18 January 2017

1 John 4:1-10

“God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him.” (v. 9)

Psalm: Psalm 88


The believers for whom this letter was written were troubled not only by the fact that there had been disputes over doctrine leading to some of their number breaking away, but by the fact that those who had left claimed to be inspired by God and have prophetic powers, and possibly demonstrated it by ecstatic behaviour. Our writer insists that the test of inspiration is whether people acknowledge that Jesus was a real human being. Apparently this was also denied by the breakaway group. In verse 3 our writer draws on popular Jewish ideas, reflected elsewhere in the New Testament (eg Revelation 13), that at the end of all things when the Messiah finally comes he will be confronted by an evil champion and will defeat him. In fact the battle is already on! Apparent spirit-possession is no guarantee of truth.

There are more references to 'love' in the five chapters of 1 John that in any other book in the New Testament, however long. The writer insists that love is God's key characteristic, demonstrated by Jesus, who dealt with the obstacle to our fellowship with God, achieving by his death what ritual sacrifice sought to do (verse 10). The test of whether we know God is whether we reflect such love in our lives.

To Ponder

  • How do we test the many voices claiming to tell us 'how things really are' today?
  • How important for you is the idea that Jesus died for our sins?

Bible notes author

The Revd Brian Beck

Brian Beck is a Methodist minister, now retired, and a former president and secretary of the Methodist Conference. A large part of his ministry has been spent in theological education, both in Limuru, Kenya, and in Cambridge, England..