This is a summary of each of the four main sections of the Book of 1 John. It purposely does not interpret each verse but attempts to provide a good grasp of 1 John. This is especially important when trying to understand this book which again and again overlaps themes. By getting a good grasp of the whole book, then we can excitedly find how the particular passage we are studying fits into John's presentation. Each section has follow up questions to foster one's own reflection and meditation.
IV. THE CHARGE TO GOD’S PEOPLE 1 John 4:1-5:21
We now enter our last major section. We have affirmed that a fellowship of God’s people does exist. Now we must close the openings that are normally left open so not to offend people. Yes, there are many things that need not come into our consideration when thinking of our fellowship. People do say those who smoke or dance halls aren’t Christians. John is instead outlining how we need to find the strength and security we need from our secure fellowship.
If we are going to be a strong people, then we must build our lives upon the foundations that we have established. We can look at the process of becoming Christians. From that alone we can gain confidence. We must affirm those three characteristics within our lives. In this way we will all the more be able and willing to stand out as God’s people in this tough world. It is a rough place for Christians. As we move into this section, we really see the battle language come to focus. We are not merely defending ourselves when we come to this section. It is one thing to focus on ourselves - our faith, and our church, but we now need to see how these truths operate when exposed to the enemy. Because we have met God, greater is he who is in us than he who is in the world. We as God’s children have overcome. Through faith we are victors.
A. Let us Affirm Apostolic Teaching 4:1-6
If we were uncomfortable by observing the antichrists go out from our fellowship before, perhaps this section will be even more uncomfortable. The principle behind all this discussion is “our fellowship is valuable enough to protect it.” We are to test the spirits that influence the different teachers. We are supposed to keep a careful enough eye on people to discern whether they are God’s children by their teaching. Do you see how this scrutiny is so opposed to the freethinking of the world? Do you see how this action combined with pride or greed for power can wreck havoc in the church? The truth is that God protects His people by their knowledge and understanding of the truth. The truth forms the walls protecting the fellowship. Just like any old city, without walls they were subject to every terror. Just like the skin on our body, truth serves as a protector of the body. The stress is not on what they do not know but upon what they affirm to be important and not important. It is interesting to note that those who say they are most tolerant are usually the most intolerant. They are often very dogmatic about being nondogmatic.
The question will go around until one asks how do you know you are right, and they are wrong. We touched upon this before and again bump into it here. The test rests not on claims of experiencing an invisible God but His Word and Christ’s appointed apostles and teachers. Some would want to reason from this that we have that apostolic authority passed on from generation to generation. They forget that the foundation was laid and that these apostles were no more. No one took Elder John’s place. The apostles’ teachings in the scriptures became our testing ground. This form builds walls around our fellowship and protects us. We feel secure in those inside because they are of a like faith. We need to start valuing our fellowship enough that we will be careful to the teaching that goes about. Some discussions indeed are minor, but many truths like Christ’s deity and humanity directly influence the application of the cross in our own lives.
John is unapologetic for our lack of love. He is being very straightforward here. By today’s standards, he would be considered unloving. After all, by saying such things he might exclude some people. But it is the absoluteness of the way John says it that makes such a dynamic change in our lives. You see, he believes in love. By making love the ethos of the group - not skin color, not language spoken, not degrees earned, not money invested, not kids in what program - we begin to focus on love. If we love, then we thank God. If we lack love, we pray for it. We humble our hearts and plead God for change in our lives. Love appropriately and necessarily sets us all apart from the world. There is that place where love is to function. You can’t love everyone like you love your wife or children. But you ought at least love your brothers and sisters in this way. ` Love is very demanding but absolutely essential. It would be easy if you could say when you are a Christian 10 years or 25 years then you will love. But know, he goes right back to our identity with God. When we are Christians, we then have His power of love. He connects our ability and willingness to love with the crucifixion so if you claim forgiveness, then you must admit to His nature of love.
So how is this going to influence your lives? You must believe in love for others as you believe in God’s love for you. You must be rigorous in how you push yourself to love when every nerve in your body says take revenge or hate or avoid. There will be those people, maybe even in your small group that you might not want to get along with for one reason or another. But you have to love them. You have to love your parents. You have to love God. The cross of Christ gives us no choice about loving. The call of love must even overcome our fears. If I think of Russia and its dangers, I fear. I know I might not come back sitting up. But I know love drives me to places and people I wouldn’t go otherwise.
Maybe I can get a little idyllic with you because they say your age is more inclined this way. For now on, you are going to be characterized by love. You will battle your pride, self, temptations and rigorously apply the ‘love test’ to every situation. When you lead a small group, you are going to lead it in love. You are going to be able to listen to criticism without being defensive. You are going to put other people’s concerns over your own. You will find no greater joy in life than being controlled by God’s love. It might take you places you wouldn’t choose to go, do things you prefer not to, but looking back you will never be able to forget how God could use your love to help someone. Loving is its own reward. There are no excuses for failure only every reason to love.
C. Let us Overcome and Live Righteously 5:1-12
We have often given up the belief that we can overcome the world. We think its power is too strong. But again our righteous natures are tied up in our salvation. The world might seem terribly oppressive and impossible to live a life dedicated to God, but God says otherwise. Our temptations are strong but if we want to stand against them through His power, we can. We will begin to find release as we feel we don’t have to disobey and can obey God. This won’t come through your feelings as Satan has too much control over them, but we can control our mind and our will. Our feelings will follow.
Don’t give up on living righteously. Just like love, this is the great life God has given to you to live. If the promise of forgiveness means anything to you, then you must take up the pledge to live righteous lives. There is no room for compromise. Compromise is not overcoming. No we need victory. And we need faith to reach any overcoming.
Jesus is living and His life is our life. We often forget what powers are inherent in our new nature and feel as if the old nature is still alive. But no, no. God set us free. God has promised it and He cannot lie. Do we not have eternal life and is this not proof that Jesus is alive and well reigning through our lives? Then let us take up the challenge.
D. Three in One: Summary of Book 5:13-20
There are those who run into imbalances on the emphasis of truth, love and walking in righteousness. We firstly need to affirm that all three are very important. They are basic and very needed. Without them there is no real faith, no genuine sonship. What happens is that a certain group or person run off with an overemphasis in one area and so neglect another. Now the real danger is to think that an overemphasis of one of these three areas is a greater affirmation of that area, but in fact it is a distortion and this is not fully realized. Let’s look at the most common distortions
The area of truth is emphasized in two ways.
The first way the truth is distorted is when certain groups or individuals cannot distinguish between certain dogmatic truths essential to preserving the church and other truths which are a matter of interpretation. They place such a strong emphasis on these minor teachings such as kind of baptism, membership in a local church, whether pastors are to be full time, observance of the Lord’s Day, speaking in tongues, singing spiritual songs, quietness in a worship service, etc., that they are willing to separate themselves from other Christians for purity. These are separatists who think they are doing the Lord a special service when they defend the truth. The problem is that they are not loving and building up the body but tearing it down. They often also become selfrighteous and justify their separatists’ ways. True righteousness does not end up setting up an artificial standard around what we think but true righteousness is based on God’s person. When we look carefully at the truths John speaks of, we recognize that they are truths of major importance with soteriological impact. Christ’s human nature and propitiary death are crucial for our salvation. The Spirit’s regeneration is essential in recognizing we are not reforming man but God is saving man; we are of God and not of the world. These are basic teachings, which are very clearly defined in many parts of the scriptures.
The second way the truth is distorted is when certain groups or individuals allow certain truths to be held intellectually and religiously but not personally. The truth they believe does not get down and affect their hearts and actions. In these cases we have people who might hold to the glorious teachings of Calvin but fail to submit themselves to them and the many other more important teachings in the scripture. I am a 5 pointer Calvinist, but I believe there are many more basic teachings which must be consistently emphasized without which we can be content with only reasoning truth and not living truth. Remember how Jesus Christ was emphasized in chapter 1? He was that perfect incarnation of that truth. I’ve seen some people who were perfect in doctrine but possessing no spiritual life. They did not love the truth but loved debates and believing they held to the truest form of the truth. They were prideful and therefore were not concerned about love which would build up the brethren but winning an argument so they could show people they were right. Again, they would necessarily establish a righteousness that conformed to assenting to truths they held rather than living like Jesus Christ.
The area of love is stretched into a non love in two ways.
Love becomes distorted in two ways.
Firstly, love is distorted when it is generalized into an unscrutinizing love. They would say how we ought to love everyone equally because everyone is God’s child. Their love would enable them to throw both doctrines and moral values out of the way so that they could have smooth relationships with everyone. Tolerance is the key word for them for love is acceptance. They think discernment and judgment are acts of pride and despising others. John calls us to live out a love which means a giving of oneself to another. Love requires certain requirements of each other. It is not to be unknowingly dispersed into the strange crowds but focused on certain individuals within the covenant group.
Secondly, love is distorted when somehow the individual who would no doubt claim to love one another in effect does not. He hates them and wishes for their evil. Love gets distorted here by the people involved justifying their actions and attitudes by simply accusing the other of not loving. They might make excuses for their lack of love or more often just not acknowledge they aren’t loving. They horribly distort genuine righteousness and often use God’s truths as swords to kill rather than to lead people to the truth.
The area of righteousness is twisted in several ways.
Righteousness in several ways has become distorted.
Firstly, people have confused righteousness with unrighteousness, God with the devil. There are groups who think novalues are the right values, and lawlessness has become lawful. Their standard comes from the world and will die with the world.
Secondly, righteousness is thought to be some form of legal observance of some law rather than the person of Christ. This does not differ much from the first point except this distortion would claim to be very righteous as the first would disdain standards. Here, they would hate and die for there standards for often their pride and socalled salvation rests on their maintenance of these issues.
Notice John’s summary of this book in verses 18-21. He says Christians are confident of three things.
We know the purity of God’s children. We have power over the Devil.
We know we share the nature and presence of God.
We know that the right confession to be Jesus as Christ, the son of God.
E. ps: The Greatest Threat To True Worship 5:21
He ends where he began just as a Hebrew thinker might be expected to do. If our hope and joy in this world was met in knowing God through Jesus Christ, then we must stand wary of all sorts of idols. For once we have picked up an idol, our hearts will leave the Lord. And the many things we warned of such as empty professions will smartly come alive. We must often through communion and other means go back to our roots and check our Christian lives to see if they are being built right. If they are, then as the Psalms describe, we can see strong godly women and men dedicated to living with the right confession, daring to love the meanest, and joyously living the lifestyle that please and agrees with God.
D.) THE CHARGE TO GOD’S PEOPLE 1 John 4:1-5:21
Bible Study Questions
Can you submit your ideas to the Word of God? How do you handle the situation when the elders differ from you -- on a major point, on a minor point? Are you willing to believe and defend hat the scripture teaches?
How should this love influence our dating - courtship relationships?
Do you think it good and possible to live by love’s principle rather than self’s principle? Do you believe it? Are you committed to it? What is holding you back? Who right now do you have the most difficulty with? How can you show love to them? Do it!
Living a righteous life is not easy, but it is necessary. Are you committed to this righteous lifestyle where everything you do and say is what God desires? Where do you fail? How can the truth of Christ’s life in you help you be an overcomer in this area?
Check for idols. They are sneaky. What areas of your life are you fearful of dedicating to God? What are you most afraid of losing? reputation, face, a friend, your degree, your image, etc.
When was the last time you really sensed God’s presence? Is He your greatest joy? Look to being more and more aware of His presence.
Bible Study Questions 1 John 4:7-21