John had now presented four proofs of salvation and its permanency. Those who are born anew, from above, live by faith in
- Willing cooperation with the Spirit of Christ.
- Holding onto the teaching of the apostles.
- Consecrating ourselves in God’s love, no longer a part of the world, but now being transformed into the heavenly.
- Genuinely loving the brothers and sisters in Christ.
John had also twice, now, reassured his readers they had the Spirit and they were begotten of God. They did not need someone to tell them these things because God had already given them the Holy Spirit Who knows the things of God and imparts these things to all who have the Spirit of Christ.
When your heart condemns you, John wrote, then let God speak into that heart, because God is bigger, and knows all. And when you receive God’s voice to you, then your experience of intimacy will return—the intimacy was always there, but you were not aware of it because you felt so unsettled.
In this chapter, John would introduce four more proofs of salvation and its permanency.
Evidence of Salvation: Exhibit 5
Living by faith in trusting the Spirit’s discernment between truth and error.
The Apostle John’s confidence in the indwelling Holy Spirit’s ability to teach us and reassure us, to give us discernment in understanding truth, is a bit breath-taking.
I feel like I am always asking God for wisdom and discernment, for understanding—not just of circumstances and people, but of teaching, of interpretation of scripture, of life philosophies and points of view. Then, once I understand what I am experiencing, or hearing and seeing, or being told, I still need understanding in how to process it, and deal with it.
One of my favorite passages is James’ reassurance that God will give abundantly to whomever asks (including me) for wisdom.
If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you.James 1:5 (NRSV)
The Truth About Jesus
John was certain God provides this understanding through the Spirit.
Beloved ones, do not believe every spirit, but rather examine the spirits [whether] it is from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.
In this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that acknowledges Jesus Christ in flesh is from the God, and every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God—and this is the antichrist’s one, for you have heard that one comes, and is now already in the world.1 John 4:1-3 (my translation)
The Spirit of Christ, the Holy Spirit of God, will always proclaim Jesus as both fully man and fully God, Jesus as both the suffering servant Messiah and as the might king Messiah.
There are many traditions that include some belief in Jesus as a great prophet, or as a man in whom dwelt divinity of some kind for a time, or as one of the truly transcendent teachers of human history. Some traditions view Jesus as a kind of angelic being, or of being some form of divine but not one with God the Father.
Those who are begotten of God know, because they have the Spirit, the truth about Jesus.
The Indwelling Holy Spirit is Greater
John continued in his reassurance,
You are from God, little children, and you have conquered them, for great[er] is the one in you than the one in the world; they are from the world, for this reason they speak from the world[‘s perspective] and the world listens to them.1 John 4:4-5 (my translation)
This is a good word for you and me today, too. There are so many voices to listen to, popular teachers with enormous followings, mega pastors, mega preachers, mega worship leaders, speakers who can command eye-watering fees, who fill whole stadiums of people who just want to hang on that person’s every word.
They are charismatic, too, are they not! Beautiful people, vivacious, warm, bright, with a quick wit, easy laughter, excellent education, fascinating, their facility with speaking from the scriptures, and quoting from all kinds of impressive sources . . .
But how can you and I tell that what they are teaching is truth?
We are from God: the one who knows God listens to us, [the one] who is not from God does not listen to us. From this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of deceit.1 John 4:6 (my translation)
Follow that word listen—it means not just literally listening, but also taking heed. The Apostle John was convinced those who know God listen to those who have written the scriptures, and that listening makes us capable of discerning between the spirit of truth and the spirit of deceit.
They [believers] devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.Luke, Acts 2:42 (NRSV)
You are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord.Paul, Ephesians 2:19-21 (NRSV)
The apostles stood together in this teaching on trusting the guidance and discernment imparted by the Holy Spirit.
I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.
The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.
When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf.John 14:16-17, 26, 15:26 (NRSV)
As it is written,
“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
nor the human heart conceived,
what God has prepared for those who love him”—
these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.
For what human being knows what is truly human except the human spirit that is within? So also no one comprehends what is truly God’s except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit that is from God, so that we may understand the gifts bestowed on us by God.
And we speak of these things in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual things to those who are spiritual.
Those who are unspiritual do not receive the gifts of God’s Spirit, for they are foolishness to them, and they are unable to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. Those who are spiritual discern all things, and they are themselves subject to no one else’s scrutiny.
“For who has known the mind of the Lord
so as to instruct him?”
But we have the mind of Christ.1 Corinthians 2:9-16 (NRSV)
The author of Hebrews
And the Holy Spirit also testifies to usHebrews 10:15 (NRSV)
[The Holy Spirit | Fr Lawrence Lew, O.P., flickr, (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)]
[From Fr. Lawrence Lew, O.P.:
“The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit are wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord. They belong in their fullness to Christ, Son of David. They complete and perfect the virtues of those who receive them. They make the faithful docile in readily obeying divine inspirations” – Catechism of the Catholic Church, para. 1831.
Mosaic detail from one of the side chapels in the Rosary Basilica of Lourdes.]