Thursday, May 16, 2024

2024.05.16 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1 John 3:24–4:6

Read 1 John 3:24–4:6

Questions from the Scripture text: What is the person in 1 John 3:24 keeping? In Whom does he abide? Who abides in him?  How do we know that Christ abides in us? How does 1 John 4:1 address the readers? What are they not to believe? What are they to do with the spirits? Test them for what? Why? What test does 1 John 4:2-3a give? Of whom are those who do not confess a true incarnation of Christ (1 John 4:3b)? But of Whom are the “beloved” “little children” (1 John 4:4)? Whom have they overcome? How did this happen? To whom do false prophets belong (1 John 4:5)? What “language” do they speak” Who hears them? But to whom do the apostles belong (1 John 4:6)? Who hears them? Who does not hear them? How does the end of verse 6 summarize this section?

How can we test for true Christianity? 1 John 3:24–4:6 prepares us for the second serial reading in public worship on the Lord’s Day. In these seven verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that we may test for true Christianity by righteousness and love, by the doctrine of a true incarnation of Christ, and by adherence to the teaching of the apostles.

As the apostle continues giving his readers tests by which they may know that they believe, he now gives three of them that relate to the Spirit’s work in the believer.

Test one: righteous works and brotherly love1 John 3:24. In the previous section, we learned that working righteousness and loving others is a mark of the children of God. Now, verse 24 sheds some light on how this gives us assurance: the only way that we could become commandment-keeping lovers of the brethren is by union with Christ (1 John 3:24a). And it is God’s own Spirit Who gives us the faith that unites us to Christ, and Who produces Christ’s own righteousness and love in our lives (verse 24b). If you have faith in Christ, then you are united to Him, and it is His own Spirit Who has done this.

Test two: true incarnation of true God1 John 4:1-3. Sadly, even in the apostolic period, there were those who claimed to be speaking from the Spirit, who did not produce righteousness and love (1 John 4:1, cf. Matthew 7:15–27). So, the apostle commands that the spirits be tested. Some tests take longer than others to indicate one way or another, but he gives a “rapid test” to his readers that was especially useful in his day. 

At the time of writing, there were false teachers that taught that the physical is inherently evil and that Jesus, therefore, had not been genuinely incarnated. These same false prophets also taught that Jesus was not fully God, the second Person of the triune God. So, they could very easily tell a false spirit of a false prophet, because he would not be preaching that Jesus is God the Son, Who took to Himself a true human body and a true human soul (1 John 4:2-3a).  Just as he had said in 1 John 2:18–19, he reminds them that we have been warned by God that such antichrists would appear and preach in the churches (1 John 4:3b).

The distinguishing doctrinal mark of true Christianity is that the true God has become true man to redeem sinners. Dear reader, is this the heart of your theology?

Test three: listening to the world vs listening to the apostles1 John 4:4-6. It is very important that we guard against the temptation to judge a preacher as true because he has a wide appeal. Praise God that the Spirit’s dwelling in believers (v4) makes them listen to and heed the apostles, prophets, and evangelists of Christ (1 John 4:6a, 1 John 4:6c; cf. Ephesians 2:19–22, 1 John 4:11). It is only the Spirit Who can make someone hear and heed them (1 John 4:6b). But the whole world will listen to those whose preaching and power are worldly (1 John 4:5). Let us be watchful against the sort of teaching that even a worldling can approve of.

What are the evidences of the Spirit’s work in your life? In your doctrine? In your teaching ‘preferences’?

Sample prayer:  Lord, forgive us, for we have often shrunk from or slacked off in keeping Your commandments. And, when we have kept Your commandments, we have often failed to conscientiously acknowledge that this comes only by union with Christ. Forgive us for having been too tolerant of those who question either His true deity or His true humanity. And forgive us for being willing to hear the sort of teaching that the world can get onboard with. When we have done these things, we have foolishly sabotaged our own assurance. So, grant us repentance, by Your Spirit, and thus assure us again that we are abiding in Christ, and He in us, we ask in His Name, AMEN!

 Suggested songs: ARP118A “Because He’s Good, O Thank the LORD” or TPH406 “Jesus, with Thy Church Abide” 

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