Thursday, April 6, 2017

Exegesis of 1 John 4:1-12, two views

The following comparison is kind of an editorial commentary on my part. People naturally resist letting go of what they have believed to be true for years. This article, then is a companion to my article on Resisting Change. When faced with an argument that cross examines a cherished view, people more naturally attack the person holding the other view than carefully listen to the supporting points of the other person's view. They are likely to collect data that affirms their view and reject data that challenges it. In matters of religious convictions, having our views challenged tends to disrupt the way we read the Bible.

1 John 4:1-12, an exegetical comparison
Bible Text (NRSV) Reasonable Exegesis Self Serving Exegesis
1 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. Test what people teach if it is presented as truth. Some teachers have an agenda that sabotages the nature of Christ (vss. 2-3). They claim divine inspiration but their teaching contradicts a particular apostolically established doctrine. Some preachers' teaching is influenced by the devil. We I will test them. See my comment on verse 6 below.
2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, John has in mind a particular heresy that claims that Jesus was not human. We are able to detect false teachers. Here's how. If two teachers don't read a Scripture the same way, one of them is under the influence of the devil.
3 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.
Confessing Jesus means confessing Jesus as Lord (1 Corinthians 12:3).
If a teacher is quoting Scripture to expose a belief that is unscriptural and is suggesting that the commonly accepted view needs review, he/she is teaching against God, Jesus and the church.
4 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. A probable reference to 1 John 2:13. They conquered when they became Christians. John may also have in mind the Christians' confession that "Jesus is Lord" (1 Corinthians 12:3). It is impossible to say "Jesus is Lord" if you are teaching against the Lordship of Christ. What we have believed for decades is from God and anybody who reads the Bible and rethinks what we believe is the antichrist.
5 They are from the world; therefore what they say is from the world, and the world listens to them. Their teaching appeals to non-Christians. It only looks like they are reading the Bible. In reality, they are following an "-ism."
6 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 says, "We taught you correctly from the beginning when you were babes in Christ. If these teachers contradict what we taught you at first, then they are teaching error."
Thus, we can extend this Scripture to say that any teaching that cannot be argued from the Bible and furthermore contradicts apostolic teaching (= the New Testament) is error.
(On the relationship of error and deception, see 1 John 2:26; 2 John 1:7).
Listen to me.
7 Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. A child of God is godly. If he loves, he is a child of God. We love them as brothers and sisters. We can both love them and censor them.
8 Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. The proper love act that Christians should exhibit is love for all persons, Christian and non-Christian alike. I love you; but this church really needs to kick you out.
9 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. 1 John 3:16; John 3:16; John 13:14. Well. Jesus also ran money changers off the temple grounds (Matthew 21:12; Mark 11:15; John 2:15).
10 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. 1 John 2:2. If God sacrificed for us... I'm sacrificing for you. I have put up with you for a really long time; and it is time for you to leave.
11 Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. ... we ought to sacrifice for one another. I do love you, brother; but I don't like you at all.
12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us. Now, God loves through us. If we claim that we love but we do not act like we love, then we are resisting the work of God (1 John 2:5-6; 4:17-18). I have my own way of practicing brotherly love.

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