Locating the Spirit
Father God, give me the grace to believe that You really do know and want what is best for me.
Read 1 JOHN 4:1-6
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. All rights reserved throughout the world. Used by permission of International Bible Society.
“If God chooses to become man for the working out of his purposes, then there will be mysteries beyond our power to solve. But that does not give us license to shut our eyes to evidence we do not like” (Leon Morris).
John mentions the Spirit for the first time in 3:24, where he makes possession of the Spirit another mark of the reality of God’s life in us. That gives him a new topic, which he tackles now because then, as now, it was often difficult to distinguish between true and false voices speaking on God’s behalf. Jesus himself prophesied the appearance of “false prophets” who will “deceive, if possible, even the elect” (Matt. 24:24).
Verse 6b (“This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood”) shows that John wants to supply criteria to help us distinguish between them, but vs. 4-6a don’t give very helpful criteria. Prophets who “speak from the viewpoint of the world” (5) will clearly not be Christian. We need criteria to identify false prophets who seem to be Christian. Verse 6b may be looking forward to v. 7 (the chief criterion will be whether love is taught and practiced), but it’s more likely that it is looking back to vs. 1-3, where John develops a precise doctrinal criterion, a mark of the true voice of the Spirit. Again (as in 2:22), the background may be heretical teaching that denied that Jesus and the Christ were one and the same, and which maintained that “the Christ” departed Jesus before the cross. At any rate, the criterion is the absolute reality of the incarnation of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, including his death on the cross for us. If this is affirmed, we can be sure the Spirit of God is speaking! If not, then he is not.
Then in vs. 4-6 John encourages his readers to know that even if they are weak and oppressed, they are yet victorious because the Spirit of God lives and speaks in them!
Be thankful (1) to God for the gift of the Spirit, and (2) for “Jesus Christ, come in the flesh.”
Mighty God, I bow before the mystery of You taking our humanness upon Yourself. I do not fully understand it, but I believe it. I praise You for Your saving work.
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