1 John Chapter 4

1 John Chapter 4

MY PERSONAL COMMENTARY

ON

THE BOOK OF FIRST JOHN

By David L. Hannah

CHAPTER FOUR:

1 John 4:1

Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.

* Beloved, believe not every spirit, *

Regarding “believe not,” Robertson says,

“‘Stop believing,’ as some were clearly carried away by the spirits of error rampant among them, both Docetic and Cerinthian Gnostics. Credulity means gullibility and some believers fall easy victims to the latest fads in spiritualistic humbuggery.”

Concerning what’s intended by “believe not every spirit,” UBS comments,

“Spirit is used here with the meaning ‘spirit of man.’ It refers to the seat or source of man’s insight, feeling, and will, compare below on meaning (2). One may have to make explicit this specific meaning, for example by using here, ‘every man’s spirit,’ ‘every human spirit.’”

UBS goes on to list five ways this Greek word is used,

“The Greek word has a very wide area of meaning. (1) ‘movement of air,’ ‘wind’ (John 3:8 a), ‘breath,’ ‘vital principle,’ ‘(life-)spirit’; (2) the source or seat of man’s insight, feeling, and will, the representative part of the inner life of man. Since spirit is that which leaves a person at death (compare Matt 27:50; Luke 23:46; John 19:30) it is also used to designate (3) the human soul after it has left the body, and (4) other incorporeal beings, not human, such as angels, good and bad spirits, which have the power of knowing, desiring, and acting, and are thought of as having some kind of personality.

Finally, the word occurs to designate (5) ‘the Spirit’ in the sense of ‘God’s Spirit,’ ‘the Holy Spirit.’”

Of those five possible uses listed by UBS, they believe John to be number two in mind when he writes these words.

Zondervan disagrees. They see John referring to UBS’s possibility number four,

“John’s warning here is not against those who pretend to have the Spirit’s presence but against genuine evil spirits’ inspiring of false prophets.”

John Gill mentions,

“By ‘every spirit’ he means, either every doctrine that is pretended to come from the Spirit of God, or every teacher, who professes to be qualified and sent by him, and to have his light, knowledge, and doctrine from him.”

JFB see it this way,

“The Spirit of truth, and the spirit of error, speak by men’s spirits as their organs. There is but one Spirit of truth, and one spirit of Antichrist.”

Whatever conclusions you reach concerning the exact meaning of the Apostle when he wrote “believe not every spirit,” John’s main point is that we shouldn’t believe everything we hear coming from the “pulpit.”  We must make certain rather the origin of one’s doctrine is from within his own inner being, from the devil, or from God Himself.  Is he teaching his honest conclusions after he’s researched a subject, but unfortunately his teaching is in error?  Is he teaching the doctrine of the devil, either willingly, or as a result of his being deceived?  Or, is he teaching Divine Truth, truth that the Holy Spirit has guided him into (John 16:13)?

We’ll only know the answers to these questions as we “try the spirits.”

* but try the spirits whether they are of God: *

Regarding “try the spirits,” Robertson says,

“Put them to the acid test of truth as the metallurgist does his metals. If it stands the test like a coin, it is acceptable (dokimos, 2Cor 10:18), otherwise it is rejected (adokimos, 1Cor 9:27; 2Cor 13:5-7).”

You and I are to “try the spirits” of those who teach us.  How do we do that?  How do we determine first, the genuineness of the person speaking, and second, the truth of the message he’s giving?

First: We must test the genuineness of the teacher’s spiritual life.  John tells us that we test his genuineness by observing rather or not he’s walking in Love (1 John 2:9-11; 3:14-19), and by rather or not his conduct is in line with how the true Apostles taught us to live (1 John 2:3-6, 29; 3:1-10).

Consider this: if a teacher isn’t genuinely walking in Love then John identifies him as living in spiritual darkness (1 John 2:9, 11), as a child of the devil (1 John 3:10), as abiding in death (1 John 3:14), as a murderer (1 John 3:15), as living outside the realm of eternal life (1 John 3:15), and as not having the Love of God in him (1 John 3:17).

Consider this: if a person’s conduct, the way he chooses to live his life, is not in line with the sound teachings of Scripture John describes him as deceived (1 John 1:8), as absent of God’s true Word (1 John 1:10), as a liar (1 John 2:4), as a transgressor of the Law (1 John 3:4), as a sinner (1 John 3:6), as of the devil (1 John 3:8), and as a child of the devil (1 John 3:10).

Second: We must test the truth of the teacher’s message.  The test John gives us for identifying the false teachers he was dealing with is to determine what they were teaching about Who Jesus is, and what they were teaching about His incarnation as a man (1 John 2:18, 22-23; 3:23; 4:2-3; 5:1, 5).

Consider this: if he’s teaching heresy John describes him as a liar (1 John 2:22), as being antichrist in his very nature (1 John 2:18), and as a seducer (1 John 2:26).

How do we determine if a doctrine is true if it isn’t related to the proper understanding of Who Jesus is and to His incarnation?  That was a primary concern for the Apostle John, but not all error deals with that particular subject.  What method do we then use to determine its legitimacy?  Luke wrote this concerning the Bereans, “These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so” (Acts 17:11).  Paul taught that we’re to consider what he said, “and the Lord” would give us “understanding in all things” (2 Tim 2:7), that we’re to compare “spiritual things with spiritual” (1 Cor 2:13), that “the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God,” because “they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor 2:14), and that, consequently, we need “the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him,” the “eyes of” our “understanding being enlightened” (Eph 1:17-18).

How do we determine the truth of the message we’re hearing?  We must have a “readiness of mind” to receive God’s word, while honestly considering what the teacher said we must search the Scriptures to see if his message is true, in doing this we must compare “spiritual things with spiritual,” we must understand that the truth of God’s Word is beyond natural reasoning and must be spiritually discerned, we must pray for God to give us wisdom and revelation by opening our spiritual eyes so we can see and understand His Word, and we must ultimately trust Him to give us “understanding in all things.”

* because many false prophets are gone out into the world. *

Concerning “false prophets,” Gill teaches they were those,

“who either predicted what did not come to pass, or rather preached false doctrine, by corrupting the word, and handling it deceitfully.”

JFB tell us they were,

“not “prophets” in the sense “foretellers,” but organs of the spirit that inspires them, teaching accordingly either truth or error.”

Vincent sees it this way,

“The term is applied in the New Testament to rivals of true prophets under the old dispensation (Luke 6:26; 2 Pet 2:1), and to rivals of the apostles under the gospel economy (Matt 7:15; Matt 24:11, Matt 24:24; Mark 13:22).”

Vincent also tells us,

“The false prophet supports his claims by signs and portents (Matt 24:24; Acts 13:6; Rev 19:20) and is thus distinguished from the false teacher.”

UBS weighs in with this,

“The word may refer to a man who claims falsely to be a prophet, or to a prophet who prophesies falsely, that is, who says what is not in accordance with what God told him to say.”

UBS also mentions,

“The basic meaning of prophet is not one who foretells the future, but one who speaks on behalf of God.”

Exactly who are these “false prophets”?  Some Commentators see them simply as false teachers.  I disagree.  I agree with the above comments.  New Testament “false prophets” are those who either prophesy false things or teach heresy while claiming to have the authority of a prophet.  In other words, they are claiming that the words they are teaching have come directly from God to the hearer through them.  They are claiming to have the authority of God in their teachings.

Notice Vincent’s comments above, “The term is applied in the New Testament to rivals of the apostles under the gospel economy.”  The Apostles had the very authority of God when they spoke.  They, along with the true Prophets, were speaking the sure Word of God that would give the Church its very foundation (Eph 2:20).  These Gnostic teachers were claiming that same authority.  They even “hung out” with the Apostles for a while to give the appearance that they were one of them (see my notes on 1 John 2:19).

Regarding “are gone out,” Vincent says,

“The perfect tense indicates that the influence of their going out on their false mission is in operation at the present.”

There will always be “false prophets” among us in the Age of the Church (Matt 24:11, 24).  There are many among us today who claim to have the same authority as Scripture.  Some claim that their words are the words of another “testament;” some claim that their council, or their leader, has equal authority to that of Scripture; and others claim that their translation of the Bible (that translation that denies that Jesus is God, capital “G”) is the only correct one.

I don’t care what your founder claims to have dug up.  I don’t care what authority you claim your leader has.  I don’t care if you mock “Cristiandom” and think you’re superior because you use Jehovah”s name instead of the name of Jesus [John said if your doctrine denies what he taught concerning Jesus you are denying the Father (1 John 2:23)].

Anyone who insists that Truth will be discovered when you read some testament other than the Old and New Testaments, or when you believe some spiritual leader or council, or when you read their unique translation of the Bible should be avoided.  Genuine teachers of the Word will not be offended when you “search the scriptures” before you agree with them, but will see that as “noble.”  They will only desire that you “consider what” they “say,” and then trust God to give you a “spirit of wisdom and revelation,” an “understanding in all things” by enlightening the “eyes of your understanding.”  After all, the job of the twenty-first century Christian teacher is to get you to “consider” something, because “the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you,” and that “anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him” (1 John 2:27).

Readers, trust the Holy Spirit to “guide you into all truth” (John 16:13) when you “search the scriptures” (Acts 17:11) and compare “spiritual things with spiritual” (1 Cor 2:13).

Listen to your pastor, study good commentaries, read good books, listen to teaching cassettes, watch good teachers on television, and listen to them on the radio.  But when you do these things remember it’s only the function of that teacher to get you to “consider what” he says.  Absolute Truth in only found in God’s Word, and only the Holy Spirit can ultimately “guide you into” that Truth.

Your responsibilities are to have a “readiness of mind” to receive Truth (Acts 17:11); to understand that God gives the ministry of “pastors and teachers” to the Church (Eph 4:11); to understand that these ministries have “authority” to “preach the word,” and to “reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” (2 Tim 4:2) concerning those things that are sound doctrine (Titus 2:12-15); to understand that teachers are sent by God (Rom 10:15) to instruct us in a spirit of “meekness” (2 Tim 2:25), giving “attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine” (1 Tim 4:13); and that you are to “submit yourselves” to them because “they watch for your souls, as they that must give account” (Heb 13:17).

Give you pastor, and other spiritual leaders, your utmost respect.  Love him, and honor him.  Follow him as he leads your church in the direction he feels God is leading him. Listen attentively as he teaches.  Be ready to learn from his sermons.  Don’t be critical of his teachings when you disagree with him, because you might discover he’s right when you search the Scriptures.  But ultimately, you must search the Scriptures to determine if those things he’s teaching you are true.  Then, when you discover the Truth of the Scriptures, the Truth the Holy Spirit guides you into (John 16:13), that Truth becomes your revelation (Eph 1:17), your sword of the Spirit (Eph 6:17) that gives you the ability to stand in the time of testing (Eph 6:13).  When you believe something simply because your pastor teaches it, it’s his revelation, not yours.  It’ll help him when he’s tested, but it won’t help you.  When you let the Holy Spirit teach you that Truth by your searching the Scriptures, then it’s your revelation, and it helps you when you’re tested.

In summary, when you do these things you’re testing the spirit of those who are teaching you, making certain that the doctrines you are hearing are of God; but you’re also allowing the Holy Spirit to teach you, as an individual, and the Truths He teaches you will cause you to grow stronger in the Lord.

(Verse One of Chapter Four in my own words.)

You who I love, will you please stop believing everyone who preaches to you.  You must test everything they say in order to see if they’re speaking what the Holy Spirit is saying, or what the spirit of antichrist is saying.  Here’s why; many individuals who have gone out into this world want you to believe that they’re speaking with the authority of a prophet, when, in fact, everything they’re telling you is false.

1 John 4:2

Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God:

* Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: *

Concerning “the Spirit of God,” JFB suggests the test is to see,

“whether he be, or not, in those teachers professing to be moved by Him.”

The People’s New Testament comments,

“He who confesses from the heart that Christ has come in the flesh shows that he has the Spirit of God.”

I believe this is a test to determine more than just if the Holy Spirit is in a man.  These Gnostics were teachers who claimed to speak for God as prophets, speaking the infallible Word of God (1 John 2:19; 4:1) [see my notes on those verses].  With that in mind, what John is telling his readers is that he’s about to give them a test that will enable them to determine if a teacher who claims to be a giver of Divine Truth is, in fact, speaking the very Word of God, as moved on by the Holy Spirit (2 Pet 1:20-21).

Paul speaks about two kind of teachers that teach error (1 Cor 3:5-17).  One of them is a saved individual whose doctrine in one area or another isn’t correct.  That teacher will go to Heaven, but he will receive no reward for the particular “work” (1 Cor 3:14-15) of preaching a message that isn’t presenting the rightly divided Word of God (2 Tim 2:15).  The other one is a false teacher, one who isn’t genuinely saved.  This individual is defiling “the temple of God,” and is facing the destruction of God (1 Cor 3:16-17).  The first teacher of error is saved; the second isn’t.

NOTE: Every sincere preacher has most probably preached some message that contained error in it.  It wasn’t intentional error.  The preacher simply lacked proper understanding in that particular area of Scripture.  This is the teacher in the first category mentioned above.

The test John is giving us in our current verse isn’t dealing with these ministers.  It’s dealing with the second category of ministers mentioned above.  Those who God called to write New Testament Scripture taught certain things about Jesus Christ.  Those others who claimed this same calling, but taught a contrary doctrine about Jesus, were found to be “false prophets” by the test John gives us.

* Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: *

Regarding “is come in the flesh,” UBS tells us,

“The perfect tense is to show that Christ’s coming in the past still influences the present.”

Zondervan, in their NIV Study Bible Notes, teaches,

acknowledges. Not only knows intellectually–for demons know, and shudder (James 2:19; cf. Mark 1:24)–but also confesses publicly. Jesus Chris has come in the flesh. See note on 1:1. Thus John excludes the Gnostics, especially the Cerinthians, who taught that the divine Christ came upon the human Jesus at his baptism and then left him at the cross, so that it was only the man Jesus who died.”

JFB puts it this way,

“a twofold truth confessed, that Jesus is the Christ, and that He is come (the Greek perfect tense implies not a mere past historical fact, as the aorist would, but also the present continuance of the fact and its blessed effects) in the flesh (‘clothed with flesh’: not with a mere seeming humanity, as the Docetae afterwards taught: He therefore was, previously, something far above flesh).  His flesh implies His death for us, for only by assuming flesh could He die (for as God He could not), Heb 2:9-10, Heb 2:14, Heb 2:16; and His death implies His LOVE for us (John 15:13). To deny the reality of His flesh is to deny His love, and so cast away the root which produces all true love on the believer’s part (1 John 4:9-11, 1 John 4:19).”

Those who claim to be a mouthpiece for God, a giver of Scripture, must get the doctrine of Jesus right.  If they do, then they are genuinely called of God.  John was!  Paul was!  Peter was!  All the writers of New Testament Scripture were!  They all taught that this Jesus was the Christ.  They all taught that He came in the flesh.  They all taught that He was God.  If any teacher taught anything contrary to them regarding Who the Lord Jesus was, and is, he was not one of this anointed group (1 John 2:19).

NOTE: As teachers we will disagree on some doctrines.  We might disagree on the place water baptism plays.  We might disagree on the subject of talking in tongues.  We might disagree on what is meant by predestination.  We might disagree on the subject of eternal security.  But we must not disagree on the subject of Who Jesus is.  John uses this doctrine to determine if one who claims to be speaking the infallible Word of God is genuine.  We can use it to determine if a denomination is genuine.  Any group denying that Jesus has come in the flesh, and is the Christ, is not to be trusted as being a genuine voice for God.

(Verse Two of Chapter Four in my own words.)

Here’s how you know who is really a mouthpiece for the Spirit of God: everyone who claims to be speaking the infallible Word of God as they are moved by the Holy Spirit, and confesses that Jesus is the Christ, and that His entire life, and His death, were accomplished while He was clothed with humanity, is genuinely sent by God.

1 John 4:3

And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.

* And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: *

Concerning “is come in the flesh,” Vincent says,

“Omit. Render, confesseth not Jesus. So Rev.”

The scholars tell us that the second word “that” and the phrase “Christ is come in the flesh” are not to be found in the oldest manuscripts.  Consequently, they would have it translated, “And every spirit that confesseth not Jesus.” Most modern translations render it this way.

Robertson points out in his notes on this verse,

“The Vulgate (along with Irenaeus, Tertullian, Augustine) reads solvit (luei) instead of mēhomologei, which means ‘separates Jesus,’ apparently an allusion to the Cerinthian heresy (distinction between Jesus and Christ) as the clause before refers to the Docetic heresy.”

Robertson had pointed out in his notes on the previous verse,

“The predicate participle (see John 9:22 for predicate accusative with homologeo) describes Jesus as already come in the flesh (his actual humanity, not a phantom body as the Docetic Gnostics held).”

The Gnostic teachers were separated into two camps, the Docetic Gnostics and the Cerinthian Gnostics.  Robertson sees John refuting the Docetics’ claim that Jesus never actually came in a physical body in the previous verse (1 John 4:2), and the Cerinthians’ claim that there was a “distinction between Jesus and Christ” [quoted from Robertson’s notes on our current verse].

UBS makes reference to those who hold to Robertson’s view,

“Others have instead of ‘does not confess’ a verb form that means either ‘looses,’ ‘separates’ (namely, Jesus from Christ), or ‘destroys,’ ‘does away with.’”

However, UBS then concludes,

“This reading is presented by several old Latin witnesses to the text, and by a marginal note in one Greek manuscript dating from the tenth century. It is not to be preferred to the reading found in all older Greek manuscripts.”

Regarding “confesses not Jesus,” UBS teaches,

“The name Jesus characterizes its bearer as a man. Therefore, ‘to confess Jesus’ means to declare publicly one’s belief in the man Jesus. As such it says virtually the same as ‘to confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh,’ but in a more concise form.”

It does seem probable that the correct translation of our current phrase would be, “And every spirit that confesses not Jesus —.”  Some translators have concluded that when you translate the two verses together you would translate them as follows, “every spirit which says that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God,” and “every spirit which does not say this is not from God” [BBE].  Others agree with BBE (such as: CEV, GNB, WNT, TLB, and TEV).

However, if John was denouncing the two sects of the Gnostic heresy, the Decetics in the previous verse and the Cerinthians in the current verse, which he could have been doing even if we discount Robertson’s view (mentioned above), then John omitting “in the flesh” in this verse would make perfect sense.  Then you would have, “every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God,” and “every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God” [NASB].  Others agree with NASB (such as RSV, NLT, NIV).

I like the following translation,

“Everyone who confesses openly his faith in Jesus Christ–the Son of God, who came as an actual flesh-and-blood person–comes from God and belongs to God,” and “everyone who refuses to confess faith in Jesus has nothing in common with God” [The Message].

I also enjoy this translation,

“If a prophet acknowledges that Jesus Christ became a human being, that person has the Spirit of God,” and “If a prophet does not acknowledge Jesus, that person is not from God” [The New Living Translation].

I like the translation from The Message because it points out that it takes more than believing something about Jesus to be genuinely “of God.”  We must believe in Jesus.  We must place our faith in Him to be truly saved.

I like the translation from The New Living Translation because it reminds us of who John is referring to.  John’s confrontation isn’t with the believer, but with the one who is trying to promote this heretical teaching by claiming Divine authority.

Remember that the Apostle Paul said that if “we, or an angel from heaven” (Gal 1:8), or “any man” (Gal 1:9) “preach any other gospel” (Gal 1:8-9) “than that which we have preached unto you” (Gal 1:8) “let him be accursed” (Gal 1:8-9). Remember that the Apostle John said that anyone who “confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God” (current verse).  Let’s look at these two examples individually.

Is John teaching that every single individual who doesn’t understand the Godhead properly, and who doesn’t understand the humanity of Jesus specifically, isn’t saved?  He calls his readers his “little children” (1 John 2:1, 12, 13, 18, 28; 3:7, 18; 4:4), referred to them as “brethren” (1 John 2:7; 3:13), and said they were “sons of God” (1 John 3:1, 2).  He said to them, “ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things” (1 John 2:20), he said they knew the truth (1 John 2:21), and that they had received God’s anointing, and that the anointing was abiding in them (1 John 2:27).  His readers were saved!  Yet, when John wrote to them, “believe not every spirit” (1 John 4:1), what he was actually saying to them was, “Stop believing every spirit!” [Robertson’s comments on 1 John 4:1]!  Some of these saved people believed a heresy.  They were believing this heresy when John called them his “little children,” when he called them “brethren,” when he assured them they were “sons of God,” when he said that they had “an unction from the Holy One” and knew all things, when he said they knew the truth, and when he said that the anointing (the Holy Spirit) was abiding in them. John isn’t teaching that confused believers aren’t “of God”!  His point is that every teacher who claims Divine authority, and then teaches this heresy regarding Who Jesus is, is not “of God,” but rather is a “false prophet” (1 John 4:1).

The same can be said of Paul.  He isn’t teaching that every believer who lives in legalism ought to be cursed.  However, he is teaching that every teacher who claims Divine authority, or claims falsely to be speaking for the Jerusalem Apostles who had Divine authority, and then teaches that Christians must keep the Law and be circumcised in order to truly be saved, ought to be cursed.  These Judaizers were trying to altar the message of grace that God had given Paul to teach the Church.  This wasn’t a case, like it is with modern-day legalists, of their teaching Paul’s Gospel, but teaching it wrong because they failed to understand it.  This was a case of their attempt to altar the very Word of God.  Paul said they ought to be cursed.

* and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world. *

John returns to a matter he had addressed earlier (1 John 2:18).

Concerning “shall come,” Robertson stated in his notes on 1 John 2:18,

“So Jesus taught (Mark 13:6,22; Matt 24:5,15,24) and so Paul taught (Acts 20:30; 2 Thess 2:3).”

Following is a reprint of a portion of my notes on that earlier verse,

“The Apostle’s reminding his readers of what was evidently a common doctrine taught by the early Church, that doctrine being that before the closing of this chapter of time as we know it, an evil man, one who’s in league with the devil, will arrive on the scene. This futuristic man was known in Church doctrine as Antichrist!”

John is now restating what he had said earlier that identified these false teachers as operating in the spirit of antichrist.  The fact that they were teaching heresy about Who Jesus is, and His incarnation (1 John 2:22-23; 1 John 4:2-3), was proof positive that the same spirit that will be at work in the Antichrist when he comes was already at work in these false prophets (1 John 4:1).

John Gill comments,

“who is against Christ, or opposes himself to him; as he who denies his sonship, his deity, his humanity, his offices, and his grace, manifestly does; every doctrine that is calculated against these truths is the spirit and doctrine of antichrist.”

(Verse Three of Chapter Four in my own words.)

And everyone who claims to be speaking the infallible Word of God as they are moved by the Holy Spirit, and denies that Jesus is the Christ, and denies that His entire life, and His death, were accomplished while He was clothed with humanity, is absolutely not of God. Rather, they are operating in the spirit of antichrist.  You have heard that it is coming.  It’s already here!

1 John 4:4

Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.

* Ye are of God, little children, *

Regarding “little children,” see my earlier notes (1 John 2:1).

Concerning “ye,” JFB tells us,

“emphatical: YE who confess Jesus: in contrast to ‘them,’ the false teachers.”

The “false prophets” (1 John 4:1) John is warning his readers about are “not of God” (1 John 4:3), but those he was writing to “are of God” (current verse).  John had written earlier that the one who doesn’t do what’s right, and doesn’t Love his brother “is not of God” (1 John 3:10).  Now he’s telling his readers they “are of God” (current verse).  In essence he’s telling them that they are doing, as a pattern of their lives, those things that are in their very nature righteous; and they are Loving, as a pattern of their lives, their brothers.

By saying, “Ye are of God,” he’s telling them that they are not “of the devil” (1 John 3:8, 10), and they are not “of the world” (1 John 4:5).

* and have overcome them: *

Zondervan comments,

“They have overcome the false prophets, because they resisted their teaching (v. 5).”

Robertson mentions,

“Perfect active indicative of nikao, calm confidence of final victory as in 1 John 2:13; John 16:33. The reference in autous (them) is to the false prophets in 1 John 4:1.”

JFB offers this,

“instead of being ‘overcome and brought into (spiritual) bondage’ by them (2 Peter 2:19). John 10:8, John 10:5, ‘the sheep did not hear them’: ‘a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers.’”

QUESTION: If JFB is correct in their analysis of this phrase, and if Robertson is correct in his explanation of John’s intent when he said, “believe not” (1 John 4:1), then what gives?  How can John first imply that his readers had begun believing the Gnostic heresy, and then say that they’ve “overcome them,” as opposed to being overcome by them?

ANSWER: This is a walk of faith (Rom 1:17; Gal 3:11; Heb 10:38)!  God gave us His “exceeding great and precious promises” so we could partake “of the divine nature,” because we have already, through believing those promises, “escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” (2 Pet 1:4).  God’s Word is creative!  He calls “those things which be not as though they were” (Rom 4:17).  He spoke a creative “word of truth” (James 1:18) and we were born into His family (1 Pet 1:23).  He said, “if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Cor 5:17).  Those words are the very Word of God; they are creative!  Believe them, and they will change your life.

The Apostle Paul addressed the question he knew some of his readers would have, that question being, “Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound” (Rom 6:1)?  His astonished answer came in the form of another question, “God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein” (Rom 6:2)?  Faith in God’s promises will not allow us to live careless lives of sin.  Faith causes us to see ourselves through the eyes of those promises.  When God reveals Truth to us His creative Word becomes our delivering sword (Eph 6:17).

John wasn’t writing his words; he was writing the very Word of God.  The Word he was writing was therefore, in its very nature, creative.  John was speaking, through the power of the quill, “You ‘have overcome them’” (current verse)!  That Word, received into the heart of the believer, creates!  They might have begun believing the heresy of the Gnostics, but no more!  God’s Word went forth!  God’s Word created!  God’s Word changed the lives of those who were reading it by faith!  God’s Word can do the same for you!

*because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world. *

Robertson teaches,

“The reason for the victory lies in God, who abides in them (1 John 3:20, 24; John 14:20; 15:4 f). God is greater than Satan, ‘he that is in the world’ ho (NT:3588) en (NT:1722) too (NT:3588) kosmoo (NT:2889), the prince of this world (John 12:31; 14:30), the god of this age (2 Cor 4:4), powerful as he seems.”

The creative Word of God is speaking into our lives this Truth, “greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.”  By the faith we live by (Rom 1:17) let’s allow that “engrafted word” (James 1:21) to become part of who we are.

Concerning “engrafted,” Robertson remarks in his notes on the above verse,

“This old verbal adjective (from [emfuoo] to implant, to grow in), only here in the New Testament, meaning properly ingrown, inborn, not [emfuteuton] (engrafted). It is ‘the rooted word’ (James 1:18), sown in the heart as the soil or garden of God (Matt 13:3-23; 15:13; 1 Cor 3:6).”

God speaks His creative Word into the soil of our hearts, and it begins to live in us.  God said that He is in us and that He is greater than anyone living in those who are “in the world.”  The seductive spirit of antichrist is at work in every cultic teacher throughout this world who is spreading heresy.  However, it has absolutely no power in comparison to the power of God, that power that Paul referred to when he wrote, “the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power” (Eph 1:19).

We have victory in Christ! God spoke it into being, just as surely as He said, “Let there be light: and there was light” (Gen 1:3).

(Verse Four of Chapter Four in my own words.)

But you are of God, my spiritual children, you who I’ve fathered in the faith, and you have overcome them in their attempts to lead you into error.  Why?  Because the One Who’s living in you is far greater then the one who is operating in the sphere of this world.

1 John 4:5

They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them.

* They are of the world: *

Concerning “of the world,” Vincent gives this explanation,

“‘Proceeding from,’ as their source ek (NT:1537). Different from ek (NT:1537) tees (NT:3588) gees (NT:1093) ‘from the earth’ (John 3:31), as marking the whole worldly economy morally considered.

John had just said to his readers, “Ye are of God” (1 John 4:4).  Now he speaks of the origin of the false prophets (1 John 4:1) when he says, “They are of the world” (current verse).  The Christian is in God, and God is in Him.  The false prophet is in the world, and the world is in him.  God’s children are different than the false prophets.  We have nothing in common with them.  We are God’s children; they are not!  They are of the world; we are not!

* therefore speak they of the world, *

Regarding “speak they of the world,” Vincent says this,

“An ambiguous rendering, which might readily be interpreted ‘they speak concerning the world.’ Literally it is: ‘they speak out of the world;’ i.e., the character of their utterances corresponds to their origin. Rev., ‘speak they as of the world.’ The position of the world in the sentence is emphatic: ‘it is out of the world that they speak.’”

We speak who we are.  Jesus said it’s “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh” (Matt 12:34).  The people we are inside will be revealed by the words coming out of our mouths.  I would assume that some of what these “false prophets” said sounded quite spiritual, but the engine that powered their spiritual thoughts was the system of this world.

The wisdom with which they taught produced “bitter envying and strife in” the “hearts” of the hearers (James 3:14).  James says, “This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish” (James 3:15).  The produce the farmer harvests is a direct result of the seed he planted.  You can’t plant corn and harvest wheat.  You can’t plant seeds “of the world” and harvest fruit that’s “of God.”  The words these false prophets were speaking were the seeds they were sowing; and they were seeds that were “of the world.”

* and the world heareth them. *

In reference to “the world,” Zondervan says,

“In v. 3 ‘world’ means the inhabited earth; in vv. 4-5 it means the community, or system, of those not born of God–including the antichrists.

Regarding “heareth them,” Robertson has these thoughts,

“their talk proceeds from the world and wins a ready hearing. The false prophets and the world are in perfect unison.”

John isn’t suggesting that every unbeliever believes everything every “false prophet” says.  There are false prophets who say that Buddha is God.  Many unbelievers discount their claims.  There are those false prophets who claim that Allah is God.  Many unbelievers discount their claims.  In the arena of so-called Christianity there is a false prophet who claimed that Jesus, in His physical body, spent some time in our western hemisphere, and this false prophet wrote “another testament.”  Many unbelievers discount his claims.  Not every unbeliever in John’s day believed what these particular “false prophets” were saying.  However, everyone who believed them, hook, line, and sinker, was of “the world.”  That’s John’s point.  False prophets, those who claim to be speaking with Divine authority, will always find a ready audience from within the system of this world.

There were among the ranks of the believers those who had begun to believe some of what these “false prophets” were teaching (see my notes on 1 John 4:1).  That’s not unusual.  Paul had to correct the error of legalism that was beginning to take root in the hearts of Christian Apostles (Gal 2:11-14).  Error can be enticing.  If Apostles can be temporarily enticed by error then where does that leave you and I?  But those who are truly “of God” (1 John 4:4) will never totally abandon the Truth of the Gospel for the error of heresy.  Why?  Because God Almighty is watching over the souls of all those who have named the Name of Jesus as the Savior!  It is He Who has authored our faith, and it is He Who will finish it (Heb 12:2).  It is He Who has “begun a good work in” us, and it is He Who “will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil 1:6).  It is He Who is in us and is greater “than he that is in the world,” and it is He Who will cause us to “overcome them” (1 John 4:4).  These promises are either true, or they’re not.  But “as for me and my house” (Josh 24:15), we have decided to “let God be true, but every man a liar” (Rom 3:4).

(Verse Five of Chapter Four in my own words.)

Those false prophets are a part of this world: that’s why the origin of everything they say is this world; and that’s why they find a ready audience in this world.

1 John 4:6

We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error.

* We are of God:  *

Zondervan says,

“The ‘we’ includes all the faithful but has particular reference to the true teachers.”

Concerning “we,” UBS tells us,

“We may be interpreted as inclusive, referring to John and the congregation he is addressing, or exclusive, referring to the eyewitnesses of the word (compare 1 John 1:1-4). The former is preferable.”

I disagree with both.  The “we” of this verse isn’t referring to “all the faithful,” as Zondervan says, or “the congregation,” as UBS says.  Zondervan is too weak in his reference to “true teachers,” being referred to in particular.  UBS is correct in it’s mention of the “we” referring to “the eyewitnesses of the word,” but then claims that the “inclusive” is preferable.

The Geneva Notes say,

“He testifies to them that his doctrine and the doctrine of his companions, is the assured word of God.”

Adam Clarke has it,

“We, apostles, have the Spirit of God, and speak and teach by that Spirit.”

John Wesley comments,

“We – Apostles. Are of God – Immediately taught, and sent by him.”

I agree with the above three Commentators.  The “we” of this verse is speaking exclusively of those men who God commissioned, sent, enabled, and spoke through in the giving of the New Testament to you and I.

There are four groups of individuals that the Apostle concerns himself with in this Epistle.  Number one: there’s the group of eyewitnesses (1 John 1:1-4), the Apostles and Prophets, those called of God to speak for God, and to give to us the sure Word of God; number two: there’s the “false prophets” (1 John 4:1), those who claim to speak for God, but don’t; number three: there’s those who believe the teachings of “false prophets” (1 John 4:5); and number four: there’s those who believe the teachings of the “we” of our current verse, the Apostles and Prophets.

Because of the claims that John is about to make in the remainder of this verse it is my opinion that it’s exceedingly dangerous to have the “we” in question refer to every true teacher of the Word [Zondervan], and it’s even more dangerous to have it refer to all true believers [UBS].

* he that knoweth God heareth us; *

Why was John insisting that everyone who knew God would listen to what he said?  Was this some form of monumental arrogance?  Not at all, because he knew that the words he spoke, and the words he wrote were the very Word of God.  These weren’t his words he was defending; they were God’s Word!

Jesus said, “Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice” (John 18:37).  He also said, “He that is of God heareth God’s words” (John 8:47), and, “My sheep hear my voice” (John 10:27).

It’s God’s Word that we must hear!  John was commissioned by God to speak for God, so that we could have God’s Word to follow.  The Apostles knew this.  They knew their words were more than an opinion.  Peter called Paul’s writings Scripture (2 Pet 3:15-16).  Paul said that if even an angel from Heaven were to challenge the Gospel he preached, then that angel should be cursed forever (Gal 1:8).  John said that you could determine what absolute Truth is by comparing it to what he said (current verse).  In other words, what Paul said is Scripture, the very Word of God.  Even a Heavenly angel, as opposed from a fallen one, would live under the curse of God if it were to challenge the Truth of Paul’s teaching.  All teachers who taught what was contradictory to what John taught were “not of God” (current verse).  They knew exactly what their calling was; they were called to write and say the very Word of God, the Word by which all believers throughout the Church age would adhere to as the Truth of God.  This was the Word by which all doctrines taught in the name of religion were to be judged by!

This phrase is proof that the “we” of this verse isn’t referring to the congregation.  If the believers were included in the “we,” then whom are the ones left to do the hearing?

* he that is not of God heareth not us. *

Concerning “is not of God,” John Gill writes,

“who is not born of God, but is as he was when born into the world, and is of it: and who does not righteousness, nor loves his brother, nor confesses the divinity, humanity, and offices of Christ, and so is not on the side of truth, nor has the truth of grace in him; see 1 John 3:10; such a man.”

Every individual who is not a true believer fits into the category of those who are “not of God.”  Who are they?  How can we tell for certain?  In most cases it is quite evident.  They’re the one’s who are openly believing the “false prophets” (1 John 4:1, 5).  False prophets are all those who are openly teaching things contrary to what the Apostles taught, and teaching those things with supposed Divine authority.  Sometimes the divine authority they’re claiming isn’t the authority of the God of the Bible.  They might be claiming the authority of Buddha, of Allah, or the authority of a science that they believe excludes God, or any other philosophy that they teach as absolute truth.  John is telling us that people who buy into any system of belief that opposes the Gospel that the writers of the New Testament proclaimed are “not of God,” and these people will not hear the Truth of the Scriptures.

I believe this phrase is proof that the “we” of this verse isn’t referring to all good teachers.  If it refers to good teachers then are the Baptists to be judged false because they disagree with the Calvinists?  Should we completely ignore the Nazarenes because they disagree with the Assemblies of God?  We’ll discuss this further when we examine the next phrase of this verse.

* Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error. *

Albert Barnes teaches,

“Whatever pretensions they might set up for piety, it was clear that if they did not embrace the doctrines taught by the true apostles of God, they could not be regarded as his friends; that is, as true Christians.”

The Geneva Notes, quoted above, go on to say that it

“is the assured word of God” by “which of necessity we have boldly to set against all the mouths of the whole world, and thereby discern the truth from falsehood.”

I must not judge the Baptists, or the Nazarenes, or the Reformed Church because they disagree with me on some point of doctrine.  My understanding of the Scriptures is not the test of the genuineness of other believers; the Scriptures themselves are.  The Baptists and the Calvinists study the same Scriptures, with the same prayerful sincerity, and come away with some different ideas on some issues.  Yet both groups are “of God.”  Why?  Because both groups cling to the infallibility of the Scriptures, and to the Truths about Who Jesus is, about God, about the virgin birth, about the death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Christ, about the fallen state of humanity as a result of sin, about the vicarious life and death of Christ, and about Jesus being the only way to Heaven.  It’s the Scriptures that John, Paul, Peter, James, and others, wrote that they rely on as absolute Truth, not their understanding of it.  When considering rather another group is teaching the Truth they compare that group’s teaching to Scripture, not to their official church doctrine.

Truth and error is discerned by the teachings of Scripture, not by the words of this commentary.  That’s the standard that John is imposing on all who would teach, and on all who would follow.

(Verse Six of Chapter Four in my own words.)

We (who have been called of God to write Scripture) are of God.  Everyone that truly knows God (has come to know Him as a result of the fact that he) hears us.  Those individuals who are not truly of God will not hear us.  This is the way that we can determine the spirit of truth and the spirit of error (by examining what has been said by what the Scriptures say).

1 John 4:7

Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.

* Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; *

John has been telling us throughout this Epistle that we should walk in Love one toward the other (1 John 2:7-11; 3:10-18, 23).  Not only has he told us this directly, but also he first told us to walk in the light (1 John 1:5-7), and then defined walking in the light as walking in Love (1 John 2:10); and then he first told us to walk in righteousness (1 John 2:29-3:1-9), and then defined walking in righteousness as walking in Love (1 John 3:10).  Now, in our current verse, he returns again to the subject of our walking in Love.

He has already given us two compelling reasons to Love one another.  First, when we Love our brother we are living in the light; we can see where we’re going (1 John 2:10).  Second, Jesus Loved us so much that “he laid down his life for us,” and that’s the example we’re to follow as His children (1 John 3:16).  Now he gives us another compelling reason for Christians to Love one another; “love is of God” (current verse).

Concerning “for love is of God,” UBS says,

“The clause serves to express that God is the origin or ultimate cause of all feelings and deeds of love, compare ‘to be of’ in 1 John 2:16. Some possible renderings are, ‘love comes from God’ (TEV), or, where a verb form of ‘to love’ must be used, ‘if we love, it is God who causes us to do so,’ compare also, ‘it is because of God that we become like ones-who-love,’ as one American Indian language has.”

Robertson tells us,

“Even human love comes from God, ‘a reflection of something in the Divine nature itself’ (Brooke).”

Zondervan shares this thought,

“It is evidence of our being ‘born of God’ that is as important as righteous behavior is (2:29). It is not a virtue innate in us nor is it learned behavior. It is ‘from God.’ He is the originator–the giver of love.”

Man was created in the image of God.  Sin marred that image.  However, any time any person loves another it is the image of God, however marred it might be, shining through fallen man.  The origin of all Love is God.  All Love is from God.  We should Love one another because it is Godly in nature to do so.

NOTE: If all Love comes from God then anything contrary to God IS NOT LOVE!  If someone says, “I can’t help myself.  I know I’m married, but I’ve fallen in love with another woman,” that man is confused.  It can’t be Love because Love is from God.  God doesn’t tempt “any man” (James 1:13), but “man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed” (James 1:14).  What the above man thought was love God says is lust.  What feels like love, but is contrary to God, is lust.

* and every one that loveth is born of God, *

Robertson remarks,

“Persistence in loving (present tense agapoomen (NT:25) indicative and agapoon (NT:25) participle) is proof that one ‘has been begotten of God’ ek (NT:1537) tou (NT:3588) Theou (NT:2316) gegenneetai (NT:1080) as in 1 John 2:29) and is acquainted with God. Otherwise mere claim to loving God accompanied by hating one’s brother is a lie (1 John 2:9-11).”

We know that the test for the genuineness of our faith is Love.  Christian Love is the proof positive to “all men” that we are genuine followers of Christ (John 13:34-35), and it’s the proof positive to our own conscience (1 John 3:14).  However, are we to conclude from this verse that anyone who genuinely loves anyone else is “born of God”?

If we want to know what a verse is talking about, then let’s see what it’s talking about.  In other words, before we draw any conclusions let’s determine what the subject at hand is.  John is teaching throughout this Epistle how to determine the genuine from the artificial.  How do we identify the genuine apostle from the counterfeit?  How do we identify the genuine believer from the counterfeit?  Genuine apostles/prophets teach that “Jesus is the Christ” (1 John 2:22), that He “is come in the flesh” (1 John 4:2), that we should live right (1 John 2:29; 3:7), and that we should Love one another (1 John 3:10).  Counterfeit ones don’t.  Genuine Christians purify themselves, “even as he is pure” (1 John 3:3), causing them to forsake a lifestyle of sin (1 John 3:9), and they have faith in Christ and Love for others (1 John 3:23).  Counterfeit ones don’t.

John isn’t drawing comparisons between churchgoers and non-churchgoers.  His comparisons are between the genuine and the artificial among those who are a part of the church.  How do you tell who’s genuinely “born of God” among the church crowd.  John is telling his readers that their being religious isn’t proof that they’re genuine.  Their Love for their brother demonstrates the genuineness of their salvation.

We are saved “through faith” (Eph 2:8), we live “by faith” (Rom 1:17), and we overcome by faith (1 John 5:4).  Faith is the evidence of our salvation (Heb 11:1), and Love tests the genuineness of that faith (John 13:34-35; 1 John 3:14).  A mother loving her child is not evidence that she’s “born of God.”  However, she can only love that child as a result of the fact that she was created in the image of God, and in spite of sin marring that image, that image continues to be seen in the love she has for her child; that love being “of God.”

To truly be “born of God” we must “open the door” of our heart so He can “come in” (Rev 3:20).  We do this by believing “on him” (John 3:16; Rom 10:9), receiving Him into our lives (John 1:12), and confessing Him as our Savior (Rom 10:10).  Once we’ve done this we begin our walk as believers.  We are now in this group that John is writing about.  As believers we now have the genuineness of our faith tested by the Love we have for one another.

NOTE: We can choose to read this verse with an attitude of unbelief, and decide that there are those we don’t Love, and therefore we are not “born of God.”  Or, we can choose to read this verse with an attitude of faith, and conclude we are “born of God” because we have opened the doors of our hearts to him by believing in Him, receiving Him into our lives, and confessing Him as our Savior, and therefore we do Love our brothers.  Faith causes us to align ourselves with the Word.  It isn’t, “I don’t Love, and therefore I’m not a Christian.”  It is, “I am a Christian, and therefore I Love!”

* and knoweth God. *

JFB comments,

“spiritually, experimentally, and habitually.”

Regarding “knoweth,” Thayer gives us these meanings,

“to learn to know, come to know, get a knowledge of perceive, feel; to know, understand, perceive, have knowledge of; to become acquainted with, to know.”

Everyone who is born into the family of God through his faith in the Lord Jesus, and “loveth” his brother has come to an experiential knowledge of God.  Love is “of God,” and therefore when we walk in Love we are experiencing Who God is.  Knowing Love is knowing God!

(Verse Seven of Chapter Four in my own words.)

You who I love, let’s love each other.  Love springs forth from God, and everyone who (has placed his faith in Christ and) walks in love is truly born of God; and he has come to know God by experiencing Him.

1 John 4:8

He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.

* He that loveth not knoweth not God; *

Concerning “knoweth not,” JFB comments,

“Greek aorist: not only knoweth not now, but never knew, has not once for all known God.”

In the previous verse John had said that, “every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God” (1 John 4:7).  In other words, the Christian who is consistently walking in Love knows God experientially.  Now, in our current verse, he states the opposite, which should be obvious because of his previous statement.  That is, if we’re not walking in Love then we don’t know God.

* for God is love. *

UBS tells us,

“The proposition ‘God loves us’ might stand alongside such statements as, ‘God creates,’ ‘God rules,’ ‘God judges.’ Accordingly, ‘God is love’ does not mean to say that love is one of God’s activities, but that all His activity is loving activity. Whether he creates, or rules, or judges, he does so in love. All that he does is the expression of his nature which is-to love. The Greek construction cannot be followed in several languages because a corresponding verbal noun simply does not exist in the language, or, if existing, cannot be thus construed, or, if thus construed, would not express the same meaning. Therefore, translators have tried to express the force of this construction otherwise, for example, ‘God’s character is to habitually-love,’ ‘all God’s deeds are loving deeds,’ ‘God is one who continually and really loves,’ ‘God has-as-quality love.’”

Zondervan agrees,

“Love here is not to be understood as one of God’s many activities; rather, every activity of his is loving activity. Since this is true of God, our failure to love can only mean that we have no true knowledge of God, we have not really been born of him, and we do not have his nature.”

Vincent makes these comments,

“See on God is light (1 John 1:5), and the truth (1 John 1:6); also God is spirit (John 4:24). Spirit and light are expressions of God’s essential nature. Love is the expression of His personality corresponding to His nature.”

God is Love!  We were created in His image (Gen 1:27).  Before sin there was only Love.  In perfect Love there is no sin.  Everything Paul describes this Love to be (1 Cor 13:4-8), this Love that God is, Adam and Eve were.  They were patient and kind.  They weren’t envious, boastful, or proud (1 Cor 13:4 – NIV).  They weren’t rude or self-seeking.  They didn’t anger easily, and they kept no record of the other’s wrongs (1 Cor 13:5 – NIV).  They didn’t delight in evil, but rejoiced in the Truth (1 Cor 13:6 – NIV).  They were always protective, trusting, hopeful, and their Love for the other always persevered (1 Cor 13:7 – NIV).  Their Love never failed [“Love survives everything.” – Robertson] (1 Cor 13:8 – NIV).  Then there was sin!  The image of God in man was marred (Rom 3:23).  Love was tainted.  Love for self overshadowed Love for others.

When we see Him “we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2).  We’ll once again “be conformed to the image of his Son” (Rom 8:29).  After sin there will be only Love.  Everything Paul describes this Love to be, this Love that God is, we will be.  Our lives will be “hid with Christ in God” (Col 3:3), hid with Christ in Love.  Love will consume us.  We will be lost in Love!  Our very nature will be that of Love.

When we see Him we shall “know even as also” we are “known” (1 Cor 13:12).  We shall know God perfectly.  We shall know Love perfectly.  Currently, we are “changed into the same image” that we behold “as in a glass,” “with ever-increasing glory” [NIV], “even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Cor 3:18).  Unfortunately, “now we see through a glass, darkly,” but thank God, “then face to face” (1 Cor 13:12).  We grow in His Love “with ever-increasing glory” as we come to know Him better.  The more we come to know Him, the more we walk in Love.  If we don’t walk in Love at all, we don’t know Him at all.

God is Love!  We will Love one another in direct proportion to how much our “life is hid with Christ in God” (Col 3:3).

God is Love!  We will Love one another in direct proportion to how much we behold Him “as in a glass,” as “we see through” that “glass, darkly” (1 Cor 13:12); or, in direct proportion to how clearly we see Who He is.

God is Love!  We will Love one another in direct proportion to how much we bear His image (Rom 8:29).

Sin has marred the image of God in us, meaning that we’ve fallen short of the glory of God, the Who God is; we’ve fallen short of Love.  That “sin which is in” our “members” (Rom 7:23) prevents us from walking in the perfection of Love.  However, we can choose to walk in His Love.  As surely as we’re not perfect, we’ll not walk in His Love perfectly.  But Love can be the choice of our lives.  When we choose to walk in Love we do so because we’ve come to know God, Who is Love.  When we choose not to walk in Love we do so because we don’t know God, and therefore can’t know Love.

(Verse Eight of Chapter Four in my own words.)

On the other hand, those who do not love do not know God!  (They can’t possibly know God if they don’t love others) because God is love!

1 John 4:9

In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.

* In this was manifested the love of God toward us, *

In regards to “the love of God,” UBS tells us,

“For the construction love of God see 1 John 2:5. In the present verse God is to be taken as the agent of loving. At the same time he is the implied agent of was made manifest. Accordingly, one may have to shift to such renderings as, ‘the love God has was made manifest among us,’ ‘God showed us that he loves.’”

Concerning “manifested,” Thayer gives this definition,

“to make manifest or visible or known what has been hidden or unknown, to manifest, whether by words, or deeds, or in any other way.”

Strong’s Concordance explains it this way,

“to render apparent (literally or figuratively).”

John had written earlier that there would be another appearing, another manifestation [the Greek word for shall appear and manifested is the same], of the Lord Jesus one day (1 John 2:28; 3:2).  But when referring to His first appearance he has already stated that Jesus, the “Word of life” (1 John 1:1) “was manifested” (1 John 1:2), and told us that His first manifestation was “to take away our sins” (1 John 3:5) and to “destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8).  Now, in our current verse, he tells us of another purpose for this first manifestation of the Lord Jesus; it was to “render apparent” [Strong’s definition] God’s Love for us.

Thayer tells us that one meaning of this Greek word, “phaneroo,” here translated manifested, is to make “known what has been hidden or unknown.”  Certainly there was a feeling among the Jews, before the cross, that God Loved them.  After all, they were God’s unique people.  However, while living under the Law of Moses I’m sure that feeling of being Loved by God grew weak with failure, and strong when performing well.  Then, at the cross of Calvary, God rendered apparent His radical Love for us.  He made known what had been previously unknown.  His Love for us knew no bounds!  It became clear at the cross.  It was there that He “commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8).  How amazingly clear it became.  He Loves us because He is Love (1 John 4:8), not because we are lovable.

* because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, *

Regarding “sent,” Vincent comments,

“John describes the incarnation as ‘a sending,’ more frequently than in any other way. Apostelloo (NT:649) is ‘to send under commission, as an envoy.’ The perfect tense, ‘hath sent,’ points to the abiding results of the sending.”

JFB points out the following regarding this phrase,

“a proof against Socinians, that the Son existed before He was ‘sent into the world.’”

Concerning “only begotten,” Thayer gives this definition,

“single of its kind, only; used of only sons or daughters (viewed in relation to their parents); used of Christ, denotes the only begotten son of God.”

Regarding the Greek word, “monogenes,” here translated “only begotten,” UBS says,

“It is used with reference to the unique relationship existing between God and Jesus, and serves to stress that God could reveal his love for man only through Jesus.”

UBS goes on to comment,

“the Greek has here a compound word formed by the components ‘only/alone’ and ‘race/stock/class/kind,’ and meaning, ‘the only one of its class/kind.’ Used in connection with ‘son’ or ‘child,’ the word says that there are no other sons or children.”

In the entirety of the universe there was only One Who had such a relationship with the Father.  Only the Lord Jesus was counted as His Son.  As JFB points out in the above quote, Jesus was God’s “only begotten Son” when He was sent “into the world.”  The relationship of Father to Son, and Son to Father, already existed before the virgin birth, before the incarnation.

God gave the ONLY Son of this nature that He has.  Since the cross we believers have become His sons and daughters.  He now has many children, but none of us have that unique relationship that exists, and has existed forever, between Jehovah God, and His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.  This was the Son that God gave.  As UBS states above, “God could reveal his love for man only through Jesus.” Only in the giving of this Son would His radical Love for us be absolutely, undeniably rendered apparent!

Jesus was sent “into the world” (current verse) to “destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8), and to “to take away our sins” (1 John 3:5).  This was accomplished when “he laid down his life for us” (1 John 3:16).  His coming “into the world” was the most important step in fulfilling the eternal purpose His Father for our lives, which is to conform us “to the image of his Son” (Rom 8:29).

Man had been separated from God as a result of sin (Isa 59:1-2).  We were His enemies (Rom 5:10).  Jesus wasn’t sent “into the world” to negotiate a peace treaty with us.  He was sent to rescue us!  He could only accomplish this task by the giving of His life for us.

God could have expressed His Love for us in other ways.  He could have given all of us perfect health!  Unbelievable wealth!  Unfathomable happiness!  He could have sent Jesus as a genie in a lamp and given every one of us three wishes!  He could have given us world peace!  But none of those things would have given us the proof positive of His Love for us that the sending His only Son to die for us did!

John, who like all the other Apostles, was persecuted often.  Tradition tells us he was boiled in oil, but didn’t die.  He was banished to the isle of Patmos to die a lonely old man.  There on Patmos where was his mansion?  Where was his large bank account?  Where was his chauffeured driven limousine?  Didn’t he possess enough faith for these things?  Why wasn’t this Epistle filled with bitter diatribes?  John wrote that he perceived “the love of God, because he laid down his life for us” (1 John 3:16).  To him it was a settled issue.  God Loved Him!  It didn’t matter what this world threw his way; God, in the person of Jesus, had died for him!  God’s Love for him had been rendered apparent, never to be doubted again.

* that we might live through him. *

Gill teaches that the ones He came to rescue were those,

“who were dead in Adam, dead in sin, and dead in law, and could not quicken themselves; nor obtain eternal life for themselves, by their performances. Christ came, being sent, that they might have life, and that more abundantly than Adam had in innocence, or man lost by the fall.”

John, like you and I, might have thought that he understood life.  As a young man he’d been around for a while.  He had experienced certain things.  I’m sure there were times that he felt he knew all about life.  THEN LIFE APPEARED!!  Life was manifested (1 John 1:2)!  It was rendered apparent!  He heard Life, saw Life with his own eyes, gazed upon Life, and handled Life with his own hands (1 John 1:1)!  This changed everything!  When he looked Life in the face he realized that he hadn’t known anything about Life previously.  And this Life that was rendered apparent was eternal in its very nature.  Death, all that which is outside of this Life, is temporary.  Life is eternal!  This Life that was manifested was without end.  There was nothing in this world that could extinguish this Life, though this world would try.  Life triumphed over death!

John, like Paul, came to realize that he had been living outside the realm of Life because we, as Paul put it, “were dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph 2:1). His very existence, like that of our own, was in the realm of death, not life.  In its very nature it was temporary (2 Cor 4:18).  Suddenly the eternal was rendered apparent!  John heard it!  He saw it!  He gazed upon it!  He handled it!  He wanted it!

In our current verse he tells his readers that the very reason God “sent his only begotten Son into the world” was so we could experience this Life.  It was so He could quicken “us together with Christ” (Eph 2:5).  In “Christ, who is our life,” (Col 3:4) we “live through him” (current verse). John is writing this Epistle to inform his readers “that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son” (1 John 5:11), and so that we might know that we “have eternal life” (1 John 5:13).

(Verse Nine of Chapter Four in my own words.)

Here’s what God did to make it absolutely apparent to us all that He loves us: He sent His one and only begotten, His unique, Son into this world (to rescue us from death), so that we might exist in the reality of all that Life is through Him.

1 John 4:10

Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

* Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, *

Zondervan comments,

“The author now distinguishes agape love from any love claimed by the false teachers. It is not that ‘we loved God’ (3:17; 4:20), as his opponents claimed, but that ‘he loved us.’ Agape love can be given to God only when it has first been received from God. It exists only as response to his initial love for us.”

JFB explains it this way,

“The love was all on God’s side, none on ours.

Concerning “not that we loved God,” JFB says,

“though so altogether worthy of love.”

And regarding “he loved us,”  JFB offers this,

“though so altogether unworthy of love.”

God made his Love for us apparent by sending His only begotten Son, He Who is God, into this world (1 John 4:9).  We know He Loves us because, when in this world, He died for us (1 John 3:16).  But here’s the real message of Love: it isn’t about us Loving God; it’s about God Loving us (current verse).

God didn’t send His Son to die because He saw something in us that was worthy of such a sacrifice.  He sent His Son to die because He Who is Love (1 John 4:8) Loved us, in spite of us.  There wasn’t a righteous one among us (Rom 3:10).  We were dead in sin (Eph 2:1).  We were His enemies (Rom 5:8).  The message of the Gospel isn’t that we must Love God.  It’s that God Loves us!  When we understand that message we will find ourselves Loving Him (1 John 4:19).

Again, our understanding this message impacts our Loving one another.  Jesus said we’re to Love one another the way He Loves us (John 13:34-35).  I can’t Love you the way God wants me to unless I understand that I am Loved by Him.  John says that we Love God because He first Loved us (1 John 4:19).  I can’t Love God the way He desires that I do unless I understand that I am Loved by Him.  Loving God and Loving one another are the two greatest commandments (Matt 22:37-40) God has given us, but I can’t keep either one of those commandments unless I understand that I am Loved by Him.

Paul wrote to the Galatian believers that the reason the Judaizers wanted to convince them to be circumcised was so that they could “glory in your flesh” (Gal 6:13).  Then he wrote, “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Gal 6:14).  In Paul’s mind it wasn’t about anything we have done, but rather it was about what God has done for us.  That’s John’s point here.  We did nothing to deserve His Love, but He Loves us anyway.

Paul understood this and committed his life to following the One Who Loved him so much.  John understood this and committed his life to following Him as well.  It starts here.  He Loves me!  His Love for me has nothing to do with any merit on my part.  It has to do with His very nature.  I must understand this.  I am Loved!  You are Loved!  May God grant us “the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: The eyes of” our “understanding being enlightened” (Eph 1:17-18).  Lord, please reveal to me Your Love for me.  I pray in Jesus’ Name.  Amen!

* and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. *

Concerning “propitiation,” Vincent gives us this meaning in his notes on 1 John 2:2,

“From hilaskomai (NT:2433) ‘to appease, to conciliate to oneself,’ which occurs Luke 18:13; Heb 2:17. The noun means originally ‘an appeasing or propitiating,’ and passes, through Alexandrine usage, into the sense of ‘the means of appeasing,’ as here.”

JFB, in his notes on 1 John 2:2, says this,

“He is Himself ‘the propitiation’; abstract, as in 1 Cor 1:30: He is to us all that is needed for propitiation ‘in behalf of our sins’; the propitiatory sacrifice, provided by the Father’s love, removing the estrangement, and appeasing the righteous wrath, on God’s part, against the sinner.”

In the previous verse (1 John 4:9) John said that God made His Love for us apparent by sending “his only begotten Son into the world.”  Now, in our current verse, he explains why God “sent his Son.”  It was absolutely necessary that Jesus came “to be the propitiation for our sins.”  We couldn’t “live through him” (previous verse) until our sins were forgiven, because sin always produces death.  The “righteous wrath” of God “against the sinner” [JFB’s notes above] had to be appeased.  This could only be done through the vicarious death of the Lord Jesus on our behalf.  He became “sin for us,” He “who knew no sin.”  As a result we were “made the righteousness of God in him” (2 Cor 5:21).  As a consequence of His laying “down his life for us” (1 John 3:16) those “whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified” (Rom 8:30).  God, acting in His office as Judge, has declared us righteous in the Court of Heaven.  As a result of His amazing grace we are now in the position of being legally “right with God.”

In other words, our sins have been forgiven and no longer separate us from God (Isa 59:2).  More than forgiven, we have now become His children (1 John 3:2).  We will one day enjoy everything God has prepared for us as a direct result of Jesus becoming “the propitiation for our sins.”

(Verse Ten of Chapter Four in my own words.)

And this is what love is: it isn’t about our loving God, but it’s all about God loving us.  (He loves us so much that) He sent His Son to become that sacrifice that would satisfy the justice of God, enabling Him to forgive our sins.

1 John 4:11

Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.

* Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. *

Concerning “if,” UBS shares,

“‘If’ has factual force here. It may be rendered by, ‘because,’ ‘since,’ ‘as it is a fact that.’”

Matthew Henry comments on this verse,

“The objects of the divine love should be the objects of ours. Shall we refuse to love those whom the eternal God hath loved? — The general love of God to the world should induce a universal love among mankind. — The peculiar love of God to the church and to the saints should be productive of a peculiar love there —.”

JFB tells us,

“God’s love to us is the grand motive for our love to one another (1 John 3:16).”

John had written earlier in this Epistle, “He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked” (1 John 2:6).  He had also written, “If ye know that he is righteous, ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is born of him” (1 John 2:29).  Also, “because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 John 3:16).

THE PREMISE THEN IS: We should walk like He walked; therefore:

1) We should live a righteous life because He did.

2) We should be willing to die for others because He did.

3) We should Love one another because He Loved us.

Regarding “ought,” Vincent says in his notes on 1 John 2:6,

ofeilei (NT:3784). An obligation, put as a ‘debt.’ See Luke 17:10, and on ‘debts,’ Matt 6:12. The word expresses a special, personal obligation, and not as dei (NT:1163) ‘must,’ an obligation in the nature of things. See John 20:9, and compare 1 John 3:16; 4:11; 3 John 8.”

Thayer gives “ought” this definition,

“to owe money, be in debt for; that which is due, the debt; metaphorically the goodwill due.”

The great things that God has done for us, in this case His willingness to send His Son into this world to give us life (1 John 4:9), which was necessitated by His Love for us, have indebted us, in the sense that we now have an obligation to treat others the way God has treated us.  First, we’re recipients; then we’re to become dispensers.  We receive His Love; then we’re to dispense His Love.  We receive His mercy; then we’re to dispense His mercy.  We receive His grace; then we’re to dispense His grace.  We receive His provision; then we’re to minister to the needs of others.  Simply, we’re “to walk, even as he walked” (1 John 2:6).

In our current verse John says that we are “to love one another” the way “God so loved us.”  That’s what the Lord Jesus taught on the night He was betrayed.  “A new commandment I give unto you,” He said, and then continued, “That ye love one another; as I have loved you” (John 13:34).  Again, we’re to Love others the way He Loves us.  Consequently, “because he laid down his life for us:” then “we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 John 3:16).  God Loved us when we were His enemies (Rom 5:8-10), so we should Love our enemies (Matt 5:44; Luke 6:27).

When it comes to His Father Jesus is “the express image of his person” (Heb 1:3); consequently, He only did those things He saw His Father do (John 5:19).  God, according to His eternal purpose for our lives, is conforming us “to the image of his Son” (Rom 8:29); consequently, we’re to do those things we’ve seen, through the pages of His Word, Him do.  He Loved; we love!  He gave; we give!

Also, it’s absolutely imperative that we understand the Love God has for us.  I’ll have more to say on this subject in my notes on a later verse (1 John 4:16).

(Verse Eleven of Chapter Four in my own words.)

You who I love, if God loved us this way then we owe it to one another to love each other the same way.

1 John 4:12

No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.

* No man hath seen God at any time. *

Concerning John’s comments here UBS remarks,

“He is convinced that man in this present age cannot see God face to face, although, through Jesus Christ, he can know how God is.”

Zondervan tells us the following,

“Here most commentators see a reference to the false teachers who may have claimed ‘visions’ of God–visions through which their own knowledge was mediated to them. John’s response is the blanket rejection: ‘No one has ever seen God.’”

Albert Barnes has these comments,

“The idea is, ‘He has never indeed been seen by mortal eyes. We are not, then, to expect to become acquainted with what he is in that way. But there is a method by which we may be assured that we have a true knowledge of him, and that is, by evidence that we love another, and by the presence of his Spirit in our hearts. We cannot become acquainted with him by sight, but we may by love.’”

God, in His eternal aspect, is unseeable my man.  He fills the universe and dwells in our hearts by faith.  Yet, His seeable existence is outside of these three dimensions of space and one dimension of time.  He lives beyond, and we must become like Him, in the afterlife, in order to see Him.  When we become like Him, when we enter His dimensional realm of existence, “we shall see him as He is” (1 John 3:2).  Until then, “the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him” unto us (John 1:18).  Until then, He Who is “the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person” (Heb 1:3) said, “he that hath seen me hath seen the Father” (John 14:9).  We see God in the person of His Son, but only in human form, and not in the fullness of His essence.  The “fulness of the Godhead” was present in Christ, but only “bodily” (Col 2:9).  Man was incapable of seeing anything else, and would have died if he had been able (Exo 33:20).

We believers have come to know Jesus, and consequently, “see” God in Him, to the full extent we, in human form can “see” God.  But how will the unbelievers, those who don’t know Jesus, see God?  John is going to tell us.

* If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, *

Concerning “If we love one another,” Robertson mentions,

“Third-class condition with ean and the present active subjunctive, ‘if we keep on loving one another.’”

Wycliffe sees it this verse this way,

“ The connection between this thought and the context seems to be this: Since no one has seen God ever, the only way he who is love can be seen is by his children’s loving one another and thus showing the family likeness.”

The call of John to the Church in this Epistle is that “we love one another” (1 John 2:7-11; 3:10-19, 23; 4:7-5:3).  The source and strength of our Love for one another is God’s Love for us (1 John 3:1-2, 16; 4:7-5:3).  When we Love one another the way God Loves us (John 13:34; 1 John 3:16-18; 4:11) it’s a result of God dwelling in us (current verse).  We can’t Love the way God Loves unless that Love “is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us” (Rom 5:5).  The God-kind of Love is only present when the Holy Spirit is living in us!

* and his love is perfected in us. *

In regards to “his love,” Wycliffe says,

“His love could refer to his love for us or to our love for him (Plummer, p. 103) or to his nature (Westcott, p. 152; Wuest, p. 166). It is probably not his love for us. If it is our love for him, this is perfected (matured) as we love the brethren. If it is the love which is his nature, that is perfected (or accomplishes its full purpose) as believers love one another.”

Vincent believes it to be the latter,

“Not our love to Him, nor His love to us, but the love which is peculiarly His; which answers to His nature.”

On the other hand, UBS comments,

“ The possessive pronoun most likely refers to God as the one who loves.”

The eternal purpose of God for our lives is that we become “conformed to the image of his Son” (Rom 8:29), and “when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2).  In the mean time, until we become completely like Him, until we see Him as He is, for now “all of us, as with unveiled face, [because we] continued to behold [in the Word of God] as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are constantly being transfigured into His very own image in ever increasing splendor and from one degree of glory to another; [for this comes] from the Lord [Who is] the Spirit” (2 Cor 3:18) [AMP].

As we Love one another the way God Loves us we are walking in conformity “to the image of his Son.”  Our Loving one another is a result of are “being transfigured into His very own image in ever increasing splendor and from one degree of glory to another.”  The seed of His Love that has been “shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost” is growing to maturity.

Concerning “perfected,” Thayer gives this definition,

“brought to its end, finished; wanting nothing necessary to completeness.”

When we Love one another God’s Love is us lacks “nothing necessary to completeness,” its intended purpose being “finished.”  The Holy Spirit poured out the Love of God in our hearts for this very purpose, so we would Love one another the very way that God Loves us.

Zondervan makes a great point when he says,

“With this conclusion, we can begin to understand a little better John’s urgent concern for the ‘fellowship’ of the community of believers. It was not an optional ‘blessing’ or ‘fruit’ of belief that so deeply concerned him but the basic question of God’s presence and manifestation in the world through a community that has a love originating in him.”

I asked this question at the conclusion of my notes on the first section of this verse, “But how will the unbelievers, those who don’t know Jesus, see God?”  Christians Loving one another is the world’s only hope of seeing a genuine glimpse of Who God is.  It’s only when the character of God, which is Love, is seen in His people that the world can truly begin to “see” Who God is.

Love is Who God is (1 John 4:8)!  When we Love it’s a result of the Lord conforming us to the image of His Son.  Love then, is the image of God seen in us.  The Who God is becomes clearer to the unbeliever as he witnesses you and I Loving one another.  When we don’t Love one another we obscure the vision of the unbeliever so that he can’t “see” Who God is.

(Verse Twelve of Chapter Four in my own words.)

No human has ever seen God in His Divine essence.  However, when you and I love each other (the way that God loves us) it’s a direct result of God living in us.  (The Holy Spirit poured the love of God into our hearts when we were born again for this very purpose, and therefore) God’s love reaches its maturity in us when we love one another.

1 John 4:13

Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit.

* Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, *

UBS compares this verse with an earlier one,

“The verse is identical with 1 John 3:24 b with the exception of three minor points. (1) The process ‘to abide in’ is described here as reciprocal (we abide in him and he in us) but in 3:24 b as one-directional. The latter may nevertheless imply reciprocity, since it continues the reciprocal expression found in 3:24 a. (2) The verb ‘to give’ is in the perfect tense as against the aorist in the other verse. (3) The phrase because he has given us of his own Spirit corresponds with ‘by the Spirit which he has given us.’ These differences seem to be a matter of form rather than of contents.”

Here’s an undeniable fact: Christians dwell in God, and God dwells in Christians.  Jesus promised this would be the case (John 14:16-17, 26; 15:26; 16:7).  However, how do you and I know that we are truly Christians?  John wants us to know with certainty.  That’s why the Holy Spirit inspired him to write this Epistle (1 John 5:10-13).  He says, “These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life” (1 John 5:13).

* because he hath given us of his Spirit. *

Gill teaches,

This isn’t referring to “the essence and nature of the Spirit, which is the same with the nature of the Father and of the Son, and is incommunicable; —.”

JFB says,

“ONE Spirit dwells in the Church: each believer receives a measure ‘of’ that Spirit in the proportion God thinks fit. Love is His first-fruit (Gal 5:22). In Jesus alone the Spirit dwelt without measure (John 3:34).”

Barnes comments,

“He has imparted the influences of that Spirit to our souls, producing ‘love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,’ etc., Gal 5:22-23.”

See my notes on an earlier verse with a similar message (1 John 3:24).  In those notes I teach, “The Holy Spirit communicates to our spirit that we really are the children of God, and that God really does live in us.”  He does this through the medium of our faith in Christ, that faith being “the evidence of things not seen” (Heb 11:1), and our Love for one another.

In our current discussion John’s main emphasis is our Loving one another.  In John’s mind others can’t know our genuineness unless we Love one another (John 13:34-35), and we can’t have the assurance of our own genuineness unless we Love one another (1 John 3:14).  He points to the faith issue (1 John 3:23; 4:15; 5:11-13), reminding us that salvation is a result of our placing our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, but his primary point in our current verse is that the genuineness of that faith is seen in the Love we have for others.  God is Love!  The Holy Spirit is God!  When God sent His Spirit into our lives it was the Spirit of Who He is, Love.

(Verse Thirteen of Chapter Four in my own words.)

Now here’s how we know of a certainty that we live in Him, and He in us, because God, He Who is Love, has given us His Spirit, He Who is God, (and the Spirit He’s given us is the very Spirit of Who God is, Love).

1 John 4:14

And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world.

* And we have seen and do testify *

Concerning “we,” Zondervan comments,

“To whom does the ‘we’ refer in the statement ‘we have seen and testify’? It certainly refers to all those, especially the apostles, who had direct knowledge of Jesus’ earthly life; but it probably ought not to be limited to them. It is the Spirit working in them and in us who permits us to ‘see’ in the historic event of Jesus’ death God’s act for our salvation. Although ‘no one has ever seen God’ (v. 12) at any time, we do ‘see’ (GK G2517) by faith that the cross of Christ was for our sins and for our salvation.”

Barnes, however, claims,

“That is, we who are apostles bear witness to you of this great truth, that God has sent his Son to be a Saviour.”

The Geneva Bible Translation Notes, the People’s New Testament, Gill, Henry, JFB, and Robertson all agree with Barnes that “we,” in this verse, refers to those who were included in the “we” at the beginning of this Epistle (1 John 1:1-5).  I agree.  Certainly, as Zondervan points out, the Holy Spirit allows all of us to “see” Jesus in some sense.  However, I don’t believe that to be the point John is making here.  Rather, he’s restating that he and the others were eyewitnesses to the Incarnation.  They heard, seen with their eyes, looked upon, and their hands had handled the Word of Life (1 John 1:1).  They saw this Life manifested and were bearing witness of this Life that is eternal (1 John 1:2).  They were testifying about things they had personally seen and heard, wanting others to enter into the very fellowship they had with the Father and the Son (1 John 1:3).

* that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world. *

Concerning “Savior,” UBS says,

“The noun has the basic meaning ‘one who preserves (or delivers) from harm,’ such as danger, illness, death. Figuratively used it can indicate one who preserves or delivers from eternal death and its causes, or more positively stated, one who grants eternal life and the ensuing blessedness.”

Love “is of God” (1 John 4:7).  “God is love” (1 John 4:8).  This Love that God has for us was “manifested” when “God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him” (1 John 4:9).  He sent Him into this world “to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10), so He could save us from our sins.  No one has ever seen God in the full essence if Who He is (1 John 4:12), but John, and the other eyewitnesses, did see God manifested in the flesh in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, and they were testifying about the very things they saw (current verse).

The historical fact that God sent His Son into this world to be our Savior is the proof positive that He Loves us.  John knows that God did indeed send His Son into this world because He heard Him, saw Him with his own eyes, gazed upon Him, and physically touched Him with his own hands.  He wants us to realize this so that we, like him, as a result of his eyewitness account, can also marvel at the amazing Love that God has for each of us.

(Verse Fourteen of Chapter Four in my own words.)

And I, along with those other eyewitnesses (who heard Him, saw Him with their own eyes, gazed upon Him, and touched Him with their own hands), do solemnly testify that our Heavenly Father did indeed send His (only-begotten, unique) Son into this world, for the purpose of becoming the Savior for everyone in this world (who would place their trust in Him).

1 John 4:15

Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God.

* Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God. *

UBS tells us,

“Here and in 1 John 2:22-23; 4:2-3; 5:1, 5 the reference is to the identity of the historical man Jesus with Christ, the Son of God; see Introduction pp. 15 f.”

Zondervan teaches,

“John goes on to state that ‘anyone’ who ‘acknowledges’ (lit., ‘confesses’; GK G3933) God’s act in his Son is included in the divine fellowship in which the Father is in the believers and the believers in the Father. Initially John connected the fellowship with obedience to the command to love one another (3:24). Then he showed its dependence on the gift of the Spirit (4:13). Here he shows that the fellowship is built on Jesus, who must be acknowledged as being one with the Father (2:23), as the one who came in the flesh (4:2), and as the Son of God who was sent ‘to be the Savior of the world’ (4:14-15).”

Regarding “shall confess,” Robertson states,

“This confession of the deity of Jesus Christ implies surrender and obedience also, not mere lip service (cf. 1 Cor 12:3; Rom 10:6-12). This confession is proof (if genuine) of the fellowship with God (1 John 1:3; 3:24).”

Note Zondervan’s comments above.  1) We dwell in God and God dwells in us when we Love one another (1 John 3:24).  2) We know that we dwell in God, and God in us, because His Spirit lives in us (1 John 3:24; 4:13).  3) God dwells in us, and we in Him, as a result of our confessing that, “Jesus is the Son of God” (current verse).

Allow me to say it this way: 1) We Love one another because 2) God’s Spirit, the Spirit of Love, dwells in us.  His Spirit dwells in us because 3) we’ve confessed Jesus as our Savior.

This verse is a reminder that we come to know Jesus as our personal Savior by placing our faith in Him.  Loving one another doesn’t earn salvation.  Salvation, or eternal life, is a “gift of God” (Rom 6:23).  We can’t earn it; we can only receive it.  We do this by receiving the person Who made it possible, the Lord Jesus (John 1:12).  When we confess, or acknowledge, Who He is; the very Son of God (current verse), the Christ (1 John 2:22; 4:2-3), the Savior of the world (1 John 4:14); and invite Him into our lives (Rev 3:20) then we become His children (1 John 3:1).  The work of salvation is a result of grace on God’s part, and faith on our part (Eph 2:8-9).  We believe the “report” (Rom 10:16) of the Gospel, the Word of God that we hear (Rom 10:17), and saving faith results.

Again, Loving one another doesn’t earn salvation.  Rather, we receive the Lord Jesus by faith and salvation occurs.  When we are saved God’s Spirit moves inside of us (Rom 5:5) and Love for others is the result.

(Verse Fifteen of Chapter Four in my own words.)

Any individual who confesses that Jesus is the very Son of God (that confession being a confession of faith in Him) has God living in Him; and this individual is living in God (the very One Who is Life).

1 John 4:16

And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.

* And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. *

Concerning “to us,” Vincent says,

“Rev., in us. Compare God abideth in Him.”

Robertson sees it this way,

“Believers are the sphere (en hemin, in our case) in which the love of God operates (Westcott).”

Bible translators are divided as to rather this refers to God’s Love for us, or to God’s Love in us.  Many translators render it “in us” (for example: the Analytical-Literal Translation, the American Standard Version, the English Majority Text Version, the 1599 Geneva Bible, Green’s Literal Translation, the Modern King James Version, and the 1898 Young’s Literal Translation).  Many other translators translate it with the meaning of “for us” (for example: the Bible In Basic English, the Contemporary English Version, the 1899 Douay-Rheims Bible, the Good News Bible, the God’s Word Translation, the Hebrew Names Version, the International Standard Version, the World English Bible, the 1912 Weymouth New Testament, the New International Version, the New King James Version, the New American Standard Version, the New American Standard Version – Updated, the New Living Translation, the Living Bible, Today’s English Version, the Revised Standard Version, the New Revised Standard Version, and the Amplified Bible).

Thayer gives us this information, saying it’s

“a primary preposition denoting (fixed) position (in place, time or state), and (by implication) instrumentality (medially or constructively), i.e. a relation of rest (intermediate between 1519 and 1537); TDNT-2:537 , 233; prep.”

Thayer then gives us this definition,

“in, by, with etc.”

The Online Bible shows us these various ways this Greek word is translated,

“AV-in 1902, by 163, with 140, among 117, at 113, on 62, through 39, misc 265; 2801.”

As you can see, out of the 2801 times this Greek word is used in the New Testament it’s translated “in” 1902 times.  Yet, more modern translations of the Bible render it along the lines of “God’s love for us.”  So, which is accurate?  Is John writing that “we have known and believed the love that God has ‘for’ us,” or, “we have known and believed the love that God has ‘in’ us”?

The Message renders this phrase this way,

“We know it so well, we’ve embraced it heart and soul, this love that comes from God.”

God’s Love is in us (Rom 5:5)!  But, God also Loves us (John 3:16; Eph 2:4; 1 John 4:10, 19)!  I often say that if you want to know what he’s talking about, then see what he’s talking about.  In other words, study the proceeding verses to determine the point of reference from which the Apostle is writing.

John’s been teaching us three things about Love:

1) He’s been teaching us believers, up to this point of the Epistle, to Love one another (1 John 2:10; 3:11, 14, 17-18, 23; 4:7-8, 11-12).  Then, is that the point of this phrase that we are currently dealing with?

2) He’s also taught, up to this point of the Epistle, that God Loves us (1 John 3:16; 4:9-11).

3) He’s been teaching as well, up to this point of the Epistle, that the reason we’re to Love one another is because He Loves us (1 John 1:5-7; 2:6-11; 3:10-18, 23; 4:11).

Again, is John saying, “we have known and believed the love that God has ‘in’ us, so we are to love one another with that love”?  Or, is he saying, “we have known and believed the love that God has for us”?

Rather the correct rendering is “in us,” or “for us,” I’m personally convinced that John’s point here is that “we have known and believed the love that God has ‘for’ us.”  In other words, even if the correct rendering is “in us,” I believe the point would then be that we have come to know God Loves us because we sense that His Love that is inside of us is a Love for us.  Why?  Because that’s where it all starts!  John wants me to Love you, but he seems convinced that I can only Love you in direct proportion to how I perceive that God Loves me (John 13:34-35), and I can only Love God in that same direct proportion to how I perceive that God Loves me (1 John 4:19).  I must come to know and believe He Loves me if I hope to Love Him the way He Loves me.  And, I must come to know and believe He Loves me if I hope to Love others with that God-kind of Love that’s willing to give one’s self for others.

* God is love; *

John repeats what he said earlier (1 John 4:8). See my notes on that verse.

* and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. *

Zondervan makes these comments on this verse,

“The sequence of thought is this: First, we must know and rely on the fact that God loves us. Second, we come to realize through relying on his love (or having faith in his Son–the meaning is the same) that in his very nature God is love. Third, we discover that to live in God means to live in love. The fellowship we have with the Father and with the Son (1:3) is perceived as nothing other than a fellowship of love.”

UBS says,

“or ‘he who is-and-remains in love,’ ‘he who loves and goes on loving,’”

Regarding “dwelleth,” Thayer gives us this definition,

“1) to remain, abide; 1a) in reference to place; 1a1) to sojourn, tarry; 1a2) not to depart; 1a2a) to continue to be present; 1a2b) to be held, kept, continually.”

The laws of mathematics tell us that if a=b, and b=c, then a=c.  With that principle in mind, if God is Love, and we are living in God, then we are living in Love.  As you can see in Thayer’s definition: we remain in, not departing from, God.  God remains in, not departing from, us.  We remain in, not departing from, the Spirit of Love.

Christians are Loved; therefore they Love.  It’s unthinkable to John that one who claims to have faith in the Lord Jesus would think it acceptable to walk outside of the boundaries of Love.

Faith in the evidence that we are genuinely saved (Heb 11:1).  Love is the evidence of the genuineness of that faith (John 13:34-35; 1 John 3:14).  Loving others doesn’t save us, but it demonstrates the genuineness of the faith we have in Christ.  John will continue to expand on this thought in the following verses.

(Verse Sixteen of Chapter Four in my own words.)

And we Christians have come to know by experience, and have come to believe that God loves us (radically, fanatically, relentlessly, and continuously).  (After all) He is love!  Therefore, (the subsequential truth to the fact that He is love is) everyone that’s truly living in the sphere of love is living in God; and God is living in him.

1 John 4:17

Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world.

* Herein is our love made perfect, *

Concerning “perfect,” Thayer explains it this way,

“1) to make perfect, complete; 1a) to carry through completely, to accomplish, finish, bring to an end; 2) to complete (perfect); 2a) add what is yet wanting in order to render a thing full; 2b) to be found perfect; 3) to bring to the end (goal) proposed.”

Our Love is made perfect (current verse), enabling us to Love one another, when we fully know, and truly believe, that God Loves us (1 John 4:16).  Jesus told us to “love one another; as I have loved you” (John 13:34).  He then said that by “this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:35), and John said that we “know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren” (1 John 3:16).  My Loving you is the evidence of the genuineness of my faith in God, but I can only Love you in direct proportion to the understanding I have that He Loves me.  It’s absolutely necessary that we understand that God radically, fanatically, relentlessly, continuously Loves us.

With that in mind, allow me to put the above phrase in its context: We must Love one another because “love is of God” (1 John 4:7).  We don’t know God if we don’t Love one another because “God is love” (1 John 4:8).  He made it absolutely apparent that He Loves us when He sent His “only begotten Son” to rescue us from the death of sin (1 John 4:9).  This Love story is about God Loving us, in spite of us, and sending His Son to die for us (1 John 4:10).  If He Loves us this much then the logical conclusion is that we should Love each other (1 John 4:11).  The only way the world will “see” God, He Who is Love, is when they see His Love in us (1 John 4:12).  He has given us His Spirit (the Holy Spirit) to make this possible.  That Spirit is God, and God is Love (1 John 4:13).  We eyewitnesses testify that these things are true; God really did send His Son to save us (1 John 4:14).  And because of this, when we confess our faith in Christ we know we are saved (1 John 4:15).  Consequently, we have come to experientially know, and believe, that God, He Who is Love, Loves us; and if we’re truly living in God then we’re living in the sphere of His Love (1 John 4:16).  When we know that God absolutely Loves us, then we can walk in His Love towards one another, and His Love that is inside of us reaches its fullest potential (current verse).

We can do these things because the Holy Spirit has “shed abroad in our hearts” the very Love of God (Rom 5:5).  The very Love that constrained God, that moved Him to give His “only begotten Son,” is inside of us, in the person of the Holy Spirit.  This Love constrains us to Love one another.  When we yield to His Spirit we walk in the Spirit of His Love.  This is God’s purpose for the Church.  He wants to world to see Who He is by their witnessing His Love at work in the Church.  When we’re not Loving one another we’re not fulfilling His purpose for us, and the world sees a distorted image of Who God is.

* that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: *

What is it that gives us “boldness” to face God’s judgment?

Regarding parrhesia, the Greek word translated “boldness,” Vincent comments in his notes on John 7:13,

“The word may mean either without reserve (John 10:24; John 11:14), or without fear (John 11:54).”

Thayer gives these definitions,

“freedom in speaking, unreservedness in speech; free and fearless confidence, cheerful courage, boldness, assurance.”

John said earlier that if we “abide in him” we’ll have “confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming” (1 John 2:28).  The Greek word for “confidence” is that verse is the same as it is for “boldness” in our current verse.  The key, then, for having this “boldness” in the face of God’s judgment is the realization that we are abiding in Him.  How do we “abide in him”?  John had written in the previous verse, “God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him” (1 John 4:16).  The Greek word for “abide” (1 John 2:28) and “dwelleth” (1 John 4:16) is the same.  Consequently, when we Love one another we are abiding/dwelling in God, and when we’re abiding/dwelling in God we have confidence/boldness in the face of God’s judgment.  John told us the same thing when he wrote, “My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:18), and if we’ll do that we’ll “know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him” (1 John 3:19).  Again, we see that our walking in the Love of God towards one another gives us assurance [tranquilizes (Thayer) or quiets (Vincent) our hearts] before God.  The key, then, to having this “boldness/confidence” before God in the very face of His judgment is for you and I to Love one another.  In our current verse we discover that the key to our Loving one another is the perfecting of our Love, and we discovered that our Love is perfected when we come to know and believe that God Loves us (1 John 4:16).

When we know that we are Loved by God we become free to Love one another the very way that we are Loved by God.  When we walk in this Love we know that the character of God, He Who is Love, is being manifested in us.  We then have a two-fold confidence before God; we know that God Loves us, and we know our faith is genuine because it has stood the test of Love!

* because as he is, so are we in this world. *

Concerning this phrase Zondervan says,

“The meaning of ‘because in this world, we are like him’ is uncertain. In view of the context, it is best to understand these words to mean that just as Jesus ‘abides’ in the love of the Father (cf. John 15:10), an abiding that already marked his earthly existence and gave him ‘confidence’ before God in the face of temptation, trial, and death, so ‘in this world’ we also may abide in the Father’s love and share in that same confidence.”

Regarding “he is,” Vincent tells us,

“The present tense is very significant. Compare 1 John 3:7, ‘is righteous even as He is righteous.’”

As “he is,” He Who is righteous (1 John 2:29), and He Who is Love (1 John 4:8, 16), “so are we in this world” (current verse).  Any righteousness that we exhibit is simply the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23), the outworking of Christ in us (Col 1:27).  Any Love that is seen in us is simply a result of His Love being “shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us” (Rom 5:5).  In our present context John concerns himself with the need for you and I to walk in Love.  When we do this it is a direct result of our life being hidden “with Christ in God” (Col 3:3).  After all, every “good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights” (James 1:17).

When we dwell in Love it’s a result of our dwelling in God, and God dwelling in us (1 John 4:16).  When we walk in Love we are walking “even as he walked” (1 John 2:6), and we are partaking “of the divine nature” (2 Pet 1:4).  When we see the character/divine nature of God working in us, His fruit being borne in us, it gives us boldness/confidence to stand before a Holy God.

(Verse Seventeen of Chapter Four in my own words.)

When we know and believe that God loves us it brings the love in us to maturity (or frees us to fully love others).  (When we love one another) we then have boldness to face the Day of Judgment.  Why? Because we see the Who He is (the image of God) manifested in our conduct in this world.

1 John 4:18

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.

* There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: *

Regarding “There is no fear in love,” UBS says,

“or ‘fear does not go with love,’ ‘where there is love there is no fear.’ When verb forms are required one may say, ‘one who is loved (or one whom God loves) does not fear,’ ‘if we are loved (or if God loves us), we do not fear,’ taking God as the implied agent; or ‘one who loves does not fear,’ etc., taking the believer who is inspired by God’s love as the implied agent (compare the remarks on ‘love for God’ in 1 John 2:5). The former interpretation seems to be the more probable one.”

Zondervan tells us,

“For the Christian love is first an experience of the Father’s love for us. That ‘love’ is so powerful and life changing that when we know it, we are forever removed from the ‘fear’ of God.”

A few verses earlier John had defined Love this way, “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us” (1 John 4:10).  Love issues forth from God.  Our Love for Him is a by-product of His Love for us (1 John 4:19), as is our Love for one another (John 13:34-35; 1 John 3:16; 4:7-8).  God wants us to know and believe that He Loves us (1 John 4:16) because that realization is what perfects Love in us, giving us boldness to stand before God (1 John 4:17).  This perfect Love, this knowing that He Loves us, removes all fear of judgment (current verse).

“There is no fear in love” because we know that the One Who Loves us will not harm us.  Paul tells us that death “is swallowed up in victory” (1 Cor 15:54), and then asks, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory” (1 Cor 15:55)?  He then says, “The sting of death is sin” (1 Cor 15:56).  The fact that we were sinners made us “fear” death, but “God sent his only begotten Son into the world” (1 John 4:9) “to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10).  God’s justice has been satisfied!  Our sins are forgiven because Jesus is “the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).  We know that God Loves us as a result of His sending Jesus into this world (1 John 4:9), and we know that Jesus Loves us as a result of His dying for us (1 John 3:16).  We’re Loved by the Very Judge we’ll stand before!  Consequently, we have no “fear” of Judgment Day, but rather we “have confidence,” and we’ll “not be ashamed before him at his coming” (1 John 2:28).  The fact that we Love one another (1 John 3:14-18) as a result of His Loving us (John 13:34-35) assures “our hearts before him” (1 John 3:19), and we now know that we’ll have “boldness in the day of judgment” (1 John 4:17).

* because fear hath torment. *

Concerning “fear hath torment,” Vincent explains,

“‘Torment’ is a faulty translation. The word means ‘punishment, penalty.’ It occurs in the New Testament only here and Matt 25:46. The kindred verb, kolazomai (NT:2849) ‘to punish,’ is found Acts 4:21; 2 Peter 2:9. Note the present tense, ‘hath.’ The punishment is PRESENT. Fear by anticipating punishment has it even now.”

UBS makes these comments,

“lit. ‘fear has/holds punishment.’ The sentence may mean, ‘fear includes punishment,’ ‘fear in itself is punishment,’ which implies a reference to punishment beginning in the present. Or it may be interpreted as, ‘fear anticipates punishment,’ namely, the punishment to be meted out at the day of judgment.”

Many Christians aren’t sure if they’ll really go to Heaven one day.  They “fear” that if they die before confessing a recent sin they’ll go to Hell.  They might speak of the Love of God, and of grace, but they still live out the philosophy of performance, a performance that tells them, “If you do enough good things, and quit doing bad things, then God will Love you, and you’ll go to Heaven.”  They live their lives with no confidence in their salvation.  They’re afraid that they might miss Heaven and go to Hell if they don’t measure up to the right standard.  “Fear” torments!  Salvation is either dependent on God, or it’s dependent on you.  Paul wanted to pass the “faith test,” being judged for his dependence on the finished work of Calvary, rather than having a Holy God judge him for his conduct (Phil 3:9).  God is the Author of your salvation, and the Finisher of it (Heb 12:2).  He began a work in you, and only He can perform/finish it (Phil 1:6).  Your salvation is dependent on God!  Trust Him!  After all, He radically, fanatically, relentlessly, continuously Loves you!

* He that feareth is not made perfect in love. *

Because “perfect love casteth out fear,” then it stands to reason that the one who fears has not been “made perfect in love.”  Again, what is Love?  Love is God Loving me (1 John 4:10).  Therefore, if I live in fear of God’s disapproval, and the resultant eternal punishment His disapproval brings, it’s a reflection of the fact that my understanding of the central truth of this Epistle, that God Loves me, hasn’t reached maturity/ fullness.  In other words, I haven’t understood the full revelation of what it means to be Loved by God.

(Verse Eighteen of Chapter Four in my own words.)

There’s an absence of fear when we know and believe that God loves us.  Here’s why, fear cannot exist in the full revelation of His love for us.  (Why would we fear facing the One Who loves us?)  Fear brings torment, and fear can only exist where there’s a lack of understanding of this great truth; God loves us.

1 John 4:19

We love him, because he first loved us.

* We love him, because he first loved us. *

Vincent says,

“The best texts omit Him. Some render let us love, as 1 John 4:7. The statement is general, relating to the entire operation of the principle of love. All human love is preceded and generated by the love of God.”

Robertson comments,

“God loved us before we loved him (John 3:16). Our love is in response to his love for us. Agapomen is indicative (we love), not subjunctive (let us love) of the same form. There is no object expressed here.”

Many translators render this verse in a way that’s in agreement with the above quotes. For example, “We love because God first loved us” [The Good News Bible & Today’s English Version]. Or, “We have the power of loving, because he first had love for us” [The Bible In Basic English]. However, others agree with the King James Version. For example, “So you see, our love for him comes as a result of his loving us first” [The Living Bible]. The Amplified Bible also provides the word “Him” in italics because they believe that to be the intent of the writer.

One thing is for certain, Love issues forth from God.  There is no Love apart from Him.  That might very well be the hottest flame of Hell, the eternal existence without God (He Who is Love), which would mean existing forever without Loving, and without being Loved.

So, this verse could be saying that we Love God because He first Loved us, or it could simply be saying that we’re capable of Love only because He first Loved us.  In the first case it would refer only to my Love for God.  In the second it would refer to my Love for God and my fellow man.  However, in either case, this remains true: I Love God because He first Loved me!

That is the central truth of this Epistle, and of the Gospel itself.  God’s Love for us caused Him to make the first move; He sent His Son (1 John 4:9), and His Son died for us (1 John 3:16).  He did this while we were His enemies (Rom 5:10) in our minds, and with our actions (Col 1:21).  THIS IS ABSOLUTE TRUTH: GOD LOVES ME; THEREFORE, I LOVE HIM!  His Love for me has overcome me.  My Suitor has won me over!  ALL THAT IS CHRISTIAN BREAKS FORTH FROM THIS MARVELOUS TRUTH!  God Loves me; therefore, I Love Him!  God Loves me; therefore, I Love you!  God Loves me; therefore; my subsequential Love for Him causes me to seek to please Him with my actions.  He initiates; I respond!  He Who is Love cannot help Himself; He Loves me.  He has won me over, and now I can’t help myself; I Love Him.  His Love for us is the truth that sets free!  It’s the Light that reveals so clearly the path on which we’re to walk (1 John 2:7-11).  In His Love we see clearly!  Everything makes sense!  Outside of His Love for us all is darkness!  In that darkness we stumble along, trying to find our way.   

(Verse Nineteen of Chapter Four in my own words.)

The reason we love Him, (and the reason we love each other), is because He first loved us, (and His love for us has won us over).

1 John 4:20

If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?

* If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: *

Concerning “If a man say,” UBS comments,

“If any one says resembles the clauses that serve to introduce the propositions of the false teachers in 1 John 1:5-2:11, compare ‘if we say’ in 1:6, and ‘he who says’ in 2:4.”

Zondervan tells us,

“To fail this test of love proves that one’s claim to love God is a lie–just as the previous claims to have fellowship with God while walking in darkness (1:6), to know him while disobeying his commands (2:4), or to possess the Father while denying his Son were lies (2:22-23).”

Regarding “I love God,” Vincent mentions,

“Quoting an imaginary disputant as in 1 John 2:4.”

It seems that the Gnostics, those false teachers whose doctrine John was disputing, had no difficulty in stating that they Loved God while openly hating some of His children.

Following are some of the other things these false teachers were saying, in spite of claiming a special relationship with God:

1) “If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie” (1 John 1:6).

2) “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8).

3) “If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar” (1 John 1:10).

4) “He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar” (1 John 2:4).

5) “He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked” (1 John 2:6).

6) “He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now” (1 John 2:9).

According to these Scriptures, these heretics were claiming fellowship with God while walking in darkness.  They claimed they had no sin, nor had ever sinned; yet they didn’t keep the commandments of the Lord Jesus.  They claimed they abode in Christ in spite of not doing the things He did.  They claimed they were walking in the light in spite of openly hating some of their brothers.  The Apostle denounced these kinds of claims, claims that weren’t consistent with their conduct, as lies.

* for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? *

Adam Clarke comments,

“We may have our love excited towards our brother, 1) By a consideration of his excellences or amiable qualities. 2) By a view of his miseries and distresses.  The first will excite a love of complacency and delight; the second, a love of compassion and pity.”

Most Commentators say something similar to what Clarke said in the above mentioned-quote, but remember, John isn’t telling us that we’re liars if we don’t Love any of our brothers, but rather, we’re liars if there’s any brother we don’t Love.  We might Love ninety-nine brothers, but if we don’t Love the one we are liars.  For that reason, when I read this statement my immediate response is, “What are you talking about, John?”  It’s often far easier to Love someone who you don’t see.  For example, it’s easier to forgive someone who has hurt you when that individual lives in some other state, when you’re not confronted with his/her presence day after day.  Also, there are some individuals who make it extremely difficult to Love them because of their actions.  Yet, the Holy Spirit is telling us that we can’t Love the One we don’t see if we don’t Love the ones we do see.  Why?  Following are two reasons:

1) Love is only genuine where there are corresponding actions.  We know God, the Son, Loves us because He died for us (1 John 3:16).  We know God, the Father, Loves us because He “sent his only begotten Son” into this world to save us (1 John 4:9).  In each case God’s Love for us produced a corresponding action.  Our Love must do the same (1 John 3:17-18).  But, how can we show our Love for God to Him with an action that corresponds to our profession?

2) Listen to what the Lord Jesus says to us, “Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (Matt 25:40).  When we feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, give lodging to the stranger (Matt 25:35), clothe the naked, or visit those who are sick or in prison (Matt 25:36), Jesus said we are doing those things to Him.  John’s point is that Love without action isn’t Love at all (1 John 3:16-18).  We can’t show, by our actions, Love to someone that we can’t see, someone Who lives in the eternal while we’re stuck in the temporary.  We can’t feed Jesus!  We can’t give Him something to drink!  We can’t give Him lodging!  We can’t clothe Him!  We can’t visit Him!  How can we possibly demonstrate our Love to Him?  We’re to Love him by Loving those who He Loves!  Our Love for Him is demonstrated by our actions toward one another.  If someone’s actions don’t demonstrate his/her Love for another, then John asks, “how can he love God whom he hath not seen” (current verse).

(Verse Twenty of Chapter Four in my own words.)

If anyone claims to love God, and yet he hates a brother, that individual is a liar.  How can anyone genuinely love God Whom he can’t see (because He isn’t physically present, when genuine love can only be demonstrated by the actions of the one who loves toward the one who is loved), when that individual doesn’t love a brother whom he can see (because that brother is physically present, and as such becomes an object through which he can love, by his very actions, the God he professes to love).

1 John 4:21

And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.

* And this commandment have we from him, *

John has written that if we’re Christians we’re to “keep his commandments” (1 John 2:3), and that if we don’t we’re liars (1 John 2:4).  He then shows us that the way to keep His commandments is to walk in Love towards one another (1 John 2:7-11).  He also told us that when we “keep his commandments” our prayers will be answered (1 John 3:22), and then defined those commandments that we’re to keep as a single command composed of two parts, faith in Christ and Love for one another (1 John 3:23).  Now, in our current verse, after discussing Love in great detail (1 John 4:7-20), he returns to the issue of our responsibility to obey the commandment of Christ.

* That he who loveth God love his brother also. *

When Jesus was asked which of all of the commandments was the greatest He responded by saying, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind” (Matt 22:37), a quote from the Old Testament (Deut 6:5).  He then identified the second greatest of all of the commandments when He said, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Matt 22:39), also a quote from the Old Testament (Lev 19:18).  In this Epistle we discover that obedience to the greatest commandment produces faith in the One we Love (1 John 3:23).  When we speak of faith and Love being the two most important subjects of the New Testament we must remember that when the Scriptures speak of faith in God it presupposes our Love for Him.

However, John isn’t referring to what Jesus said in Matthew.  Rather, he’s referring to what the Lord said in the Upper Room, “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another” (John 13:34).  When Jesus said that, He wasn’t simply repeating what His favorite Old Testament commandment was, but He was changing the very structure of how mankind would relate to God; He was changing the Law itself!  This was absolutely necessary.  Jesus was about to become the new High Priest “after the order of Melchisedec,” and not “after the order of Aaron” (Heb 7:11), and “the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law” (Heb 7:12).  We must understand this, if the Law of Moses is still in place then Jesus is a Lawbreaker!  He wasn’t from the tribe of Levi and the family of Aaron; He was from the tribe of Judah.  Under the Law of Moses it would be absolutely unlawful for Him to be our High Priest.  We can’t have it both ways.  If we choose the Law, then we must reject Christ as our High Priest.  If we choose Christ as our High Priest, then we must reject the Law.  The Law was changed, according to the eternal purpose of God, to accommodate the appointment of Christ as our High Priest.

Love is the Royal Law (James 2:8) that fulfills the righteous requirements of the Law of Moses in our lives (Rom 13:8-10; Gal 5:13-14), rendering the Mosaic Law unnecessary in the life of a new creature (2 Cor 5:17).  We who are new in Christ “do by nature the things contained in the law” (Rom 2:14) because the Law has been “written in” our “hearts” (Rom 2:15).  In other words, we have a new nature.  In Old Testament Israel you didn’t steal from your neighbor because of the fear of penalty.  The Law constrained you.  In the New Testament Church you don’t steal from your neighbor because you desire what’s best for him.  Love constrains you.  In Old Testament Israel keeping the Law was what made you the unique/peculiar people of God (Exo 19:5; Deut 26:18).  In the New Testament Church Loving one another is what makes us the unique/peculiar people of God (John 13:35; 1 John 3:14).  Love is to the Church what the Law was to Israel.

Zondervan tells us,

“John makes clear that obedience expresses itself in a single command. Love for God and love for neighbor are inseparable. The one is not possible apart from the other. Those who love God cannot refuse love to the image of God that meets them in their fellow believers. We are to love our neighbors in God, and God in our neighbors; this is what remaining in his love means.”

My ability to Love you is found in the knowledge that I am Loved by God (John 13:34; 1 John 4:10, 16-17).  I am Loved; therefore I am free to Love.

My Love for God is proven genuine when my actions correspond with my profession.  I Love God when I Love Him in the person of you, and my actions prove the genuineness of that Love.

Though Loving my brother is a commandment, it’s a commandment that isn’t “grievous” (1 John 5:3).  We who know we are Loved by God Love one another joyfully.

(Verse Twenty-One of Chapter Four in my own words.)

After all, this is the commandment He gave us, everyone who truly loves God must love his brother also. (We love God because He first loved us, and knowing that God loves us frees us to joyfully love our brother.)



Walk of Grace Chapel, Council Bluffs Church