NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY
By Dr. Robert R Seyda
FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN
CHAPTER FOUR (Lesson CIV) 06/24/22
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.
Albert Barnes (1872-1951) says it is not uncommon for the Apostle John to repeat an important truth. He delights to dwell on truths as that expressed in verse sixteen, and who wouldn’t? Is there any truth on which the mind can meditate with more pleasure; what is better fitted to win the heart to holiness; what will do more to sustain the soul in the sorrows and trials of this life? Therefore, in our tests; in the darkness which is around us; in the perplexities which meet and embarrass us regarding God’s Kingdom that seems incomprehensible in this world, and in the prospect of the next, let us learn to repeat this declaration of the favored disciple, “God is love.”
Furthermore, Barnes asks what trials may not come our way if we feel assured of God’s love? What dark cloud of gloom hangs over our pathway that will not be removed if from the depths of our souls we can always shout, “God is Love!” Christianity is all about Love. God is Love; He loved us; we are to love Him; we are to love one another; we are to love the whole world. Heaven is filled with Love, and there is nothing else there. The earth is filled with love just as far as Christianity prevails and would be dominant if it should succeed everywhere. Love would remove all the corrupt passions, crimes, jealousies, and wars on earth and scatter heaven’s bliss around the globe. If a person is motivated by this, they have the spirit of the heavenly world reigning in their soul and live in an atmosphere of love.
Paul E. Kretzmann (1883-1965) says that the Apostle John brings forward another argument: God, no one has ever seen Him. That no one, no human being, has ever looked God in the face was stated by God and repeated by John. It is the bliss reserved for eternal life. But although we cannot see Him, we have evidence of His presence in us, by the brotherly love we feel in our hearts. For it would be impossible for us to have this agápē and to give practical proof of its presence in us if it were not for the fact that God chose us for His abode and that His agápē, which wrought the new spiritual life in us, has come to perfection in us, making its permanent home in our hearts.
All this is not mere speculation on our part: In this, we recognize that we remain in Him and He in us because of His Spirit given to us. If it had not been for God imparting to us His Spirit and giving us some of His life and power, thus enabling us to feel true brotherly love toward one another, then we could not be sure of our status as Christians. But our confidence rests upon the work of the Spirit in the Word; in this way, we gain the knowledge that we remain in God and God in us. Moreover, the brotherly love we feel is strong evidence that God now abides in us and that we have constant communication and fellowship with Him. Thus, we are rewarded, at least to some extent, even though we cannot see God as long as we are in the flesh.
Charles H. Dodd (1884-1973) says that the expression “to remain in love” is suggestive rather than exact. It is not clear whether the meaning is “to continue to live as the objects of God’s agápē,” or “to continue to love God,” or “to continue to love our brothers and sisters.” According to the teaching of this epistle and John’s Gospel, it is impossible to make a clear separation between these three modes or manifestations of love. The energy of love discharges itself along lines that form a triangle, whose points are God, self, and neighbor, but the source of all love is God, of whom alone it can be said that He is love. Whether we love God or our neighbor, it is God’s agápē that is at work in us assuming, that is, that our love is that authentic agápē which is exemplified in God’s gift of His Anointed Son’s sacrifice for us all.
Greville P. Lewis (1891-1976) sees the Apostle John returning to the conditions of the mutual “abiding” of the Christian and God. Before, John said that the condition is summed up as (a) belief in the Anointed One and (b) love for one another. Then John pointed out that the condition is of the Christian and God. Finally, John asserts once more than one condition is (1) belief in the Anointed One,  while the other is (2) love for God, including love for one another. However, we can say that all of this is made clear when John wrote, “No one has ever seen God,” but if we love one another, God lives in us, and His agápē is made complete (perfected) in us. 
Amos N. Wilder (1895-1993) notes that in the first part of this verse, God’s agápē takes the place of the twofold sense of abiding expressed in verse thirteen. The Apostle John is interweaving these conceptions. The same two verbs, “know” and “believe,” in the same perfect tense occur in John’s Gospel and are translated meaningfully. Peter is replying to Jesus’ challenge. The passage is relevant since the learning process here is connected with discernment of the Mediator, we have seen that the Father sent His Son. The second part of this verse, what John said in verse twelve, “His agápē is perfected in us,” or “His agápē is brought to full expression in us,” brings out vividly the whole meaning of mutual abiding here in verse sixteen. The most significant themes of the epistle are focused on this verse. It is clear that it defines God as love only in the light of the coming of the Anointed One and that our love is identified with divine fellowship only as love is understood in context, namely, the Christian context of Christian agápē.
Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981) says there are some of Apostle John’s tests that seem to be the most practical we can immediately apply. So, here’s a summation: Jesus the Anointed One, the realization of who He is, that God sent Him to the world; the realization of what He has done by coming into the world and going back again, that He is our all and in all. Then, the realization that He is my Savior and therefore my Lord because if He has done that for us, then He has done it so that we might be rescued and redeemed out of this element of sin and that I may live a life pleasing to Him – He is the center of it all.
The key is our attitude toward Him. Let us say with the Apostle Paul, “I want to know the Anointed One and experience the mighty power that raised Him from the dead. I want to suffer with Him, sharing in His death, so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!” There is no need to explore the paths of mysticism; there’s also no reason to participate in a spiritual pep rally. There’s only one thing to do: enter God’s throne room of Grace and Mercy,  where He reigns in His brilliant Shekinah glory,  and lift your eyes to Him. Let His Light reveal who you are and your sin, and acknowledge the Anointed One as your Savior. Once you have Him, you have everything else. It is all in Him, for, without Him, there is nothing – no creation, no universe, no earth, no human life, no salvation.
Paul W. Hoon (1910-2000) offers that the conjecture of “knowing” and “believing” also reminds us that people can believe in God’s agápē without fully knowing it, and can know God’s agápē without fully believing in all that comes with it. Familiarity with the Christian affirmation that God is love has dulled its grandeur and boldness for some people; others hold the assurance of God’s agápē merely as a theological concept or hearsay. Conversely, people can know God’s agápē in their own experience without fully comprehending the belief bound up with it. The philosophical and ethical implications of God’s agápē for mankind’s thought and life often escape them. The Christian’s experience of God’s agápē can be corrected and kept vital and glowing only when people know and believe.
It is a bigger problem today than ever before. When we talk about people believing and loving God, they often think of their human capacity to accept and love. However, our personal belief, no matter how well-founded and thought out, does not come close to the faith we acquire through the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, human love cannot reach God, nor can it suffice in loving our Christian brothers and sisters the way Jesus told us to love them. So, when a preacher asks the audience, “How many of you love your heavenly Father,” a good chance is that out of those who raised their hand, some will equate their love for their father on earth with their Father in heaven.
Remember when Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love me?” Jesus used the verb agapaō for unconditional divine love. When Peter answered, he used the verb phileō, which means to approve of, be fond of, to like. Then Jesus asked Peter a second time, using agapaō, and Peter responded with phileō. But on the third try, Jesus switched to phileō. Now feeling exceedingly grieved, Peter answered, “Lord, You know how I feel, and You understand what I’m trying to say. Lord, You know what good friends we are.” This is a case of Peter thinking that human love is sufficient, but Jesus is pointing out to him that it does not qualify as God’s agápē inside us through the Holy Spirit. So, is it any wonder that Peter would deny his Lord three times later?
Ronald R. Williams (1906-1970) says that from now on, this life of faith and witness becomes another doorway through which the Christian could enter the life of union with God. The Apostle John often describes it as mutual “indwelling” – us in Him and He in us. It is a doorway because it leads to knowledge of and faith in God’s agápē for us, which implies a life of love, and onward to fellowship with God and His family. As the NIV renders it, “we know and rely on the love God has for us.” Therefore, we must trust His agápē for us if we will love others.
 Barnes, Albert: New Testament Notes, op. cit., p. 4868
 Exodus 33:20
 John 1:18
 Kretzmann, Paul E., Popular Commentary on the Bible, op. cit., Vol. II, p. 573
 Dodd, Charles H., The Moffatt Commentary, Johannine Epistles, op. cit., pp. 117-118
 1 John 3:23
 Ibid. 3:24
 Ibid. 4:15
 Ibid. 4:16
 Ibid. 4:12
 Lewis, Greville P., The Epworth Commentary, The Johannine Epistles, op. cit., p. 101
 John 6:67-69
 Ibid. 6:66-67
 1 John 4:14
 Wilder, Amos N., The Interpreter’s Bible, op. cit., 1 John, Exposition, pp. 284-285
 Philippians 3:10
 Hebrews 4:16
 Cf. 2 Chronicles 7:1
 Lloyd-Jones, Martyn: Life in the Anointed One, op. cit., p. pp. 515-516
 Hoon, Paul W., The Interpreter’s Bible, op. cit., 1 John, Exegesis, p. 284
 William, Ronald R., Letters of John and James, op. cit., p. 50