By Stan Brown
I 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.
Ah, what a fantastic affirmation. Once more, John addresses his readers as little children demonstrating his love and paternal concern for them. He has previously (2:12-14) declared them as little children, because your sins have been forgiven and because you know the Father. He has called them fathers because they know Him who has been from the beginning. He has called them vigorous young men because you have overcome the evil one. Now in the midst of the onslaughts of the world and the antichrists; in the midst of chaos in the world around us; indeed, in the midst of the deceptions from the evil one; John reminds us that we are of God. As we walk in the light, we have come to know Him.
Therefore, we have overcome all the assaults of the evil one. We are viewed as victors over all that would deny who Jesus is and what He has done for us. He uses the same word here that he used previously to describe the vigorous young men. Paul uses the noun form of the word when he declares DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP in victory (1 Cor. 15:54). The battle appears to rage around us as chaos and evil seem to gain ascendancy. Yet, the conflict is truly very personal as we gain victory through our relationship with God and live out that relationship in love for one another. Hatred can never defeat hatred. It is only through love as demonstrated by Jesus that we may overcome.
Ah, now the great climactic statement of this verse appears as John declares, because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world. It is not because of who I am that overcoming is realized. It is because of the One who indwells us. It is because of our reliance on Him. We must remember that it remains possible to be influenced by the lustful pleasures of the world that have been distorted by the evil one as well as the attacks of the antichrists that deny our Savior. We must continue the mutual abiding of He in us and we in Him. We must continue to love one another.
Praise the Lord! We are overcomers as we abide in Him and He in us because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.
By Stan Brown
I John 4:3 And every Spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world.
We have two choices. We may confess that Jesus is the one who came into the world fulfilling the promises that God made concerning the Messiah and live in light of that confession. The only other choice is to fail to confess the reality of Jesus as Christ in the world. John says that the one who fails to make that confession aligns with antichrist. Paul describes the coming Antichrist 2Th. 2:9-11 that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false. In that day Satan will use the power that he possesses to delude all who have rejected the truth to follow his counterfeit led by the Antichrist who deludes all those who have failed to accept the love of the truth. In response to their rejection, God will send a deluding influence. This is a little alarming. Satan will culminate his efforts to counterfeit God’s kingdom with a terrifying delusion in the Great Tribulation. John writes that there were precursors to that delusion already active in his day and they remain active in our time. Their prime characteristic is to deny Jesus as Christ and all the truth associated with his coming. They would like to scrub the world of any vestige of Him. (Note: they have not succeeded. Jesus and His truth remain alive and well in the world as His message is lived out through us right now. Jesus is the One who possesses all power. We won’t be here when the Antichrist arrives on the scene.) Satan would like to replace it with his own kingdom and replace God with himself.
That was a little depressing, yet John gives us a plan of attack. We distinguish and proclaim truth by our confession and our lives. Literally, the Greek word translated confess means to say the same thing about. Little Kittel says that it may include “the agreement of deeds and words”. In Socratic dialogue it meant “consent to what is found to be valid followed by the appropriate resolve and action”. Ah, this is the in deed and truth that John mentioned in 3:18. The Holy Spirit remains in the world indwelling us. All the power Satan can muster pales in comparison to the awesome power of God who spoke the universe into existence.
John tells us to examine the spirits concerning what they say about who Jesus is and what He did as He came to earth as the Christ. He tells us that in this manner we can identify the lies of the great deceiver and live in obedience to the truth, walking in the light as we confess our sins and continue to walk in the light as the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all unrighteousness. Satan may be increasingly active as he sees the day of his destruction approaching but we have available the awesome power of God. John will shortly say greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world. He will also say perfect love casts out fear. We are on the winning team. John enjoins us to recognize who we are and live in light of it. Let us follow our Savior together!!!
By Stan Brown
I John 4:2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus (as) Christ has come in the flesh is from God.
The world is beset by false spirits who seek to move us from the place of mutual abiding in fellowship with the Father and the Son. This fellowship is enhanced by the one true Spirit, the Holy Spirit of Promise (Eph. 1:13). We know He always speaks the truth. Yet there are a plethora of voices out there. John says that many of them are from false prophets; the antichrists that he has earlier described 1John 2:22 Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son. How is it that we are to know the voices that speak the truth; that is the voices that are from the Holy Spirit; and the voices that seek to destroy; that is the voices controlled by the evil one?
John answers that question beginning in this verse. The phrase By this you know the Spirit of God looks back as it speaks of the need to test every spirit. It is every spirit that must pass this test. It also looks forward as John begins his message about discernment by defining the spirits which speak the truth, that is the spirits which speak under the control of the Holy Spirit.
In the second half of the verse John tells us Every spirit that confesses Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God. This would be almost nonsensical if all it means is that Jesus Christ came to live on earth as a man. This admission alone does not distinguish the message coming from the Spirit of God. The phrase can be translated slightly differently by treating Jesus as Christ rather than as if He were a man with the first name of Jesus and the last name Christ. Let’s translate it as follows, every spirit that confesses that Jesus as Christ has come in the flesh is from God. Understood in this fashion it means that it is necessary to affirm the reality that Jesus is the Christ and God has come to earth as a man. If it were merely to say ‘Hey there, Jesus was a man” it would mean very little but if it declares that He is the Christ, it is also saying that He is God who came to earth as the perfect God man. The Old Testament prophecies demand that, as Christ, He is God. Is. 9:6 And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. This fits perfectly with what John has written in 1John 2:22 Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son. It conforms exactly with what John has declared as the purpose of His Gospel in John 20:31 but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name. Jesus is the Christ who came to set us free from the power of sin.
It is not just the fact that Jesus came in the flesh. It is God who has come in the flesh. When He came, He brought every quality of God with Him. The spirits attack his character as they question both his love and His holiness. They perpetuate lies about both these characteristics as they say ‘he can’t be God. He doesn’t measure up to our standards.’ They deny that He came to deliver us from sin. When they redefine truth and love, they deny that Jesus as Christ has come in the flesh. The Spirit emanating from God not only affirms who Jesus is, it also affirms everything that is true about Him. The voices arising from every direction cause confusion among believers. As we hear these voices, we need to know who Jesus is along with what He has done and what he is doing. Jesus told His disciples John 16:33 “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”
So, let us abide in Him as He abides in us. Let us learn to discern the spirits as they speak about who Jesus is.
By Stan Brown
I 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.
After elucidating the exhilarating concept of mutual abiding, we in Him and He in us, John reminds his readers that there are false prophets out there. They stand in direct contrast to the Holy Spirit who indwells us. John will spend a little time discussing the concept of antichrists which he introduced in 1John 2:22 Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son. We must be aware that both within and without the church there are spirits who are on a mission from Satan to destroy that fantastic relationship that we have directly with the Father and the Son. Sometimes, believers can perpetuate lies as they themselves are deceived by the great deceiver (Satan). But remember we have the Spirit of God residing within us to combat the errors of Satan. James 4:7 Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. The mutual abiding life is one of submission to God.
John has just told us about an amazing relationship facilitated by the Holy Spirit. In contrast, he now says that there are a lot of spirits out there who will tell lies about who God is. John has also talked about living out truth and love. The false spirits perpetuate the lies of Satan. There are a whole bunch of them out there. Jesus said “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves (Matt. 7:15). They are sometimes tough to distinguish because Satan is a liar and a good one at that. John is going to tell us in the following verses how they may be recognized. In the previous verse he has brought us to the place of mutual abiding. When we remain there, we can be safe from all attacks but this warning is given to the beloved. Wherever we are in our relationship with the Lord we must be on the lookout for false prophets. The result of their work will always be division rather than unity.
It is sometimes easy to become arrogant about where we are in our Christian life. Satan and his allies will attack with a vengeance. He wants us to pay allegiance to himself. He wants no mutual abiding with God. John will next tell us how to recognize the false spirits.
This may seem a little depressing as John includes this warning just after he has spoken of the thrilling relationship we may have with God. I would rather take it as encouraging. He is merely telling us to never become complacent in our relationship with God. There are all sorts of deceptions out there. The exciting thing is that as we abide together (God and me) we know who God is and can recognize the falsehoods of Satan. The Holy Spirit is not the only spirit at work in the world but He is the most powerful (omnipotent) and the most loving. He will always help us walk in the light.
1Cor. 9:27 but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.
By Stan Brown
I John 3:24 And the one who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And we know by this that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.
John has previously used the word translated abide fifteen times in this epistle. Five of these refer to that which may abide in us. He has spoken of the word of God abiding in us (2:14). He has spoken of His anointing abiding in us (2:27). He has spoken of His seed abiding in us (3:9). He has spoken of eternal life not abiding in murderers (3:14). He has spoken of the love of God abiding in us (3:17). All of this has been building to the ultimate dwelling of mutual abiding in a manner which had never before been known. It is described with the words the one who keeps His commandments abides in Him and He in him. I wonder if this might have been part of what the author of Hebrews had in mind when he penned the words All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth (Heb. 11:13). Wow! Pause for just a moment and consider the awesome nature of this gift. As believers we have the promise of the indwelling Holy Spirit as God moved His visible presence from the Holies of Holies to the hearts of believers on the Day of Pentecost. But this is more than just His presence in us, it is a mutual abiding with we in Him and He in us. I can barely comprehend what this might mean. It may only be completely understood by experiencing it.
How is it that we as believers may be involved in that relationship? John tells us very simply what it involves as he summarizes with the words the one who keeps His commandments. Jesus describes this same thing when He said, “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 (John 14:23). Ultimately, it has to do with the two central characteristics of God, holiness and love. In John 14:23 they are mentioned as love and word with the words If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word.In John’s epistle he has spoken of righteousness more than once including, Children, let no one deceive you. The one who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous (1John 3:7). He has emphasized love for one another in the immediately preceding section. Now, we reach the ultimate relationship of abiding in Him as He abides in us. John has told us how to get to this place in everything he has previously written in this letter. Here he says And the one who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. I do not have to wait for His appearing. I may enter this relationship right now.
Just as the Holy Spirit is given to us as a down payment on the fulfillment of God’s promises, He also gives us the assurance of our mutual abiding. He provides for us the bold confidence of this relationship. Let us go for it! Without this relationship we can do nothing.
John 15:4-5 “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.
By Stan Brown
I John 3:23 And this is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us.
As we come to the end of this section John intertwines the concepts of faith (belief) and love. These two concepts are dear to the heart of John. In his Gospel he uses the phrases believe into or believe in over fifty times as he describes the faith that brings us into eternal life. It is a faith that recognizes the gift and the person; desires the gift; and asks and receives eternal life. In this epistle John uses the word love forty-five times in stressing its necessity. So, what is the commandment that we are to obey? It is the interleaving of faith and love. All of what John has said relates to this commandment. It begins with a belief in the name of His Son Jesus Christ. There is no other way to be cleansed from unrighteousness. (Quick interlude: The death of Jesus Christ on the cross emphasizes the atrociousness of sin in that the death of Jesus was required in order to extinguish the claims of sin.) The greatest demonstration of love ever exhibited is Christ’s death on the cross. We must exhibit the same love to each other that Christ exhibited on the cross. We must always express love for one another. The command is simple in concept. We believe in Jesus and express His love for one another. This commandment undergirds everything John is saying.
It is the basis for the confidence and boldness we have as we enter His presence both now and at His coming. It is the foundation for the ability to enter His presence in prayer And whatever we ask we receive from Him as we walk in faith and love. The loving believer takes the love of Christ as the model by which we love one another by actions of love, indeed, the deeds of love (Yes, I know I used the word love four times (five if you include loving) in one sentence but I didn't know how else to say it.). This commandment is the basis for the invigoration of active love in accordance with truth (there can be no love apart from truth). This is the model that quiets the guilt-ridden heart as we accept the blood of Jesus as the cleansing for our sins. This is where we live as we walk in the light. We boldly and confidently enter His presence through the intertwining of faith and love offered to us through the saving blood of Christ.
We are saved by faith and we live by faith. We enter the relationship with God through faith and we live out a life of love through faith. This is what belief in Him is all about. It is receiving and it is living.
By Stan Brown
I John 3:22 and whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do the things that are pleasing in His sight.
We have not entered God’s candy shop where all our desires are immediately met. We have entered the presence of God where we may converse with Him one on one. We have reached the place where our desires are in tune with who He is. We have reached the place where we trust in His timing. Perhaps we even begin to understand that He exists outside of time as he intervenes in time. David expresses it this way. Psa. 37:4 Delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you the desires of your heart. John writes whatever we ask we receive from Him. This is not an easy place to abide else John would not have spent so much time getting here.
How then do we get to this point? Everything John has said before leads up to this. I hesitate to go over it again since, in some fashion or another, I have mentioned it every day but it is so essential that I once more briefly summarize. As we walk in the light which reveals our sins, we confess those sins and fellowship together with the Father and the Son. We gain victory over the deceits of the devil. We love one another. And whatever we ask we receive from Him. (OK, brief interlude here. Yes, John writes in the extremes of light and dark and we never reach perfection in this life but John encourages us to take the road that leads there. Interlude ends.) Let us strife, with the power of the presence of the Holy Spirit to walk where He walks every moment.
This verse also looks forward to what John will soon more fully explain. The result of our confidence toward God is answered prayer. John summarizes the reasons as he writes because we keep His commandments and do the things that are pleasing in His sight. He says that we may come confidently before God in prayer as we (1) keep His commandments and (2) do the things that are pleasing in His sight. This is really one reason observed from two perspectives. God is pleased when we follow Him and obey His commandments. As we walk where Jesus walks, we desire what He desires. It is exciting to know that in His great love, He desires what is best for us and those we love.
The reward is twofold as we do what John says. First, we have mutual fellowship with the master of the universe and beyond. Second, whatever we ask we receive from Him. This is much the same as the words of Jesus that John records in his Gospel. “If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it (John 14:14). This statement is immediately followed with a statement about commandments and love. “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments (John 14:15). Let us walk in the light each moment of every day.
By Stan Brown
I John 3:21 Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God;
It is love that emboldens us as believers walking in the light in fellowship with the Father and the Son. We are given boldness to enter into the presence of God with confidence. If we would seek an audience with the president of the United States there would be hoops through which we must jump. As believers, walking in love and light, we may confidently and boldly enter and remain in the presence of God. John uses the Greek word ‘agape’ translated love more than one hundred times in his New Testament writings. He uses it forty-five times in this epistle. He uses it to describe the love of God for us as well as his own (John’s) love for us and our love for each other. He tells us what we must not love as in the case of the worldly system. The unfathomable love of God is expressed in His sacrifice on the cross bringing us eternal life. But that is just the beginning. He wants us to come into His presence with confidence and remain there as we love Him and love one another. He has chosen us to be the messengers through whom the world will catch a glimpse of His love.
So, now we will briefly look at the verse itself. John addresses his readers as Beloved expressing the love that he has for us and that he encourages us to have for each other. God seeks to quiet the self-condemning hearts of believers who are walking in the light as John expressed in the first section of this epistle. As we walk with God, recognizing and confessing our sins we have perfect fellowship with Him and He seeks to quiet the guilt that we often feel, even for confessed and forgiven sins. Guilt is covered by the blood of Christ. If God does not condemn us as we walk in the light then neither should our own hearts. This is not sinless perfection but rather God viewing us through the cleansing blood of Jesus as we properly deal with our sins in the light. We need not stumble in fear in God’s presence. We walk with Him as did Adam and Eve in the Garden.
John picks up on the word translated confidence which was previously used to describe confidence at His coming. We need not wait for His coming to receive this boldness. God offers it to us now. In the next verse John will relate this confidence to prayer. Here, he describes the place of fellowship that God wants us to enjoy with absolute confidence. This is not the place of arrogant reveling in sinlessness. Rather it is coming humbly into the presence of God knowing that our sins are forgiven both judicially (for eternal life) and practically (for fellowship). He has provided the opportunity to humbly, with quiet confidence enter into His presence with the boldness that we would enter our own home. After all the presence of God is our home. Ergo, live in the confidence and boldness that He has provided for us.
By Stan Brown
I John 3:20 in whatever our heart condemns us; for God is greater than our heart, and knows all things.
God does not want us to be overwhelmed by guilt as we live our lives in His presence. I suspect that most of us can recall things that we have done or failed to do in the past that we wish that we could change. Some of these things may have had serious consequences with which we still live. The world would often characterize who we are by what we have done in the past but God views us through the precious shed blood of Jesus Christ. When we believe in Jesus (that is when He becomes our personal Savior) we are cleansed by His blood for all sins (past, present and future) and will never have to pay the penalty for them. Christ has paid that penalty for all sins. We will never have to worry about eternal punishment because we possess eternal life.
But what about present fellowship with God? When we indulge in sin as believers, we separate ourselves from the light and walk in darkness where our fellowship is broken. God has taken care of that as well. The same blood of Christ that has given us eternal life is what enables our fellowship with Him right now. When we walk in the light as believers and confess our sins, we have perfect fellowship with Him. We may still need to mature in Him but we have fellowship in His presence. This is not an excuse for sinning because we know we can say “I’m sorry” and go on. This is the basis for a personal relationship with our Creator.
In the previous verse John has said (and shall assure our heart before Him) that as we express love through what we do the fears and guilt of our hearts may be quieted. But God knows that even though we have experienced His forgiveness we may not have forgiven ourselves (whatever our heart condemns us). God is greater than our heart. God wants us to be able to live in what He has done. He has died for us and given us eternal life. He has enabled fellowship with Him even when we sin. He does not want us to be weighed down by guilt of forgiven sin. God still hates sin passionately but He has provided the means of forgiveness and wants us to live in light of that forgiveness rather than our own condemnation. This is not a free pass to keep on sinning. It is accepting His forgiveness when we sin.
God knows all things. God is aware of the way we are living now. He knows our acts of love toward one another. He knows that we are walking in the light. God does not want us to be consumed by the guilt of the past. He even knows how to mitigate some of our past sins. He wants us to live with boldness in the present that we may have confidence at His coming.
Accept His forgiveness. Accept the fact that He knows all things. Walk in the light. Love one another. Love Him!!!
By Stan Brown
I John 3:19 We shall know by this that we are of the truth, and shall assure our heart before Him,
I may have mentioned this before but it remains crucial for us to remember that John is writing to believers. He is not telling them how to know they possess eternal life. We possess eternal life because we have believed in Him. This strain runs completely through John’s gospel. In this verse he is telling us how we may know that the truth abides in us. It is shown because we love one another. When the truth abides in us and we abide in the truth it will explode outward in love towards each other. It will demonstrate the love that Christ lived when He walked upon the earth. It will demonstrate the love of Christ when He died on the cross for the sins of the world. When the truth abides in us As for you, let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning (1John 2:24), love shows up in how we treat one another. In his second epistle he will write for the sake of the truth which abides in us and will be with us forever (2John 2).
But the love that Christ demonstrated is a substantially high standard. In fact, it is an impossibly high standard. So, as we love it is easy to ask ourselves if we are loving enough. It is possible to ask ourselves if we are doing enough. John does not want us to be continually overwhelmed by guilt as we seek to live out Christ’s love in the world. This is why he has assured us that as we walk in the light and confess our sins, the blood of our Lord continually cleanses us. He will emphasize this assurance in the following verses but for now, we need to know that God wants us to be convinced in our hearts that we are not only on our way to heaven but also that His truth is abiding in us. As we live in the light and demonstrate love we receive assurance that gives us the boldness we need in our relationship with Him.
In the phrase assure our hearts before Him the words before Him appear in a place of emphasis. It is not just at His appearing that we may have boldness and confidence before Him. It is right now as we come before Him in prayer. It is right now as we walk in the light. He tells us that as we love in deed and truth, our hearts may be assured whenever we appear before Him. When we are walking there, He will let us know if there is something else He wants us to do. John is speaking of being assured of His presence as we love. Coming before Him boldly is an experience of humility, not arrogance. Let us be assured that as we walk in the light expressing His love that we are abiding in Him.