The Epistles of John part 6          Download in Pdf format

1 John 4: 1 - 6

First of all, we examined a phrase that appears 6 times in the 6 verses of our passage. The phrase is 'from God'. What is meant in the original text is: 'that which has it's origin in God'. This is very important because it lays the foundation for the rest of the study.

In verse 1 we have a reference to "testing" and we looked at 1 Thessalonians 5: 21, which also speaks about testing things. We then had some contributions from the group as regards the meaning of the term 'testing'. We had 'examining', 'examining carefully', 'proving', 'studying', 'looking below the surface' - all very helpful.

Next, still in verse 1, we looked at the term "false prophets". We had several contributions as regards what this term causes us to think of. Some said 'counterfeit', another said 'with selfish motives and self interest', and 'with or without  intent to deceive'. We also saw that the false prophets are prophets, as in 'religious', seemingly from God and not evil-looking monsters with tails and pitchforks...We also looked at verse 5 and saw that the world actually agrees with and accepts the teaching of the false prophets. This indicated to us that they speak the same worldly language. Examples of this in the church would be 'doing things in your own strength', 'Christianity is all about good works and charity', 'God exists for man', to name but a few.

What John exhorts believers to do, is to test (examine, study) the spirits and establish whether or not they have their origin in God, and the Spirit which comes from God, is recognisable. He then goes on to give some detail in this regard: "Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh, is from God..." Here it is very important to establish what exactly is meant by "acknowledges". During our discussion, we established that on the face of it, it seems that as long as there is acknowledgement of the existence of Jesus Christ, it's fine. However, we know from elsewhere in Scripture, that even the demons did that. There are many who acknowledge Him - as a prophet, a good man, a great teacher. However, in the original text, it literally says: "...every spirit that agrees that Jesus Christ is God incarnate". Furthermore, this sentence in the Greek is in the present continous tense, as opposed to the past tense, which would just refer to a one-time event in the past. This present, continous 'presence' of the Spirit of Jesus Christ becomes our focus later on.

Next, we had a look at a number of Scripitures which contain references about who Jesus Christ is, and how this is made known:

John 4: 21 - 26     John 14: 15 -1    John 15: 26    John 16: 12 - 14    1 Corinthians 1: 20 - 24    1 Corinthians 2: 13 - 14    1 Corinthians 2: 1 - 10    Collosians 1: 15 - 20    Colossians 1: 25 - 27    Colossians 2: 2 - 4    Colossians 2: 8 - 10    Matthew 16: 13 - 18    Revelation 19: 10

In the above scriptures we saw some wonderful indications that the knowledge of Jesus Christ and who He is, comes by revelation (proceeds from God, has its origin in God) and not by the wisdom of this world. It does not rely on reason, logic or any human cleverness. We see clearly that the revelation of Jesus Christ and who He is, is the foundation of our faith. So, if we go back to the phrase "acknowledging/confessing" Christ, which actually means to "agree", we see that in our agreeing with God as He reveals who Jesus Christ is, we are expressing our belief, our faith, just like Simon Peter in Matthew 16.

This led us on to consider what it really means to confess 'Jesus Christ as Lord', as it is written in 1 Corinthians 12:3. The Greek word used for 'Lord' is 'Kurios', which means 'master' or 'owner' and we had a good discussion around the implications of that. We then read a beautiful Scripture in this regard: Romans 10:9 which made it clear that no one can truly confess Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour except by a working of the Holy Spirit.      

Another most important issue that emerged from our readings, was that Jesus Christ Himself, was the 'truth' of God, the 'wisdom and knowledge' of God, and that the 'mystery' of God is Christ being in us...(Colossians 1: 26 - 27). With reference to this, we looked at what Paul writes about the church in Laodicea in Colossians 2: 1 - 2.  We then looked at the letter to the church in Loadicea in Revelation 3: 17 - 20. In the letter, it is clear that there were some works (deeds), but the church in Laodicea is described as 'neither hot nor cold and wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked'. Then, in verse 20 Jesus says that He is knocking, wanting to come in, but He is outside! This is a wonderful link with what Paul writes in Colossians 2 and a serious reminder that it is Jesus Christ Himself in us in the church, which is to be the origin of our 'works'.  This also pertains to 'overcoming' as we find it in verse 4 of our passage and our references for that were Matthew 16:18 and Ephesians 6: 16 -18. Another lovely Scripture referring to 'overcoming' is Psalm 124: 1 - 2. It is important to note that in the Septuagint (the first Greek translation of the Old Testament from the Hebrew) the words literally used are: 'Kurios imee en' which means "The Lord in us". The first two verses of Psalm 124 thus reads: "If the Lord was not in us, let Israel say..." This is very interesting, seeing as it is way before the coming of Christ.

This is truly the central idea of this study - that it is the Spirit of Jesus Christ living in us, that defines us as Christians. Not good deeds, works of charity, being nice people...It is also this Spirit living in us, which makes us recognisable and is recognised by us in others, when we 'test' the spirits.

We ended with an extract from the testimony of Major Ian Thomas, the founder of Capernwray, when he reached a point of exhaustion and despair after seven years of trying to live the Christian life: "...I can honestly say that I had never once heard from the lips of men the message that came to me then, but God that night simply focused upon me the Bible message of Christ Who Is Our Life. The Lord seemed to make plain to me that night, through my tears of bitterness: 'You see, for seven years, with utmost sincerity, you have been trying to live for Me, on My behalf, the life that I have been waiting for seven years to live through you...I got up the next morning to an entirely different Christian life...."

© 2011 Werner Schreiber

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