WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER FOUR (Lesson XLVII) 03/24/22

4:7 Dear friends, let us practice loving each other, for love comes from God, and those who are loving and kind show that they are God’s children and are getting to know Him better.

COMMENTARY

Several early Church scholars have various ways of responding to what John says here.  For instance, Didymus the Blind (313-398 AD) points out that just as the person who does not choose what they ought to choose has done wrong and does not love what they ought to love, so those who love only those who are worthy of love receive only that level of praise due to them.[1]  Didymus is making a subtle point here: Unbelievers who love and do the wrong things are no different from believers who only love what they want, and any credit they get will be no higher than what they give.

Augustine (353-430 AD) writes that to practice righteousness and judgment means to live virtuously, and to live virtuously means to obey God’s law, which is to help us base our lives on the principle of love. As John says, this is the love that comes from God.[2]  In another place, Augustine says that love is from God, as have declared those whom He has made not only His great loves but also His great preachers.[3]

Also, Bede the Venerable (673-735 AD) offers this: “John often praised love, which he said came from God, which is why we read that ‘he who loves is born of God.’ What more needs to be said? God is love, and therefore to go against love is to go against God.”[4]  Let me put what Bede says here in another way.  If you have a well and want to bring up the water, you need to pump it until it flows. But if you have a spring or natural fountain, there’s no need for pumping; it flows naturally.  So, it is with people.  Those in the world that love each other must try to love, but it should come naturally for those in union with the Anointed One.  And if you are a believer, and it doesn’t flow naturally, you need to fix your connection with Him.

Then Andreas Osiander (1498-1552) asks what does it mean to say that love is from God? The answer is that this refers to the One who came from God in the image and likeness of the One who sent Him? This man appeared manifested as the beloved and worthy of being loved. Now, since this Savior has come into the world because of the Father’s great love for the things He has made, those who have received this blessing and who are thus beloved ought to love one another. For each of us is loved and is called to love, having the command that we should love our neighbor.[5]

James Arminius (1560-1609) commented on the Apostle John’s call to love one another with God’s agápe-love to show that we have been born again by God. Grace seems to be a valuable aide to Goodness and Love towards His creatures. Accordingly, God is disposed to communicate His goodness and love the creatures, not of merit or debt, nor that it may add anything to God, [6] but that it may be well with those on whom the good is bestowed and who is beloved.[7] [8]

Sir Thomas Browne (1605-1682) offers a confession that helps him better understand God’s love for us. He says “I’ve never found it necessary to have any unbreakable sympathy for all relatives. I hope I do not break the fifth commandment if I conceive; I may love a friend before the nearest family member, even those I owe the principles of life. From now on, I think I can better conceive how God loves mankind; what happiness there is in God’s love.” Omitting all others, there are three mystical unions: two natures in one person; three persons in one nature; one soul united in two bodies. Although they are actually divided, they are so joined, as they seem to be one.[9]

Looking at what the Apostle John said here in verse seven about loving one another as God and His Son love us, and which love unites us to the Father and Son as though we are one with them, illustrates how we should love each other. The firmer and tighter that relationship grows, the more our relationship with God and the Anointed One strengthens. The thing that makes this so complex and simple is that God put the same love He has for us in our hearts, so we could love others the same way. So, the next time you see a fellow believer, don’t look at them the way you see them, but the way God sees them. Loving each other does not mean loving them for what they can do for us, but what we can do for them.

Matthew Poole (1624-1679) focuses here in verse seven on the power and purpose of loving one another. By loving each other, we develop reliable spiritual energy to overcome the malice and cruelty of our opposition by offering pure Christianity that promotes mutual love. We do not limit God’s agápe-love in us to just ourselves, but toward others and letting it cover them like a cloak, even if they are not as loving to us. Behind all this is the fact that God is love. So, if you have God, you have His agápe-love. Never let your love for Him or others become a regulated love done out of obligation.[10]

John Flavel (1627-1691) explains that the Scriptures affirm that God is not only in the concrete but also in the abstract. Furthermore, God is not only loving but is love.[11] He is not only wise but is wisdom.[12] He is not only good but is goodness. God told Moses, “I will make all My goodness pass before you.”[13] He is not only holy but is holiness. He also spoke to the prophet Isaiah saying, “Lord, look down from heaven from your holy, glorious home, and see us.”[14] Therefore, these attributes of God must be boundless because they are the essence of His being.[15] And if God is in us, we should mirror these same virtues and characteristics.

William Burkitt (1650-1703) says that it is evident from this verse that if a person claims to have correct knowledge of God, both of His nature and will, and that they understand both what He is and what He requires; if they don’t have the grace of love in their heart, they do not have the proper understanding of God in their minds, whatever they may think of themselves, or pretend to be to others.[16]

Leonard Howard (1699-1767) says that the only proof of our being God’s children and having actual knowledge of His will and nature is the Christian virtue of charity, which they who do not practice it neither belongs to God nor are acquainted with Him.[17]

James Macknight (1721-1800) mentions that it is remarkable the Apostle John instructs true believers to love all humanity. We might suppose, says Macknight, that some of the first converts of the Apostles professed themselves to be disciples of the Anointed One but were deficient in love. They were possibly Jewish converts, who, by the rites of their law having been cut off from all interaction with the Gentiles, considered them unclean persons whom God hated. And therefore, instead of regarding them with any degree of esteem, they despised and hated them as enemies; and thought themselves warranted by following their law. I think this came from our Lord’s words in His sermon on the mount.[18] It is not improbable that some of the Jewish converts retained their ancient prejudices and considered it as their duty to hate heathens. And some of them who pretended to be teachers undoubtedly taught their disciples the same lesson. They perhaps extended it to those who disagreed with them in their religious opinions.[19] But this doctrine is contrary to the principle of the Anointed One; John did not hesitate to condemn it.[20]

Albert Barnes (1798-1870) outlines the agápe-love of God: (1) All true love has its origin in God. (2) Real love shows that we have His Spirit and are his. (3) It assimilates us to God and makes us more and more like Him. (4) It is the kind of love with which we are to love our brothers and sisters. What is said here in verse seven by the Apostle John is based on the truth of what he elsewhere affirms that God is love.[21] Hatred, envy, wrath, malice all have their source in something other than God. He neither originates them, commends them, nor approves them.[22] It sounds like a powerful force to be in us and work through us.

Richard Rothe (1799-1867) sees that the Apostle John resumes his theme from which he diverted since verse one; he stimulates his readers to focus on brotherly love. He begins by purposely repeating his message about loving one another, then supports it with a new motive. Think of it; Love is God’s property; it is divine; and, consequently, to love is as much as to be God’s property. And to know God personally as a sure token of being His child. This could naturally lead John to reflect on the fact that love is also a symbolic combination of two thoughts, “being God’s property” and “being in fellowship with God.”

Rothe continues by saying that the Gospel comes into contact with universal human feeling. Therefore, those who do not correctly understand the Gospel have very little to offer in opposition to the Good News. To emphasize this point, in the last analysis, wherever there is genuine love, there a person is undoubtedly the object of the Divine pleasure. Consequently, divine kinship cannot be lacking. That’s why the Gospel depends on faith.[23]


[1] Didymus the Blind, Commentary on 1 John, loc. cit.

[2] Augustine: The City of God 17.4

[3] Ibid: On the Gift of Perseverance 21.56

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

[5] Andreas: Catena, loc. cit.

[6] Psalm 16:2

[7] 1 John 4:7; See Exodus 34:6; Romans 5:8

[8] Arminius, James: op. cit., Disputation 4.69, p. 403

[9] Sir Thomas Browne, (1605-1682) Religio Medici, pt. 1. sec. 5

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

[11] 1 John 4:7

[12] See Proverbs 9:1

[13] Exodus 33:19

[14] Isaiah 63:15

[15] Flavel, John, the works of: The Incomparableness of God, op. cit., Vol. 4, Ch. 10, p. 424

[16] Burkitt, William: Notes on N.T., op. cit., p. 730

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

[18] Matthew 5:43-48

[19] 1 John 4:20

[20] Macknight, James: Literal Paraphrase, op. cit., pp. 90-91

[21] 1 John 4:8

[22] Barnes, Albert: Notes on N.T., op. cit., p. 4863

[23] Rothe, Richard: The Expository Times, op. cit., February 1893, p. 231

About drbob76

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