The Real Thing or Counterfeit?

1 John–Lesson 9

John begins this passage of exhortation with love, affection, and a deep concern for his “dear children.”  He calls upon his flock to make a true evaluation of their fellowship with Christ by examining how they respond to needy brothers and sisters.  Agape love should be exhibited through self-sacrificing acts of compassion.  This kind of love stands in contrast to the selfish, counterfeit love of the false teachers.  But self-evaluation by believers is difficult, for we are often either too exacting or too tolerant in our personal judgment of our spiritual lives.  “John’s word of comfort is, God the all-knowing is also the all-loving.”1  

“…Let’s not just talk about love; let’s practice real love.  This is the only way we’ll know we’re living truly, living in God’s reality.  It’s also the way to shut down debilitating self-criticism, even when there is something to it.  For God is greater than our worried hearts and knows more about us than we do ourselves.”— I John 3:18-20 2

1. Read 1 John 3:18-24.  According to verses 18-20, how do we know that we are living in truth?  What results from knowing this is true in our lives?

(Note:  The NIV translation of the phrase “belong to the truth” is more accurately translated in the KJV and the NASB, “of the truth.”  Believers belong to the truth positionally, but their lives may not be “of the truth” experientially.  The latter fits better with John’s theme of fellowship.)

(Note:  When we live in the light, we are living in the presence of God, and we are in fellowship with Christ and one another.  This same confidence will exist in His presence at the Judgment Seat of Christ.)

2.  From verse 20, what common attitude robs believers of their confidence in God’s presence?  The last sentence is meant to be a comfort to believers.  Since God knows all about us, our position in Him, and the way we live the truth experientially, what positive truths do you think He might know that we don’t know about ourselves?

3.  According to 1 John 3:21-22, what privilege is gained by our confidence before God?  What conditions have been met in order for a believer to exercise this new boldness?  Review verses 18-19 for help with your answer.

4.  What promise is given to those believers who actively love one another?

5.  From verse 22, what are the characteristics of believers who may be bold in prayer and receive what they ask?

6.  Read 1 John 5:14.  Jesus is a good example of praying in the will of God.  Read Luke 22:42.  How did Jesus show submission to His Father’s will?

(Note:  Jesus prayed as though He didn’t know His Father’s will.  This author often starts a prayer request with, “Lord, if it is not against your will, would you ….”)

7.  Is obedience in actively loving others and submitting to the will of God a moment-by-moment characteristic of your life?  Do these verses encourage you to pray confidently before God? Explain.

8.  Review 1 John 3:23-24.  John draws us back to the principles of abiding in Christ.  What are the two main commands?

(Note:  In this context, “name” refers to the whole being, Jesus the incarnate Son, the third Person of the Triune God– His attributes, character, and deeds.)

9.  How do we know we are abiding in Christ moment-by-moment?  (Note:  Abide means “to dwell in, to live in, or to remain in.”)  You should have three answers.

10. Read 1 John 4:1-6.  What does John write in verse one concerning spirits?  Why?  (Note:  The false teachers claimed to know God, and they claimed their enlightenment and inspiration came by way of “spirit.”  It was not uncommon for supernatural “signs” to be accredited to “spirits.”  See Matt. 7:22-23.)

11.  How is the Spirit of God recognized?

12.  What identifies a spirit of the antichrist?

13.  Write a question that you could ask someone who knocked at your door to give you “spiritual” resource materials in order to test the spirits.

14.  Read 1 John 4:4.  Why were John’s flock overcomers?

15.  Have you ever been confronted by a person who does not believe in the incarnation?  Share some of your observations about these counterfeits.

(Note:  Many of these antichrists believe some of the truth about Jesus, but they distort the doctrine of the incarnation because the message of salvation hinges on it!)

16.  Review 1 John 4:5.  What are the characteristics of these counterfeit teachers?

17.  It is important to realize that the master of these false teachers is Satan himself.  This enemy is proficient at deception.  These antichrists can be very believable, and they know how to infiltrate a body of believers.  According to 1 John 4:6, how can we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood?

(Note:  The “us” in 1 John 4:6 refers to the Apostles.  It is their teaching that these believers were to adhere to.  Remember, they did not have all of the Word of God in written form at this time.)

18.  In 1 John 4:4 “the one who is in you” refers to the Holy Spirit.  According to 1 Cor. 2:12-13, how was the message of salvation communicated?

19.  What is revealed about unbelievers in 1 Cor. 2:14?

20.  According to 1 Cor. 2:16, what is available (through the Holy Spirit) to believers who abide in fellowship with Christ?

21.  Review this lesson and write a short Psalm expressing thanksgiving and praise for one thing that is most meaningful to you that God has provided for those who abide.

“…There can be no fellowship with the Father apart from fellowship with the saints.  The believer who keeps God’s commandments of faith in God and love for one another abides in fellowship with Him.” — J. Dwight Pentecost 3

Journal your thoughts and insights.

1 Ryries Study Bible by Charles Caldwell Ryrie, Th.D., Ph.D
2 The Message by Eugene H. Peterson.
3 The Joy of Intimacy With God by J. Dwight Pentecost


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