Monday, December 17, 2012

1 John 4: Love Casts Out Fear

Listen to the podcast below (or right click this link for the mp3 file) 

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Test the Spirits (v. 1-6)

There are many spirits out there, you need to test them to see which are from God. Every spirit that confesses Jesus has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not is not from God.

First, I thought we were not supposed to test God, 
Luke 4:12 And Jesus answered him, "It is said, 'You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.'"
okay, I know this is a spirit from God, and not God or Jesus directly, but it feels the same to me. Think of it from the perspective of a random guy, he needs to decide who to believe. Some dude claims to be Jesus, he is not allowed to test Jesus because that is testing God and not allowed. Of course there are false prophets, so if a false prophet claims to be Jesus our random guy is just fucked because if his first thought is that it might be Jesus, he is not allowed to test him. But if it is a spirit, he is supposed to test him? It just seems inconsistent to me.

Second thought, this seems like a pretty easy test for an impostor spirit to pass. All he has to do is claim that Jesus came in the flesh, then he can tell you anything else he wants. We better hope none of those spirits ever get their ethereal hands on a bible.

God Is Love (v. 7-21)

Anyone who loves was born of God, and anyone who does not love does not know God.

I love my wife, does that mean I know God?

Guzik says that every display of love doesn't have to be from a Christian, but our capacity to love comes from God because we were created in his image.

v18 "There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love."

But I thought God wanted us to fear him. For example, recently in 1 Peter 1 we saw that God wants to rule us through fear. If you want more examples, a quick google search reveals many examples.

Now, this is an item for my summary, as I want to be able to reference it later to put as contrast to other verses which say fear is a good thing, but do I count this item as good? I don't think it's good, love doesn't cast out fear, you can love something and still have fear in regards to it, for example, you could love someone and be afraid for their safety. Ask any parent whose kid is doing something dangerous. If anything, there is an argument that this would be bad, as it might make people think they don't really have love as they still have fear. I think I'll just put it as "interesting"

Guzik has an explanation for this, which I want to quote here
What about the many passages of Scripture, Old and New Testament (such as Ecclesiastes 12:13 and 1 Peter 2:17), which tell us we should fear God? The fear John writes of here is not the appropriate reverence we should all have of God, but the kind of fear which involves torment - that agonizing kind of fear which robs our soul of all joy and confidence before God. It is the fear that is the opposite of boldness in the day of judgment.
Basically, his explanation is that we are talking about different kinds of fear, this is a translation issue. So I decided to take a look at the lexicon. The current verse (1 John 4:18) uses phobos, which is "panic, flight, fear, the causing of fear, terror". This is the kind of fear we should not have according to Guzik's interpretation. If we look at 1 Peter 2:17 we get phobeisthe, which is "to put to flight, to terrify, frighten", which doesn't read as that much different to me. And wouldn't you know, it also says that the origin of phobeisthe is phobos, I think there is a pretty good argument that we are talking about the same kind of fear. 

[note: added after I recorded the podcast as I noticed this during recording]

v12 "No one has ever seen God..."

This seems like a pretty obvious contradiction, my understanding is that Moses talked to God, didn't God tell him what to write for the part of the old testament that he wrote? And certainly Moses talked to God when he went up the mountain to get the 10 commandments, right?

Guzik claims that no one has seen God because he is invisible. He then addresses the complaint I had with the following quote from Boice:
The Old Testament theophanies, including the apparently contradictory statement in Exodus 24:10, did not involve the full revelation of God as He is in Himself but only a suggestion of what He is in forms that a human being could understand.
Basically, the claim is that anywhere it says they saw God, they didn't really see God, they saw the avatar of God which isn't quite the same as seeing God. This is utter nonsense as far as I am concerned. The bible says plainly that they saw God, not that they saw a facsimile of God, but they saw God. If you want to say that they thought they saw the real God but they didn't actually see God, fine, but you have to admit that you are just making stuff up to reconcile some obviously contradictory verses. Otherwise, cite an actual source.

For the overview post (If you think I should add or remove stuff from this list please let me know, I think it would make good conversation)


1 John 4:1 Don't believe everything you hear

"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."


1 John 4:18 Love casts out fear

"There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love."

1 John 4:12 No one has ever seen God

"No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us."


  1. That first section is a really odd test, huh Hausdorff? I like considering the flip side. It makes it seem as though a spirit "of the antichrist" must lie, and can tell no truth. Otherwise, like you mention, it would be easy for a con man to gain the confidence of others with this "test."

    That love/fear bit is complicated for sure. I like to challenge Christians with it in debates. :-) I think the type of fear John is referring to is would you be fearful if you suddenly found yourself facing God? While you've got some examples of love coexisting with fear, I think John is mostly focused on the disciplinarian aspect. So if you find yourself in from of God, and you know you have sinned, will you be fearful of His wrath? I think that John is making the argument that because you love God, and because you know He loves you, and that your sins have already been forgiven through Jesus, you should be able to stand without fear in front of God, just like a child would stand in front of a loving parent (assuming the child hadn't just stolen cookies from the cookie jar). Now, I would argue that 1 Peter 2:17 contradicts this statement. The usual Christian defense I get when I press them is that you love your father, but you still fear what he may do to you if you do something wrong, but, of course, that contradicts what John is saying here to some extent.

    That no-one-has-ever-seen-God sure seems like a contradiction to me too, but I also wonder if it was intended a little more liberally as a phrase, essentially saying "statistically speaking, nobody has seen God," because so few have. I know I've said things like "nobody does X" where what I really mean is more like "only crazy people and weirdos do X."

    1. I love the idea of 'no one seeing God' being meant statistically. That would also allow the bible to say that no one has ever been resurrected and that no virgin has ever given birth. :)

      Your explanations for the love/fear thing do sound like what I would expect to hear from Christians. Although, as you point out, this still contradicts other verses. They would really have to argue that fear here means something different from the fear discussed when we are supposed to fear God. But of course they can't use translation as I mentioned in the original post. I don't think they have a leg to stand on


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