March 14, 2000

1 John 4

Vv. 1-3

John continues his warning about the antichrist. The antichrist is not a man, but a spirit that influences or controls men, causing them to deny the truth of Jesus Christ – though he may be right in every other area of doctrine, the antichrist is basically a false teacher when it comes to the doctrine of Jesus Christ.

The first church was made up of Jews converted to Christ. And Jews were the ones who persecuted the Church, not the civil government. So John is speaking in the context of the Jewish religion of his day — the mere mention of the doctrine of Christ threw the Jews into an uproar, e.g., Acts 21:27ff. However, not only did the gospel of Christ throw the Jews into an uproar, but it also caused problems among Gentiles, e.g., Acts 19:21. Of course, merely believing the historical fact that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not salvaqtion, Ephesians 1:12, 13.

Christ is the truth, as well as the way and the life. The mark that shows whether or not a teacher is true is his view of the doctrine of Christ, 2 John 1:9.

There is no need to develop antichrist further, for I deal with it in the mo, "Jew-Israel, Can Jesus be the Messiah of the Jews today?"

Vv. 4-6

V. 4, little children – new Christians or his spiritual children. Because they were of God, they had the Spirit of God who would guide them into all truth. (Jn. 16:13.) If they would pay attention to that Spirit and the word, then they would not be overcome with that spirit of antichrist, i.e., false prophets. (See 1Jh. 5:5.)

V. 5, They — that is, the many false prophets or anchrists. Because they are not of the Lord, they speak things that are pleasing to the world.

V. 6, the Apostle is confident he is of God; therefore, he speaks for God, and those whom the Lord has given the Spirit of understanding will hear what the Apostle is saying.

At appears that there was those Judaizers who were trying to undermine John's message also, just as they worked against Paul. In fact, a good portion of the New Testament is written to deal with the Jews who were working to get the new Christians, both "Jew" and "Gentile," to return to the temple worship and Judaism. (See introduction to Jew Israel mailing.)

Vv. 7-13

The Apostle returns to what seems to be his favorite theme — love toward God and toward man. I covered this pretty much in depth in chapter 3, so there is no need to here again. (Christian love is defined there, so I will not go into it again.)

John's command found in vv. 7, 8, is defined by our actions and attitudes toward others.

Vv. 9, 10, again, John defines love in terms of God, not man. God's love towards us was based upon his sovereign grace, not upon any good that might have been found in us (us defined as the Elect). God's love caused him to send his Son to be a propitiation for our sins:

That by which God is rendered propitious, i.e., by which it becomes consistent with his character and government to pardon and bless the sinner. The propitiation does not procure his love or make him loving; it only renders it consistent for him to exercise his love towards sinners. In #Ro 3:25 Heb 9:5 (A.V., "mercy-seat") the Greek word _hilasterion_ is used. It is the word employed by the LXX. translators in #Ex 25:17 and elsewhere as the equivalent for the Hebrew _kapporeth_, which means "covering, " and is used of the lid of the ark of the covenant #Ex 25:21 30:6 This Greek word (hilasterion) came to denote not only the mercy-seat or lid of the ark, but also propitation or reconciliation by blood. On the great day of atonement the high priest carried the blood of the sacrifice he offered for all the people within the veil and sprinkled with it the "mercy-seat, " and so made propitiation. In #1Jo 2:2 4:10 Christ is called the "propitiation for our sins." Here a different Greek word is used (hilasmos). Christ is "the propitiation, " because by his becoming our substitute and assuming our obligations he expiated our guilt, covered it, by the vicarious punishment which he endured. (Comp.) #Heb 2:17 where the expression "make reconciliation" of the A.V. is more correctly in the R.V. "make propitiation.") (Online Bible)

We did nothing to deserve God sending his Son to die in such a manner that would appease the Father over our sins.

V. 11, God loved us first as undeserving sinners, at war against him. John uses God's love as an example — that is, if God could love us who are totally undeserving, then we have no excuse for not loving others. (Remember the definition of love as given by Paul above.)

V. 12, No man hath seen God at any time, but all men can see God through his people, in whom his love dwells.

V. 13, genuine love for others is a work of the Spirit, who enables us to overcome our natural all consuming love of self, and our resistance to loving others.

Vv. 14-16

V. 14, And we have seen, &c. John is probably speaking of himself and some of those still alive – they saw the Son, and they testify that he was who he claimed to be, the Saviour of the world. (St. John 15:27, &c.)

V. 15, the mark of truth, not a false prophet – anitchrist, is the confession of Christ.

Remember the Jewish context. At John's point of time, such a confession of Christ probably meant death; therefore, it was not something to be taken or done lightly.

V. 16, God's people have experienced God's love toward them. So the proof they are in God is that they dwelleth in love — that is, continue in the actions that show love, actions as defined by Paul in Galatians 5 and 1 Corinthians 13.

Vv. 17-21

As he is, so are we in this world. The context is love. By exhibiting the same love as He has – as he is, so are we in this world – we have boldness before him both in time and eternity; our love "proves" we are of him, and he is in us:

1Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: 2 By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; 4 And patience, experience; and experience, hope: 5 And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. (Rom. 5.)

V. 18, love removes fear. The love of v. 17 gives boldness before God, rather than fear of him. Those without the love of God, i.e., love for God, have reason to fear God and to be tormented with that fear. Note Romans 5:5 – the Spirit of God must shed abroad in our hearts the love of God – love for God and love for one another. Those who have not that love have every reason to fear and be tormented.

V. 19, a reminder that the Sovereign, predestinating God is the source of true love, and that love is defined by him:

28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. 29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified. 31 What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? 32 He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? (Rom. 8.)

His love towards his people is proved by his deliverance of his Son for our sins. His love delivers them from the wrath to come. Many times the events that might come into our lives make us "doubt" his love, but the Cross proves his love. His love for his own was proved on the Cross long before we were even born, for Christ was slain from the foundation of the world. (Rev. 13:8.)

This verse, as do others, removes all excuses for not loving our neighbours as ourselves. We never deserved God's love, but he loved us anyway. This verse is a good verse on sovereignty and predestination. (See Rom. 3.)

V. 20, good words and works toward the unseen, Triune God are lies without good works and words toward our fellow man, who we can see, and who is made in the image of God. Love for God is seen, not unseen – it is seen in our daily actions and attitudes toward others. The two cannot be separated.

V. 21, love for God shown through our love for others in not an option – it is a commandment of God. And John has already said that this is NOT a new commandment, but one from the beginning. (See 3:11.) If it is the love of God that has been shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, then the love called for here by John will be part of our new nature.

(17) A second reason, why God cannot be hated and our neighbour loved, because this same lawmaker commanded us both to love him and our neighbour. (Geneva)