Claim His Presence (1 John 4:4) - January 26th 2014

    John, a disciple of Jesus, wrote several letters to churches to help people respond to false teachers. John's world was filled with many approaches to many gods. The influence of the world from which the people came was affecting the teachings of the church. At the heart of the difficulty appeared to be a desire to make God conform to an image in their imaginations.
    John gave his readers of all ages a way to test false teaching.
    Test the spirits to see whether they are from God...Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. (1 John 4:1-3)
    John's key question was, "What do you think of Jesus?" He wanted teachers and followers to understand Jesus was one person with two natures—fully human, fully divine (Colossians 1:19, 20). But John's choice of words expect an acknowledgement that is more than a statement. He expected people to commit to living by their convictions. If Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, follow Him in word and deed.
    Sometimes teachers can fall to the temptation to teach what they would like God to say rather than what God says. When John wrote, the Bible was still being formed. Only later did the church leadership begin to develop a systematic summary of the beliefs presented in the Bible.
    Nevertheless, John sought to help the early church address false beliefs. Our reading of this text should recognize the expectation that the promises John gives are for the community of faith. The church is the custodian of the truth as it is interpreted from the Bible. No individual stands above the church in Scripture interpretation.
    John encouraged his readers to rise above their fear of false teachers.
    You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. (1 John 4:4)
    The readers (note this is a plural you) are literally the "out of God you are little born ones." How were they born again? And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. (1 John 3:23)
    These children in the faith were promised the ability to overcome the articulate false teachers, not by their intelligence or skill but through the work of the presence of the Holy Spirit in their lives.
    These false teachers were antichrists or representatives of the evil one.
    One who is in you or "He out of whom you are" speaks of the presence of the Holy Spirit in each believer. When we committed our lives to Jesus, the Spirit of God took up residence in our lives. (1 John 3:24; Romans 5:5; Romans 8:9) From the beginning, God has wanted to be close to us. We made choices separating us from Him. Through the person and work of Jesus, God has made a way for us to experience His presence in our lives. The presence of the Holy Spirit is greater than the one who is in the world. The one in the world is Satan, the prince of the world and the energizing force behind false teachers.
    We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one. (1 John 5:19; note also Ephesians 2:2)
    Our study of the churches in Revelation (Revelation 2, 3) revealed some of the problems with false teachers in the churches of Pergamum, Thyatira and Ephesus. These problems centered on the presumption that God will bless whether or not His people obey Him, on the refusal to yield to any authority but their own, on the desire to please self rather than God and on the willingness to live in the same ways their pagan neighbors lived.
    Believers can find it very difficult to stand up to the pressures of powerful people or to the followers of a charismatic teacher (whether we really know how many followers are committed or not). John challenges us to claim the presence of God, test the spirits standing before us and follow God's call.

    The Bible translation used in this study is the New International Version.