They are of the world. That is why they speak from the world's perspective, and the world listens to them.
I. THAT CHRISTIANS ARE EXPOSED TO THE ASSAULTS OF HERETICAL TEACHERS. It was so in St. John's time. There were those that denied that Jesus Christ had come in the flesh, maintaining that his human body was apparent, not real. And others held, with Cerinthus, "that the AEon Christ had entered into the man Jesus at his baptism, and remained with him until the commencement of his sufferings; but denied that Jesus Christ came in the flesh" (Ebrard). Christians are still assailed by the teachers of grave errors, many of which relate to the Person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ.
II. THAT CHRISTIANS MAY OVERCOME THE ASSAULTS OF HERETICAL TEACHERS. St. John's readers had done so. "Ye have overcome them." By their fidelity to the truth they had obliged the teachers of error to retreat (cf. 1 John 2:14, 19). And their complete and final victory the apostle looks upon as an assured certainty. The false prophets were probably plausible, persuasive, and influential; but they were not irresistible. They had been repulsed; they would be completely vanquished. We are not bound to accept any teaching that is offered to us. If we please, we may refuse to read the questionable hook or to hear the teacher of whom we stand in doubt. Or we may read the book and hear the teacher, and then test their teaching by that of our Lord and his apostles, and accept or reject it according to its agreement or disagreement with the Divine standard. "Despise not prophesyings; prove all things; hold fast that which is good."
III. THAT CHRISTIANS MAY OVERCOME THE ASSAULTS OF HERETICAL TEACHERS BECAUSE OF THE PRESENCE OF GOD WITHIN THEM. " Ye have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world." He that was in the Christians is God; he that was in the world is Satan, "the prince of this world."
1. God dwells in his people.
(1) By his Word. The author whose works have been sympathetically and diligently studied may be said to be in the student. The student knows the views and opinions, the thoughts and theories, the principles and convictions, of his favourite author, and sympathizes with them. The godly soul knows God in his Word (Psalm 1:2; Psalm 119:97); and by means of his Word is filled with his thoughts, feelings, and principles.
(2) By the faith which they exercise in him. Their faith in him is not mere intellectual assent, but spiritual conviction, which makes his existence and presence real unto them.
(3) By their love to him (cf. verses 12, 13, 16; John 14:23). There is no real spiritual indwelling apart from love.
(4) By his Spirit (cf. verse 13; John 14:16, 17).
2. God is greater than Satan. "Greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world."
(1) God is independent, but Satan is dependent. Satan cannot do anything except by permission of the Most High (cf. Job 1:12; Job 2:6). But as for God, "he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?"
(2) God is infinite, but Satan is finite. However great the power of the evil one may be, it is limited. His intelligence is limited, his agencies and instruments are limited, and the duration of his power is limited (Revelation 20:1-3). But God is infinite in intelligence, in wisdom, in power, in duration, in perfection.
(3) God is the God of truth, but Satan is the father of lies (John 8:44). Truth is a permanent and victorious force; falsehood is transient, feeble, and doomed to extinction. The power of the prince of this world is based upon lies, and, for that reason, its overthrow is certain. But the power of God is the power of truth and holiness, and is therefore destined to continue and grow eternally.
(4) "God is love," but Satan is malignant. However persistent and strong hatred may be, it is not persistent, patient, or powerful as love. In love God dwells in his people for their salvation; but Satan dwells in the world for the destruction of the worldly. And the loving, saving Spirit is immeasurably greater and mightier than the hating, destroying spirit.
3. God's presence within his people is the secret of their victory over heretical teachers. "Ye have overcome them: because greater is he," etc. This Presence in the soul imparts power for spiritual conflict and conquest. The most effective safeguard against error in religious faith and union is not the subtle and strong intellect, but the devout and godly spirit and the upright life. "The meek will he guide in judgment," etc.; "The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him," etc. (Psalm 25:9, 14); "If any man willeth to do his will, he shall know of the teaching," etc. (John 7:17). In the conflicts of the spiritual life the mightiest weapons are not logical, but devotional. In this sphere the greatest victories are often won upon our knees. The consciousness of God's presence within us is the inspiration for the achievement of the sublimest conquests. - W.J.
Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the worldI. DIVINE TRUTH CARRIES GREATER EVIDENCE ALONG WITH IT.
1. The doctrines which are from God have a more intrinsical goodness in them, and teach such things as are most worthy of God, and more likely to proceed from Him.
2. The external confirmation of Divine doctrines is greater and carries more conviction along with it. By external confirmation I mean chiefly that of miracles.
3. Besides the goodness of the doctrines which are from God, and the external confirmation of them by miracles, the Spirit of God doth likewise illuminate good men, and those who are desirous to know the truth, and hath promised to lead them into it, and to assist them in discerning between truth and falsehood (John 7:17).
II. THE MOTIVES WHICH GOOD MEN HAVE TO PERSUADE THEM TO ADHERE TO TRUTH AND HOLINESS ARE MORE POWERFUL THAN THE MOTIVES TO THE CONTRARY. The believing that "Jesus is the Son of God" infers the belief of His doctrine, and consequently of that eminent part of it, the eternal recompense of another world, which, whosoever firmly believes, will be able to resist and overcome all the temptations of this world.
III. THOSE WHO SINCERELY EMBRACE AND OBEY THE TRUTH OF GOD HAVE A GREATER ASSISTANCE AND ARE ACTED BY A MORE POWERFUL SPIRIT AND PRINCIPLE, THAN, THAT WHICH IS IN THE WORLD.
1. There are these two principles in the world, the Spirit of God and the devil, very active and powerful, the one in good, the other in bad men.
2. The Spirit of God which is in good men is greater than he that is in the world: He is more able and ready to assist men to good purposes than the devil is to tempt and help forward that which is evil.(1) The Spirit of God is more powerful than the devil.(2) The Spirit of God is as willing to assist men to good purposes as the devil is to the contrary.(3) The Spirit of God hath a more free and immediate access to the minds of good men, and a more intimate conjunction with, and operation upon them, than the devil.
3. In what ways the Spirit of God doth move and assist good men.(1) By exercising good motions in us, and enabling us to bring them to effect.(2) By supporting us under persecution for religion.
(Abp. Tillotson.)1. "He that is in the world is great." And his greatness lies in this, that he operates in a two-fold way. He forms and fashions the world spiritually; and he finds for it, or makes for it, appropriate and congenial spiritual food. The world, in a sense, lives, and moves, and has its being, in him. He is in it as the spring of its activities, the dictator of its laws, the guider of its pursuits and pleasures; in a word, "the ruler of its darkness." The darkness of its deep alienation from God, he rules. And he rules it very specially for the purpose of getting the world to be contented with an image, instead of the reality, of godliness. He takes advantage of whatever may be the world's mood at the time, as regards God and His worship, throws himself into it, controlling or inflaming it, as he may see cause, so as to turn it to his own account. And then he contrives to bring under his sway prophets or teachers, not always consciously false, often meaning to be true, able men, holy men, men of God and of prayer, preeminently so it may be. And bringing into contact the world which he has doctored and the doctors whom he has tutored, he adjusts them skilfully to one another. He causes his teachers, perhaps insensibly, to draw much of their inspiration from the particular world which, as to its religious bias, he has influenced with an eye to their teaching. And so "they are of the world; therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them."
II. But "greater is He that is in you, little children," for He is the Lord God Almighty. He is strong; and He "strengthens you with might by His Spirit in the inner man; Christ dwelleth in your heart by faith; and you being rooted and grounded in love." He is strong; and He makes you strong; strong in holding fast the form of sound words, and contending earnestly for the faith once delivered unto the saints; strong in cleaving to the truth as it is in Jesus; strong in your real, personal, close, and loving acquaintance with Him, "whom to know is life eternal." He who is in you is God; God abiding in you; giving you the Spirit. He is in you; not merely on your side, at your right hand, around you; but within you. He is working in you; so working in you as to secure your safe triumph, in this great fight of truth against error, over the world and him who is in it.
(R. S. Candlish, D. D.)
I. First, then, let us consider THE GREATNESS OF SATAN so that we may understand the character of the adversary whom we have to contend with. The Bible represents Satan as the head of a great army of foes. If you examine the Epistles to the Ephesians and Colossians, you will find there seem to be seven grades of fallen angels, as there are seven grades of unfallen angels. We read of "Principalities," "Powers," "Dominions," "Authorities," "Rulers," "Thrones," "Wicked Spirits," etc., and above them all, as I believe, there is a rank of arch angels, or chief angels. So we are to imagine Satan as the highest over all the ranks of fallen angels. Suppose that, for instance, one of the provinces or colonies of Great Britain should rebel and cut loose from the parent government; it might carry into its rebellion all its officers, from its governor-general down to the mayors of its cities, and even its police magistrates; and apparently when this great rebellion took place among the angels of God they carried over into their revolt the ranks they had before rebellion came among them, so that Satan is a chief demon, an evil spirit, a fallen angel of tremendous power. Then, again, Satan has marvellous wisdom and knowledge. He knows how to reach the human soul; he knows how to deceive you and mislead you. When the Duke of Richmond presented his report about "fortifications," Sheridan said, "I compliment the noble president on his talents as an engineer, which were strongly evinced in planning and constructing that paper He has made it a contest of posts, and conducted his reasoning not less on principles of trigonometry than of logic. There are certain assumptions thrown up like advanced works to keep the enemy at a distance from the principal object of debate; strong provisos protect and cover the flanks of his assertions, and his very queries are his casemates." And Satan is a civil engineer. He constructs his fortifications to make the evil strong and repel the good. And so, as he is a demon of marvellous power and wisdom, is he also formidable in his familiarity with evil, and it is this that constitutes the great hold of Satan over the human soul. Remember that he has in himself the very secrets of hell.
II. Yet notwithstanding this, we are bidden to remember that "He that is in you is greater than he that is in the world." Conceding the greatness of Satan, let us look for a moment at THE SUPERIOR GREATNESS OF JESUS CHRIST. In the first place, Jesus Christ has all power. Satan has great power, but not omnipotence. Christ is not only a God of all power, but He is a God of all wisdom. Satan is very wise, but he is not omniscient, and Christ is. Then Jesus Christ is everywhere present. He is in your heart, and in my heart, and the heart of every disciple, by the Holy Spirit, so that of a true child of God we may still say, "He that is in you is greater than he that is in the world," since He is the all-powerful, the all-wise, and the all-present God. And, then, remember that Jesus Christ represents perfect holiness, and holiness, like the light of the sun, positively dispels the darkness, that is to say infinite holiness repels evil and drives evil to the wall; and in the great ages to come, when Christ shall be crowned as King, we shall find darkness absolutely dispersed and light pervading the moral universe.
II. WHAT IS THE SECRET OF OUR POSSESSION AND EXERCISE OF THIS OVERCOMING POWER? We are told in this epistle that there are three secrets of overcoming power (1 John 2:14; 1 John 3:8, 9, 24). The first secret is, the Word of God abides in you. The second is the seed of God abides in you; and the third is God Himself abides in you. Now look successively at these three secrets. The Word of God is represented in the Scriptures as the "sword of the Spirit," "a two-edged sword." A Damascus scimitar has but one sharp edge and a dull back. Hence you can hew with a scimitar, but you cannot thrust with it successfully. But when you have two edges to a sword, and each side is keen, you can cut both ways with such a blade; and the two keen edges unite in one burning point, and you can thrust with such a sword. And so the Word of God is represented as having two keen edges and one burning piercing point. Again, it is represented as a living sword. The Word of God is quick, i.e., alive and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword. Knowing the Word, and having it in your heart, you shall find that Word going forth like a two-edged sword out of your mouth, a living sword, and a powerful sword, that hews men to pieces before God, and lays bare their thoughts and intents. Secondly, the seed of God abides in the child of God. The seed represents the living principle. I suppose you are all familiar with certain great facts of nature. You know how, for instance, in the vegetable world the seed is the most carefully preserved and guarded of all the products of plant life. Here is a little plant growing up and putting out its branches and leaves, and by and by its flowers. The flowers may be very beautiful and very fragrant, and you may value them and consider them the finest products of the plant, but, if I may use such language, the plant does not so regard them. The thing the plant cares most for in the economy of nature is not root nor stem, is not beauty nor blossom, nor even fruit, but seed. Now the teed in the plant and the seed in the animal represents not only the highest products of life, but the means of producing and propagating life, and therefore the seed is the most precious thing in nature. And how significant it is that the principle of life in God which represents the highest perfection of Deity and represents the means by which God's likeness is reproduced in you and in me is called by the sacred name of "seed," and we are told that when the seed of God remains in us we feel that we cannot sin. We have a new affinity. We are like a tree planted by the rivers of water with its little spongelets at the end of the roots drinking up the blessed water of life, and making sap of it. That is what John means when he says the seed of God is in the disciple, and he feels that he cannot sin because the seed of God leads him to love the things of God, and hate the things of the evil one. But we are told once more that God Himself abides in us (John 14:23). God would have you to feel this great fact, that if Jesus Christ dwells in you by the Holy Spirit, He makes you strong to overcome Satan, as He Himself was strong to overcome Satan in the desert and in the Garden of Gethsemane, and that is the secret of your triumph over evil. We are told that when Hercules was a little baby in his cradle, there were some serpents that came into the room and wound their way into the cradle and tried to sting him, and folding their coils round him to choke the life out of him. But we are told in the fable that with his little hands he just took hold of the necks of these serpents and strangled them to death. God would have you to feel that a little babe in Christ that is rocked in the cradle of the Church, when he comes into contact of She the great serpent, the devil, if Jesus is in him, can beat back the serpent, the serpent cannot strangle him. But remember this, that you are only strong when you are on the Lord's ground, not on the devil's ground. Nosy I have read a story about a swan that was walking on the shore of a lake, and a wolf came up and ran after the swan, and would have torn him to pieces. But the swan said to himself, "I am not strong on the land, but I am strong on the water." So he plunged into the water, and when the wolf followed him into the water, he with his strong bill just gripped the wolf by the ears, and pulled his head down under the water, and drowned him. There are a great many people who try to fight the devil on the devil's ground, and they always get defeated; but if you can meet the devil on the Lord's ground you will defeat him.
(A. T. Pierson, D. D.)
1. The power of God is much nearer to us, and, by its relation to our true nature, so much more capable of becoming ours than the power of evil or the devil. We are the children of God. Can the renewed child of God say that any evil power lies nearer to his heart and more appropriately belongs to him, than that influence of a Father's love which he acknowledges to be the holiest and most blessed thing in the universe?
2. The greater power of good over us may be seen by comparing those parts or elements of our nature to which good and evil influences respectively appeal. On the one hand, we have the appeal of God, of good, and of truth, to our reason, judgment, and conscience, to the deepest instincts and most fixed principles of the soul, and to love, in itself the strongest element in our nature. On the other hand, the appeal of evil is only to prejudice, fancy, and appearance, to passion and to selfishness.
3. The objects through which good principle influences us are vastly greater than those with which evil is associated. Even in reference to the present visible world, we may see this contrast. Evil, which is necessarily selfish, limits the objects of our thought and life to our own mean, narrow selves. It knows no large and noble objects or ends. Good embraces all things, all beings, all great and lofty ends. Good objects and aims kindle the heart to an enthusiasm before which difficulties vanish; evil purposes sink the heart into meanness and weakness. But when we turn to the invisible and eternal world, how much more striking is the contrast. God Himself is the centre and fountain of all sublime thoughts, of all mighty emotions, and of all boundless hopes. The summit of greatness is before us in Christian perfection. All this greatness we as Christians can claim as our possession; and can all this dwell in and fill the soul, and yet awaken no sense of greatness and power? But what has evil to compare with this? Where are its sublime heights, grand conceptions, boundless prospects? What immortality invests it with unfading splendour, what solid reason guarantees its infinity of bliss? Can we, then, say that the ignoble and mean has the same power over us as the sublime and glorious?
(S. Edger, BA.)
Homilist.I. THERE ARE TWO MIGHTY SPIRITS AT WORK AMONGST MANKIND. There is some correspondence between their operation.
1. Both act uncoercively. There is no invasion of the principles of responsibility in either case.
2. Both act universally. The one is the prince of the power of the air; the other is in all our hearts.
3. Both act perseveringly.
4. Both act productively. Both "produce fruits in their subjects" (Galatians 5:19-23).
5. Both act resistibly. "Resist the devil, and he will flee from you." "Ye do always resist the Spirit of God."
II. THAT WHILST THESE SPIRITS ARE BOTH UNIVERSAL IN THEIR INFLUENCE, THE SPECIAL SPHERE OF THE ONE IS THE "WORLD," AND THE OTHER, THE "CHURCH."
1. The Church cherishes the Spirit, and resists the devil.
2. The world cherishes the devil, and resists the Spirit.
III. THAT THE SPIRIT WHOSE SPECIAL SPHERE IS THE CHURCH IS INFINITELY GREATER THAN THE SPIRIT WHOSE SPECIAL SPHERE IS THE WORLD. "Greater is He that is in you," etc.
1. The one that is in the Church is absolutely independent; the one that works in the world is not so. The Holy Spirit can do whatsoever He please; Satan cannot move without His permission.
2. The one that is in the Church sways His influence by absolute right, the other by usurpation.
3. The one that is in the Church works to save, the other to destroy.
4. The one that is in the Church acts through truth, the other through error. The first stone of Satan's empire — the foundation stone — was a lie.But the Spirit works by truth — regenerates, sanctifies, comforts, by truth. Which is the greater, truth or error? Truth is eternal, error is not; truth is a necessity, error is a contingency; truth is mighty, error is weak. A lie has no power, only as it wears the garb of truth. Conclusion:
1. The human soul is an object of stupendous interest. These two spirits are working for it.
2. The philosophy of human commotions is explained. Two opposite spirits are working in the heart of the world.
3. The ultimate triumph of goodness is certain. "Greater."
They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world
TopicsEar, Gives, God's, Heareth, Hears, John's, Language, Letter, Listens, Reason, Speak, Talk, Third, Viewpoint, World's
Outline1. He warns them not to believe all who boast of the Spirit;
7. and exhorts to brotherly love.
Dictionary of Bible Themes1 John 4:1-5
4132 demons, malevolence
LibraryLove of God and Man
FIRST SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY. Eversley. Chester Cathedral, 1872. 1 John iv. 16, 21. "God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. . . . And this commandment have we from Him, That he who loveth God love his brother also." This is the first Sunday after Trinity. On it the Church begins to teach us morals,--that is, how to live a good life; and therefore she begins by teaching us the foundation of all morals,--which is love,--love to God and love to man. But which …
Charles Kingsley—All Saints' Day and Other Sermons
First Sunday after Trinity God is Love.
Christ's Mission the Revelation of God's Love
The Servant as his Lord
Love and Fear
The Ray and the Reflection
May the Sixth the Perfecting of Love
A Psalm of Remembrance
"And if Christ be in You, the Body is Dead Because of Sin; but the Spirit is Life Because of Righteousness. "
"For what the Law could not Do, in that it was Weak Though the Flesh, God Sending his Own Son,"
The Torment of Fear
"The Fruit of the Spirit is Love"
Scriptural Predictions of an Apostasy.
The Established Christian Urged to Exert Himself for Purposes of Usefulness.
The Manifestation of Holy Love.
Love in the Triune Being of God.
I May Briefly Reduce the Chief Persuading Motive to this So Needful and So Much...
Dwelling in Love
Whether Initial Fear Differs Substantially from Filial Fear
Here Some one Will Say, this is Now not to Write of virginity...
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