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December 15

1 John 4:13-19

13 This is how we know that we remain in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and we testify that the Father has sent his Son as the world’s Savior. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God—God remains in him and he in God. 16 And we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and the one who remains in love remains in God, and God remains in him. 17 In this, love is made complete with us so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment, because as he is, so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love; instead, perfect love drives out fear, because fear involves punishment. So the one who fears is not complete in love. 19 We love because he first loved us. — 1 John 4:13-19

The Gift of the Spirit

by Diane Woerner
Station Hill Campus

Written as an open letter to the churches of his day (and therefore to us as well), 1 John reflects John’s deep concern that Christians understand the nature of, and have confidence in, their position in Christ. From the opening verses, he emphasizes why he’s qualified to address this. “What we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have observed and touched with our hands...[this] we declare to you.”

Part of what John was “up to” had to do with the rising challenge of a heresy that taught that matter is essentially evil and only the spirit is good, which led to the idea that Jesus never really came in the flesh. Another train of thought resulting from these assumptions was that sin only existed in the body and that a person’s spirit was untouched by it. John realized the danger in both these views and unequivocally opposed them.

But his other purpose in writing is spelled out near the end of the letter. In 1 John 5:13 we read, “I have written these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” Probably the most significant form of confidence we can ever seek is the assurance that we are truly destined for an eternity with God.

So what are the confirming evidences that we are right with God? There are many scattered throughout this short book.

  • Honesty with God and with ourselves. “If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.” (1:6)
  • Obedience to Christ. “By this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments.” (2:3)
  • Love for fellow Christians. “Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness.” (2:9)
  • Rejection of that which the world loves. “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.” (2:15)
  • Confession of who Jesus truly is. “No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also.” (2:23)
  • Living that reflects the righteousness of Christ. “If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him.” (2:29)
  • Hatred of ongoing sin in our lives. “No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him.” (3:6)
  • Active care for those in need. “But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” (3:17-18)

All of these evidences, however, are wrapped up in the opening verse of today’s reading: we know we are in Him because “He has given us of His Spirit.” You see, only the Spirit of God empowers and equips us to reflect the nature of Christ. Without the presence of the Spirit in our lives, we will not authentically believe or obey or love. Without the presence of the Spirit, we will easily succumb to the world’s fascinating and pleasurable attractions.

When we truly have the gift of God’s Spirit residing in our spirits, we will not only be radically and wonderfully transformed, but we will also find ourselves unafraid of the future, because His perfect love in us will have cast out all fear of future punishment (4:18).

Praxis

  1. John gives us these clear ways to test the authenticity of our right standing with God. They are not a list of things we must do—they are a list of things He is doing in and through us. Why is this distinction so important?
  2. If you have an ongoing fear of the future, it may be an indication that you’ve never encountered the actual love of God. Would you be humble and honest enough to admit this, and to seek Him until “grace your fears relieved”?