Continuing our study on 1 John, today we are taking a look at chapter 4. Click here to find all of both mine and Daniel’s posts on 1 John.
In the last chapter, in verse 23, we learn that our command from God is to trust in the name of Christ and to love one another. Everything can find its root in one of those two. Everything we do, everything we believe, comes back to do we trust in Christ and do we love others.
The first few verses of chapter 4 reflect back on the first of those – trusting that Jesus is who He said He is. Those who openly agree that Christ came in the flesh is of God and has the Spirit of God. Those who don’t are not. It was that simple to them. They knew that if you believed in who Jesus was, it would be evident by the way you lived your life. McKnight’s version says, “openly agrees”. That to me shows that it wasn’t just a confession given at the time of acceptance and baptism. It was something that anyone looking at them could see. Anyone, even if they were not yet familiar with “The Way” or the teachings of Jesus, could tell that there was something about you if you had His Spirit. Those with the spirit of the Anti-Christ were guilty of the sin of denying who Jesus was and not trusting in His name, not having His love and His Spirit.
In verse 4, John tells his readers that the have conquered, won victory over, those with the spirit of the Anti-Christ, because GOD IS GREATER than the one who gave them that spirit. We know and have Truth’s Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus, the Holy Spirit.
Love is from God. Life is from God. Verses 9-10 tell us that God’s love “became apparent” in that He “commissioned” His Son, Jesus, to give us life and to be our “means of mercy.” The verbiage here is beautiful. His love “became apparent”. It was always there, we just were to blind to see it. But now it has come to light. The Light has been revealed. Jesus was “commissioned”, He was sent to us just as He in turn sent His disciples (and us) out to the world. Sent with a mission. While our mission is to take Christ out to the world, His mission was to be our “means of mercy.” He is truly the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
Love, love, love. It is all about love, y’all. God so loved, just as we are told in John 3:16. We in turn love one another, as he has told us time and again in this letter, and as God has revealed to us throughout the gospel accounts and the letters to the early Christians. How do we know we remain in Him? His Spirit. We remain in Him and keep His Spirit by openly trusting in Him and showing His love. Forgive me if I sound redundant, but I want to drive home, just as John did, what He is trying to say to us. We are to be known as children of God by what kind of people we are. How do we treat others? The answer should be with love and compassion. Verse 16 reads, “We have known and we have trust the love that God has in us.” Trusting is hard. Trusting in something/Someone we’ve never seen is even harder. How do we know we can trust Him? Because He sent His Spirit to help us remember (John 14:26-27) He gave us His Spirit of power, love, and self-discipline, not a spirit of fear. (2 Timothy 1:7) Because what? Because “complete love tosses out fear.” Because “the one who fears has not been completed in love.” (1 John 4:18) We are to love as He did. Jesus was the epitome of love and compassion. We are to be complete, or perfect, in His love. Does that mean we will live perfect lives? No, of course not. We are still human, after all. It means that because we trust that He is who He says He is, our “means of mercy” that He will work through us to show His love and mercy to all people.
We can’t claim to love God but hate our sibling. If we don’t love our sibling we don’t have the love of God in us. Remember, hate is the absence of love. If we have God’s love in our heart, there is no room for hate, ill-will, malicious intent, or even apathy. In verse 20 John tells us if we can’t love our sibling, we are “unable to love” God. Because if we don’t have love for our neighbor, do we really have the love of God in our heart? Do we really trust Jesus to be the means of mercy for all? Our commands are to trust in Jesus and to love our brother. As we learned in chapter 3 verse 18, that means not just through our words but also our actions. Flipping over to 2 John, in verse 6 John says, “Love means doing what God has commanded us, and He has commanded us to love one another, just as you heard from the beginning.” Romans 13:10 says, “Love does no wrong to others, so love fulfills the requirements of God’s law.” And in Galatians 5:14: “For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” It all goes back to love. Because God is love, and our love is from God.