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Who Listens to God? - 1 John 4:1-6

Dec 14, 2014 11:40 AM

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[1] 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. (1 John 4:1-6 ESV)

When we first began our study of the little epistle of 1 John, we started with this passage rather than with chapter 1, verse 1, because it serves as a kind of “summary statement” for the entire letter.  John makes a very simple point here in verse 6:

Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. (v6)

I’m a bit surprised these words do not get more attention from those who hate the Gospel and our intolerance of other religious perspectives.  John is saying here that a person’s spiritual status can be determined by their relationship to himself and the other apostles as preachers and teachers of the good news of Jesus Christ.  If a person listens to John in regard to the truths of the Gospel, that is evidence of true conversion.  Such people are Christians.  Those who do not listen to him, who pay no attention to the words of the apostles, who are not concerned with their testimony regarding Jesus Christ -- such a person is not a Christian.  They do not know God.  

This takes us back to what John recorded for us in John 10 when Jesus said:

[14] I am the good shepherd.  I know my own and my own know me, . . .     [16] And I have other sheep that are not of this fold.  I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice.  So there will be one flock, one shepherd.

[24] So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense?  If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” [25] Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe.  The works that I do in my Father's name bear witness about me, [26] but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. [27] My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:14, 16, 24-27 ESV)

This is why John says what he does in 1 John 4.  The people of Christ hear His voice, whether it comes directly from the Lord Himself, or from one of His apostles.  The apostles speak for the Lord Jesus.  They are the voice of Christ in the world.  That is why John can say, without blinking an eye, “Those who listen to us apostles belong to God because we are from God and we speak for Jesus Christ.  Those who don’t listen to us, well, they don’t belong to God.”  

In not listening to John’s authoritative testimony regarding Christ, they are not listening to Christ.  They are not His people, they are not His sheep.  Otherwise, if they were of God, if they were Christ’s sheep, they WOULD listen, they WOULD believe, and they WOULD follow Christ.  His people follow Him.  His people believe the Gospel.  The people of God listen to the apostles of God.  And the children of the Devil do not.

Back in chapter 3, John says this:

By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother. (1 John 3:10)

Incessantly, the Scriptures speak of two, and only two kinds of people.  It is stated in many different ways: Saved and Lost, Sheep and Goats, those who are from God, who are led by and indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and those listen to the spirit of the age, who are worldly because they are of the world.  Those who have been born of the Spirit of God, and those who are dead in trespasses and sins.  Those whom God has chosen to be heirs of salvation, and those who have not.  Those who walk in the light, and those who prefer the darkness.  Those who have overcome the anti-Christian spirits of a fallen and rebellious world, and those who love this life and this world.

Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. (John 12:25 ESV)

So there is an element within human society that believes the Gospel when they hear it.  And there is everyone else.  That is what John says here in 1 John 4.  Those who believe the gospel listen to those who preach and teach it.  They believe the Bible because, as John says here, they are from God.  They believe God because they are FROM God.  God is their Father.  They know God because it is God Himself who has regenerated them and caused them to believe and follow Christ and His apostles.  

We are from God.  Whoever knows God listens to us; (1 John 4:6a ESV)

That is not an unreasonable statement.  It is not prideful or arrogant.  It is a statement of fact.  Those who are from God hear God’s voice, believe what He says, and follow after Him like sheep following their Shepherd.  Those whom God saves follow Him.  They listen to Him.

It is troubling to the extreme to hear of groups, presumably consisting of at least a few Christians, who want to have a Bible study, but complain when the Bible study sounds a bit too “churchy”.  They prefer to have something a bit more practical, more applicable, more “how-to”-ish, more -- shall we say -- worldly?  Isn’t “less churchy”, or to be more specific, “less biblical”, by default, more worldly?  

Suppose the apostle John was teaching a Bible study.  How many “Christians” would prefer him to be less preachy, less churchy, less scriptural, and more entertaining?  “Tell us about the miracles!”  “Tell us more stories!”  Would John say to such people, “Whoever knows God listens to us and you’re not listening”?  

Beloved, the vast majority of people aren’t listening to Scripture and a lot of so-called Christians aren’t either.  People don’t want to know what God has said because the vast majority don’t know God.  The word used here is ginosko meaning a deep, intimate, relational knowledge of God, like a man who knows and loves his wife.  So, in effect, John is saying here that only Christians know God.  And real Christians listen to the Word of God.  

The Greek word translated listen in these verses is also often translated “to hear”.  Obviously that is not the meaning here.  John is not saying hearing people listen to the Gospel but Deaf people don’t.  He’s not saying only hearing people can become Christians.  That would be ridiculous.

He is saying (and maybe this is obvious and doesn’t really require all of this explanation), those who belong to Jesus Christ, who have been chosen by God and given to His Son as His bride, -- THOSE people and only those people hear the Gospel, comprehend the Gospel, believe the Gospel, and obey the Gospel.  They pay attention, they comprehend the truth of the Scriptures, and they live and act accordingly!

Question: How many tens of millions of people will go to church during this Christmas season and hear yet again the presentation of Jesus as:

  • God in the flesh, as Emannuel -- God With Us
  • The Son of God miraculously born of a virgin
  • The promised Messiah of Israel announced by angels, seen by shepherds, and worshipped by wise men
  • As Jesus, who has come to save His people from their sins,
  • As the fulfillment of hundreds of Old Testament prophecies . . .

How many will hear these things for the umpteenth time, and not listen?  They will sing songs from memory, the same ones they sang as children, they will actually participate in choirs singing Handel’s Messiah . . . And pay absolutely no heed to the words coming from their own mouths.

Who is listening to the apostle’s words?  Are YOU listening?  Do YOU believe what you are singing?  Do YOU believe what John is saying?  Are you paying attention, or are you just hearing words being spoken because you aren’t deaf?  

How a person listens and responds to the message of the apostles and of the Scriptures concerning Jesus Christ is an accurate indicator of that person’s spiritual condition.  The “Salvation Meter” needle points to either “Child of God” or “Child of the Devil” depending upon their acceptance or rejection of the word of God.  That’s it.  It is really that simple.  

Where does that leave the seeker?  Where does that leave the agnostic?  Where does that leave the person who is looking for scientific proof for God?  Where does that leave the person who is “good” or “spiritual” or who is a “Christian” but really doesn’t care for too much churchiness or too much Bible?  

It leaves them in a very bad, very dangerous place.  It leaves them in verse 5:

They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them.

They are deaf to God, they are deaf to the Gospel, they are deaf to the Scriptures.  They are worldly.  They think like the world, listen to the world, live according to the dictates and convictions of the world, they prefer the world, they love the world and their life in this world.

And that, beloved, is the way the world is.  

[22] He went on his way through towns and villages, teaching and journeying toward Jerusalem. [23] And someone said to him, “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” And he said to them, [24] “Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. [25] When once the master of the house has risen and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us,’ then he will answer you, ‘I do not know where you come from.’ [26] Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.’ [27] But he will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you come from. Depart from me, all you workers of evil!’ [28] In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God but you yourselves cast out. (Luke 13:22-28 ESV)

How is it that so many people who had such easy access to Jesus, never believed in Him or followed Him?  These people are saying, “You remember us!  You came to our town!  We had a banquet and listened to you teach!”  

And He will say, “Really?  You listened?  You heard me teach?  Then why did you not do what I said?  Why did you not repent of your sins?  Why did you not follow Me?  I do not know you.  Depart from Me, all you workers of evil!”

It is evil to sit at Jesus feet and not do what He says.  It is evil to listen to His words, and not obey His voice.  It is evil and self-deceiving to say, “Oh yes, I’m a Christian.  I’m just not interested in organized religion, or Bible studies, or fellowshiping with other believers, or listening to expository sermons from the Scriptures, or loving other Christians.  But yes, I’m a believer.”

John made it very plain and clear:

[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.

Are you listening?



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