By Dr. Robert R Seyda


CHAPTER FOUR (Lesson CV) 07/05/22

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.

Henry E. Brockett (1936-1994) mentions the words of Jesus, “we will come to them and make our home with them,[1] as the result of the baptism of the Spirit, an inner realization of God’s agápē. So, he testifies, “How glorious it was to taste what the Apostle John writes here in verse sixteen. “God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them.” God’s agápē, His very inmost nature, seemed to me like a boundless ocean with the rays of the glorious sun shining upon it, and in this ocean of love and light, the Spirit immersed my whole being and filled my heart. I was dwelling in His agápē, and His agápē was living in me. I was inwardly satisfied, perfectly satisfied, resting in God’s boundless agápē. Praise God; there was no painful sense of an aching void the world cannot fill. God’s agápē had been poured out into my heart by the Holy Spirit.”[2]

James Montgomery Boice (1938-2000) points out that the Apostle John concluded in verse twelve that two things might follow if we love one another. First, God abides in us, and second, God perfects His agápē in us. These two conclusions outline the following two sections of this chapter. In the first section (verses 13-16), John discusses God’s indwelling of the Christian in detail. In the second section (verses 17-21), he analyzes the perfecting of love. That of the Christian by God is the theme of the first section, evident from the threefold repetition of the idea: once in verse thirteen (“we live in Him and He in us”), once in verse fifteen (“God lives in us and we in God”), and once in verse sixteen (“whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them”).

Michael Eaton (1942-2017) claims that knowing and trusting in God’s agápē involves authority. With access to Him, being deceived is not an option. It also consists in relying on or confiding in God’s agápē. It is confidence in God’s protection, confidence in God’s provision, trust in God’s guidance, in His saving grace. Furthermore, it brings peace and joy. It provides a sense of direction. Finally, it involves a continuing love towards others, the realization that salvation is a kingdom of love! When You abide in God’s agápē, it not only brings you confidence, calmness, and peace but also must overflow to others. If it does not spill over to others, you will lose the love given to you. This is perhaps the most vital practical sentence in this book; “to dwell in God’s agápē involves insisting on faith and maintaining love no matter what is happening to us.” We have all failed at this point, but if we take John seriously, we will discover what Jesus meant: “Whoever drinks from this water… will never thirst again.”[3] [4]

John W. (Jack) Carter (1947) asks, “What will be the state of a Christian on the Day of Judgment?” When God looks upon a person of faith, He will see the reflection of His agápē in their heart. So then, “What will be the state of a lost person on Judgment Day?” The presence of only phileo love in the heart of the lost does not reflect God’s agápē. As scary as this scenario may sound, people of faith have nothing to fear. They will be able to stand before God, not on their righteousness, but by the propitiation of Jesus as our advocate, lawyer, and Paraclete.[5] 

So, “should a Christian fear death?” asks Carter.  It is reasonable to fear the event so frequently characterized by suffering and regret the impact of our death on others. Yet, we have no reason to fear God’s judgment, regardless of our past sins. The lost will always fear punishment, never knowing if they have been “good enough.” People of faith do not need such anxiety. John writes of the final judgment when the sins and deeds of all will be exposed. God will remind us of every meaningless word we have stated. However, those who have placed their faith in God and whose hearts are filled with God’s agápē will find that they have been forgiven and will not be condemned for their sins.[6]

Robert W. Yarbrough (1948) takes note that verses fifteen and sixteen amount to an appeal to the readers to open themselves fully to the love that God offers. First, the Apostle John grounds his appeal by underscoring the happy state of the person who responds to it. “God abides in” this person and vice versa. Second, John uses the Greek verb menō[7]abide” twenty times in this epistle.[8] In the same way that a solemn affirmation of the truth of John’s message concluded the previous section,[9] the Apostle John lays down the basis for the appeal by another somber confession.[10] The opening of verse sixteen signals the linkage between the two verses. The “we” echoes other occurrences of the nominative pronoun clustered more in this section of the epistle[11] than elsewhere, where the word appears.[12] In the previous verse, this “we” refers to John and readers who share in his vigorous confession of Jesus as God’s saving Son. John’s statement is not starkly individual but richly if guardedly social.[13]

Colin G. Kruse (1950) says that the words “God lives in him and he in God” is not easy to define. The concept of the mutual indwelling of believers in God and God in believers occurs in four places in this letter.[14] Assurance of this mutual indwelling is related in two cases to the presence of the Spirit, who bears witness to Jesus.[15] In the other cases, it is related to the confession of the Anointed One and abiding in love.[16] Because “God is love,” says the Apostle John, he can assure his readers that “Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.” John is returning to the all-encompassing theme that loving one another is the mark of those who genuinely know God. The statement in verse sixteen is intended to bolster the readers’ confidence. They, unlike the secessionists, do love each other, and John wants them to recognize that this is evidence that God does live in them and they in God, despite the assertions of the secessionists to the contrary.[17]

Judith M. Lieu (1951) sees no conflict between making the proper confession of Jesus the condition for divine indwelling and the declaration of this verse that makes God the actual subject and source of all and the ultimate object of knowledge and belief. The Apostle John’s talk about Jesus, the Son, always leads back to God. The emphatic first-person plural, “we have recognized,” draws readers back from the potentially disputed confession to the convictions that define them. In addition to John’s testimony for having seen this Jesus, Son of God, with his eyes, here the emphasis is not on the grounds for testimony sight but its inner assurance, knowledge. Peter voices similar sentiments: “We have believed and have come to know that you are the holy one of God,”[18] and Lazarus’ sister Martha, “I have believed that you are the Anointed One.”[19] Their familiarity would reinforce the readers’ sense of inclusion as John closes this section. [20] The same is true of our “seeing” Jesus. While our physical eyes did not behold Him, our testimony comes from an inner sense of spiritual assurance and knowledge.

Ben Witherington III (1951) says it appears that the Apostle John speaks as someone who has known and believed for a long time (perfect tense verbs here). The same language appears in his Gospel,[21] where what is known and accepted is that Jesus is the Holy One of God. John is not making a profound statement about whether knowing precedes acknowledging or vice versa; he believes that the two things go together. The Greek text also speaks of the love God has “in us,” stressing the Christian experience of God’s love within the core of the human personality.[22] Notice, knowing, and acknowledging are affirmed when it comes to God’s love, not just one or the other. Christian faith is never blind; it always involves education and experience. Then John adds the famous saying, “God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God, and God remains in them.” It reiterates in part what was already said in verse eight.[23]

Vincent Cheung (1952) reminds us that God is undivided into parts; He exists as an eternal whole with all his attributes as one and inseparable. It is sometimes called His “simplicity” since God is not complex or divided. Although one portion of Scripture may emphasize a divine trait, and another may emphasize a different quality, this does not mean that God’s features are truly separable. It does not mean that one virtue can override another, that one is more important than another, or that one more closely expresses God’s essence than another. The Bible teaches that God is His qualities. For example, the Apostle John says, “God is light,”[24] and “God is love.”[25] Therefore, God is not a being who is Love with Light as an element or vice versa; instead, He is Love and Light, Justice and Mercy, Power and Wisdom, and so on.[26]

Gary M. Burge (1952) says that the Apostle John offers another source of inspiration. We do not hear about what God has done through the Anointed One, nor do we merely experience the Spirit. John insists that through our testimony, the reality of God imprints itself on our lives.[27] We are encouraged to observe that faithful, loving discipleship is not simply an emotional experience of being loved or responding to an ethical command. It does not love godly conduct, although all these things are significant. Such discipleship has theological content. God’s indwelling is mediated to us through the work of the Anointed One.[28] John’s vision of discipleship demands our minds as well as our hearts.[29]

Marianne Meye Thompson (1964 says that the confession of Jesus as the Son of God and Savior of the world is wrapped up in the Apostle John’s understanding of Jesus. First, Jesus is the Son of God. Because Jesus is the Son, He stands in a unique relationship with God; therefore, He mediates salvation, the indwelling of God with us, and the love of God.[1] Second, Jesus is Savior. His life and death reconcile salvation or fellowship with God.[2] Jesus makes God known and takes away sin[3] so that we may indeed have fellowship with God. Third, Jesus is the Savior of the world. This affirmation summarizes the universal scope of Jesus’ work: no one, even the one hostile to God, stands outside the scope of God’s love. Salvation is appropriated by the person who acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God.[4]

[1] John 14:23

[2] Brockett, Henry E., The Riches of Holiness, op. cit., p. 31

[3] John 4:14

[4] Eaton, Michael: Focus on the Bible, 1,2,3 John, op. cit., pp.158-159

[5] Paraclete – John 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7 (“Comforter”) KJV; (“Advocate”) NIV); 1 John 2:1 – (“Advocate”) KJV & NIV

[6] Carter, Dr. John W. (Jack). 1,2,3, John & Jude: Holding to the Truth in Love (The Disciple’s Bible Commentary Book 48), pp. 110-111

[7] Menō is translated in the KJV as abide [61x], remain [16x], dwell [11x], tarry [9x], endure [3x], miscellaneous [5x]

[8] 1 John 2: 6, 10, 14, 17, 19, 24 [3 ×], 27 [2 ×], 28; 3: 6, 9, 14, 15, 17, 24 [2 ×]; 4: 12, 13

[9] Ibid. 4:14

[10] Ibid. 4:15

[11] Ibid. 4: 6, 10, 11, 14, 16, 17, 19

[12] See Ibid. 1:4; 3:14; 16

[13] Yarbrough, Robert W., 1-3 John (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament), op. cit., pp. 253-254

[14] Ibid. 3:24; 4:13, 15, 16

[15] Ibid. 3:24; 4:13

[16] Ibid. 4:15-16

[17] Kruse, Colin G., The Letters of John (The Pillar New Testament Commentary (PNTC)), op. cit., loc. cit., Kindle Edition

[18] John 6:69

[19] Ibid. 11:27

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

[21] John 6:69

[22] Cf. Romans 5:5

[23] Ben Witherington III. Letters and Homilies for Hellenized Christians: op. cit., loc. cit., (Kindle Locations 7246-7252)

[24] 1 John 1:5

[25] Ibid. 4:16

[26] Cheung, Vincent. Systematic Theology, op. cit., (Kindle Locations 1488-1502)

[27] Cf. 1 John 4:14-16

[28] Ibid. 4:15

[29] Burge, Gary M., The Letters of John (The NIV Application Commentary), op. cit., p. 189

[30] 1 John 4:14-16

[31] Ibid. 4:2; cf. Jn 17:3

[32] Ibid. 2:2; 3:5,8; 4:10

[33] Thompson, Marianne M., The IVP New Testament Commentary, op. cit., p. 125

About drbob76

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