WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER FOUR (Lesson LXXIII) 04/29/22

COMMENTARY

Bede the Venerable (672-735) sees a correlation between God’s agápē for us and our love for each other. He writes that this is what the Apostle Paul meant when he wrote, “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as the Anointed One loved us and gave Himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”[1] [2]  And Œcumenius notes that as imitators of God: “The love we show to one another ought to be like God’s love to us. It should be sincere and pure; without ulterior motives or other hidden thoughts of the kind we normally associate with robbers and other evildoers.”[3]

John Trapp (1601-1669) warns his fellow believers. If God loved us so much, His one example answers all our objections. It removes all our excuses, such as our fellow believers are inferior and mean spirited, and we deserve better.[4]

John Owen (1616-1683) encountered doubters who objected to what the Apostle John says in verse sixteen about trusting God to love them. Owen responds by saying that this is one of the most unbelievable thoughts anyone can take a stand on. But it is the easiest way to try and rob God of His glory by refusing to accept the truth that we love God because He loved us.[5] The Holy Spirit inspired John to say, “This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us.” There is no reason to invert the order and say, this is love: not that God loved us, but that we loved Him first.

Why try and take God’s glory from Him? He loves us without reason as to what we have to offer Him.[6] But we have every reason to worship Him. Or would you rather say that God loved you just because of who you are? This is human nature’s way of trying to find out, but it will not bring glory to God nor peace to your soul. So put this kind of thinking out of your mind, then take God at His word by believing the Gospel message, and that will open your soul free it to join the Lord in the communion of love.[7]

Isaac Barrow: 1630-1677) comments on what the Apostle John says here in verse eleven, “Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” Since He so lovingly gave up His only Son for us, shouldn’t we express kindness toward our fellow believers in imitation of Him concerning gratitude? How many good things can we do for them; what part of our lives should be so dear to us to share what we can for their good?[8] Those are questions we must ask ourselves since our Master told us, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

William Burkitt (1650-1703) makes a good point that the Apostle John’s argument here is to provoke us to do something we should already be doing. God is to be loved by us for His wondrous love: But as God is unseen, we must love Him through others. It is because He made His creatures after His image and likeness: And if we love the divine image of God in each other, it is evidence that God dwells in us, and we in Him; namely, by the indwelling of His Holy Spirit, which is a Spirit of love in us, draws forth our love towards Him and others.[9]

Thomas Pyle (1674-1756) suggests that such an unparalleled instance of divine compassion to sinful creatures ought to make us express the tenderest regard to the welfare of all those whom God was pleased to put such high a value on. Not only that, but demonstrate our appreciation by showing mercy, even to those who least deserve it.[10]

John Wesley (1703-1791) picks up on the Apostle John’s words where he says that God gave us this command: If we love God, we must also love each other as brothers and sisters[11] and that our love must be real. We must show our love by the things we do.[12] With these things being true, says Wesley, then we must heed what John then says, that is how much God loved us, dear friends! We also must love each other in the same manner.[13] As King David said, to every human soul, “The Lord is good to everyone. He showers compassion on all His creation.[14]

We must agree, says Wesley, that the affection of those who receive God’s agápē must include humanity for His sake, not excluding the ones they’ve seen or those they knew nothing about except that they were “the offspring of God.”[15] (Never say you don’t have God’s agápē in your heart because the Holy Spirit put it there, [16] you just choose not to use it.) So, John included those whose souls for whom God’s Son died, not omitting the “evil” and “unthankful,” and least of all their enemies who hated, persecuted, or despitefully used them for their Master’s sake. These had a peculiar place, both in their heart and prayers. They loved them, “even as the Anointed One loved us.”[17] [18]

John Brown of Haddington (1722-1787) asks since God so loved us with such high and astonishing standards, we whom He so loved and redeemed by His Son’s precious blood most certainly ought, under the influence of this agápē, and in imitation of it, to maintain the most enthusiastic affection toward our fellow Christians for His sake and in obedience to His will.[19] Again, Dr. Brown asks us to compare our love for Him with His agápē for us. Most certainly, all of us would fall way short of any expectation of equaling His example.

William Jones of Nayland (1726-1805) believes Christians are obligated to copy the Divine example in loving one another, grounded upon our relation to Him as His children. Because we are “born again of God,[20] we should seek to resemble Him. The Apostle Paul’s argument is similar: You are God’s children, so be like Him.[21] If we are “partakers of the Divine nature,” we should imitate the Divine example. First, relative to mankind in general.[22] He loved us with the love of compassion before He could love us with the love of contentment. Let us imitate Him regarding our relationship with those who are yet in their sins. Second, relative to the Christian brotherhood in particular.[23] Let us demonstrate our relation to the Father, who is infinite Love, by our sincere love for our Christian brothers and sisters. Let the supreme manifestation regarding His agápē for us produce its appropriate effect in us.[24]

Charles Hodge (1797-1878) says that the Scriptures do not mock us when they say that God is like a father to us, tender and sympathetic, especially to those who reverence Him.[25] Our heavenly Father meant what He said when He proclaimed that Yahweh, the Lord, is a kind and merciful God. He is slow in getting angry, full of great love, and can be fully trusted.[26] That’s why the Apostle John can say that we should love each other because love comes from God. Everyone who loves has become God’s child. And so, everyone who loves knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God because God is love. It is how God showed His agápē to us by sending His only Son into the world to give us eternal life through Him. True love is God’s agápē for us, not our love for God. He sent His Son as a way to take away our sins. That is how much God loved us, dear friends! We must do the same.[27] The word love has the same sense throughout this passage. God is love, and love in Him is what love is in us, in all that is essential to its nature. That’s why we do rejoice, yes, and will rejoice.[28]

Pastor Samuel Martin, (1802-1877) pastor of the General Baptist Conigre Chapel, Trowbridge County, England, famous for its woven cloth, 120 miles west of London, says that God’s agápē is the pattern for our love. And here are the reasons why: 1. Because ignorance of what God means by love must now be willful. 2. Because doubt and uncertainty about the objects of love are forever excluded. 3. Because the power of love to conquer obstacles and impediments is most gloriously shown in God’s case. 4. The restoration of love between humans is one of God’s objects in that redemption, proving His agápē for us. 5. Because we are required to be followers of God as dear children. 6. Because love on our part must be pleasing to God. 7. Because “as a result of this, we express our love towards God.”[29]

William Graham (1810-1883) says that the subject of Love contained in the seventh to eleventh verses in various forms is like surveying a magnificent building from multiple sides and angles, that you might gain the combined idea of the whole in all its varieties of architectural elegance: so, the Apostle John contemplates the theme of Love from all angles and finds it ever new and beautiful; for, in all its manifoldness, it comes from God and returns to God. It’s all about “brotherly love.” We are loved, says John; therefore, we should treasure the arms of the Father around us, and, consequently, we ought to love one another. The experience of His agápē to us awakens the consciousness of our duty to love one another. This we find practically true in our experience among people, for where we find those who love God, we are sure to find love to the brethren in a similar proportion. His agápē is first, and then, loving Him in return, we are also conscious of the obligation to love the brethren. May we seek to remove every impediment to exercising this noble affection. May we recognize all those of our brethren and fellow pilgrims of every name and country who love the Lord in our daily walk. Jesus the Anointed One in sincerity and truth![30]


[1] Ephesians 5:1-2

[2] Bede the Venerable, Ancient Christian Commentary, Vol. XI, Bray, G. (Ed.), James, 1-2 Peter, 1-3 John

[3] Œcumenius, Ancient Christian Commentary, Vol. XI, Bray, G. (Ed.), James, 1-2 Peter, 1-3 John

[4] Trapp, John: Commentary upon all books of New Testament (1647), op. cit., p. 477

[5] 1 John 4:10-11

[6] Romans 5:8

[7] Owen, John: On Communion with God, op. cit., Ch. 4, p. 49

[8] Barrows, Isaac: An Exposition on the Creed, op. cit., p 181

[9] Burkitt, William: Notes on N.T., op. cit., p. 731

[10] Pyle, Thomas: Paraphrase, op. cit., p.

[11] 1 John 4:21

[12] Ibid. 3:18

[13] Ibid. 4:11

[14] Psalm 145:9 – New Living Translation

[15] Acts of the Apostles 17:29

[16] Romans 5:5

[17] Ephesians 5:2

[18] Wesley, John, the Works of: Vol. 5, Sermon 4, pp. 25, 99

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

[20] See 1 John 4:7

[21] Ephesians 5:1-2

[22] Matthew 4:44-45

[23] Cf. 1 John 3:10-18

[24] Jones, William: First Epistle of John, Pulpit Commentary, Vol. 22, op. cit., Homiletics, p. 121

[25] Psalm 103:13

[26] Exodus 34:6

[27] 1 John 4:7-11

[28] Hodge, Charles. Systematic Theology, op. cit., Vol. I, p. 404

[29] Martin, Samuel: The Biblical Illustrator, op. cit., 1 John 4, p. 88

[30] Graham, William: A Practical and Exegetical Commentary on the First Epistle of John, op. cit., pp. 254, 270

About drbob76

Retired missionary, pastor, seminary professor, Board Certified Chaplain and American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Director.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s