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 LXXXVII) 05/19/22

4:13 And He has put His Holy Spirit into our hearts as proof that we live in Him and He with us.

I like the little verse that Harry A. Ironside (1876-1951) shared: “You are writing a Gospel, a chapter a day, by deeds that you do, by words that you say. People read what you write, whether faithless or true; tell me, what is the Gospel according to you?”[1] The only way any of us can write the Gospel in our words and deeds is with the help of that portion of God’s Spirit He gave us. What does that mean – “He gave us of His Spirit?” He has implanted within us a new nature. His Spirit is that of love, and this is the very essence of this unique nature, so that all you and I have to do is to let the Spirit of God control us, and as we do that, we will manifest the Anointed One’s agápē.[2]

Charles H. Dodd (1884-1973) says we must begin with the gift of the Spirit when the Apostle John mentions this aspect of the Christian life.[3] The first reference to the Spirit suggested to John the Spirit of Prophecy, and he pursued that subject in the following verses. But it is not clear that this was the apostle’s first intention. The Gift of Prophecy applied to early Christians, the powerful proof of God’s presence in the Church.[4] But John told us it is the individual Christian who is the subject of that union with God described as mutual indwelling, and it is of this that the gift of the Spirit is proof.[5] Prophecy is only one of the manifestations of the Spirit, and behind all such revelations lies the fundamental experience that Paul describes in his letter to the Romans.[6] [7]

Rudolf Bultmann (1884-1976) points out that in an earlier passage, [8] that mutual abiding consists in our keeping His commandments. Here, however, is the fact that God gave us of His spirit.[9] Since the commandments are concentrated in brotherly love, on the one hand, and since, on the other, see verse thirteen, follows the admonition to brotherly and sisterly love, the proof for the reception of the Spirit must be seen precisely in the fact that it grants us the possibility of such devotion. According to verse fourteen, however, the spirit grants us the knowledge of and witness to God’s agápē in sending His Son, from which “confession” and “belief” follow as a consequence. For John, however, there is no difference. The “commandment” is double in verse fourteen: faith and love. Because He has “given us of His Spirit,” it has a twofold sense. The first points back to the command to love one another, which is dependent on God’s agápē, and the second looks forward to confession and faith grounded in God’s agápē.[10]

Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981) says that when it comes to God being in union with us and us with Him, which the Holy Spirit witnesses in harmony with our spirit, we must not rest; we have full and confident assurance and jubilation. The Final Covenant was written so that we may have it, and John argues that this is something that really must be unavoidable. The apostle cannot understand someone who not only lacks this certainty, but who would even dare to argue against such an inevitability. It’s hard to understand such a person, says Lloyd-Jones, even on the grounds of logic. As unbelievers, we were spiritually dead; we had no life of God in our souls. So, is it possible that we can have such energy in us and not know it? That is impossible! The presence of God’s life in our soul is so different from the life without God that we cannot but know it; and; therefore, if you are uncertain, you must examine the foundation of your faith. So then, when God comes to dwell in us and take us into Himself, it is something we must be sure we know and then thank God; we can recognize it.[11]

Paul Waitman Hoon (1910-2000) says that by saying, “here’s how we can know,” the Apostle John issues the first test for Christians. His appeal to the presence of God’s Spirit in the soul focuses on the object of this test and rebukes people’s preoccupation with their self-centered moods. When we read, “He has given,” it suggests something very definite; people ought to be able to recognize the Spirit of God as active in their lives. The fundamental spiritual nature of the test places the proper light on the conventional tests to determine the depth of one’s religion.  These include appealing to nominal church membership and, acknowledging one’s polite behavior in society, identifying someone as a Christian.[12]

But, says Hoon, it’s got to be more than that. Foremost, you must be born again.[13] This requires that you believe and confess Jesus as your Savior and sins are forgiven[14] and accept Him as your Lord and Master.[15] Second, God’s Spirit living in you must agree with your spirit that you are God’s child.[16] That way, the Spirit will be able to guide you as a child of God.[17] But it wasn’t you who qualified as a child of God; it involved having the Anointed One, God’s Son, dwelling in you.[18] By putting His Son in you, He put His agápē in you.[19] The most significant evidence will be your love for one another that identifies you as a child of God. Third, you must not only develop a lifestyle where everything you do is for the good of others, not always for yourself.[20] Be like a little child, ready to learn.[21] One of the things you learn is to be a peacemaker.[22] Sometimes, you must be willing to face persecution and suffer humiliation for His sake to become a joint-heir with the Anointed One.[23]

Donald W. Burdick (1917-1996) notes that this cycle of the epistle is primarily characterized by the Apostle John interweaving of themes from previous sequences into a single fabric of truth. Earlier, John set forth ethical and doctrinal tests by which the genuineness of a person’s salvation can be ascertained.[24] He stressed love for fellow believers, [25] obedience to divine commands, [26] and belief in Jesus as the Anointed One, the Son of God.[27] John included love and obedience as righteousness in the ethical test. In this concluding cycle, the moral section deals almost exclusively with love. It will be noted that the discussion is no mere repetition of previous statements.[28] Instead, the Apostle now proceeds to explain how it is that love can be a test of one’s possession of eternal life. He explains why the believers will love their brothers and sisters in the faith.

Now, beginning in 1 John 4:7, John shows that these are not qualities to be possessed separately. They are all fundamentally related. No one item by itself can serve as a valid test of one’s salvation. Belief must be accompanied by love and obedience, for love can only be produced by regeneration, and regeneration comes only from belief. And obedience is the inevitable result of love. That’s because Love is the essence of God.[29] Now John begins this final discussion of love for fellow believers by appealing to his readers as “Beloved,” exemplifying what he urges them to do. His plea is that we should continually (present tense) “love one another.” As elsewhere in his epistle, John has in mind the love for fellow Christians.[30] Unfortunately, while loving God is highly emphasized, the qualifier of doing so by loving others is not always made a requirement.

Raymond E. Brown (1928-1998) says some commentators are surprised to find the Holy Spirit suddenly introduced as a principle of divine indwelling, although the author prepared for this idea when he wrote,  “Now this is how we can know that He abides in us: from the Spirit that He gave us.”[31] Also, when Jesus promised, “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you.[32] Therefore, the standard offered here is a definite act of God’s having given the Spirit, similar to God’s having sent His Son.[33] So, the Spirit placed in a believer’s life is not by accident, nor in response to their practice of abstinence, but by God’s will and according to His purpose.

John R. W. Stott (1921-2011) points out the Apostle John wrote his Gospel for unbelievers so that they might read the testimony of God to His Son, believe in Him to whom the testimony pointed, and thus receive life through faith. This Epistle, on the other hand, was written for believers. John’s desire for them is not that they may believe and receive, but that they may know they have received and continue to have eternal life. “That you may know” does not mean they may gradually grow in assurance, but that they may possess here and now a present certainty of the life they have received in the Anointed One.[34]

David E. Hiebert (1928-1995) says the ringing words “By this, we know that we abide in Him and He in us” expresses the fundamental assurance of the Christian life. The words “Hereby” (KJV), (“This is how” – NIV) in verse thirteen look forward to the gift of the Spirit as expressed by the “because.” The present tense verb “we know” indicates “the process of obtaining knowledge by experience, by observation, or by instruction.”  The content of this ongoing knowledge is “that we abide in Him and He in us.” The verb “abide” portrays the continuing reality of this reciprocal abiding as a close and intimate relationship – God dwelling in believers and they in Him.


[1] A quote by Paul B. Gilbert

[2] Ironside, Harry A., The Epistles of John and Jude, op. cit., 154-155

[3] 1 John 3:24

[4] Cf. 1 Corinthians 1:24-25

[5] 1 John 3:24

[6] Romans 8:15-16

[7] Dodd, Charles H., The Moffatt Commentary, Johannine Epistles, op. cit., p. 115

[8] 1 John 2:3

[9] Ibid. 3:24

[10] Bultmann, Rudolf: Hermeneia, A Critical and Historical Commentary, op. cit., p.70

[11] Lloyd-Jones, Martyn: Life in the Anointed One, op. cit., p. 467

[12] Hoon, Paul, W., The Interpreter’s Bible, op. Cit., 1 John, Exegesis, pp. 282-283

[13] John 3:3

[14] Romans 4:25

[15] John 1:12

[16] Romans 8:16

[17] Ibid. 8:14

[18] Galatians 3:26

[19] 1 John 3:1

[20] 1 John 3:10

[21] Matthew 18:10

[22] Ibid. 5:9; cf. Mark 10:15

[23] Romans 8:17

[24] 1 John 1:5 – 4:6

[25] Ibid. 2:7, 11; 3:10b, 24

[26] Ibid. 2:3-6; 3:22-23

[27] Ibid. 2:2-23

[28] Ibid. 2:7-11; 3:10b-24

[29] Ibid. 4:7-8

[30] Burdick, Donald W., The Epistles of John, op. cit., p. 71

[31] 1 John 3:24

[32] John 14:16

[33] Brown, Raymond E., The Anchor Bible, op. cit., p. 522

[34] Stott, John. The Letters of John (Tyndale New Testament Commentaries), op. cit., p. 184

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WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER FOUR (Lesson LXXXVI) 05/18/22

4:13 And He has put His Holy Spirit into our hearts as proof that we live in Him and He with us.

William E. Jelf (1811-1875) says that the Apostle John presents a test and testimony in clear language – Our possession of the gift of the Spirit is the foundation of our knowledge on this point, as our understanding must be our assurance. The “Spirit” is the Spirit of truth and holiness and miracles. The question is – how the Spirit shows itself. One way must be by its fruit, and the Apostle Paul lists these in his Epistle to the Galatians.[1] Therefore, the possession and practice of the Christian graces must be the foundation of this assurance. We do not receive the Spirit’s gifts on our own, only by the Spirit Himself. What we call the gifts of the Spirit are, in reality, the Spirit working in us. The phrase “of the Spirit” might signify the difference in how the Spirit of miracles worked. It is the same Spirit, but to one He worked in one way, to another a different way; or, popularly speaking, one gift would be given to one person, a different one to another.[2] [3]

William Kelly (1822-1888) draws our attention to the fact that our relationship with God begins with Him residing in us, not with our living in Him. It is of great importance to discern the difference. That God dwelling in us is His grace when resting on the Anointed One’s redemption. That we are in union with Him is the fruit of the confidence in God that His grace inspires in us. Thus, as it were, we retire from self and all things around us and make our hearts God’s home even while we are here below. This is abiding in God, and it is only suitable for us to look to God for grace to keep in union with Him. When fellowshipping with Him this way, He acts in us through power. Therefore, it is written that He has given us of His Spirit. “Of His Spirit” has a distinct method in the manner of its expression. It indicates that what He shares with us is part of Himself.[4]

Kelly then proposes that we look at the force of this passage more closely. In verse twelve, we read, “This is how we know that we dwell in Him, and He in us because He has given us of His Spirit.” Then in verse fifteen, it says, “Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwells in them, and they in God.” Perhaps, a person may be without the objective knowledge that God’s Spirit is in them. But this does not hinder the truth of the blessing. If you confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwells in you, and you in God. He resides in you, having given His Spirit to be in you. This is the way His dwelling in us is affected, but the consequence of that gift to you is that you make God your refuge and delight.[5] In other words, once God knows you, it’s up to you to get to know Him. That’s why He put His Spirit in you for that purpose.[6] You just don’t sit in your salvation and marinate; you activate it into action.

Charles H. Spurgeon (1834-1892) gives us this excellent parody. “Do you want a house for your soul? What will it cost?” Is it something less than proud human nature will provide? Is it without money or price? Ah! says Spurgeon, you would like to pay rent! You would love to do the Anointed One a favor! Then you cannot have this house, for it is “without price.” You see, this house is furnished with all you need; it is filled with riches more than you will accumulate as long as you live. Here you can have intimate communication with the Anointed One and feast on His agápē. Do you want this house? Here is the key, “Come to Jesus.” Even if you don’t feel good enough to live there, the Anointed One will make you good enough. He will wash you and cleanse you, and you will be able to exclaim, “I dwell in Him.” By “dwelling in Him,” you have not only a perfect and secure house, but an everlasting one. When this world has melted like a dream, your house will survive. It stands more imperishable than marble, more solid than granite. It is self-existent, for it is God Himself – “We dwell in Him.”[7]

John James Lias (1834-1923) says that an answer is ready if we ask how God can live in us. God dwells in us because there is a presence within us of His Spirit.[8] Nor is this a mere dream of the imagination. We have not seen God, but we see our fellow humans, the Image of God, endowed with the visible signs of God’s agápē working through us to perfection. He announced Himself as the Savior of the world. His claim is backed by His works of mercy He untiringly performed and that great and final attestation of His mission which His resurrection placed before us. To Him, we testify. And it is to the confession of Him as God manifest in the flesh that we owe the presence of the Spirit in our hearts, and from this presence alone comes the life of love we lead. Our union with our comprehension of God comes not from the intellectual insight that enables us to grasp the mystery of His being, but from the spiritual oneness with Him, which enables us to carry out the purposes He had in humanity’s creation.[9]

In Lias’ mind, the Apostle John teaches that living in Him involves placing our wills in line with His. His will is love for all mankind. Our will aligns with His when we desire to love as He does. And so, we are here told (1) that when our will becomes united with His, He abides within us. He makes no brief visit to our heart, but takes up His dwelling there. Our union with Him is an actual and permanent fact, manifested by our conduct. And we are further told (2) how to discover the signs of this permanent indwelling. If it exists, we shall be conscious of continued impulses toward good due to the constant presence of His Spirit in the heart. And the presence of that Spirit is due to the humanity of Jesus. The union of the Godhead in His person is the means whereby we all are taken up once more into union with the Divine. Through the humanity of Jesus, the Divine Spirit flows into each human heart. And by its impulses to love, we recognize its presence within. We know that we dwell in God and God in us because we feel inspired and mastered by God’s purpose toward all the world.[10]

Alfred Plummer (1841-1926) notes that in verse thirteen, “knowing that we live in God and He in us” is in harmony with “those who keep God’s commands lives in Him and He in them” in verse twenty-four. There, as here, the gift of the Spirit is the proof of God’s abiding presence: but this is joined with keeping His commandments; here, it is connected with the special duty of brotherly love. He gave us His spirit, but we must receive our measure of His Spirit. However, only of the Anointed One, it is said in the fullest sense, “not by measure” is the Spirit given to Him.[11] Christians are sometimes told “receive the Spirit,”[12] and sometimes, receive the gifts “of” the Spirit.[13] Accepting the whole Spirit, not just “of,” is only true of the Anointed One.[14]

Clement Clemance (1845-1886) points out that the Greek text reads, “out of the Spirit of Him,” and the NIV renders it, “has given us of His Spirit.” It is impossible, says Clemance, for us to receive more than a portion; the fullness of the Spirit is possessed by the Anointed One alone. That is how we have the fullness of the Spirit available to us. As John says in his Gospel, “Out of His fullness,[15] we have His grace. For instance, when Mary brought in a pint of expensive perfume made of pure nard, she poured out the perfume on Jesus’ feet.[16] So it is with us; all the Spirit’s grace, wisdom, power, knowledge, and other gifts are poured into us.[17]

Thomas Gunn Selby (1846-1910), Methodist missionary in China, notes that some say the most delicate rose tree in the world is in Holland, which a few years ago had six thousand flowers in bloom at the same time. So, perhaps, the less spectacular English hedgerow rose might despair of rivaling that wonderful rose tree and attaining worldwide distinction. But if someone transplanted it and gave it nurture of needful skill, and a bud from that Dutch tree be grafted into it, the poor despised growth of the hedgerow might hope one day to bear its thousand blooms and be the wonder of a nation. And as lacking in all high moral and spiritual qualities as we may be, grudging in sacrifice, dishonorable in spirit, confused in motive, yet if God grafted His life within us, no limit can be put to our spiritual development.[18]

James B. Morgan (1850-1942) addresses how our brotherly love serves as the evidence of our fellowship with God, arising out of the indwelling of the Spirit. If there is such an exercise of this heavenly principle, it cannot ascend from any other source than God’s indwelling the soul by the Spirit. Is there a person who longs after the spiritual well-being of their relatives, who can say like the Apostle Paul, “I could wish that I were cursed and cut off from the Anointed One for the sake of my people, those of my race?”[19] Instead, we may say of them, “God dwells in them and has given them of His Spirit.” Is there a person who loves it and lingers with it wherever they see the image of the Anointed One, whose “You are my Master! Every good thing I have comes from you.” The godly people in the land are my true heroes! I take pleasure in them.”[20] [21]

Is there a person who burns with zeal for the soul’s being converted, asks Morgan, and longs and labors to see this world of sin and sorrow become holy and happy? These are fruit that do not grow in nature. They are the plants of grace alone, and unmistakably proclaim their heavenly origin. The seal leaves its impression behind it, and we may know where the Spirit is by the image He stamped upon the character. He is the Spirit of holiness, and wherever holiness is found, He dwells. He is the Spirit of love, and there is He wherever there is holy love.[22]

Albert Barnes (1872-1951) states that God has imparted the influences of His Spirit to our souls, producing “love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,” etc.[23] It was one of the promises which the Lord Jesus made to His disciples that He would send the Holy Spirit to be with them after He withdrew from them, [24] and the clearest evidence we have that we are the children of God is derived from the influences of that Spirit on our hearts.[25]


[1] Galatians 5:22-23

[2] Romans 12:6-8

[3] Jelf, William E., First Epistle of St. John, op. cit., p. 62

[4] Kelly, William: An Exposition of the First Epistle of John, op. cit., Logos, loc. cit.

[5] Kelly, William: Lectures on the Catholic Epistles of John, op. cit., pp. 327-328

[6] See 1 Corinthians 2:11

[7] Spurgeon, Charles H., Morning and Evening Daily Readings, op. cit., May 6 AM

[8] See 1 John 4:13

[9] Lias, John James: The First Epistle of St. John with Exposition, pp. 322-323

[10] Lias, John James: The First Epistle of St. John with Homiletical Treatment, pp. 322-323

[11] John 3:24

[12] See Galatians 3:2, 3, 5; 4:6

[13] 1 John 3:24

[14] Plummer, Alfred: Cambridge Commentary, op. cit., p.150

[15] John 1:16

[16] Ibid. 12:3

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

[18] Selby, Thomas G., Biblical Illustrator, op. cit., Vol. 22, p. 94

[19] Romans 9:3

[20] Psalm 16:2-4

[21] 1 John 4:13

[22] Morgan, James B., An Exposition of the First Epistle of John, op. cit., Lecture XXXIV, p. 332

[23] Galatians 5:22-23

[24] John 14:16-17, 26; 15:26; 16:7

[25] Barnes, Albert: New Testament Notes, op. cit., p. 4867

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WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER FOUR (Lesson LXXXV) 05/17/22

4:13 And He has put His Holy Spirit into our hearts as proof that we live in Him and He with us.

John Trapp (1601-1669) addresses the subject of God giving us His Spirit. That is, of the fruit of His Spirit, His holy actions and virtues. Through the two golden pipes, the two olive branches emptied their priceless oils of all precious graces into the lamps in the Tabernacle.[1] Today, this oil flows into the Church through the Holy Spirit and gives a glow that shines out into the world.[2]

Matthew Henry (1662-1714) says that the Apostle John summarizes these last seven verses to show that the Spirit of God is the Spirit of love. Those who do not love the image of God reflected in His people have no saving knowledge of God. It is God’s nature to be kind and bring joy.[3] God’s law is love, and everyone would be thrilled had they obeyed it. The provision of the Gospel for the forgiveness of sin, and the salvation of sinners, accompanied by God’s glory and justice, shows that God is love.

Yet, mystery and darkness still hide many things, says Henry. God has shown Himself to be love that keeps us from coming short of eternal happiness unless through unbelief and unrepentance. Strict justice would then condemn us to hopeless misery because we broke our Creator’s laws. None of our words or thoughts can do justice to the free, astonishing love of a holy God towards sinners, who could not profit or harm Him, whom He might justly and fairly crush in a moment, and whose deserving of vengeance was showing the method by which they were saved, though He could by His almighty Word have created other worlds, with more perfect beings, if He had seen fit.

Why search the whole universe for love in its most glorious displays? Henry asks. It is to be found here on earth in the person and the cross of the Anointed One. Does love exist between God and sinners? Here was the origin, not that we loved God, but that He freely loved us. His agápē was not designed to be unproductive. When its goal and mission are gained and produced, it may be said to be perfected. So, faith is perfected by sharing. Thus, it will appear that God dwells in us by His new-creating Spirit.[4]

Thomas Pyle (1674-1756) shares his opinion that it is not enough to say, you love God, in return for His agápē to you, unless you offer evidence through your kindness to your fellow Christians. God is not the object of your physical senses. They can only affect your thoughts by demanding careful attention. In contrast, your fellow Christians’ wants and needs strike your most sensitive senses and move you by the strongest and most immediate impressions. However, if you do not perform the easiest task, who can imagine you discharging the more difficult part of this duty. The one, therefore, is the proper test of the other. We show whose children we are by the likeness of our character, and God confirms we are His by the gifts and graces of His Holy Spirit.[5]

James Macknight (1721-1800) sees the expression that we abide in Him, and He is us as indirect. So, he paraphrased it as follows: “By this, we apostles know that we continue faithful to Him in all our doctrines and that He authorizes our actions as apostles because He has bestowed on us the gifts of His Spirit and continues them with us.” By possessing the Spirit’s gifts, the apostles knew that they were in union with God, that is, continued to be faithful to Him in the execution of their office: and by the same gifts, they demonstrated to the world that God was in them, and authorized their doctrine. Accordingly, notes Macknight, it is added in the next verse, “Furthermore, we have seen with our own eyes and now testify that the Father sent His Son to be the Savior of the world,” suggesting that the gifts of the Spirit were given to the apostles, to enable them to prove the truth of their testimony concerning the Father’s sending His Son in the flesh to be the Savior of the world.[6]

John Brown (1722-1787) notes that by what the Apostle John says here, we have reassuring evidence of dwelling by faith in union and communion with God through the Anointed One; and of His abiding in our souls in gracious gifts and influences. Not only that, but because He has freely afforded us close communication with His Spirit to produce and make this faith and love alive, shining a light on His work in us.[7]

William Jones of Nayland (1726-1805) says no divine virtue should be subject to “doubts and fears.” Suppose we are uncertain about having this greatest of all blessings. In that case, we must take time[8] (1) to restudy the Word of God to see the condition on which eternal life is granted, and then re-examine ourselves to see if we have fulfilled that condition; and (2) that we restudied God’s Word to see what are the permanent marks of that life, and then re-examine ourselves to see if we bear those marks. (3) Our spiritual life has not blossomed into its full beauty until we are perfectly at home in God’s agápē in the Anointed One and move as freely and firmly as children in their Father’s house, so that the question of “whether we are children,” or “whether we are at home,” never comes up at all. Loving confidence is never to be disturbed – this is “knowing that we have eternal life.”[9]

Free Church of Scotland minister Alexander Macleod (1786-1869) talks about the evidence of true faith in a child of God. It begins, says Macleod, with the exercises of the mind – Conscience, influenced by the Holy Spirit. Our state of mind is known only by its activity, and spiritual implementation indicates the operation of the Spirit of the Anointed One in our mind. It is followed by Humility, which is sure evidence of true faith. Jesus illustrated that He was like God in every way, but He did not think that His being equal with God was something to use for His benefit. Instead, He gave up everything, even His place with God. He accepted the role of a servant, appearing in human form, during His life as a man.[10]

That’s why, says Macleod, the Apostle Paul, instructed us not to let selfishness or pride be our guide in whatever we do. Instead, be humble, and honor others more than ourselves. Don’t be interested only in what’s ours, but care about the lives of others too.[11] It is a gracious exercise, the effect of a saving work of the Spirit in the soul.

Macleod goes on to say that next comes entire Dependence on the Lord Jesus the Anointed One. It starts by not worrying or fretting about things you don’t have. Instead, pray and ask God for everything you need, always giving thanks for what you have.[12] It is certainly evidence of a state of grace. Next in line, Macleod tells us is total Submission to the Royal Law of the Anointed One – Love your neighbor as you would yourself.[13] This is evidence of true godliness. And lastly, there is joy in God, the Savior of our soul.

The Apostle Peter gives us a good description of godliness. Peter says that because you have these blessings, do all you can to add to your life these things: to your faith add goodness; to your goodness add knowledge; to your knowledge add self-control; to your self-control add patience; to your patience add devotion to God; to your devotion add kindness toward your brothers and sisters in the Anointed One, and to this kindness add love. If all these things are in you and growing, you will never fail to be useful to God. You will produce fruit that should come from your knowledge of our Lord Jesus the Anointed One.[14] This, says Macleod, is evidence of holiness.[15]

Augustus Neander (1789-1850) sees that God, through His indwelling and vitalizing love, abides in union with believers, which means that His Spirit dwells in them: for His Spirit, imparted to believers through the Anointed One, is itself the fountain of love which can originate only in God, the Spirit which dwells and works in God as love. They cannot be conscious of a spiritual fellowship with Him if love, the mark of that Spirit, shows no living agency among them. Hence, the Apostle appeals to their experience of the influences of the Spirit imparted by God – the token and pledge that as they continue to surrender themselves to fellowship with God, God likewise abides in inseparable fellowship with them. As John says here in verse thirteen, “By this, we know that we dwell in Him, and He in us because He has given us of His Spirit.”[16]

Gottfried C. F. Lücke (1791-1855) finds that love for God is founded on a mutual communion with Him. Still, that relationship depends on our consciousness of the Holy Spirit, which we received from God operating within us.[17] Through His power and faith in God’s Son as the Redeemer of the world, we are God’s children. The construction of the sentence is expressed differently in two places:

1 John 4:13, “Hereby know we that we abide in Him, and He in us because He has given us of His Spirit.”

1 John 3:24, “Hereby we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit which He has given us.”

Accordingly, the sense is somewhat different between our abiding in God and His abiding in us. We know from this that He has communicated to us and still does interconnect through His Spirit. As Paul puts it, there are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. All these are the work of the same Spirit, and He distributes them to each one, just as He determines.[18]

Since, according to John, love for God and fellow Christians is awakened and excited by the manifestation of God’s agápē in the Anointed One, His Son, for the redemption of the world; therefore, it is a matter of the highest importance that Christians recognize, believe, and know this mission to save is established. In that way, what John says in verses fourteen to sixteen are connected to what he says in verses seven to thirteen.[19]


[1] Exodus 25:31-40

[2] Trapp, John: Commentary upon all books of New Testament (1647), op. cit., p 477

[3] Cf. Luke 2:10

[4] Henry, Matthew: Commentary on 1 John, op. cit., loc. cit.

[5] Pyle, Thomas: Paraphrase, op. cit., pp. 396-397

[6] Macknight, James: Literal Paraphrase, op. cit., pp. 93-94

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

[8] 2 Corinthians 2:16

[9] Jones, William: First Epistle of John, Pulpit Commentary, Vol. 22, op. cit., Homiletics, p. 151

[10] Philippians 2:6-7

[11] Ibid. 2:3-4

[12] Ibid. 4:6

[13] James 2:8-9

[14] 2 Peter 1:5-8

[15] Macleod, Alexander: The Biblical Illustrator, op. cit., 1 John 4, pp. 92-93

[16] Neander, Augustus: First Epistle of John, op. cit., Chapters IV, V, pp. 265-266

[17] Cf. 1 John 3:24

[18] 1 Corinthians 4, 11

[19] Lücke, Gottfried: Commentary on 1 John, op. cit., Eighth Section, verse 13

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WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER FOUR (Lesson LXXXIV) 05/16/22

4:12 For though we have never seen God, God lives in us when we love each other, and His agápē within us grows stronger.

David Legge (1969) notes that the Apostle John says, let us love one another because of God’s supernatural character and grace in the past. But then he says: let us love one another because God is invisible. Indeed, none of us can visually see God’s Spirit in the incarnate Anointed One, our Lord Jesus, and that is how, after all, God manifested His agápē in the past. So, the big question John poses to us is: how is God’s agápē demonstrated today? Oh yes, it was confirmed in the Anointed One when He came in the flesh, went to the cross, died for our sins, and rose again – but we can’t see Him. I believe that these verses are among some of the most challenging texts in the whole word of God, admits Legge. John says that since no one can see God at any time if we love one another, God dwells in us as He perfects His love in us. As God was manifested to people in the past in the incarnation of the Anointed One, God will be displayed in the present through Christians in whom He lives.[1]

4:13     We know that we live in God, and God lives in us.  We know this because He gave us His Spirit.

EXPOSITION

The Apostle John very often uses the Greek verb ginōskō (“to know”) when recalling some circumstance of personal history [2]or to introduce the statement of a doctrine as something we would immediately recognize as familiar.[3] Ginōskō is used in the same sense as “We don’t need to be told.” And when added to “we now know,” it is simply a formula introducing what we recall. As such, ginōskō may also be understood as meaning “And you will remember.” Therefore, the Apostle John is not introducing something new to his readers, but information they have known for a long time.

John gives further evidence of someone who has true fellowship with the Anointed One in verse thirteen. The Holy Spirit is the sign of true faith. The Apostle Paul writes, “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?”[4] The Apostle Paul also refers to “the Holy Spirit who dwells within us.”[5] Those who don’t display this Spirit need to examine their relationship with the Anointed One – at worst, they may not have one at all.

If a person has God’s Spirit, they have Jesus, too. John has already taught that the one who has the Father has the Son. Here he adds that the individual with the Spirit also has the Son. All three persons of the triune God are involved in our salvation. God sent the Son to provide salvation. The Spirit lives within us to help us live for the Anointed One from the point of salvation and beyond. All three persons are involved in the life of the believer. John now turns from a warning against believing just any spirit[6] and the appeal to love one another[7] to a personal application of living life by the power of the Spirit of God.[8] By love living in us, it means that a person is in fellowship with God. We, believers, are assured that we have fellowship with the Lord because of the Spirit, He gave us. Abiding is synonymous with knowing the Anointed One.[9]   

This is a mutual cohabitation. We dwell in God, and He abides in us. God fellowships with us when we allow Him to control our lives because He has given us of His Spirit. The reference here is not to the gift of the Spirit, but the Spirit being an occupant in our lives at the instant we became Christians, but rather to the manifestations of the Spirit in our lives. The Greek preposition ek (“of”) in the phrase “of His Spirit” indicates the product of participation in the Spirit’s presence. Love is a grace that flows from the Spirit.  The Holy Spirit assures us of our fellowship with God when we love one another. Love is the authenticating test of the Holy Spirit, producing fruit in us. 

We can also see that verse thirteen is almost identical to 1 John 3:24. Also, in 3:1-7, the Apostle John says that confession of the Incarnation proves possession of the Spirit; and in 3:12, that love of our fellow believers proves that God resides in our hearts. So here, in verse thirteen, John says that possession of the Spirit confirms the inner presence of God; and in 3:15, that confession of the Incarnation proves the same. These four facts mutually involve one another. John does not say that He has given us His Spirit, but “of His Spirit.”[10] We cannot receive more than a portion; the fullness of the Spirit is possessed by the Anointed One alone.

So, how do we apply this to our lives? Remember, fellowship with the Spirit produces agápē in us and is evidence of our union with God. The agápē we manifest to other Christians is an outcome of the gift of the Holy Spirit to us. The Holy Spirit is the source of the believer’s love, just as He is the source of our application of truth to experience.[11]  On the Day of Pentecost, God poured His Spirit out on each believer in the Church. He made the things of Jesus real to them, and now makes God’s agápē real to us.[12]

COMMENTARY

Tertullian (155-240 AD) addresses the question, “Has anyone ever seen God?” He quotes from John’s Gospel, “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father.”[13] That is, of course, says Tertullian, the glory of the Son who was visible and glorified by the invisible Father. Therefore, since John said that the Word was God, his adversaries could not criticize Him for saying that he had seen the Father. To distinguish the invisible Father and the visible Son, John still asserts: “No one has ever seen God.”[14]

So, what god does he mean, asks Tertullian, by the Word (Greek Logos)? He has already claimed: “Him we have seen and heard, and our hands have handled the Word of life.”[15] Well, then, what god does John have in mind? It is, of course, God the Father, with whom was the Word, the only begotten Son, who is in His Father’s bosom and has declared Him.[16] Therefore, He was both heard and seen that John might not be supposed to have handled a phantom or ghost. So, what did the Apostle Paul behold when he said, “Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not the result of my work in the Lord?[17] but did see the Father?[18]

Augustine of Hippo (354-430 AD), in one of his sermons on 1 John, talks about how we are overcomers because of God’s agápē abiding in us. Beginning with verse four, Augustine gives the main points for his argument. First, we are God’s children. Second, our opponents are of the world. Third, we are God’s own, so we know that He hears us. Fourth, we are conscious that an act against God’s will is an offense to God’s agápē. Fifth, not only is God’s agápē, but God is love, and by His being in us, His agápē is in us. Sixth, God manifested His agápē for us first. Seventh, the manifestation was seen in the fact that God sent His only begotten Son to die and rise again for us so that we could live through Him. Eighth, although we cannot see God with our physical eyes, by faith, we see Him with our spiritual eyes.

Therefore, says Augustine, let each of us look at our heart. We should not keep hatred against our fellowmen that leads to harsh words. Do not become entangled in arguments about worldly things, lest we become worldly. Consequently, do not claim that you walk in the Light if you hate your neighbor. As the Apostle John says, “Anyone who says they are walking in the Light of the Anointed One but dislikes their fellow man is still in darkness.”[19] Anyone who once walked in darkness can now joyfully proclaim, “Once I was full of darkness, but now I have Light from the Lord. So, I live as a person of Light!”[20] At one time, we worshipped idols, but now we worship God; once we worshipped the things He made, now we worship Him that made us. We have changed, but God never changes. That’s why we should thank God and make it a joyful greeting to our fellow Christians.[21]

To sum this up, you cannot have God in your life if you don’t allow the Anointed One or the Holy Spirit to occupy you. But by accepting them, you can also have God because they bring Him with them.  When Jesus promised the Holy Spirit, He stated, “On that day you will know that I am in the Father. You will know that you are in me, and I am in you.[22] It is something we all must be convinced of and stand upon as the basis for our mission in this world.

Bede the Venerable (672-735 AD) puts it succinctly by telling us to examine our hearts, and we will know whether God has given us His Spirit, for if we are full of love, we have the Spirit of God.[23]  And to this Medieval scholar, Œcumenius adds that many things that are invisible in themselves we discover by how they work inside us. Just as nobody has ever seen a soul, we know it from the way it behaves in us, so we detect God’s agápē from the fact that it is at work and bears fruit in us.”[24]

It offers us this hypothesis: Since God is invisible and yet lives in us through His Spirit, and since God is love, His love is hidden inside us; therefore, God could only be seen by His Son Jesus coming into this world to minister and give Himself for us, then could it be that the only way the world will ever see God is if Jesus who is also in us is made visible through those things that we do because they come from God living in us?  It is something to meditate on, advises Bede.


[1] Legge, David: 1,2,3 John, Preaching the Word, op. cit., “Christian Love: Its Source and Sign”, Part 13

[2] See 1 Corinthians 16:15; Philippians 4:15; 1 Thessalonians 2:1, 2, 5, 11; 4: 4; 2 Timothy 1:15

[3] Cf. Romans 2:2; 3:19; 8:28; 1 Timothy 1:8; 2 Thessalonians 2:6

[4] 1 Corinthians 3:16

[5] 2 Timothy 1:14

[6] 1 John 4:1-6

[7] Ibid. 4:7-12

[8] Ibid. 4:13-17

[9] Ibid. 2:24-25

[10] Cf. John 1:16; 12:3

[11] See 1 John 3:23-24

[12] See Romans 5:5

[13] Ibid. 1:14

[14] Ibid. 1:18

[15] 1 John 1:1

[16] John 1:18

[17] 1 Corinthians 9:1

[18] Latin Texts: Tertullian Against Praxeas, by A. Souter, Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, London, 1920, Ch. XV, pp. 67-68

[19] 1 John 2:9

[20] See Ephesians 5:8

[21] Augustine, Ten Homilies on the Epistle of John, op. cit., Homily 7, pp.992-1000

[22] John 14:20

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

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

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POINTS TO PONDER

As a boy, growing up in the 1940s, I remember hearing about the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. I didn’t understand what they were for or against, but I did get the feeling they were rather strict about personal behavior, especially drinking alcohol. Then, later on, I was taught about the fruit of the spirit, and one of them was “temperance.[1] When I started reading the Bible in different English versions, it was translated as “self-control.” But it all goes back to the Latin root word tempesta, meaning “restraint,” thus our English word temperance.

The dictionary defines temperance as marked by moderation: such as

a: keeping or held within limitsnot extreme or excessive

b: moderate in indulgence of appetite or desire

c: moderate in the use of alcoholic beverages

d: marked by an absence or avoidance of extravagance, violence, or extreme partisanship

In the Dictionary of Psychology, temperance is described as any form of positive self-restraint, manifested as self-regulation in monitoring and managing one’s emotions, motivation, and behavior and as self-control in attaining desired goals. So, we can see that it is much larger in scope than calling for restraint in drinking alcohol.

In Psychology Today, Psychologist Mark Travers finds that temperance refers to the capacity to manage habits and protect against excess and is composed of forgiveness, humility, and patience, specifically when examining the current state-of-the-science in the conceptualization of temperance, the effectiveness of temperance interventions, and what the future may hold in this research.

Then, Everett L. Worthington Jr., Commonwealth Professor Emeritus working in the Department of Psychology at Virginia Commonwealth University, and Llewellyn E. van Zyl, a positive psychologist specializing in the development, implementation, and evaluation of positive psychological interventions that aim to enhance mental health and performance, report that classified temperance is one of the six universal virtues identified as being cross-culturally valued, leading to a genuinely good character. It is also a fundamental component of leading a happy, healthy, and flourishing life. This virtue reflects an inherent capacity to moderate or control one’s thoughts, feelings, habits, and desires that protects against excess or deficiency.

In addition, temperance may encompass many related behaviors, such as prudence, conscientiousness, caution, and self-restraint, that could tame impulses of anger, resentment, selfishness, over-indulgence, and rigidity. Accordingly, as a virtue of good character, temperance can be exerted through four signature strengths: forgiveness and mercyhumilityprudence/self-regulation, and (we would add) patience, including far-sighted/self-control as their last two characteristics making up the virtue of temperance.

Finally, Lesly Lyle, a Positive Psychologist in Clinical Hypnotherapy, also ties temperance to Forgiveness and Mercy, Humility, Modesty, Wise-Thinking, and Self-Control. She says that temperance involves Forgiveness and Mercy by forgiving those who have wronged or offended us.

Forgiveness entails accepting the shortcomings of others, giving people a second chance, and putting aside the temptation to hold a grudge or behave vengefully. Forgiveness allows one to put aside the self-destructive negativity associated with anger and to extend mercy toward a transgressor.

Temperance affecting Humility and Modesty involves letting one’s strengths and accomplishments speak for themselves. Individuals with this strength do not need to have low self-esteem, but merely avoid seeking the spotlight and regard themselves as better than others. Humble people are honest with themselves about their limitations and the fallibility of their opinions, and are open to advice and assistance from others.

When temperance utilizes Wise-Thinking (Prudence) it provides a practical orientation toward future goals. It entails being careful about one’s choices, not taking undue risks, and keeping long-term goals in mind when making short-term decisions. Prudent individuals monitor and control their impulsive behavior and anticipate the consequences of their actions. This strength is not synonymous with stinginess or timidity, but instead involves an intelligent and efficient perspective toward achieving major goals in life

And finally, the core of temperance, Self-regulation, is the process of exerting control over oneself to achieve goals or meet standards. Self-regulating individuals can control instinctive responses such as aggression and impulsivity, responding instead according to pre-conceived standards of behavior. This strength can apply both to resisting temptations, such as when a dieter avoids sugary foods, and initiating actions, such as when someone gets up early to exercise.

Also, psychologist Valeria Sabater, a psychologist and emotional intelligence trainer in secondary schools who offers psycho-pedagogical support to children with development and learning problems, says that temperance is a fundamental human virtue. It allows you to stay calm and focused on stormy days. It means you carry out your life in a measured, thoughtful, and controlled manner, whatever your circumstances. Furthermore, it also serves as an internal compass that guides you to find calm in the middle of a storm – the psychological ability to manage stress, fear, or anguish.

But what does the Bible say about temperance?

Wise King Solomon gave this warning about the lack of temperance: “If you like honey, don’t eat too much of it, or it will make you sick!”[2]

Then the Apostle Paul mentioned to Bishop Titus that church leaders should be ready to help people by welcoming them into their home. They must love what is good, must be wise, must live right, must be devoted to God and pleasing to Him. And they must be able to practice temperance.[1]

He also instructs Titus that the gift of eternal salvation is now being offered to everyone; and along with this gift comes the realization that God wants us to turn from godless living and sinful pleasures and to live temperant, God-fearing lives day after day, looking forward to that wonderful time we’ve been expecting, when His glory will be seen – the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus the Anointed One.[2]

And the Apostle Peter explains that God’s power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowing the One who called us to His glory and goodness. By these, He has given us valuable and superlatively great promises so that through them, you might come to share in God’s nature and escape the corruption that the lack of temperance has brought into the world.[3]


[1] Galatians 5:23 (KJV)

[2] Proverbs 25:16

[3] Titus 1:8

[4] Ibid. 2:11-13

[5] 2 Peter 1:3-4


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SERENDIPITY FOR SATURDAY

HAVE YOU HEARD THE GOOD NEWS!

During World War II, a young Scotsman named Murdo Macdonald was an ordained minister in the Church of Scotland and pastored a little church on the Isle of Skye. Murdo was quick to answer the call to duty when the war broke out: he enlisted in the British Army and served as a chaplain in the First Parachute Brigade.

In 1944, however, Murdo was wounded and captured during combat in North Africa. The Germans took him to the infamous German prisoner of war camp Stalag Luft III. For nineteen days, he was kept in solitary confinement and maltreated. He was threatened with being shot, subjected to extremes of hot and cold temperatures, and questioned day and night endlessly. Eventually, though, Murdo was released into the general camp population.

Stalag Luft III was divided into an American side and a British side, with a high barbed wire fence separating the two. Murdo volunteered to serve as chaplain for the American side. It was living among and ministering to these young American soldiers that Murdo received the affectionate nickname he became known, “Padre Mac.

As it happened, there was another Scotsman imprisoned on the British side. So, each day, the two Scots would meet to talk at the fence. They met in the presence of guards, of course, but while there were guards who knew French and English, they did not know Gaelic, the native tongue of Scotland. Another thing the guards did not know was that the British had smuggled a shortwave radio into the camp. So, every day, the Scotsman on the British side would bring news about the war to the fence and share it with Padre Mac in Gaelic, who would then report it back to the American side of the camp. It was a great system they had worked out.

Then, one morning at 6 am, Padre Mac was shaken awake by one of the Americans. The soldier told him that the Scotsman from the British side was at the fence and wanted to talk. So, he got dressed in a hurry and ran to the fence, where his Scottish compadre whispered just two words of Gaelic: Thainig iad. “They’ve come.”

Thus, Padre Mac learned of the Allied invasion of Normandy. He immediately ran back to share the news with his side of the camp. He reports that, upon hearing the news, men leaped into the air and, shouting and crying, rolled in wild abandon on the ground. They knew that victory was in sight and deliverance was around the corner.

But here’s the catch: their ordeal as prisoners of war was not yet over. They were still very much imprisoned. They were still at the mercy of the Nazi soldiers. And although they did not know it, they would soon be on a forced march to Stalag VII-A, another POW camp. Even so, here’s how Padre Mac described what that time was like:

We were still prisoners in a sense. But boy, we walked around as though we were at a party. We didn’t complain about the food anymore. We didn’t hate the guards anymore. We smiled at them. Even though they pointed their guns at us, we were still their prisoners; we felt sorry for them. But the truth is: we were set free by the news before even we were set free by the allied forces.”

The good news of the Gospel is that there is nothing that can separate us from the love of God. In spite of how where we are. Regardless of what we are. Despite our circumstances. In spite of how disappointed we are in the course our lives have taken. Irrespective of how mind-numbing our dead-end job may be. No matter how adept we’ve gotten at fracturing our relationships. It doesn’t matter how addicted we are to drugs or alcohol or other people’s attention. And even though we are bone-weary about being in lockdown, if we receive the good news that God sent His Son to save us, we can believe what the Gospel tells us about our status of becoming God’s beloved children. If we just give that love the final word in defining who we are and how we act. Then, like Padre Mac, we too can be set free no matter our external circumstances. As our great Deliverer told the world, “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”[1]


[1] John 8:36


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WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER FOUR (Lesson LXXXIII) 05/13/22

4:12 For though we have never seen God, God lives in us when we love each other, and His agápē within us grows stronger.

The Apostle John takes a back seat to no one in Scripture, says Yarbrough, in advancing a lofty view of God the Father’s essential being. But in direct proportion to God’s transcendence, for John, is the mandate that believers incarnate God’s character, central to which is His love. It is essential if John’s readers are to avoid the lovelessness that he warns against. It is also vital for the sake of believers’ personal assurance, as we see in verse thirteen.

Colin G. Kruse (1950) sees the invisibility of God as an essential theme in the Apostle John’s Gospel.[1]No one has ever seen God. The only Son is the one who has shown us what God is like. He is God and is very close to the Father; The Father who sent Me has given proof about Me Himself. But you have never heard His voice. You have never seen what He looks like; I don’t mean that there is anyone who has seen the Father. The only One who has ever seen the Father is the One who came from God. He has seen the Father.” John’s point is that while no one can claim to have seen God (apart from God’s one and only Son), believers who love one another demonstrate that the unseen God lives in them. This teaching is meant to reassure the readers that they do really know God, despite what the secessionists might say to the contrary.[2]

Judith M. Lieu (1951) maintains that the Apostle John’s readers would have quickly agreed to celebrate the superiority of God’s act of love that John had just rehearsed, especially if it drew on familiar phrases. Yet, it may be understood and experienced in highly individual terms, a collection of individuals who could claim God loved me. Such an understanding would not act as the foundation for the conclusion that John draws. For him: God’s prior love calls for a responding love, not to God, nor indiscriminately, but precisely to one another. God’s agápē for “us” does not simply transform individuals and offer them the possibility of life, but it creates a community; indeed, God’s agápē for “us” is for the community as a whole and not exclusively for its members. Hence, God’s act of love not only imposes the obligation to love but also determines to whom that love must be directed toward those who are equal recipients of God’s agápē along with “us.”

In other words, God’s agápē is not poured into us as a closed vessel to be capped and kept apart from others. No, it was dispensed to us as a reservoir that flows out to others. For that reason, Love is not an emotion; neither is it to be defined in terms of particular virtues or acts of kindness. It is the lifeblood of the community, that which gives it its existence. This goes beyond seeing it as give-and-take love but as something commanded.[3] As such, it is an act of obedience. Furthermore, it is not to be satisfied by a catalog of individual activities or a general affirmative concern for each other. Love is not among a number of characteristics of those who believe. In fact, at this point, rather than identifying them as those who believe, it would be better to identify them as those who are founded on love.[4]

Ben Witherington III (1951) notes that there is something odd about saying, “God lives in us, and His love is made complete in us,” as if God’s Spirit was not seen as divine or not closely identified with God. The Apostle John writes, “We know He lives in us because the Spirit, He gave us, lives in us.[5] It is therefore better to take the Greek “out of the Spirit” phrase seriously; it refers to the knowledge or assurance that the Spirit gave believers at conversion that God dwells in them, knowledge that has an ongoing and lasting impact. If we take the phrase “of the Spirit” in a strict separative sense (believers receive only a share of the Spirit, not the whole Spirit), who fills the entire church? John does not see the Spirit as a mere power in impersonal terms. Rather, the Spirit is a person who cannot be parceled out in bits and pieces. Then, it is better to see this as a reference to something received from the Spirit: knowledge, spiritual awareness, assurance, gifts, etc.[6] If the Holy Spirit comes in to dwell at the new birth, why do we need to return to God for the infilling of His Spirit? For Pentecostals, the Holy Spirit moves in for Salvation and Sanctification. So then, being baptized in the Spirit is empowerment for service. That’s why Jesus told the disciples to go to the upper room and wait until the Spirit came.

Bruce G. Schuchard (1958) begins with:

               “Immortal, invisible, God only wise,

               In light, inaccessible, hid from our eyes.”[7]

Whether a Christian or not, no one suggests John has ever seen God in person. Yet, still, we may know and be confident that ours is the knowledge of the one true God.[8] For John declares that we alone, and not individualist Christians, have responded in kind to the love of the One who alone is love, who therefore exemplifies what love truly is, what love must be, if it is to be true love, never selfishly taking or demanding, but selflessly given, enlivening, empowering, upholding, and sustaining for time and for eternity. After all, to quote the Apostle Paul, “the greatest of these is love.[9] So then, we and not they have made His agápē our love. We and not the nonconformists have responded with the same love for the same community of the beloved for the sake of the life and the love that comes from and so is inspired by God alone through His Son, Jesus the Anointed One. We, and not the maverick believers, do these things by abiding in the love of our unseen God, as seen in our love for each other.[10]

Marianne Meye Thompson (1964) says that what we have here is that God gives us the command to love and has also modeled for us what true love is, just as Jesus modeled love for His disciples when He washed their feet before His death.[11] Love that does not express itself concretely and in service to others is not love.[12] But even more, God also empowers us to love. By confession of the Son whom God has sent, we are born of God and come to know God, who is love;[13] we are given life;[14] our sins are forgiven.[15] We come into the realm of life and love, in which we receive eternal life and are empowered to extend the same kind of life-giving love to others. That’s how we come to know the source of agápē.[16]

Ken Johnson (1965) points out that true love is not seen by what we do for each other or for God, but only in the fact that Jesus is the atonement for our sins. That fact should be the basis of the love we show to one another.[17] And since He was willing to forsake heaven, come to a hostile world, be murdered for His beliefs, and be buried in a borrowed tomb, so the Father could raise Him to life again, we can do no less for those, we desire to see become our brothers and sisters in God’s family.

Duncan Heaster (1967) is of the persuasion that the idea of “perfected” is an ongoing process. The Apostle John often writes in absolute terms, according to our status “in the Anointed One,” as if it is that those who know the Father automatically live in and with the kind of love exhibited by Him in the Anointed One. But we know from observed experience that this is a process and doesn’t happen instantaneously; even Paul felt he had not yet been “perfected.”[18] Love, the love unto the death on a cross, is developed and “perfected” in us; this results in the Christian community being “perfected” into a profound unity, unseen in any other human social relationship.[19] Our life paths are, therefore, directed toward the development of that love; and when our lives are over, we will stand before the Lord at the judgment; our love should have been perfected, matured, and developed to such a point that we assure our fluttering hearts before Him and find boldness there.

We will have reached the point the Lord did, says Heaster, who was “perfected” until the very point when He died – for that was the ultimate term and maturity of the process of love being “perfected” in a person.[20] From His example and path, we note that while the process of “perfecting” is still in operation, we may not be fully mature, but lack of full maturity is not sinful. For the Lord never sinned. Instead, the Spirit “perfects” us until we can be seen as being among the spirits of just men who were perfected.[21] It is by keeping the Word of the Lord Jesus ever before us that this love is perfected in us.[22] [23]

Karen H. Jobes (1968) inquires, “Because God is invisible in the material world we inhabit, how does one express love for God and fellowship with Him?” We can’t hug Him or send Him a nice Valentine’s Day card on February fourteenth. Consistently, the Final Covenant speaks of love for God in terms of our relationship with His people. We gather together for worship, pray for one another, and take Holy Communion together. Although Christianity in North America has a very “Jesus-and-me” quality, the Final Covenant writers did not conceive of an independent, maverick Christian.[24] Even the First Covenant commands that obedience to God were largely directives concerning how to treat others.[25] Biblically defined love for others is our appropriate expression of love for God. When Christians love others as God defines love, God remains in us, making His presence known, and His agápē is completed in us.[26]


[1] John 1:18; 5:37; 6:46

[2] Kruse, Colin G., The Letters of John (The Pillar New Testament Commentary (PNTC)), op. cit., loc. cit., Kindle Edition

[3] 1 John 3:11

[4] Lieu, Judith, The New Testament Commentary, op. cit., pp. 184-185

[5] 1 John 3:24b

[6] Witherington III, Ben: Letters and Homilies for Hellenized Christians: op. cit., loc. cit., (Kindle Locations 7224-7231)

[7] Immortal, invisible, God only Wise, by Walter C. Smith, (1867)

[8] Ibid. 2:3-11

[9] 1 Corinthians 13:13

[10] Schuchard, Bruce G., Concordia Commentary, op. cit., p. 476

[11] John 13:1-17

[12] 1 John 3:16-18

[13] Ibid. 4:7

[14] Ibid. 4:9

[15] Ibid. 4:10

[16] Thompson, Marianne M., The IVP New Testament Commentary, op. cit., p. 123

[17] Johnson, Ken. Ancient Epistles of John and Jude, op. cit., p. 78

[18] Philippians 3:12

[19] John 17:23

[20] Hebrews 2:10; 5:9; 7:28; Heaster fails to note that these scriptures are talking about Jesus, not a believer. It is the love of God that is perfected in the believer, not the believer in God’s love.

[21] Hebrews 12:23

[22] 1 John 2:5

[23] Heaster, Duncan: New European Commentary, op. cit., 1 John, p. 33

[24] Cf. 1 Peter 2:4-5

[25] Exodus 20:12-17; Deuteronomy 5:16-21

[26] Jobes, Karen H., 1, 2, and 3 John (Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on The New Testament, Book 18), p. 194

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WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER FOUR (Lesson LXXXII) 05/12/22

4:12 For though we have never seen God, God lives in us when we love each other, and His agápē within us grows stronger.

From a worldly perspective, says Moody, the Gospel’s message of God’s agápē is quite uncanny and unbelievable, a state of affairs that would not surprise the Apostle John. It belongs to the character of the world not to believe such nonworldly message. Does the news have any basis in perceptible reality? If so, it’s only in mutual human love. Such love becomes a possibility in response to God’s agápē, made manifest in the historical human Jesus. It makes the message of God’s agápē as a credible witness to the world. However, one need not deny the genuineness of human affection apart from the Gospel message and our grateful response to it. Such love is inherently self-interested, but such a charge runs the risk of being rigid and unfair. We do not have to prove the world false so that the Gospel may be true. God’s agápē in Jesus the Anointed One and our responsive love become perceptible and credible. People already know what love means, understand its necessity, and long for its exchange and fulfillment.[1]

Stephen S. Smalley (1931-2018) thinks that because the statement “no one has seen God” is introduced so abruptly, it suggests that it “was somehow misplaced.” But the Apostle John has a reason for making the point now, shortly after speaking against the heretics about how God can be “known.” Perhaps some members of John’s congregation claimed to have “seen’’ God directly and thereby “know” Him. It brings to mind the idea in Jewish apocalyptic writings of the “heavenly journey” of the soul and compares the ascent of Enoch, [2] or the rapture of Elijah, [3] and also the four Rabbis raptured to enter the “Garden of Paradise.”[4] However, the notion in Gnostic thought of the soul’s thrilling journey to heaven, as a form of “divine knowledge,” must have been in John’s mind at this point, so verse twelve is directed against such heretical ideas.[5] It resembles today’s popular doctrine that as soon as a believer dies, they go directly to heaven to see their mansion and dance on the streets of gold, bypassing the resurrection as foretold in Scripture.[6]

Edward J. Malatesta (1932-1998) has the Apostle John introducing the theme of our inability to see God physically.[7] However, our mutual love experience of God being in us and His agápē perfected in us. It is the only way we can “see God” in this life. It means that every time you see a fellow believer showing agápē to another, you see God. Not only that, but when they see you loving others, they see God in you. God is not in you if they do not see any love in you. John expands this theme into verse thirteen when it requires agápē for us, remaining in union with God and He in us. This identifies the source of our knowledge of God and constant communion with Him. Thus, He gave us His Spirit to live in us to keep that fellowship going.[8]

Ian Howard Marshall (1934-2015) tells us that he sees the Apostle John turning his back on mystical experience as the high point in a person’s relationship with God. This, is from a man who had one of the most spectacular revelations during the Final Covenant era. He had no interest in retreating from the world of men into the privacy of a vision of God. On the contrary, when people love their fellow Christians – on a very practical level – they fully experience God’s agápē in their hearts and know the presence of God is with them. This does not mean that Christian duty is summed up in merely loving one another, as some would have us believe. John’s point is that loving one another is indispensable in a religion that longs to have true knowledge of God. We cannot find God by withdrawing from the world and its obligation to love one another, but equally, God cannot be found merely by trying to love one another. True religion comes only through believing in Jesus the Anointed One and accepting His command to love another.[9]

John Painter (1935) The alternative to seeing God ourselves is that when “we love one another,” we see Him in them. In expectation of seeing Jesus as He is the ground of the hope that “we will be like Him.”[10] This is the Johannine version of the vision of God. In the time of Jesus’ ministry, some saw, heard, touched, and handled Him. When He is fully revealed, [11] we will be like Him at His second coming because we will see Him as He is. But here, for the moment, loving one another appears to be an alternative to seeing Him as He is. Even here, it is unclear whether loving one another is God’s abiding with us or whether it is the evidence of that abiding. The latter seems more likely in that it is said that “if we love one another … God’s love is made perfect in us.”[12]

Michael Eaton (1942-2017) remarks that we might respond to the Apostle John by saying: “I do love God, I simply find it difficult to get on with so-and-so.” John exposes this as an excuse. It is too easy to claim to be getting on well with God. He is, after all, invisible. Our relationship with Him is a sacred one but not a secret one, generally speaking. Easy claims about knowing God may cover up the real battle we have with loving people. Maybe we are not far enough on the love’s pathway to appreciate the love given to us by the Holy Spirit.[13] John’s challenge is that we venture further down the road of love. It is the way God wants us to live. If we are born again, we already have the seed of love. So, just let it grow![14]

William Loader (1944) sees what the Apostle John says here as standard theology for Jews and Christians. It reaches back in tradition to the Sinai episode where God says to Moses: “No mortal may see Me and live.”[15] The climax of the prologue of John’s Gospel reads: “No one has ever seen God; God’s only Son, He who is nearest to the Father’s heart, has made Him known.”[16] So, John is not pulling some mystical or new concept about God and mankind out of the bag. It has been long established that God, like the wind, is unseen but easily felt.

David Jackman (1947) says that loving one another is not just an extra ingredient that we might add to our discipleship, but only if we feel especially moved to do so. We owe it to the loving Father not to further slander His name by denying His love in our human relationships. If we have been cleansed through the blood of the Anointed One, our new lives must be clean, like His, as we mix with others in God’s family. Let us appreciate the infinite price paid for our redemption, for a moment. We will quickly discern how vital it is that we do not continue to indulge ourselves in following our sinful tendencies. There is a new constraint within us that longs to live differently.[17] So the Christian church should be a community of love, unlike any other society. The Church indeed exists for those who are not yet members, but it is also true that the love among her members should be one of her most powerful magnets.[18]

Robert W. Yarbrough (1948) notes that among major emphases earlier in the discourse is the need for readers to “abide” or “remain” in what they have been taught and in union with the Anointed One.[19] The Apostle John has also stressed the perfecting or making complete of God’s love in believers through obedience to God’s Word.[20] In verse twelve, John sees the merging of these two strands, “abiding” and “perfecting,” as closely tied with the expression of love among believers.

The additional consideration is John’s categorical observation that “no one has ever seen God.” The invisibility of God is a consequence of the conviction that God is Spirit, not a being possessing material properties.[21] A First Covenant thought that spills directly over into the Final Covenant, God is a personal being, but he is not a human,

Numbers 23:19         “God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that he should

                                      Change his mind.[22]

                                                     Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?

1 Chronicles 21: 13  David said to Gad, “I am in deep distress. Let me fall into the hands of the Lord, for                                          his mercy is very great; but do not let me fall into the hands of men.”

Job 9: 32                     He is not a man like me that I might answer Him, that we might confront each                                         other in court.”

Job 33:12                    ”But I tell you, in this you are not right, for God is greater than man.”

Psalm 50: 21              “These things you have done and I kept silent; you thought I was altogether like                                              you. But I will rebuke you and accuse you to your face.”

Hosea 11: 9                I will not carry out my fierce anger, nor will I turn and devastate Ephraim. For I                                    am God, and not man – the Holy One among you”.

Perfected” here in verse twelve is unlikely to refer to a state of sinless perfection in believers, which John has already rejected. Nor is John suggesting that there is something imperfect in God’s love that believers loving brings to perfection or fulfills. The root of the Greek perfect participle means “to finish, complete, or bring to the desired outcome.”[23] John speaks here not of perfect people but of God’s already pristine love finding its fullest possible earthly expression as people respond to the message of the Anointed One and reach out to one another as a result.[24]


[1] Smith, D. Moody. Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching, op. cit., pp. 106, 111-112

[2] 1 Enoch 71; 2 Enoch, Ch. 44:7-8

[3] 2 Kings 2:11

[4] Babylonian Talmud, Seder Mo’ed, Hagigah, folio 14b

[5] Smalley, Stephen S., Word Biblical Commentary, Vol. 51, op. cit., p. 246

[6] 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17

[7] See 1 John 4:20; cf. 1-3; 3:2, 6

[8] Malatesta, Edward J., Interiority and Covenant, op. cit., p. 295

[9] Marshall, I. Howard. The Epistles of John (The New International Commentary on the New Testament), op. cit., pp. 217-218)

[10] 1 John 3:2

[11] Ibid. 2:28

[12] Painter, John. Sacra Pagina: 1, 2, and 3 John: Vol. 18, loc. cit.

[13] Romans 5:5

[14] Eaton, Michael: Focus on the Bible, 1,2,3 John, op. cit., pp. 152-153

[15] Exodus 33:20

[16] John 1:18

[17] Romans 5:5

[18] Jackman, David: The Message of John’s Letters, op. cit., p. 122

[19] 1 John 2:6, 10, 14, 17, 24, 27-28

[20] Ibid. 2:5

[21] Cf. John 4:24

[22] Numbers 23:19

[23] Cf. John 4: 34; 5: 36; 17: 4

[24] Yarbrough, Robert W., 1-3 John (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament), op. cit., pp. 243-245

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WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER FOUR (Lesson LXXXI) 05/11/22

4:12 For though we have never seen God, God lives in us when we love each other, and His agápē within us grows stronger.

Amos N. Wilder (1895-1993) says that knowing God by the Gnostic path could reach its goal in the claim of having seen Him in a mystic vision. The audacity of this claim is no doubt to be condoned because some of great nobility of spirit from Plato onward have experienced it. But the Bible, more aware of the difference between Creator and creature, assigns this goal to Judgment Day[1] for the “pure in heart” and in an indirect sense.[2] But if we love one another, the life of God in its essential character is ours: God abides in us.[3] Indeed, His agápē is perfected in us in the sense that it is realized or brought into actuality· This is a much greater outcome than any alleged vision of God.[4] It is only one aspect of the final outcome.[5]

Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981) was prompted suddenly, to ask, “Why does the Apostle John suddenly, in the midst of this argument, exclaim, ‘No man has seen God at any time?’” Where’s the connection? What does he mean? Why was it, at this point, he burst out, as it were, with this extraordinary statement? There are those who would say that what John was really saying was something like this: “Dear friends, I told you earlier, since God loved us so much, we surely ought to love each other.”[6] Then he blurts out, “Listen, no one has ever seen God!” Therefore, the only way in which we can love God is by loving one another. After all, we cannot see God, but we do see each other. So, since you cannot see God to love Him, then love Him by loving His children. Lloyd-Jones calls this a reasonable answer. It is as if John is answering them this way: “Rid your minds of all these mystical ideas of love. Stop thinking that way and start realizing that there is no value in your saying that you love God unless you love your brother and sister. After all, you can’t see God, but you can see your brother and sister. So, it is simple, love your brother and sisters if you want to love God.”[7]

Ronald Ralph Williams (1906-1970) says that the Apostle John wants to make his point abundantly clear, so he explains that the love he is speaking of comes from God is not our love, not even our love for God, but God’s agápē for us. This found its supreme expression in Jesus’ coming, but still, more precisely, the purpose of His coming was to remedy the defilement of our sins.[8] The phrase “remedy for the defilement” comes from the Greek noun hilasmos, which means to “appease, alleviate, placate, atone for,” which is translated as “propitiation.” It comes from the Latin propitiare, meaning “appease.” Earliest recorded form of the word in English is propitiatorium, “the mercy seat, place of atonement” (circa 1200 AD), translating Greek hilasterion. The meaning “that which propitiates or appeases, a propitiatory gift or offering” is from the 1550s. Because all Christians owe everything to the flow of love poured into the world and the hearts of new Christians, no person has ever seen God except through the mutual love of His children. God’s agápē comes to its full maturity and is thereby brought to perfection.[9]

Wayne C. “Cy” Aman (1918-1995) states that Christian perfection is nothing else than perfected love. The Holy Spirit inspired the Apostle John to tell us that the height of the Christian experience is love. The Apostle Paul verified this by confessing to the Corinthians, “I may speak in various languages, whether human or even of angels. But if I don’t have love, I am only a noisy bell or a ringing cymbal. I may have the gift of prophecy, understand all secrets, know everything there is to know and have faith so great that I can move mountains. But even with all this, if I don’t have love, I am nothing. I may give away everything I have to help others, and I may even give my body as an offering to be burned. But I gain nothing by doing all this if I don’t have love.[10] So, if the lack of love makes a nobody out of the Apostle Paul, think of what it makes you?[11]

Raymond E. Brown (1928-1998) is surprised that this denial by the Apostle John of anyone ever seeing God is surprising. Did not Jesus tell His disciples, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father?”[12] This was scarcely meant to be a unique privilege for those first disciples who saw Jesus physically during the ministry since Jesus promised the disciples that they would see Him again “in a little while, [[13] namely, after His death and return – a sight that presumably the Johannine Christians would share as second-generation disciples. Nevertheless, we would have to conclude that the sight of the Father in Jesus is not the same as seeing God in person. John promises that as a future reward: “We shall see Him as He is.”[14] Three times in John’s Gospel, he references that no one has ever seen God.[15] It was used to defend the uniqueness of Jesus against Jewish claims (actual or possible) about the superiority of Moses or Elijah.

The Jewish historian Josephus tells us that Moses met with the congregation before going off into the mountain and never returning. The prophet told them, “God has received me graciously . . . I have been admitted into the presence of God and been made a hearer of His incorruptible voice.”[16] And in Torah, we read, “Adonai would speak to Moshe’s face to face, as a man speaks to his friend,”[17] and, “there has not arisen in Isra’el a prophet like Moshe, whom Adonai knew face to face.”[18] But there is a debate within Jewish writings about whether Moses saw God on Sinai or through an assumption into heaven after death. Once again, John has taken over anti-Jewish criticism from his Gospel and used it in his war with the secessionists.[19]

Peter S. Ruckman (1921-2010) tells us how the Final Covenant affected the Hindu writings on the god Krishna. The name and synonyms of Krishna have been traced to prior to the birth of the Anointed One in literature and cults before His birth. However, without one prophesy about him in 2,000 years of Hindu “sacred scriptures,” he can do many of the things written in the Gospels about Jesus.[20] For instance:

  • He can unite people to “the Eternal.
  • He can indwell sinners and rescue them from all evils.
  • He believes in sacrifice and can indwell the believer.
  • As the Supreme Lord of the Universe, even Braham “adores” him.
  • We are to love and worship him and meditate on him.
  • He was the “unknown god” before Jesus the Anointed One showed up.
  • He is to be called “Our Lord” and “Blessed Lord” and, finally, “THE LORD.”[21]

John R. W. Stott (1921-2011) says we are not to think of love only as constituting God’s eternal being and as historically manifested in the sending of His Son into the world. For God, who is love and, has loved still loves, and today His agápē is seen in and through our love.[22] So, if the lost and sin weary sinner is expecting to see love, they need not look toward heaven, nor a Church, nor the Bible, if they want to see God’s agápē manifested, they will have to look at you and me. The question is, will they see any?

Simon J. Kistemaker (1930-2017) focuses on the doctrinal aspect of why the Apostle John’s First Epistle is the preeminent book on love. The verb love appears twenty-eight times, and the corresponding noun love occurs eighteen times. Furthermore, almost all these references are in the section of 3:1-5:3. If God loved us before the world’s creation, [23] why did He need to send His Son to a cruel death on the cross? Was the death of the Anointed One necessary? The answer to these questions is that although God still dearly loved us, He was displeased and upset with us because of our sins but could not be reconciled to us until the Anointed One removed our guilt. God expresses His agápē toward those whose demand for righteousness has been met. Therefore, God’s children, who are covered with His righteousness, may experience the fullness of God’s agápē.”[24]

Dwight Moody Smith (1931-2016) states, as others have, that this section of verses seven through twelve is one of the most eloquent statements about love in the Johannine literature, as well as in the Final Covenant as a whole. As such, it is perhaps less famous than 1 Corinthians 13.[25] But in fact, it is an adequate theological discussion about the origin of love than Paul’s renowned poem of praise, which has been popular among Christians and others, perhaps because it praises the importance and character of love over narrow religious qualities or claims. On the other hand, John gives a distinctly Christian explanation of the origin and human motivation of love, one that has become a classical model for theology and ethics. Appropriately, John begins by addressing his readers as beloved recipients of love. They are beloved by John, but, as we shall soon see, they are also beloved of God, which becomes evident in how this paragraph unfolds.


[1] Matthew 5:8

[2] 1 Corinthians 13:12; cf. John 14:19; 1 John 1:2

[3] Cf. 1 John 3:24

[4] See John 1:18

[5] Wilder, Amos N., The Interpreter’s Bible, op. cit., 1 John, Exposition, pp. 281-282

[6] 1 John 4:11

[7] Lloyd-Jones, Martyn: Life of the Anointed One, op. cit., p. 452

[8] See 1 John 4:10

[9] Williams, Ronald R, Letters of John and James, op. cit., pp. 48-49

[10] 1 Corinthians 13:1-3

[11] Aman, Wayne C., The Cross and Crown of Holiness, op. cit., Ch. 3, p. 12

[12] John 14:9

[13] Ibid. 16:16

[14] 1 John 3:2

[15] John 1:18; 6:46; 14:9; cf. 1 John 4:12; 3 John 1:11

[16] Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Book 3, Chap. 5:3

[17] Exodus 33:11 – Complete Jewish Bible (CJB)

[18] Deuteronomy 34:10 – Complete Jewish Bible (CJB)

[19] Brown, Raymond E., The Anchor Bible, op. cit., p. 520

[20] Ruckman, Dr. Peter S., General Epistles Vol. 2, 1-2-3 John, Jude Commentary, (The Bible Believer’s Commentary Series), BB Bookstore. Kindle Edition.

[21] Encyclopedia of Religion and Religions, Pike, World Publishing Co., 1958; Religions of the World, John Hardon, Image Books, 1968; India, the Grand Experiment, Mangalwaid, Pippa Rann Books, 1997

[22] Stott, John. The Letters of John (Tyndale New Testament Commentaries), op. cit., p. 164

[23] Ephesians 1:4-5

[24] Kistemaker, Simon J., New Testament Commentary, op. cit., pp. 334-335

[25] 1 Corinthians 13

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WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER FOUR (Lesson LXXX) 05/10/22

4:12 For though we have never seen God, God lives in us when we love each other, and His agápē within us grows ever stronger.

Robert Smith Candlish (1806-1873) sees narrow and compressed reasoning here. Like steps in a process or the links in the chain are not evident on the surface, some intermediate bonds of connection need to be supplied. Thus, the assertion “No one has seen God at any time[1] seems to anticipate a question as to the omission of love to God in the preceding verse. It is what we might naturally expect to be the logical inference, but it is not so; it is “we ought also to love one another.”[2] And why? “Because no one has seen God at any time.” Therefore, loving one another is the test of “God dwelling in us.” And it is so because it is “the perfecting of His agápē in us.” Two general principles are indicated here as regards this divine love; I. It must have a visible object; in other words, it must be actual and practical, not merely ideal and sentimental. II. It is thus not only proven but perfected; it has its free course to completion.[3]

William E. Jelf (1811-1875) notes that the Apostle John quotes what he wrote in his Gospel about no one has ever seen God.[4] It infers that we cannot hold communion with God face-to-face. Our connection to Him is spiritual, through His dwelling in our hearts, occupying our thoughts, affections, and desires. He does this if we love one another, for His agápē is the fulfillment of His moral law and keeping His commandments. So, if we keep His commandments, He has told us that He will dwell in us.[5] So, In such cases, the love we have for God, or the love He has for us, has received its full perfection and completion. In its perfect development, either of these comprehends and implies the other. They are only different expressions of the same moral and spiritual state. The love which God showed to us is developed to its proper end and functions when it creates in us love towards each other. If we love our fellow believers, agápē toward God is confirmed, developed, and perfected because it is evidence that God, by His Spirit, is in us in power. The more we feel God’s agápē, the more we will love them if that feeling is genuine.[6]

William Kelly (1822-1888) notes that there is a word worthy of all consideration here in verse twelve. It recalls John’s words, “No one has ever seen God at any time.”[7] How was so great a need for humanity supplied? Did not the God of all goodness feel for mankind’s lack? He made Himself known most gloriously for Himself and His Son, most effectively in itself, and most considerately and lovingly by sending His Son to become Man among men. If every soul of man since Adam was asked, How could God make Himself known in the best and surest way and the fullest love for humanity’s need and misery, never, would one have proposed to do it God’s way? Yet, Satan found the means to ignore and reject the Son of God to humankind through their lusts and passions, self-will, supposed interests, and invented religions.

But, says Kelly, the Son of God who came in divine love, is gone back to His Father. Yet, the Son, the rejected Son, is not here to declare Himself. What is the answer to the same need now? “If we love one another, God abides in us, and His agápē is perfected in us.” Is this not a striking and solemn means of supplying the need? Does it not address itself in a direct and powerful way to you, my brothers and sisters, to me, and to every other child of God? We are here and now through the Son not only washed from our sins but made children of God, and by our mutual love according to God to know and witness Him in a world that does not know Him. The children are now to reflect here on God’s agápē. Our Lord did this to perfection when here; how are we, or are we really knowing and abiding in His agápē the same way?[8] Therefore, can we not repeat the words of our Lord when others ask, how can I see Jesus? We can say: “Anyone who sees me has seen Jesus.”[9]

Now, says Kelly, no one has ever seen God at any time. God lives in us if we love one another, and His agápē is perfected in us. It is a wonderful word, evidently connecting itself with what is said in John’s Gospel, “No one has ever seen God. But the Anointed One, who is Himself God, is near to the Father’s heart. He revealed God to us.”[10] There the Anointed One stands as the manifestation of God in love. Here the saints are called to be no less. But, beloved brothers and sisters, Kelly asks, how far and wide do we manifest this divine love that never seeks its own, and is determined for the good of its objects, His children, yes all, even their enemies?[11] Is this impossible or too encompassing? Not when we read what the Apostle Paul said, “The death of His Son restored our friendship with God while we were still His enemies.”[12]

I like Daniel Steele’s (1824-1914) comments that God is in the genuine believer not as a stranger in an inn lodging for a night, but He as a permanent resident. This fact should expel fear, encompass strength, extend unbroken peace and everlasting joy, and energetic activity in promoting His glory here on earth. We may not always be conscious of the Holy Spirit abiding within, but there will be periods of wonderful spiritual illumination and crises of indescribable joy. The NIV, NLT, and LB, [13] all translate it as: “Inexpressible joy.”[14] [15]

William Lincoln (1825-1888) wants us to observe these two facts: when you believe in the Anointed One, God’s agápē gets into you; it has been tapping at the door of your heart (it may be for years) every time you heard the gospel; but when you believe, and take the full salvation, God’s agápē gets into you; when at last you see that the precious Son of God dying on your behalf on the cross, God’s agápē has got right into you; and so, observe, it is said of every Christian, here in verse twelve, that God’s agápē is perfected in them; if we love one another, that is proof that divine love has reached us – God’s agápē in its descending scale must have gotten into you, (commonly called conversion).[16]

In examining what John says here that no one has ever seen God, Brooke F. Westcott (1825-1901) states that with these words, John seems to call up all the triumphs of the saints in the past. No matter how close their fellowship with God had been, no one had seen Him as He is. Here, the question is not of some abstract power but an experience. Although God is invisible, He yet is not only very near to us but in us, the Life of our lives. People’s manifestation of active love witnesses two facts: (1) God abides in them, and (2) the presence of divine love in them in its completest form. There is both the reality and effectiveness of fellowship. Generally, this fellowship is described under its two aspects (“God in us, us in God”), but here the idea is that of the power of His divine indwelling.[17] John then reveals the unmistakable proof of our mutual union with God. The love of the brethren is indeed the recognition of God’s presence in us because it is after the image of God. So, the whole idea of whether a person has seen God in person or not is muted because we can all see God in each person who loves as He did.[18]

Henry A. Sawtelle (1832-1913) states that although this opening is abrupt, the connection of thought between this verse and the preceding is evident and straightforward: We ought to love one another; and, though we may not see God with these outward eyes, yet if we love anyway, God is in us as really as if we saw Him. He is where His agápē is, for love, as a divine principle, is a part of the believer. God the Father is the One spoken of, and seeing Him has so far been denied to mortal humans with bodily eyes. With the outward vision, people have seen the express image of the Father in Jesus the Anointed One, [19] but not God the Father by Himself as He is.[20] He whom Adam and Abraham and Moses saw was not the Father, but the Word, the Angel of Yahweh, the veiled higher nature of the Anointed One before He came in the flesh.[21]

John James Lias (1834-1923)  says that if we live that life of love, we can be sure that God’s agápē is abiding in us – that love which He has placed in our hearts – is already perfected in us. Here, as elsewhere in these notes, says Lias, we have represented John as looking toward the goal to which the Christian is aiming than at their actual present condition. No one – but one – has succeeded perfectly in leading this life of love. But every single act of love brings us nearer to that pinnacle. The nearer we are to that state to which the Lord desires to draw us is when God abides in us and we in Him, when we cease to sin and have at last come to “do righteousness,” when we love our brethren even as the Anointed One loved us, the more love is elevated as the practical principle of our lives.[22]

Eric Haupt (1841-1910) stays that here, at the end of this section, the Apostle John expressly adds that the divine nature of love in its fullness and glory takes up its dwelling in us. It is the highest perfection in God that His agápē neither excludes any nor ever permits interruption; and this is, therefore, the image and ideal for love among Christians, so that all individuals should love one another without exception (“each other”), and that with uninterrupted energy of the present tense “we love.[23]

Alfred Plummer (1841-1926) points out that, once more, the connecting lines of thought are not on the surface and cannot be confirmed with certainty. Nevertheless, what follows gives us a clue to what otherwise looks like an abrupt transition from what the Apostle John said that we must love one another, for by so doing, we have proof of the presence of the invisible God. No amount of contemplation ever yet enabled anyone to detect God’s presence. Let us love one another, and then we are sure not only that He is with us, but in us, and not merely in us, but stays there.[24]


[1] John 1:18; 1 John 4:12

[2] 1 John 1:11

[3] Candlish, Robert S., First Epistle of John, op. cit., pp. 119-120

[4] John 1:18

[5] Ibid. 14:23

[6] Jelf, William E., First Epistle of St. John, op. cit., p. 62

[7] John 1:18

[8] Kelly, William: An Exposition of the Epistles of John the Apostle, op. cit., Address XVIII, Logos, loc. cit.

[9] See John 14:9

[10] John 1:18

[11] Kelly, William: Lectures on the Catholic Epistles of John, op. cit., pp. 326-327

[12] Romans 5:10

[13] New International Version (NIV), New Living Testament (NLT), the Living Bible (LB)

[14] 1 Peter 1:8

[15] Steele, Daniel: Half-Hour, op. cit., pp. 109-110

[16] Lincoln, William: Lectures on 1 John, op. cit., Lecture VII, p. 129

[17] Cf. John 17:23, 26; 1 John 4:13

[18] Westcott, Brooke F., The Epistles of St. John, op. cit., pp. 151-152

[19] Hebrews 1:3; John 14:9

[20] John 1:18

[21] Sawtelle, Henry A., An American Commentary, Alvah Hovey Ed., op. cit., p. 50

[22] Lias, John James: The First Epistle of St. John with Exposition, pp. 320-321

[23] Haupt, Erich: The First Epistle of John, op. cit., p. 267

[24] Plummer, Alfred: Cambridge Commentary, op. cit., p. 150

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