what they are saying.
When someone says, they have a word or teaching from God there is three places it can come from – God’s Spirit, the human spirit or Satan. Messages from God’s Spirit line up with Scripture and have a sense of rightness or truth about them. Messages from the human spirit feel like they miss the target and have a sense of selfishness, worldliness or ambition attached to them. Messages from Satan are designed to lead us astray and can often sound right, but are not right when tested.
So how do we test if someone is from God or not? We can observe them over a period of time and prayerfully ask these questions.
These things, especially what they say about Jesus is key to knowing if what they are saying is from God. John warns us to test the spirit behind what people say. That is why we need to take it slow when new people come to the church before we give them opportunities to serve in a place of responsibilities in our church.
Over the years, I have been at churches where new people have come in. They wanted to introduce themselves to the Pastor and talk about all their experience and training. It was like a job interview for a position of authority in the church. Most of my Pastors have told the people to come and be part of the church for about six months and just get to know everyone and sit. Build relationships and let people get to know them and see what they are really like. In some cases people stayed and did become part of the church and take on a role in time. At other times they left because they did not get recognised with authority straight away.
Like John is saying here, we need to test the spirit that is at work in the person’s life and what they are saying or teaching. Remember the spirit at work can be from God, the human spirit or from Satan. Prayer and time usually reveal which one it is.
2. A call to brotherly and sisterly love
In verses 7-16 John reminds us again to love our brothers and sisters in Christ. This is the third time in four chapters. It is something John is pretty passionate about.
The first time was in chapter 2. It says, “10 Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble.”
If we love one another it proves we are living in the light. The second time was in chapter 3. John again reminds us that this “is the message you have heard from the beginning: We should love one another” (v11). He goes on to say that our love for one another shows we have passed from death to life (v14).
It was the old/new commandment to love on another which goes back to Leviticus 19:18.
In today’s passage verse 12 says “No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” And in verse 16 it says, “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 him.”
I don’t know about you, but I want a complete love. I want God’s love to be made complete in me. I want to follow Christ’s example of sacrificial love and I want to help my brothers and sisters in Christ who are in need as we saw in chapter 3. I want to love my brothers and sisters in Christ so it will be obvious I truly belong to Jesus (John 13:34-35). I don’t want to love only in words, but my faith and my love to have actions attached to them (James 2:26). I want to show I have passed from death to life. I want people to see my love and good deeds and give glory to my Father in heaven as Jesus said in Matthew 5:16.
So once more John reminds us to love one another.
3. Perfect loves drives out all fear
My last point for today is perfect love drives out all fear. Tucked away in verses 17-18 is a powerful point about fear – perfect love drives out fear.
Verses 17 and 18 in today’s readings says, “In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. 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.”
The context of the statement “perfect love drives out all fear” is in the case of the coming judgement at the end times. When the Bible talks about judgement, it talks about two main happenings. The “judgment seat of Christ” in 2 Corinthians 5:10 and the “Great white throne judgement” in Revelation 20:11-15.
In 2 Corinthians 5:10 it says, “For we must all stand before Christ to be judged. We will each receive whatever we deserve for the good or evil we have done in this earthly body.” This is traditionally seen as the judgement of those who are righteous in Christ – people who have believed in Jesus and trusted Him for their salvation. It is neither the judgement of the nations where sheep and goats will be separated in Matthew 25:31–46 nor the great white throne in Revelation 20:11–15.
Revelations 20:11-15 says, “And I saw a great white throne and the one sitting on it. The earth and sky fled from his presence, but they found no place to hide. 12 I saw the dead, both great and small, standing before God’s throne. And the books were opened, including the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to what they had done, as recorded in the books. 13 The sea gave up its dead, and death and the grave gave up their dead. And all were judged according to their deeds. 14 Then death and the grave were thrown into the lake of fire. This lake of fire is the second death. 15 And anyone whose name was not found recorded in the Book of Life was thrown into the lake of fire.”
This judgment is based on faith in Christ and if your name is in the Lambs Book of Life. If your name is in there because you have trust Christ, you are ok… if not, you are a bad place.
The judgement seat of Christ should be viewed as the “reward seat”, rather than being viewed as a judicial bench. Good deeds will receive a greater reward, and bad deeds will lessen the reward. Yet the judgement seat remains only for believers in Christ who have already been justified and found worthy to stand before a judge, having their lives inspected to determine their rewards.
For us as Christians this is good news, no scratch that, it is great news! Our judgment is not about salvation – we are saved and our names are recorded in the Lambs Book of Life. The judgment we will face is about rewards. Rewards for what we have done with what we know about Christ.
So, in the context of our passage today. We can have confidence on the day of judgement, because we trust Christ. We know and have experienced His perfect love that reaches out from eternity and drives out all fear.
I have heard it said that the letter of F.E.A.R. stand for false evidence appearing real – F E A R. Whenever I am fearful about the future I ask God is this is false evidence or is this real, then His love comes in and gives me peace, His Word comes in gives me assurance and His Spirit helps me to focus back on the eternal realities that are true, real and pure. Perfect love drives out fear.
So, in closing today and as we finish with 1 John 4, I want to encourage with three thoughts that John wanted us to understand.
By Dave Quinn
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