As we learn to live a life of love, we will be ready to be better discerners of spirits.
The Greek word for love that John uses is “agape”—a familiar word to the Christian world. As a refresher, “agape” was either a word that Jesus made up or that He adopted for the Kingdom of God because it is not found anywhere else in literature. Agape means love is expressed without conditions. There are no preconditions to agape. The lover is showing and acting on the love that is within themselves. It is love by decision. In a figurative sense, it means a person looking at an object or person, seeing so much beauty in it, that they are compelled to love that thing or person. This compulsion is driven and sustained by what the lover sees regarding the value and beauty of the object or person, no matter what the object brings or a person does or doesn’t do.
When we read God loved the world, we can understand that though the world was broken and twisted and evil, God saw something of value and beauty in it—enough so, He sent His son to die for it (see John 3:16). Jesus saw something valuable and beautiful about us and gave His life willingly. This love is supposed to mark the church and His children.
In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother.
For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another, not as Cain who was of the wicked one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his works were evil and his brother’s righteous. Do not marvel, my brethren, if the world hates you.
We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death. Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.
By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?
My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him. For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things.
Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God. And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight.
And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment. Now he who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.
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. By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, 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.
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. They are of the world. Therefore they speak as of the world, and the world hears them. 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.
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is 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. 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.
Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us.
By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. And we have known and believed the love that God has for us.
God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him. Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world.
There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. We love Him because He first loved us.
If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also. (1 John 3:10-4:21)
Wow. Think that through. We are to be changed by and carriers of God’s love for mankind. Read 1 John 4:1-21 again in the Passion Translation:
Delightfully loved friends, don’t trust every spirit, but carefully examine what they say to determine if they are of God, because many false prophets have mingled into the world. Here’s the test for those with the genuine Spirit of God: they will confess Jesus as the Christ who has come in the flesh. Everyone who does not acknowledge that Jesus is from God has the spirit of antichrist, which you heard was coming and is already active in the world.
Little children, you can be certain that you belong to God and have conquered them, for the One who is living in you is far greater than the one who is in the world. They belong to this world and they articulate the spirit of this world, and the world listens to them. But we belong to God, and whoever truly knows God listens to us. Those who refuse to listen to us do not belong to God. That is how we can know the difference between the spirit of truth and the spirit of deceit.
Those who are loved by God, let his love continually pour from you to one another, because God is love. Everyone who loves is fathered by God and experiences an intimate knowledge of him. The one who doesn’t love has yet to know God, for God is love. The light of God’s love shined within us when he sent his matchless Son into the world so that we might live through him. This is love: He loved us long before we loved him. It was his love, not ours. He proved it by sending his Son to be the pleasing sacrificial offering to take away our sins.
Delightfully loved ones, if he loved us with such tremendous love, then “loving one another” should be our way of life! No one has ever gazed upon the fullness of God’s splendor. But if we love one another, God makes his permanent home in us, and we make our permanent home in him, and his love is brought to its full expression in us. And he has given us his Spirit within us so that we can have the assurance that he lives in us and that we live in him.
Moreover, we have seen with our own eyes and can testify to the truth that Father God has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. Those who give thanks that Jesus is the Son of God live in God, and God lives in them. We have come into an intimate experience with God’s love, and we trust in the love he has for us.
God is love! Those who are living in love are living in God, and God lives through them. By living in God, love has been brought to its full expression in us so that we may fearlessly face the day of judgment, because all that Jesus now is, so are we in this world. Love never brings fear, for fear is always related to punishment. But love’s perfection drives the fear of punishment far from our hearts. Whoever walks constantly afraid of punishment has not reached love’s perfection. Our love for others is our grateful response to the love God first demonstrated to us.
Anyone can say, “I love God,” yet have hatred toward another believer. This makes him a phony, because if you don’t love a brother or sister, whom you can see, how can you truly love God, whom you can’t see? For he has given us this command: whoever loves God must also demonstrate love to others.
Bible scholars have discovered there are over 500 Biblical commandments in the entire book. When you take that and add to them the Rabbinical laws—in the thousands—the Jews were facing a load of rules to try to keep. Jesus came along and combined them all into two: loving God and loving others. This love is to be our foundation when it comes to living for Christ, as well as using the spiritual weapon of discernment to fight the devil and his fallen spirits effectively.
Jesus has called us to a life opposite of Cain. Cain killed his brother Abel in cold blood because he hated Abel. Most of us know that murder is wrong. Jesus knew we would side with this truth, and so He raised the bar. He said we should not have the heart of Cain and call people fools.