1 John 4

The Word Made Fresh

1Friends, don’t believe every inclination; test your witnesses to see whether they are truly from God. After all, many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2This is how you will know God’s Spirit: those who confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh are from God, 3and those who do not confess Jesus are not from God – this is the influence of the antichrist. You have heard that it was coming, and it is now already in the world. 4Children, you are from God, and you have overcome them; the one within you is greater than the one within the world. 5Those who are from the world speak only what is from the world, and the world listens to what they say. 6But we are from God, and those who know God listen to us; those who are not from God don’t listen to us. This is how we distinguish between the spirit of truth and the spirit of lies.

7Friends, we should love one another because love comes from God, and those who love are born of God and know God. 8God is love, and those who don’t know God also don’t have love. 9God demonstrated his love for us by sending his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. 10It isn’t that we loved God, but rather that God loved us, and sent his Son as a sacrifice to atone for our sins. 11Friends, God loved us that much; so, we ought to love one another.

12No one has ever seen God, but if we love one another God lives in us, and God’s love is completed in us. 13We know that we live in him and he in us because he has let us partake of his Spirit. 14We are witnesses, and our testimony is that the Father has sent his Son as the Savior of the world. 15God lives in those who confess that Jesus is God’s son, and they live in God. 16This is what we know, and we believe that God loves us.

God is love, and everyone who lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 17Love has been perfected in us so that we will be brave on the day of judgment because we are as he is in this world. 18Love has no fear; perfect love casts out fear. Fear is all about punishment, and whoever is afraid has not been perfected in love. 19We love one another because he first loved us. 20Anyone who says they love God but hates their neighbors are liars. Those who don’t love others they have seen cannot love God whom they have not seen. 21The commandment we have been given is this; those who love God must also love their neighbors.


1-6: John’s black and white view of things is contained in a number of dichotomies — life and death, light and dark, love and sin, to mention a few. Here he introduces another; spirit of truth and spirit of error. The spirit of truth testifies to Christ, the spirit of error testifies against Christ. He refers to false prophets who have gone out into the world as examples of the spirit of error. Early in the history of the church different factions formed, teaching different doctrines about Jesus’ true nature and what our response should be and what the future will hold for God’s people. Thus, back in 2:18 John wrote that “many antichrists have come” (see also 2 Peter 2:1). Another dichotomy appears in verse 4 and following; the distinction between those who are “from God” and those who are “from the world.”

7-12: This paragraph is really the crux of John’s theology. Why does he insist that loving one another is the hallmark of the followers of Jesus? It is because God is love. God’s love was in Jesus, and was demonstrated to the world in the death of Jesus as an atoning sacrifice for the sins of the world. He even makes the claim that though God is invisible God is to be seen in our love for one another.

13-16: The concept of abiding is also important in John’s theology. The gift of the Spirit is the indwelling of God. God is with us and in us. Likewise, confessing Jesus as the Son of God is evidence that we abide in God. To live in love is to live in God. To live in love is also to have God live in us because God is love.

17-21: Love results in courage and a lack of fear. This boldness and fearlessness is exhibited primarily regarding “the day of judgment.” Living a life of love for others is above judgment and there is thus no punishment to be afraid of. Whoever is perfect in love does not fear; whoever fears is not perfect in love. God’s love in us is not selective: We cannot hate others and say we love God.


Yes, some people are easier to love than others, but isn’t loving the unlovable the true measure of the depth of our faith?