The Agora
Bible Commentary
1 John

1 2 3 4 5

1 John 4

1Jo 4:1

TEST THE SPIRITS: "Why is it that every church claiming to have the Holy Spirit puts forward un-Biblical teaching of some kind or another? If the Holy Spirit were truly at work in these churches, would not complete harmony exist between that church's teaching and the Bible? It is difficult to believe that gifts of the Spirit would be given by the Lord to give added power to teaching that is false. Yet, over and over again, Pentecostal churches are found, on investigation, to differ markedly from the basic truth of the Word of God.

"This is the kind of test the apostle John requires us to apply: 'Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are of God; for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit which confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit which does not confess Jesus is not of God' (1Jo 4:1-3).

"Although it gives one no pleasure to write it, the fact has to be faced, that careful investigation of one Pentecostal church after another has revealed the sad fact that their claims of Holy Spirit guidance are made by people whose religious beliefs are very different from the teaching of the Bible. This, at the very least, should teach us to be cautious" (WGHS).

FALSE PROPHETS: // 1Jo 2:18; Mat 24:5,23-26; Mar 13:21; Luk 21:8; Act 19:13; 20:29; 1Ti 4:1; 2Th 2:2-7; 2Ti 3:13; 2Pe 2:1; 2Jo 1:7.

1Jo 4:7

LOVE COMES FROM GOD: "If we do not have love, we are nothing -- just an empty shell, a rattling skeleton: love of God, love of Christ, love of the Brotherhood, love of mankind, love of every vital, living blade of grass in God's glorious Creation, so full of endless marvels of beauty and design. And love of Truth, of Beauty, of Holiness, Purity, Goodness, Nobility, Unselfishness: love of the bottomless richness of the treasures of the Word. Love scorns to descend to petty criticism and shallow victories, even in the cause of Truth. Love grieves at sin, strives for good, yearns for universal happiness and blessing. Love is life. Love is always busy, always building, always working and praying for good. Love is compassionate, and patient, and understanding of weakness. But it does not condone, or belittle, or pamper sin and error, any more than a sensible doctor belittles or pampers corruption and infection. He fights it vigorously, though an ignorant bystander might think him extreme and harsh. Love discharges its unpleasant duty toward sin and error faithfully and resolutely, though very carefully and self-searchingly and prayerfully -- ever conscious of its own weakness and limitation and need" (GVG).

1Jo 4:8

"In those grand old ages, which are the heroic period of the Christian religion, this double mark was clearly to be seen in all believers in Jesus; they were men who knew the love of Christ, and rested upon it as a man leaneth upon a staff whose trustiness he has tried. The love which they felt towards the Lord was not a quiet emotion which they hid within themselves in the secret chamber of their souls, and which they only spake of in their private assemblies when they met on the first day of the week, and sang hymns in honour of Christ Jesus the crucified, but it was a passion with them of such a vehement and all-consuming energy, that it was visible in all their actions, spoke in their common talk, and looked out of their eyes even in their commonest glances. Love to Jesus was a flame which fed upon the core and heart of their being; and, therefore, from its own force burned its way into the outer man, and shone there. Zeal for the glory of King Jesus was the seal and mark of all genuine Christians. Because of their dependence upon Christ's love they dared much, and because of their love to Christ they did much, and it is the same now. The children of God are ruled in their inmost powers by love -- the love of Christ constraineth them [2Co 5:14]; they rejoice that divine love is set upon them... and then by force of gratitude they love the Saviour with a pure heart, fervently" (CHS).

1Jo 4:16

"To love God and to be loved of God is the only peace, joy, happiness and satisfaction in this life. Secure that, and you have everything. And it must not just be first in our lives. It must be everything. It does not eliminate many other loves. Rather it totally absorbs and directs and empowers them: unites and fortifies them in every darkness and disappointment: sustaining when every human aspect fails" (GVG).

1Jo 4:18

'Live your life in the Truth with love as your dominant motive and rationale. Where true love is, there cannot be fear. So dismiss fear from your life by truly loving... God, and your brethren. And you will find that a life lived in love will look to the mercy of God, and be centered on that mercy... but -- sadly -- a life lived in fear will look to punishment. Be positive, not negative. And don't forget, my dear children, that God loves you; you have nothing to fear!'

PERFECT LOVE DRIVES OUT FEAR: "Pray to God with all your heart and strength for perfect love. Absolute perfection is not a quality associated with the present dark time of weakness and struggle and probation; but He may endow you with something very close to perfect love if you seek and desire it enough: seek and desire it all the time with all your being. The question of whether perfection in anything in this weak day -- the question of how close to perfection we can, and are required, to come -- is not a profitable or practical question. What is preeminently practical is how hard we must strive, and how earnestly we must desire. How close we get is not our present concern. God will measure us in the scale of what He has given us, and what He has laid upon us. For each, the scale is different, and known only to Him. How close we try and desire to get to perfection -- in the irresistible and burning compulsion of love -- is supremely important. It is all-important. In our striving toward the attainment and fulfillment of perfect love, how repeatedly we in weakness stumble and fail is not of great seriousness (though it can never be shrugged off as unimportant). Perfect love is perfect oneness with God in all we do and in all we are. It is an ultimate attainment. It is the divine promise of the Memorial Name. All life, and hope and peace and joy lie within the boundaries of total, single-minded dedication to it. Outside it, all is the blackness of eternal night. In anything you do, keep continuously in mind the need for Divine guidance and help in prayer: or else -- no matter how sincere the effort or 'sanctified' the deed -- the result will be of the flesh. Without God held constantly in mind, and without His constant help and direction, no activity will rise above the flesh" (GVG).

1Jo 4:19

WE LOVE: Not, as KJV, "we love HIM".

1Jo 4:20

Vv 20,21: But how can we love our brother, or sister... since he or she is very little like God? We can love God because we can recognize something of His perfect character, and something of the awesome gifts which He has given us. But why should we love this little, snivelling, whiny, demanding, selfish, bothersome pest who is our brother or sister -- who, with all his shortcomings and inadequacies, is probably proud and egotistical as well?

Well, let's see...

Most of us parents love our children, and love them pretty much unconditionally. The baby comes into the world bawling, and for the first year or two doesn't do much but cry, and demand to be fed, and demand to be changed, and changed again, and again. And then he needs to be fed again, and then bathed, and then changed, and then fed. Always demanding and selfish and bothersome, and plainly thinking only of himself! Even when he smiles at us, it's probably only gas. Or maybe he's just amused at how readily we respond to his every desire!

Why do we bother? Three reasons, at least:

So we are all God's children... and -- sure! -- we are all whiny, selfish little bundles of ego. But God seemingly loves us! Why? Because He is our Father, because -- spiritually -- we are a part of him, made in His image... and because we have an unlimited potential, to truly reflect His glory forever.

Are these the reasons why we should love our brothers and sisters? Because, with the eye of faith, we may see them -- not just for what they are, now, with all their warts and blemishes -- but for what they are in process of becoming. And because God loves you and me -- not for what we are, now -- but for what we are becoming, under His loving care.

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