The apostle John wrote this gospel in response to Gnosticism, which was a new false religion. Many Jews were being deceived by this heresy, so John felt a need to teach early Christians how to recognize false teachers and Counterfeit Christians. He teaches that Christian should have assurance of his or her salvation by confirmation from the Holy Spirit. If you have ever doubted your salvation or know of someone who doubts their salvation, then this is the book of the Bible to study.
I always cringe when I hear preachers or teachers try to assure doubters of his or her salvation. How can a person give assurance of salvation? Only the Holy Spirit knows who is truly saved. When a person doubts his or her salvation, you should take them through the Christianity Test from the book of 1st John. Then instruct them to confess every known sin to the Lord. Here is a copy of a sin list, Sin List from A-Z, which you can print for free. Finally, ask them to pray to the Holy Spirit and ask Him to affirm or disaffirm his or her salvation.
Test the Spirits
In 1 John 4:1-6 John warns believers to test the spirits. We should not believe every person who claims to be a preacher or teacher of the Bible, but should examine each one to make sure her or she is living the Word of God.
There have been false teachers in the past, but many exist today. Anyone can find false teachers when listening to Christian television. Their messages are compelling, promising and deceitful. Only by the careful study of the Word of God, can you distinguish the true from the false. The false teachers can teach truth mixed with false, so they are hard to spot. I know some will listen to them, knowing that they are false teachers, because they believe they can sort the good from the bad. I do not recommend this, as Satan will tempt you with the false later on. Like Eve did in the garden of Eden, you might become confused as to what is accurate and what is false.
1 John 4:6 says that a true believer will desire to listen to the true teachers of the Word. An unbeliever (1 John 4:5) will desire to hear what the world has to say. If you have friends who listen to false teachers on television or read their books, then warn them. Many new believers or little children, as John calls them, can be deceived by these false teachers.
In 1 John 4:7-20, John explains the meaning of true agape love. Agape love is a sacrificial love, which cannot be imitated forever by imposters. A Genuine Christian will still show love even during times of hardship. Whereas, the Counterfeit Christian will show his or her true colors during these times.
In verse 11 God commands us to love one another, just as He loved us. He showed the ultimate sacrificial love, when He sent His only begotten Son to die for the atonement for our sins. According to John 17, Jesus’ High Priestly prayer, the churches unity shows the world that God sent Jesus.
“That they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me” John 17:21 (NKJV).
I believe that lack of love and unity in American churches is the reason for our failure to reach people for Christ. Many lost people see the charlatans on television and the church’s lack of love so they run the other way.
The Christianity Test
John’s main purpose in writing this letter to the churches was to help each believer know for sure of his or her salvation. Throughout the book of 1st John, he explains the differences between a Genuine Christian and a Counterfeit Christian. Let’s see what he says in chapter 4 about each type of person.
“We are of God. He who knows God hears us” 1 John 4:6 (NKJV).
“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God” 1 John 4:7 (NKJV).
“No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us” 1 John 4:12 (NKJV).
“By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit” 1 John 4:13 (NKJV).
“Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God” 1 John 4:15 (NKJV).
“And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him” 1 John 4:16 (NKJV).
“This commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also” 1 John 4:21 (NKJV).
“They are of the world. Therefore they speak as of the world, and the world hears them” 1 John 4:5 (NKJV).
“He who is not of God does not hear us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error” 1 John 4:6 (NKJV).
“He who does not love does not know God, for God is love” 1 John 4:8 (NKJV).
“If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?” 1 John 4:20 (NKJV).
We are almost finished with our Bible study in 1st John. The Lord willing, I hope to finish with chapter 5 next week. I will then include complete lists for the Genuine Christian and the Counterfeit Christian.