1 John 4:3-11

Wednesday Evening Bible Study

March 25, 1998


John began chapter 4 by talking about the necessity for discernment, to tell truth apart from error.

Heís now going to continue along those same lines by being able to tell what is "of God" and what is not.

4 Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them

of God Ė we donít see it very clearly in the English, but this phrase "of God" is really a theme throughout the next few verses, to tell who is "of God", and who is not.

The Greek phrase is "ek tou theou", and is found in verse 4, 6, and 7.

have overcome Ė nikao Ė to conquer; perfect tense, something done in the past, with results carrying on into the present.

The victory we have over these "spirits" is not just something we experienced once a long time ago, but itís something that has results even to the present.

Who have we overcome?

The false prophets and their false spirits (1Jo. 4:1)

:4 because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.

Itís God, through His Holy Spirit, that dwells in you.

Heís the "anointing" thatís in us (1John 2:27).

He dwells in us (Romans 8:9)

Satan is called the "prince of this world" (John 12:31)

God is greater than Satan, and has already won the victory.

(Col 2:13-23 NLT) You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ. He forgave all our sins. {14} He canceled the record that contained the charges against us. He took it and destroyed it by nailing it to Christ's cross. {15} In this way, God disarmed the evil rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross of Christ. {16} So don't let anyone condemn you for what you eat or drink, or for not celebrating certain holy days or new-moon ceremonies or Sabbaths. {17} For these rules were only shadows of the real thing, Christ himself. {18} Don't let anyone condemn you by insisting on self-denial. And don't let anyone say you must worship angels, even though they say they have had visions about this. These people claim to be so humble, but their sinful minds have made them proud. {19} But they are not connected to Christ, the head of the body. For we are joined together in his body by his strong sinews, and we grow only as we get our nourishment and strength from God. {20} You have died with Christ, and he has set you free from the evil powers of this world. So why do you keep on following rules of the world, such as, {21} "Don't handle, don't eat, don't touch." {22} Such rules are mere human teaching about things that are gone as soon as we use them. {23} These rules may seem wise because they require strong devotion, humility, and severe bodily discipline. But they have no effect when it comes to conquering a person's evil thoughts and desires.

(Col 3:1-4 NLT) Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits at God's right hand in the place of honor and power. {2} Let heaven fill your thoughts. Do not think only about things down here on earth. {3} For you died when Christ died, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. {4} And when Christ, who is your real life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory.


Victory is Godís job.

Heís the one that has already fought and won the battle over you. Now all we have to do is to learn to walk in that victory, and take full advantage of it in our lives.


In his book Forever Triumphant, F.J. Huegel told a story that came out of World War II. After General Jonathan Wainwright was captured by the Japanese, he was held prisoner in a Manchurian concentration camp. Cruelly treated, he became "a broken, crushed, hopeless, starving man." Finally the Japanese surrendered and the war ended. A United States army colonel was sent to the camp to announce personally to the general that Japan had been defeated and that he was free and in command. After Wainwright heard the news, he returned to his quarters and was confronted by some guards who began to mistreat him as they had done in the past. Wainwright, however, with the news of the allied victory still fresh in his mind, declared with authority, "No, I am in command here! These are my orders." Huegel observed that from that moment on, General Wainwright was in control. Huegel made this application: "Have you been informed of the victory of your Savior in the greatest conflict of the ages? Then rise up to assert your rights. Never again go under when the enemy comes to oppress. Claim the victory in Jesus' Name." Huegel observed, "We must learn to stand on resurrection ground, reckoning dead the old-creation life over which Satan has power, and living in the new creation over which Satan has no power whatever."

:5 They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them.

In contrast to "ye are of God", they are "of the world" (ek tou kosmou).

True disciples arenít "of the world". Jesus said,

Joh 17:14 I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.

The world doesnít mind listening to the false prophets. In fact, it likes them.

:6 We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us

Again, "of God".

knoweth Ė ginosko Ė to learn to know, come to know; knowledge by experience. The tense could be translated like this, "he that is continually growing in his knowledge of God is hearing us".

Keep in mind, one of Johnís main purposes in this letter has been to deal with the "Gnostics", those who claim to have a "higher knowledge" of God.

John is saying that if someone really has a true knowledge of God, then they will be paying attention to what John is saying. In fact, they will pay attention to what God is saying.

Joh 8:47 He that is of God heareth God's words: ye therefore hear [them] not, because ye are not of God.

:6 he that is not of God heareth not us.

If a person has not been born of God, they are going to have a difficult time receiving spiritual truth.

(1 Cor 2:14 KJV) But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

A.T. Robertson: "This is one reason why sermons are dull (some actually are, others so to dull hearers) or inspiring."

Until a person comes to the point where they yield their lives to the Lord and open themselves up to the working of the Holy Spirit, theyíre going to have a hard time with things like Bible Studies and Sunday Sermons.

I think thereís a way in which this can apply even to Christians.


Prepare your hearts to hear.

Sometimes when we feel like someone is particularly boring, the problem really isnít with them, sometimes itís really with us.

Thatís no excuse for us as teachers to try to make our studies as boring as possible, just so we can see how "spiritual" you really are.

I think itís a teachersí responsibility to work hard at making his messages the best he can.

(1 Tim 5:17 KJV) Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine.

labour Ė kopiao Ė to feel fatigue; by impl. to work hard

But just as itís a teacherís responsibility to work hard at preparing a Bible Study, there is also a responsibility on the part of the listener to be open to receive what God has for them.

One of the phrases we saw over and over again in Revelation was:

(Rev 2:7 KJV) He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches

If you have an ear, then make an effort to hear what God is saying to you.

I think one of the little things that helps, is to have a pencil and paper ready, ready to write down what youíre going to hear from the Lord tonight. I donít think you have to get legalistic about it, sometimes I just need to sit back and receive it. But sometimes I need to put my mind on "alert" status, and be ready to make notes of what God might be saying.

:6 Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error.

John has been trying to teach how to know the difference between real Christianity, and the false kind.

So far, John has given us two things to discern truth from error:

1) What they say about Jesus (4:2)

2) Whether they listen to Godís Word.

The other day, Dave & Laurie were online, and got drawn into a "chat room discussion" with a friend of theirs and her Mormon sister. Every time Dave & Laurie would mention Scripture to support a point, the gal just ignored it. She wouldnít listen to the Scripture.

:7 Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God

Love, agape, is "of God", (ek tou theo). John has been talking about how to know who is "of God", and one of the marks of being "of God" is whether or not you know this "love".


True Love.

Be careful to know which kind of love John is talking about.

John isnít talking about friendship kind of love, the "warm fuzzies" (phileo).

John isnít talking about a hormonal, physical, sexual kind of love (eros).

John isnít talking about the kind of love you find in a family (sturge).

Heís talking about a unique kind of love (agape), one that comes from God, one that is not based on whether the other person deserves it, but a love based on your own choice to place value on that other person.

Paul defines it Ė

(1 Cor 13:4-8 NASB) Love is patient, love is kind, and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, {5} does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, {6} does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; {7} bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. {8} Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away.

Itís not optional. If you claim to be "of God", then you will agape one another.

Sometimes we look at 1Cor.13 and think about how far short we fall from it. But Godís desire is that we keep learning how to do agape, and that we become like 1Cor.13.

:7 and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.

"Loving one another" is not a matter of personality, it is not a matter of what kind of family you grew up in, it is something tied to whether or not you know God.

:8 He that loveth not knoweth not God

The tenses translate like this, "the one who is not presently loving, has not at some point in the past known God".

:8 for God is love.

Some would want to twist this to say that every time you "love somebody", that it must be God, because God is love.

The idea is not that love is God, but that one of Godís qualities is love. This is part of the very core of His nature, just as John has already told us that He is light (1John 1:5), completely pure and sinless.

:9 In this was manifested the love of God toward us

manifested Ė phaneroo Ė to make visible what has been hidden or unknown.

toward us Ė literally, "in us".

Godís love isnít just being shown toward us, itís being placed IN US.

:9 because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.

Godís love for us was made real by the sending of His Son to pay for our sins.

God sent His Son for the purpose that we might have true life.

(John 14:6 KJV) Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

:10 Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us

We were not the first ones to initiate this love. It was God who loved us first.

(Rom 5:8 KJV) But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

:10 and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

The "propitiatory" was a place where blood was spilled to pay for sins. Jesus is the one who has paid for and covered our sins with His own blood.

Ryrie: "Propitiation refers to God's wrath being satisfied by the death of Christ (Rom. 3:25; 1 John 2:2). Expiation emphasizes the removal of sin by the sacrifice that satisfied God. Sin interrupts normal relations with God; expiation removes sin and restores the relationship."

:11 Beloved, if God so loved us

"If God loved us in this way".

In what way did God love us?

By loving us first. By covering our sins.

:11 we ought also to love one another.

or, "we ought to keep on loving one another".


Be Godís kind of lovers.

1) Be the first to love.

Sometimes we have this idea that weíll be glad to forgive the other person, as long as they take the first step.

Love like God does, take the first step.

Jesus didnít wait for you to repent and be a "nice guy" before He loved you.

2) Cover their sins.

You canít die for their sins, or cover them with your blood, but thereís another way that we can cover one anotherís sins Ė

1Pe 4:8 And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.

Pr 10:12 Hatred stirreth up strifes: but love covereth all sins.

Pr 17:9 He that covereth a transgression seeketh love; but he that repeateth a matter separateth [very] friends.

If you truly love another person, you arenít going to be the one spreading the news of their sin around.

In marriages, donít go running to mama to tell her what your husband just did to you. You might feel better and make up with your hubby, but mama is going to stay bitter at the man.

Love doesnít spread the word about a personís fall into sin, even for the sake of "prayer". That doesnít mean you canít pray for that person, or ask others to pray with you. But you donít have to talk about their sin.

Iím not talking about certain select, careful, counseling kinds of situations, where you know the person youíre talking to will keep it to themselves. But Iím talking about telling more than a few about it.

Love seeks to restore people, not keep them permanently down and out.