WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER FOUR (Lesson LXVII) 04/21/22

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.

Dr. Hodge explains that the Greek text in verse ten is clear, there are still some who “do not believe testimony which God testified concerning His Son.” God is saying that He offered us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.[1]  There could hardly be a more straightforward statement of the Scriptural doctrine as to the nature of faith. Its object is what God has revealed. Its ground is God’s testimony, and receiving that witness seals our belief that God is faithful. To reject it is to make God a liar. We find this teaching in the Holy Scriptures. The basis on which we are authorized and commanded to believe is not conforming to the truth revealed for our understanding, nor its effect upon our feelings, nor it’s meeting the necessities of our nature and condition, but simply, “Thus saith the Lord.”[2]

William Lincoln (1825-1888) observes that when anyone invents a religion or cult, which links them to Jesus because He took on human nature, they forget that He was a holy human and humankind are not born holy but as wretched sinners. In verse ten, the Holy Spirit says, “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the remedy for our sins.” In other words, God created us, so He could love us. Here we see love in its descending scale; it will reach us, no matter how low we are. Lincoln said that he often observed that when Christians discuss these things, the truth is so strong, so extreme, they frowned at it. He also listened as Christians spoke of the Anointed One hanging on “the accursed tree.

This is not the language of Scripture; Scripture does not say the tree was cursed, but He who hung upon it was cursed; not the tree, but the holy, blessed, pure One, was made a curse for us; the Holy Spirit says it. He was not only accused but was “made a curse.”[3] It is strong language, which everyone would hesitate to use unless the Holy Spirit said so, as if all our curse fell upon Him. Oh, Lord! Your love is great, stooping down until He could not get any lower. “The Anointed One was made sin for us,”[4] there is the agápe of God “completed.” If we are Christians at all, it is because His agápe reached down as far as it could to save us.[5]

Alfred Plummer (1841-1926) again picks up on how “Herein” refers to what follows: Love in its complete perfection is seen, not in man’s love for God, but His to humanity, which reached a climax in His sending His Son to save us from our sins. The superiority of God’s agápe does not lie merely in its being Divine. It is first in order of time and therefore necessarily spontaneous: ours is at best only love in return for love. His agápe is unbiased; ours cannot easily be so.[6] To be “the propitiation” is literally “as a propitiation (atoning for).” In verse nine, it is parallel to “that we might live through Him.” But at the same time is an expansion of it. It states how eternal life is won for us.[7]

Robert Smith Candlish (1806-1873) states that we are to love as God loves, and because God loved the world that He sent His Son to save all who believed. Therefore, we are to love one another like God’s longing and yearning for someone’s salvation, that all may turn and live; and with what passion to delight in all who are really in the Anointed One, who “live through Him,” and live to be indeed our brothers and sisters because they are His![8]

William E. Jelf (1811-1875) points out that love spoken of here is more certainly and truly conceived when we don’t think of our loving God, but of His loving us. Love has its origin not in human nature, but in God and His Divine nature. It is not a chief attribute of human nature or human excellence, with God being the object whereby we honor Him and His deeds, which forces Him to love us in return. Still, the most authentic and highest conception of agápe existed before human love and was exhibited to us, so we are motivated to love God. This then being the perfect type of love, human love must be reformed in like manner. As God’s agápe exhibited itself chiefly in love towards those He has redeemed by His Son, so must our love be directed towards and displayed in the same objects. Hence, the love of brothers and sisters – proper love only for those in whom it is interested – is not to be some type of Christian love, but the Divine agápe towards the redeemed.[9] Agápe also refers to the past instances of God’s agápe to us rather than its present impact. In verse nine, the Greek verb apostellō (“sent”) expresses the continued and permanent effect of God’s past acts of agápe -love.[10]

John Stock (1817-1884) makes a good point. He says if we conclude that we can make it without God’s grace, then grace would cease to be grace. A poster read: “Grace is getting something you don’t deserve, and mercy is not getting what you deserve.” On the second Sunday in Lent, the Anglican Church has the priest pray, “Almighty God, who sees that we have no power of ourselves to help ourselves: Keep us both outwardly in our bodies, and inwardly in our souls; that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus the Anointed One our Lord. Amen.” The problem is, we are in love with that which will destroy us.  “All that hate Me,” says God, “love death.”[11] As soon as we are born, we go astray and begin lying, says Stock. As such, we are voluntarily sinners and alienated from the life of God due to the ignorance that is in us, [12] and we should get all the punishment we deserve as a result of our immoral deeds.

Again, notes Stock, here is what the priest prays on the fourth Sunday of Lent: “Grant, we beseech You, Almighty God, that we, who for our evil deeds do worthily deserve to be punished, by the comfort of Your grace may mercifully be relieved; through our Lord and Savior Jesus the Anointed One. Amen.” A carnal mind has hatred against God, for it is not subject to God’s law, nor can it be.[13] People’s mouths are compared to an open grave – out of which come infections – and they are off and running to where they can wound, assault, and even kill.[14] They lack peace and are full of ingratitude filled with sinful tendencies, without understanding, unmerciful, a sinner, and having pleasure in those like themselves.[15] The Methodist Articles of Faith read: “We are accounted righteous before God only for the merit of our Lord and Savior Jesus the Anointed One, by faith, and not for our works or expected merits.[16]

Stock concludes. To oppose the agápe of God, as presented by grace in the Gospel with unbelief, is to be insensible of it; refuse its offered benefits; leave unnoticed the outstretched hand of God, pleading with us to be reconciled to Him; live, as if no such revelation existed; push salvation away from us without any let-up, is to resist the Holy Spirit.[17] We are being as wicked as we can be by disobeying more than Satan, to whom no such offer of salvation was ever made, and plunge headlong into an incomprehensible pit of endless misery and be a partaker of a deserved damnation.[18]

Johannes H. A. Ebrard (1818-1888) sees John emphasizing the truth that love consists in this – not that we love God, but that He loved us. First, we must inquire what the words mean and how they are construed; then, their impact. Agápe is expressed here in the widest generality, and it is wrong and illogical to explain it here by “God’s agápe to us.” The expression, “The agápe of God to us, consists not in our love to God, but in His agápe to us,” would have been no better than a meaningless platitude.

So, to what end could the Apostle have so formally stated what was so plainly understood? He speaks quite generally of the nature of love universally, and expresses a thought of much importance in itself. All love consists – that is, has its root – not that we love God, but, that He loved us. According to its essence, love has its source in God’s agápe to us, not in our love for God. It is not by nature, striving upward towards God which proceeds from mankind, but a flame which proceeds from God, that kindles agápe – love in the human heart. Therefore, it is divine and flows from the essence of God. So, our love is nothing but the production and copy of the perfect agápe of God.[19]

Charles Kingsley (1819-1875) asks, “What is any kind of love worth which does not show itself in action; which does not show itself in passion, in the true sense of that word, namely, in suffering?” On the Cross of Calvary, God the Father showed His character and the character of His co-equal and co-eternal Son and the Spirit that proceeds from both. The comfortable, prosperous individual shrinks from the thought of the Anointed One on His Cross. It tells them that those better than them have had to suffer, and that God’s Son had to suffer. But they do not like suffering; they prefer ease and luxury.

Yes, says Kingsley, many say too often, as long as the fine weather lasts and all is smooth and bright, they’ll do what they can. But when setbacks come with losses, affliction, shame, sickness, grief, bereavement, and still more, Passion week begins to mean something to them; and just because everything is going bad, the cross looks the brightest of all time. It’s then that the Cross of the Anointed One brings a message such as no other thing or being on earth can bring. It says – God does understand your situation. The Anointed One understands what you are going through. According to the whole world, the entire universe, sun, moon, and stars, proves the law that nothing lives merely for itself; God ordains everything to help the surrounding things, even at its own expense.[20]


[1] 1 John 5:10-11

[2] Ibid. Vol III, pp. 65-66

[3] Galatians 3:13

[4] 2 Corinthians 5:21

[5] Lincoln, William: Lectures on 1 John, op. cit., Lecture VII, pp.118-119

[6] Cf. Titus 3:4

[7] Plummer, Alfred: Cambridge Commentary, op. cit., p. 149

[8] Candlish, Robert S., First Epistle of John, op. cit., pp. 104-105, 118

[9] See 1 John 2:3

[10] Jelf, William E., First Epistle of St. John, op. cit., p. 61

[11] Proverbs 8:36

[12] Ephesians 4:18

[13] Romans 8:7

[14] Ibid. 3:13, 15

[15] Ibid. 1:20, et. al.

[16] Articles of Religion (Methodist), Article IX, John Wesley’s abridgment of the Thirty-nine Articles of the Church of England.

[17] Acts of the Apostles 7:51

[18] Stock, John: Exposition of First Epistle of John, op, cit., pp. 346, 349

[19] Ebrard, Johannes: Biblical Commentary on the Epistles of St. John, p. 290

[20] Kingsley, Charles, Biblical Illustrator, op. cit., Vol. 22, pp. 74-75

About drbob76

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