NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY
by Dr. Robert R Seyda
FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN
CHAPTER FOUR (Introduction) January 15, 2022
ATTENTION TO ALL MY READERS
Since we will be commencing our study of 1 John on Monday, January 17, 2022, let’s look at the essence of chapter four.
Chapter Four includes two significant ideas. The first is that believers ought to “test the spirits” to see whether they are from God. The second theme is that the “God within us is love,” leading believers to love one another.
John advises that not all teachers are true to the faith in the first major section. Christians are never instructed to believe “just because” of a person’s reputation or educational status. In fact, we are often warned to consider carefully before we trust any particular message. John was concerned that false preachers and false teachings would deceive his readers. So John gives us a test for spirits that actually come from God. These are those that acknowledge Jesus the Anointed One’s real incarnation.
Then John adds that believers overcome the powers in this world because of God’s Spirit within them. The “world” refers to godless humanity. A worldly attitude listens to unbelievers and ungodly spirits and ignores God.
The second major section returns to the idea that “God is love.” John teaches that biblical love is a sign of God’s birth and knowing God. He states emphatically that believers are to show their love for God by loving one another. Love not only demonstrates God’s presence in our lives, but it also serves as evidence to the rest of the world. Love is how the world is meant to “see” God, even though they cannot do so physically.
Therefore, anyone who claims to love God must prove it by loving their brother and sister. John’s teaching repeatedly emphasizes the fact that a person cannot claim to love God yet hate others. As chapter 3 made clear, hate is always from a demonic source. Those who hate are not “abiding” in the Anointed One. Believers are children of God and brothers and sisters of one another. As a family, they are to love one another according to the commandment of God.
John then offers an essential perspective on the relationship between love and fear. Namely, that godly love and worldly fear are incompatible. God’s perfect love drives out fear of being accepted by Him. Other places in Scripture speak of “fearing” God in the sense of awe, respect, or reverence before Him. Here, however, John’s focus is on anxiety over whether or not God will truly love and forgive us. Believers who follow God’s example of love have no reason to fear that God will not accept them. His perfect love removes the need for this fear. God is love, shows ideal love, and places love in the hearts of those who believe.
So, here in this chapter, we are given a chance to test our tendencies to believe without testing the message. We also have the opportunity to see if the God we claim to have in our hearts is the God who is love. It’s pretty simple, how do we score on loving others when compared to how we love God. Let’s see who’s willing to be tested and who may be afraid. I assure you, no matter the outcome, you will be better off than if you didn’t try at all.
 See Acts of the Apostles 17:11; Colossians 2:8-10