Setting

After John sets forth love as a requirement of God’s children, he discusses the dichotomy between truth and lie by showing how to discern the spirit of truth and the spirit of error. Then, continuing with the theme of loving one another, he goes on to emphasize the divine origin of love as a basis for our love for one another.

Key Verse

(4:4; 4:7)

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Outline

  • Spirit of Truth and Spirit of Error
    (4:1-6)
  • Loving One Another
    (4:7-21)
  • God abiding in us through love
    (4:7-12)
  • God’s love for us
    (4:13-16)
  • Perfect love without fear
    (4:17-18)
  • Loving God and loving our brothers
    (4:19-21)

Segment Analysis

  • 4:1-6

    1a.

    According to this paragraph, what are the two tests that help us discern the spirits?

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    1) Whether they confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh. 2) Whether their teachings and actions conform to the apostle’s teachings.

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  • 1b.

    How are the two tests related?

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    Whoever listens to the apostles listens to Christ (Mt 10:40). If anyone refuses to accept Jesus Christ as Lord who has come in the flesh, they will also refuse to listen to the apostles. Likewise, those who deny Christ will also not abide by the teachings of the apostles because they belong to the wicked one.

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  • 1c.

    How do these tests apply to the situation of the world today?

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    We must guard against those teachers who do not believe that Jesus is Lord. There are also those who claim to believe in the Lord Jesus but do not walk as Jesus did. Their immoral behavior indicates that they are false teachers. There are, yet, other teachers who claim to preach Christ but have changed the one gospel of salvation that the apostles had taught. Such spirits are also from the wicked one.

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  • 2.

    The passage implies that the spirit of error works through his agents. Who are the agents of the false spirit and in whom does the false spirit work?

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    The Antichrist and the false teachers are the agents of the evil spirit (1,3). The evil spirit is also at work in those who are disobedient (5; Eph 2:1,2).

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  • 3.

    Why is the belief that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh a crucial doctrine?

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    God’s salvation was accomplished by His coming in the flesh (Rom 8:3-4). Christ had to share the humanity of God’s children and go through death to become our atonement (Heb 2:14; 10:5-10). Only by coming in the flesh could our Lord Jesus Christ fulfill God’s redemptive plan.

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  • 4a.

    Who is “them” in verse 4?

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    The spirits of the Antichrist and false prophets.

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  • 4b.

    How have the true believers overcome them?

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    They have overcome by holding on to their confession of Jesus Christ. Such confession is also expressed in their keeping of God’s commands.

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  • 4c.

    Explain “He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.”

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    He who is in you is God. He who is in the world is the devil. We are able to overcome the devil by the power of God.

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  • 4:7-21

    5.

    Record the teachings in this passage about a. God’s love for us b. Our love for God c. Our love for one another d. What God is e. Our relationship with God

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    a. God manifested His love toward us by sending His Son into the world (9-11). God first loved us (19).
    b. Our love for God is possible because He first loved us (19). Our love for God is manifested in our love for our brethren (20-21).
    c. If we love, we are born of God and know God (7). God’s love is perfected in us if we love (12,17). Our love for one another shows that we are like God (17). Our love for one another shows that we love God (20-21).
    d. He is love (8,16). He is the source of love (7).
    e. If we love God, we are born of God and know Him (7). God abides in us if we love one another (12).

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  • 6.

    How is the teaching of love an expansion of verses 5 and 6?

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    Those who are of the world do not practice love (3:14-15), but whoever hears the apostles will obey the command to love.

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  • 7.

    How does love enable us to know God (7,8)?

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    Our knowledge of God comes about not through intellectual reasoning but through actually walking as Christ did. Our eyes can only be open to know God if we love (cf. 2:10-11). By, practicing love, we can know what it is to love and know God, who is love.

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  • 8.

    What is the significance of the statement “no one has seen God”?

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    Although we do not see God, we may know God by loving our brethren (7,8, cf. 20).

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  • 9a.

    According to 12-16, what are the manifestations of our abiding in God and His abiding in us?

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    The pouring out of God’s Spirit on us (13); confession that Jesus is the Son of God (15); abiding in love (16).

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  • 9b.

    What does it mean to abide in God?

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    “Abide,” which is also translated as “remain,” carries a sense of steadfastness. Abiding in God therefore entails remaining faithful to God’s commandments and our belief in Jesus Christ. It is like a branch that remains in the vine, bearing much fruit (Jn 15:1-7).

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  • 10.

    Why is it necessary that Jesus Christ be the Son of God in order to be Savior of the world?

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    All have sinned (Rom 3:23). No one is fit to make atonement on our behalf. But God, who is the only righteous one, came in the flesh to become our sacrifice, which is without any blemish (1Pet 1:18,19). Since Jesus Christ is the only sacrifice that God has prepared for us, we cannot be saved through any other means except through faith in the Lord Jesus (Jn 14:6; Acts 4:12).

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  • 11a.

    What is a perfected love? (12,17,18)

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    Perfected love is love that is being carried out by God’s children. See also Lesson 4, Segment Analysis question 1.

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  • 11b.

    What does it mean to be “made perfect in love” (18)?

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    Love for God and for others fulfills God’s commandments (Mt 22:37-40; 7:12; Rom 13:10). Perfect love makes us perfect, just as our heavenly Father is perfect (Mt 5:43-48).

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  • 12.

    Why does perfect love cast out fear?

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    Fear is the opposite of confidence. It is a fear of judgment (18) and fear of being ashamed when the Lord appears (2:28). Since our actions of love show that we abide in God and He in us, we have nothing to fear (3:19-22).

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  • 13.

    Why does loving God require loving our brothers (21)?

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    Loving God requires obeying His commandment, and His commandment is for us to love one another (5:3; Jn 15:10,12). Furthermore, if we love God, we will also love His children.

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