Please read: I John 4
John starts chapter 4 with a warning to “test the spirits.” The Secessionists or false teachers believed that Jesus Christ did not come in the flesh. John helps us discern the false teachers from those who teach the truth. If they do not believe that Jesus came in the flesh, the incarnation, they are evil spirits. John declares every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus is God and believes that Jesus has come in the flesh, but every spirit that does not is the antichrist. In verse 4, John encourages the believers by saying that they have already overcome the Secessionists because they believe in God and have rejected the dissenting teachings of the Secessionists. These false teachers speak the world’s viewpoint on the critical issues of God. The world identifies with what they are teaching because they are not of God and cannot understand the things of God. Believers are from God, and the Holy Spirit helps to bear witness within them; believers to each other because they have the same spirit that bears witness to the truth.
In verses 7-21, John emphasizes the importance of love again. It is an affirmation that we are in Christ, and it is how others know we are in Christ. It is an identifying characteristic. God has other attributes: he is faithful (I Corinthians 10:13), creator (Genesis 1:1), spirit (John 4:24), perfect (Pslam 18:30), and provider (Matthew 6:26). The list goes on and on. The importance of love’s characteristic is that love existed before God created the earth. It existed among the trinity members: Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. The three in one are love. Since God Himself is love, He loved us first by sending His son to die for our sins. Such an expression of His love should motivate us to love one another and be obedient to His laws. No one has ever seen God, but when His love is manifested in our lives, they have observed a portion of God in action. If the unbelievers see a young man helping an elderly lady with yard work for no apparent reason, the love of God being witnessed and part of His character is revealed. The love of God is at work in us and for us when we love and care for one another. God’s love is made complete in us through our care and concern for others. John declares that Jesus is the world’s Savior, and that statement directly contradicts the Secessionists who did not believe that Jesus’ death on the cross was the atoning work for the world.
In verse 16, John drives home that love for one another is evidence that Christ is in them. Verse 17 is the third reference to God’s love being made complete in them. Here God’s love is complete in us when we face judgment day without any fear in our hearts. Through the love of Jesus Christ, we face judgment without fear because he paid the penalty for our sins. The culmination of these two verses is that “perfect love drives out fear.” If God’s love is perfected in us and we know that He is abiding in us because we love others and obey His commandments, there is no fear of death. Because we know we are in Him and have eternal life. Love for God and fear of His judgment cannot co-exist. John finishes this chapter by reminding believers that you cannot claim to love God but hate other believers as the Secessionists do. John is black and white in this description and leaves no areas for gray. John finishes by pointing out a lesson that escalates from a minor to a more excellent one. If you can’t love those brothers and sisters, you can see how you can love God whom you cannot see.
Loving one another is essential to our relationship with God, for our affirmation of knowing we are saved, and for a life without fear of judgment. Is it hard to love our brothers and sisters in Christ? At times it sure can be painful and difficult. We have so many bumps and bruises navigating this broken world. It is sometimes difficult to love fractured Christians when we are broken. We are imperfect humans trying to do our best. Please join me in loving others to the best of my ability as we navigate through 2022.