WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER FOUR (Lesson LI) 03/30/22

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.

John Painter (1935) sees that the obligation to love is grounded in “as I have loved you.”[1] The Greek adverb kathōs (“as”) has a double sense. First, it means “in the same manner,” “just as,” and “to the same degree.” Secondly, kathōs can also be the relevant element for our discussion here based on the love command in Jesus’ words, “because I have loved you.” That is both the moral ground of the obligation and the affective source to move the person so loved to love others. The foundation and affective basis point to God in verses seven to twelve. So, the ground, here in verse eight, for loving one another is “because[NIV] God is Love.” That is, God is the ultimate source of love.

This means, says Painter, that the person who loves draws from the divine source of love – being born of God. Human love is not the cause but the manifestation of being birthed by God. From the human side, believing that Jesus the Anointed One is come in the flesh is the foundation belief that puts the believer in a relationship with the divine source of love. Those who love that relationship reveal the divine origin of the life of the one who loves. Divine origin is understood in the metaphor “to be born of God.” Simply to love is the evidence, and God defines love from whom this love comes. Because the divine love here describes itself, it does not need any other qualification except to love “one another.”[2]

Muncia Walls (1937) notes that the Apostle John locates the origin of the love he is talking about here as being “of God” It is not in human nature to manifest this agápe-love. Humans cannot learn this love through any school of higher learning. This love only comes from God. If God does not give this love to us, and, if this love is not manifested through our life by the Spirit of God, then we do not possess this love.[3] This is because, for some Christians, there are three loves at work in their lives. There is Philautia: self-love; Storge: familial love; and Agápe: God’s love. The first two are from nature; the last is purely divine. The problem is that the two natural passions get in the way of agápe-love. So, even if a person shows love for God by loving their family and other believers, they still find it impossible to get over the resentment they are harboring over some treatment they received from certain individuals. So, the question is, “If you can’t show God’s love to someone, do any of your other acts of love count as loving God?”[4]

Michael Eaton (1942-2017) points out that the Apostle John again urges love, building on what he has just said. First and foremost, “the God of the Bible is the only source of love.” After all, since God is the Love we need, where else could we find it except in God?[5] Then secondly, John writes that “love requires the new birth.” No one can genuinely exhibit this kind of love except being “born again.” Now, John continues: Thirdly, “love is essential to fellowship with God.” Love not only shows to others that the person is born of God, but it also means that the Christian’s knowledge of God is currently being enjoyed. John distinguishes the two. His readers are born of God. Yet, he writes to restore fellowship with the Father and the Son. The two are not unavoidably intertwined; otherwise, there would be no need for this epistle. Love arises from and demonstrates two things: new birth and its development, and fellowship with God.[6]

William Loader (1944) says that this command to love one another is not a directive to live in isolation but flows from a relationship. We would love one another because the source of love is God. It is more than an exhortation to follow God’s example of love. The Apostle John immediately expresses this connection by saying that everyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. Again, this is more than a matter of identification. We are not still dealing with the need for criteria about who is not a child of God. Rather, John is assuming the connection between our love and God’s agápe-love is within a dynamic system, where agápe-love produces our love.[7] There, too, John expressed it by identifying the believer as a child of God and arguing that this relationship enables the Christian to love. To do so means that the person loving knows God personally.[8]

Robert W. Yarbrough (1948) states that the Apostle John now points to the effect of God’s love. It gives rise to love in those to whom God grants spiritual rebirth. To love as John counsels is to be confirmed in the faith he is explaining. It means that “love alone … is not a sign of being born of God” when we take the broader context of John’s letter into account. Further, love is a means of “knowing God.” John has just advised how his readers can “recognize the Spirit of God” in Christological doctrine in verse two. But now, in verse seven, he implies that doctrine is not the entire issue. An agápe-love reality comes into play for spiritual discernment to occur. A key component in effective discernment is Love. And so, John has urged his readers to love. He links that love directly to God. But John realizes that to persuade often requires more than mere assertion. John can imagine that there will be those who do not heed his counsel. So, he prepares to clarify things for them.[9]

Colin G. Kruse (1950) notes that the expression “born of God” is best explained by reference to the Apostle John’s Gospel.[10] It emphasizes that people become children of God, not by natural birth, but by being born of God. Jesus tells Nicodemus that he must be born “from above,” which is equivalent to being “born of the Spirit.”[11] Then, being born of God is quite distinct from natural human procreation. It is brought about by God through His Spirit, in conjunction with faith in the Anointed One on the part of those concerned. When John says that “God is love,” he is not making a philosophical statement describing what God is in His essence. Instead, John is speaking about the loving nature of God revealed in His saving action on behalf of humankind.[12] [13]

Bruce G. Schuchard (1958) Sees parallelisms here, much like in the Psalms:

            Let us love one another,

                        Because love is of God.

Like the realities of the truth of light and life, love comes from above, as does the gift of the only-begotten One and the gift of our being birthed by God. The logic is that those who belong to God are born of God or know God, will love. With the form of direct address “beloved,” the reasonably exceptional instance of a command, “let us love,” also helps to mark the beginning of the passage. An abba pattern begins here.

            (a) – Whoever does not love does not know God because God is love. – 1 John 4:8

                        (b) – This is how God showed His love among us:

(b) He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him.1 John

4:9

            (a) – This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. – 1 John 4:10

But for John, love is not merely one among many things, finding distinctive rootage in God. Rather, love is an informing principal attribute of God that necessarily defines the believer if the believer is to belong to God. Thus, John describes “a non-negotiable necessity in the household of faith.” Because love is from God and belongs to God, John instructs his hearers to live from and for it in the lives of those in the Christian community.[14]

Duncan Heaster (1967) offers another proof of having been born of God through the Spirit[15] is whether we love one another. The love in view is not of a secular nature but the love of the new commandment, to love as the Lord loved us, by His death on a cross. To be born “of God” is to have the love which is “of God,” the love which came to its ultimate term in the gift of His Son for the sins of the world.[16] Although John’s audience was all born of God, they still had to be encouraged to “love one another.” The love between us is not as the Spirit imposed it against our will; the work of the Spirit requires our willing partnership. Knowing God means living in the sacrificial love of the Father and Son. We do not “know” God simply by perceiving the orthodox theologies about Him and placing and making a mental note of disagreement with them.[17]

Karen H. Jobes (1968) says that the Apostle John’s thinking for the agápe-love command is that it is a defining characteristic of God. Therefore, those born of God are defined by their love for others. As the old saying goes, “like father, like son.” In fact, exhibiting the love characteristic of the Father evidences personal knowledge of God. Not everyone loves in whatever way pleases them or has been born of God, but everyone who loves as God defines love.[18]

Sir Thomas Browne (1605-1682) admits that he does not find it necessary to have unbreakable sympathy for all his relatives. Nevertheless, Browne is hopeful that this attitude does not break the fifth commandment.[19] He wonders what people would say if he loved a fellow Christian more than his nearest relative, even his father or mother. It is hard for him to conceive how God loves all humanity the same. Oh, what happiness there is in the love of God.[20]


[1] John 13:34; cf. 1 John 4:17

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

[3] Walls, Muncia: Epistles of John & Jude, op. cit., pp. 70-71

[4] Cf. Mark 11:25; 1 Corinthians 13:5; Ephesians 4:31; James 5:16

[5] Cf. Psalm 121:1

[6] Eaton, Michael: Focus on the Bible, 1,2,3 John, op. cit., pp. 141-142

[7] 1 John 3:7-10

[8] Loader, William: Epworth Commentary, op. cit., p. 52

[9] Yarbrough, Robert W., 1-3 John (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament) op. cit., pp. 235-236

[10] John 1:12-13

[11] Ibid 3:1-8

[12] See Ibid. 4:9-10

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

[14] Schuchard, Bruce G., Concordia Commentary, op. cit., p. 443

[15] John 1:13; 3:5

[16] Ibid. 3:16

[17] Heaster, Duncan: New European Commentary, op. cit., 1 John, p. 31

[18] Jobes, Karen H., 1, 2, and 3 John (Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on The New Testament, Book 18), p. 190

[19] Exodus 20:6; Deuteronomy 5:10

[20] Browne, Thomas: Religio Medici, op. cit., Part 1, Section 5

About drbob76

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