By Dr. Robert R Seyda


CHAPTER FOUR (Lesson C) 06/20/22

4:16 We know how much God loves us because we feel His love and believe Him when He tells us that He loves us dearly. God is love, and anyone who lives in love is living with God, and God with them.

Walter Hilton (1340-1396), when speaking about discerning the spirits to distinguish the good from the evil, writes that these two are alike in the manner of outward feelings, but they are very different within. Therefore, discerning the spirits is not required nor lightly entertained unless a soul can discern the good from the evil. That is, so a person is not easily charmed, as the Apostle John said: Trust not every spirit, but first determine whether it is from God or not. Wherefore, says Hilton, I think you can distinguish the godly from the ungodly.[1]

John Trapp (1601-1669) talks about our knowing and believing God is love. He mentions an early Christian writer he calls Pelican, who tells about when he used to read this portion of Scripture to his friends at their feasts.[2] A pious practice and well-becoming to those that feast before the Lord. The primitive Christians had at such times their kiss of love.[3]  And Augustine had Peter’s two verses written on his writing-table.[4]

Leonard Howard (1699-1767) states that the foundation of our Christian profession is God’s agápē in redeeming us because His agápē and goodness are the critical elements of His essence. Therefore, every Christian must maintain this spiritual communion with Him in proportion to His agápē for us.[5] By saying this, Dr. Howard wants to challenge us to think of how much God loved us while we were prisoners in sin’s prison and how much we should love Him now that He has set us free.

John Brown of Haddington (1722-1787) points out that if we live by the power of ardent love for God through His children for His sake, we have the most delightful and reciprocal union and communion. It didn’t come about through our efforts, but by experiencing what the Bible calls being “born again.” That is, coming to know God personally and learning of His agápē for us, manifested in His giving His only begotten Son to die on a cross on our behalf so that we need not suffer sin’s penalty of everlasting separation from Him.[6]

Alfred Plummer (1841-1926) says this verse in Greek reads: “And we have come to KNOW and have BELIEVED.” It is the natural order; advanced knowledge of God leads to faith. But sometimes faith precedes knowledge.[7] In either case, each completes the other. Complete faith is trust; practical knowledge is believing. We must be “ready always to give an answer to everyone who asks why this hope is in us.”[8] This verse fulfills the conclusion of the Anointed One’s High-Priestly prayer; “I have revealed You to them, and I will continue to do so. Then your love for Me will be in them, and I will be in them.”[9]

John Owen (1616-1683) combines the Apostle John’s message in verses nine, ten, and sixteen to emphasize that God is love, of nature infinitely good and gracious, to be the only object of all divine love. But this agápē can no way be known, or be so manifested to us, as that we may and ought to love Him, but by His agápē in the Anointed One, His sending of Him and loving us in Him. Before this, without this, we do not, and we cannot love God. It is the cause, the spring, and the fountain, of all our love for Him. They are empty notions and imaginations with which some speculative persons please themselves. Instead, God’s love of divine goodness must be considered. However, infinitely amiable it may be, it is not a reality to them. It is unsuited to their state and condition, without considering its communications to us in the Anointed One.[10]

Owen goes on to say that the same love of friendship expresses itself by that intimate communion with and exceptional residence between God and the believer. God dwells in them, and they in God, for God is love. Did not our Lord say, “All who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and we will come and make Our home with each of them?”[11]  and, “All who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and We will come and make Our home with each of them.”[12] These are not empty words; there is a solid foundation beneath them and truth in them. Those whose hearts duly exercise God’s agápē experience the refreshing approaches of the Father and the Son to their souls in the communications of a sense of their love and pledges of their dwelling with them.[13]

And in another document, Owen focuses on John’s phrase, “God is love.”  The title “God” is here taken personally, and that John meant it for the Father is evident in verse nine. He distinguishes Himself from His only begotten Son, whom He sends down to the world. Now, as God passes in front of Moses, He identifies Himself as “Yahweh! The Lord! The God of compassion and mercy!”[14] According to His proclamation, that is, not only of an infinitely gracious, tender, compassionate, and loving nature, but also one that highly and peculiarly distributes His agápē to us willingly.

In verse nine, we learn, “This is how God showed His agápē among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him.” Then in verse ten, “This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins,” and that this is something unusual to be seen in Him. The Holy Spirit plainly declares, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus the Anointed One. In the Anointed One, God has given us every spiritual blessing in heaven. In the Anointed One, He chose us before the world was made. He chose us in love to be His holy people – who could stand before Him without any fault. And before the world was made, God decided to make us His own children through Jesus the Anointed One. Thus, Owen declares that this agápē came before the Anointed One purchased our salvation by His death, allowing God to adopt us as His children.[15] [16]

Owen asks believers some interesting questions: “How will you commune with the Fa###ther in love? When do you know whether He loves you or not, or should you first throw yourself upon His mercy? Would it be easier to presume that He loves you than to try and experience sweet peace in His arms?” God seems only to be a consuming fire, says Owen, [17] so “people dread getting to know Him.”

Here is Owen’s response to His questions: “I can’t believe you don’t know anything about God’s agápē. Although it operates in the spiritual sense and experience, it is received purely by believing. Knowing about it is believing it as revealed.” The Apostle John tells us that we know God’s love for us and trust that love. God is love.”[18] At the very entrance of walking with God, this is the assurance which you may have of this agápē. He who is truth has said it, and whatever your heart says, or Satan says, unless you wilt take it up on this account, you must endeavor to expose those who say it as liars.[19]

Matthew Poole (1624-1679) notes that the transforming effects of God’s agápē upon us depend upon our misgivings or faith. Therefore, the Apostle John doubles the expression to that of certainty: “We have known and believed,” that is, our experience and confidence assures us of that agápē. It implies that by having this concept of God thoroughly settled in our souls, this agápē will transform us into His nature and image. As a result, we will be as comfortable dwelling in love as in our daily lives, which will help our unity with God, and that He and we indwell each other.[20]

John Bunyan (1628-1688) defines the words “to know” as “to believe.” Those who have received the gift of believing have faith in the working of His mighty power, “We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in His agápē,”[21] which precedes our belief. Many who are justified by God’s gift believed in the power of the Holy Spirit, which must come and awaken faith and strengthen the soul to act on it. Individuals who believe will be saved; believing is a sign, not a reason, for their being right in God’s eyes by implanted belief. However, those who don’t believe will be damned. Their unbelief is a sign that they are not righteous. It’s the reason their sinful tendencies are still active in their lives.[22]

Later on, Bunyan writes about proof that God’s grace is free and unchangeable. First, God loves the saints, says Bunyan, just as much as He loves Jesus the Anointed One, and God loves Jesus the Anointed One with an eternal love; therefore, He loves the saints the same way. Jesus said, “Then the world will know that You sent me and have loved them even as You have loved Me.”[23] Second, God’s agápē must be everlasting love; that is the love by which God loves His saints in the Anointed One, Jesus. Therefore, His agápē towards His children in union with the Anointed One must be an everlasting love. Third, none would dare say that God’s agápē is a mixture of heaven and earth. So, His agápē is purely His.[24] [25]

[1] Hilton, Walter: The Scale of Perfection, op. cit., Bk. 1, Part 1, p.41

[2] The Pelican History of the Church

[3] 1 Peter 5:13-14

[4] Trapp, John: Commentary or Exposition Upon all Books of New Testament, Printed by R. W., London (1656), op. cit., First Epistle of John, Ch. IV, p. 954

[5] Howard, Leonard: The Royal Bible, op. cit., loc. cit.

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

[7] See John 5:69

[8] 1 Peter 3:15

[9] John 17:6

[10] Owen, John: Christologia, op. cit., Ch. 13, pp. 204-205

[11] John 14:23

[12] Revelation 3:20

[13] Owen, John: op. cit., p. 210

[14] Exodus 34:6

[15] Ephesians 1:3-5

[16] Owen, John, Of Communion with God, Ch. 3, p. 26

[17] See Hebrews 12:29

[18] 1 John 4:16

[19] Ibid. 5:10

[20] Poole, Matthew: op. cit., loc. cit.

[21] 1 John 1:16

[22] Bunyan, John: Practical Works, Vol. 5, The Doctrine of the Law and Grace Unfolded, The Heavenly Footman, Ch. 8, p. 265

[23] John 17:23

[24] 1 John 4:16

[25] Bunyan, John: Practical Works, ibid. Vol. 7, Ch. 8, p. 284

About drbob76

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