1 John

God's Love Displayed

WELCOME:

Good morning! If you are visiting with us today, I want to welcome you once again to Grace Bible Fellowship Church. It’s an honor to be worshiping with you today.

John continues his instructions once again on the topic of love. In the past two sermons we have learned that we can be assured of our salvation and that we are commanded to be discerning. Now John returns to the topic of love for the third time in this epistle. Obviously, this is a very important topic. In 1 John 4:7-21 John says….

1 John 4:7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. 9 By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us. 13 By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. 14 We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. 19 We love, because He first loved us. 20 If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.

INTRODUCTION:

In today’s message, I hope to show the relation of the perfect love of God to God’s character, Jesus’ return, a Christian’s claim of faith and the final Day of Judgment. But I am going to start with an overview of the doctrine of the Trinity to help us understand the perfect love of God.

The doctrine of the Trinity is truly beyond our human comprehension yet it is definitely a part of scripture. Though the fullness of the Trinity is profound and difficult to understand, there is no doubt this is how God has revealed Himself – one God existing in three persons. Many have studied this doctrine and found it to be very weighty. For example, Jonathan Edwards, the famous pastor and theologian, noted after studying the topic extensively, “I think it to be the highest and deepest of all Divine mysteries still, notwithstanding anything that I have said or conceived about it. I don’t pretend to explain the Trinity.”

The Bible is very clear that these three persons together are one and only one God. In John 10:30, Jesus says, “I and the Father are one” which validates that the Father and Son are one. First Corinthians 3:16 says, “Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” This highlights that the Father and the Spirit are one. Romans 8:9 makes clear that the Son and the Spirit are one when Paul says, “However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you…” And finally, John 14:16-18 and 23 demonstrate that the Father, Son, and Spirit are one; Jesus says, “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you…. Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.”

Now let’s take a look at the Old Testament which highlights the idea of the Trinity in several ways. The title Elohim (“God”), for instance, is a plural noun, which can suggest multiplicity. This corresponds to the fact that the plural pronoun (“us”) is sometimes used of God. For example, in Genesis 1:26 God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” In Isaiah 6:8, Isaiah says, “Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I. Send me!” There are also passages where all three persons of the Trinity are seen at work. In Isaiah 48:16, Israel is being reminded of their promised deliverance by each person of the Trinity: “Come near to Me, listen to this: From the first I have not spoken in secret, From the time it took place, I was there. And now the Lord God has sent Me, and His Spirit.” In Isaiah 61:1 it says, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, Because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives, and freedom to prisoners.”

The New Testament clearly distinguishes the Trinity as three persons who are all simultaneously actively at work. For example, in Matthew 3:16-17 which highlights Christ’s baptism, all three persons were simultaneously active with the Son being baptized, the Spirit descending, and the Father speaking from heaven. In Matthew 6:9 where Jesus gives us the model prayer, Jesus Himself prayed to the Father. In John 14:26, Jesus says, God will send the Holy Spirit in His name. And in John 17:5, Jesus asks the Father to glorify Him. All these actions would not make sense unless the Father and the Son were two distinct persons. In other portions of the New Testament, the individual activity of the Trinity is highlighted. Such as in Romans 8:26 where the Holy Spirit intercedes before the Father on behalf of believers. Also in 1 John 2:1, the Son is our Advocate. In John 14:6, John reminds us that Jesus said the Holy Spirit would abide in believers. Again, in 14:18 and 20-21, Jesus Himself said He would abide in believers. And then in verse 23, the Bible states that the Father would abide in them. Each person of the Trinity is found distinctly working in a person’s life. There are other verses that can be highlighted but I hope that you are now convinced that God the Father, Jesus Christ the Son and the Holy Spirit are One God manifested in three persons of the Trinity.

The doctrine of the Trinity is crucial on an infinite number of levels since it is at the very heart of the doctrine of God. This doctrine is so significant, that the Trinity has implications not only for what believers think about God but also for how they relate to Him and to one another. It is the truth of the Trinity that explains God as a relational being.

Based on that flawless relational model of the Trinity and God’s perfect desire and purpose to have fellowship with His creatures, the triune God designed us to be relational beings. Because God created us in His image, we therefore have the capacity to love others. This is perfectly demonstrated through our fellowship with God and with other human beings. Although human love falls far short of God’s love, it is a reflection of the perfect love that exists between the three persons of the Trinity.

The New Testament mentions many kinds of love, but the supreme love is the perfect and complete love that comes from God at salvation. In Romans 5:5 Paul wrote, “The love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” It is a love that does not derive from gushy feelings or a magical moment, nor is it attached to emotional romanticism; but instead it is the love that originates in salvation. Romans 8:28-30 highlights what true love looks like:

Romans 8:28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. 29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; 30 and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.

This type of love demonstrates itself in the good works of sanctification and according to Hebrews 10:24 it stimulates us to love and good deeds. However, the fullest expression of this love occurs when believers obey the Lord.

1 John 2:5 Whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected.

As I mentioned earlier, this passage is actually the third time John discusses love in this letter. First in 2:7–11 he presented love as a proof of true fellowship. Then in 3:10–17 John discussed love as evidence of believers’ sonship. This third discussion of love is an example of John’s cycling back through the letter’s moral and doctrinal proofs of salvation, each time providing his readers with greater depth and breadth.

In this passage, John discusses the nature of perfect Trinitarian love as it relates to 1) the character of God, 2) the coming of Christ, 3) the Christian’s claim of faith, and 4) the Christian’s confidence in judgment.

Let’s take a look at how….

PERFECT LOVE AND THE CHARACTER OF GOD RELATE

1 John 4:7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.

John begins this passage by stating “beloved” which means “loved ones.” He then urges them to love one another as “loved ones.” But John is referring once again to agapē love—unconditional, self-sacrificing love. He is not talking about some emotion based, physical attraction, or friendship type love, but instead he is talking about the love of self-sacrificing service. It is the love granted to someone who needs to be loved not necessarily to someone who is the cutest, most attractive or even someone who is lovable. Why do we need to extend love to one another? Because love is from God. Just as God is life and the source of eternal life, He is also the source of love according to 1 John 4:16. Therefore, those who possess new life and walk in His light, they will also possess and manifest His love, since everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Because we are God’s children and are manifesting His nature, we will love one another.

Those who possess the life of God have the capacity and ability to love. However the one who does not love does not know God. No matter what an individual claims, if their life is not characterized by love for others, they are not Christians. It’s not enough to know about God, you have to know God. The Jewish scribes, Pharisees, and other leaders knew a lot about God, but they did not really know Him. The absence of God’s love in their lives revealed their lack of a real acceptance of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior; therefore, they had no real love for others.

God by His very nature is love, thus He defines love; it does not define Him. We can’t impose a human view of love onto God, He transcends any such human boundaries. Because God is love, it helps to explain a number of things regarding a proper biblical worldview. For example, it explains the reason God created us. In eternity past, within the perfect fellowship of the Trinity, God the Father purposed, as a love gift to His Son, to redeem a people who would honor and glorify the Son. Therefore, He created a race of beings out of which He would love and redeem those who would in turn love Him forever. Jesus says in John 17:

John 17:7 Now they have come to know that everything You have given Me is from You; 8 for the words which You gave Me I have given to them; and they received them and truly understood that I came forth from You, and they believed that You sent Me. 9 I ask on their behalf; I do not ask on behalf of the world, but of those whom You have given Me; for they are Yours; 10 and all things that are Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine; and I have been glorified in them.

Also, the truth that God is love explains human choice. He designed sinners to know and love Him by an act of their wills although it is not possible without the work of the Holy Spirit. According to Mark 12:29-30, God’s greatest commandment is that people love Him with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength. This reaffirms that our choice to love Him is an act of our will, but to know Him is to love Him.

As part of a biblical worldview, the reality that God is love also explains His providence. He orchestrates all the circumstances of life in all their wonder, beauty, and even difficulty, to reveal evidence of His love. We know this because in Romans 8:28 the Scripture says, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” By His divine providence, all things, from the minute and mundane, to the most significant and eternal, are all controlled by God’s hand.

Lastly, because God is love it explains the divine plan of redemption. If God operated only on the basis of His law, He would convict all of us for our sin and commit every single one of us to spend eternity in Hell. And He would be just in doing so! But His love provided a remedy for our sin through the atoning work of Jesus Christ on behalf of all who repent of their sin and trust in His mercy. Galatians 4:4–5 says, “But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.” John 3:14–15 says, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life.” And then in the most well-known statement of His earthly ministry, Jesus said:

John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

We have talked about ways God’s love is manifested through a biblical worldview, but what about His love for mankind in general. Well, He expresses His love and goodness to all through common grace. According to Psalm 145:9, the psalmist wrote, “The Lord is good to all, and His mercies are over all His works.” As part of this, God reveals His love through His compassion, primarily through His restraint of His final judgment against unrepentant sinners. His compassion is further expressed in His countless warnings to sinners of their ultimate judgment and through His continued offer of grace and mercy to all.

However, this general love of God is limited to this life. After death, unrepentant sinners will experience God’s final wrath and judgment for all eternity. But God has a special, perfect, eternal love that He lavishes on all who believe and accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. This is the love Jesus displayed to the apostles when they were in the upper room:

John 13:1 …having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.

It is the type of love that Paul writes about in Ephesians 2:

Ephesians 2:4 God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”

John has covered how this perfect Trinitarian love relates to the character of God and now he says that this….

PERFECT LOVE AND THE COMING OF CHRIST ARE RELATED

1 John 4:9 By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

Jesus Christ is the dominant manifestation of God’s love in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Jesus Christ is God’s only begotten Son who came into this world. He came to earth in the flesh to live a perfect, sinless life so that He would be our perfect sacrifice. The incarnation was the supreme demonstration of God’s divine love toward us. It is a love that seeks those who believe. It is a sovereign love because of God’s will. It is a seeking love because it is in search of those who would believe. It is not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. The term “propitiation” refers to a covering for sin. Jesus Christ became our covering so when God looks at a believer, He sees Jesus Christ His Son. The prophet Isaiah foresaw His propitiatory sacrifice hundreds of years before its fulfillment. In Isaiah 53:4-6, Isaiah said:

Isaiah 53:4 Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. 5 But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed. 6 All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him.

By this the perfect love of God was manifested in us. God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. John’s point is that since God, in sovereign mercy, graciously displayed His love in sending Jesus Christ to us, we should surely follow His example and love others with sacrificial, Christ-like love. God not only gave His children a perfect love when He redeemed us, He also gave us the ultimate model through His Son of how that love functions in selfless sacrifice. The cross should compel, even drive, us to love others. That is why John is encouraging all of us when he says, “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” John is re-emphasizing what he said back in 3:16: “We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” No one who has ever truly been saved, believed in Christ’s atoning sacrifice and follows after Him, can return permanently to a self-centered life. Instead we should try to:

Ephesians 5:1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; 2 and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.

John has covered how the perfect Trinitarian love relates to the character of God, the coming of Jesus Christ and now he says that this….

PERFECT LOVE AND THE CHRISTIAN’S CLAIM OF FAITH ARE RELATED

1 John 4:12 No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us. 13 By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. 14 We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.

Right off the bat, John makes a very emphatic yet simple point: No one has seen God (referring to the Father) at any time. Because we have never seen God the Father and the fact that Jesus is no longer visibly present here on earth to manifest Him, we will not see God’s love unless believers love one another. If we love one another, God is going to be on display to others and it will be a testimony that He abides in us and His love is perfected in us. In other words, the “unseen” God reveals Himself through the visible love of believers. This is the love that originated in God, was manifested in His Son, and is now demonstrated in His people.

In this passage John also sets forth several significant proofs to remind us once again that we can know we are saved. Assurance begins with the work of the Holy Spirit. We know this because Ephesians 1:13–14 says, “In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.” John assures us that we can know we abide in God and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.

John has already focused on the perfect love of the Father and the Son, now he emphasizes the role of the Spirit. By noting the work of each member of the Trinity, John stresses that perfect love originates from the Trinity. This perfect love is accomplished through the work of each member of the Trinity and subsequently manifested in the lives of believers. Those who abide in God will reflect His love, because God abides in them and His Spirit is at work in their hearts.

Jesus compared the Holy Spirit to the wind and said people can see only the Spirit’s effects. The Spirit’s work is not visible but the impact is. The reality of our faith enables us to know we have the indwelling Spirit. John says, “We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.” This doctrinal test of belief in the gospel provides evidence of the Spirit’s ministry and presence in a believer. So saving faith is possible only because God grants it. Ephesians 2:8 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.” In John’s case, his own experience of seeing and being with Jesus verified his faith. He bore witness that the Father has sent the Son to be Savior of the world. However, he would not have believed had the Father not chosen him and the Spirit opened his eyes to the truth.

John says, “Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, knows that God abides in him, and he in God.” A true believer has discerned the presence of the Holy Spirit, and has come to know and believe the love which God has for us. A true believer understands the eternal love of God, who is love, for He is the source of all love. Therefore, we can rest confidently in the assurance that the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. We will also further demonstrate the genuineness of our salvation by loving the Father and the Son, loving righteousness and fellow believers rather than the world’s system. In summary, we will increasingly love the way God loves as he transforms us into the image of Jesus Christ.

Well, now John has covered how the perfect Trinitarian love relates to the character of God, the coming of Jesus Christ, the Christians claim of faith; and lastly he says that this….

PERFECT LOVE AND THE CHRISTIAN’S CONFIDENCE IN THE JUDGMENT ARE RELATED

1 John 4:17 By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. 19 We love, because He first loved us. 20 If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.

Believers are to have confidence in the Day of Judgment because they have an accurate grasp of the gospel and other biblical doctrines and love is perfected in them. The Day of Judgment refers in the broadest sense to the final day of reckoning before God. John says we can live our lives with confidence as we look to the day when Christ returns and we stand before God to give account. Second Corinthians 5:10 says, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” All believers can have a boldness as we stand before God. John declares that boldness and lack of fear should characterize our thoughts as we consider the Day of Judgment.

Why can believers have such confidence? John says, because as He is, so also are we in this world. This is an absolutely stunning and sobering statement. John says God the Father treats believers the same way He does His Son Jesus Christ. God clothes believers with the righteousness of Christ according to Philippians 3:9 and grants us Jesus’ perfect love according to John 13:1 and His obedience according to John 4:34. To think that we will stand before God’s throne as confidently as Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior is overwhelming to me. When we reach our final accounting, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is (1 John 3:2).

Believers who possess this perfect love demonstrate the reality of their salvation; therefore, they should not fear the return of Christ or God’s judgment because perfect love casts out fear. This real love dispels fear because fear involves punishment. However, believers perfected in love will not face final punishment. Romans 5:9 says, “…having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.” Anyone who fears God’s judgment is not perfected in love. So anyone who professes Christ but fears His return evidences that something is seriously amiss. That’s because 2 Timothy 4:8 says that all true saints should love His appearing.

What is it that is motivating believers to have this incredible assurance of the future? Well it should be obvious: We love, because He first loved us. It was God’s perfect love that sovereignly drew all believers to Him and enabled them to reflect His love to others.

John says, “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.” It’s absurd to claim to love the invisible God but at the same time not show love to His children. John continues with a closing command: “this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.” True love seeks nothing in return, unconditionally forgives, bears others’ burdens, and sacrifices to meet their needs. Philippians 2:3–4 really emphasizes this well:

Philippians 2:3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; 4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.

APPLICATION/CLOSING:

God’s perfect love is a blessing for us to know and a joy for us to exhibit to others. Although perfect love enhances and enriches the emotional love we have for other people, this perfect love surpasses any kind of feeling the world experiences. It is a complete, mature love that reflects the essence of God and the work of Christ as it flows through believers to those in need. This applies especially to those who are a part of God’s family. We are to bear one another’s burdens and to do good to all especially to those who are a part of the household of faith. This love, which has characterized the triune God from eternity past, is also the mark of His children. John 13:35 says, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” Because this love so clearly comes from God, those who love like Him can be assured He is our Father.

John says….

1 John 4:7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. 9 By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us. 13 By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. 14 We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. 19 We love, because He first loved us. 20 If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.

Be Discerning

Good morning! If you are visiting with us today, I want to welcome you once again to Grace Bible Fellowship Church. It’s an honor to be worshiping with you today.

We are back in First John where John is going to highlight what it means to be discerning. He told us at the end of chapter three that we can be assured of our salvation, and today he is going to help us to be discerning about teachers we listen to as well as provide some practical tests for us. In 1 John 4:1-6, John says…

1 John 4:1 Beloved, 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 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; 3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world. 4 You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world. 5 They are from the world; therefore they speak as from the world, and the world listens to them. 6 We are from God; he who knows God listens to us; he who is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.

INTRODUCTION

Have you ever been tricked or fooled by someone or something? You thought it was true or real but you found out it wasn’t. That was the case for many who thought they were going to strike it rich during the California Gold Rush. During the gold rush of the mid-1800s, the word “Eureka!” was an exclamation used by many who had struck it rich. Eureka means “I have found it!” This word summed up every treasure hunter’s dream and expressed the thrill of striking real pay dirt. The term eureka also meant instant riches, early retirement, and a life of carefree ease.

However, many prospectors quickly learned that not everything that appeared to be gold actually was. They were fooled! Some riverbeds and rock quarries sparkled with golden specks that seemed like a eureka moment. However, it was nothing more than iron pyrite, commonly known as “fool’s gold.” Miners had to be very discerning and careful to distinguish this fool’s gold from the real thing.

Most experienced miners could usually distinguish pyrite from gold simply by looking at it. However, in some cases, the distinction was not quite so clear. As a result, they developed tests to discern genuine gold from fool’s gold. One test involved biting the rock in question since real gold is softer than the human tooth whereas fool’s gold is harder. That must have resulted in a lot of broken teeth for those gold miners. There were other tests developed, however the ultimate point is miners had to rely on these test to authenticate real gold from fake gold. Just looking at it wasn’t enough.

Spiritually speaking, Christians often find themselves in a similar position to these gold miners. When confronted with various doctrines and religious teachings, all of which claim to be true and seem to have a bit of truth sprinkled in, believers must be able to discern those that are biblically sound from those that are not. Let’s face it, just because something glitters doesn’t mean it’s good. Christians need to be equally wary of spiritual “fool’s gold.” We must not accept something as true without first testing it to see if it meets God’s standard. If it fails the test, Christians should discard it as false and warn others about it. But if it meets the test in keeping with the truth of God’s Word, believers can embrace it and endorse it wholeheartedly. John is saying here in this passage to be discerning and test what we see and hear. So John tells us that we need to first…

LEARN TO LIVE DISCERNINGLY

Spiritual “fool’s gold” and “false teachers” are nothing new. In fact, the old and new testaments are filled with warnings about false teachers:

Isaiah 8:19 When they say to you, “Consult the mediums and the spiritists who whisper and mutter,” should not a people consult their God? Should they consult the dead on behalf of the living? 20 To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn.”

Matthew 24:4 And Jesus answered and said to them, “See to it that no one misleads you. 5 For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will mislead many.”

We are also warned about the counterfeit doctrines that these false teachers spread. In 1 Timothy chapter one, Paul tells young Timothy:

1 Timothy 1:3 As I urged you upon my departure for Macedonia, remain on at Ephesus so that you may instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines, 4 nor to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies, which give rise to mere speculation rather than furthering the administration of God which is by faith. 5 But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. 6 For some men, straying from these things, have turned aside to fruitless discussion, 7 wanting to be teachers of the Law, even though they do not understand either what they are saying or the matters about which they make confident assertions.

And 2 Peter chapter two says:

2 Peter 2:1 But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves.

Therefore, we must be discerning or, as Ephesians 4:14 says, we will be “children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming.” First Thessalonians 5:21-22 says that it is crucial that we “examine everything carefully” in order to “hold fast to that which is good [and] abstain from every form of evil.” Otherwise, we increase our vulnerability to Satan’s deceptive attacks and manipulative perversions.

Let’s take a look at Satan’s approach. Satan’s basic strategy for attacking truth was first highlighted in the Garden of Eden. The first thing he tried was he cast doubt on what God had said about eating the fruit of the tree of life when he said, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat?’” If Satan can get you to just start questioning what God has said, you have opened the door for further criticism. Secondly, Satan denied outright what God had said to Adam when he said, “You surely will not die!” Now Satan calls God a liar! That is truly an insane step to take but Satan is desperate to take everyone down with him. And finally, he distorted what God had specifically told Adam when he said, “you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Satan and his demonic forces have used this same approach of casting doubt, outright denial and distortion of truth as they have waged a relentless, non-stop campaign against the truth of God’s Word and those who are followers of Jesus Christ.

Scripture contains many references to the long struggle for knowing, upholding, and obeying the truth. In the old testament, Moses, Joshua, Samuel, Elijah, and the prophets continually called God’s people back to the truth from false doctrine and idolatry. And in the new testament, Jesus Himself warned of false prophets as did Paul, John, and Jude. Today, there are many so-called pastors, teachers and evangelists that continue spewing false and perverted doctrine in an attempt to destroy you.

Just like in the Garden of Eden, the source of error can always be traced back to satanic roots. That is why Paul told Timothy:

1 Timothy 4:1 But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, 2 by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron.

Let’s make it really clear: Any ideology, philosophy, opinion, or religion other than God’s truth fits into Satan’s agenda. That is why it is so important for us to recognize the difference. If we fail to be discerning, we will not only be confused and unable to discern error for ourselves, we will also be unable to accurately convey the truth to others.

So we must do three things, 1) guard the truth by knowing it, 2) hold it as a firm conviction, and 3) distinguish it from what is false. By being faithful to sound doctrine, we will be able to teach others.

John knew that his readers were under attack from false teachers so he commanded them to test those who claim to teach the truth. He gave them reasons why such testing is crucial and guidelines for how it should be conducted. So John is going to lay out a strategy that all Christians can use for distinguishing between God’s true spiritual riches and Satan’s “fool’s gold.” John starts by saying that there is…

A COMMAND TO TEST

1 John 4:1a Beloved, do not believe every spirit…

John just discussed the abiding work of the Holy Spirit in true believers at the end of chapter three, now he transitions to the work of unholy, evil spirits in false teachers and their false teachings. Because these supernatural spirits are experts in deception, Christians must be careful to closely examine every spiritual message they encounter. As I mentioned earlier, 1 Thessalonians 5:21–22, tells us to, “...examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil.”

John is literally saying to “stop believing” false doctrines. Due to the present tense of the word “believe,” John’s phrasing indicates that the action is already under way and that believers are to stop believing these spirits. If any of his readers were accepting the message of false teachers, they were to stop doing so immediately. They needed to exercise some biblical discernment just like the Bereans of whom Luke wrote in Acts 17:11 when he said, “Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.”

Unbelievers, whose understanding has been darkened according to Ephesians 4:18, have no basis on which to evaluate false teachings that claim divine origin. According to 1 Corinthians 2:14, “…a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.” Therefore, they are highly susceptible to false doctrine and can easily be led astray into error. But believers, who have the Word of God and the Holy Spirit living within them, must test what they hear with what they know to be true, as revealed in God’s Word.

John tells us there is a commandment to be discerning and test every spirit and now he says…

THERE IS A REASON TO TEST

1 John 4:1b …but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

The term translated “test” is used to refer to a metallurgist’s assaying of metals to test their purity and value. Since John uses the present tense of the term “test” it indicates that believers are to continually test the spirits “to see whether they are from God.” Christians are to continually evaluate what they see, hear, and read to determine if it originated from the Spirit of God or, alternatively, from Satan.

Of course the only reliable way to test any teaching is to measure it against what God has revealed in His infallible, written Word.

2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.

As the perfect standard of truth, the Word of God provides believers with their primary defense against error.

Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

God’s Word is able to divide truth from lies and to know the reality of what is going on in our hearts.

John says there are not just a few false prophets, he says “many false prophets have gone out into the world.” We need to realize that Satan does not merely want to oppose the church, he wants to deceive and destroy every single person he can. Satan, with his deceitful schemes, with support from his demons, has infiltrated denominations, institutions, churches, schools, and organizations, resulting in compromise and ultimately error. There are many false prophets that Satan is using to deceive those inside and outside church.

Satan not only develops lies that directly deny biblical truth, but he is also very subtle, often mixing some truth with some error. After all, some truth mixed with error is usually far more effective and far more destructive than a direct contradiction of the truth. Those who believe everything they read from the Christian bookstore or what they hear on Christian radio or what they see on Christian television shows are prime targets for doctrinal deception. Think about it for a minute, Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 11:14-15 that “Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness.”

So Satan masquerades his lies as truth. He does not have to always wage war openly against the truth. He is much more likely to attack the truth by infiltrating the church with subtle error. He uses the “Trojan Horse” approach by placing his false teachers in the church where they can selectively and secretly introduce destructive heresies. Satan puts his lies in the mouth of someone who claims to speak truth from God’s Word. That way, Satan disguises error as truth and makes evil look like it is good.

For this reason, Jesus Himself warned of false prophets in Matthew 7 where He says:

Matthew 7:15 Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? 17 So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit.

Christians who ignore the Lord’s warning are living a very risky life. It is absolutely imperative that believers practice biblical discernment.

John now goes on to highlight the…

GUIDELINES ON HOW TO TEST

1 John 4:2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; 3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world. 4 You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world. 5 They are from the world; therefore they speak as from the world, and the world listens to them. 6 We are from God; he who knows God listens to us; he who is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.

John sets forth three familiar tests for determining whether a teacher and his message reflect the Spirit of God or the spirit of Satan. Here are the three tests: 1) Does the person confess Jesus Christ is from God? 2) Does the person manifest evidence of the fruit of righteousness? And lastly, 3) Is the person committed to the Word of God? Therefore, true teachers are characterized by a confession that Jesus Christ is from God and is God, a possession of a righteous life, and a profession that God’s Word is the divine law. Those who fail to exhibit these traits prove that they are not from God.

Let’s take the first test…

CONFESSION OF JESUS CHRIST AS GOD

1 John 4:2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; 3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world.

The first test is a theological test although more specifically it is a Christological test. The question is, “Does this person confess and teach that Jesus Christ is from God?” The word “confesses” in this passage means “to say the same thing.” Every teacher who agrees with scripture that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, confesses a truth taught by the Holy Spirit—that Jesus Christ is God incarnate.

If you will recall, John is just echoing a very clear Christological statement that he made when he opened this letter. All the way back in 1 John 1:1-3, he said:

1 John 1:1 What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life— 2 and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us— 3 what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ came from God the Father as the living Word of God who became flesh:

John 1:14 And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Jesus is one with the Father and is manifested to us as the second person of the Trinity – the Son of God. According to God’s plan, Jesus came in the flesh to die a substitutionary death for all who believe in Him as Lord and Savior.

John continues to emphasize the deity of Christ and teaches that no one can honor the Father without honoring the Son because they are one. For an individual to be saved, one must believe that Jesus is eternal deity who became a man. Jesus is not a created being! However, many ancient false teachers and some current day religions such as the Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses teach that Jesus is just a man which implies he was created and specifically denies that He is God.

Even for those who have an intellectual belief of the truth that Jesus is God, it will not save them. James 2:19 says that even the demons believe and shutter. To be saved one must acknowledge Jesus as Lord. According to Romans chapter 10:

Romans 10:9 …if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; 10 for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.

A person’s understanding and acceptance of Jesus’ identity as the Son of God is the ultimate litmus test of the legitimacy of his professed faith. In today’s politically correct world it is becoming increasingly popular to affirm that all monotheistic religions worship the same God. But the fact is, they do not! Jesus made this point very clear in Luke 10:16 when He said, “The one who listens to you (referring to the disciples) listens to Me, and the one who rejects you rejects Me; and he who rejects Me rejects the One who sent Me.” Jesus also said in John 14:6, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”

Every spirit propagating any religion or philosophy that does not confess Jesus, is absolutely not from God. This type of teaching is both erroneous, heretical and ultimately a rejection of Christ. John emphasizes the spirit of the antichrist several times through this epistle. In 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4 and 8-9, all believers have heard that the final Antichrist is coming, but John is telling us that the spirit of the antichrist is already in the world. This spirit of the antichrist is evident in false religions and their deviant doctrine. The true nature of Jesus Christ is predictably denied by false teachers and the religious systems they promote. However, those teachers who rightly understand Jesus Christ as God and portray Him and His work on the Cross prove they possess the Spirit of truth.

The second test for determining whether a teacher and his message reflect the Spirit of God or the spirit of Satan is whether the person is…

MANIFESTING EVIDENCE OF A RIGHTEOUS GOD-LIKE LIFE

1 John 4:4 You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world. 5 They are from the world; therefore they speak as from the world, and the world listens to them.

When Jesus came to earth, God became a partaker of human nature. Philippians 2:7-8 says “but [He] emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Although God became a partaker of human nature through incarnation, it is through salvation that believers become partakers of the divine nature. According to 2 Peter 1:4, Peter says, “For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature…”

In John’s statement where he says, “You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world,” he is primarily affirming the believer’s security against the false teachers. Peter highlights that all true Christians possess an incorruptible seed of eternal life that means no satanic deception can take them out of God’s saving hand. Those who have been truly born again have been given a supernatural insight into the Truth and a discernment that protects them from false doctrine and those who teach it.

In 1 Corinthians 2, Paul summaries this point very well when he says:

1 Corinthians 2:12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, 13 which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words. 14 But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. 15 But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one. 16 For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he will instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ.

Believers may be unsure of some peripheral matters but should never be unsure about the foundational truths of the gospel, such as the person and work of Jesus Christ. True believers will not be fooled when false teachers invariably attempt to change the fundamental work of Christ by advocating some form of salvation by works or any other means to be reconciled to God.

Contrary to God’s Word, false teachers and their followers cling to worldly ideas. They do this because “they are from the world; therefore, they speak as from the world, and the world listens to them.” Although it is not always obvious, false teachers demonstrate that they are anything but genuine servants of Christ through what they say and how they live. On the other hand, true believers, resist worldly ideas because they have overcome the world.

The last test for determining if a teacher and his message reflect the Spirit of God or the spirit of Satan is whether there is a …

TRUE PROFESSION OF THE DIVINE LAW

1 John 4:6 We are from God; he who knows God listens to us; he who is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.

In contrast to the false teachers, Truth teachers proclaim God’s revealed Word as the source of all truth. All Truth teachers accurately proclaim the Word of God, and the person who knows God listens to these true teachers. However, anyone who is not from God does not listen to their teachings.

The Canon, comprising both the old and new testaments, is therefore the sole authority by which Christians must test all spiritual teachings. God’s Word is absolutely reliable and more sure than human experiences or senses. It is trustworthy in every jot and tittle. It is unchanging and eternal. In fact, in Matthew 24:34, Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.” According to John 17:17, it is the truth standard and by that standard, along with the help of the Holy Spirit, believers know the Spirit of Truth and the spirit of error.

APPLICATION/CLOSING

Today, John has reminded us that we are commanded to live discerning lives and to test all things we see and hear against the truth of Scripture. We are to also test those who claim to be true teachers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We are to test them to see if they profess Jesus Christ is God incarnate in the flesh and that God the Father sent Him to become Savior. We are to test them to see if these teachers manifest a righteous, God-like life. And lastly we are test them to see if they proclaim God’s Word as the divine law.

In a world predominantly infiltrated with demonic false teaching, believers must constantly test the spirits, the false teachings of others, to discern what is from God and what is not. Using the tests that John has outlined here, we can discern true spiritual gems from doctrinal “fool’s gold.” Like the noble Bereans, we are called to compare every spiritual message we encounter to the revealed standard of Scripture. Only then can we obey Jude’s admonition in verse 3 to “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.” By faithfully guarding the truth in the present, believers will preserve it both for themselves and for future generations.

John says…

1 John 4:1 Beloved, 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 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; 3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world. 4 You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world. 5 They are from the world; therefore they speak as from the world, and the world listens to them. 6 We are from God; he who knows God listens to us; he who is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.

Let’s pray.

Whose Child Are You?

Good morning! If you are visiting with us today, I want to welcome you once again to Grace Bible Fellowship Church. It‘s an honor to be worshiping with you today.

We are back in 1 John where John is going to highlight the distinguishing mark of a Christian and where he also contrasts the difference between those who follow after Satan and the true children of God. In 1 John 3:11-18, John says:

John 3:11 For this is the message which you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another; 12 not as Cain, who was of the evil one and slew his brother. And for what reason did he slay him? Because his deeds were evil, and his brother’s were righteous. 13 Do not be surprised, brethren, if the world hates you. 14 We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death. 15 Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. 16 We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 17 But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.

As I was preparing for today’s sermon, I read some information regarding a book written by Francis Schaeffer, who was a noted apologist, evangelist, and author. He introduced a book in 1970 that was entitled, “The Mark of the Christian.” He makes the following statement:

“Through the centuries men have displayed many different symbols to show that they are Christians. They have worn marks on the lapels of their coats, hung chains about their necks, even had special haircuts.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with any of this, if one feels it is his calling. But there is a much better sign—a mark that has not been thought up just as a matter of expediency for use on some special occasion or in some specific era. It is a universal mark that is to last through all the ages of the church till Jesus comes back.

What is this mark? At the close of his ministry, Jesus looks forward to his death on the cross, the open tomb and the ascension. Knowing that he is about to leave, Jesus prepares his disciples for what is to come. It is here that he makes clear what will be the distinguishing mark of the Christian:

‘Little children, yet a little while I am with you. Ye shall seek me; and as I said unto the Jews, Whither I go, ye cannot come; so now I say to you. A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another’ (John 13:33–35). This passage reveals the mark that Jesus gives to label a Christian, not just in one era or in one locality but at all times and all places until Jesus returns” (Schaeffer, 1970).

Love, yes love, has always been an essential characteristic and distinguishing mark of a true Christian. Just look at the rest of the New Testament where this truth is consistently reinforced over and over. Here are just a few verses:

Romans 5:5 Hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

1 Thessalonians 4:9 Now as to the love of the brethren, you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another.

1 Peter 1:22 Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart.

2 John 6 And this is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, that you should walk in it.

God not only commands us as His children to show love, He also enables us to obey that mandate by empowering us with the capacity to do what He requires. As we just read in Romans 5:5, “…the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” God has given all His children the ability and desire to love others.

There is nothing new or novel in this passage regarding John’s teaching that Christians are marked by love for one another. This point was highlighted back in 1 John 2:7-11, where John specifically emphasized the one who loves his brother is one who abides in Jesus Christ. Because God loves His children, we are to reflect that love in our relationships with others. Paul states in Ephesians 5:1-2, “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.” So John’s instruction here is not new but is “an old commandment which you have had from the beginning; the old commandment is the word which you have heard.”

John’s readers knew that truth, because the apostolic preachers had faithfully delivered it to them. We also know the truth because we have the entire Canon of Scripture, including John’s letter, and many other books that provide direct commands that we are to love one another. Unfortunately, false teachers had also come in and taught their perverted gospel which apparently included teaching that brotherly love is not an essential mark of true salvation. To correct the thinking of believers and remind them of the truth, John directs his readers and us back to the message they had heard from the beginning; it is the gospel that you first heard. It is the truth about Jesus Christ; the gospel message, mankind’s sinful condition, and the need for righteous living, as well as the command to love one another. John is urging everyone who claims the name of Jesus Christ to remember what we were first taught and to not allow anyone to lead us astray with a perverted gospel created by man.

In one sense, the Lord’s command back in the Gospel of John 13:34–35 may seem very old but, in another sense, it is new. That’s because love had never before been manifested as it was by Christ, with a resounding crescendo in His sacrificial death for those He loved. Jesus declared later, “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:12–13). The Lord Jesus Christ is the perfect model of the love God has always commanded. Though we cannot love to the degree He loves, we can obey His command to love one another the way Christ loved, by the power of the Spirit, lovingly and selflessly sacrificing for others.

Having stressed the importance of love in 1 John 3:11, John now contrasts the children of God, who obey that command, with the children of the Satan, who do not. Instead of being characterized by love, Satan’s children are marked by murder, hatred, and indifference toward the children of God. So, the first point is found in verses 12 and 14:

1 John 3:12 …not as Cain, who was of the evil one and slew his brother. And for what reason did he slay him? Because his deeds were evil, and his brother’s were righteous.

1 John 3:14 We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death.

When you think about what it required to end the life of another person when the motivation is based on a sinful desire, it must be the personification of evil. Murder is the ultimate act of hate and demonstrates a complete absence of love. To illustrate this point, John references the first murderer: Cain. Cain killed Abel with sinful motives and desires.

If you go all the way back to Genesis 4:2-8, we find that Cain seemingly worshiped God and offered Him a sacrifice. However, unlike his brother Abel, Cain did not bring an acceptable sacrifice to God. Abel brought an animal sacrifice, which was in obedience to God’s command. On the other hand Cain, in his self-proclaimed religion, ignored the divine requirement for an animal sacrifice and instead brought the fruit of the ground for his offering. It is there that Cain’s true faith is revealed. He was not a true worshipper of God. Both Cain’s disobedience and the fact that he slew his brother revealed that he was a child of Satan, a child of the evil one. Cain belonged to the kingdom of darkness, as did the unbelieving Jews who, like Cain, hated true righteousness and sought to kill Jesus. Jesus said to them in John 8:44, “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him…”

I did some research on the word translated “evil one” (ponēros). It means determined, aggressive, and fervent evil that actively opposes what is good. But its meaning extends beyond basic evil or corruption to include a type of malignant sinfulness that pulls others down into ruin. In other words, Satan desires nothing more than to destroy your life and your testimony as a believer in Jesus Christ. Think for a moment about how devastated we are when someone, whom we have held in high esteem as a follower of Christ, sins against God and others. Satan tries to use that against all of us in order to bring us to ruin. Let me encourage you to love one another. Rebuke if necessary, but never forget we are in a battle against the “evil one.” We must love our brothers and sisters in Christ and help to restore and reconcile with them. Don’t let the “evil one” gain a foothold against the Children of God.

John goes on to ask a rhetorical question, “And for what reason did he slay him?” Why did Cain slay Abel? Because his deeds were evil, and his brother’s were righteous. It is as simple as that. Cain was evil and hated righteousness so greatly that he even killed his own brother whose righteous deeds had rebuked him. Abel did not rebuke Cain, it was his righteous deeds that rebuked Cain. Just like Cain, the ungodly resent those who seek righteousness because through their righteous actions, the ungodly’s false beliefs and wicked practices are exposed.
We have another example of this evil that hates righteousness in Matthew 14:3-5. Herod had John the Baptist arrested and wanted to put him to death but he was more afraid of the crowd. So he did not kill John the Baptist. However, the daughter of Herodias ultimately had John beheaded. This ungodly woman despised the righteousness that John the Baptist displayed, so much so that she wanted it extinguished. She wanted it stomped out so none could see the light that exposed her sinful unrighteous belief and actions.

In contrast, those who have passed out of spiritual death into everlasting life are assured of this reality because of their love for the brethren (1 John 4:7). The new birth, receiving Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and Savior, grants life to the spiritually dead because we have “put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in the righteousness and holiness of the truth” (Ephesians 4:24). Salvation through Jesus turns hateful and even murderous attitudes into loving ones. John therefore reminds his readers and us that anyone who does not love has not received spiritual life but instead abides in spiritual death. John continues to highlight differences between Satan’s Children and God’s Children in verses 13 and 15:

1 John 3:13 Do not be surprised, brethren, if the world hates you.

1 John 3:15 Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.

God says, hatred is the moral equivalent of murder; thus “everyone who hates his brother is a murderer.” Although it is true that a very small percentage of people physically murder someone, there have been many who have been angry enough to have done so if the circumstances had been slightly different and the consequences of their actions less severe. (Matthew 26:52; Romans 13:4). Technically, the only outward difference between murder and hate, is the deed itself—the attitudes are the same. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus made this abundantly clear when he said, “You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not commit murder’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court…” (Matthew 5:21–22). The ungodly, those who have rejected Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, will be eternally condemned to Hell for their habitual attitudes of hate, even if their attitudes never translate into physical actions.

John warns us that even though we were transformed to love both believers and unbelievers, we should “not be surprised … if the world hates” us. Rather than being surprised by the world’s opposition, we should expect it because the world has nothing in common with the kingdom of God, and the lives of the righteous act as a rebuke to those of the unrighteous. If you recall, Jesus promised the apostles when he met with them in the upper room, that the world would hate them: “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you.… He who hates Me hates My Father also. If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would not have sin; but now they have both seen and hated Me and My Father as well. But they have done this to fulfill the word that is written in their Law, ‘They hated Me without a cause’” (John 15:18–19, 23–25).

Satan’s children have always revealed their true character by their hatred. All of history contains many instances of the world persecuting God’s people. People of His own town hated Jesus and attempted to kill Him after hearing just one message from Him. Luke 4:28-29 says, “And all the people in the synagogue were filled with rage as they heard these things; and they got up and drove Him out of the city, and led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city had been built, in order to throw Him down the cliff.” However, that wasn’t the end; the nation’s leaders plotted to kill Him some time later. The world also hated the apostles and martyred all of them but the apostle John, who was exiled to the island of Patmos (Revelation 1:9). Enemies of the gospel have always persecuted those who love the truth. Even today, believers around the world die under the hateful, murderous hands of the children of Satan.

John, with his black-and-white, no-gray style, absolute standard, reminds us that people filled with such hatred are murderers and as such, have no eternal life abiding in them. Certainly, that doesn’t mean that a believer could never commit an act of murder, or that someone who has committed murder can never be saved. But, it does mean that those who are “characterized” by hateful attitudes and who regularly harbor murderous thoughts, evidence an unregenerate heart and will perish eternally unless they repent of their sin and acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

The last major point that John makes in this passage is that Satan’s children are indifferent toward God’s children. Look at verses 16-18 where John says:

1 John 3:16 We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 17 But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.

The phrase “we know love by this” once again affirms genuine love as the outstanding mark of the Christian just as we discussed earlier in verse 11. A Christian’s loving desire and willingness to give up everything to help others should permeate our character and our attitudes in our everyday lives. The New Testament contains several notable examples of such sacrificial love. One such example was Epaphroditus, whom the apostle Paul commended to the Philippians in the book of Philippians 2:25-30. Epaphroditus was eager to go to minister and almost died for the work of Christ. He was willing to risk his life to complete the work of God while he was serving others.

Certainly Paul is another incredible example of loving others. He was willing to surrender his life for the cause of Christ: He said “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). Of course, the Lord Jesus was Paul’s role model, because at the cross He laid down His life for all who believe. My question to all of us is, “How willing are we to serve our brothers and sisters in Christ?” Does our willingness result in action?

The expression “laid down His life for us” is unique to the apostle John. In addition to “life” itself, it refers to separating ourselves from anything that would distract us from loving others. Obviously, Christ’s atoning death is the supreme example of selfless love. So John is exhorting all of us as followers of Christ that we “ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” Following Christ’s example, we should be willing to give up our lives as necessary. Although there are parts of the world that this ultimate sacrifice may be necessary, that is seldom the case in our culture today. However, this will likely change in the not so distant future. John is referring to something broader. Giving our life—that is an ultimate example of love, but he is also talking about the need to help others in the day to day activities of life with the material goods that God has provided to each of us.

There is no doubt that the unbeliever’s selfish indifference is a sharp contrast to the generous, compassionate love that believers should exhibit. John illustrates the difference in attitude in a very practical comment and question: “But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?” Obviously, Satan’s children have some of “the world’s goods” at their disposal and in many cases significant goods and finances. However, when they give to charities to help others, they are motivated by some form of selfishness; maybe it’s to pacify their consciences or satisfy their emotions, all of which bring honor to themselves rather than glory to God. As an example, remember the parable of the Widow’s Mite? Mark 12:44 says, “for they all put in out of their surplus, but she, out of her poverty, put in all she owned, all she had to live on.” The widow was giving out of a heart of true love. How are we doing?

As God’s children, we are to give and be prepared to give sacrificially. As John finalizes his thoughts here, he says:

1 John 3:18 Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.

It is not enough for any of us to merely profess love for others, it requires a genuine love that can be seen in our deeds. Are we loving others by giving of our time, talents, and yes, finances to help the brethren who are in need?

John has made a very clear distinction between Satan’s children and God’s children. Those who murder, habitually hate, or are chronically self-centered and indifferent to the needs of others, do not have eternal life with the Father. But those who not only claim to be God’s children, having repented of their sin and trusted in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, have also renounced murderous, hateful attitudes and all cold, selfish indifference to the needs of others—these have both professed and demonstrated they are a Child of God. As Believers, we are to manifest genuine love to others and especially fellow believers, because the love of God resides in our hearts.

Today, I have only a few questions that each of us needs to answer: Whose Child am I? Do I really love others? Is my love for others manifested through my deeds or are they just words that I say? Am I willing to sacrificially give with a loving heart to help my brothers and sisters in Christ? Am I willing to sacrificially love others in a way that represents Jesus Christ well?

I know these are all simple questions. Yet the answers are profound for they truly identify who we are! Why? Because your answers will absolutely give clarity to whether you are a child of the one true King or a child of Satan. John says:

John 3:11 For this is the message which you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another; 12 not as Cain, who was of the evil one and slew his brother. And for what reason did he slay him? Because his deeds were evil, and his brother’s were righteous. 13 Do not be surprised, brethren, if the world hates you. 14 We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death. 15 Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. 16 We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 17 But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.

References:

Schaeffer, F. A. (1970). The Mark of the Christian. Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press.