Wednesday's Word

Wednesday’s Word ~ 1 John 4

For further study on the book of 1 John, try my study, Am I Really Saved?: A First John Checkup, from which this lesson is excerpted.

1 John 4

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. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 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. 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. They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. 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.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 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.

13 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. 16 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.

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

Questions to Consider

1. What is the theme or purpose of the book of 1 John? What is the historical backdrop for the book of 1 John?

2. 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?

3. 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? In verses 9-10, what is the ultimate definition and demonstration (what action did God take) of the phrase “God is love”?

4. 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?

5. 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?

1 John Bible Study

Am I Really Saved?: A First John Check Up ~ Lesson 9: Wrap Up

1 John Study

Am I Really Saved? A First John Check Up
Lesson 9: Wrap Up

Previous Lessons: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8

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

It’s been quite a journey through the book of 1 John! I hope you have taken the time to honestly examine your heart and your behavior against Scripture to discover whether or not you are truly in Christ.

I want to be sure that I stress once again that the checkpoints we’ve covered in the previous lessons are not things to strive to accomplish in order to earn salvation or to work your way onto God’s good side. You can’t do that. It’s impossible. Salvation is by grace through faith in Christ alone. All of the things we have looked at are the naturally occurring fruit of a person who has already been born again. (Remember our little oak tree/apple tree illustration from lesson 3?)

If you think you might be unsaved or a false convert (someone who thought she was saved, or claimed to be saved, but actually isn’t), you can know Christ as Savior today. Confess to God that you are a sinner, and turn away from your sin. Ask Christ to forgive you for your sin. Believe in Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection as payment for your sin so that you would not have to pay for it yourself with an eternity in Hell, and ask God to save you. You might wish to watch this video and the “Good News” video in the sidebar to your left. And, of course, you’re welcome to contact me with any questions.

I also want to be sure to stress to those who genuinely are born again that you are not going to be perfect in any of these areas this side of Heaven. And that doesn’t mean you aren’t saved. John’s intent in writing this letter was not for you to freak out over the sin you committed yesterday or the fact that your progress in one area seems to be slower than in other areas. He wants you to look back over the direction of your life since you were saved and see if you’re generally growing in holiness and towards more Christlikeness.

I’ve mentioned before that, when I was a kid, a popular question for youth leaders to ask was, “If you were arrested for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?” I think that’s a good schematic to use for 1 John. As you come to the conclusion of the study, realize that you aren’t “convicted” on the basis of one or two isolated checkpoints. Rather, ask yourself, does the preponderance of the “evidence” gleaned from the checkpoints point me, beyond a shadow of a doubt, to a verdict of “saved” or a verdict of “not saved”? How would you vote if you were on the jury that was deciding the case of “Am I Really Saved?”

Here, for your convenience, are the 19 checkpoints we’ve looked at in the previous lessons:

Checkpoint 1: Do I walk in the light or the darkness? (1 John 1:6-7)

Checkpoint 2: Do I confess or deny my sin? (1 John 1:8-10)

Checkpoint 3: Do I keep God’s commands? (1 John 2:3-6)

Checkpoint 4: Do I hate others? (1 John 2:9-11)

Checkpoint 5: Do I love worldliness? (1 John 2:15-17)

Checkpoint 6: Do I want to be faithful to a doctrinally sound church? (1 John 2:18-20)

Checkpoint 7: Do I believe in the Jesus of Scripture? (1 John 2:21-25)

Checkpoint 8: Do I practice righteousness? (1 John 2:29)

Checkpoint 9: Do I make a practice of sinning or righteousness? (1 John 3:4-10)

Checkpoint 10: Do I love my brothers? (1 John 3:10-15)

Checkpoint 11: Am I bearing the fruit of love? (1 John 3:18-22)

Checkpoint 12: Do I keep the ultimate commandment? (1 John 3:23-24)

Checkpoint 13: Do I follow false teachers? (1 John 4:1-6)

Checkpoint 14: Is my motivation for love Christocentric? (1 John 4:7-12)

Checkpoint 15: Do my words and actions confess Christ? (1 John 4:13-15)

Checkpoint 16: Am I afraid of God’s judgment? (1 John 4:16-21)

Checkpoint 17: Do my love for God and my love for His people testify to each other? (1 John 5:1-3)

Checkpoint 18: Have I “overcome the world”? (1 John 5:4-5)

Checkpoint 19: Do I have God’s testimony of Christ and eternal life in my heart? (1 John 5:6-12)

It’s my prayer that, as you walk away from this study today, you will do so in full assurance and joy that you do, indeed, know Christ as Savior. Remember, that’s the whole point of the book of 1 John:

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life. 1 John 5:13

Additional Resources:

How can we know if our faith is real? by John MacArthur

How Do You Know If You’re Really Saved? by Costi Hinn

Assurance: “How Can I Know I’m Really Saved?” at Things Above Us

1 John Bible Study

Am I Really Saved?: A First John Check Up ~ Lesson 8: Testimony

1 John Study

Am I Really Saved? A First John Check Up
Lesson 8: Testimony
Please Read: 1 John 5

Previous Lessons: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7

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 5:1-3

Am I Really Saved? Checkpoint 17: Do my love for God and my love for His people testify to each other?

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. 

John starts off chapter 5 by reminding us of the central truth of the gospel (which we covered in lesson 4): only those who believe that Jesus is the Messiah, as defined by Scripture, are truly born again. Before anything else matters, you’ve got to get that right, or you’re not a Christian.

John then moves our focus back to yet another facet of love that characterizes a Christian: the intertwining, inseparability of love for God and love for His people.

  • According to the last half of verse 1, all who love the Father also love whom? According to verse 2, how do we know we love God’s people? Do these two verses demonstrate circular reasoning or an unbreakable connection between loving God and loving His people? How?
  • What are some ways your love for God is shown by the way you love others, and vice versa?
  • Why is obeying God’s commandments evidence that we love Him and are saved? (3)
  • What does it mean that Christ’s “commandments are not burdensome”? (3) How can we understand this statement in light of Matthew 24:1-4 and 11:28-30?

1 John 5:4-5

Am I Really Saved? Checkpoint 18: Have I “overcome the world”?

For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

  • What does it mean to “overcome the world”? How can these verses shed some light on the meaning of this phrase? Does this mean Christians will always be victorious over temptation?
  • How does our faith enable us to overcome the world? (4) How, and from whom, do we get faith? Who is the object of our faith?
  • According to verse 5, is it possible for non-Christians to live in a condition of victory over sin?
  • Think back over your spiritual history. Can you see evidence of growth in the area of resisting temptation and putting sin to death? Do you give in to the same temptations now, and as often, as you did when you were first saved?

1 John 5:6-12

Am I Really Saved? Checkpoint 19: Do I have God’s testimony of Christ and eternal life in my heart?

This is he who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree. If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, for this is the testimony of God that he has borne concerning his Son.10 Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son. 11 And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.

Think about all the things you’ve read about Jesus in the Bible, particularly, in the four gospels. Whose testimony about Jesus are you reading and believing? For the most part, we’re reading the eyewitness testimony of the apostles – human beings – that Jesus was indeed the Christ. Wouldn’t it be great if we also had some testimony about Jesus’ deity and authority from God, personally, first hand? Well, we do, as John explains in this passage. We find God’s testimony to the deity and authority of Jesus externally, through His baptism (water) and through his death, burial, and resurrection (blood).

Remember what happened right after Jesus’ baptism?

And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; 17 and behold, a voice from heaven said,“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” Matthew 3:16-17

We see the testimony of the Holy Spirit as His presence rests on Jesus, and we hear the verbal testimony of God the Father authenticating and commending Jesus. The third Person of the Trinity, Jesus Himself, testified to His own deity and messiahship by living a perfect life, dying a perfect death on our behalf, and rising again, conquering death. These are all tangible, observable testimony from God about who Jesus is. Everyone can witness this external testimony from God- both Believers and non-believers. All you have to do is read the Bible. But what about internal testimony, inside our hearts and spirits?

  • Look at the first sentence of verse 10. How does God’s testimony move from the merely external to internal and personal? What does the remainder of verse 10 say about who can experience having the testimony of God about Jesus “in himself”? Does everyone have this inner witness, or only Christians?
  • According to verse 11, what is the culmination of believing in “the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son”? Who has eternal life (12), Believers or non-believers?
  • Do you have the internal testimony of God about Jesus? Are you confident you have received the eternal life God promises Believers? (Note: This is very subjective. Most false converts are certain they are Believers possessing eternal life based on what they “feel” in their hearts or spirits. This checkpoint focuses on the negative aspect of this issue rather than the positive. In other words, if you know you do not believe in the external testimony about Christ and have no internal testimony from God about Christ or security about your eternity with Him, there is no reason to think you are a Believer. The “feeling” that you are a Christian and that you have eternal life, by itself, is not proof that you are actually saved.)

1 John 5:13-20

In these last few verses, John is giving final instructions, wrapping it up, and bringing it on home. He beautifully restates his reason for writing the epistle in verse 13:

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.

God wants Christians, those who believe in the name of the Son of God, to know that we are safe and secure in Christ. He doesn’t want us to be afraid of His wrath or wonder if we will spend eternity in Heaven or Hell. He wants that settled and for us to be at peace.

When we’re settled in that knowledge and peace, we can be confident that God hears us when we pray and answers us when we pray in accordance with His will.

Additionally, when we are secure in Christ, we are able to intercede and intervene when our brothers and sisters are caught in sin. Sadly, sometimes a genuine Believer can be so entrenched or caught up in willful, unrepentant sin that God – at His own sovereign discretion – will take her life in order to protect His holy name, her victims, the church, or for other reasons known only to God. This is the “sin leading to death” that John mentions.

Blessedly, this is usually not the case for Believers – John, again, reminds us that Believers don’t make a practice of sinning – and we can pray for that person, help her get out of her sin (not leading to death), and help restore her to a right relationship with Christ and the church.

Finally, when have assurance of our salvation, we have the understanding that we are from God and that the world is under the power of Satan. Therefore, we should not take part in idolatry, but, rather, “know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.”


This week we’ve looked the final three checkpoints in our “Am I Really Saved?” study (But don’t go anywhere, our last lesson is next week!):

Do my love for God and my love for His people testify to each other?

Have I “overcome the world”?

Do I have God’s testimony of Christ and eternal life in my heart?

Saved people’s love for God is reflected in their love for His people, and their love for His people is evidenced by their love for, and obedience to God. Their God-given faith in Christ, gives them the victory over sin and worldliness. God gives them peace and security by testifying in their hearts that Jesus is the Christ and that they have eternal life.

Unsaved people cannot genuinely love God’s people because they do not love God. Since they have no faith in Christ, they are part of the world’s system, and it is impossible for them to live in victory over sin. Despite any emotional experiences or feelings they may have, unsaved people do not have the testimony of Christ in their hearts or the assurance of eternal life.

Additional Resources:

1 John 5– Matthew Henry’s Commentary

Victory in Jesus by Kevin DeYoung

The Sin Unto Death by John MacArthur

True or False? A Study in 1 John– at Naomi’s Table (lessons 17-20)

1 John Bible Study

Am I Really Saved?: A First John Check Up ~ Lesson 1: Introduction

1 John Study

Today, we’re taking a brief break from our regular Wednesday’s Word format. For the next (approximately) six to eight weeks, we’ll be studying the book of 1 John.

If you’ve ever wondered whether or not you’re really saved, think a loved one might be a false convert (someone who thinks she’s saved but isn’t), or are wondering about that “Christian” author who keeps promoting unbiblical ideas, you’ll find that 1 John has the answers to a lot of your questions.

So let’s dig in and get those questions answered. There’s just one ground rule- you must read the entire text of the chapter of 1 John we’re dealing with in each lesson. (Don’t freak out, though, the longest of the five chapters is chapter two, weighing in at a lightweight 29 verses.) This isn’t going to be a line by line study. We’re going to focus on the “Am I Really Saved?” check points in each chapter. So, you’ll need the entire chapter for context, plus, it’s a phenomenal book and I don’t want you to miss any of it. Ready?

Am I Really Saved? A First John Check Up
Lesson 1: Introduction
Please Read: 2 Corinthians 13:5; Matthew 7:21-23;
1 John 1:1-4, 5:13

Our relationship with Christ can be a hard one to quantify. It’s not like a big red “C” for “Christian” appears on our foreheads when we repent of our sin and trust Christ for salvation. We look the same, we talk the same, we live in the same place. We can’t even trust our feelings to validate that we’ve truly been born again.

So sometimes, we’re left wondering, “Am I really a Christian? How can I know for sure?” Those kinds of thoughts can produce a lot of anxiety. But God doesn’t want us to worry or live in constant fear that we don’t belong to Him. He’s very clear that He wants us to know for sure, one way or the other.

How can we know? Second Corinthians 13:5 tells us that we need to examine our hearts, test ourselves, to see whether we’re in the faith. As Christians, we use God’s word as a measuring stick for our salvation, not a prayer we once prayed, an emotional or spiritual “experience” we once had, baptism, church membership, being a “good person,” or external “Christiany” behavior, activities, or knowledge. Remember, Jesus said that there will be many people who claim to be Christians and look like Christians on the outside whom He will turn away from Heaven on the day of judgment because He does not know them as His own. So, maybe the people John was writing to had some of the same questions and anxieties about their salvation that we have about ours.


First John is the first and longest of three brief epistles, or letters, written by the apostle, John. You might remember John – along with his brother James – as one of the “sons of thunder,”or “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” Originally a fisherman, John became one of Jesus’ “inner circle” (with his brother James and Peter) of disciples. John was the longest living of the original twelve disciples, and is believed to be the only one of the twelve who was not martyred for his faith in Christ (though he was eventually exiled). John also wrote the gospel of John and the book of Revalation.

First John is classified as a “general epistle” and was probably written circa 90-95 A.D., toward the end of John’s life, to the churches he shepherded in Asia Minor. It is likely that these churches were encountering the heresy of gnosticism, which may have been why they needed a little refresher course in salvation, and which John seems to combat in this epistle. In 1 John 1:4 and 5:13, John personally explains two of his reasons for writing the epistle.

Questions to Consider:

1. In 1 John 1:1-3, which words and phrases indicate that John knew Jesus and was an eyewitness to His ministry? Why would his eyewitness testimony have been important to the churches he was writing to?

2. What were some of the things John witnessed and learned from Jesus that transformed Him from “Son of Thunder” fisherman to “John the Revelator” over the course of his life? (see the gospel of John)

3. Why was it important for John (and other New Testament writers) to actively combat false teaching rather than take a more passive approach such as simply praying for the false teachers?

4. Think back to your salvation experience. Do you believe you’re saved because you prayed a prayer, got baptized, or because you’re a good person? Reflect on Matthew 7:21-23. What impact does this passage have on you?

5. List some specific ways your relationship with Christ has, over time, changed the way you think, speak, act, regard others, and regard the Bible. Do you see evidence of your growth in Christlikeness?

6. If you prayerfully examine your heart (2 Corinthians 13:5) during this study and suspect that you might not truly be born again, what will you do? What Scriptures can you turn to for help?

Additional Resources:

1 John Summary at Blue Letter Bible

Book of 1 John at Got Questions

We Know: The Things Christians are Certain Of– A sermon series on 1 John by Dr. Hershael York

True or False? A Study in 1 John (Lessons 1-5) at Naomi’s Table

1 John Bible Study

New On-Line Bible Study

1 John Study


We’ve all been there. A moment of introspection hits and we wonder how we can know for sure that we’re really saved. We fall into sin and think in self-disgust, “How could someone who’s truly born again do something so awful?” Or maybe there’s that friend or loved one who’s been in church all her life and knows all the Bibley answers a Christian should give, but the fruit of her life tells a different story.

Second Corinthians 13:5 says…

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!

…but Paul doesn’t describe to the Corinthians exactly what that test is. How do we test ourselves? What are the criteria for evaluating our relationship, or absence of a relationship, with Christ?

Fortunately, John steps in and lends a hand with his wonderful little epistle to the church, 1 John. Sprinkled throughout these five brief chapters are some thought-provoking check points for examining our hearts, our behavior, and whether or not we’re truly in Christ.

On Wednesday, July 22, we’ll start a weekly study of the book of 1 John, lasting approximately 6-8 weeks. Gather some friends or study alone, and please feel free to use these lessons for your small group, Sunday School class, or social media group. Let’s give ourselves a good spiritual check up and draw closer to the Lord!