NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY
By Dr. Robert R Seyda
FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN
CHAPTER FOUR (Lesson LXXXV) 05/17/22
4:13 And He has put His Holy Spirit into our hearts as proof that we live in Him and He with us.
John Trapp (1601-1669) addresses the subject of God giving us His Spirit. That is, of the fruit of His Spirit, His holy actions and virtues. Through the two golden pipes, the two olive branches emptied their priceless oils of all precious graces into the lamps in the Tabernacle. Today, this oil flows into the Church through the Holy Spirit and gives a glow that shines out into the world.
Matthew Henry (1662-1714) says that the Apostle John summarizes these last seven verses to show that the Spirit of God is the Spirit of love. Those who do not love the image of God reflected in His people have no saving knowledge of God. It is God’s nature to be kind and bring joy. God’s law is love, and everyone would be thrilled had they obeyed it. The provision of the Gospel for the forgiveness of sin, and the salvation of sinners, accompanied by God’s glory and justice, shows that God is love.
Yet, mystery and darkness still hide many things, says Henry. God has shown Himself to be love that keeps us from coming short of eternal happiness unless through unbelief and unrepentance. Strict justice would then condemn us to hopeless misery because we broke our Creator’s laws. None of our words or thoughts can do justice to the free, astonishing love of a holy God towards sinners, who could not profit or harm Him, whom He might justly and fairly crush in a moment, and whose deserving of vengeance was showing the method by which they were saved, though He could by His almighty Word have created other worlds, with more perfect beings, if He had seen fit.
Why search the whole universe for love in its most glorious displays? Henry asks. It is to be found here on earth in the person and the cross of the Anointed One. Does love exist between God and sinners? Here was the origin, not that we loved God, but that He freely loved us. His agápē was not designed to be unproductive. When its goal and mission are gained and produced, it may be said to be perfected. So, faith is perfected by sharing. Thus, it will appear that God dwells in us by His new-creating Spirit.
Thomas Pyle (1674-1756) shares his opinion that it is not enough to say, you love God, in return for His agápē to you, unless you offer evidence through your kindness to your fellow Christians. God is not the object of your physical senses. They can only affect your thoughts by demanding careful attention. In contrast, your fellow Christians’ wants and needs strike your most sensitive senses and move you by the strongest and most immediate impressions. However, if you do not perform the easiest task, who can imagine you discharging the more difficult part of this duty. The one, therefore, is the proper test of the other. We show whose children we are by the likeness of our character, and God confirms we are His by the gifts and graces of His Holy Spirit.
James Macknight (1721-1800) sees the expression that we abide in Him, and He is us as indirect. So, he paraphrased it as follows: “By this, we apostles know that we continue faithful to Him in all our doctrines and that He authorizes our actions as apostles because He has bestowed on us the gifts of His Spirit and continues them with us.” By possessing the Spirit’s gifts, the apostles knew that they were in union with God, that is, continued to be faithful to Him in the execution of their office: and by the same gifts, they demonstrated to the world that God was in them, and authorized their doctrine. Accordingly, notes Macknight, it is added in the next verse, “Furthermore, we have seen with our own eyes and now testify that the Father sent His Son to be the Savior of the world,” suggesting that the gifts of the Spirit were given to the apostles, to enable them to prove the truth of their testimony concerning the Father’s sending His Son in the flesh to be the Savior of the world.
John Brown (1722-1787) notes that by what the Apostle John says here, we have reassuring evidence of dwelling by faith in union and communion with God through the Anointed One; and of His abiding in our souls in gracious gifts and influences. Not only that, but because He has freely afforded us close communication with His Spirit to produce and make this faith and love alive, shining a light on His work in us.
William Jones of Nayland (1726-1805) says no divine virtue should be subject to “doubts and fears.” Suppose we are uncertain about having this greatest of all blessings. In that case, we must take time (1) to restudy the Word of God to see the condition on which eternal life is granted, and then re-examine ourselves to see if we have fulfilled that condition; and (2) that we restudied God’s Word to see what are the permanent marks of that life, and then re-examine ourselves to see if we bear those marks. (3) Our spiritual life has not blossomed into its full beauty until we are perfectly at home in God’s agápē in the Anointed One and move as freely and firmly as children in their Father’s house, so that the question of “whether we are children,” or “whether we are at home,” never comes up at all. Loving confidence is never to be disturbed – this is “knowing that we have eternal life.”
Free Church of Scotland minister Alexander Macleod (1786-1869) talks about the evidence of true faith in a child of God. It begins, says Macleod, with the exercises of the mind – Conscience, influenced by the Holy Spirit. Our state of mind is known only by its activity, and spiritual implementation indicates the operation of the Spirit of the Anointed One in our mind. It is followed by Humility, which is sure evidence of true faith. Jesus illustrated that He was like God in every way, but He did not think that His being equal with God was something to use for His benefit. Instead, He gave up everything, even His place with God. He accepted the role of a servant, appearing in human form, during His life as a man.
That’s why, says Macleod, the Apostle Paul, instructed us not to let selfishness or pride be our guide in whatever we do. Instead, be humble, and honor others more than ourselves. Don’t be interested only in what’s ours, but care about the lives of others too. It is a gracious exercise, the effect of a saving work of the Spirit in the soul.
Macleod goes on to say that next comes entire Dependence on the Lord Jesus the Anointed One. It starts by not worrying or fretting about things you don’t have. Instead, pray and ask God for everything you need, always giving thanks for what you have. It is certainly evidence of a state of grace. Next in line, Macleod tells us is total Submission to the Royal Law of the Anointed One – Love your neighbor as you would yourself. This is evidence of true godliness. And lastly, there is joy in God, the Savior of our soul.
The Apostle Peter gives us a good description of godliness. Peter says that because you have these blessings, do all you can to add to your life these things: to your faith add goodness; to your goodness add knowledge; to your knowledge add self-control; to your self-control add patience; to your patience add devotion to God; to your devotion add kindness toward your brothers and sisters in the Anointed One, and to this kindness add love. If all these things are in you and growing, you will never fail to be useful to God. You will produce fruit that should come from your knowledge of our Lord Jesus the Anointed One. This, says Macleod, is evidence of holiness.
Augustus Neander (1789-1850) sees that God, through His indwelling and vitalizing love, abides in union with believers, which means that His Spirit dwells in them: for His Spirit, imparted to believers through the Anointed One, is itself the fountain of love which can originate only in God, the Spirit which dwells and works in God as love. They cannot be conscious of a spiritual fellowship with Him if love, the mark of that Spirit, shows no living agency among them. Hence, the Apostle appeals to their experience of the influences of the Spirit imparted by God – the token and pledge that as they continue to surrender themselves to fellowship with God, God likewise abides in inseparable fellowship with them. As John says here in verse thirteen, “By this, we know that we dwell in Him, and He in us because He has given us of His Spirit.”
Gottfried C. F. Lücke (1791-1855) finds that love for God is founded on a mutual communion with Him. Still, that relationship depends on our consciousness of the Holy Spirit, which we received from God operating within us. Through His power and faith in God’s Son as the Redeemer of the world, we are God’s children. The construction of the sentence is expressed differently in two places:
1 John 4:13, “Hereby know we that we abide in Him, and He in us because He has given us of His Spirit.”
1 John 3:24, “Hereby we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit which He has given us.”
Accordingly, the sense is somewhat different between our abiding in God and His abiding in us. We know from this that He has communicated to us and still does interconnect through His Spirit. As Paul puts it, there are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. All these are the work of the same Spirit, and He distributes them to each one, just as He determines.
Since, according to John, love for God and fellow Christians is awakened and excited by the manifestation of God’s agápē in the Anointed One, His Son, for the redemption of the world; therefore, it is a matter of the highest importance that Christians recognize, believe, and know this mission to save is established. In that way, what John says in verses fourteen to sixteen are connected to what he says in verses seven to thirteen.
 Exodus 25:31-40
 Trapp, John: Commentary upon all books of New Testament (1647), op. cit., p 477
 Cf. Luke 2:10
 Henry, Matthew: Commentary on 1 John, op. cit., loc. cit.
 Pyle, Thomas: Paraphrase, op. cit., pp. 396-397
 Macknight, James: Literal Paraphrase, op. cit., pp. 93-94
 Brown, John of Haddington: Self-Interpreting Bible, op. cit., p. 1328
 2 Corinthians 2:16
 Jones, William: First Epistle of John, Pulpit Commentary, Vol. 22, op. cit., Homiletics, p. 151
 Philippians 2:6-7
 Ibid. 2:3-4
 Ibid. 4:6
 James 2:8-9
 2 Peter 1:5-8
 Macleod, Alexander: The Biblical Illustrator, op. cit., 1 John 4, pp. 92-93
 Neander, Augustus: First Epistle of John, op. cit., Chapters IV, V, pp. 265-266
 Cf. 1 John 3:24
 1 Corinthians 4, 11
 Lücke, Gottfried: Commentary on 1 John, op. cit., Eighth Section, verse 13