I’m getting ready to preach on Sunday morning on 1 John 3:24-4:6. The big issue in this passage is discernment. How will God’s people distinguish between truth and error?
John’s test in verses 2-3 of Chapter 4 can seem a bit arbitrary at first glance:
1 John4:2 “This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.” NIV
The false teachers claims however are a significant attack on the gospel. The gospel teaches us that Jesus became like us, but without sin. He was like us in every way, he fulfilled the Father’s requirements as one of us, and died for us in order to redeem us. If God didn’t become like us, he didn’t save us.
Some time ago I listened to a message by Mark Dever on the subject of discernment. He encourages us to discern in terms of proximity to and effect on the gospel.
In every generation when false teaching rears its head, what it attempts to do is accommodate the gospel to human pride.
I’m reminded of a quote from H. Richard Niebuhr who writing in 1937 described what he saw happening as churches drifted from the gospel.
“A God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross.”