1 John 4:1-12
In this session, we will begin 1 John chapter 4 and continue the deep theme of how to fellowship with a God who is love. John continues to direct the attention of his spiritual children to the truth that Jesus Christ is the fullest expression of the love in God toward humanity. In Jesus, we see the love of God in action and we see the clearest expression of His nature and character in the things that He said and did.
We see the following movements in 1 John 4:1-12.
1 – How to recognize the antichrist spirit that operates in false teachers/prophets
2 – The realization of the authority of the believer in Jesus Christ and the authority of the Apostles teaching
3 – Love is the proof of our faith
4 – The fullness of the love of the Father being expressed to us in the Son, Jesus.
1 John 4:1
a) Dear friends – It would be appropriate to point out that the phrase “dear friends in the Greek is actually more correctly translated as “beloved, objects of love”. Greek – AGAPĒTOS – beloved, esteemed, dear, favorite, worthy of love.
b) John writes verse 1 in the context of the false prophet Cerinthus in Ephesus who was the leading Gnostic false teacher/prophet that was attacking the Church and the doctrine of John and the other Apostles. We discussed the doctrines of Cerinthus in earlier sessions. His heresy was that Jesus was not fully Man and fully God. His heresy followed the Greek Platonic philosophical concept that the flesh was totally corrupt and the spirit was totally pure. This type of paradox allowed for immorality to be accepted because it was flesh. Cerinthus also taught that Jesus birth was not a supernatural event, and that Jesus became Christ at His baptism. Cerinthus denied Jesus being Immanuel/God in the flesh, from the beginning. The theological themes of 1 John are distinctly directed at the heresy of Cerinthus. John is quoted by Irenaeus saying, “”Let us flee, lest the building fall down; for Cerinthus, the enemy of the truth, is inside!”, when John learned that Cerinthus was in the same building.
c) Indeed, there were many false prophets who attacked Christianity in the apostolic age. The earliest attacks came from the Judaizers mentioned in Galatians, Philippians 3:2, Acts 15, and Revelation 2:9. There were also many false messianic figures that came immediately after Jesus, the most notable would have been John Levi, the leader of the Zealots faction in Jerusalem. See Matthew 24:23-24. However, in this context John was keeping the Church in the Roman Province of Asia safe from the Gnostic movement.
d) We should never assume that every spiritual experience or prophetic utterance originates from God. 1 Corinthians 14:26-33 gives us instruction on how to discern public prophecies and 1 Corinthians 12:10 teaches us that there is the spiritual gift of distinguishing between spirits. Having said this, we should never prohibit spiritual experiences, but test them on the basis of Scripture, and the fruit that they produce. Cultivating a deep relationship with the Holy Spirit will keep us from error because He is the Spirit of Truth, our Helper, our Counselor, and our Advocate.
1 John 4:2-3
a) The Holy Spirit and Holy Angels will always communicate truth about Jesus. The Orthodoxy of the Christian faith is founded on truth about Jesus that cannot be moved, changed or amended. The whole Body of Christ, the Universal Church of Jesus Christ is unified around the truth of the Person of Jesus Christ. Our declaration of faith, the Nicene Creed, is the guiding statement of faith for the millennia of the Church age.
b) 1 John 4:3 is the third mention of antichrist in the Scriptures. There are only 4 mentions in the Scriptures of antichrist; 1 John 2:18, 1 John 2:22, 1 John 4:3, and 2 John 1:7. If we look at the occasion and context of these mentions of antichrist, we can see clearly that it is directed specifically towards the Gnostics and towards all false teachers/prophets throughout the Church Age. Notice that John says that the spirit of antichrist was already present and influencing the world when he wrote this Epistle. Every generation of Christians battles the spirit of antichrist and overcomes false doctrines, false teachers and false prophets with the Scriptures. It is also important to note that the very definitions of antichrist as defined by the context of their use in 1 John and 2 John, prevent antichrist from being a future eschatological figure.
1 John 4:4-5
a) The Epistle of 1 John reveals the loving heart of this Apostle because we see over and over the use of terms of endearment and love being directed towards God’s people. Children – Greek – TEKNION – a little child – John equates his love for his spiritual children as the same love for parents have for their little children who are under their protective love. Good spiritual fathers and mothers operate in this same heart of love for their spiritual sons and daughters.
b) Every son or daughter of the Living God already stands in the place of victory over false teaching, deceptive spirits, and satanic spiritual attacks. The Greek word for greater used here in the text is “MEGAS”, where we derive our word “mega”. We stand in overwhelming victory and authority over any spiritual force that seeks to attack us.
c) He who is in you – Jesus said in John 14:17- the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.
d) John contrasts the viewpoint of the world versus the wisdom of God that indwells the believer for us in verse 5. See 1 Corinthians 2:12-14.
1 John 4:6
a) The “us” that John is referencing are the collective of Apostolic Fathers like Paul, Peter, Thomas, Matthew, Philip, James and others who were eye witnesses of Jesus Christ. At this time, the first generation of Apostles was being passed on to the second generation of believers. John was plainly telling this next generation that anything that is contrary to their teaching about Jesus Christ is not from God.
b) Today the voice of the first generation of the Apostolic Fathers lives in the words of Scripture. See 2 Peter 1:20-21 & 2 Peter 3:15-16.
1 John 4:7-8
a) The Greek text actually reads: “agapētos agapaō allēlōn allēlōn agapē” – A more correct translation would read. “objects of love, love one another, like God loves”.
b) Everyone who loves – The people of God re-image Him when the core value of our life flows from love.
c) An evidence of our faith is the ability to love as it proves that we know Him. Children reflect their parent’s nature and character.
1 John 4:9-11
a) John carries this theme over from a very similar saying in John 3:16. The Father giving us the Son to be the sacrifice for sin is overwhelming proof of the passionate love God has for humanity.
b) In Jesus Christ, we see a perfect representation of the Father’s nature and character. See Colossians 2:9.
c) The love that we experience in the Man, Jesus Christ compels us to love others.
1 John 4:12
a) No one has ever seen God – However, we have multiple theophanies in Scripture, manifestations of God like the burning bush, manifestations of God on the throne in Revelation, and representations of the Holy Spirit in a dove and the seven lamps in Revelation. What John is saying, is that the Godhead is only comprehensible in the limited revelation that only He has shown us in Scripture. Jesus said that God is Spirit, so we must understand that God is incomprehensible, invisible and transcendent to our reality and that God is known to us by the experiential love we share with Him.
b) The mystery of God is made manifest in humanity by His love being present and demonstratively expressed through us.