Reading for Tuesday, May 29: 1 John 4
The NT issues several warnings about false prophets (Matt. 7:15; 24:11; Mark 13:22; 2 Pet. 2:1) and John expresses a similar sentiment to his audience. The Christian response, in light of the abiding Spirit mentioned in 3:24, is to test the Spirits. John’s desire is to purge spiritual gullibility from us, to give us some battle-tested criteria for gauging God-presence in the life of another. These spirits are not to be feared, for he who is in us is greater than he who is in the world (v4).
How do we “test the spirits”? “By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God,” (v2-3). It seems that John is dealing with heretics who are denying the Incarnation. But for John, this is the starting point for his understanding of Gospel (see John 1). The Spirit of God testifies to the person of Jesus Christ. For John, this is an important litmus test.
But John continues to write and leads us to see that the ultimate confession of Christ’s lordship is a life of love. “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” The Incarnation, upon which so much depends for John, stands as the greatest demonstration of God’s love in the world (v9-10). Love, the intrinsic characteristic of God, is made known through the particularities of Jesus: born of a virgin, born in Bethlehem, crucified on a cross, buried in a tomb, raised on the third day. The local demonstrates the universal; the cosmic seen through the particular.
And now, the cosmic, universal love of God is seen and felt and experienced among His resurrection people: “We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit…If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us,” (v13-16). We know and rely on God’s love, because God — in His essence — is love. There is nothing more to say on the matter. His love is the strongest force in the universe, powerful enough to speak planets and stars into existence, mighty enough to breathe life into inanimate soil, strong enough to redeem our brokenness and forgive our sin. In the end, all we can say is that God is love, ultimately and eternally.