1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, 3 and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world.
4 You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. 5 They are of the world. Therefore they speak as of the world, and the world hears them. 6 We are of God. He who knows God hears us; he who is not of God does not hear us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.
7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. 9 In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. (1 John 4:1–11)
Jesus is at the center of what John writes. Jesus is important for testing the spirits. He’s important for us being God’s children. He’s important for knowing what God’s love is. Jesus isn’t just some starting point, but he’s the core of it. If you take Christ Jesus away or minimize Him, then all these things fall apart. It’s not JENGA, where you can remove one brick and the tower stays standing. It’s a house of cards: remove Jesus, and it all falls flat.
This is John’s point: “test the spirits, whether they are from God.” There are false prophets, who look Christian but aren’t. It’s all about how they talk about Jesus. You can talk about Jesus in all sorts of ways. If the Jesus is talked about outside of His death and resurrection, for that is why He came into the flesh. That’s what the angel told Joseph about Mary’s pregnancy, “She will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.”
“Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God.” Jesus has come in the flesh to save us, or as John puts it, to manifest, to make known, reveal to us God’s love. “In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.” How else can we know Jesus, or know love? We can’t. How else can we love one another? We can’t. Only when Jesus’ love for us is preached, His death and resurrection, are we actually hearing a spirit that comes from God.
This preaching makes us and strengthens us as God’s children. The world could tolerate a Jesus who is just a really good teacher, a guy we try to imitate because he was so kind, loving, anti-establishment. It doesn’t matter. The world gladly listen to the Christian message if that’s what it was, but it’s not. The Christian message is about revealing God’s love for us in the death and resurrection of His son. “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”
Because of this love we live, and this love flows through us to those around us. Jesus, who was crucified and raised, is at the center. Without that our love is empty and false. Because in His death and resurrection true love is known. Being enliven by it, made God’s children through it, we then love one another. How could we not? “You are of God, little children, and have overcome” all spirits that would say otherwise. INI + AMEN.
Where Charity and Love Prevail (LSB 845)
O God, You make the minds of Your faithful to be of one will. Grant that we may love what You have commanded and desire what You promise, that among the many changes of this world our hearts may be fixed where true joys are found; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.