1 John 4
God’s children love each other
How to spot a fraud1Friends, don’t believe everything you hear from people who say God’s Spirit is leading them. Check it out. See if what they say and do line up with what you know about God. There are a lot of frauds out there—fake prophets all over the place.
2I’ll tell you how you can recognize God’s Spirit in someone. People led by God’s Spirit will acknowledge Jesus Christ came here as a flesh-and-blood human being. 3People who don’t believe in Jesus aren’t speaking for God. They don’t have God’s Spirit. They have a spirit that’s antichrist. You’ve heard an antichrist is coming. Well, that spirit is already here.
4You are God’s children. So, don’t worry. Those people never stood a chance. You’ve already won because God is inside you. He’s part of who you are. And he’s stronger than the spirit of this world. 5Those people belong to this world. They think and talk the way the world does. That’s why the world listens to them.
6We belong to God. That’s why God’s people listen to us. And that’s why people who have nothing to do with God don’t listen. This is how we can tell the difference between God’s Spirit and the spirit that gets it all wrong.
We have to love others to love God7Friends, let’s keep on loving one another. That kind of love comes from God. Everyone who loves like this is a child of God. They know God. 8People who don’t love others don’t know God. They couldn’t possibly know him because God is love.
9God showed us what his love looks like. God sent his only Son into this world. He did it to save our lives. 10Our love for God is nothing compared to God’s love for us. He sent his Son to atone for our sins by suffering the consequences we should have suffered.
11Friends, if God loved us that much, it seems the least we could do is love one another. 12Even though no one has ever seen God, he’s within us and part of who we are when we love one another. He’s the reason we’re able to love one another. 13We know that we are linked to God, united in spirit. We live in him, and he lives in us. We know this because he gave us his Spirit. 14God sent his Son to save us all. We saw it for ourselves, and we’re spreading the word.
15Anyone who says Jesus is God’s Son is united with God. They are part of one another. God lives in them, and they live in God. 16We know God loves us. We believe it with all our heart because God is love. Everyone who embraces a life of love embraces God, and God embraces them. Love unites them.
17This is what love looks like when its job is done. Here’s why we can have confidence when Judgment Day comes. It’s because just as Jesus loved when he was in this world, we’re doing the same by following his example.
18Fear has nothing to do with love. Just the opposite. Love chases fear away. Fear is all about punishment; it’s the punishment that scares people. But if they’re afraid of that, it’s because they haven’t learned to love yet.
19We love because God loves. He started it. He loved us first. 20If someone says he loves God but hates a fellow Christian,  that person is a liar. If we can’t love someone who’s right there in front of us, we can’t love the God we’ve never seen. 21God gave us this commandment: love God and love one another.
The Greek word is more literally translated as “brother.” See note for 2:9.
John seems to say the “antichrist” (4:3) wasn’t so much a person as it was a pervasive, anti-Jesus spirit that infected people. John says the spirit of antichrist was one that led people in his day to preach that Jesus came as a spirit being who only pretended to be human. That movement later became known as Docetism. Why do you think a teaching like that might pose a problem?
“We belong to God. That’s why God’s people listen to us. And that’s why people who have nothing to do with God don’t listen” (4:6). If that’s the case, why bother trying to spread the news about Jesus?
John spends most of the chapter telling us we need to love others. He says this many ways, coming at it from several different angles. Which one of his approaches caught your attention most?
“We know that we are linked to God, united in spirit. We live in him, and he lives in us” (4:13). That sounds a bit like the mystical connection Jesus said he had with the Father: “The Father and I are one and the same” (John 10:30). That might sound as though it could be tough to distinguish between the Father and the Son and between God and us. How can we make sense of this statement?
LIFE APPLICATION. We know we’re not supposed to believe everything we hear, even if it comes from preachers and Bible-study teachers. But how do we follow the advice to “check it out. See if what they say and do line up with what you know about God” (4:1)?
LIFE APPLICATION. John seems to identify one problem some people were having with Jesus. Some Christians were apparently teaching that though Jesus came from God, he did not come “as a flesh-and-blood human being” (4:2). He only appeared human. They said Jesus wouldn’t take a human body because flesh is evil and only the spirit is good. So, the ancients had trouble believing Jesus was human. People today have trouble believing he was divine. Why do you think it’s so hard for people today to believe Jesus is the Son of God?
LIFE APPLICATION. John says, “God is inside you. He’s part of who you are” (4:4). What about us do we associate with God? If he’s part of who we are, what part is he? How does he show himself to us?
LIFE APPLICATION. John seems to say that Christians should not be afraid because “fear has nothing to do with love. Just the opposite. Love chases fear away” (4:18). How have you seen love do that?
LIFE APPLICATION. “If someone says they love God but hates a fellow Christian, that person is a liar” (4:20). Could it be that John needed to get out and meet more people who called themselves Christian? They probably had some despicable folks among them, just as we do. Can’t we hate a despicable person for at least a little while? Why or why not?