WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER FOUR (Lesson XLVI) 03/23/22

4:7         Dear friends, we must love each other because love comes from God. Therefore, everyone who loves has become God’s child.  And so, everyone who loves understands God’s will.

EXPOSITION

In Moses’ message to the Israelites before they entered the Promised Land, he gave them this word of encouragement: “The Lord your God will take away the sin from your heart and the heart of your children. You will love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul so that you may live.”[1]

Here in verse seven, we arrive at the third and final development of the nature of true love.[2] With each advance of the topic of love, the subject becomes more intensified. There is a correlation between love and belief.  A person born of God loves as God loves.  From chapter 4:7 to 5:5, John weaves together the ideas of love, belief, and righteousness. We cannot separate these ideas from each other in the Christian faith. 

Now John expands on his comments to believers of all kinds, whether secular or spiritual. He punctuates this epistle with the word “beloved.”  His readers are “beloved” regardless of their spiritual condition.  God expects those He loves to love others. John is refuting false doctrine so that his readers in Asia Minor might have a clear idea of biblical love.  If they understand divine love, they will have a fulfilling Christian life. Therefore, divine love flows from God’s divine nature. 

It leads to John developing the theme of “love one another” in verses 7-12.  The Greek reciprocal plural pronoun allēlōn means “one another of the same kind.”  This refers to love among Jesus’ followers  because they have a mutual capacity for love.  They have God’s agápe-love in them and find that same love in genuine adherents. Without God’s agápe-love, human love is strictly human compatibility. The formula “love one another” occurs five times in this epistle.[3] That means God expects His children to reciprocate the love of a mutual relationship with Him and His other children. 

Consequently, true love finds its origin in God and derives it from Him.  We cannot live up to the standard of God’s agápe-love without the infilling of the Holy Spirit. God, the Holy Spirit, is the source of love.  Love for God means that we love all genuine Christians.  Christians love because it is their spiritual nature to love.  We can love because we are born of God. Christians should love one another for two reasons: 1) love is of God, and 2) God is love (next verse).  The nature of Christian love flows out of the God of love.

There is a definite relationship between the infilling of the Spirit and fellowship with God. The Greek verb ginōskō (“knows”) conveys the idea of a fellowship of communion.  It also means to know experientially – come to know, get knowledge of, perceive.  We can learn about relating to God when the Holy Spirit fills us.  We can absorb the truth of who God is; He is a God of love. The believer in union with God loves with love not natural to them; we are not born with this agápe-love; it can only be given to us by God. Therefore, we love with God’s agápe-love, not ours. 

At this point, we come to the third and final development of the nature of true love.[4]  With each advance of the subject of love, the matter becomes more searching. There is a correlation between love and belief. From 4:7 to 5:5, John weaves together the ideas of love, belief, and righteousness. We cannot separate these ideas from each other in the Christian faith. John addresses his comments to Christians, whether devoted or lukewarm. He punctuates this epistle with the word “beloved.”  His readers are “beloved” regardless of their spiritual condition. God expects those He loves to love others. John is refuting false doctrine so that his readers in Asia Minor might have a clear idea of biblical love. If they understand divine love, they will have a fulfilling Christian life. Divine love flows from divine nature.

When God puts us into His family, He puts us there forever. The tense of the words “is born” means that God makes our spiritual birth permanent from its received point because John writes the new birth in the perfect tense. The person born spiritually (with lasting effect, not again and again) has a lasting and permanent relationship that goes on forever with the Lord. God is the One who did the birthing [passive voice]. We do nothing to put ourselves in the family of God, so regardless of whether we are carnal or spiritual, we belong to the family of God forever. Love originates from our new birth. As recipients of God’s agápe-love, God expects us to radiate His agápe-love to others. 

The Apostle John’s use of “Beloved” is especially suitable where the subject is love. We must not look for the chief importance of the section in the appeal with which it opens. Just as “prove the spirits” is subordinate to “every spirit which confesses,” etc., so “let us love one another” is subordinate to “God is Love.” Keep in mind John addresses his comments to believers, whether carnal or spiritual.  He punctuates this epistle with the word “beloved.”

Many groups in evangelical circles today argue that we should put up with false doctrine by “loving one another.” This idea is love based on pure emotionalism. Unadulterated emotional love without truth is the enemy of biblical love. Biblical love is based on truth. False doctrine obscures and erases truth. It is impossible for any believer to love with agápe-love as long as they are under a system of false doctrine.  “True truth,” as Dr. Francis Schaeffer used to say, “is what is most beneficial for our lives.” Much of what we hear today about love is hot air.  Some say, “Oh, how I love God,” but they know little about Him. That is syrupy sentimentality. It does not mean a thing to God as we cannot love someone fully without knowing them, so we cannot love God without knowing Him.

Many Christians claim superficial love, but they don’t know the first thing about biblical love. They do not comprehend biblical love because they do not understand biblical principles. They know little of Jesus’ person and work. When a false teacher comes along with an emotional appeal, some swallow it whole without chewing because they do not have the fundamental courage to walk away. They operate on the insincere principle of attraction rather than the sound principle of character. Love means that we care about the person we love with their faults and failures. We love them although we know everything about them. This is steadfast love. Thus, mature disciples distinguish between different kinds of love.

Therefore, when we share God’s love with His other children, it is because the very source of love is God. Therefore, believers should love one another as a logical outcome of God’s love. How can any child of God claim to have God’s love in them, the love that saved them when they were drowning in sin, and then not share that love with fellow saints? Saints and sinners alike despise someone who is two-faced. People say, “I’m praying for you,” but don’t want to see you or talk to you because they have no respect for you. This is a person with a fractured soul. However, a Spirit-filled believer has the capacity to love the faultfinder.  If we love God, we will love all believers.

Unfortunately, there are always those people that you do not like because they won’t let you pour them into your mold. The more unstable you are, the pushier you get, so even if people do not have your attitude, you still try to squeeze them into your mold. This is arrogance and pride because you think they need your perspective on life. You act as though God needs your help in straightening out people you don’t like. This thinking does not love one another because true love is free from envy or pride. Just because we love our father or mother does not mean that those who walk in the Spirit love from a supernatural love. They will love the unlovely in the family of God. Love is only potential until we actively love with God’s love.

Since love is from God, the best thing that we can do is stay connected to the source. Each believer is a responder to God. God first loves us; then, we send love back to Him. Before our love reaches out to anyone, it first goes up to God. When it goes up to God, God gives it strength or power to the human race. That is the circuit of love. Every Christian has two kinds of love operating inside them. They have their human love, and then they have God’s love.  Divine love extended through the believer toward other Christians comes from God Himself. The Holy Spirit produces this love.

Human love can produce a very pleasing personality so that God’s children never act inhospitably. They always yield to other people (at least publicly). They show a big smile when relating to others. Unfortunately, sweetness is not the same as spirituality. Many people buy into this sweetness and confuse it with the real thing. You will love all believers; if someone criticizes another believer, and you support what they are saying, you also defame them. But if you are spiritual, your attitude should be the same toward a carnal believer as toward a spiritual believer. Remember, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.[5]


[1] Deuteronomy 30:6

[2] 1 John 2:7-11; 3:11-18

[3] Ibid. 3:11, 23; 4:7, 11,12

[4] 1 John 2:7-11; 3:11-18

[5] Galatians 5:22-23

About drbob76

Retired missionary, pastor, seminary professor, Board Certified Chaplain and American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Director.
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