NUGGETS OF WISDOM

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BELIEVING WHAT YOU CAN’T SEE

David recollected that as a young lad, with long unruly hair and a ruddy complexion, sleeping out in an open pasture under a starry sky after watching his father’s sheep all day long; how he would take his little harp and sing to the God above all gods. Looking up, he saw the sky as a huge tent with the sparkling stars as lights that lit up the night. He may have even tried to count them once or twice. But what really impressed him was that each night every star was in exactly the same place, not one of them was missing. He was so overcome with awe that he penned a hymn to the creator of that starry universe.

O my LORD Eternal and heavenly Master, Your awe-inspiring works mark You as a genius, as You display Your grandeur all over the heavens for all the world to see. For through these small and tiny dots of light You communicate as a way of countering those who don’t take You seriously; yes, You do this to silence the doubter and unbeliever. When I look up into the sky and see the galaxies Your hands created, the stars and the moon You put into orbit I ask, “What role do humans play in this vast universe; why do You care and fuss over them?” Then I realized, You created them a little short of being angels; endowing them with attributes of honor and dignity; making them the smartest and most influential creatures on earth; putting them in charge to being stewards of Your handiwork, even taking care of the animals, both domestic and wild, including the birds that fill the sky and the fish that fill the sea. O LORD Eternal and heavenly Master, Your awe-inspiring works mark You as a genius for all the world to see.” Psalm 8:1-9

Reflection: Back in the days of the hippy movement I sat in a coffee house in Stuttgart, Germany talking with a long-haired flower-child about God. The young man was respectful but adamant about his doubts concerning God’s existence because he couldn’t see Him or talk to Him. At that moment the Holy Spirit gave me an inspiration, so I pointed to a picture hanging on the wall beside our table and asked the young man if he believed that picture came into being due to an accidental collision of paint and paper. He laughed and said, “That’s ridiculous; that picture was painted by an artist.” I responded that I wasn’t convinced because I couldn’t see the artist in the picture; how did I know that maybe one day it just appeared on the wall by accident. The young fellow looked at me for a moment and then admitted that even though I couldn’t see the artist in the painting, I had to accept the fact that an artist painted the picture because it just makes sense. I told him that in the same way, one must exercise faith to believe an unseen talented artist created such a beautiful portrait, we can also believe an unseen God created the beauty of the universe. The magnificence of God’s creation shows His responsibility for man’s existence, and man’s responsibility to acknowledge God’s handiwork. The young man smiled somewhat embarrassingly as he bowed his head and said, “Okay, you got me on that one.” I asked him if we could have prayer for him to have faith, but he wasn’t sure. As he went away I asked the Holy Spirit to go with him and open his eyes to the truth.

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WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER FOUR (Lesson CIV) 06/24/22

4:16 We know how much God loves us because we feel His love and believe Him when He tells us that He loves us dearly. God is love, and anyone who lives in love is living with God, and God with them.

Albert Barnes (1872-1951) says it is not uncommon for the Apostle John to repeat an important truth. He delights to dwell on truths as that expressed in verse sixteen, and who wouldn’t? Is there any truth on which the mind can meditate with more pleasure; what is better fitted to win the heart to holiness; what will do more to sustain the soul in the sorrows and trials of this life? Therefore, in our tests; in the darkness which is around us; in the perplexities which meet and embarrass us regarding God’s Kingdom that seems incomprehensible in this world, and in the prospect of the next, let us learn to repeat this declaration of the favored disciple, “God is love.”

Furthermore, Barnes asks what trials may not come our way if we feel assured of God’s love? What dark cloud of gloom hangs over our pathway that will not be removed if from the depths of our souls we can always shout, “God is Love!” Christianity is all about Love. God is Love; He loved us; we are to love Him; we are to love one another; we are to love the whole world. Heaven is filled with Love, and there is nothing else there. The earth is filled with love just as far as Christianity prevails and would be dominant if it should succeed everywhere. Love would remove all the corrupt passions, crimes, jealousies, and wars on earth and scatter heaven’s bliss around the globe. If a person is motivated by this, they have the spirit of the heavenly world reigning in their soul and live in an atmosphere of love.[1]

Paul E. Kretzmann (1883-1965) says that the Apostle John brings forward another argument: God, no one has ever seen Him. That no one, no human being, has ever looked God in the face was stated by God[2] and repeated by John.[3] It is the bliss reserved for eternal life. But although we cannot see Him, we have evidence of His presence in us, by the brotherly love we feel in our hearts. For it would be impossible for us to have this agápē and to give practical proof of its presence in us if it were not for the fact that God chose us for His abode and that His agápē, which wrought the new spiritual life in us, has come to perfection in us, making its permanent home in our hearts.

All this is not mere speculation on our part: In this, we recognize that we remain in Him and He in us because of His Spirit given to us. If it had not been for God imparting to us His Spirit and giving us some of His life and power, thus enabling us to feel true brotherly love toward one another, then we could not be sure of our status as Christians. But our confidence rests upon the work of the Spirit in the Word; in this way, we gain the knowledge that we remain in God and God in us. Moreover, the brotherly love we feel is strong evidence that God now abides in us and that we have constant communication and fellowship with Him. Thus, we are rewarded, at least to some extent, even though we cannot see God as long as we are in the flesh.[4]

Charles H. Dodd (1884-1973) says that the expression “to remain in love” is suggestive rather than exact. It is not clear whether the meaning is “to continue to live as the objects of God’s agápē,” or “to continue to love God,” or “to continue to love our brothers and sisters.” According to the teaching of this epistle and John’s Gospel, it is impossible to make a clear separation between these three modes or manifestations of love. The energy of love discharges itself along lines that form a triangle, whose points are God, self, and neighbor, but the source of all love is God, of whom alone it can be said that He is love. Whether we love God or our neighbor, it is God’s agápē that is at work in us assuming, that is, that our love is that authentic agápē which is exemplified in God’s gift of His Anointed Son’s sacrifice for us all.[5]

Greville P. Lewis (1891-1976) sees the Apostle John returning to the conditions of the mutual “abiding” of the Christian and God. Before, John said that the condition is summed up as (a) belief in the Anointed One and (b) love for one another.[6] Then John pointed out that the condition is of the Christian and God.[7] Finally, John asserts once more than one condition is (1) belief in the Anointed One, [8] while the other is (2) love for God, including love for one another.[9] However, we can say that all of this is made clear when John wrote, “No one has ever seen God,” but if we love one another, God lives in us, and His agápē is made complete (perfected) in us.[10] [11]

Amos N. Wilder (1895-1993) notes that in the first part of this verse, God’s agápē takes the place of the twofold sense of abiding expressed in verse thirteen. The Apostle John is interweaving these conceptions. The same two verbs, “know” and “believe,” in the same perfect tense occur in John’s Gospel and are translated meaningfully.[12] Peter is replying to Jesus’ challenge.[13] The passage is relevant since the learning process here is connected with discernment of the Mediator, we have seen that the Father sent His Son.[14] The second part of this verse, what John said in verse twelve, “His agápē is perfected in us,” or “His agápē is brought to full expression in us,” brings out vividly the whole meaning of mutual abiding here in verse sixteen. The most significant themes of the epistle are focused on this verse. It is clear that it defines God as love only in the light of the coming of the Anointed One and that our love is identified with divine fellowship only as love is understood in context, namely, the Christian context of Christian agápē.[15]

Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981) says there are some of Apostle John’s tests that seem to be the most practical we can immediately apply. So, here’s a summation: Jesus the Anointed One, the realization of who He is, that God sent Him to the world; the realization of what He has done by coming into the world and going back again, that He is our all and in all. Then, the realization that He is my Savior and therefore my Lord because if He has done that for us, then He has done it so that we might be rescued and redeemed out of this element of sin and that I may live a life pleasing to Him – He is the center of it all.

The key is our attitude toward Him. Let us say with the Apostle Paul, “I want to know the Anointed One and experience the mighty power that raised Him from the dead. I want to suffer with Him, sharing in His death, so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!”[16] There is no need to explore the paths of mysticism; there’s also no reason to participate in a spiritual pep rally. There’s only one thing to do: enter God’s throne room of Grace and Mercy, [17] where He reigns in His brilliant Shekinah glory, [18] and lift your eyes to Him. Let His Light reveal who you are and your sin, and acknowledge the Anointed One as your Savior. Once you have Him, you have everything else. It is all in Him, for, without Him, there is nothing – no creation, no universe, no earth, no human life, no salvation.[19]

Paul W. Hoon (1910-2000) offers that the conjecture of “knowing” and “believing” also reminds us that people can believe in God’s agápē without fully knowing it, and can know God’s agápē without fully believing in all that comes with it. Familiarity with the Christian affirmation that God is love has dulled its grandeur and boldness for some people; others hold the assurance of God’s agápē merely as a theological concept or hearsay. Conversely, people can know God’s agápē in their own experience without fully comprehending the belief bound up with it. The philosophical and ethical implications of God’s agápē for mankind’s thought and life often escape them. The Christian’s experience of God’s agápē can be corrected and kept vital and glowing only when people know and believe.[20]

It is a bigger problem today than ever before. When we talk about people believing and loving God, they often think of their human capacity to accept and love. However, our personal belief, no matter how well-founded and thought out, does not come close to the faith we acquire through the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, human love cannot reach God, nor can it suffice in loving our Christian brothers and sisters the way Jesus told us to love them. So, when a preacher asks the audience, “How many of you love your heavenly Father,” a good chance is that out of those who raised their hand, some will equate their love for their father on earth with their Father in heaven.

Remember when Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love me?” Jesus used the verb agapaō for unconditional divine love. When Peter answered, he used the verb phileō, which means to approve of, be fond of, to like. Then Jesus asked Peter a second time, using agapaō, and Peter responded with phileō. But on the third try, Jesus switched to phileō. Now feeling exceedingly grieved, Peter answered, “Lord, You know how I feel, and You understand what I’m trying to say. Lord, You know what good friends we are.” This is a case of Peter thinking that human love is sufficient, but Jesus is pointing out to him that it does not qualify as God’s agápē inside us through the Holy Spirit. So, is it any wonder that Peter would deny his Lord three times later?

Ronald R. Williams (1906-1970) says that from now on, this life of faith and witness becomes another doorway through which the Christian could enter the life of union with God. The Apostle John often describes it as mutual “indwelling” – us in Him and He in us. It is a doorway because it leads to knowledge of and faith in God’s agápē for us, which implies a life of love, and onward to fellowship with God and His family.[21] As the NIV renders it, “we know and rely on the love God has for us.” Therefore, we must trust His agápē for us if we will love others.


[1] Barnes, Albert: New Testament Notes, op. cit., p. 4868

[2] Exodus 33:20

[3] John 1:18

[4] Kretzmann, Paul E., Popular Commentary on the Bible, op. cit., Vol. II, p. 573

[5] Dodd, Charles H., The Moffatt Commentary, Johannine Epistles, op. cit., pp. 117-118

[6] 1 John 3:23

[7] Ibid. 3:24

[8] Ibid. 4:15

[9] Ibid. 4:16

[10] Ibid. 4:12

[11] Lewis, Greville P., The Epworth Commentary, The Johannine Epistles, op. cit., p. 101

[12] John 6:67-69

[13] Ibid. 6:66-67

[14] 1 John 4:14

[15] Wilder, Amos N., The Interpreter’s Bible, op. cit., 1 John, Exposition, pp. 284-285

[16] Philippians 3:10

[17] Hebrews 4:16

[18] Cf. 2 Chronicles 7:1

[19] Lloyd-Jones, Martyn: Life in the Anointed One, op. cit., p. pp. 515-516

[20] Hoon, Paul W., The Interpreter’s Bible, op. cit., 1 John, Exegesis, p. 284

[21] William, Ronald R., Letters of John and James, op. cit., p. 50

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WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER FOUR (Lesson CIII) 06/23/22

4:16 We know how much God loves us because we feel His love and believe Him when He tells us that He loves us dearly. God is love, and anyone who lives in love is living with God, and God with them.

Brooke F. Westcott (1825-1901) says the Apostle John teaches that faith precedes knowledge. We must have an actual, if limited, knowledge of the object of faith before true faith can exist, and genuine faith opens the way to fuller understanding. With general confidence in the Anointed One and self-surrender to Him prepared the disciples for loftier insight to His character. The experience of love includes the promise of a more prominent manifestation of its treasures. This John indicates here; We know how much God loves us because we have felt His agápē and because we believe Him when He tells us that He loves us dearly. To a certain extent, we have realized what love is: but we have not exhausted its meaning. In knowing we have believed too, and even without knowing everything, we wait without any doubt about future revelation.[1]

John James Lias (1834-1923) comments on God’s agápē in us because God Himself is in us, and He is love. If we compare this passage with verse eight, we see that this is the climax to which the rest leads. The phrase “God is love” is used in verse eight as an argument to prove that we ought to walk in love. But the statement itself, the Apostle John feels, requires proof. That proof is found (1) in God’s mission of His Son, (2) in the propitiation that the Son made for human sin, and (3) in the inward witness of the Spirit, producing in us an experience of the power of God to save us from sin. After mentioning these experimental proofs, John repeats the statement with all the additional weight it has gained and concludes this section with the assertion that in the abiding life of love alone can true union with God be reached.[2] It is not a level a believer arrives at simply due to dedication, confession, worship, prayer, praise, or charitable works. Either you are in love with God and do it because of your love’s generous gratitude, or it’s a waste of time.

Robert Cameron (1839-1904) says that we can see the various steps of agápē. First, it came to us in this world. Then it followed on to the sinful state we were, to give life and save. It then took possession of us and acted in us, loving its love in our hearts and continuing its manifestation to the world. But, finally, having come to our world and our place in sin and having seated itself upon the throne of our hearts, we are now to see how it places us upon the throne of the Anointed One’s glory. He took our place in sin. Amazing grace! We take His place in holiness and love and praise. Such love and grace surpass all comprehension! It saw all, measured all, took in need of all, and then moved forward to the end, making us as the Anointed One is, without any question of sin, to all eternity enthroned before the face of God, fearless and confident.[3]

British clergyman and canon the Reverend William Hay Macdowall Hunter Aitken (1841-1927) states that Love is the most essential and the most characteristic of Christian virtues. Those who lack this scarcely deserves the name of Christian, while those who possess this are on the way to including all. When we ask why such stress is laid upon the importance of maintaining this virtue above all others, more than one answer suggests to our minds. We may first observe one paraphrase of the words of this text reads: “A loveless soul can never be a God-like soul.”

We know that no gardener in the world can produce fruit for a plant; only the life within does that, yet how much does the fruit tree depend for its fruitfulness on the gardener’s skill! A person must see that the tree is planted where the sunshine can fall upon it, and the dew and the rain can water it. They must take care that it remains unexposed to harmful conditions. And even so, love, being a fruit of the reborn spirit, can only be produced by the presence of the Spirit working together with our spiritual nature. Although we cannot create or manufacture it independently, we are still indirectly responsible for its production.

Furthermore, says Aitken, the tree cannot cultivate itself, and here the figure fails us. Mankind, on the other hand, is a free agent and, therefore, responsible for their culture. Thus, it is not for us to attempt directly to induce this all-important fruit of the Spirit, but to see to it that we comply with the conditions of fruitfulness. Therefore, let us expose ourselves to the spiritual sunshine; let us live in the presence of God; let us see to it that we do not sink our roots into the earth, lest the cold clay of worldly-mindedness checks all our higher aspirations; let us guard against self-seeking and self-assertion; let us avoid exposing ourselves voluntarily to unfavorable influences as some Christians do, thinking more of worldly satisfaction than of their spiritual interests; and let us carefully rinse our garments of the stains of impure thoughts and unholy desires, and then the Spirit of Love will be able to induce the fruit of love within our hearts.[4]

Clement Clemance (1845-1886) says that as we have come to know and believe, both perfects are virtually present, expressing the present continuance of a condition begun in the past: “We know and continue to believe.” Experience and faith are intimately connected; sometimes, the one precedes the other.[5] But the meaning may be that the object of our knowledge and belief is that portion of God’s agápē which God has in us. It is “in us” and exercised towards Him and our brothers and sisters, but in reality, it is His agápē – Him living in us. In either case, love is the object of our faith. Thus, love is not only the Church’s keynote[6] but also the Church’s creed. The second half of the verse talks about Love and its future implications.[7]

Aaron M. Hills (1848-1911), speaking about the baptism with God’s Spirit, says that this is when we come to know and believe that God truly loves us.[8] – we “will have the power to understand how long, how high, and how deep that love is.”[9] The coming of the Holy Spirit makes God’s agápē a blessed reality to the soul, producing hope, peace, joy, and all the foretastes of heaven.

Hills then relates how the Holy Spirit came upon Sarah, the wife of Jonathan Edwards, in 1742, and she wrote: “I cannot find language to express how certain the everlasting God’s agápē appeared; the everlasting mountains and hills were but shadows to it. My safety and happiness and eternal enjoyment of God’s immutable love seemed as unchangeable as God Himself. Melted and overcome by the sweetness of this assurance, I fell into a great flow of tears and could not forbear weeping aloud … All night I continued in a constant, clear, and lively sense of the heavenly sweetness of the Anointed One’s excellent and transcendent love, of His nearness to me and of my dearness to Him, with an inexpressibly sweet calmness of soul, in an entire rest in Him.”[10] How could anyone doubt such a testimony? There certainly are some, but not among them are those who’ve had the same experience.

James B. Morgan (1850-1942) says that above all, we should live under the power of love, and then we will fully dwell in God. “The love of the Anointed One constrains us because we thus judge that if one died for all who were spiritually dead; and that He died for all that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves but unto God.” The actions thus springing from love bring us near to God. While that is our spirit, and such is our conduct, we find ready access to Him and delight in Him. He, too, delights in us. God says, “I will live in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they will be my people.”[11] A communion is begun and maintained on earth and consummated in heaven. Lack of fellowship is the only sin that can disturb it here. No evil will ever enter; therefore, it will be interrupted no more. O! How the text’s significant meaning will be realized and enjoyed. “We have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and they that dwell in love dwell in God, and God in them.”

William Sinclair (1850-1917) sees in these verses the Apostle John’s attempt to raise believers to their highest possible development by demonstrating the reality and nature of fellowship with God. Here John arrives at the center of his message, namely, that as God is Love, John says we should allow nothing to trouble that atmosphere of pure love which God has enabled believers to breathe. If they do not willingly turn away, they will be bathed and animated in the Light and Life of God, to become one with Him in Love.[12]

Alonzo R. Cocke (1858-1901) points out that knowledge and faith are related. The divine facts which are the objects of faith must be, to an extent, known before they can be believed. But also, faith accepting these sacred facts, they become experiences of the inner life or knowledge in its highest sense. Thus, knowing and believing in God’s agápē for us, we come to know God Himself. Then we can speak of God as known: “God is love.” That being true, abiding in love is the condition and token of fellowship with God. We have unquestionable proof that we dwell in God and God in us by living in love as our conscious sphere and the life element. The heart cannot be filled to overflowing with Christian love without evidencing God’s presence, for He is its eternal fountain. We may then, with special emphasis, repeat the words in the seventh and eleventh verses: “Beloved, let us love one another,” and “if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.”[13]

Robert Law (1860-1919) states that Christians share the life of the Anointed One and so become a secondary manifestation of God’s agápē and of “the love God has for us” here in verse sixteen. Therefore, God’s agápē becomes a power in a Christian’s body. Believers are the sphere in which it operates and makes itself felt in the world. That’s why the progress of thought in this section is as simple as it is beautiful: This is how God showed His agápē to us: He sent His only Son into the world to give us life through Him. True love is God’s agápē for us, not our love for God. He sent his Son as a way to remove our sins.[14] So, here in verse sixteen is our response to the reality of Divine love manifested – we recognize it and believe it.[15]


[1] Westcott, Brooke, F., The Epistles of St. John, op. cit., p. 155

[2] The First Epistle of St. John with Exposition, op. cit., pp. 330-331

[3] Cameron, Robert: First Epistle of John, op. cit., loc. cit.

[4] Aitken, William H. M. H., Biblical Illustrator, op. cit., Vol. 22, pp. 104-105

[5] See John 6:69

[6] John 13:35

[7] Clemance, Clement: First Epistle of John, Pulpit Commentary, Vol. 22, Exposition, op. cit., p. 104

[8] 1 John 4:16

[9] Ephesians 3:18

[10] Hills, Aaron M., Pentecostal Light, op. cit., pp. 8-9

[11] Ezekiel 37:27; cf. 2 Corinthians 6:16

[12] Sinclair, William: A New Testament Commentary for English Readers, op. cit., p. 489

[13] Cocke, Alonzo R., Studies in the Epistles of John, op. cit., loc. cit., Logos

[14] 1 John 4:9-10

[15] Law, Robert, The Tests of Life, op. cit., loc. cit., Logos

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WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER FOUR (Lesson CII) 06/22/22

4:16 We know how much God loves us because we feel His love and believe Him when He tells us that He loves us dearly. God is love, and anyone who lives in love is living with God, and God with them.

But that raises another question, says Candlish, we must not believe all spirits are godly; they must be proven as such. By what tests or trials are they to be validated? How is God’s Spirit to be distinguished from the antichrist spirit? First, by confessing that Jesus the Anointed One was revealed in the flesh;[1] and secondly, by our loving others with God’s agápē.[2] And now, connecting the two, John brings us back substantially to the original statement, as to our knowledge that we dwell in God, and God in us because He has given us of His Spirit. For the two analyses are now brought closer together and shown not to be one as two, but two as one; or at least not two independent assessments, each separately valid in itself, but so intimately related to one another that they mutually involve one another, and thus combine to make up one convincing and indisputable proof of God in us and us in God.

Hence, the two inspections unite, notes Candlish, and become one. To confess, on the testimony of the apostles as eye-witnesses, that the Father sent the Son to be the world’s Savior; that Jesus is God’s Son; and to know and accept the agápē God has for us and in us;[3] is the same thing. For the confession is not the cold, unfeeling agreement to a formal article in a creed. It is the warm and cordial embracing of the Father’s love, incarnate in His Son, whom He sent to be the world’s Savior. Allowing God’s love into our hearts infuses God’s nature, for God is love. It is our dwelling with Him in Love as the Apostle Paul teaches, in entire and perfect harmony with John.[4] It is faith confessing the Anointed One knowing and believing the agápē that God put us; faith-loving as it sees and feels that God loves.[5]

William E. Jelf (1811-1875) believes that what the Apostle John says here in verse sixteen gives the reason why the mission of the Anointed One is reintroduced. The fact of the Anointed One’s mission and our recognition of it is the source of this agápē. We see that John emphasizes not only the doctrine of the Anointed One’s mission, but also the bearing it has on the heart as the evidence of God’s agápē to us. To heighten our notion of God’s agápē and thus increase our faith and quicken our love, John again speaks of love as God’s essential nature. This agápē is to be taken in its broadest sense; love in the abstract. It does not exclude other attributes, such as justice, which we know from such expressions as “God is just,”[6] but all these attributes are under love’s control. This subordination of justice to love is clearly shown in the plan of salvation through the Anointed One.[7]

For this reason, says Jelf: fear implies the notion of punishment, love the idea of pardon and acceptance. Fear of torment not only brings with it a painful feeling which is punishment but also implies a penalty, for where there is no reprimand, there can be no fear. Perfection is not merely pure and real, but love when it has attained its perfect development in us, but love drives fear out of our soul. John uses the Greek noun Phobos for fear, indicating “dread and terror.” Thus, agápē must be perfected and composed of faith towards God in the Anointed One[8] and brotherly love.[9] It is enlightening that this same Greek word can also be translated as “reverence.”[10] So the sinner “fears” God, but the believer “reverences” God.

To illustrate the notion that John projects, we must believe that love continually keeps God in our minds, yet not with fear, for it brings Him before our souls as the Pardoner of sin and not as the Judge of sinners. Supposing death suddenly presents itself to a person in an airplane crash, the feeling that they are about to die will naturally suggest a fearful apprehension of the day of judgment. Still, if the principle of love towards God and mankind has been developed in their inner person, it will immediately assure them that they have nothing to fear.[11]

Charles John Vaughan (1816-1897), vicar of St. Martin’s in Leicester, talks about “Dwelling in love.” He calls it a strong and eloquent term, “to dwell in love” – love’s home. And the promise of that home of love is more remarkable still – that God will dwell in that home with us. And then even more stupendous – and it will become God’s home. So, what does it mean to “dwell in love?”

The first thing, it is obvious, says Vaughan, is that it must not be considered in a negative sense since there are no dislikes, no variance. Love is a positive thing, showing itself in positive feelings, words, and acts, without which a person cannot be said to “dwell in love.” Another eminent first principle is that the love spoken here in verse sixteen must include the love of souls. And, again, all love is one love, just as all light is one light. It is not love in God’s sense unless it is a reflection of God’s agápē to us. You must begin by being sure that there is no exception. We are not called to love all equally – our Lord Himself made distinctions in His agápē – but there should be no one whoever feels that you are unfriendly.

The next thing notes Vaughan, to which the very language of the text grabs our attention, is “home.” Our abode should be love’s residence. You must have a greeting, a thought, a look of gentleness, cheerfulness, and tenderness. This will bring love into every house. All will feel it, consciously or unconsciously. It will create its atmosphere. The Anointed One in you can make everything lovely. But there are other circumstances which every person has to occupy. There is the Church, and in the Church, a communion – a blessed communion of hearts, visible and invisible; to “dwell in love” is to be continually familiar with our union of saints. And the world – the world about us – is a world that sadly needs our love. And you are called, and your privilege is to go about an element of comfort in the world. Therefore, you must let God kindle a heavenly fire in your soul that He may use to warm the world in which you live![12]

John Stock (1817-1884) mentions that as in a mine when fresh ore is found, it repays the hard work that went into the exploration; so, in searching God’s Word, that which surpasses all wealth is discovered, and that with great joy. A young Psalmist’s estimation of the sacred Scriptures was just who said, “The law from your mouth is more precious to me than thousands of pieces of silver and gold.”[13] So the Apostle Peter calls the promises of God “exceeding great and precious,”[14] and we who have the whole counsel of God cannot but estimate it as, beyond all comparison, excellent and invaluable. Admiring the wealth and brilliancy of a theme must not deter us from endeavoring to comprehend it.[15]

William B. Pope (1822-1903) supposes that the Apostle John remembers the words of Jesus when He taught that He was the Real Vine and His Father is the Gardener. He cuts off every branch that doesn’t bear fruit. And every grape-bearing branch He prunes back, so it will produce even more. So, Jesus said, you are already pruned back by the message I have spoken. Therefore, Live in Me. Make your home in Me, just as I do in you. In the same way, a branch can’t bear grapes by itself except by being joined to the vine; you can’t bear fruit unless you are in union with Me.“I am the Vine; you are the branches.”[16] When you are connected with Me and I with you, the relationship is intimate and organic; the harvest is sure to be abundant.

Perhaps that’s why John emphasizes the term “lives” – NIV here, in verses fifteen and sixteen. “If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them, and they in God. And so, we know and rely on God’s love for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God [lives] in them.” The rest of that section spells out the consequences of not continuing to live in Him: “If you do not remain in Me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.” So, the message is loud and clear![17]

Here’s a thought to consider. Think for a moment about what it is to have this indwelling of God in your heart. What a fountain is within us of holiness and happiness and strength. What an excellent thing it is – what assurance of our election, a license of prayer, and a pleasant foretaste of eternal life and happiness! To carry God not only with you but within you, wherever you go; to feel and know that He is there; to be sure of it by the feeling of your conscience, which is working there to make you love everybody and everything as His child – what more could you wish? It is the emblem of the child of the King of kings – the royalty of heaven – the crown! And because it is the badge of kinship and the Father’s likeness, it makes you love so much that all else is a non-starter.[18]

Daniel Steele (1824-1914) focuses on the opening words of this verse, “know” and “believed.” He points out that sometimes knowledge is the ground of faith, as the banker’s acquaintance with the excellent character of the borrower is his reason for trusting him, and sometimes faith is the path to knowledge, as when the child believes the teacher and comes to know the alphabet. Paul speaks of the unity of faith and knowledge; faith ends in knowledge.[19] This is the genesis of all spiritual wisdom.

A general acquaintance with the Anointed One and self-surrender to Him, notes Steele, prepares us to seize by faith His promise of the Paraclete whose office it is to glorify the living Anointed One revealing Him in the heart. As a practical truth in the spiritual realm, believing precedes knowing. Then, in turn, knowledge lays the foundation for a higher act of faith, as the Apostle Paul knew whom he had believed, and on this ground, he was fully persuaded or had a perfect faith that he could safely trust the deposit of himself in His hands until the day of judgment.[20] Thus, by first believing and then knowing, and on this new basis believing again, the Christian climbs Jacob’s ladder from earth to heaven.[21]


[1] 1 John 4:1-6

[2] Ibid. 4:7-12

[3] Ibid. 4: 14, 15, 16

[4] Galatians 5:6; 6:15

[5] Candlish, Robert S., First Epistle of John, op. cit., pp. 134-135, 143

[6] Cf. Isaiah 45:21; Job 4:17; Psalm 89:14; Matthew 12:18; Revelation 19:11

[7] Jelf, William, E., First Epistle of St. John, op. cit., p. 63

[8] 1 John 4:15

[9] Ibid. 4:12

[10] See Strong’s Greek Concordance and Lexicon

[11] Jelf, William E., First Epistle of St. John, op. cit., p. 65

[12] Vaughan, Charles J., The Biblical Illustrator, op. cit., 1 John 4, p. 127

[13] Psalm 119:72

[14] 2 Peter 1:4

[15] Stock, John: Exposition of the First Epistle of John, op. cit., p. 369

[16] John 15:5

[17] Pope, William B., Popular Commentary, op. cit., p. 316

[18] Nisbet, James: The Church Pulpit Commentary, op. cit., Vol. 12, p. 303

[19] Ephesians 4:13

[20] 2 Timothy 1:12

[21] Steele, Daniel: Half-Hour, op. cit., pp. 113-114

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WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER FOUR (Lesson CI) 06/21/22

4:16 We know how much God loves us because we feel His love and believe Him when He tells us that He loves us dearly. God is love, and anyone who lives in love is living with God, and God with them.

John Howe (1630-1705) notes that since the One we love makes our love the summation of His law and principles, we should make it the sum of all our requests, for it is our privilege and duty. What we are to do and what we are to enjoy are thus summed up in love. And if we make this the foundation of our desires, how much skill would there be when we come to the Lord and say, “Lord, if I cast all my desires into one request, it is love! Love is the only thing. I beg only a heart to love You.” How much resourcefulness is there in praying that way! And how great the necessity of it! For we can as soon pluck down a star or create a new sun to plant in our souls the seed of this principle of love to God without His aid. Every good and perfect gift is from Him;[1] indeed, this is good, and a matter of the highest excellence, to have the heart possessed with His agápē. Nevertheless, we can never understand God’s agápē to us until our souls are transformed into loving Him. God is love, and those who dwell in love abide in God and God in them.[2] [3]

William Jones of Nayland (1726-1805) says that the belief in a Supreme Being is equivalent to the human identification process. The attributes and names ascribed to Him are very different, but almost all agree on His existence. But what and who is God? There are various answers to this question. To some, He is unintelligent and irresistible Fate. For others. Nature. Some assign it to the beautiful order and spectacular forces of nature. To others, “the something outside ourselves, which affords living right.” For many it is, “an infinite and eternal energy from which all things proceed.”[4] For believers, the Creator, Sustainer, and Sovereign of the universe. But what does the Supreme Being say about Himself? “God is Light;” “God is Love.” A complete infilling of what God makes it impossible for humans to understand. The finite cannot comprehend the Infinite.

Now, says Jones, let’s combine the two statements: “God is Infinite Love.” Such a statement goes way over our heads. The highest and mightiest of created beings cannot comprehend infinite love. The knowledge our sanctified spirits have of God will increase forever, but at no period in the everlasting future will anyone be able to know Him fully. Yet as to His being and character, we may each attain such knowledge to enable us to confide in Him and enter upon the blessed and endless transformation of being more like Him. Though we cannot comprehend Him who is Infinite Love, we may yield to Him through the Anointed One, trust Him, love Him, commune with him, and become one with him. “God is Love.”[5]

Adam Clarke (1772-1832) says that the Bible shows us that God is Love: that He hates nothing that He has made; that He is loving to everyone and is not willing that any should perish, but that all will come to the knowledge of the truth and be saved. As the Apostle John says, “We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in His agápē. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them.”[6] [7]

While reading this poem by Robert Southey (1774-1843), many scholars wonder if Southey read verse sixteen as the inspiration for these beautiful lines

They lie who tell us Love can die.

With life, all other passions fly,

In heaven, ambition cannot dwell,

Nor Avarice in the vaults of Hell;

Earthly, these passions of the Earth,

They perish where they have their birth

Its holy flame forever burneth,

From Heaven it came, to Heaven returneth;

Too oft on Earth a troubled guest,

At times deceived, at times oppressed,

Then hath in Heaven its perfect rest:

It soweth here with toil and care,

But the harvest time of Love is there.[8]

Richard Rothe (1799-1867) feels it is only proper that the Apostle John should begin the sentence with “God is love.” In these words, the Apostle’s line of thought takes a fresh start. He returns to the assertion in verse eight that God is love to derive from it a new way, an appeal to brotherly love. If God is love, then to abide in love is substantially an abiding of God’s Love in them. That is, staying in union with God. This fellowship with God is the perfecting of love in us and love being free from all fear. It is a condition no one can arrive at any other way.[9]

William Lincoln (1825-1888) says that in the Apostle John’s Gospel, we fully see that the Anointed One is in the Father and the Father in the Anointed One. Then in John’s epistle, an advance is made; and that is this – that the Anointed One is in the believer, and the believer is in God.[10] Lincoln then tells us that once, when he was preaching, he remarked that “a believer was brought so close to God, that there was not a shade of distance between them.” A person wrote him a letter the next day, suggesting that he had exceeded the truth – for he thought by leaving out any mention of the Anointed One, “it seemed that he belittled the Son of God.” Lincoln wrote back that there was not the shadow of a shade of any space between the believer and God; he was close to Him. Now, Lincoln maintains that this individual simply missed the main point. Through our being in the Anointed One who is also in God, it is not merely that people are brought to God; but the language is – “they dwell in God,” and that is more than just being brought to God.[11]

William Lincoln (1825-1888) says that in the Apostle John’s Gospel, we fully see that the Anointed One is in the Father, and the Father is in the Anointed One. Then in John’s epistle, an advance is made; and that is this – that the Anointed One is in the believer, and the believer is in God.[12] Lincoln then tells us that once, when he was preaching, he remarked that “a believer is brought so close to God, that there is not the shadow of distance between them.” A person wrote him a letter the next day, suggesting that he had exceeded the truth – for he thought by leaving out any mention of the Anointed One, “it seemed that he belittled the Son of God.” Lincoln wrote back that there was no space between the believer and God; they were so close to Him. Now, Lincoln maintains that this individual simply missed the main point. Through our being in the Anointed One who is also in God, it is not merely that people are drawn to God; but the language is – “they dwell in God,” and that is more than just being brought to God.[13]

Augustus Neander (1789-1850) says that the Apostle John now returns to that which serves as the foundation for the Christian life and salvation. It is the ground of the entire church and all its divine inward experiences, depending on all, and with this is given all. It concerns the testimony respecting God’s Son, whom the Father sent as the world’s Savior. Of this, John has the confident assurance of an eye-witness.[14] But with those who had long been acquainted with Christianity, John did not need to appeal merely to his sight and experience. They were not to depend upon his testimony, to which he bore witness. The fact must have been fully attested to by their conscious experience of fellowship with God. But the apostle would repeatedly impress upon their hearts that firm adherence to this fact must always be the ground of all true unity with God.[15]

Albert Barnes (1798-1870) says it is not uncommon for John to repeat an important truth. He delights to dwell on such a truth as expressed here, and who should not? What truth is there on which the mind can stay with more pleasure; what is there that is better fitted to win the heart to holiness; what that will do more to sustain the soul in the sorrows and trials of this life? In our tests; in the darkness which is around us; in the perplexities which meet and embarrass us regarding the Divine administration; in all that seems to us incomprehensible in this world, and in the prospect of the next, let us learn to repeat this declaration of the favored disciple, “God is love.” What trials may we not bear if we feel assured of that! What dark cloud that seems to hang over our way, and covers everything with gloom, will not hinder us if we can always say from the depths of our souls, “God is love![16]

Robert Smith Candlish (1806-1873) looks at the Apostle John’s statement in verse thirteen, “With this know we that we dwell in Him, and He in us because He has given us of His Spirit,” and says it carries us back to a previous statement, “Now we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit which He has given us.”[17] Again, we are reminded of the scope and design of the whole passage. The question is about the mutual indwelling of God in us and of us in God, particularly about His abiding in us. How are we to know this? By the Spirit which He gave us is the answer.


[1] James 1:17

[2] 1 John 4:16

[3] Howe, John, op. cit., (Kindle Locations 1954-1962)

[4] Cf.But one truth must grow ever clearer—the truth that there is an Inscrutable Existence everywhere manifested, to which he [the man of science] can neither find nor conceive either beginning or end. Amid the mysteries which become the more mysterious the more they are thought about, there will remain the one absolute certainty, that he is ever in presence of an Infinite and Eternal Energy, from which all things proceed.” Mr. Donald Murray asks in NATURE of February 24 is in Herbert Spencer’s “Principles of Sociology”, Part 6—Ecclesiastical Institutions, Chap. 16—Religious Retrospect and Prospect.

[5] Jones, William: First Epistle of John, Pulpit Commentary, Vol. 22, op. cit., Homiletics, p. 122

[6] 1 John 4:16; See Psalm 145:9

[7] Clarke, Adam: Clavis Biblica, op. cit., The Apocalypse, or Book of the Revelation, p. 52

[8] Southey, Robert, The Poetical Works, published by A. and W. Galignani, Paris, 1829, “The Curse of Kehama,” Ch. X, Mount Mebu, p. 322

[9] Rothe, Richard: The Expository Times, op. cit., June 1894, p. 421

[10] 1 John 4:16

[11] Lincoln, William: Lectures on 1 John, op. cit., Lecture V, pp. 58-59

[12] 1 John 4:16

[13] Lincoln, William: Lectures on 1 John, op. cit., Lecture V, pp. 58-59

[14] See 1 John 4:14

[15] Neander, Augustus, First Epistle of John, op. cit., Chapters IV, V, pl 266

[16] Barnes, Albert: Notes on the N. T., op. cit., p. 4868

[17] 1 John 3:24

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WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER FOUR (Lesson C) 06/20/22

4:16 We know how much God loves us because we feel His love and believe Him when He tells us that He loves us dearly. God is love, and anyone who lives in love is living with God, and God with them.

Walter Hilton (1340-1396), when speaking about discerning the spirits to distinguish the good from the evil, writes that these two are alike in the manner of outward feelings, but they are very different within. Therefore, discerning the spirits is not required nor lightly entertained unless a soul can discern the good from the evil. That is, so a person is not easily charmed, as the Apostle John said: Trust not every spirit, but first determine whether it is from God or not. Wherefore, says Hilton, I think you can distinguish the godly from the ungodly.[1]

John Trapp (1601-1669) talks about our knowing and believing God is love. He mentions an early Christian writer he calls Pelican, who tells about when he used to read this portion of Scripture to his friends at their feasts.[2] A pious practice and well-becoming to those that feast before the Lord. The primitive Christians had at such times their kiss of love.[3]  And Augustine had Peter’s two verses written on his writing-table.[4]

Leonard Howard (1699-1767) states that the foundation of our Christian profession is God’s agápē in redeeming us because His agápē and goodness are the critical elements of His essence. Therefore, every Christian must maintain this spiritual communion with Him in proportion to His agápē for us.[5] By saying this, Dr. Howard wants to challenge us to think of how much God loved us while we were prisoners in sin’s prison and how much we should love Him now that He has set us free.

John Brown of Haddington (1722-1787) points out that if we live by the power of ardent love for God through His children for His sake, we have the most delightful and reciprocal union and communion. It didn’t come about through our efforts, but by experiencing what the Bible calls being “born again.” That is, coming to know God personally and learning of His agápē for us, manifested in His giving His only begotten Son to die on a cross on our behalf so that we need not suffer sin’s penalty of everlasting separation from Him.[6]

Alfred Plummer (1841-1926) says this verse in Greek reads: “And we have come to KNOW and have BELIEVED.” It is the natural order; advanced knowledge of God leads to faith. But sometimes faith precedes knowledge.[7] In either case, each completes the other. Complete faith is trust; practical knowledge is believing. We must be “ready always to give an answer to everyone who asks why this hope is in us.”[8] This verse fulfills the conclusion of the Anointed One’s High-Priestly prayer; “I have revealed You to them, and I will continue to do so. Then your love for Me will be in them, and I will be in them.”[9]

John Owen (1616-1683) combines the Apostle John’s message in verses nine, ten, and sixteen to emphasize that God is love, of nature infinitely good and gracious, to be the only object of all divine love. But this agápē can no way be known, or be so manifested to us, as that we may and ought to love Him, but by His agápē in the Anointed One, His sending of Him and loving us in Him. Before this, without this, we do not, and we cannot love God. It is the cause, the spring, and the fountain, of all our love for Him. They are empty notions and imaginations with which some speculative persons please themselves. Instead, God’s love of divine goodness must be considered. However, infinitely amiable it may be, it is not a reality to them. It is unsuited to their state and condition, without considering its communications to us in the Anointed One.[10]

Owen goes on to say that the same love of friendship expresses itself by that intimate communion with and exceptional residence between God and the believer. God dwells in them, and they in God, for God is love. Did not our Lord say, “All who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and we will come and make Our home with each of them?”[11]  and, “All who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and We will come and make Our home with each of them.”[12] These are not empty words; there is a solid foundation beneath them and truth in them. Those whose hearts duly exercise God’s agápē experience the refreshing approaches of the Father and the Son to their souls in the communications of a sense of their love and pledges of their dwelling with them.[13]

And in another document, Owen focuses on John’s phrase, “God is love.”  The title “God” is here taken personally, and that John meant it for the Father is evident in verse nine. He distinguishes Himself from His only begotten Son, whom He sends down to the world. Now, as God passes in front of Moses, He identifies Himself as “Yahweh! The Lord! The God of compassion and mercy!”[14] According to His proclamation, that is, not only of an infinitely gracious, tender, compassionate, and loving nature, but also one that highly and peculiarly distributes His agápē to us willingly.

In verse nine, we learn, “This is how God showed His agápē among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him.” Then in verse ten, “This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins,” and that this is something unusual to be seen in Him. The Holy Spirit plainly declares, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus the Anointed One. In the Anointed One, God has given us every spiritual blessing in heaven. In the Anointed One, He chose us before the world was made. He chose us in love to be His holy people – who could stand before Him without any fault. And before the world was made, God decided to make us His own children through Jesus the Anointed One. Thus, Owen declares that this agápē came before the Anointed One purchased our salvation by His death, allowing God to adopt us as His children.[15] [16]

Owen asks believers some interesting questions: “How will you commune with the Fa###ther in love? When do you know whether He loves you or not, or should you first throw yourself upon His mercy? Would it be easier to presume that He loves you than to try and experience sweet peace in His arms?” God seems only to be a consuming fire, says Owen, [17] so “people dread getting to know Him.”

Here is Owen’s response to His questions: “I can’t believe you don’t know anything about God’s agápē. Although it operates in the spiritual sense and experience, it is received purely by believing. Knowing about it is believing it as revealed.” The Apostle John tells us that we know God’s love for us and trust that love. God is love.”[18] At the very entrance of walking with God, this is the assurance which you may have of this agápē. He who is truth has said it, and whatever your heart says, or Satan says, unless you wilt take it up on this account, you must endeavor to expose those who say it as liars.[19]

Matthew Poole (1624-1679) notes that the transforming effects of God’s agápē upon us depend upon our misgivings or faith. Therefore, the Apostle John doubles the expression to that of certainty: “We have known and believed,” that is, our experience and confidence assures us of that agápē. It implies that by having this concept of God thoroughly settled in our souls, this agápē will transform us into His nature and image. As a result, we will be as comfortable dwelling in love as in our daily lives, which will help our unity with God, and that He and we indwell each other.[20]

John Bunyan (1628-1688) defines the words “to know” as “to believe.” Those who have received the gift of believing have faith in the working of His mighty power, “We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in His agápē,”[21] which precedes our belief. Many who are justified by God’s gift believed in the power of the Holy Spirit, which must come and awaken faith and strengthen the soul to act on it. Individuals who believe will be saved; believing is a sign, not a reason, for their being right in God’s eyes by implanted belief. However, those who don’t believe will be damned. Their unbelief is a sign that they are not righteous. It’s the reason their sinful tendencies are still active in their lives.[22]

Later on, Bunyan writes about proof that God’s grace is free and unchangeable. First, God loves the saints, says Bunyan, just as much as He loves Jesus the Anointed One, and God loves Jesus the Anointed One with an eternal love; therefore, He loves the saints the same way. Jesus said, “Then the world will know that You sent me and have loved them even as You have loved Me.”[23] Second, God’s agápē must be everlasting love; that is the love by which God loves His saints in the Anointed One, Jesus. Therefore, His agápē towards His children in union with the Anointed One must be an everlasting love. Third, none would dare say that God’s agápē is a mixture of heaven and earth. So, His agápē is purely His.[24] [25]


[1] Hilton, Walter: The Scale of Perfection, op. cit., Bk. 1, Part 1, p.41

[2] The Pelican History of the Church

[3] 1 Peter 5:13-14

[4] Trapp, John: Commentary or Exposition Upon all Books of New Testament, Printed by R. W., London (1656), op. cit., First Epistle of John, Ch. IV, p. 954

[5] Howard, Leonard: The Royal Bible, op. cit., loc. cit.

[6] Brown, John of Haddington: Self-Interpreting Bible, op. cit., p. 1328

[7] See John 5:69

[8] 1 Peter 3:15

[9] John 17:6

[10] Owen, John: Christologia, op. cit., Ch. 13, pp. 204-205

[11] John 14:23

[12] Revelation 3:20

[13] Owen, John: op. cit., p. 210

[14] Exodus 34:6

[15] Ephesians 1:3-5

[16] Owen, John, Of Communion with God, Ch. 3, p. 26

[17] See Hebrews 12:29

[18] 1 John 4:16

[19] Ibid. 5:10

[20] Poole, Matthew: op. cit., loc. cit.

[21] 1 John 1:16

[22] Bunyan, John: Practical Works, Vol. 5, The Doctrine of the Law and Grace Unfolded, The Heavenly Footman, Ch. 8, p. 265

[23] John 17:23

[24] 1 John 4:16

[25] Bunyan, John: Practical Works, ibid. Vol. 7, Ch. 8, p. 284

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WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER FOUR (Lesson XCIX) 06/10/22

4:16 We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in His love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them.

COMMENTARY

Several early church scholars share their thoughts on this verse. One was Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage (circa 100-158 AD) tells us that those who have refused to be of one mind in the church of God cannot be in union with God.[1] Cyprian refers to the blessed Apostle John’s word: God, he says, is love; and they that dwell in love dwells in God, and God in them.[2] Therefore, they cannot be in union with God, who would not be of one mind in God’s Church. Consequently, although they burn, given up to flames and fires, or lay down their lives, thrown to the wild beasts, that will not be the crown of faith, but the punishment of being betrayed; nor will it be the glorious ending of religious bravery, but the destruction of despair. Such a person may be slain, but not crowned. They profess to be a Christian just as the devil pretends to be the Anointed One, as the Lord forewarns us, “Many will come in my name, saying, I am the Anointed One, and will deceive many.[3] They are not in union with the Anointed One. And although they use His name to deceive, they cannot appear as a Christian who do not abide in the truth of His Gospel and faith.[4]

Not only does Cyprian have a message for the Church, but also the non-believing Jews. He quotes Malachi: “Don’t we all have the same father? Didn’t one God create us all? Then why do we break faith with each other, profaning the covenant of our ancestors?”[5] And doesn’t the Apostle John, a converted Jew, say, “This is how we know who the children of God are and who are offsprings of the devil’s brood. Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister.”[6] John declares that “Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in them.”[7] John also wrote, “Whoever claims to love God yet hates a Christian brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.”[8]

We find this same thing in the Acts of the Apostles, says Cyprian. There we read that the Apostle Peter, a converted Jew, reported: “All the many believers were one in heart and soul, and no one keeps their possessions for themselves, but everyone shared everything they had.”[9] And this was on the Temple mount! Then Matthew, a converted Jew, repeats what Yeshua, a Jew, said: “If you are offering your gift at the Temple altar, and you remember there that your brother has something against you, leave your gift at the altar, and go, make peace with your brother. Then come back and offer your gift.”[10] Not only that, but the Apostle John, a converted Jew, the one closest to Yeshua, tells you that “Those who remain in this agápē remain united with God, and God remains united with them.”[11] [12] While this was Cyprian’s message for the Jews back then, it qualifies as a message for the Church today.

Clement of Alexandria (150-216 AD) shares an interesting custom acceptable in his day. He says we should not surrender our ears to all who speak and write impulsively. Just like vases grasped by their ear handles by careless hands, they are broken and ruined when they fall. In the same way, the ears of those polluted by insignificant chatter become deaf to the pure truth, useless, and fall away. Therefore, we should encourage children to respect their relatives when holding them by their ears to kiss them, indicating that the feeling of love is produced by hearing. And God, who is known to those who love, since love, is God, [13] just like those who are instructed to teach the faithful, are faithful; and we must be allied to Him by divine love: so that by like we may see like, hearing the word of truth guilelessly and purely, as children who obey us. And this was what he, whoever he was, indicated who wrote the inscription on the entrance to the temple at Epidaurus: — “Pure he must be who goes within, the incense-perfumed Temple.”[14]

So then, Basil the Great (330-379 AD) points out that if God is love, it must be that the devil is hate. Therefore, as those who have love also have God, those who hate have the devil dwelling in them. [19]

In one of his homilies on the Apostle John’s first epistle, Augustine (353-430 AD) speaks of God’s agápē dwelling in us so that it will be perfected according to God’s will. He says we cannot always just talk about love, but there is never a moment when we doubt that we have it. Perhaps you all have read what Jesus said in His sermon on the mount that we should be careful that when we do something good, we don’t purposely do it in front of others so that they will see us. If we do that, we will have no reward from our Father in heaven.[15] Of course, that doesn’t mean we should try to hide all our charitable deeds, just don’t do it with an ulterior motive to draw attention to yourself instead of God.

So, says Augustine, that doesn’t mean we should spend all our time praying and fasting but go out and please God by showing love to others. But if we don’t practice love, we risk becoming greedy. As the Apostle Paul warned young Timothy, “For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.”[16] That is another way of saying that when we spend all our time trying to get rich, whether it be in money, position, or fame. When we do, as Paul says, we cause ourselves a lot of pain and sorrow. Jesus certainly gives us plenty of reasons to do things His way, “What you should want most is God’s kingdom and doing what He wants you to do. Then He will give you all these other things you need.”[17]

Augustine then confesses that the more he preaches about love, the more unwilling he is to finish John’s epistle. None is more passionate than commending and practicing love. Nothing sweeter can I preach to you, says Augustine, nothing more wholesome for you to absorb: but only if by godly living you confirm the gift of God in you. Don’t become ungrateful about His great grace, who, though He had one Only Son, was not satisfied until He might adopt more children who with Him possess life eternal.[18]

Augustine also remarks that the Holy Spirit is shared between the Father and the Son. But this communion is itself consubstantial[20] and coeternal. And although it can appropriately be described as friendship, it is better to call it love. It is a substance because God is substance, and God is love.[21] Augustine then goes on to say that when we come to the subject of love, which is what God is called in Scripture, the Trinity begins to dawn a little, for there is the Lover, the Beloved, and Love.

Bede the Venerable (672-735) states that we know that Jesus is the Son of God and that the Father sent Him to be the world’s Savior. And we believe in God’s love for us, the same passion He has for His only-begotten Son because God did not want His Son to be an only child. Instead, he wanted Him to have brothers and sisters, and so he adopted us so that we might share His eternal life.[23]

Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite (circa 500-600 AD) asks why theologians sometimes refer to God as someone we yearn for or the Beloved? On the one hand, He causes, produces, and generates what is being referred to; on the other hand; He is the thing itself, namely, Love.[22]

Then, Isho’dad of Merv (flourished around 850 AD) notes that there is no other Scripture calling God love. John desires that we seek Him who is love, from whom the commandment to show mercy came.[24]

Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) is asked whether the cohabitation of God in us and us in God is the outcome of love? The critics suggest that it would seem that love does not cause mutual indwelling so that the lover is in the beloved and vice versa. For that which is in another is contained by it. That’s why this indwelling cannot be both the container and the contents. Therefore, love cannot cause simultaneous inhabitation so that the one loving is being loved and vice versa. Furthermore, they point out that it implies that both are beloved by each other, which is a false assumption. Therefore, being in each other is not an effect of love.

But Aquinas is quick to answer. In verse sixteen, he notes that the Apostle John states that “God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.” Aquinas believes this mutual indwelling effect may refer to a person’s expectations and appetite. Because of such uneasiness, the beloved is said to be the loving one in the recipient. The Apostle Paul explains: “It is right for me to feel this way about all of you since I have you in my heart.[25] Since the one who shares their love is not satisfied with a superficial relationship with the one, they love, they desire to establish intimate knowledge of everything pertaining to the object of their love to penetrate their very soul. Thus, it is written concerning God’s agápē, “The Spirit searches all things, even the in-depth things of God.”[26] [27] So, though one believer may be satisfied in awaiting the love from God, the other is driven by their appetite to be in union with God so that they not only believe that God loves them enough to be in them but that He is in them so that they are in Him.

[1] Ibid. (Bray Ed.), James, 1-2 Peter, 1-3 John, Jude, op. cit., loc. cit., On the Unity of the Catholic Church, Treatise 1:14

[2] 1 John 4:16

[3] Mark 13:6

[4] Cyprian of Carthage: Treatise I on the Unity of the Church, ⁋14, New Advent digitized version 

[5] Malachi 2:10 – Complete Jewish Bible

[6] 1 John 3:10

[7] Ibid. 3:15

[8] Ibid. 4:32

[9] Acts of the Apostles 4:32

[10] Matthew 5:23-24

[11] 1 John 4:16

[12] Cyprian of Carthage: Treatise XII, Three Books of Testimonies Against the Jews, Bk. 3.3

[13] Ibid 4:16

[14] Clement of Alexandria, Stomata Book V., Ch 1, On Faith, New Advent digital publication

[15] Matthew 6:1

[16] 1 Timothy 6:10

[17] Matthew 6:33

[18] Augustine, Homilies on the Epistle of John, Homily 8, pp. 1001-1013

[19] Basil the Great: Ibid, Ascetical Discourses 2

[20] Consubstantial is used in the Roman Catholic church to attribute the same substance or essence (used, especially of the three persons of the Trinity in Christian theology).

[21] Augustine: (Bray Ed.), James, 1-2 Peter, 1-3 John, Jude, op. cit., loc. cit., On the Trinity 6.5.7; 15.10

[22] Ibid. Pseudo Dionysus the Areopagite: On the Divine Names 4.14

[23] Bede the Venerable, Ancient Christian Commentary, Vol. XI, Bray, G. (Ed.), James, 1-2 Peter, 1-3 John

[24] Isho’dad, Ancient Christian Commentary, Vol. XI, Bray, G. (Ed.), James, 1-2 Peter, 1-3 John

[25] Philippians 1:7

[26] 1 Corinthians 2:10

[27] Aquinas, Thomas: Summa Theologica Vol. 2, op. cit., Question 28, Article 2, pp. 320-321


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WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER FOUR (Lesson XCVIII) 06/09/22

4:15 Anyone who believes and says that Jesus is God’s Son has God living in them, and they in Him.

David Jackman (1947) believes that the Apostle John means more by the Greek verb homologeō (“shall confess” KJV; “acknowledge” NIV) than an intellectual acceptance of a fact of history. Saving faith depends not just on a general warmth and positive feeling towards the Anointed One, whatever some evangelistic presentations imply. It depends on a doctrinal confession concerning the Anointed One, on which the whole of our experience of God depends. And further, the mark of that reality is a life that expresses personal faith in the Anointed One as God by obedience to His commands and growth like Him in character. Neither of the two strands of truth and love is optional. They are inseparable.[1]

Judith M. Lieu (1951) observes that a foundational story is needed to protect the community’s self-understanding. This risk must be countered by recalling the embodiment of the Son, the primary story of Jesus, for it was the preaching about Jesus as the Anointed One to the claims made for what He as the Son of God had achieved. For the Apostle John, the definition of “Anointed One” or “Son of God” is not something independent of the story of Jesus. That identification has to be reclaimed or restored, which means that what we know about Jesus provides the content of how God acted. At the same time, while God has acted, gives content to who Jesus is. Hence, this verse reminds us that the Son of God, whose sending John has declared three times in this chapter, [2] is none other than Jesus of Nazareth.[3] John found that it was hard to put the two together as one for some. But unless that unity existed in their minds, they did not know God; consequently, they did not know Jesus. This made it impossible for them to experience anything about God’s agápē.

Bruce G. Schuchard (1958) says that back in the Apostle John’s Day, the term “Son of God’’ was for both Christians and pagans a salvation figure, a messenger of God. Therefore, John highlights what separates the two sides, insisting that the man Jesus “walked among us and died on the cross.” It isn’t that He “was” but “will” always be the only Son of God. John also highlights the function of the Spirit in directing the believer to a necessary understanding of Jesus so that all may come to know that Jesus, who is the Son of God, [4] is none other than Jesus the Anointed One who arrived in flesh and bone.[5] By revisiting the testimony of the previous verse, John’s language attempts to underscore the vast chasm[6] that defines the difference between the faithful and the unfaithful, between belief and unbelief, and between the life of the age to come and the abyss of everlasting death.[7]

Duncan Heaster (1967) states that confession was required, not just “secret belief,” and such confession meant being put out of the synagogues and thereby out of the Jewish world/society. Therefore, many “believed” but would not “confess.”[8] God’s abiding in a person is through the Spirit. And yet, the Comforter passages promise that the indwelling Spirit will empower our witness or confession. Therefore, this is more evidence of having received the Spirit; that we will testify, in the power of the Spirit. The false teachers and infiltrators didn’t do so and were not, therefore, “of God,” and their claims to possess the Spirit were false.[9]

Karen H. Jobes (1968) states that it is not sufficient to believe in the historical Jesus; one must also believe that the man Jesus was the Son of God whom the Father sent to atone for sin. Mutual indwelling of God in the believer and the believer in God echoes John’s gospel, where the Greek verb menō (“remain”) occurs dozens of times in reference to the intimate relationship between the three members of the Trinity.[10] Believers in the Anointed One can enter into a fellowship with God.[11] The idea of living or abiding with God stands behind the promise of having a place in the Father’s house, referring to eternal life.[12] [13] 

David Guzik (1984) writes that it isn’t enough to know the facts about who Jesus is; we must confess that this is the truth. The idea behind the word confess is “to be in agreement with.” We must agree with God about who Jesus is, and we find out what God says about Jesus through God’s Word. You may know something without agreeing with it; but God demands our acceptance. Although John has been writing much about love, he does not ignore the issue of truth. John does not think it is “sufficient” if a person has some kind of love in their life if they do not confess that Jesus is the Son of God. It isn’t a matter of deciding between love or truth; we must have both. Therefore, acknowledging that Jesus is the Son of God is not simply to make a statement about His physical status, but vow obedience to the only one who has that status. Simply to say that you believe in the Anointed One and love fellow believers is not a condition required by God for Him to dwell within us. Instead, they are evidence that God already lives in us to make this possible.[14]

4:16     Now that we understand God’s love for us, we can trust that love.

EXPOSITION

Once more, John repeats that God lives in us, and since nothing can exist outside of God, we live in Him.  His presence in us was delivered on the wings of the Holy Spirit, who took up residence in us.  It leads John to focus again on the central theme of his Gospel, Jesus was a man sent from God to bring the message of salvation and pay the price for our deliverance.  Consequently, Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Church of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) do not qualify as part of the Christian faith.

Just because I learn Hebrew, memorize the Old Testament, read the Mishnah and observe all the Jewish holidays and feasts, that still does not make me a Jew.  The only way to start that process is to be born again as a Jew, circumcised, and baptized.  The same is true of a Christian.  Learning the Bible, singing hymns, and practicing Christian virtues and ethics do not make one a Christian.  We must be born again and become a new creation in the Anointed One Jesus.  And that will only happen when we say with all sincerity and faith that we believe that Jesus is the Son of God and is the only one authorized to offer salvation from God through His grace.  Holding on to that promise of salvation and eternal life is the best way of saying we trust God and the love He has for us.  If you can’t trust God’s agápē, whose love can you trust?

This verse summarizes 1 John 3:24-4:16 – intimate fellowship with God is impossible without love for fellow Christians. Notice the order of “have known and believed.”  We must first hear the Gospel before we can believe it.  By the same token, we must know God’s agápē before we can believe God loves us.  Those who experience God’s agápē come to have confidence in Him to love.  Faith in God’s agápē comes from fuller knowledge about agápē. John inserts his discourse of the doctrine of the Anointed One into a discussion of God’s agápē and Christian love.  This is a logical deduction from the nature of God, from His orientation to love.  God is unconditional, incomprehensible, incomparable love.  We see this clearly in the sacrifice of His Son.

John previously used the phrase “God is love” in verse eight to make a case for loving fellow Christians.  He reiterates the truth that “God is love” here to show the close connection between fellowship with God and loving fellow believers.  Only by abiding in God’s agápē can true fellowship with Him be made real.  Verses eight and nine connect with verses fourteen and sixteen to the idea that God sent His Son into the world.  God reveals His agápē through Jesus the Anointed One.  God sending His Son is proof of His agápē for us and the execution of that love in us. 

There is a close correlation between loving Christians and fellowship with God. Since God in His essence is love, where God is, love is. This is the work of the Holy Spirit in us. God’s agápē operates within the sphere of the believer. John is confident that God’s agápē works in Christians, as they love one another. If God dwells in a believer, love dwells there too. The doctrine of God occupying the believer also implies love indwelling the believer. There is an indwelling love that God imparts to every believer. There is a great interchange between God’s agápē and the loving believer. 

So, we have come to know and believe. Both perfects are virtual presence, expressing the present continuance of a condition begun in the past: “We know and continue to believe.” Experience and faith are intimately connected, and sometimes the one precedes, sometimes the other.[15]  What John says in verse nine should be rendered “in us,” not “to us” or “toward us,” and in verse fifteen, the interpretation of “in our case” is certainly possible and perhaps safer. But the meaning may be that the object of our knowledge and faith is that portion of God’s love in us. It is “in us” and exercised towards Him and our fellow believers, but in reality, it is Him abiding in us. In either case, love is the object of our faith. Thus, love is not only the mission of the Church;[16] it is also the Church’s creed.

Therefore, where God is, His love is. Love always flows from fellowship with God. God works in Christians as they love one another. We cannot fellowship with God if we harbor malice toward fellow Christians. God inhabits all Christians, so all believers are indwelt by love. God living in the believer is tied inseparably to the confession of the Anointed One as God’s. Thus, a domino effect resulting from belief results in God’s residence in the believer, producing passionate love in the Christian. We must first know the love of God before we can believe the love of God. It is another way of saying that when we experience the love of God, we know more about loving others. It is possible by unbelief to block appreciation for God’s love in advance. Knowledge and belief act and react with each other. Any truth not applied to experience is worthless. God’s Word must be known and believed to be effective. Belief without knowledge is pure gullibility.   


[1] Jackman, David: The Message of John’s Letters, op. cit., pp. 127-128

[2] 1 John 4:9, 10, 14

[3] Lieu, Judith: The New Testament Commentary, op. cit., p. 191

[4] 1 John 3:23; 4:9-10,14-15

[5] Ibid 4:2

[6] Cf. Luke 16:26 – NIV & NLT. (Synonyms for chasm: ravine, gorge, rift, crater, canyon)

[7] Schuchard, Bruce G., Concordia Commentary, op. cit., p. 483

[8] John 9:22; 12:42; see 2:23

[9] Heaster, Duncan: New European Commentary, op. cit., 1 John, p. 34

[10] Example: (NIV) John 1:32, 33; 15:10

[11] 1 John 1:3; cf. John 12:46; 14:17; 15:4-7

[12] John 14:2, 23

[13] Jobes, Karen H., 1, 2, and 3 John (Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, Book 18), pp. 196-197

[14] Guzik, David: Enduring Word, op. cit., loc. cit.

[15] See John 6:69

[16] Ibid. 13:35

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WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER FOUR (Lesson XCVII) 06/08/22

4:15 Anyone who believes and says that Jesus is God’s Son has God living in them, and they in Him.

Amos N. Wilder (1895-1993) says that another proof to the Christian that God abides in them, and they in God, is the confession they make. The required insight can come only from God. To recognize the Father and His working certifies true sonship. But this proof is closely related to the witness of the Spirit.[1] For it is by God’s Spirit that we testify that the Father sent His Son and anyone who confesses that Jesus is God’s Son.[2] To such a witness, John has in mind, “This is what God told us: He told us the truth about His Son.[3] [4]

Paul Waitman Hoon (1910-2000) takes what the Apostle John says here as a way to make sure his readers understand that abiding in God and His dwelling in them is an important testimony that you live a good Christian life. However, this inward witness of the Spirit must be complemented by the outward witness of fellowshipping with other believers. But, while one’s Christian assurance can be verified by the traditions and heritage of the Church, a problem arises when those traditions are raised above what the Scriptures say. Therefore, every believer must apply, define, and confess their beliefs.[5] Not based on Creeds, Catechisms, or Articles of Faith, but on “Thus says the Lord.”

Rudolf Schnackenburg (1914-2002) states that faith in Jesus is the necessary assumption for belief in God’s agápē for us. This leads the Apostle John to raise a point we would have expected him to bring up in verses one to six, says Schnackenburg. While faith and love are conditions and hallmarks of our fellowship with God, they are inseparable. The confession “Jesus is the Son of God” calls our attention back to verse fourteen, where the words “God sent His Son” show how the title Son of God has both personal and Messiah implications for the mission of our Lord. In Jesus, we perceive One who is the Son of the Father in a relationship sense.[6] The only-begotten One was sent into the world by His Father to enable men and women to participate in the divine life of Father and Son.[7] In a formal sense, John repeats this confession.[8] But it is also related to the person, nature, and role of the Anointed One.[9] Knowing this adds additional weight and meaning to John’s words, “Anyone who says, ‘I believe that Jesus is the Son of God,’ is a person who lives in God, and God lives in them.”[10]

Once more, John R. W. Stott (1921-2011) examines two verses as one. What the Apostle John said in verse fourteen that we have seen, he now says we must believe what we’ve seen in verse fifteen. It is all about gaining confidence for the future, especially on Judgment Day. This confidence does not result so much in knowledge as it does in freedom of speech. They will not grow bolder in telling others about Jesus but gain confidence to speak the truth on Judgment Day. However, a Christian’s faith does not belong just to the future, the Second Coming, [11] or Judgment Day, [12] but to the here and now.

It describes both the manner of our approach to God as free and bold[13] and our expectation of its outcome, namely “that … He hears us.”[14] The qualification, however, is “if we ask anything according to His will.”[15] To put this all in a nutshell, if we just sit around and do not become involved in sharing God’s Good News and manifest it by the way we live, then when we are summoned before the Judgment Seat, it will finally hit us that we will have nothing to say. However, if we both talk and walk in the Light as He is in the Light, we can march into the heavenly courtroom and be happy to answer whatever questions God has for us.[16]

David E. Hiebert (1928-1995) notes that the Apostle John says that God’s agápē is established between Himself and mankind through mutual fellowship. God’s agápē is further confirmed in the experience of believers. Verse fifteen indicates how people enter into fellowship with God. The conditional statement, “Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God,” indicates how God’s redemptive purpose in sending the Anointed One becomes operative in human lives. The scope of the conditional statement, “Whoever confesses,” literally, “the one who may confess,” is restricted only by the individual’s willingness to make the indicated confession. The aorist verb “confesses” denotes a specific and public admission born of an inner persuasion. The verb, which means “to say the same thing,” shows a personal acceptance that the reality being testified to is the same thing the Holy Spirit says to them.[17]

Simon J. Kistemaker (1930-2017) says that when we look at this phrase from a biblical point of view, we soon realize that John causes us to look at theological truth. The word Jesus embodies the entire history of Jesus, from His birth to His ascension and seated at the right hand of God. The term God has its roots in the First Covenant prophecies that were fulfilled when Jesus came.[18] The confession “Jesus is the Son of God” gives voice to His humanity and divinity. It excludes everyone who denies that Jesus is God’s Son[19] as one who has no fellowship with God.[20]

My dear wife, who is a naturalized citizen, told me of the pledge of allegiance she said with her right hand raised: “I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America.” In the same way, the Apostle John is saying that to become a naturalized citizen of God’s Kingdom, you must vow that you believe Jesus the Anointed One is His Son.

Stephen S. Smalley (1931-2018) notices how the description of Jesus as “the world’s Savior” in verse fourteen is now interpreted as the Apostle John shows how that salvation becomes effective in the Church and the believer: acknowledgment of the divine sonship of Jesus leads to the mutual indwelling of God and His people. The fact that John returns to this subject seems to be in line with the orthodox “confession” given in verses two and three. But, again, this may be driven by John still having in mind the need to resist the heretical members of his community, who, even though they’ve left, their teachings are still causing trouble in the minds of some believers.[21] That’s why when a pastor becomes aware that some new trending gospel or interpretation has caught the attention of his parishioners, not to let it colonize and produce trouble among the membership. Instead, neutralize it with the serum of the Gospel, and wipe it out.

Muncia Walls (1937) notes that the Apostle John is not saying here in this verse that all one needs to know is that the Anointed One dwells in them to make a confession that Jesus is the Son of God. There is more to salvation than just mere lip service. It reminds us of another verse often quoted by those who want to think that all that is needed to be redeemed is some kind of oral declaration of accepting Jesus as Savior, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”[22] Like the one here in verse fifteen, this verse, if taken out of its context, can be made to appear to say that all one needs to be saved is make a public declaration that Jesus is Lord. But neither verse should be taken out of context and interpreted independently of the other.[23]

This testimony is taken out of the prophet Joel’s assurance that when God’s people are assaulted by an enemy[24] – whom John likens to a locust, those who go to God in earnest prayer will be delivered. On the contrary, it was brought forward by the Apostle Paul to prove the truth of what he just suggested, that all that call upon the name of the Lord Jesus the Anointed One will find Him rich and plenteous in mercy and ready to dispense His grace and salvation to them: as many as will call on Him, whether Jews or Gentiles; not with temporary salvation only, but with a spiritual and eternal one; for the words of the prophet refer to Gospel times, as the context shows, and is cited and applied by the Apostle Peter.[25]Besides, the deliverance and salvation Joel speaks of is of a “remnant whom the Lord shall call;” and designs the remnant according to the election of grace, whether among Jews or Gentiles, whom God calls by His effectual grace; between which call and eternal glory, there is a certain and inseparable connection.

William Loader (1944) says the Apostle John has spelled out the basis of assurance in the preceding verses. He now returns to the centrality of love as the manifestation of God’s being and activity and as evidence of our being in a right relationship with Him: God is love; they who dwell in love are dwelling in God, and God in them. No doubt John is looking back at where he wrote, “God lives in us, and His agápē is made complete in us.”[26] This indwelling finds its realization not simply in private devotions; but its life is in community. The Apostle bases this fact on what he said earlier, “Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God.”[27] [28] As a child of God, you may want to affect your community positively; the best way to begin and end is with God’s agápē.


[1] See 1 John 4:13

[2] Cf. 1 Corinthians 12:3

[3] 1 John 5:9

[4] Wilder, Amos N., The Interpreter’s Bible, op. cit., 1 John, Exposition, p. 283

[5] Hoon, Paul W., The Interpreter’s Bible, op. cit., 1 John, Exegesis, p. 283

[6] Cf. 1 John 4:10 and 4:14

[7] Ibid. 4:9

[8] Ibid. 5:5

[9] Ibid. 2:22; cf. 2:23; 5:1

[10] Schnackenburg, Rudolf: The Johannine Epistles, op. cit., pp. 220-221

[11] 1 John 2:28

[12] Ibid. 4:17

[13] Ibid. 3:21

[14] Ibid. 5:14

[15] Ibid. 3:22

[16] Stott, John. The Letters of John (Tyndale New Testament Commentaries), op. cit., pp. 184-185

[17] Hiebert, David E., Bibliotheca Sacra, op. cit., January-March, p. 81

[18] Cf. Hebrews 1:5

[19] 1 John 2:23; 5:10, 12

[20] Kistemaker, Simon J., New Testament Commentary, op. cit., p. 337

[21] Smalley, Stephen S., Word Biblical Commentary, Vol. 51, op. cit., p. 253

[22] Romans 10:13

[23] Walls, Muncia: Epistles of John & Jude, op. cit., p. 76

[24] Joel 2:32

[25] See Acts of the Apostles 2:16-21

[26] 1 John 4:12

[27] Ibid. 4:7

[28] Loader, William: Epworth Commentary, op. cit., p. 55

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WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER FOUR (Lesson XCVI) 06/07/22

4:15 Anyone who believes and says that Jesus is God’s Son has God living in them, and they in Him.

John Stock (1817-1884) helps us see that what we say about our faith is empty unless we practice what we believe. He says that confessing the Anointed One as Savior and Redeemer upon the forgiveness of sin is firmly linked with salvation. The Apostle Paul makes it clear, “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”[1] And here, in verse fifteen, John declares that those who make such a confession signify that God is in union with them; they with Him. Salvation needs such a connection to be real.

Secret confessions do not accomplish the same thing, says Stock. The mouth must unashamedly declare Jesus to be the Anointed One, the Son of God, and the Son of man; that others may hear, learn, and believe. Faith gives birth to faith, [2] even that God will do the right thing every time and any time. How the Lord counts us, ungodly sinners, right in His sight is on our faith in the Anointed One. So, says Stock, the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith.”[3] By a true confession, this faith increases in believers who already possess it, who are comforted by this faith of the brethren.[4] It takes only one spark to ignite a flame, but it takes many flames to create an ongoing fire.

Stock tells us there is a triangle for the elements of fire. It represents the ingredients needed for fire: oxygen, fuel and heat. Air contains about 21 percent oxygen, and most fires require at least 16 percent oxygen content to burn. Oxygen supports the chemical processes that occur during a fire. When fuel burns, it reacts with oxygen from the surrounding air, releasing heat and generating combustion products. This process is known as oxidation. A combustible source is necessary for igniting fire and maintaining the fire as it spreads. Fuel is any kind of combustible material. It’s characterized by its moisture content, size, shape, quantity, and arrangement in which it spreads over the landscape. The moisture content determines how easily it will burn. Heat allows a fire to spread by drying out, preheating nearby fuel, and warming the surrounding air. It is another form by which nature illustrates the inner workings of Trinity, says Stock.[5] After all, did not the Holy Spirit come upon the apostles in the Upper Room with flames of fire after God’s Son promised He would after He ascended back into heaven, where He received the approval of the Father. Just something to think about.

Brooke F. Westcott (1825-1901) says that in verses fourteen and fifteen, the Apostle John highlights the experience of the Christian assembly in that of its leaders. The apostle speaks of himself as representing the Church for which he had a particular ministry to do. Nevertheless, his experience [6] was, in another form, the experience of all his fellow brothers and sisters during that time.[7] The vision and witness of the immediate disciples correspond with the knowledge and belief of the disciples of all ages. Or, to express the same truth otherwise, that vision and witness remain an abiding endowment of the living Body.[8]

John James Lias (1834-1923) says that nothing could be more alien to the whole spirit of this Epistle than to imagine that the condition of abiding in the Anointed One could be the result of a “once for all great act introducing a believer into a state of confessed security.” Instead, the confession is one of life. Those who are willing to own Jesus publicly as their Lord and accept the shame and humiliation and the unchanging spirit of self-sacrifice that attaches to such a confession are a person in whom God is abiding and who abides in God. The action of the Divine Spirit produces confession, [9] and such a confession needs to involve living the same life of love which He, the Son of God, lived and must testify to the saving power which proceeds from Him. The point is the unity of essence, mind, and will between the Father and the Son so that the confession of God manifest in the flesh is a confession of God Himself.[10]

Lias expounds further on confession. There is our lip’s confession, our heart’s concession, and our life’s commission. These all go together. There cannot be one without the other. But it is possible to be mistaken about either. We can fancy we are confessing the Anointed One in the heart, when a glance at our lives would inform us whether it’s true or not. Let us examine our lives in every aspect and seek conformity to the image of the Anointed One. Then, again, it is possible to imagine that we are confessing the Anointed One with our lifestyle and yet to be deceived.

What if we have no inner love for Him, notes Lias; our hearts never light up with the flame of devotion; we have no pleasure in the sacraments, prayers, praises, or the study of His Word; we are fake believers. In addition, when we do our deeds of charity mechanically, without love and sympathy and brotherly kindness towards those for whom we do them, then we may suspect that something has gone wrong in our confession; that though we have “the form of godliness,” we are strangers to the power thereof.[11] The husk of godliness is there; the life which animates the kernel is dead or dying. Is there anyone who desires to know what is meant by confessing that Jesus is the Son of God? Let them ponder this: “God is agápē, and they that dwell in agápē dwell in God, and God in them.”[12]

Robert Cameron (1839-1904) mentions that in the previous chapter we saw God’s perfect agápē attain a flawless manifestation in humanity. It came from God as its fountain, through the Son as its channel, into the world as its sphere, and to us, under the curse because of sin, as its objects. It continues to come and finds its goal and perfection when we love as God loves. Although John does not present that such love came to us through the Holy Spirit, he steadily keeps to his central thought of life. He links us in everyday life to God as “we abide in Him and He in us.” This life, fostered by “the agápē of the Spirit,” goes out from us in its sympathy and activity, and in us, it is made perfect. It is agápē that came from God’s Son, and it continues to go through the many born-again “sons and daughters” exhibiting the same traits and lavishing its wealth upon the same objects in us as in Him.[13]

Sir Robert Anderson (1841-1918) says that the Anointed One’s “coming forth from God[14] does not point to the manger in Bethlehem, and the date of the Nativity, but to a past Eternity and the Father’s throne. This is the truth on which the faith of the Christian rests – that “overcomes the world.” It is not an inference from the Virgin birth but a revelation from the Father in heaven. If His title of “Son of God” does not depend on the Virgin birth – and it is a vital moment that the word “begotten” is used of Him only in relation to His resurrection from the dead[15] — what can be its significance? The meaning can be that conveyed to those who heard His teaching, those among whom He lived and died. Just as by “Son of man,” He claimed to be human in the highest and most absolute sense, so by “Son of God,” He laid claim to Deity. His disciples understood it that way, and they worshipped Him as divine, and those who refused to believe in Him misunderstood and crucified Him as a blasphemer.[16]

James B. Morgan (1850-1942) points to the Apostle John’s statement in verse fifteen, “God dwells in them, and they in God,” indicates that John often uses such terms to express the communion that arises out of faith in the Anointed One, between the believer and God who dwells in them by His Spirit. He fills their minds with His light, life, love, and purity. The believer “dwells in God” by faith. They look to Him, only, to Him always. They say and act upon, “The LORD has a reputation for providing a strong fortress; that’s why the godly run to Him for safety.”[17] While they contemplate the Anointed One as the connection for their fellowship with God, they may say, “We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.[18]

According to Morgan, this supposes an enjoyment of the divine favor. It assumes confidence in the divine strength. It expects an earnest effort after the divine holiness. Likewise, it presumes unreserved devotion to the sanctified service. It imagines a burning zeal for heavenly glory. It infers that we inquire at our hearts whether the truth of the text has found lodging there. Have we yielded our consent to the divine testimony? Have we embraced the reality testified to in the Gospels? So, have we confessed the Anointed One in the glory of His person, offices, and work? Do we enjoy the communion of the Father, He “dwelling in us, and we in Him?” Can we honestly say of the Anointed One, “through Him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit?”[19] We should never be satisfied with lower attainments.[20]

Harry A. Ironside (1876-1951) says that after all the Gospel preaching we have listened to, following all the Christians we have known throughout the years, are we among those who have never yet definitely received the Lord Jesus the Anointed One into our heart? Ironside begs everyone not to delay settling this question for even one hour. He urges them to lift their heart to God and confess being the sinner for whom the Anointed One died. Kindly let Him know you are coming to Him for the salvation of your soul, which He provides through His blessed Son, and are trusting Him, the Lord Jesus the Anointed One, as your personal Savior. Then go out and confess Him before the world, for, “Whosoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwells in Him, and God abides in them – yes, God is in them!”[21]

Amos N. Wilder (1895-1993) says that another proof to the Christian that God abides in them, and they in Him, is their confession. The required insight can come only from God. To recognize the Father and His working certifies true sonship. But this proof is closely related to the Spirit’s witness.[22] By God’s Spirit, we testify that the Father sent His Son to those who confess that Jesus is the Son of God.[23] John’s witness is that “This is what God told us: He told us the truth about His Son.[24] [25]


[1] Romans 10:9

[2] See James 2:22

[3] Romans 1:17

[4] Ibid. 1:12

[5] Stock, John: Exposition of First Epistle of John, op. cit., pp. 364-365

[6] John 1:14

[7] Ibid. 1:16

[8] Westcott, Brooke F., The Epistles of St. John, op. cit., p. 153

[9] See 1 John 4:2

[10] The First Epistle of St. John with Exposition, op. cit., pp. 327-328

[11] 2 Timothy 3:5

[12] The First Epistle of St. John with Homiletical Treatment, op. cit., pp. 332-333

[13] Cameron, Robert: First Epistle of John, op. cit., loc. cit.

[14] John 16:28

[15] See Psalm 2:7; Acts of the Apostles 13:33

[16] Anderson, Sir Robert: The Lord from Heaven, Ch. 4, op. cit., p. 28

[17] See Proverbs 18:10

[18] John 1:14

[19] Ephesians 2:18

[20] Morgan, James B., An Exposition of the First Epistle of John, op. cit., Lecture XXXIV, p. 342

[21] Ironside, Harry A., The Epistles of John and Jude, op. cit., p. 160

[22] See 1 John 4:13

[23] Cf. 1 Corinthians 12:3

[24] 1 John 5:9

[25] Wilder, Amos N., The Interpreter’s Bible, op. cit., 1 John, Exposition, p. 283

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WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER FOUR (Lesson XCV) 06/06/22

4:15 Anyone who believes and says that Jesus is God’s Son has God living in them, and they are living in God.

COMMENTARY

Early Church scholar Tertullian (155-220 AD) pointed out to Praxeas (213 AD), a priest from Asia Minor, that the Doctrine of the Blessed Trinity constitutes the most significant difference between Judaism and Christianity. But, this doctrine of yours, says Tertullian, resembles the Jewish faith to believe in One God and refuse to recognize His Son, and after the Son, the Spirit. What difference would there be between Jews and Christians without this distinction you are trying to demolish? What need would there be of the Gospel, which is the core of the Final Covenant, laying down that the Law and the Prophets lasted until John the Baptizer, if then the Father, the Son, and the Spirit are not both believed in as the only three-in-one God?

God was pleased to renew His covenant with humanity, argues Tertullian so that we could believe in His unity, utilizing the Son and the Spirit, so that God might now be known openly, who was not plainly understood in ancient times, though declared through the Son and the Spirit. Away, then, with those “Antichrists who deny the Father and the Son.” They reject the Father when they say that He is the same as the Son and negate the Son when they suppose Him to be the same as the Father by assigning ministries to them that are not theirs and taking away their roles. But “whoever confesses that (Jesus) the Anointed One is the Son of God” (not the Father), “God dwells in them, and they in God.”[1]Those that do not have the Son have no spiritual life.”[2] So, the person who does not accept Jesus as God’s Son believes Him to be someone other than God’s Son.[3]

Early Christian writer Lactantius (250-325 AD) also addresses this issue. He says that if God has rejected the Jews, and the Gentiles were grafted in and freed from the darkness of this present life and the chains of demons, it follows that no other hope is available to mankind if they do not follow the true faith and divine wisdom, which is in the Anointed One. Those ignorant of Him are forever estranged from God and the truth. Therefore, do not let the Jews, or philosophers, flatter themselves with their respect of the Supreme God. They who do not acknowledge the Son have been unable to accept the existence of the Father. This is wisdom, and this is the mystery of the Supreme God. Therefore, God willed that the Anointed One should be recognized and worshipped.[4] On this account, God sent the prophets to announce His Son’s coming so that when the things prophesied were fulfilled in Him, then He might be believed to be both the Son of God and God.[5]

Early Church scholar Didymus the Blind (313-398 AD) gives this advice to believers who may have come into contact with the Gnostics of his day: You need to understand, God will not dwell in anyone who does not obey His commandments, no matter how much they may confess Him with their lips. Some people are confused by the various names of Jesus because they do not interpret the Scriptures correctly. They think that because He came out of the womb of Mary according to the flesh and was given the name Jesus at that time, He is not to be identified as the eternal Son of God, who did not think it robbery to be considered equal with God.[6] Therefore, they restrict themselves to the physical form the Word of God assumed, even though being the Word was never changed into humanity. To confess the Lord Jesus, the Anointed One, is to acknowledge Him as God and man.[7]

Later in the medieval period, we see that this was still a concern. Christian scholar Bede the Venerable (672-735 AD) writes: “John says that the perfect confession of the heart is one which the wicked persuasion of the heretics cannot corrupt. It cannot be overcome by the tortures inflicted by pagans in persecution or slacken under the pressure of the example of worldly brothers or the weakness of our frailty.”[8] While we do not have people openly declaring on non-Christian TV shows today that Jesus was the true Son of the Living God, it is still alive in books, magazines, and various gatherings, even some on campuses of what used to be Christian universities. Therefore, John’s teaching on this subject is just as relevant now as when he wrote it.

John Calvin (1509-1564) notes that the Apostle John repeats the truth (whosoever shall confess), will be united with God by the Anointed One, and cannot be connected with the Anointed One unless God abides in us. Unfortunately, the terms faith and confession are used indiscriminately in the same sense. Too often, hypocrites boast of faith, yet the Apostle here clarifies that it takes more than an ordinary confession. Confession must be genuinely motivated by a believing heart. Besides, when he says that Jesus is the Son of God, he includes the sum and substance of faith, for there is nothing necessary for salvation that faith cannot find in the Anointed One.[9]

Daniel Whitby (1638-1726)  says that we should note that what John said in his Gospel[10] and the Apostle Paul in his epistle[11] is that this hearty confession must be accompanied by a readiness to believe all that this Son of God taught us in His Father’s name, for if He tells the truth, why do we not accept Him?[12] So also, we must have a real reason to obey His commandments. Otherwise, why call Him Lord, Lord, and don’t do what He told us to do?[13] [14]

Thomas Pyle (1674-1756) contends that, by the extraordinary and miraculous powers of God’s Holy Spirit, we are qualified to demonstrate and prove beyond all doubt the truth of those facts of which the Apostles were eye-witnesses. Therefore, Jesus is the true Messiah, the very Son of God, the Word, the Anointed One, who was with the Father and sent into the world for the redemption of mankind, by his death and sufferings. This is a doctrine that every Christian must embrace. Anyone who denies it deserves not that character, nor is entitled to any privileges of God’s true church.[15]

James Macknight (1721-1800) says that some commentators understand that confessing Jesus is the Son of God is an outward profession of faith in the Gospel. But, notwithstanding that profession of one’s faith in the apostolic age, John was exposed to persecution. No doubt, very few would think that such a person had God living in them and they in God.[16]  The expression “God abides in him, and he in God” often occurs in this epistle and must be understood differently according to the individuals they are applied to. If directed at teachers, as in verses thirteen and fifteen in this chapter, and verses twenty-seven and twenty-eight in chapter two, their meaning is that these teachers are faithful to God in teaching the true doctrines of the Gospel and are assisted and beloved by God. But if spoken of persons, as in verses five and six,[17] they mean one’s abiding in the belief of those doctrines, practicing the precepts of the Gospel, and enjoying God’s agápē.[18]

John Brown of Haddington (1722-1787) tells us that even though God did all of this for us through His Son, that unless we, during these difficult times on the principle of faith and love, boldly confess that Jesus the Anointed One is the only begotten Son of God the Father, and the only qualified Savior of lost and dying sinners, can we thereby prove that God lives in us through His Spirit and has led them to their understanding of the Anointed One. Therefore, they dwell in God by faith and love through His Son, the great Mediator.[19]  

English Vicar James Slade (1783-1860), generally remembered as Canon Slade, says that confessing Jesus as the Son of God implies the following: (1) A deep and living conviction, an accurate perception of mind and heart, that Jesus the Anointed One is the only Savior for lost humanity.[20] (2) A vital belief in His salvation, in the effectiveness of His blood, and the power of His grace. (3) A hearty and complete acceptance of the Gospel of God’s Son; resting securely in all the doctrines, waiting for all the promises, observing all the ordinances, and obedience to all the commandments. (4) Proclaiming of the Lord as our Divine Redeemer in the face of the whole world.[21]

William Lincoln (1825-1888) exclaims, “It is a dreadful accountability to reject the Gospel.” If a person hears the Gospel and turns a deaf ear to it, it is not they are merely a fallen creature; for God made a provision for them as such; the agápē of Jesus has come down so low that even for the vilest sinner there is mercy if they accept salvation. The ground of condemnation in the Final Covenant, why people are self-condemned, is not that they have done one or the other; for all sin, there is a provision, but there is no answer for rejecting the Lord Jesus the Anointed One. So, “It is not the sin-question, but the Son-question,” between God and the world, and according to whether you receive Him, you have condemnation or salvation. As the Apostle John says here in verse fifteen, “All who declare that Jesus is the Son of God have God living in them, and they live in God.”[22]


[1] 1 John 4:15

[2] Ibid. 5:12

[3] Tertullian Against Praxes: Ch. XXXI, Christian Classics Ethereal Library, p. 1097

[4] John 14:6, 13; 5:23

[5] Lactantius: Epitome of the Divine Institutes, Fathers of the Third and Fourth Centuries, Philip Schaff, Ch. 49, p. 366

[6] Philippians 2:6

[7] Didymus the Blind: (Bray Ed.), James, 1-2 Peer, 1-3 John, Jude, op. cit., loc. cit.

[8] Bede the Venerable, Ancient Christian Commentary, Vol. XI, Bray, G. (Ed.), James, 1-2 Peter, 1-3 John

[9] Calvin, John: Commentary on the Catholic Epistles, op. cit., loc. cit.

[10] John 1:12

[11] Galatians 4:6

[12] See John 8:46

[13] Luke 6:46

[14] Whitby, Daniel, op. cit., p. 467

[15] Pyle, Thomas: Paraphrase, op. cit., p. 397

[16] See Romans 10:10

[17] See 3:6, 24; 4:16

[18] Macknight, James: Literal Paraphrase, op. cit., p. 94

[19] Brown, John of Haddington: Self-Interpreting Bible, op. cit., p. 1328

[20] 1 John 2:2

[21] Slade, James: Biblical Illustrator, op. cit., Vol. 22, pp. 99-100

[22] Lincoln, William: Lectures on 1 John, op. cit., Lecture VII, pp. 120-121

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