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June 15th sermon | God is Empowering His Church Pt. 1 | 1 John 4:1-4

Updated: Jun 18

Read 1 John 4:1-4



As we continue and start a new chapter in 1 John; we see a shift into a conclusion for John’s letter to the churches in Ephesus and Asia Minor.  These last two chapters have two motivations


Ch 4 is another summarization on how to preserve and defend the Christian church, how to stay focused on the true gospel and weed out false teachings / movements within the church.  John commands the early church to do this in two ways:  a) Test all doctrine, Test the miracles and Spirits that occur within the church, test your elders and overseers (including Pastor).  b). Love each other with a Christ-like love.


Ch. 5 is a summarization of how powerful God is and where the church’s testimony comes from:  it comes from God and His power—not its own power.  John reminds the church of Christ’s testimony so that the church can have a testimony rooted in what God is doing in His church and in the individual lives of those Christians.


When we study how the New Testament was constructed it is fascinating to see how much God loves His church in guiding the church as they grew.  These epistles or letters were written to help discipline the early church, to help preserve it and to keep it healthy—also to prune away the unhealthy branches.  God, Jesus, promised in Matthew 16:18-19 where Jesus promises Peter that He will build the church through Peter.


“And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.  I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

--Matthew 16:18-29


Two things are clear here:  The Church belongs to God and God will preserve His church.  How does God do this?  a) Through the example of Himself in Jesus Christ, b) Through the power of Himself in the person of the Holy Spirit living in and through His church and c) through the many epistles / letters that He wrote through the apostles which instructed the church back then and it is still instructing the church today. 


I am going to be using the word “Preserve” throughout this sermon meaning we need to understand what this word means:


Preserve:  a) To keep safe from injury, harm, or destruction, b) to keep alive, intact or free from decay


The Point:  The Church is commanded to not become gullible but to be sharp.  The church must test every spirit, every doctrine and repent to God as He preserves His truth so that many can learn and experience the one true God in His true Church. 


1.        Do not become gullible; don’t believe everything you FEEL and SEE without first examining it and testing it according to God’s truth.


“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whenever they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.”

--1 John 4:1-2


This is a brief reminder and summarization of what John said earlier in his letter in 1 John 2:15-27.  He begins this portion of scripture with “Do not love the world or the things in the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in Him…” (Vs. 15) and ends this warning with the heart of the warning “I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you.  But the anointing that you received from Him abides in you…” (Vs.27)


John used the word “antichrist” again to remind the church that these false prophets will look legitimate, they will execute signs and wonders, they will be very deceiving but yet they will still be false prophets / teachers taking people away from God.  God is not wanting His church to become gullible, dull in their minds so that they are taken away from the newest, brightest and shiniest movement or doctrine.  Again, John is talking about false teachers, physical people that will come from within the church to teach false doctrine—not JUST spirits. 


“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”

--Ephesians 6:12


All teaching, overseers, elders and activity in the church must be tested according to God’s truth.


In the case of 1 John the main spirit at battle with true Christianity is the spirit of Gnosticism.  John is directly addressing gnostic belief in this letter since it is the main false teaching which is destroying the church from the inside out.  This belief attacked the core doctrine of the divinity of Jesus Christ saying He wasn’t fully divine and human at the same time. 


The word “Test” is important:  δοκιμάζω 1. to test, examine, prove, scrutinize (to see whether a thing be genuine or not), as metals: 


The process of identifying a precious metal comes to mind here; according to the National Sapphire Company it is easy for precious metals to be mixed with a less valuable metal while still appearing to be more pure than it is,


“ A low-quality, 50 percent alloy of silver and copper looks “silver” to the average consumer.  This can easily lead to fraud without appropriate protection in the form of standards and testing protocols. Consumers must be confident that they are not paying 18K gold prices for 14K gold.  In order to protect buyers of precious metal jewelry, a system of testing, or assaying, the quality of objects has been developed.”



The same can be said for a false teacher and/or false teaching.  It may look genuine, it may look correct and enticing, yet it could have a false heart or fruit behind it.  The word “test” in its original grammatical usage in 1 John 4:1 is present active imperative, 2nd person.  Imperatives in the ancient Greek language are commands given to someone else.  Present active imperatives (present tense) are commands that are expected to be followed not once but as an ongoing process. 


John is commanding the church to have a system in place to test their teaching, each other, the activity and doctrine of their church—this is a command not just for the early church but for the church moving forward throughout all of time including us today.


How did the early church listen to this command?  How did they test the spirits? How do we test the spirits today?


We get the answer in Verse 2-3:


“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.” 

--1 John 4:2-3


The answer is very simple here:  Who is getting the glory?  Is it the teacher/ preacher? Or is it Jesus Christ?  In this specific letter John is addressing this issue because of the gnostic heresy of dismantling the truth of Christ—the answer is simple:  Is the teacher / preacher pointing you towards the historically accurate Christ and ALL of who He is including ALL His teachings?


The early church would have known the torah, God’s Law, the Old Testament and most of them would have the torah on a scroll or in writing.  They would have known God’s law—if it were a gentile church they would learn God’s law from what Jesus said and the Old Testament in which they would have possessed.  Some churches would then have collected letters from Paul and the disciples of Christ—they would keep these letters in their possession and the elders of that church would preach them in order to teach the congregations on what true Christianity looks like.


We see this process in action in Acts 17


“The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue, Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so, Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men.”

--Acts 17:10-13


Notice how belief in God was strengthened as the Berean church learned more about God?  The more knowledge they gained of God’s word brought them to have greater Faith in God as a community.  They took Paul’s word and letter comparing what Paul was saying and writing to the Scriptures—the torah, the Old Testament, God’s Law. 


How does the church test the spirits? You can compare everything that is taught, heard and experienced in the church to God’s word, to God’s law to make sure it aligns with who God is and how He works.  Listen to the Holy Spirit who resides within you, the Spirit will bring your knowledge of God’s word into practice through conviction—something might feel or seem off, take that and run back to God Himself and His word to examine it. 


The more we know God and study His word the deeper we will love God and appreciate who God is in our hearts. Our study of His word will invigorate our prayer times with Him--it will bring us closer to Him.

“But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge.”

--1 John 2:20

God calls His people to exercise the testing of prophets, teachers and overseers throughout the entirety of Scripture especially after He gave them the 10 commandments in Deuteronomy

“The naïve believes everything, but the sensible man considers his steps.  A wise man is cautious and turns away from evil, but a fool is arrogant and careless.”

-Proverbs 14:15-16


“If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or wonder that he tells you comes true, concerning which he spoke to you, saying, ‘let us go after other gods (whom you have not known) and let us serve them,’ you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams; for the LORD your God is testing you to find out if you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.”

--Deuteronomy 13:1-3


“Another problem with people who fail to examine themselves is that they often prove all too easily influenced.”

--Martha C. Nussbaum (Not for Profit:  Why Democracy Needs the Humanities [The Public Square]


The church is commanded to actively examine itself daily.  This is how God preserves the church—He works through us in our scrutiny and testing to make sure that we do not become swayed by bright, new and shiny false teaching.


The bible also warns of a great falling away from God—this will happen through false teachers and liars.  Paul reminds the young Pastor Timothy of this as he leads the church in Ephesus in 1 Timothy 4:


“Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared”

--1 Timothy 4:1-2


It shouldn’t be surprising to see many churches teaching God’s word incorrectly or not teaching it at all—it isn’t surprising to see a great falling away even though it is heartbreaking and providing false testimony of who God is.



2. Church, don’t forget who is living in you.  Jesus Christ lives in you, He works with you and through you, the God/Man who brought Himself out of the grave.  The world cannot overcome Him therefore it won’t overcome you.


“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.”

--1 John 4:4


John is writing to the church here! He is writing to those who are saved and this is an effective reminder—when you believe in Christ, when you have faith alone in Christ alone then you are saved through His death on the cross and resurrection from the grave.  Jesus is the propitiation for our sins, He is the substitute for us in death—we die and are born again in Him as Christians.  Our final destination for eternity is with Him in heaven rather than in torment with Satan in Hell.  This is the work Christ has done, it is not our work.  God then lives through His church as the Holy Spirit EMPOWERS them / us. 

John is doing two things herea) He is comforting the church by reminding them of their confidence in Christ, don’t be afraid to defend the true Christ! Don’t let abusive leaders and pastors run you over rather the spirit of God who lives in you is victorious all of the earth’s / Satan’s forces and b) Have confidence in God Himself not yourself—this helps when facing persecution for standing up for God’s truth, you are not alone in preserving God’s truth as the one true God of the Universe is living in you.


There are many examples of the church correcting itself through its leaders both within communities and publicly:


The clearest example of this is found in Paul’s Letter to the Galatians where Paul calls out Peter at the beginning of the letter:


and when James and Cephas and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given to me, they gave the right hand of fellowship to Barnabas and me, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised.”

--Galatians 2:9


Paul is correcting the poor theology which James, Cephas and John were teaching early on—that Gentiles are to become circumcised in order to receive salvation and Paul would later correct Peter (Cephas)


“But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned.”

--Galatians 2:11



Jesus Christ empowers His church with the good news which only comes from God Himself. 


God is living in us, in the church and in us individually as believers. Christ does not abandon His church rather He calls the church to abide in Him, He calls His disciples to abide in Him.  The reason why the church will not die is because the church belongs to God.  Jesus instituted the modern church and the Holy Spirit has empowered and continues to empower the church as we go out into the world as a living testimony for the good news of Jesus Christ.


“There is no doubt that our spiritual leaders deserve all our respect and trust, and that we should honor their authority—while, of course, they are obedient to the Word of the Lord, preaching the truth and walking in a dignified, honest, and truthful way. When they become reprehensible, they must be corrected. Paul admonishes Timothy to do this with elders who have done wrong (1 Tim. 5:19–20).”


--August Nicodemus Lopes,


As the modern church we must hold each other accountable and empower each other to worship the one-true God of the Universe.  I am held to account by you as you listen to me, as I try my best to point you to God’s word and God Himself as your Pastor.   God is preserving His church by bringing us to His truth everyday and reminding us where we stand before Him.


 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.

“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live.  In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.  Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.”

--John 14:15-21


The Point: The Church must test every spirit, every doctrine and repent to God as He preserves His truth so that many can learn and experience the one true God in and through His true Church. 


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