WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER FOUR (Lesson LXVI) 04/20/22

4:10 This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.

Isaac Barrow (1630-1677) repeats the Apostle John’s words here, “This is how God showed His agápe-love to us: He sent His only Son into the world to give us life through Him. True love is God’s agápe-love for us, not our love for God. He sent His Son as the way to take away our sins.”[1] Can we imagine, asks Barrow, any equal, any such expression of kindness, of mercy, of humbleness, of goodness, like the King of the Universe, perfectly glorious and free to offer His most dearly beloved Son to suffer abusive grievous torments, for the welfare of His declared enemies, traitors, and rebels – sinners like you and me? God expressed such goodness to us. Therefore, it is only fitting that we show our gratitude to Him.[2]

Daniel Whitby (1638-1726) says that here, in this verse, the Apostle John expresses the freedom and the greatness of the agápe-love of God with great energy.  As for its privilege, He loved us first when there was nothing in us to deserve or move people to pity our miserable state. But there were many things that both deserved and might have provoked God to implement His anger, since by our wicked ways we were His enemies. Yet, see its greatness: First, the great God of heaven sending someone who humbled Himself even in addition to what was, and He did in heaven. Therefore, shouldn’t we be fully aware of His presence? Second, the person God sent was His only-begotten Son, His legitimate Son.[3] For if we call God His approving Father, it makes Him equal to God, [4]

By His Father calling Him His only Son, says Whitby, we must equally exalt Him. Even Episcopius[5] declares Him to be called such because He received His essence from the Father, His source. For it is certain that the John is here praising the agápe-love of God to the highest pitch and therefore must use this phrase, the only-begotten Son of God, in the most inspiring sense in which that word is used in Scripture. Third, the world to which He was sent was full of wickedness. Fourth, the errand on which He was sent: One, to give Himself up as a sacrifice for the ransom payment for our sins: Two, to procure for us, who were dead in trespasses and sins, eternal life.[6]

William Burkitt (1650-1703) observes that the wisdom and power of God did not act to the fullest of their effectiveness in the work of creation; He could have framed a more glorious world had it pleased Him to do so. But God’s agápe-love in our redemption by the Anointed One could not be expressed or presented to a higher degree. Therefore, when Almighty God wanted us to give the most excellent demonstration of His favor, He gave us His eternal Son, the Son of His agápe-love. In fact, the giving of heaven itself, with all its joys and glory, is not as full and perfect a demonstration of the agápe-love of God as the giving of His Son to die on our behalf. That’s what we call unconditional love.[7]

Thomas Pyle (1674-1756) feels that we should be awestruck by the fact that by an act of divine love, God procured a pardon and salvation for a sinful world by sending His Son to become human for our sake, which must be amplified beyond comparison, that it began on God’s part, was voluntary and free, without the least merit or obligation on our part to persuade Him to do it.[8]

John Brown of Haddington (1722-1787) say that the Apostle John shows us here that God’s agápe-love was manifested toward us by sending His only begotten and eternally beloved Son to assume our nature; and by obeying and dying on our behalf to atone for the sins of such worthless worms, enemies, and ungodly wretches – that He might thereby purchase eternal salvation and everlasting joy for us, and successfully bestow it on us.[9] It raises the question, “And what have we done for Him lately?”

Charles Simeon (1759-1836) says that some might ask, couldn’t God find another way of accomplishing His plan of salvation other than sending His only Son? But when you stop to think about it, it is reasonable to believe that nothing less than the incarnation of His only-begotten Son could make it happen. And how wonderful it is that He adopted such a marvelous measure as that! Yet, no matter how much He might desire our rescue from sin, it is still incredible that He should ever condescend to use such means to effect it: yet we are told that He did so. That’s why, says Simeon, He didn’t send an angel, nor an Archangel, nor all the hosts of angels, but “His only-begotten Son, into the world, that we might live through Him.”[10] [11]

There is no other religion on earth that can make this claim. It is in Christianity alone that God sends His only Son to die for sinners so that He might have millions of sons and daughters in His royal family. Why worship any god who is only imaginary when you can serve an unimaginable God like the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob?

Edward Dorr Griffin (1770-1837) tells the touching story of Cleopatra (the Younger), the wife of Armenian King Tigranes the Great. On a particular weekday when Cyrus, the conqueror of Asia, was reviewing his troops, the captives pressed forward to see the conqueror. Tigranes, who served in Cyrus’ army, saw that His father, mother, sisters, brothers, and even his wife were among the prisoners; he presented himself before Cyrus and offered a thousand talents for the redemption of his wife. Among the observations made afterward respecting the appearance and glory of the conqueror, this noble lady was asked what she thought of Cyrus. On what was your attention fixed? Her answer was, “On the man who offered a thousand talents for my redemption.”[12] [13]

So, says Griffin, on whom should the attention of Christians be chiefly fixed, but on Him who gave, not a thousand talents, but His most precious life, for their redemption? For instance, when we watch Judah, we admire his generosity and concern for the sorrows of an aged parent, offering himself to servitude in for favorite son, Benjamin, of the deceased Rachel.[14] But what was this compared with Him who took the sinner’s place under the law, so to speak, received the full punishment of Divine wrath? Let all the archives of antiquity be explored; bring forward all the generous sacrifices of Greece and Rome, and how they compare to God’s amazing love displayed here? The love which we celebrate stands alone and without a challenger. It is the most profitable subject of contemplation that can occupy the mind. It carries you up to those views of God, which are the most sublime, the most transforming, and the most joyful.[15]

Adam Clarke (1772-1832) tells us that in the principles of the Christian religion, we have, therefore, three great gifts, for which we should incessantly magnify God: First, His Son, the Anointed One Jesus. Second, The influence of His Holy Spirit. And, Third, His holy Word, “This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”[16] [17]

Augustus Neander (1789-1850) says that regarding the revelation made in humanity that God is Love, the Apostle John then refers in the succeeding words. “God showed how much He loved us by sending His only Son into this wicked world to bring us eternal life through His death. In this act [herein], we see what real love is: it is not our love for God but His agápe-love for us when he sent His Son to reconcile us with God.”[18] When you think of the word “reconcile,” it infers a previously good relationship – like the case of the Prodigal Son.[19] So, when did we have a favorable relationship with God? It was through Adam and Eve before their fall. Now, the only way to reconcile humanity with the Father is through His Son, who took the punishment for sin on Himself and died on our behalf to pay the ransom price.

Gottfried C. F. Lücke (1791-1855) says that in verse ten, the Apostle John makes the greatness of God’s agápe-love the sending of the Anointed One more apparent by showing that this agápe-love was not God’s return for our love to Him, or, as it were, love of the second rank; but rather a pure love of mercy and because of this agápe-love He sent His Son as satisfaction for our sins.[20] Therefore, even without considering the redemption through the Anointed One, man’s love to God is only love in return, and God is always the first to love; in this respect, too, agápe-love is always God’s love.[21] [22]

Charles Hodge (1797-1878) sees the goodness of God in the form of generosity as revealed in the whole constitution of nature. As the universe abounds with life, it also overflows with enjoyment. There are no devices in nature to promote pain for its sake, whereas the manifestations of design for the production of happiness are beyond counting. The expression of God’s kindness in the form of love, especially love to the undeserving, is the great end of the work of redemption as John wrote in his Gospel, [23] and here in verse ten, he spells out how God displayed His compassion on earth. Therefore, the Apostle prays that believers might be able to comprehend the height and depth, the length and breadth, of that love which passes knowledge.[24] [25]


[1] 1 John 4:9-10

[2] Barrow, Isaac: An Exposition on the Creed, op. cit., p. 180

[3] Romans 8:32

[4] John 5:18

[5] Episcopius, Simon: (1583-1643), was a Dutch theologian and systematized Arminianism, a liberal reaction to the Calvinist doctrine of predestination. He studied theology at Leiden and in 1610 became a pastor at Bleiswyk, Holland

[6] Whitby, Daniel. op. cit., p. 467

[7] Burkitt, William, Notes on the N.T., op. cit., p. 731

[8] Pyle, Thomas: Paraphrase, op. cit., p. 396

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

[10] John 3:16

[11] Simeon, Charles: Horae Homileticæ, op. cit., Discourse 2455, p. 481

[12] Cyropaedia: Education of Cyrus I by Xenophon, translated by Walter Miller, Bk. 3, Section 1

[13] Griffin, Edward D: Biblical Illustrator, op cit., Homilies, 1 John 5:9, 10

[14] Genesis 44:18-34

[15] Griffin, Edward Dorr, Biblical Illustrator, First Epistle of John, op. cit., pp. 65-66

[16] 1 John 4:10; See Luke 11:13; John 5:39

[17] Clarke, Adam: Clavis Biblica, op. cit., The Apocalypse, or Book of the Revelation p. 52

[18] Neander, William: First Epistle of John, op. cit., Chapters IV, V, pp. 257-258

[19] Luke 15:11-32

[20] John 3:16; Romans 5:6ff, 8:22ff

[21] See 1 John 5:7

[22] Lücke, Gottfried: Bible Cabinet, op. cit., Section Eight

[23] John 3:16

[24] Ephesians 3:19

[25] Hodge, Charles. Systematic Theology, op. cit., Vol. I, pp. 427-428

About drbob76

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