WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER FOUR (Lesson LXXV) 05/03/22

4:11 Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other.

John James Lias (1834-1923) mentions that the Apostle John uses the term “Beloved” for the sixth and last time. The meaning here is not “if God loved us so much,” we ought also to love one another, but “if God loved us in such a manner,” namely, in the way in which we have been already told that He loved us, [1] namely, in sending His Son into the world (1) that “we might live through Him,” and (2) that He might “be a sacrifice for our sins.” If God did this for us, if He in this way manifested His agápē towards us, we also ought to love one another. It is not that we are to show love to our brethren without waiting for them to show love because God set this example for us.[2] [3]

So, says Lias, we are constantly reminded how far the Gospel transcends our human reasoning or instincts. So, naturally, the feeling excited by this revelation of God’s agápē would be to make us return to Him; to sacrifice our time, our goods, our persons to Him; give up things to follow Him; to spend days and nights in delightful contemplation of what’s to come; to give of our means to build splendid Cathedrals to Him. But He doesn’t require this; all He asks is that we love one another.[4]

Charles H. Spurgeon (1834-1892) picks up on the Apostle John’s directive that we should love one another as God loved us. Spurgeon concludes that our love for one another is God’s agápē to us, flowing into us and then flowing, not dripping, out again. If you and I desire to love our fellow Christians and the fallen human race, we must be joined to the stream that conducts love from this eternal source, or else we will fail in trying to love. Make note, says Spurgeon, that since God’s agápē is the source of all true love in us, a sense of that love stimulates us. Whenever your human heart fills up and starts running over, the overflow of God’s agápē courses out to all God’s people, your love will respect the same person or persons as God’s agápē does, and for the same reasons. God loves people; so, will you; God loves them when there is nothing good found in them, will love them in the same way? Our love ought to follow God’s agápē in one point, namely, is always seeking to produce reconciliation. To this end, God sent His Son to us; should we not then feel sent to others?[5]

Alfred Plummer (1841-1926) notes that the Apostle John says, “surely we ought also.” In the RSV, it is expressed even better: “we also ought to,” which ties “also” and “we” together. In the spiritual family, it is a case of “noblesse oblige.”[6] As children of God, we must exhibit His nature, follow His example, and love those He loves. Nor is this the only way the Atonement forms part of the foundation of Christian Ethics. Only when we learn something of the infinite price paid to redeem us from sin can we rightly estimate the moral enormity of sin and the strength of the obligation which lies upon us to free ourselves from its pollution. And it was precisely those false teachers who denied the Atonement who taught that idolatry and every abominable sin were matters of no moral significance.[7]

Frederick B. Meyer (1847-1929) says that in the Apostle John’s Day, the intense confusion of some minds brought many delusions and heresies into the assemblies garnished with many temptations to young converts, and the Apostle wished to give tests for determining which voice spoke from God. The confession of Jesus the Anointed One as the Incarnate Word, guided by a spirit of love and gentleness, and the willingness to abide in the Apostles’ doctrine, were signs that the Anointed One commissioned the speaker. The question then is still the same: Do you want to be victorious over the world? If so, then let the Anointed One enter and take control of your life, [8] and the world will have no attractions for you. There is only one source of pure, divine love, and wherever that love is present, you know that the possessor has found its source in God’s selfless agápē. He loves the unloving to make them love, putting away their sin and perfecting their union with Himself.[9]

Alonzo R. Cocke (1858-1901) Such love from God the Apostle John talks about here in verse eleven, must give birth to love in return to those who are its objects; and love ignited by the sight of God’s redeeming agápē must manifest itself in love to each other. From the consciousness of God’s agápē to us must spring mutual kindness: “We ought also to love one another.” “If God so loved us,” we must love, for we are commanded: “Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do because you are His dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of the Anointed One. He loved us and offered Himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.”[10]

Cocke tells us that German Protestant theologian Julius Müller (1801-1878) says, speaking of God’s agápē in the Anointed One is the inner seed which unfolds in progressive development into love to the Christian brother: “As the root lives on, although the plant has grown up out of it, and as the fountain does not cease to stream, though it has formed the brook, so, too, the beginning of the Christian life continues in its further progress. So as a plant and brook, at once, cease to be if the root is dried and the fountain sealed, so Christian brotherly love ever continues to derive its life from God’s agápē.”[11]

David Smith (1866-1932) says that here Love, as in John 3:16, may denote either the extent or the etiquette of God’s agápē – “to such an extent,” “going such a length;[12]in such a manner.” As John says in his Gospel, “A person who claims to be continuing in union with Him ought to conduct their lives the way He did.”[13] Smith calls it “noblesse oblige.”[14] If we are God’s children we must have our heavenly Father’s Spirit.[15] That way, we reciprocate His agápē, not ours.[16]

Harry A. Ironside (1876-1951) points out that God loved us when there was nothing lovable about us, God loved us when we were in a war against Him and “alienated by wicked works,” God loved us when our desires were contrary to His desires when we were trampling His Word beneath our feet, spurning His grace, breaking His commandments. So now we read, “Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.”

Remember, our Lord Jesus the Anointed One told His disciples that if you love only those who love you, why should you get a reward for that? Even the tax collectors do that.[17] Why, even the most wretched creatures in the world love those out of whom they get some satisfaction, those who seem to give them some return for their affection. But the great principle laid down here is that after we have been born of God and are partakers of the divine nature, we will not wait for people to love us, to behave themselves in a way satisfactory to us. Still, they believe we will go on loving them just the same. That is divine love manifested through the new nature. That is a challenge even to Christians because we still have our old sinful nature. Though born of God, the Christian has a sinful nature that came from fallen Adam, and that nature is selfish and is looking for satisfaction in others and the things of this world. It is only through the power of the new nature, the divine nature, communicated by the second birth, that the Christians can rise to the standard now set before them.[18]

Charles H. Dodd (1884-1973) indicates that after what has just been said in verse ten, the command of love comes with greater intensity than ever. Already it has been enforced by the example of the Anointed One’s sacrifice.[19] That sacrifice has now been shown to express the “essence” of God as Love. It can now be seen that the new command is no arbitrary or optional addition to the original Gospel.[20] For the Gospel is the proclamation of God’s agápē – of God as Love – and consequently, to accept the Gospel is to place ourselves under the obligation of Love to our fellowman. Indeed, such Love is the only appointed and approved way of communion with God.[21]

For Greville P. Lewis (1891-1976), the Apostle John says something about God that humans could never have argued themselves into believing. The idea that the One, the supreme God, could, and does, love such people as ourselves is quite unthinkable; besides, it would suggest that God is incomplete and self-sufficient. The astonishing truth that “God is love” is revealed truth; it has been manifested in action in all God’s dealings with the human race, but supremely and finally in the person and life of His incarnate Son. We see Jesus loving depraved tax-collectors and abandoned harlots, as well as decent men like John and Peter; the brutal soldiers who scourged Him and nailed Him to the Cross, as well as the gentlewomen who ministered to Him in Bethany: we see Him dying that He may save, not only those who are devoted to Him, but those who engineered His crucifixion – and we cry, “This is God in action” – and only then can we accept the incredible truth that “God is love;” universal, unchanging love.[22] Lewis sees this same expression of love in the old Methodist hymn:

v.4 Yield to me now, for I am weak, but confident in self-despair! Speak to my heart, in blessing speak, be conquered by my instant prayer. Speak, or thou never hence shalt move, and tell me if thy name is Love.v.5. ‘Tis Love! ‘Tis Love! Thou diedst for me, I hear Thy whisper in my heart; The morning breaks, the shadows flee: Pure universal Love thou art; To me, to all Thy mercies move; Thy nature and Thy name are Love.[23]

[1] See 1 John 4:9-10

[2] Cf. 1 John 4:19

[3] Lias, John James: The First Epistle of St. John with Exposition, pp. 316-317

[4] Ibid. The First Epistle of St. John with Homiletical Treatment, pp. 315-316

[5] Spurgeon, Charles H., The Biblical Illustrator, op. cit., 1 John 4, p. 74

[6] The French term noblesse oblige translates to our “nobility obligates,” meaning that with great wealth comes the responsibility to give back to those who are less fortunate than oneself.

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

[8] Revelation 3:20

[9] Meyer, Frederick B: Through the Bible Day by Day, op. cit., loc. cit., StudyLight

[10] Ephesians 5:1-2

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

[12] Cf. Romans 8:32

[13] 1 John 2:6 – Complete Jewish Bible

[14] The French term noblesse oblige translates to “nobility obligates,” meaning that with great wealth comes the responsibility to give back to those who are less fortunate than oneself.

[15] Cf. Matthew 5:44-48

[16] Smith, David, Expositor’s Greek Testament, op. cit., p. 191

[17] Matthew 5:46

[18] Ironside, Harry A., Epistles of John and Jude, op. cit., p. 146

[19] John 3:16

[20] 1 John 2:7

[21] Dodd, Charles H., The Moffatt Commentary, Johannine Epistles, op. cit., p. 112

[22] Lewis, Greville P., The Epworth Commentary, The Johannine Epistles, op. cit., p. 99

[23] Come, O Thou Traveler Unknown by Charles Wesley, 1742

About drbob76

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