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1 john
1 John

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1 John 4:7-21: Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. 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. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and do testify that the Father has sent his Son as the Savior of the world. God abides in those who confess that Jesus is the Son of God, and they abide in God. So we have known and believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them. Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness on the day of judgment, because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. We love because he first loved us. Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.

  • God is love.

  • God is embodied love—embodied in Jesus, embodied in the community.

  • God cannot be seen, but God can be known when God is “lived.”

  • Loving God and loving others are inseparable.

Now back up to the immediately preceding passage:

1 John 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. 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. 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. Little 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. They are from the world; therefore what they say is from the world, and the world listens to them. We 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.

  • “John” (who never identifies himself, but we’ll call him John) seems to be responding to a group of people who are

  • a) denying that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh,

  • b) denying John’s authority and

  • c) separating the love of God from the love of other people.

  • John calls these people “antichrists.”

More about antichrists:

1 John 2:18-22: Children, it is the last hour! As you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. From this we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they did not belong to us; for if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us. But by going out they made it plain that none of them belongs to us. But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and all of you have knowledge. I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and you know that no lie comes from the truth. Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son.

  • 1 & 2 John are the only biblical passages where the term “antichrist” appears. It does NOT appear in Revelation.

  • For John, “antichrist” is not some supernatural evil person (like in The Omen and it’s sequels, or Left Behind).

  • “Antichrist” is a role people can play.

  • These antichrists were apparently once part of the community John is addressing, but now they have left.

  • John finds their behavior unloving.

  • John apparently sees a connection between their unloving behavior and their denial that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh.

  • For John, the God who is love is embodied in Jesus and in one’s neighbor.

  • When people deny this, they stop trying to live in community (and vice versa).

  • Maybe they claim to be “spiritual but not religious.”

  • Puzzle: If God is embodied love, and if God is known only in loving others, how do you respond to people who deny this in a way that loves them?

  • If people honestly disagree, and keep disagreeing, can they “abide in love” in the same community?

The following is an “evangelistic tract” developed by Grace Unlimited. Can you see the extent to which it is shaped by 1 John and the Gospel of John?

Grace unlimited keeping the good news good
Grace Unlimited: Grace Unlimited. Can you see the extent to which it is shaped by 1 John and the Gospel of John?Keeping The Good News Good

God is love, and those who dwell in love dwell in God, and God dwells in them—1 John 4:16b

Christ is the Logos of whom all people were partakers; and those who lived reasonably [i.e., by the Logos] are Christians, even though they have been thought atheists.—Justin Martyr, First Apology, 46, ca. 150 CE

  • Christian faith is fundamentally good news.

  • But some popular versions don’t sound like good news.

  • They sound as if you’re bound for Hell unless you pray the right kind of prayer or believe the right kinds of things.

  • But there are older and deeper strands of Christian faith that aren’t so narrow, where the news they offer is every bit as good as it sounds.

  • Here’s a brief summary:

1. God loves us and all creation into being, so that everyone may share in God’s common life.

  • We’re here because God loves us and wants us to live in love with God, our friends, our enemies, and the entire world.

  • God’s love is unconditional—there’s nothing you can do, nothing about who you are, that can make God stop loving you.

  • And the common life God aims to share with us is a life that makes each of us unique and different even as it makes us “members of one another” (Eph. 4:25).

2. The world is a mess, and so are we, because we choose to reject God’s love.

  • Because God made us for love, God also made us free to reject it.

  • The reason we find it so hard to get along with ourselves and others is that we’ve been born into a world that’s been rejecting love for as far back as we can trace.

  • So we have to be honest about that and stop playing games.

  • We need to admit that we need God’s healing presence in our lives.

  • And we need to keep realizing that God’s love for us doesn’t depend on how good we are.

3. In Christ God loves us and everybody else even in our rejection.

  • God’s love is too stubborn to let our rejection get in the way.

  • As Christians we celebrate how God’s love keeps breaking into history to draw us back.

  • We especially remember the story of God’s promises in calling Israel to be God’s people.

  • Those promises were never revoked: “The gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable” (Romans 11:29

  • We find all of those promises offered to the whole world in a startlingly new way in the life, death, and risen life of Jesus of Nazareth.

  • That’s a story worth sharing with everybody.

  • But it’s a promise, not a threat, and it doesn’t mean that everybody has to become a Christian to know God’s reconciliation.

  • The Gospel of John presents Jesus Christ, not as the only way, but as the inescapable way (John 14:6), because Christ embodies “the true light, which enlightens everyone” (John 1:9).

  • Christ is the expressiveness (the logos) of a God who is present everywhere, and no one comes to God except through God.

  • Yes, God calls everyone to wake up and share actively in God’s common, reconciling life, and that will inevitably involve sharing in some way in the Church’s celebration of the communion of God’s Spirit in Jesus Christ.

  • But all who “dwell in love” are already sharing in that life in some way, and they are now summoned mainly to be less haphazard about it.

  • It would also be nice if everybody could agree on how to name, celebrate and promote that life, but that’s a goal, not a prerequisite.

  • Christians may have as much to learn as to teach about dwelling in love from conversation with other traditions.

4. We’re all invited to find our lives by letting them go into God’s common life with us.

  • We believe that in Jesus God let go of God’s very own life in the world, and that God’s Spirit is drawing each of us to live out the shape of that life in our own different ways, in a community that celebrates and promotes God’s unfailing generosity.

  • It’s a messy and threatening prospect, but God promises to be with us and to keep drawing us into love no matter how often we mess up.

  • So the question for all of us to wrestle with is: Are we going to let this happen in our lives?

  • Are we ready to let God open us up to share our lives with the world God loves?

  • Whether we’re ready for that or not, the good news is, and always will be, that God is always ready for us.