Thirdmill Study Bible

Notes on 1 John 4:1-12

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Test the spirits - 1 John 4:1

test the spirits. See WLC 105; BC 7. Though John emphasized the anointing of God's Spirit on the community (see notes on 2:20, 27; 3:24; 4:1-3, 13), those who had gone out also claimed to be inspired by God's Spirit. Thus, John stresses evaluation and discernment. They must test the spirits. This is similar to Paul's guidance for the Corinthian and Thessalonian churches to value, but test prophecies (see notes on 1 Cor. 12:1-3; 14:29; 1 Thess 5:19-21)

In the flesh - 1 John 4:2-3

in the flesh… antichrist. See BC 29. See the Introduction and notes on 2:19 for more on the events that motivated John's letter. Both here and in 4:6, John describes the role of the Spirit as attesting the truth of about Jesus' identity, life and mission. To test the spirit behind a prophetic claim, John gives his readers a template: they must acknowledge that Jesus is the Messiah, and that he came from God into the world by taking on human flesh. On the other hand, spirits of antichrist (see note on 2:18) are active in the world, denying these truths, though the Antichrist himself has yet to be revealed (see notes on 2:15-17).

The one who is in the world- 1 John 4:4

the one who is in the world. John's readers were not necessarily stronger or smarter than those who were deceived and departed from their fellowship. But, they have overcome the deceiver and his lying spirits, because they have held fast to the truth of the gospel. This is the work of the Spirit, who dwells in and among them, and who attests to Jesus truthfully (see note on 2:20).

From the world - 1 John 4:5-6

from the world… from God… listens. In 2:15-17 (see notes), John wrote about the source, objects and results of the world's understanding, the world's viewpoint. Though God loves the world and sent his Son to save it (2:2, 15, 17; 4:9, 14; 5:4-5), the world is hostile to God (3:1, 13; 4:1). Therefore, it makes sense that the world accepts false testimony about the Father and the Son. But, those who have God's Spirit recognize the voice of their shepherd (see note on Jn. 10:4), and the prophetic, apostolic messengers he sends to testify about him. The New Testament, that is, apostolic testimony is another test of true prophecy and teaching about Jesus.

God's Children Love One Another with God's Love. - 1 John 4:7-12

John returns to the theme of loving one another, writing about how Christ's incarnation provides a model for how Christians are to love one another. This echoes Jesus' own prayer for the unity of his true followers as a testimony to God's love for the world, expressed by sending His Son (see notes Jn. 17:20-23).

God is love - 1 John 4:8

God is love. See WCF 2.1. Whoever does not love other people cannot possibly know God (see note on 4:20). Because God is love, those who truly know and love him will also love his image-bearers, human beings. John is not saying, Love is God, rather he is defining love by God's character. John's letter is shaped by two fundamental messages about God in 1:5 and 4:8, which informs 3:11 (see notes). 'God is light' and 'God is love' are messages that he unpacks through his testimony about Jesus. God's light and love are rooted in his goodness, that is, his restorative justice. The Father reveals his love for the world by sending the Son as an atoning sacrifice for sins, the just for the unjust, and as an example of loyal, obedient and sacrificial love (see notes on 3:16; cf. Jn. 15:12-15).

God sent his one and only Son - 1 John 4:9-10

God sent his one and only Son… the propitiation. God reveals himself by sending his unique, dearly loved son (see notes Rom 8:32; cf. Gen 22:12). By living in accord with God's will, laying down his life, and being raised in vindication, Christ is qualified to give life to God's people. To live in the fullest sense, according to John and the rest of the Scriptures, is to love God and other people fully, that is, in the same way that Jesus loved. On propitiation or atoning sacrifice see note on 2:2.

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