Devotion 5 – 12 – 14 John 4:1-6

Good Morning!I am finishing up preparations for travel to Israel – I hope to send you pictures and devotions from there, related to the places I see and experience. We will resume first John on my return. Blessings!

1John 4:1-6

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God; for many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. And this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming; and now it is already in the world.

4Little children, you are from God, and have conquered them; for the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. 5They are from the world; therefore what they say is from the world, and the world listens to them. 6We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us, and whoever is not from God does not listen to us. From this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.

Those who had left the church addressed in this letter were believing false spirits. The readers are assured that not every spirit is from God, but that they can test the spirits that come to them. The true Spirit of God testifies to the humanity of Jesus. This affirms the idea that the false religion for which some had left could have been an early form of Gnosticism, for the Gnostics did not believe that Jesus had actually been human, but was some sort of optical illusion or vision. Those whom the author calls (again) the antichrist are those who have left their church following some false spirit who claims that Jesus was pure spirit and not fully human. Note: This was a problem in a particular time and place. It does not translate into a “test” for Christians forever, that they must make a confession of some particular words. The incarnation, to which the author speaks, the fact that Jesus came in the flesh, is however, central and core to our belief. Jesus came from God, and was God, but he came to us as one of us, a living, suffering, feeling, very real human being.

Those who believe, the community to whom the author writes, are again addressed fondly. And the author goes on – if they believe, then they too are from God, and they have conquered the false believers. For the false believers are of the world, follow the spirit of the world, and those who follow Christ are not of the world, but of Christ. And the one who is in them is greater than the one who is in the world! This we must remember – if we take nothing else from today’s lesson. For us, as for this ancient church, when we are “in Christ”, when his love is in our hearts, then the one who is in us is greater than the one who is in the world – even though the one in the world seems powerful at times.

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