1 John 4

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. 1 John 4:18
This past week’s lesson we have circled around John’s repeated lessons adding emphasis and impact. He begins this chapter saying do not believe everything you hear, but test your teachers and prophets to see whether they are from God. Then he gives us a simple but complete assessment; do they confess that Jesus came in the flesh, from God as the Messiah? Or do they deny that Jesus is from God?
This seems simple but it is a deep truth with a profound impact on what we believe and how we live our lives as a result of believing. John was being very specific in his teaching, we are to believe that Jesus was and is God in human form, come to earth to offer himself as a sacrifice for our redemption. The holy, merciful and just God humbled himself to teach us how to live and to save us from our deep steeped sin – the hard truth is that we need a Savior because we are sinful, so God loved us enough to die in our place.
John continues offering assurance that we as believers can discern the false teachings from the truth. The false teachers teach from the world’s perspective, the world listens to them and likes what they hear. John says we are from God, the person who knows God recognizes his voice and listens to God. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth verses the spirit of falsehood. It is not what the world says about God, it is what God reveals about himself. Jesus says, if anyone loves me he will obey my word and my Father will love him and we will come to him and take up residence with him. God’s presence is with us constantly helping us to discern.
John continues teaching on love; he uses various forms of this word forty three times in this letter. “Let us love one another, because love is from God and everyone who loves has been fathered by God and knows God”. God is love, God’s essential nature is love and he loves in all his actions. Next begins some hard teachings for us, “For the Lord disciplines the one he loves and chastises every son he accepts” Hebrews 12:6. Discipline and chastisement are not words we like to associate with a loving God. Furthermore, the world has redefined love into a weak counterfeit of God’s revelation, demanding approval and tolerance over discipline and chastisement.
We know that we are in Christ and Christ in us because he has given us his Spirit; we testify to the truth that God the Father sent His Son into the world, to be the flesh and blood Savior of the world. If anyone confesses this truth, God will come into his life and he will know God and believe in the work of his Son, Jesus. As God resides in you His love will reside also and you will demonstrate God’s love in your life.
John concludes this section with powerful statements, “there is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear, we love because he first loved us and if anyone says I love God and hates his fellow Christian, he is a liar”.

Memory Verse:

For everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.  1 John 5:4

1 John 3

“What marvelous love the Father has extended to us! Just look at it-we’re called children of God! That’s who we really are. But that’s also why the world doesn’t recognize us or take us seriously, because it has no idea who he is or what he’s up to”. 1 John 3:1 The Message

We are God’s first born sons with all the rights and privileges, inheritors of God’s blessings; each one of us who receive him and believe in Jesus, what a marvelous gift! John reassures his flock that they have received this marvelous gift but that they must remain pure, fixed on Christ stating that no one who keeps on sinning really knows Christ. John removes all false ideas that we can really know Christ, be in Him, and continue to live a life characterized by sin.

John makes an emphatic statement, sin is lawlessness, to continue in sin is to reject Christ’s marvelous gift, and “He came in order to take away sins”. John further emphasizes this by saying that those who continue to practice sin are of the devil – they are children of the devil the opposite of those who believe and have been born of God’s seed – children of God. Over the next chapters John makes very clear who this evil one is, the devil, the instigator of sin, with the world under his control. But John will also assure his disciples that Christ is stronger, he will destroy the devil’s work.

As believers should practice righteousness by loving one another; then warns again that we should not be surprised when the world hates us because we follow Christ and practice righteousness. He gives as example Cain and Abel; Cain hated Abel because of his righteousness, because God accepted his offering. This example of a brotherly encounter brought on by jealousy, led to hate and resulted in murder; John says “you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him”. By contrast he gives us this example: “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers”. John continues by exhorting the church to share with those in need that we are to love with actions in truth.

We are reminded again of God’s command that we are to obey: to believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and to love one another. When we do this our hearts do not condemn us, we know we belong to the truth and we can rest in His presence. This is the confidence God gives us by the Spirit, when we obey his commands, we live in Him and He in us.

Memory Verse:
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives our fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
1 John 4:18

1 John 2

John continues to refute the Gnostics and encourage the faithful; specifically calling believers to obey God’s commands and to live like Jesus lived. Remember this form of Gnosticism thought they could commit any kind of sinfulness and it had no effect or importance to their soul. But John says the man who says “I know Him” but does not do what he commands is a liar and the truth is not in him. This is how we know we are in Him: whoever claims to be in Him must walk as Jesus did. John uses “to know” 42 times in 1 John, he is using the same words the Gnostics used to assert a “special knowledge” to repudiate their teachings.

John says that he is not writing a new command but an old one, this is the same truth they have been taught from the beginning; he doesn’t them to be deceived by these false teachers claiming a new truth different from the Apostles teachings.

John poetically addresses his flock as dear children, fathers and young men – the message is clear, this is for all of us whether new in the faith or mature. Do not be blinded by the darkness surrounding you, you have overcome the evil one because the Word of God lives in you. “He who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world”.

The next section begins John’s warnings, “Do not love the world or the things in the world”. The things of this world, everything that tempts us to take our eyes off of Christ and focus on ourselves doesn’t satisfy and won’t last. Don’t get caught up in the things of this world – the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes and the arrogance produced by material things. The world and all its wanting, wanting, wanting is on the way out-but whoever does what God wants is set for eternity. 1John 2:18 The Message

John steps us his rhetoric against the Gnostic teachers, he calls them antichrists who “went out from us but did not really belong to us”. These false teachers were formerly a part of the church but have demonstrated their lack of faith by their false teachings. After denouncing the false teachers John assures the faithful saying, “But you have an anointing from the Holy One and you know the truth”. John makes it very clear the central teaching that corrupted these teachers was that they denied that Jesus is the Christ, fully God and fully human, when they deny Jesus, the Son they also deny the Father God.

So for you dear children, remember this, continue in Jesus, you have received Christ and God’s spirit in you, remain in him. When we are faithful we can confidently stand before Jesus when he returns and not shrink away in shame – what a promise!

Memory Verse:
And this is His command: to believe in the name of His Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another, as He commanded us.
1 John 3:23

1 John 1

The author of the letters of John is the same as the Gospel of John; the Apostle John, the son of Zebedee, one of the sons of thunder, the disciple whom Jesus loved, fisherman, 1st cousin to Jesus. As we study John’s letters, we will see similar phrases and expressions and the tone is as a loving older respected authority which reinforces John’s authorship.

The situation or context of John’s letters appears different from the Gospel, John is writing to combat serious heresies. The churches in Asia Minor were battling an early form of Gnosticism, promoted by Cerinthus. Gnostics take their name from the Greek word for knowledge, they claim a special knowledge. Gnosticism is a dangerous heresy that began in the first two centuries and continues today in different forms. They teach dualism, that the spirit is entirely good and that matter is entirely evil.

This particular form of Gnosticism that John is addressing said that the God enter Jesus at baptism and left him before he died. They also promoted immorality, because the body (matter) is evil it doesn’t really matter what you do with it or to it, you can continue in immoral behavior and remain faithful because your real self (spirit) is not your flesh and blood body.

The recipients of this letter are the Gentile churches; we know this for a couple of reasons. First this gnostic heresy was most prominent among the Gentiles, Greek culture and second because John warns them “to keep yourselves from idols” which is an issue with former pagans.

John starts off with a prologue which is similar to the prologue in the Gospel of John. From the beginning we have heard, we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched – the Word of life. John wants his readers to understand Jesus has always existed from the beginning, we (John and the other eyewitnesses) saw, heard and touched Jesus – he was true man and true God, flesh and blood.

John immediately refutes the teachings of the Gnostics, Jesus came in the flesh fully united with God the Father one being not separate. We also may be joined with the Father and the Son in fellowship, we have communion with the Father and Son and fellow believers. “God is light and in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth.” We cannot separate what we do from what we believe – this dualism that gnostic thought promotes is a false gospel, it is not the truth. The Gnostics denied that their immoral actions were sinful. John responds to this false teaching saying, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.”1 John 1:8-10

We just celebrated the glorious victory of Easter, but Easter has a darker side we don’t like to admit. That my sins, your sins and the sins of the whole world were the reason Jesus needed to suffer to save us. “Jesus Christ, the Righteous One, is the atoning sacrifice for our sin and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world”. When we deny our sins, “we make him out to be a liar” I am struck again by how things never change, today we deny our sinfulness by claiming that what God calls sin is not sin or we minimize our sins, they are funny mistakes “whoops I did it again” and we even glorify sins promoting our evil as the ultimate luxuries.

Behold the Man upon a cross,

My sin upon His shoulders

Ashamed I hear my mocking voice,

Call out among the scoffers

It was my sin that held Him there

Until it was accomplished

His dying breath has brought me life

I know that it is finished

How Deep The Father’s Love For Us; by Phillips, Craig & Dean

Memory Verse:
“Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in darkness.” 1 John 2:9