1 john  chapter 4


People who aren't familiar with the Scriptures might be surprised to learn that the Bible doesn't automatically support every kind of religious teaching. This is because every teaching that claims to be "religious" or "spiritual" doesn't necessarily come from God. Just as a dangerous computer virus can appear totally safe at first glance, many religious teachings may initially appear to be OK but actually contain some very harmful things. 

Because of this, the Bible tells people to check out any teaching that claims to be from God and make sure that it really is before they accept it. A good example of this kind of warning is found right at the beginning of 1 John chapter 4...

"Dearly loved friends, don't always believe everything you hear just because someone says it is a message from God: test it first to see if it really is" (1 John 4:1).

So how can someone tell if a message or teaching really tells the truth about God? Well, verses 2 and 3 in 1 John 4 tell you exactly how to do that...

"For there are many false teachers around, and the way to find out if their message is from the Holy Spirit is to ask: Does it really agree that Jesus Christ, God's Son, actually became man with a human body? If so, then the message is from God. If not, the message is not from God but from one who is against Christ, like the 'Antichrist' you have heard about who is going to come, and his attitude of enmity against Christ is already abroad in the world" (1 John 4:2-3).

Anyone who presents a "Jesus" that is different from the Jesus that's found in the Bible is simply not telling the truth. You see, a person who is really giving a "God-approved" message will be someone who speaks the truth about Jesus as seen in the Bible and will back up that message by the way they live. 

Of course, this means that you first must know what the Bible says about Jesus to see if people are really telling the truth about Him. And you can't know what the Bible really says about Jesus unless you read it for yourself. So don't just accept other people's opinions about God or Christ or spiritual things- check it out for yourself in the Scriptures.

"Dear young friends, you belong to God and have already won your fight with those who are against Christ because there is someone in your hearts who is stronger than any evil teacher in this wicked world. These men belong to this world, so, quite naturally, they are concerned about worldly affairs and the world pays attention to them. 

But we are children of God; that is why only those who have walked and talked with God will listen to us. Others won't. That is another way to know whether a message is really from God; for if it is, the world won't listen to it" (1 John 4:4-6).

You may have already seen for yourself that the world can sometimes be a cold, painful, and difficult place. However, the good news is that God is more powerful than anything that this world can throw at you and He can help you through those painful or difficult times. In fact, Jesus once said this about those who have chosen to follow Him: "I give them eternal life and they shall never perish. No one shall snatch them away from me, for my Father has given them to me, and he is more powerful than anyone else, so no one can kidnap them from me" (John 10:28-29).  

Whenever you are tempted to become nervous or fearful about the way that things are going in your life, just remember this good advice from Philippians 4:4-7 and ask God to help you put it into practice...

"Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs, and don't forget to thank him for his answers. If you do this, you will experience God's peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will keep your thoughts and your hearts quiet and at rest as you trust in Christ Jesus."

"Dear friends, let us practice loving each other, for love comes from God and those who are loving and kind show that they are the children of God, and that they are getting to know him better. But if a person isn't loving and kind, it shows that he doesn't know God-for God is love. 

God showed how much he loved us by sending his only Son into this wicked world to bring to us eternal life through his death. In this act we see what real love is: it is not our love for God but his love for us when he sent his Son to satisfy God's anger against our sins. Dear friends, since God loved us as much as that, we surely ought to love each other too" (1 John 4:7-11).

When you think about it, people use the word "love" in many different ways. For example, someone may say that they love their girlfriend/boyfriend, they love ice cream, they love their pet, and they love snowboarding. While such a person can accurately use the word "love" to describe their feelings in each of these examples, hopefully that person doesn't love their girlfriend or boyfriend in the same way that they love their pet! 

Because the word love is used in so many different ways, it's a good idea for us to define what it means as used in the Scripture quoted above so we can understand God's love for us. It turns out that the kind of love that God has for us is an unconditional love, or the kind of love that keeps on loving even when that love is not returned. 

Because human beings are created in the image of God, they also have the ability to show love but the problem is that human love often falls far short of what it could and should be. For example...

  • Human love is often manipulating but God's unconditional love always seeks to bless others
  • Human love is often self-centered but God's unconditional love is always totally unselfish
  • Human love is often based on self-gratification but God's unconditional love always seeks to provide for another person's highest good
  • Human love is often based on physical attractiveness but God's unconditional love flows from who He is and is never based on appearance
  • Human love is often emotional and changing but God's unconditional love is always stable, devoted and unchanging

A Christian who is growing in their ability to love in the same way that God does shows proof that they have been born of God and really know Him. 

"For though we have never yet seen God, when we love each other God lives in us, and his love within us grows ever stronger" (1 John 4:12).

Did you ever wonder how 1 John 4:12 can say, "No one has seen God at any time" (NKJ) but Jesus can also say, "He who has seen Me has seen the Father" (John 14:9)  Doesn't that seem like a contradiction to you?

Well, both these statements are true because the Scriptures tell us that Jesus "…is the image of the invisible God…" (Colossians 1:15). Jesus doesn't just resemble God- He is the exact counterpart or image of the God who is unseen. Jesus is the perfect visible expression and representation of the invisible God just like an image on a coin or a reflection in a mirror. And since no one has ever seen God, His reality can be known by the love of His people which serves to demonstrate their relationship with Him.

"And he has put his own Holy Spirit into our hearts as a proof to us that we are living with him and he with us. And furthermore, we have seen with our own eyes and now tell all the world that God sent his Son to be their Savior. Anyone who believes and says that Jesus is the Son of God has God living in him, and he is living with God. 

We know how much God loves us because we have felt his love and because we believe him when he tells us that he loves us dearly. God is love, and anyone who lives in love is living with God and God is living in him.  And as we live with Christ, our love grows more perfect and complete; so we will not be ashamed and embarrassed at the day of judgment, but can face him with confidence and joy because he loves us and we love him too" (1 John 4:13-17).

Like any good teacher, John takes a moment in these verses to remind his readers (and us) of some things that he has already spoken about earlier in his letter. Here are the main points...

  • We are united with God through His Holy Spirit who has come to live within us (verse 13)
  • Everything that John says in this letter is backed up by his own personal experience (verse 14)
  • Anyone who demonstrates their belief that Jesus Christ is the Son of God can be confident in knowing that they have a relationship with God (verse 15)
  • God loves people because it is His nature to do so (verse 16)
  • If you have the kind of love that is inspired by God then you can have total confidence when you stand before Him to get your final report card (verse 17)

"We need have no fear of someone who loves us perfectly; his perfect love for us eliminates all dread of what he might do to us. If we are afraid, it is for fear of what he might do to us and shows that we are not fully convinced that he really loves us" (1 John 4:18).

We've already looked at two very important verses earlier in the book of 1 John. We saw the first one in 1 John 1:9 where it says, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." The second important verse is found in 1 John 3:20: "… if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things."  

Now it's time to look at a third critical verse which is found in 1 John 4:18: "There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love" (NIV).

Why is this verse so important? Well, The Doctor has met a number of people that seemed to have everything going for them but were missing out on God's best because they were too afraid to really trust God for their future. In fact, The Doctor believes that there may be many people who will never become everything that they could be because they are too fearful to trust God with a future that is unknown to them. Unfortunately, this kind of attitude is totally opposite from the kind of attitude that 1 John 4:18 says that we should have in the Scripture quoted above. 

Now let's be honest- it's easy to say that we shouldn't be afraid to trust God but it's a lot more challenging to actually do it. So what should you do if you're in a situation that makes you fearful? Well, the thing to do is to be honest with yourself and with God and acknowledge the way that you feel. Admit that you aren't responding to that situation in the way you should and ask God to change you on the inside so you can follow Him without fear. Above all, remember that God is love, God loves you and perfect love ejects fearfulness.

"So you see, our love for him comes as a result of his loving us first" (1 John 4:19).

An old saying tells us that the three most important words in the English language are I love you. But in reality, these are actually the second-most important words. The three most important words are really these: God loves me. You see, real love always starts with God and it is this love on His part that inspires love on our part.

"If anyone says 'I love God,' but keeps on hating his brother, he is a liar; for if he doesn't love his brother who is right there in front of him, how can he love God whom he has never seen?  And God himself has said that one must love not only God but his brother too" (1 John 4:20-21).

It's not possible for someone to say that they love God while feeling hatred towards one of His people. In fact, Jesus Himself even said, "By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:35). It's been said that you can pick your friends but you can't pick your family and if you really want to love God, then you have to love the rest of His family too.

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The Doctor is not a real doctor but he plays one on the Internet. E-Mail prescriptions are also available on an individual basis.

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Except as indicated, all Scriptural references taken from The Living Bible, 1971, Tyndale House Publishers


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