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Am I Really Saved? A First John Check Up
Lesson 7: Fear and False Teachers
Please Read: 1 John 4
Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!
2 Corinthians 13:5
1 John 4:1-6
Am I Really Saved? Checkpoint 13: Do I follow false teachers?
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. 2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. 4 Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. 5 They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. 6 We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.
I’m always dumbfounded when I hear Christian women say – in response to being told their favorite false teacher is a false teacher – something to the effect of, “You’re so negative, judgmental, and nit picky. Jesus just said to love people and not to worry so much about whether their theology is different from yours.”
It always makes me wonder if they’ve ever actually read the New Testament, because that’s absolutely not what Jesus said while He was on earth, and it’s the exact opposite of what God the Holy Spirit spends so much time saying in the balance of the New Testament. This passage of First John is just one of dozens which warn us away from false teachers.
- Which Spirit is controlling true Christian teachers? What spirit is controlling false teachers according to verse 3? True or false: If you’re following a false teacher, you’re following a demonic spirit.
- What does it mean to “test the spirits”? (v1) How did the noble Bereans test the spirits?
- What do verses 2-3 tell us is the first, most basic test of whether or not someone is a false teacher? What does verse 5 tell us is an indication of a false teacher? Are these the only tests for a false teacher?
- To whom do the words “we” and “us” refer in verse 6? According to verse 6, do false teachers listen to and teach the same things the apostles taught? How does verse 6 work hand in hand with Galatians 1:6-9?
- According to verse 6, if you willfully disregard apostolic (biblical) teaching in favor of false teaching, are you really a Christian? Do you argue with people who can demonstrate to you from (rightly handled) Scripture that you’re following a false teacher?
1 John 4:7-12
Am I Really Saved? Checkpoint 14: Is my motivation for love Christocentric?
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.
If you could state the theme John’s teaching in one word, what would it be? My answer would be “love.” In his gospel, his three epistles, even in Revelation, the concept of love permeates John’s writing. And here again, John draws our attention back to it. The facet of love he focuses on this time is the motivation behind our love for others.
- According to verses 7-8, who defines, originates, and is the embodiment of, love? How does this tell Christians Who and what is to motivate any love that we might feel or show to others? Is the “love” that non-Christians feel or show to others motivated by God or by other factors such as affection, selfishness, lust, etc.? Can you truly love others if you do not know God?
- If the love you show others is not motivated by God, are you really saved?
- In verses 9-10, what is the ultimate definition and demonstration (what action did God take) of the phrase “God is love”?
- The word “so” in verse 11 takes us back to God’s ultimate demonstration of love for us in verses 9-10. Think about the people in your life. What are some practical ways you can “so love” one another the way God, through Christ, loved you?
- Verse 12 tells us “no one has ever seen God.” How can the world know of God’s love if they have never seen Him? What does the remainder of the verse tell us about how they are to learn of God’s love?
1 John 4:13-15
Am I Really Saved? Checkpoint 15: Do my words and actions confess Christ?
By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.
- How do we know, according to verse 13, that we belong to Christ? How can we tell if we have the Spirit? In what ways do our actions show that we have the Holy Spirit?
- John says he and his fellow Christians testify about Jesus. (14) They verbally proclaim salvation through Christ to others. This is a mark of the Christian. Do you share the gospel with others? If not, are you really saved?
- Does verse 15 mean that anyone who says the words, “Jesus is the Son of God,” is a Christian? What does it mean to “confess” Jesus? Is it just the words we say or is there more to it? What role does the heart play in this confession?
1 John 4:16-21
Am I Really Saved? Checkpoint 16: Am I afraid of God’s judgment?
So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.
Verse 16 makes an interesting statement: “we have come to know AND to believe the love that God has for us.”
- What is the difference between knowing God’s love for you and believing God’s love for you? Do you both know AND believe God’s love for you?
Verses 17-18 talk about “perfect” love and being “perfected” in love, but will we ever love God perfectly, or perfectly know and believe His love for us? Not this side of Heaven. Thank goodness these verses aren’t about our imperfect love for Christ, but, rather, Christ’s perfect love for us! The Greek word translated as perfect or perfected means to accomplish or consecrate, to carry through completely, to add what is yet wanting in order to render a thing full. In other words, Christ’s love is accomplished or made full in you when He saves you.
- What does the perfect, saving love of Christ give us, according to the middle part of verse 17? What does the last part of the verse, “as he is so also are we in this world” mean? Who is “he”? Why would this give us confidence for the day of judgment?
- What word does verse 18 use to convey the opposite of confidence (17)? While Christians will have confidence and face God’s judgment without fear because we are clothed with the righteousness of Christ, how will lost people feel about facing God’s judgment? What do they fear according to the first part of the second sentence of verse 18? What punishment will lost people face?
- What does our love (or lack of love) for others say about whether or not we truly know God? (20) What does verse 20 call people who claim to love God but do not love others? Are such people saved?
This week we’ve looked at four more checkpoints in our “Am I Really Saved?” study:
Do I follow false teachers?
Is my motivation for love Christocentric?
Do my words and actions confess Christ?
Am I afraid of God’s judgment?
Saved people don’t cling stubbornly to false teachers. They can usually sense when a teacher is “off” in some way, even if they can’t quite put their finger on what’s wrong. They welcome, rather than argue against, people who show them, from Scripture, why a false teacher is false. Their love for others springs from Christ’s love for them, and their words, actions and attitudes confess the Christ who lives in their hearts. They have no fear of God’s judgment and long to see their precious Savior.
Unsaved people are drawn to false teachers and angrily fight against those who try to warn them away. They may demonstrate actions and feelings that seem like love for others, but because God is the definition of love, and they don’t know Him, they can’t truly love others. Rather than confessing Christ, their words and actions testify that they don’t know Christ, and because of this, they are fearful and uncertain about God’s judgment and the punishment they face in eternity.
1 John 4– Matthew Henry’s Commentary
Herein Is Love– by Charles Spurgeon
True or False? A Study in 1 John– at Naomi’s Table (lessons 15-16)