WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER FOUR (Lesson LXIX) 04/25/22

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.

How should we be affected by this manifestation of God’s agápē, asks Morgan? It ought to make us ashamed of our rebellion. It should encourage us to return to God in repentance and faith. It ought to urge us to love Him who first loved us. It ought to engage all our energies for His service. But we may well say, the love of the Anointed One controls us because we know that one person died for everyone. He died for all so that those who live would not continue to live for themselves. He died for them and was raised from death so that they would live for Him.[1]  Nor let us fail to add if this agápē is rejected and dishonored, it must seriously aggravate our guilt. “What makes us think we can escape if we ignore this great salvation?”[2]What will the outcome be for those who do not obey the Gospel of God?”[3] Fearful beyond all wrath will be “the wrath of the Lamb.”[4] [5]

Alonzo R. Cocke (1858-1901) reminds us that not only were we spiritually dead, but guilty of breaking God’s law and going against His will. We were creatures who needed punishment for our “sins” and “misery” linked to sin. The Anointed One wanted to save us from such pain and bear our sins. But first, He must take our guilt upon Himself and make it His own. We all would earn the eternal separation from God awaiting us unless the Anointed One accepted that penalty. Not only was He “made of a woman,” “made under the law,”[6] but He became “obedient to death, even the death of the cross.”[7] So then, if we want to know the vastness of God’s agápē for those who didn’t love Him, look at how He gave His Son as payment for our sins. No one will join the multitudes in heaven as they celebrate the removal of sin’s debt to God, “Praise the Lord! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God.”[8] until they first sing here on earth: “All glory to Him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by shedding His blood for us.”[9] [10]

Albert Barnes (1872-1951) says that God’s great gift of His Son is the highest expression of Love, as if it had done, all it can do. It wasn’t that we loved God first or were in such a high moral state that we might suppose He would make such a sacrifice for us, but just the opposite. If we had loved and obeyed Him, we might have had reason to believe that He would be willing to show His agápē to us in a corresponding manner. But we were alienated from Him. We had no desire for His friendship and favor. In this state, He showed the greatness of His agápē for us by giving His only Son to die for His enemies, in that He loved us first. Not that He approved our wickedness, but that He desired our welfare. He loved us not with the love of complacency, but with the love of compassion.[11]

Harry A. Ironside (1876-1951) mentions that it is an interesting fact that the original word translated as “propitiation” is the same word used for “atonement” in the Septuagint’s (LXX) translation of the First Covenant by seventy Jewish scholars in Alexandria, Egypt from Hebrew to Greek around 230 BC. In that translation, wherever the translators sought to reproduce the Hebrew word caphar or atonement, they used the Greek word hilasmos rendered propitiation. The Hebrew word atonement comes from a root meaning “to cover,” and so this word speaks of an expiation (“to compensate”), a settling of the sin question, so that one who was once lost and guilty may stand in the presence of God without one charge against them. The finished work of compensation covers all their transgressions by the Lord Jesus, the Anointed One – covered so effectually and entirely that they can never be found again.[12]

Paul E. Kretzmann (1883-1965) says that verses seven to ten are one of the most beautiful and, at the same time, the most powerful passages in the entire Final Covenant. For the third time in this letter, the Apostle John feels it necessary to speak of brotherly love and plead with all Christians to show God’s love was placed into their hearts by faith. Such love is the essence of God; it is a reflection of God’s agápē in the hearts of those that have learned to know His agápē. It is a part of the new divine disposition and conduct which characterizes the believers. It is a proof of the new birth by the power of God through the Gospel; it is an outgrowth, a fruit, of faith, of the saving knowledge of God. On the other hand: Those that do not love do not know God. Where there is no love toward the brethren in the conduct and life of a person, this is a sure and certain sign that they have not yet come to know God as they should, that there is no saving knowledge, no faith toward God in their heart.[13]

Bishop of Rochester, England, Christopher M. Chavasse (1884-1962) states that Love for God must come down from heaven like the rain and the snow. The Apostle of love, John, tells us love is of God, yet He placed within our reach how we learn to love God or love Him better than we do already. Let me remind you what some of these are:

            First, Thirst: We receive grace in proportion as we desire it. For example, do we wish to love God? Then, eventually, that desire will be satisfied if it is the supreme desire of the heart. And that is for two reasons – God never implants a desire in a person’s heart to mock Him, but in due time, He may satisfy it. And that desire will find its voice in prayer and worship. A great promise was made: “Ask, and it will be given.”

      Second, Faith: The secret of loving God is to believe that God loves us, not to try to force ourselves to love God, but to accept the great truth that God loves us. And God has given our faith two footholds upon which we may plant our feet and be perfectly sure that God loves us. The first is the cradle of Bethlehem, and the second is the Cross of Calvary.

     Third, Service: The cause of Jesus the Anointed One wants our service, wants our heart. Work because God loves you and loves everyone; and as we act out the love of God, or because God loves them and us, our love will grow. Love can only live by loving, and by serving, love will grow.

      Fourth, Sharing: God is training us all by the sweet, pure love of home life to love Him. Some people say, take care that you do not love your husband, wife, friend, or child too much. You can never love them too much if you love them in God and for God. God will train you to love Him through loving your dear ones at home. And in the love that the husband has for the wife, or the wife has for the husband, we have a dim reflection of the love wherewith the heavenly Bridegroom loves His Church. The husband and the wife will say: If our love is so strong and deep and dignifying, what must be the love wherewith the Anointed One loves us? We will mature by using the stepping-stones of human love to realize God’s love for us and love Him back. First faith, then service, then love to the creature: these are some means that God has put within our power to make us love Him better.[14]

Charles H. Dodd (1884-1973) says that the way Aristotle and other Greek philosophers’ thought was certainly dominant in the religious world of Hellenism.[15] However, those with different religious preferences kept breaking away from it in various ways. Over against it stands the Christian affirmation: Love is anchored in this, not in our love for Him, but His agápē for us. Appropriately, Greeks use a different word for “love.” In Plato and Aristotle, usually, the word is eros, after the Greek god Eros, a term connoting primarily sexual desire. Here, as all through the Final Covenant, the word is agápē. Eros is a comparatively colorless noun. The First Covenant translators of the Hebrew verb ‘āhaḇ preferred for God’s agápē to humanity and their response, [16] and by doing so, they began to fill it with a specific content for which paganism, even in its highest forms, had no proper expression.[17]

William Neil (1909-1979) says that caring for and about each other brings us into the very presence of God because God is agápē. Other motives could have made God send His only Son to live with us, to allow us to live as He meant us to live. Let us not define love by any human standards. It is something divine that moved our heavenly Father to send His Son so that the power of sin over us might be destroyed.[18] But sin is like the ocean; your sailboat will drift if there is no wind. The devil has not such wind; only the Holy Spirit can provide such a moving force to those on their voyage to heaven’s shores.

F. F. Bruce (1910-1990) agrees with the Apostle John that the purpose of God sending His Son is our blessing – allowing us to receive life through Him. Here the initiative lies entirely with God. Before there was any possibility of our exercising such love, God first must manifest it by “loving us and sending His Son as a propitiation (“ransom payment”) for our sins.” These last words in verse ten are repeated from chapter two, verse two. Professor Bruce pointed out earlier that the Greek noun hilasmos is used in 1 John 2:2 and 4:10. It basically means “to appease,” such as bringing an argument to an end, paying a debt, or settling a question. Why the KJV translators chose this Latin term might be that “propitious” means “to be merciful” or “for mercy’s sake.”[19]


[1] 2 Corinthians 5:14-15

[2] Hebrews 2:3

[3] 1 Peter 4:17

[4] Revelation 6:16-17

[5] Morgan, James B., An Exposition of the First Epistle of John, op. cit., Lecture XXXII, pp. 322-323

[6] Galatians 4:4

[7] Philippians 2:8

[8] Revelation 19:2

[9] Ibid. 1:5b

[10] Cocke, Alonzo R., Studies in the Epistles of John, op. cit., loc. cit., Logos

[11] Barnes, Albert: New Testament Notes, op. cit., p. 4865

[12] Ironside, Harry A., Epistles of John and Jude, op. cit., pp. 142-143

[13] Kretzmann, Paul E., Popular Commentary, Vol. II, op. cit., pp. 572-573

[14] Chavasse Christopher M: Christian World Pulpit, vol. 78, p. 97

[15] Hellenism was the national character or culture of Greece, especially ancient Greece. The word Hellenistic comes from the root word Hellas, which was the ancient Greek word for Greece. The Hellenic Age was the time when Greek culture was pure and unaffected by other cultures. By comparison, Helvetia. The Old Swiss Confederacy of the early modern period was often called Helvetia or Republica Helvetiorum (“Republic of the Helvetians”). The Latin name is ultimately derived from the name of the Helvetii, Frenchmen living on the Swiss plateau in the Roman era.

[16] See Genesis 22:2; Proverbs 8:17; Hosea 14:4; Ecclesiastes 3:8

[17] Dodd, Charles H., Moffatt Commentary, Johannine Epistles, op. cit., p. 111

[18] Neil, William, Harper’s Bible Commentary, op. cit., p. 529

[19] Bruce, F. F., The Epistles of John: A Verse-by-Verse Exposition. Kingsley Books, Inc. Kindle Edition.

About drbob76

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