By Dr. Robert R Seyda


CHAPTER FOUR (Lesson XCVIII) 06/09/22

4:15 Anyone who believes and says that Jesus is God’s Son has God living in them, and they in Him.

David Jackman (1947) believes that the Apostle John means more by the Greek verb homologeō (“shall confess” KJV; “acknowledge” NIV) than an intellectual acceptance of a fact of history. Saving faith depends not just on a general warmth and positive feeling towards the Anointed One, whatever some evangelistic presentations imply. It depends on a doctrinal confession concerning the Anointed One, on which the whole of our experience of God depends. And further, the mark of that reality is a life that expresses personal faith in the Anointed One as God by obedience to His commands and growth like Him in character. Neither of the two strands of truth and love is optional. They are inseparable.[1]

Judith M. Lieu (1951) observes that a foundational story is needed to protect the community’s self-understanding. This risk must be countered by recalling the embodiment of the Son, the primary story of Jesus, for it was the preaching about Jesus as the Anointed One to the claims made for what He as the Son of God had achieved. For the Apostle John, the definition of “Anointed One” or “Son of God” is not something independent of the story of Jesus. That identification has to be reclaimed or restored, which means that what we know about Jesus provides the content of how God acted. At the same time, while God has acted, gives content to who Jesus is. Hence, this verse reminds us that the Son of God, whose sending John has declared three times in this chapter, [2] is none other than Jesus of Nazareth.[3] John found that it was hard to put the two together as one for some. But unless that unity existed in their minds, they did not know God; consequently, they did not know Jesus. This made it impossible for them to experience anything about God’s agápē.

Bruce G. Schuchard (1958) says that back in the Apostle John’s Day, the term “Son of God’’ was for both Christians and pagans a salvation figure, a messenger of God. Therefore, John highlights what separates the two sides, insisting that the man Jesus “walked among us and died on the cross.” It isn’t that He “was” but “will” always be the only Son of God. John also highlights the function of the Spirit in directing the believer to a necessary understanding of Jesus so that all may come to know that Jesus, who is the Son of God, [4] is none other than Jesus the Anointed One who arrived in flesh and bone.[5] By revisiting the testimony of the previous verse, John’s language attempts to underscore the vast chasm[6] that defines the difference between the faithful and the unfaithful, between belief and unbelief, and between the life of the age to come and the abyss of everlasting death.[7]

Duncan Heaster (1967) states that confession was required, not just “secret belief,” and such confession meant being put out of the synagogues and thereby out of the Jewish world/society. Therefore, many “believed” but would not “confess.”[8] God’s abiding in a person is through the Spirit. And yet, the Comforter passages promise that the indwelling Spirit will empower our witness or confession. Therefore, this is more evidence of having received the Spirit; that we will testify, in the power of the Spirit. The false teachers and infiltrators didn’t do so and were not, therefore, “of God,” and their claims to possess the Spirit were false.[9]

Karen H. Jobes (1968) states that it is not sufficient to believe in the historical Jesus; one must also believe that the man Jesus was the Son of God whom the Father sent to atone for sin. Mutual indwelling of God in the believer and the believer in God echoes John’s gospel, where the Greek verb menō (“remain”) occurs dozens of times in reference to the intimate relationship between the three members of the Trinity.[10] Believers in the Anointed One can enter into a fellowship with God.[11] The idea of living or abiding with God stands behind the promise of having a place in the Father’s house, referring to eternal life.[12] [13] 

David Guzik (1984) writes that it isn’t enough to know the facts about who Jesus is; we must confess that this is the truth. The idea behind the word confess is “to be in agreement with.” We must agree with God about who Jesus is, and we find out what God says about Jesus through God’s Word. You may know something without agreeing with it; but God demands our acceptance. Although John has been writing much about love, he does not ignore the issue of truth. John does not think it is “sufficient” if a person has some kind of love in their life if they do not confess that Jesus is the Son of God. It isn’t a matter of deciding between love or truth; we must have both. Therefore, acknowledging that Jesus is the Son of God is not simply to make a statement about His physical status, but vow obedience to the only one who has that status. Simply to say that you believe in the Anointed One and love fellow believers is not a condition required by God for Him to dwell within us. Instead, they are evidence that God already lives in us to make this possible.[14]

4:16     Now that we understand God’s love for us, we can trust that love.


Once more, John repeats that God lives in us, and since nothing can exist outside of God, we live in Him.  His presence in us was delivered on the wings of the Holy Spirit, who took up residence in us.  It leads John to focus again on the central theme of his Gospel, Jesus was a man sent from God to bring the message of salvation and pay the price for our deliverance.  Consequently, Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Church of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) do not qualify as part of the Christian faith.

Just because I learn Hebrew, memorize the Old Testament, read the Mishnah and observe all the Jewish holidays and feasts, that still does not make me a Jew.  The only way to start that process is to be born again as a Jew, circumcised, and baptized.  The same is true of a Christian.  Learning the Bible, singing hymns, and practicing Christian virtues and ethics do not make one a Christian.  We must be born again and become a new creation in the Anointed One Jesus.  And that will only happen when we say with all sincerity and faith that we believe that Jesus is the Son of God and is the only one authorized to offer salvation from God through His grace.  Holding on to that promise of salvation and eternal life is the best way of saying we trust God and the love He has for us.  If you can’t trust God’s agápē, whose love can you trust?

This verse summarizes 1 John 3:24-4:16 – intimate fellowship with God is impossible without love for fellow Christians. Notice the order of “have known and believed.”  We must first hear the Gospel before we can believe it.  By the same token, we must know God’s agápē before we can believe God loves us.  Those who experience God’s agápē come to have confidence in Him to love.  Faith in God’s agápē comes from fuller knowledge about agápē. John inserts his discourse of the doctrine of the Anointed One into a discussion of God’s agápē and Christian love.  This is a logical deduction from the nature of God, from His orientation to love.  God is unconditional, incomprehensible, incomparable love.  We see this clearly in the sacrifice of His Son.

John previously used the phrase “God is love” in verse eight to make a case for loving fellow Christians.  He reiterates the truth that “God is love” here to show the close connection between fellowship with God and loving fellow believers.  Only by abiding in God’s agápē can true fellowship with Him be made real.  Verses eight and nine connect with verses fourteen and sixteen to the idea that God sent His Son into the world.  God reveals His agápē through Jesus the Anointed One.  God sending His Son is proof of His agápē for us and the execution of that love in us. 

There is a close correlation between loving Christians and fellowship with God. Since God in His essence is love, where God is, love is. This is the work of the Holy Spirit in us. God’s agápē operates within the sphere of the believer. John is confident that God’s agápē works in Christians, as they love one another. If God dwells in a believer, love dwells there too. The doctrine of God occupying the believer also implies love indwelling the believer. There is an indwelling love that God imparts to every believer. There is a great interchange between God’s agápē and the loving believer. 

So, we have come to know and believe. Both perfects are virtual presence, expressing the present continuance of a condition begun in the past: “We know and continue to believe.” Experience and faith are intimately connected, and sometimes the one precedes, sometimes the other.[15]  What John says in verse nine should be rendered “in us,” not “to us” or “toward us,” and in verse fifteen, the interpretation of “in our case” is certainly possible and perhaps safer. But the meaning may be that the object of our knowledge and faith is that portion of God’s love in us. It is “in us” and exercised towards Him and our fellow believers, but in reality, it is Him abiding in us. In either case, love is the object of our faith. Thus, love is not only the mission of the Church;[16] it is also the Church’s creed.

Therefore, where God is, His love is. Love always flows from fellowship with God. God works in Christians as they love one another. We cannot fellowship with God if we harbor malice toward fellow Christians. God inhabits all Christians, so all believers are indwelt by love. God living in the believer is tied inseparably to the confession of the Anointed One as God’s. Thus, a domino effect resulting from belief results in God’s residence in the believer, producing passionate love in the Christian. We must first know the love of God before we can believe the love of God. It is another way of saying that when we experience the love of God, we know more about loving others. It is possible by unbelief to block appreciation for God’s love in advance. Knowledge and belief act and react with each other. Any truth not applied to experience is worthless. God’s Word must be known and believed to be effective. Belief without knowledge is pure gullibility.   

[1] Jackman, David: The Message of John’s Letters, op. cit., pp. 127-128

[2] 1 John 4:9, 10, 14

[3] Lieu, Judith: The New Testament Commentary, op. cit., p. 191

[4] 1 John 3:23; 4:9-10,14-15

[5] Ibid 4:2

[6] Cf. Luke 16:26 – NIV & NLT. (Synonyms for chasm: ravine, gorge, rift, crater, canyon)

[7] Schuchard, Bruce G., Concordia Commentary, op. cit., p. 483

[8] John 9:22; 12:42; see 2:23

[9] Heaster, Duncan: New European Commentary, op. cit., 1 John, p. 34

[10] Example: (NIV) John 1:32, 33; 15:10

[11] 1 John 1:3; cf. John 12:46; 14:17; 15:4-7

[12] John 14:2, 23

[13] Jobes, Karen H., 1, 2, and 3 John (Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, Book 18), pp. 196-197

[14] Guzik, David: Enduring Word, op. cit., loc. cit.

[15] See John 6:69

[16] Ibid. 13:35

About drbob76

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