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1 John 4:1-6 Part One - Many Antichrist's Have Gone Out

Many of you know that I live next door to my mother-in-law. This week I walked up her driveway as she was sitting on her front porch. It was a nice day so I sat by her and we enjoyed some time together.

The longer we sat observed nature, felt the gentle breeze, and watched the wildlife around us the simpler life seemed to get. On the front porch we were able to experience a moment where the chaos of this world seemed to be a million miles away.

As we begin this morning I would like to invite you to come up to the front porch and sit a while. I want to invite you to sit with me and enjoy a moment that occurred two thousand years ago. Turn with me to the very beginning of Luke’s gospel Luke 1:1-4. It says,

Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, 2 just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, 3 it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4 that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.

So why have I invited you upon this porch to see all that is being done here? This is a beautiful text in which you see the Word of God going fourth in such a profound way. All of this seems to be going on unhindered. There appears to be godly work being done, the Kingdom of God is advancing, truth is being put forward, there is excitement concerning something that has happened. In these verses there is no mention of opposition, hostility, struggle or resistance. There is no sense of weariness, tiredness, fatigue, or listlessness in those who are sharing the Word of God.

Let me make a few observations about this text. First, Luke describes a time when many people were compelled to share a particular narrative. We read, ‘Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative.’ This isn’t a story about one man doing his own thing. This isn’t a story about people sharing the truth as each person has come to understand it differently. No, this is a large group (many) people sharing the same message.

If this were happening today these people would flood Facebook with the same news. They would be racing to get an account on Twitter, Snapchat or TikTok to get the word out. They would be sending emails, writing articles, creating videos and publishing websites.

These people were researching, analyzing, interviewing, investigating, probing and scrutinizing the facts concerning this narrative. These people were undertaking an enormous project of compiling many facts to report accurately about something that had happened among them. Truth be told, this ought to be the description of every believer in every generation.

Secondly, they reported about things that had been accomplished. They did not put forward myths and things that they only hoped would happen. We read, “Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us…”. And notice that Luke clearly implies that all these second generation Christians have also had a profound personal experience of the grace of God. He says that these things have been accomplished among us.

There is always a great deal of excitement surrounding something that is supposed to happen. There is always excitement about a work that is about to begin. But here we see that one of the primary motivations for this excitement is that the ‘Good News’ is about things that have been accomplished! This is the very foundation of the gospel. The gospel is about what Christ Jesus has done. It is about what He accomplished and how it is effecting everyone who believes.

Thirdly, notice Luke 1:2, “...just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word that was delivered to them”. The word that these people were spreading was grounded upon the eye-witness testimony of the apostles. They shared the message of those who had spent three years observing Jesus and listening to his messages. The eyewitnesses saw the miracles. They heard the testimony of those who were healed, delivered from demons, and of those who were raised from the dead. They talked to those who were delivered out of a life of adultery, freed from idolatry, and rescued from dead religiousness. They saw the lame leap, the sorrowful who had been encouraged, the hopeless who were given encouragement and the unlovable were given love and eternal life.

The eyewitnesses delivered this word to these people and they received it by faith and experienced new life. As a result, they were compiling it, preserving it, guarding it, and sharing it accurately with others. These second generation Christians were faithful stewards concerning the Word of God. They determined to preach the same word that had transformed them. Every other generation of Christians has faithfully received the Word, preserved it, and passed it on. Will our generation be faithful in this same way? Will each of us be good stewards of the Word of God that we have received?

Let me draw your attention to the word ‘ministers’. John says, ‘...just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word delivered to us’. This is an interesting word in the Greek. It is made up of two words which is translated ‘under rower’. It speaks of people who are servants to a master and to their commander. They work and labor to do the will of their superior. Every generation of faithful ministers are servants under the authority of the LORD to deliver the the Word of God. They proclaim His Word and not their own.

Fourthly, notice what Luke says in verse 3, “ seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus.

Here we see that Luke is one of these faithful witnesses who compiles the facts concerning the Good News to share it with a man named Theophilus. He is a minister, a servant, who followed these facts closely and consistently over time. Luke applied these things to his mind and to his heart. And then shared these things in an orderly way to Theophilus.

Now, we have been sitting on the ‘front porch’ this morning looking out at all of this amazing Gospel work that is faithfully being done. The result of this faithful work is that people are made certain of the things that they have been taught. Luke writes in verse 4, “...that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.

Are you certain about the Word of God? When you read the Scriptures are you made more confident and assured? That was Luke’s intent in writing this book. That was John’s intent when he wrote 1 John. He said in 1 John 5:13, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.

Consider what we have seen from the front porch this morning as we have looked over the landscape that Luke has written for us. We have seen the apostles faithfully preach to the second generation of believers. We have seen the Word of God transforming lives. And we have seen evangelism go fourth clearly, correctly, comprehensively and convincingly to others. As a result, those who receive the gospel and believe it are certain about the things that they have been taught.

If no one ever bothered to read the rest of Luke we would think that everything was peaceful and tranquil. We would not know that there were adversaries, opponents, enemies and deceivers who sought to pervert this message from the very beginning. From our front porch it was easy to forget that this is a chaotic world in which many deceivers have gone out to distort and twist the truth concerning Jesus Christ.

The truth is, when Luke wrote these words there was trouble all around him. The Word of God was being opposed, lies about Jesus were being spread, heresies were being created. Yet, Luke and these other faithful ministers continued to preach the gospel in the midst of this sinful world.

There are so few ‘front porches’ on which a Christian can sit and experience a moment of peace because of the antichrist’s who have gone out into the world. The church faces very real dangers. And it is only when we confront these challenges that we will actually be able to enjoy these moments.

I pray that the church today will be like these minsters in Luke 1. I pray that we will be as productive as they were in this hostile world in proclaiming the gospel faithfully and accurately. If the church is not about this primary responsibility then there will be no front porches for us to invite people to enjoy the grace of God.

In our text today, we are reminded by John about the dangers that are all around us both inside the church and outside the church. We are reminded that every individual, and every congregation, is called to be watchful and to always be testing the things that are being said around them.

Let’s read 1 John 4:1-6,

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for 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 from God, 3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. 4 Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. 5 They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. 6 We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.

When John calls us up onto the porch to sit with him in this text we see that the view is ominous, dark and scary. He says to us that ‘many false prophets have gone out into the world.’ The clear Word concerning Christ is always under attack by these false prophets who sow confusion, and doubt. And he says that the one who would do this ‘is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already…’.

Because of this, John begins with a plea for these believers to be watchful, to be aware. He begins by saying, ‘Beloved, do not believe every spirit…’. In the Greek this is in the present tense. This implies that some of these believers are still listening to these false teachers. They are not being careful to do the things that we saw the believers doing in Luke 1:1-4.

Consider what John writes in 2 John 7-11, ‘For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist. Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for, but may win a full reward. Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works.

John begins our text with an imperative command. John is saying to them, ‘Do not go on believing every spirit!

They are not to be so quick to trust every word that is spoken. If they do not obey this command they will loose what they have worked hard for, and they will not receive a full reward. However, if they will obey they will receive blessings from the Word of God that they worked to understand and to live confidently in.

One of the most encouraging things that I witness from this pulpit each week is seeing those of you who are looking in their bibles as I speak to see if what I say is accurate. One of the things that makes me approach this pulpit with humility and reverence is that I know that if I say something wrong it will be seen rather quickly by some of you.

Each and every believer is to undertake this responsibility to study the Word of God. To follow the Word of God closely and consistently over time. Let me illustrate this. I was in a church once listening to a sermon and there was a visiting family sitting right in front of me. The father was listening intently to the sermon and looking in the scriptures to confirm everything that was being said. At one point in the sermon the minister said something that was not accurate. I looked over at the man sitting in front of me and you could see that he had heard what was said and he quickly began to look at his bible carefully. Then he nudged his wife and pointed down to the verses so that she knew what the truth was. He was being a good disciple, a watchful disciple, and a good shepherd to his family. He was keeping the view from his front porch peaceful and tranquil. He was working hard and he was receiving a full reward.

Take a moment and consider if you are taking the threat of these antichrist’s and their teachings seriously. If you see this danger your prayer will be much like the psalmist in Psalm 120. He says,

In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me. Deliver me, O Lord, from lying lips, from a deceitful tongue.

What shall be given to you, and what more shall be done to you, you deceitful tongue? A warrior's sharp arrows, with glowing coals of the broom tree!

Woe to me, that I sojourn in Meshech, that I dwell among the tents of Kedar! Too long have I had my dwelling among those who hate peace. I am for peace, but when I speak, they are for war!

Like John, the psalmist, paints a pretty sobering picture of the world that we live in. We live in a world where…

  1. there are deceitful tongues (2)

  2. there are lying lips (2)

  3. there is no way to appease these deceivers (3)

  4. their tongues are like sharp arrows (4)

  5. their tongues spread great fires (4)

As a result of this the psalmist is in great distress (1).

We experience this as well because we too live in a place like what is described here. These deceivers hate the Gospel of Peace that we preach and they declare war upon God and His people. (6-7)

In what do we to find our hope when we find our front porch facing Meshech and Kedar? Like Lot, we find our front porch at the gate of Sodom. In what do we find our confidence in in days such as these?

Consider 1 John 4:4, “Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.

Remember the story of the husband and the father who sat in church and labored in the Word to make sure that what he taught was right? Well, the Holy Spirit is working in you to do the same thing that that father did. The Holy Spirit leads us into truth and nudges our hearts when danger is present.

We began this sermon by pointing out that the Christians in Luke 1 declared what had already been done by Christ. Well, our text in 1 John does the same thing. Notice again what John says in 1 John 4:4, “Little children, you are from God and have overcome them.

This is also in the past tense. We are ‘little children’ in this world. It would seem that even a small thing could overcome us. Yet, because of the Spirit (3:24) in us we have overcome these things. The tense of this verb is past tense but it also speaks of something that continues even now. We have overcome and we will continue to overcome because greater is He who is in me than he who is in the world.

With this confidence we can continue to preach this gospel even in this world where so many antichrists have been sent out. Let us determine to be watchful and receive a full reward that is given through our understanding of God’s Word. The reward is our confidence and assurance. The reward is that we will consider it a good thing to share the gospel clearly, correctly, comprehensively and convincingly to others. As a result, those who receive the gospel and believe it will be certain about the things that they have been taught.

Concluding text: 2 Timothy 4:15

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. 5 As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.


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