1 John Lesson Ten

1 John Lesson Ten: 1 John 5:1-5 – Proving Our Love Through Obedient Faith

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Messiah has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father also loves the one born of Him. This is how we know that we love God’s children when we love God and obey His commands. For this is what love for God is: to keep His commands. Now His commands are not a burden, because whatever has been born of God conquers the world. This is the victory that has conquered the world: our faith. And who is the one who conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? (HCSB)

John continues his discourse on the connection between love, faith, and obedience. A good summary statement for this passage is – The true Christian overcomes the world by their faith and demonstrates their salvation by obeying God’s commands, and those commands are not a burden.

When we consider what John is saying in verse one, let’s take a moment to consider how Christianity differs from every other main world religion. All of the other religions involve humanity vainly trying to work their way to God. It may involve legalistic practices or earning merit through various activities. In contrast, Christianity involves God coming to humanity and humanity responding to the invitation. The difference often creates a stumbling block. We try to rationalize why an all-powerful God would pursue His creation. The one overarching reason is that God loves His creation and doesn’t want anyone to spend eternity separated from Him. 

Now, let’s take a closer look at this passage.

  • A Christian is a person who has been born again.
    • They believe and have placed their faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ.
    • The new birth transforms them from children of disobedience into children of God.
  • John uses the term “born of God” seven times in this first epistle, using it to describe the characteristics of a believer.
    • They practice righteousness – 1 John 2:29.
    • They don’t practice sin – 1 John 3:9.
    • They love other believers – 1 John 4:7.
    • They overcome the temptations of the world – 1 John 5:4.
    • They guard themselves against Satan – 1 John 5:18.
  • John emphasizes the trilogy of love, obedience, and truth as tests for inclusion in God’s spiritual family.
    • If we love God as our Father, we will also love our fellow believers.
    • Our love for fellow believers will lead to obedience.
    • When we love others, it creates a willingness to serve others.
  • The Christian who believes that obedience to God’s Word is a burden doesn’t understand biblical love.
    • Christians are not to love the world, belong to it, or yield to it.
    • They have overcome the temptations of the world and the devil and false teachers.
    • They overcome it by faith in God, not through individual power or wisdom.
  • When we look at the context and historical setting of this letter, it appears John was addressing a situation in Ephesus, where the antichrists were acting in a hateful manner towards believers.
    • We don’t have to love perfectly to demonstrate a regenerate heart.
    • If we demonstrate hate towards other believers, as the antichrists did, we can’t have confidence we have been born again.
  • John addresses the question of whether or not following God’s commands is a burden or not.
    • How many times have you or someone you know struggled with being obedient to God’s commands?
    • How often do you think that God’s commands are restricting your life?
    • John makes a convicting statement when he says, “His commands are not a burden.”
    • The world would disagree with this statement. How often have we heard, from unbelievers, that Christians don’t have any fun?
    • It’s true that disobeying God is easier than following Him. But then the consequences are easier to experience, too.
    • For one example, let’s consider the sin of sex outside of marriage. Let’s consider some of the consequences.
      • Those who engage in this practice treat one another as objects to fulfill our desires. They don’t treat each other as a valued human being.
      • Those who have multiple partners run a serious risk of catching a sexual disease. Some of the diseases can have lifelong consequences or even result in death.
      • With multiple partners, there is always the risk of jealousy, resulting in violence.
      • If one of the individuals is married, they are violating the marriage covenant, resulting in various consequences.
        • A broken marriage.
        • Children who are torn from their parents or develop negative feelings towards the offending party.
        • The financial burden of a broken marriage.
    • When two people engage in a marriage covenant and don’t violate it, they will not experience any of the consequences listed above.
    • When we consider this example, we see that sin has a consequence. When those consequences are “paid,” we clearly see that God’s commands, in this case, “don’t commit adultery,” is not a burden when we compare the cost in consequences.
    • This sheds understanding when Jesus said in Matthew 11:30 – For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.
  • John ends this passage of Scripture with two verses that can challenge and bring doubt to the minds of believers. This centers around the phrase, “has been born of God conquers the world.”
    • First off, until we get to heaven, every believer will struggle with sin and make mistakes, some more than others.
    • Because of the “sin struggle,” some believers may feel that they have not conquered the world and are, therefore, not a true Christian. However, this is a false understanding of what John is trying to say here.
    • First, we need to come to grips with what John means by “the world.”
      • John may be referring to the false teachings that say Jesus is not the Son of God and didn’t come in the flesh.
      • John may be referring to the temptations of the world; the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.
      • John may be referring to the threat of open hatred the world brings against followers of Christ.
    • Regardless of which one John was referring to, all are possible, and all are included in the final victory that has already been won.
      • We won it in a past tense understanding when we submitted to Jesus.
      • We win it in the present tense when we refuse to deny Him.
    • All who have been born again have overcome the world and can claim the victory.
    • In John 16:33, Jesus declares, “Be courageous! I have conquered the world.
    • Jesus’ victory has overcome evil and set us free from the power of Satan.
    • Our victory is based on faith.
      • When we place our faith in Jesus, nothing can separate us from the love of God.
        • Romans 8:37-39 – No, in all these things we are more than victorious through Him who loved us. 38 For I am persuaded that not even death or life, angels or rulers, things present or things to come, hostile powers, 39 height or depth, or any other created thing will have the power to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord!
        • 1 Corinthians 15:57 – But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!
      • The believer is victorious over the world because of their faith in Jesus.
    • When we understand what John is saying in these two verses, we should feel fear or discouragement when we struggle with sin. Instead, we should be encouraged because even though we do struggle with sin, Jesus has already won the victory for us.


  • Do an evaluation on yourself, or have a trusted family member or close friend who is a believer regarding the characteristics of a Christian.
    • Do you practice righteousness?
    • Do you avoid sin?
    • Do you extend love to your spiritual family?
    • Do you overcome the temptations of the world?
    • Do you guard yourself against Satan?
    • We will never be perfect in these areas, but we should be victorious more than we stumble.
  • Do you consider God’s commands a burden or an easy path? If you consider them a burden, reevaluate that area and consider the consequences of not following God’s instructions. On the surface, being obedient may seem like a burden, but when you consider the consequences being obedient is a much easier path.
  • Don’t become discouraged when you do stumble. Every believer will stumble at some point. There are several issues to consider when we sin.
    • Are you like the Gnostics and believe that sinning is ok since you’ve professed faith in Jesus? If you are in this camp, your understanding of saving faith is skewed, and you may not be a genuine follower of Jesus.
    • Does it become a habit where you become numb to your sin? This is dangerous and may lead you into falling away from the faith.
    • The opposite, excessively beating yourself up when you sin, is also dangerous. You may begin to believe that you aren’t really a Christian and fall away from the faith.
    • The healthy response is to confess your sin and move past it in victory immediately.

1 John Lesson Nine

1 John Lesson Nine: 1 John 4:13-21 – Combining a Right Belief and a Right Attitude

This is how we know that we remain in Him and He in us: He has given assurance to us from His Spirit. 14 And we have seen and we testify that the Father has sent His Son as the world’s Savior. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God—God remains in him and he in God. 16 And we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and the one who remains in love remains in God, and God remains in him. 

17 In this, love is perfected with us so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment, for we are as He is in this world. 18 There is no fear in love; instead, perfect love drives out fear, because fear involves punishment. So the one who fears has not reached perfection in love. 19 We love because He first loved us. 

20 If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For the person who does not love his brother he has seen cannot love the God he has not seen. 21 And we have this command from Him: The one who loves God must also love his brother. (HCSB)

In this section, John continues with his theme of love. In this passage, John outlines the duality of our love for God, as well as our love for fellow believers. To make it easier, I’ll break this passage into three sections.

  • Our assurance of Jesus as God’s Son – verses 13-16.
  • Our confidence for eternity – verses 17-19.
  • Love reveals the heart – verses 20-21.

Our Assurance of Jesus as God’s Son

In John’s time, there were many who physically saw Jesus. That is not the case for present-day believers. So what do we base our belief in that Jesus is who we claim Him to be? Let’s dig deeper into that argument.

  • The Apostles and the larger group who followed Jesus all saw Him in the flesh.
  • But it wasn’t just His followers who saw Him.
    • The Jewish religious leaders saw Him but, out of jealousy, plotted and succeeded in killing Jesus.
    • There were those not associated with the religious establishment who saw Jesus but chose to reject His message. One example is the rich young ruler.
    • There were those who cried out for His crucifixion and who saw Jesus.
    • The Roman leaders and soldiers in Judea saw Jesus and were complicit in His crucifixion.
  • It’s much easier to place our faith in something we can see or touch. Those alive in the first century benefitted from being eyewitnesses to Jesus’ life and ministry. How do we support our belief in Jesus?
    • Predominately through faith. But what supports our faith?
      • Belief in the testimony of eyewitnesses who lived with Jesus, saw His death, and witnessed His resurrected body.
      • Scripture testifies to the truth of Jesus and His works.
      • We’ve experienced the impact of Jesus on our lives when we submit to His Lordship.
      • We’ve seen the change in those around us as they submit to Jesus. In some cases, we may have witnessed an extraordinary change in the behavior of others.
      • Maybe we’ve witnessed miraculous healing that doctors can’t explain. 
    • One of the definitions of “faith” in the Merriam-Webster dictionary is “firm belief in something for which there is no proof.” As Christians, we need to be careful and not ascribe to that definition for our belief in Jesus. There is ample “proof” of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus and His earthly ministry. 
  • The main basis of our faith is the Holy Spirit.
    • The Holy Spirit is the one who reveals the truth of the Gospel to the lost.
    • As believers, one of our roles is to evangelize the lost. However, we can’t “convert” a person. We can only speak of the truth of the Gospel. It’s the role of the Holy Spirit to “open the eyes and ears” of the lost.
    • The indwelling of the Holy Spirit gives us assurance we are part of God’s family.
    • Paul speaks of the assurance given by the Holy Spirit in Romans 8:16 – The Spirit Himself testifies together with our spirit that we are God’s children.
  • Building from previous lessons in 1 John, we remember that love and truth are mutually inclusive.
    • There is a relationship between God and the person testifying that Jesus is the Son of God and the Savior of the world.
    • Those who hold fast to this belief will do all they can to build this relationship to the fullest extent possible.
    • Those who have a heretical position on the identity of Jesus don’t have a relationship with God. Therefore, they have no relationship to build.
  • To remain or abide in God is a present tense verb.
    • It infers a vital, intimate, continuous, and growing relationship.
    • The believer understands they have an invisible power, through the Holy Spirit, to fulfill their kingdom work on earth.
    • The believer understands that physical life is a temporary one. Their real home is in heaven.
  • This section of the passage ends with a theme presented earlier; God is love, and those who live a life of love, live in God and God in them.
    • In John’s writings, this is the true test of Christianity.
    • The basic character of God is love.
    • We should experience love in our relationship with God.
    • Others should experience this type of love in their relationship with us.
    • It’s the reason God sent Jesus to die on the cross for our sins, to have our love relationship restored with Him.
    • When we don’t live a life of love towards God and others, we need to reexamine our relationship with God.

Our Confidence for Eternity

John returns to the subject of the judgment seat of Christ, which he previously mentioned in 1 John 2:28. 

  • The judgment seat can bring either hope and peace or fear and anxiety.
    • When God’s love is perfected in us, we can live in confidence; we don’t need to worry about our future judgment.
      • Our lives should be filled with peace and hope.
      • We extend God’s love to others as we shine the light of Christ.
      • When a believer lives as an example of Jesus, there is no fear as they approach the judgment seat of Christ.
    • However, when we don’t live in a spirit of love, thinking about future judgment may unsettle us.
      • Our lives will be filled with fear and anxiety about the future.
      • Instead of shining the light of Christ, we will carry an air of gloom.
      • Believers who live without extending the love of Christ to others will approach the judgment seat of Christ with fear as they expect the loss of eternal rewards.
      • A believer who fears the judgment seat of Christ demonstrates that God’s love has not reached maturity in their lives.
  • The reason we love others is because God loves us first.
    • God commands us to love others.
      • 1 John 3:11.
      • John 13:34-35.
      • John 15:17.
      • Colossians 1:4.
    • Christian doesn’t mean we’ll always agree with what others do or their viewpoints.
      • It does mean we still extend that love because He first loved us.
      • Read James 4 to understand what happens when selfishness overshadows love.
  • The perfecting of God’s love in our lives happens in stages. It’s not a sudden change.
    • Before a person comes to saving knowledge of Jesus, they lived in fear and knew nothing of God’s love.
    • After submitting to Jesus, a person discovers a combination of fear and love in their heart.
    • As a believer grows in fellowship with the Father, the fear gradually decreases, and their heart becomes more controlled by His love.
    • An immature Christian bounces between fear and love.
    • A mature Christian rests in God’s love.
    • As a believer’s confidence in the presence of God grows, it’s an indicator that their love for God is maturing.
  • In verse nineteen, John makes a comparison between our love for God and God’s love for us. Let’s consider three reasons why this is significant.
    • Our love for God and others originates in God’s love for us.
    • Love is tainted by fear when there is a doubt it will be returned. A believer has no fear in this area since God’s love occurs before ours.
    • Affection flows from a heart filled with gratitude for God loving us first. The Father sent the Son to die for each of us.
  • God’s love is perfected in us when we extend unbridled love in three directions.
    • A believer’s love toward God.
    • A believer’s love toward others.
    • A believer’s love toward themselves.

Love Reveals the Heart

In the last two verses in this passage, John points out that our words and actions need to match. It also drives home the point that the theology of the false prophets and antichrists is refuted. 

  • If we remember back toward the beginning of this letter, one of the doctrines of the false teachers is that it was ok to sin as our spiritual being was not affected by what our physical body was doing.
    • Their theology was in disagreement with the idea that love for God requires obedience to God.
    • In disagreeing with Scripture, it proved their theology was a lie.
  • John also points out that it’s difficult to prove our love toward God as He is a spirit being, and we can’t “see” how others act towards God.
  • However, we can see how people act toward each other.
    • When we love others, it’s a reflection of our love for God.
    • Scripture gives us the command, “The one who loves God must also love his brother.”
    • Jesus also made this point in Matthew 25:40, “I assure you: Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me.”
  • An example of spiritual hypocrisy is found in Acts 5, the narrative of Ananias and Sapphira.
    • They sold some of their property and brought a portion of it as an offering.
    • However, to the church, they made it seem as if they were bringing the entire proceeds of the sale.
    • The sin wasn’t keeping back a portion for themselves. Peter was clear in the passage that they could have kept part of the proceeds for themselves.
    • The sin was in lying about it. They were trying to make themselves appear more generous and spiritual than they were.
  • Pretending is an act for children, but it isn’t a characteristic of a mature adult.
  • Adults must know and be themselves, fulfilling the purpose for which Christ saved them. Their lives must be characterized by honesty.
    • Spiritual honesty brings peace and power to a person.
    • They don’t need to keep track of their lies or spend energy covering up those lies.
  • Paul drives home the point about love in Galatians 5:14 – For the entire law is fulfilled in one statement: Love your neighbor as yourself.


  • Do you practice love or legalism? While rules and standards are important, they can also create problems. The biggest issue Jesus had with the religious leaders in Israel was legalism. The question we need to consider is whether rules can inspire a life of devotion, service, and worship. Additionally, does a framework of legalism cultivate a lifestyle of reflex activity instead of a lifestyle of love and devotion? There’s a quote from C. S. Lewis where he says, “Love is that which forgives the most and condones the least.” The challenge for us is to love others while keeping to the standards outlined in Scripture.
  • Can we extend a love that is too generous? This idea is a branch of the first point. A love without expectations and consequences is a love that can be exploited. Sometimes it is a fine line we walk between extending love and holding people accountable. It’s always possible that we can go too far in extending love. When we consider this idea in dealing with fellow believers, we need to be careful and look to the example of Paul in Galatians. Paul is quick to point out the hypocrisy of disciples who fail to mature, yet he never threatens them with the idea that God will abandon them.
  • Do we have a proper awe of God? When we think about God’s love for us, it’s not difficult to go too far and think of God as too personal or approachable. God is not our “friend.” God is our all-knowing and all-loving Father, but He’s also infinitely holy and righteous. As our infinitely holy and righteous Father, He also is against sin. Sin can’t exist in the presence of an infinitely holy God. We need to understand who God is and live in reverent fear of Him.
  • Do we claim our Christian victory and life in a spirit of confidence? For many churches, especially in Western society, the Holy Spirit is the “forgotten God.” We often hear or read about the Father and the Son, but the Holy Spirit only makes an occasional appearance from the pulpit. Jesus told His original followers they would receive power in Luke 24:29, “And look, I am sending you what My Father promised. As for you, stay in the city until you are empowered from on high.” We can’t live in victory and accomplish the work set before us if we aren’t empowered and led by the Holy Spirit.

1 John Lesson Eight

1 John Lesson Eight: 1 John 4:7-12 – An Appeal for Love

Dear friends, let us love one another, because love is from God, and everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, because God is love. God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent His One and Only Son into the world so that we might live through Him. 10 Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Dear friends, if God loved us in this way, we also must love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God. If we love one another, God remains in us and His love is perfected in us. (HCSB)

In this short section of Scripture, John outlines how to discern a couple of things regarding love.

  • True agape love can only come from God.
  • The demonstration of agape love is an indicator of whether or not a person is a genuine believer, someone who struggles with unconditionally loving others, or a false believer.

Before we dig into this passage, let’s consider the main theme John is conveying to the reader.

Love comes from God, so if we are born of God, we will also love. God loved us first, so we must love one another.

Now, let’s break apart this passage.

  • First, let’s consider that in John’s writings, he uses three expressions to help us understand the nature of God.
    • God is spirit – John 4:24.
      • This addresses the essence of God.
      • God is not flesh and blood.
      • God is not limited in time and space the way His creations are.
    • God is light – 1 John 1:5.
      • This refers to God’s holy nature.
      • In Scripture, light is symbolic of holiness, and darkness is symbolic of sin – John 3:18-21.
      • God can’t sin because He is holy.
      • When we are born again, we receive this holy nature – 1 Peter 1:14-16.
    • God is love.
      • This doesn’t mean that “love is God.” 
      • Just because two people “love” each other doesn’t mean their love is holy. 
      • A well-known expression is “love doesn’t define God, but God defines love.”
      • God is both light and love. Therefore, God’s love is holy love.
      • God’s holiness is expressed in love.
      • All that God does expresses all that God is. His judgments are measured out in love and mercy – Lamentations 3:22-23.
      • Much of what the world defines as “love” bears little resemblance to the holy love that God demonstrates.
  • The letter now returns to a subject John previously talked about, love, which comes from God.
    • Extending love, primarily to fellow believers and also to unbelievers, is another test for a follower of Christ.
      • Only those who have been spiritually born again can understand and extend agape love to others.
      • Since God is the only source of genuine love, only a believer can understand love and extend it to others.
      • At the same time, it’s possible to see occasional acts of sacrificial love demonstrated by unbelievers.
        • We need to remember that each person is made in the image of God and is capable of these sporadic acts of love. It is part of our divine creation.
        • However, these individuals are not able to sustain this lifestyle and aren’t doing it with an understanding of agape love. 
        • Additionally, true love that includes loving God and a full expression of love to others, predominately in the area of evangelism and the Gospel, is only a characteristic of genuine Christians.
      • A proper understanding of the word “know” is required to fully understand what John is talking about.
        • “Know” doesn’t refer to intellectual understanding.
        • The word “know” is used in many translations to refer to the intimate union between a husband and a wife – Genesis 4:1.
        • To “know” God means to be in a deep, personal relationship with God.
        • We share life with Him and enjoy His love.
        • Knowing God is a matter of understanding truth – 1 John 2:3-5.
    • John then flips the discussion, talking about those who don’t extend or demonstrate love to others.
      • Those who don’t extend love are demonstrating they don’t know God.
      • What evidence does John reveal to support this statement?
        • John is referencing the very nature of God.
        • God’s essence is love.
        • When we look at John’s argument, we can see that the test for lack of love is easier to understand. Think of the changes that occur when a person is spiritually reborn.
          • They receive eternal life through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.
          • They have the Holy Spirit dwelling in their body.
          • They have been saved by love and are indwelled with love.
          • A believer may not love perfectly, but there is a significant difference between not loving perfectly and not loving at all.
  • John now switches the focus of the letter from an understanding of what love is and isn’t to a discussion of how God revealed His love for us.
    • The clear answer appears in John 3:16 – Jesus sacrificed His life for us.
    • It also appears in parallel in 1 John 4:9 – God sent Jesus to us to sacrifice His life for us.
      • God the Father knew how Jesus would be treated and the horrible death He would experience.
      • God sacrifice Jesus so we might live through Him.
    • It was through Jesus’ sacrificial atonement for our sins that our relationship with God can and is restored.
      • The sacrificial gift was not a response to humanity’s love for God.
      • It was the exact opposite. God initiated this sacrifice in spite of our sinful and hateful attitude toward God.
      • The main urge for people is to sin.
        • The natural condition for people is to pursue sin.
        • Man doesn’t naturally love God or Jesus’s sacrifice.
      • God’s nature was to show His love and provide a way to restore our broken fellowship.
        • Love is always demonstrated by action.
          • To take away our sins.
          • To destroy the works of the devil.
        • Our love is a reflection of His love and a response to it.
  • God has set the gold standard for love.
    • Believers are part of God’s spiritual family; we are His children.
    • Believers are to extend love to others, especially fellow believers but also unbelievers.
    • God’s love for us is made visible and complete as we love others.
    • God’s love is completed as we reach out to the lost.
  • John also points out that we can fail in demonstrating love; he uses the phrase “if we love one another.”
    • John is pointing out we have a choice in this matter.
    • Not everyone who says they are a believer actually is one.


  • Do you extend unconditional love to fellow believers? Admittedly, this can be very challenging. As people, we are difficult and messy, and some are easier to love than others. In fact, some believers may be very difficult to love. Still, God calls us to extend love to others. If you have a hard time in this area or there are one or more people, in particular, you find it difficult to love, pray for a softened spirit. Maybe there is an issue between you and that person or persons. If so, go to them and resolve it. 
  • Do you extend unconditional love to unbelievers? We never know when our selfless acts of love for the lost may result in their resistance to God being broken. Think back to the events that led to you becoming a Christian or maybe someone you know. Was there a selfless act leading up to their salvation? Pray for opportunities to extend acts of selfless love to others.
  • If we see fellow believers acting in a way that is contrary to what this passage is telling us, gently interact with that individual in the spirit of Galatians 6:1. Also, remember to remove the log in your eye before mentioning the speck in their eye.

1 John Lesson Seven

1 John Lesson Six: 1 John 4:1-6 – Another Demand For Right Belief

Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to determine if they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 

This is how you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit who confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God. But every spirit who does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist; you have heard that he is coming, and he is already in the world now. 

You are from God, little children, and you have conquered them, because the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. They are from the world. Therefore what they say is from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God. Anyone who knows God listens to us; anyone who is not from God does not listen to us. From this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of deception. (HCSB)

John’s focus in this passage is all about spirits, both good and bad. John instructs the recipients of the letter to test whether the “spirit” is from God or if they are a false spirit. Let’s dig into this issue in greater detail.

  • When John mentions “spirit,” what is he talking about? There are three main interpretations of “spirit” in this passage.
    • Since John says, “many false prophets have gone into the world,” he is referring to the “spirit” behind the prophet who is speaking. In this case, the “spirit” is either the Holy Spirit or a demon, depending on whether or not the prophet was actually speaking on behalf of God.
    • John is referring to the prophet himself, with “spirit” being a figure of speech or a metaphor.
    • John is referring to the message, with “spirit” being a figure of speech or metaphor.
  • All three interpretations are possible.
    • Each option instructs the reader not automatically believe every message or sermon we hear.
    • We need to listen to the content of the message.
      • How does the message talk about Jesus?
      • Is there false teaching in the message?
    • The original hearers of John’s message were fighting against false teachers who rejected that Jesus was both fully human and fully divine. 
  • However, the first two options make the most sense.
    • Verse two helps us to discard the third choice.
    • The phrase “every spirit who confesses” seems to be a phrase that refers to a person.
  • We need to be careful even with those who confess the fully human and divine nature of Jesus.
    • Does all of their message agree with Scripture?
    • There are many “attractive” heretical teachings present in the world today. But the “attractiveness” of the message will actually lead the person away from God.
      • The prosperity Gospel sounds good, especially for those who are struggling financially.
        • Jesus never said that His followers would become rich. In contrast, Jesus always spoke against selfish wealth.
        • It’s true that some followers of Jesus will experience financial gain. However, Scripture is clear that we are to share and help others. Those who are wealthy should sacrifice it for the benefit of others.
        • Often, those who preach the prosperity Gospel prey on the generosity of those who are less fortunate. It’s fairly common that the leaders of these movements wear fancy clothes, live in large houses, drive expensive cars, and sometimes have private planes. Their “prosperity” was the result of people donating money to them in response to their false message.
      • False teaching about homosexuality and same-sex marriage.
        • Beginning in Genesis, Scripture teaches us there are two sexes, male and female, and that a man and a woman are joined in marriage.
        • These false teachers often use Galatians 3:28 to support their position. However, the reference to there being neither “male or female” needs to be understood in the context of the passage. Paul is talking about every believer being equal in the body of Christ. The issue is equal standing, not sexual orientation.
        • 1 Corinthians 6:9 – Don’t you know that the unrighteous will not inherit God’s kingdom? Do not be deceived: No sexually immoral people, idolaters, adulterers, or anyone practicing homosexuality.
        • Leviticus 18:22 – You are not to sleep with a man as with a woman; it is detestable
        • It’s clear from Scripture that homosexuality is wrong and marriage can only occur between a man and a woman.
      • These are probably two of the most prevalent false teachings the church and Christians face today.
      • However, there is one more area that has also led to a decline in the correct understanding of what it means to be a follower of Christ; the lack of biblical-based discipleship training and expectations.
        • Many churches don’t teach discipleship. They are only concerned with a person making a profession of faith in Jesus. While that may be a noble position, not being involved in the spiritual growth of believers is a serious omission by the church.
        • What has happened is that a generation of shallow or marginally committed Christians has developed. Because their faith is shallow, they often leave the faith when trouble first appears. They also don’t make good teachers because they don’t have a proper theological foundation to disciple others. What we are seeing is a repeat of the downward spiral that occurred in the book of Judges. 
        • The church, made up of individual believers, is called to make disciples. When the church, and those who make up the church, fail to make disciples, we are being disobedient to the Great Commission.
  • In the last three verses of this passage, 4:4-6, John switches gears and reminds the readers that those who are genuine followers of Christ and who stay rooted in Him will be able to discern the false teachers and resist their heretical message.
    • First, John addresses them with the affectionate term “little children.” The use of this term indicates a close relationship between John and the recipients.
    • John reminds them they are victors. They are victors not because they are more intelligent or skilled but because the Holy Spirit lives in them.
    • The one who lives in the believer is greater than the one in the world.
      • The Holy Spirit, one part of the triune God, lives in each believer. Romans 8:9 –  You, however, are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God lives in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him
      • The one of the world is Satan.
        • 1 John 5:19b – And the whole world is under the sway of the evil one
        • John 12:31b – Now the ruler of this world will be cast out.
    • John then contrasts the difference between those who are of God and those who are of the world.
      • Characteristics of those who are from God.
        • Genuine believers will listen, understand, and follow the messages of faithful and theologically sound teachers.
        • The Holy Spirit guides genuine believers in discerning the source and truthfulness of the message.
        • There are three main factors that guide believers in determining whether a message is true or false; prayer, meditation, and spiritual sensitivity.
      • Characteristics of those who are of the world, both false teachers and followers.
        • Those who teach speak messages that are based upon the values of the world and not the values of God.
        • They reject the messages that come from God as they don’t have the Holy Spirit to lead them.
        • 1 Corinthians 2:14 – But the unbeliever does not welcome what comes from God’s Spirit, because it is foolishness to him; he is not able to understand it since it is evaluated spiritually.
  • Let’s conclude our study of this passage with a discussion of these six verses that are a challenge to the modern church and the threat that tolerance brings to the holiness and purity of church teaching.
    • Society (the world and its influence) today puts an emphasis on religious tolerance and pluralism.
      • One example is the heretical teaching on homosexuality and same-sex marriage presented earlier in this lesson.
      • Another is the idea that God is love and He would never condemn or exclude anyone. While it is true that God is love, God is also infinitely holy, and His commands in Scripture are clear. Those who teach and follow this line of thinking ignore the passages that speak of judgment to those who live in disobedience to God.
    • The modern church is called on to “test the spirits” in the same way the early church was instructed.
      • Testing the spirits requires leaders who are sensitive and obedient to what is written in Scripture.
      • It also requires leaders to demonstrate faith and trust that when they follow Scripture and go against the “world,” God will walk with them and protect them.
    • John stresses for each believer to grow in their Christian maturity, which will enable them to spot and challenge false teaching in the church.
    • The church is called to be a custodian of the truth.
      • Church bodies, organizations, and denominations must evaluate what is being taught and those who are teaching to ensure they align with Scripture.
    • The church must emphasize the dual nature of Christ, both His humanity and divinity. 
    • The church is called on to identify and warn people of false teachers.
      • False teachers should never be given the ability to speak to believers.
      • Congregants should be protected from hearing false messages and, if they do occur, be told about them.


  • Always listen to sermons or Bible studies (including mine) with discernment. Sometimes honest mistakes are made, especially during a “live” sermon where it’s easy to misspeak. However, there are false teachers who will try and lead believers away from the truth and prevent the lost from hearing the truth. If you find teachings that disagree with Scripture or you don’t fully understand, ask the person who gave the message. Their response may be an indicator of whether or not they’re deliberately trying to lead people astray or it was an honest mistake.
  • Live in victory. John tells us we are conquerors. Are you living as a conqueror? Proclaim the truth of the Gospel whenever and wherever opportunities exist. Don’t live in fear of what others will say. Jesus gave us the Great Commission; live it out.
  • When we present the Gospel to the lost, don’t be surprised if they reject it or respond in a hostile way. It happened to Jesus, and it will happen to us. The important point to remember is being obedient to the task. We never save anyone. Some sow, some water, but God gives the increase.