The word of the day is “hear.” If you want to know the true character of a leader, look at those who are following him or her. Leaders will attract adherents who appeal to them, and over time they will mold their flocks after their teachings and example. In our reading of 1 John 3:21-4:6, the apostle contrasts those who are “of the world” and those who are “of God.” Those who are “of the world” pay attention to worldly things. Those who are “of God” are attentive to godly things. Thus, the apostle writes, “We are of God. He who knows God hears us; he who is not of God does not hear us” (vs. 6).
The book of 1 John is a compilation of tests of a genuine relationship to God. Today’s reading turns to the matter of belief. The apostle presents several tests by which we can distinguish between right and wrong beliefs. Or, as the apostle puts it, “to know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error” (vs. 4:6).
The reason that the apostle stresses belief is that many false prophets are appearing. Collectively, these deceivers are the “Antichrist.” In John’s vocabulary, the “Antichrist” represents anyone who opposes Christ or who puts himself in place of Christ (Strong’s #500,30).
The threat of the “Antichrist” is that the deceiver preaches a beguiling message. He is “of the world.” Therefore, he proclaims what is worldly to those who are earthly. The word translated as “world” is derived from the thought of a unified system of order (Strong’s #2889, 144). The “world” is the sphere of what is of the earth as opposed to what is heavenly. In John’s thought, “the world” is the realm of what is opposed to and alienated from God.
Worldly Teaching and Preaching
At various times, drinking, card-playing, dancing, and even movies were viewed as “worldly.” If you stayed away from these things, you thought that you were not “of the world.” But that is superficial thinking. What is “worldly” is whatever accepts the perceptions, presuppositions, and prescriptions of the world. It is a mindset that is tied to this earth and the pleasures, pastimes, and pursuits that the world offers. Teaching that proposes that we can understand ourselves and our purpose in life without reference to God and His will is “worldly.” Preaching that promotes striving after success according to what this world has to offer is also “of the world.” The apostle points out that whoever is eager to hear this kind of teaching and preaching is not “of God.”
The Command to Believe
What is “of God,” however, is the truth of the Gospel concerning the person of Jesus Christ. Those who are “of God” obey the commandment to love one another. Yet they also obey the corresponding commandment to “believe on the name of God’s Son, Jesus Christ” (vs. 23). The apostle writes, “The spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God” (vs. 2). This is the faith that Jesus is the Messiah (Anointed One) promised to deliver God’s people from their sins and establish His eternal Kingdom. Yet this trust is incomplete without the confession that Jesus Christ, the Messiah, is the Son of God (1 John 4:14) and that He has “come in the flesh” (vs. 3).
Those who know God gladly hear and believe these truths. They rise above worldliness because they know and accept the teachings of the Spirit of God (vs.3). They have a “heavenly” mindset that only seeks the blessings of the eternal Kingdom of God. They eagerly listen to the teaching of the fulfillment of God’s will as the purpose of our lives. They take to heart the preaching of holiness, purity and righteousness. When we see this kind of genuine faith expressed in works of love, we know it is the Spirit that these believers are following.
A familiar Beatles’ song goes, “Love is all you need.” Is this true when it comes to our obedience to the commandments of Christ? Is it enough that we “love one another as Christ has loved us?” To obey this command, do we need to know who Christ is and how He has loved us?