Do we ourselves still need to “test the spirits” today? When? How do we make use of the test proposed by the author of 1 John: the confession that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh? That might be the first set of questions raised by 1 John 4 & 1 John 5 (specifically, 1 John 4:2-3, 13-17, and 1 John 5:4-5), the text we are studying for Sunday, August 22. [Some notes on the text are here.] Here are a few other questions we might want to think about or discuss in class:
In verses 13-16, the author seems to make a connection between having received God’s Spirit, confessing Jesus as the Son of God, abiding in God, and knowing and believing the love God has for “us.” How would we ourselves describe this connection?
[More personal] Would we say we ourselves experience this connection? How would we describe that experience?
In verse 17, the author seems to connect love, which believers have from God, and “boldness on the day of judgment.” How do we understand this connection?
[More personal] Do we experience this text as reassuring? Why, or why not?
What does this author mean by “the world,” do we think? What does the author not mean? What does it mean to “conquer the world,” do we think? What does it not mean?
[a lot more personal] Do we see ourselves as growing in our love for God and our love for others? What seems to help with that? What seems to inhibit that?
Overall, we probably want to pay attention to the way the author links faith in Jesus Christ – the actual human embodiment of God, who is love – and a life characterized by love for other people, as well as love for God. What is our own relationship to that faith, and to that way of life?
Image: “Der Plausch am Weg” [the chat on the way], Oswald Achenbach, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons