By Dr. Robert R Seyda


CHAPTER FOUR (Lesson LXXXVII) 05/19/22

4:13 And He has put His Holy Spirit into our hearts as proof that we live in Him and He with us.

I like the little verse that Harry A. Ironside (1876-1951) shared: “You are writing a Gospel, a chapter a day, by deeds that you do, by words that you say. People read what you write, whether faithless or true; tell me, what is the Gospel according to you?”[1] The only way any of us can write the Gospel in our words and deeds is with the help of that portion of God’s Spirit He gave us. What does that mean – “He gave us of His Spirit?” He has implanted within us a new nature. His Spirit is that of love, and this is the very essence of this unique nature, so that all you and I have to do is to let the Spirit of God control us, and as we do that, we will manifest the Anointed One’s agápē.[2]

Charles H. Dodd (1884-1973) says we must begin with the gift of the Spirit when the Apostle John mentions this aspect of the Christian life.[3] The first reference to the Spirit suggested to John the Spirit of Prophecy, and he pursued that subject in the following verses. But it is not clear that this was the apostle’s first intention. The Gift of Prophecy applied to early Christians, the powerful proof of God’s presence in the Church.[4] But John told us it is the individual Christian who is the subject of that union with God described as mutual indwelling, and it is of this that the gift of the Spirit is proof.[5] Prophecy is only one of the manifestations of the Spirit, and behind all such revelations lies the fundamental experience that Paul describes in his letter to the Romans.[6] [7]

Rudolf Bultmann (1884-1976) points out that in an earlier passage, [8] that mutual abiding consists in our keeping His commandments. Here, however, is the fact that God gave us of His spirit.[9] Since the commandments are concentrated in brotherly love, on the one hand, and since, on the other, see verse thirteen, follows the admonition to brotherly and sisterly love, the proof for the reception of the Spirit must be seen precisely in the fact that it grants us the possibility of such devotion. According to verse fourteen, however, the spirit grants us the knowledge of and witness to God’s agápē in sending His Son, from which “confession” and “belief” follow as a consequence. For John, however, there is no difference. The “commandment” is double in verse fourteen: faith and love. Because He has “given us of His Spirit,” it has a twofold sense. The first points back to the command to love one another, which is dependent on God’s agápē, and the second looks forward to confession and faith grounded in God’s agápē.[10]

Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981) says that when it comes to God being in union with us and us with Him, which the Holy Spirit witnesses in harmony with our spirit, we must not rest; we have full and confident assurance and jubilation. The Final Covenant was written so that we may have it, and John argues that this is something that really must be unavoidable. The apostle cannot understand someone who not only lacks this certainty, but who would even dare to argue against such an inevitability. It’s hard to understand such a person, says Lloyd-Jones, even on the grounds of logic. As unbelievers, we were spiritually dead; we had no life of God in our souls. So, is it possible that we can have such energy in us and not know it? That is impossible! The presence of God’s life in our soul is so different from the life without God that we cannot but know it; and; therefore, if you are uncertain, you must examine the foundation of your faith. So then, when God comes to dwell in us and take us into Himself, it is something we must be sure we know and then thank God; we can recognize it.[11]

Paul Waitman Hoon (1910-2000) says that by saying, “here’s how we can know,” the Apostle John issues the first test for Christians. His appeal to the presence of God’s Spirit in the soul focuses on the object of this test and rebukes people’s preoccupation with their self-centered moods. When we read, “He has given,” it suggests something very definite; people ought to be able to recognize the Spirit of God as active in their lives. The fundamental spiritual nature of the test places the proper light on the conventional tests to determine the depth of one’s religion.  These include appealing to nominal church membership and, acknowledging one’s polite behavior in society, identifying someone as a Christian.[12]

But, says Hoon, it’s got to be more than that. Foremost, you must be born again.[13] This requires that you believe and confess Jesus as your Savior and sins are forgiven[14] and accept Him as your Lord and Master.[15] Second, God’s Spirit living in you must agree with your spirit that you are God’s child.[16] That way, the Spirit will be able to guide you as a child of God.[17] But it wasn’t you who qualified as a child of God; it involved having the Anointed One, God’s Son, dwelling in you.[18] By putting His Son in you, He put His agápē in you.[19] The most significant evidence will be your love for one another that identifies you as a child of God. Third, you must not only develop a lifestyle where everything you do is for the good of others, not always for yourself.[20] Be like a little child, ready to learn.[21] One of the things you learn is to be a peacemaker.[22] Sometimes, you must be willing to face persecution and suffer humiliation for His sake to become a joint-heir with the Anointed One.[23]

Donald W. Burdick (1917-1996) notes that this cycle of the epistle is primarily characterized by the Apostle John interweaving of themes from previous sequences into a single fabric of truth. Earlier, John set forth ethical and doctrinal tests by which the genuineness of a person’s salvation can be ascertained.[24] He stressed love for fellow believers, [25] obedience to divine commands, [26] and belief in Jesus as the Anointed One, the Son of God.[27] John included love and obedience as righteousness in the ethical test. In this concluding cycle, the moral section deals almost exclusively with love. It will be noted that the discussion is no mere repetition of previous statements.[28] Instead, the Apostle now proceeds to explain how it is that love can be a test of one’s possession of eternal life. He explains why the believers will love their brothers and sisters in the faith.

Now, beginning in 1 John 4:7, John shows that these are not qualities to be possessed separately. They are all fundamentally related. No one item by itself can serve as a valid test of one’s salvation. Belief must be accompanied by love and obedience, for love can only be produced by regeneration, and regeneration comes only from belief. And obedience is the inevitable result of love. That’s because Love is the essence of God.[29] Now John begins this final discussion of love for fellow believers by appealing to his readers as “Beloved,” exemplifying what he urges them to do. His plea is that we should continually (present tense) “love one another.” As elsewhere in his epistle, John has in mind the love for fellow Christians.[30] Unfortunately, while loving God is highly emphasized, the qualifier of doing so by loving others is not always made a requirement.

Raymond E. Brown (1928-1998) says some commentators are surprised to find the Holy Spirit suddenly introduced as a principle of divine indwelling, although the author prepared for this idea when he wrote,  “Now this is how we can know that He abides in us: from the Spirit that He gave us.”[31] Also, when Jesus promised, “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you.[32] Therefore, the standard offered here is a definite act of God’s having given the Spirit, similar to God’s having sent His Son.[33] So, the Spirit placed in a believer’s life is not by accident, nor in response to their practice of abstinence, but by God’s will and according to His purpose.

John R. W. Stott (1921-2011) points out the Apostle John wrote his Gospel for unbelievers so that they might read the testimony of God to His Son, believe in Him to whom the testimony pointed, and thus receive life through faith. This Epistle, on the other hand, was written for believers. John’s desire for them is not that they may believe and receive, but that they may know they have received and continue to have eternal life. “That you may know” does not mean they may gradually grow in assurance, but that they may possess here and now a present certainty of the life they have received in the Anointed One.[34]

David E. Hiebert (1928-1995) says the ringing words “By this, we know that we abide in Him and He in us” expresses the fundamental assurance of the Christian life. The words “Hereby” (KJV), (“This is how” – NIV) in verse thirteen look forward to the gift of the Spirit as expressed by the “because.” The present tense verb “we know” indicates “the process of obtaining knowledge by experience, by observation, or by instruction.”  The content of this ongoing knowledge is “that we abide in Him and He in us.” The verb “abide” portrays the continuing reality of this reciprocal abiding as a close and intimate relationship – God dwelling in believers and they in Him.

[1] A quote by Paul B. Gilbert

[2] Ironside, Harry A., The Epistles of John and Jude, op. cit., 154-155

[3] 1 John 3:24

[4] Cf. 1 Corinthians 1:24-25

[5] 1 John 3:24

[6] Romans 8:15-16

[7] Dodd, Charles H., The Moffatt Commentary, Johannine Epistles, op. cit., p. 115

[8] 1 John 2:3

[9] Ibid. 3:24

[10] Bultmann, Rudolf: Hermeneia, A Critical and Historical Commentary, op. cit., p.70

[11] Lloyd-Jones, Martyn: Life in the Anointed One, op. cit., p. 467

[12] Hoon, Paul, W., The Interpreter’s Bible, op. Cit., 1 John, Exegesis, pp. 282-283

[13] John 3:3

[14] Romans 4:25

[15] John 1:12

[16] Romans 8:16

[17] Ibid. 8:14

[18] Galatians 3:26

[19] 1 John 3:1

[20] 1 John 3:10

[21] Matthew 18:10

[22] Ibid. 5:9; cf. Mark 10:15

[23] Romans 8:17

[24] 1 John 1:5 – 4:6

[25] Ibid. 2:7, 11; 3:10b, 24

[26] Ibid. 2:3-6; 3:22-23

[27] Ibid. 2:2-23

[28] Ibid. 2:7-11; 3:10b-24

[29] Ibid. 4:7-8

[30] Burdick, Donald W., The Epistles of John, op. cit., p. 71

[31] 1 John 3:24

[32] John 14:16

[33] Brown, Raymond E., The Anchor Bible, op. cit., p. 522

[34] Stott, John. The Letters of John (Tyndale New Testament Commentaries), op. cit., p. 184

About drbob76

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