WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER FOUR (Lesson LXII) 04/14/22

4:9 God showed how much He loved us by sending His only Son into this wicked world to bring us eternal life through His death.

John Stock (1817-1884) admires the beauties of nature that amaze us, but believes that God’s grace in our redemption surpasses His creative genius that defies description. In essence, wealth, power, goodness, perfection, wisdom, and unity are displayed everywhere in creation; but in the kingdom of God, added to all these excellencies are mercy, justice, and unspeakable love. God is incredible, and His works are done with grace and mercy. “Can you solve the mysteries of God? Can you discover everything about the Almighty?”[1] That God the Father is love is seen in the mission of His co-equal and co-eternal Son in this evil world for our common salvation; loving us “While we were still His enemies,”[2]when lost.”[3] and incapable of delivering ourselves, and without a desire to do so, being dead in trespasses and sins.[4] What a mighty God we serve. [5]

William Kelly (1822-1888) exclaims that God still sent His only-begotten Son into the world in the face of humanity’s depravity. What a truth! The bare facts are incredible, especially as it was in nothing but love. It was not something done in heaven. His Only-begotten Son He willingly sent to give life in this world was characteristic of the God who sent Him. But no work done even by the Son on high could suit either God or humanity. So, the way of love was that the Son should become human to glorify God and give life to humanity’s dead faith in His highest nature.

Jews and other nations already existed, says Kelly, but they were spiritually dead in their offenses and sins and angry children by their Adamic nature. As a people, they were spiritually dead while claiming they lived. They expressed no hatred for sin, no love for grace; not one trait inwardly or outwardly was right in them.[6] The Gentile concept of circumcision and the Jewish thought of uncircumcision were hostilities against God. Despite that, God sent His Only-begotten Son, the delight of the Father through all eternity, into the world, that we should live through Him; and the life given was His life.[7]

Daniel Steele (1824-1914) takes issue with the shallow and weak Unitarian explanation of the “best-beloved Son.” In vain, extreme liberalism teaches that all humans are incarnations of God to a lower degree than Jesus. “Only-begotten” denotes unique sonship, an unshared existence grounded in God’s nature, while mankind’s reality is grounded in God’s will. It is the difference between the generation of the Son outside of time limits, “before the world was,” and the creation of the universe by His choice. “The Anointed One,” says Steele, “is the One only Son, the One to whom the title belongs in a sense unique and singular, as distinguished from that in which there are many children of God.”[8] [9]

Brooke F. Westcott (1825-1901) states that God’s love is not simply “toward us,” but also “in us,” as to how it was revealed and effective “that we may live through Him.” The Christian shares the life of the Anointed One, and so becomes a secondary sign of God’s agápe-love. There is a sense in which creation shows God’s agápe-love, but this revelation becomes apparent through the new creation.[10] The manifestation of God’s agápe-love to humanity becomes a living power as they manifest His agápe-love to their fellow believers.[11]

William Lincoln (1825-1888) suggests that we look at three specific revelations mentioned in the Final Covenant. The first is here in verse nine – the manifestation of God’s agápe-love. The second is this – I will manifest myself to Him (speaking of the one who loves Him).[12] And the third is – when He will appear.[13]He begs us to remember that these three must be maintained in their divine order, their proper order. Otherwise, you may make mistakes. I have often heard people say, “I want a demonstration of the agápe-love of God,” but they forget that God not only does things, but He does them in order.

Lincoln adds that now we find that God’s phenomenon of His agápe-love[14] depends on our obedience. In this, the Anointed One is in unity with the Father. But here in verse nine, God sent His Son without any compliance on our part. That was in the past; the second is continually going on, and the third is in the future.[15] There is the divine order of the three expressions of God’s agápe-love, one past, one present, and one future. If anyone insists, “I still want a sign,” they must ask themselves, am I thoroughly established in God’s agápe-love as manifested? If someone wants a display before being saved. First, God has given them an overwhelming instance of His agápe-love by sending His Son. It would be a mocking of the revelation of Himself that He has already given. The second expression does not occur before the first. You must begin with the gift of God, the gift of His Son, His only Son. God DOES love us, and He HAS manifested that love.[16] What more do you need?[17]

Henry A. Sawtelle (1832-1913) takes the words, “That we might live through Him” as the intention of the Anointed One’s mission – a dependable, not dependent, purpose regarding believers. The object of the task, referring to our greatest good, impresses us with God’s agápe-love, as does the self-sacrificing means to effect it. The giving up of the Son, the giving Him to come into such a world, and the thoughtful, merciful object of the mission combine to provide the believer with an impressive view of the extent and the quality of God’s agápe-love. The “living” is the true immortality reached in regeneration and resurrection through the mediation of the Anointed One. The whole verse condenses a volume of truth. It is a remarkable statement of the mission of the Anointed One and its spring in the eternal agápe-love of God. It demonstrates the love-nature asserted in the previous verse.[18]

John James Lias (1834-1923) remarks that this great subject of love occupies us as far as chapter 5:3; but, as usual with the Apostle John, the divisions of his subject overlap each other, and the conclusion of his teaching on love introduces the topic of Love’s source, namely, faith. Here the fact of the Anointed One’s coming and the results of that coming, the life we have by His provisions, is regarded as a demonstration of God’s agápe-love. In other places, the Anointed One is pointed out as the manifestation of the fullness of the Divine essence.[19] The Revised Version “in us” is to be preferred to the Authorized Version (KJV) “toward us,” which cannot be defended.[20] The agápe-love of God is manifested in us because the Anointed One, His Son, who is One with Him, [21] is sent into the world, and He “dwells in our hearts by faith.”[22] [23] So, since the Son and Father are one, we become one with them when they come to dwell in us. How foolish, then, for anyone in union with God to even think of insulting Him by breaking His laws and grieving His will?

Lias then reminds us that the Anointed One’s coming was predicted from the beginning “at many times and in various ways.”[24] His method was expected.[25] A new covenant was to be made, not in the letter but the heart, including Gentiles. But, if Israel with Moses and the Prophets became grievously corrupt, how much more the rest of the world? Nor was there any remedy. Religion could not bring it, for religion was itself corrupt in every country of the world save one. Philosophy was unable to deliver it, for it did not rest on God’s testimony but men’s opinions. Even God’s painful judgments could not bring it. They pointed out the disease, but not the cure. Men knew that they were sinners, but they didn’t know how to forsake their sins.[26] The only thing that could bring a remedy was the Christian Gospel, telling about the Anointed One and His cross.

Erich Haupt (1841-1910) says that when we consider that all other acts of God in history and nature also manifest His agápe-love, though not in the same degree as this; but when we discern in these the tokens of love, our knowledge is at second hand: of all this, we might say that God’s agápe-love appears in us to the world. But it is otherwise in the mission of the Son. It had for its purpose and result that we might know God, for God is love – that is, we are to be transformed by it, the divine life is to be implanted in us, and thus most assuredly, the agápe-love of God is to be manifested in us because we are to be drawn into the fullness of this divine nature of love.

Therefore, says Haupt, agápe-love not only works with its energy for the world’s sake but for our very inner being. And under both aspects, His nature of love has been most perfectly revealed in the mission of His Son: by it, He has surrendered the whole fullness of His divine nature, all that He has; and so, surrendered it that He communicates it to us as a gift; it is not merely a power working for us and in us, but the power energizing within us has become part of our personality. Only when the Anointed One for us is the Anointed One in us do we exhaust the meaning of the words “God is Love.”[27]

One commentary suggests that the expression “in us” in verse nine may refer to an inward revelation of God’s agápe-love, because of the incarnation of the Son.[28] As such, it could be translated: “Therein the agápe-love of God made itself known in us.”[29]


[1] Job 11:7 – New Living Translation (NLT)

[2] Romans 5:10

[3] Matthew 18:11

[4] Ephesians 2:1

[5] Stock, John: Exposition of First Epistle of John, op. cit., pp. 343-344

[6] Psalm 14:3; cf. Romans 3:10-12

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

[8] See John 1:12-14

[9] Steele, Daniel: Half-Hour, op. cit., p. 105

[10] 2 Corinthians 5:17

[11] Westcott, Brooke F., The Epistles of St. John, op. cit., p. 148

[12] John 14:21

[13] 1 John 3:2

[14] John 14:21

[15] 1 John 3:2

[16] Ibid. 4:10

[17] Lincoln, William: Lectures on the Epistles of St. John, op. cit., pp. 114-115

[18] Sawtelle, Henry A., An American Commentary, Alvah Hovey Ed., op. cit., pp. 49-50

[19] John 1:18, 14:6; Colossians 2:9

[20] See also the change of “in us” (RV) and “to us” (AV)

[21] John 10:30

[22] Ephesians 3:17

[23] Lias, John James: The First Epistle of St. John with Exposition, pp. 312-313

[24] Hebrews 1:1

[25] See Jeremiah 31

[26] Lias, John James: The First Epistle of St. John with Homiletical Treatment, pp 310-311

[27] Haupt, Erich: The First Epistle of John, op. cit., p. 261-262

[28] Cf. Romans 5:5; 2 Corinthians 4:6

[29] Revised English Scriptures with Notes, The First Epistle of John, American Bible Union, New York, 1854, p. 45

About drbob76

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