In 1 John 4:2, we read one of the great themes of 1 John: “Every spirit that confesses that Jesus has come in the flesh is of God.” Three of the great themes of 1 John are – obedience to God’s commandments, loving one another and confessing that Jesus came in our flesh.
Remember that John has watched the development of the church for 65 years. And what he is saying now is that if you want to build the church the way God wants it to be built, then these three matters must be emphasised: Obedience to God’s commandments, love for one another and the humanity of Jesus Christ. Are these three subjects being emphasised in your church? If not, it will not be built as the Body of Christ.
In 1 John 4:4, John encourages believers by saying, “You are from God, little children. He that is in you is greater than he that is in the world.” That’s why we can be overcomers at all times and why we need never be afraid of the devil or of anyone else in the world.
After that, John comes back to the theme of loving one another, which he says is the primary mark of a person who knows God (1 John 4:7, 8). In 1 John 4:12, John repeats what he had earlier said in his gospel as well: “No one has seen God at any time.” This statement is found only twice in the Bible. In John 1:18 and here. When we put both these passages of Scripture together, we learn a great truth. John 1:18 says: “No one has seen God at any time, but Jesus came and showed people what God is like.” Here, in 1 John 4:12, it says, “Now that Jesus has gone back to heaven, the world can see what God is like in us believers, when we love one another.” The world still has not seen God. But God has placed His church here so that people see what He is like. When Jesus was here on earth, He was the Body of Christ. People saw God in Jesus. Now we (the church) are the Body of Christ. People must see God in us. That is why we must love one another. As we seek for the life of God and fellowship with Him and one another, we will manifest through our lives that God is both light and love.
When Jesus was on earth He said, “If you have seen Me you have seen the Father” (John 14:9). Today we as the Body of Christ should be able to say, “If you have seen us you have seen a little bit of what Jesus is like, a little bit of what heaven is like. If you live in my home, you will see a little bit of what heaven is like. If you fellowship with me you will taste a little bit of what Jesus is like and a little bit of what heaven is like”. That should be our testimony. If that is not our testimony, then we have to acknowledge that we have failed God. We can preach, evangelise and teach the Bible, but if we do not manifest the life and love of God in our daily lives, our testimony is a failure. Because then the people around us still haven’t seen what God is like in us. That is the tragedy in Christendom today.
In 1 John 4:17, John goes on further, to say, “As Jesus is, so we are in this world.” This is an amazing verse. We are called to be as Jesus is, in this world. This also means that we can have authority over Satan just as Jesus had. Do you believe that? That is the only way we can live with dignity, boldness and confidence as we face the future. This is a verse that I would like to put in front of every wholehearted child of God: “As Jesus is, so are you in this world.” Live with that authority and don’t ever live in any fear. We will have no fear when we realise how much God loves us (1 John 4:18). Fear can come in only when we think that God wants to punish us for something. But there is no fear when we recognise that God loves us immensely. And we love the Lord in return because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). The more we recognise how much Jesus loved us, the more our love will grow for Him – spontaneously. Perfect love casts out fear. But no-one can say that he loves God if he hates any brother in Christ. Such a person is not a believer but a liar (1 John 4:20). Here it is referring to a brother “whom you can see” (1 John 4:20). It is easy to love believers whom you never see – like the ones living in far-off lands. But it is the brother and sister who you meet regularly who tests whether you love God or not.
SI Moderator - Greg Gordon