NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY
By Dr. Robert R Seyda
FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN
CHAPTER FOUR (Lesson CVI) 07/06/22
4:16 We know how much God loves us because we feel His love and believe Him when He tells us how dearly God loves us. God is love, and anyone who lives in love is living with God, and God with them.
Peter Pett (1966) does not doubt that the Apostle John wants his readers to have complete confidence in God’s agápē. We who are His know and believe God’s love in us. Note that it is in us as well as for us. We have come to experience and appreciate the love of the world’s Savior and rejoice that it is within us, resulting in an outflowing of agápē for God and our brothers and sisters. We know further that God is agápē. So, to abide in His agápē is to stay in God and know He resides in us. We live within the sphere of God’s Agápē and Light. We thus seek to live in purity.
For universalist Duncan Heaster (1967) the Lord Jesus did not preexist as a person who needed some meditation. It seems evident that there must have been some kind of previous creation(s), for instance, Angels. God exists in infinity; He and His only and begotten Son. And His Son came to earth as a human being to humanity – less than two hundred million – 2,000 years ago. Incredibly, God’s only Son died for a few who crawled on the surface of this tiny planet. He gave His life so that His Father could work out our salvation.
Thus, Almighty God, who existed from eternity, says Heaster, is likened to a new father with all the intensity, joyful expectation, and dreams. And more than this, the Jesus who didn’t preexist  but like us died in the shameful way He did. Our hearts and minds are stunned by this limitless prospect with all their powers. His pure love for us, His condescension, should mean that we also should reach out into all humanity’s lives, never thinking they are beneath us or too insignificant or distant from us. No wonder the Apostle John describes that believing Jesus is the Son of God is believing in God’s love for us.
After telling us that God’s love is demonstrated through the apostolic message of the cross, Peter Legge (1967) questions, “What is that?” The Apostle John tells us in verse fifteen that if we confess the truth about the Anointed One, it brings new birth and the indwelling Spirit. But again, Legge asks, “What is that?” Can I know that I’m a child of God? How can I know I’m in fellowship with the Lord? The first test is Doctrinal. “What is that?” You believe in the historical, biblical Jesus, the Son of God came in the flesh. Then he tells us at the beginning of verse sixteen what this apostolic message is. By knowing and believing it, we will come better to appreciate the love of the Anointed One for us, and through appreciation of His love for us, we will come to love others. Then John continues. We know God’s love for us, and we trust that love. God is love. Everyone who lives in love lives in God, and God lives in them. – that is, the Social test. It’s alright to believe all the right things about the Son of God, but have you experienced His love so that it flows out of your life to other believers and lost humanity?
Karen H. Jobes (1968) suggests that the violent death of an innocent man executed as a seditious criminal would be the last place one would expect to see a demonstration of love, but that is precisely where the Final Covenant locates it. Such love is not based on human motives or emotions but finds its impetus in the merciful heart of the creator God, who would rather submit to earthly horrors than condemn His beloved human race to perish. The cross of Jesus the Anointed One is God’s love extended across the canyon that stranded us on hell’s side, separated from God and trapped in our sin. There is no other bridge we can cross over from death into life. Only being cleansed from our sin allows us to be reconciled to God and relate rightly to one another. God’s word to describe relating rightly to others is “love.”
4:17 If God’s agápē is made perfect in us, we can be without fear on the day when God judges the world. We will be without fear because we are like Jesus in this world.
When the Apostle John says God is love, he is not describing an evaluation but defining an essence. I remember riding in India with the overseer of Tamil Nadu; we came up behind a taxi with a bumper sticker that said, “Love is God.” I mentioned it to my friend Wellesley Solomon, and he said very quickly, “No! No! Love is not God; God is love.” Yes, there is a big difference! In other words, without God, there would be no such thing as love.
Furthermore, you cannot have true love without having God. So, what the world calls love, is far from what John is talking about here. Instead, the world speaks about romance, physical attraction, and relationships. No wonder they symbolize love with cupid holding an arrow against the string on his bow, ready to strike at any moment. The kind of love John espouses here is oneness with God through Jesus the Anointed One. Wanting to be part of Him, not willing to live without Him in your life, making Him the love of all, and a desire to be obedient to Him that dying for Him does not frighten us because He died for us but rose again.
No wonder the Apostle Paul said that we become one with the Anointed One in His death through our death to sin and being made alive in Him. I remember once my wife was reluctant to ask me if I could pick her up from her workplace and take her to the store to buy some needed items after work. She knew it would come after a long day at my job, and I would no doubt be tired and want some rest. So, she kept saying, “You don’t have to.” Finally, just before taking her to work, as I did every morning because if she drove herself, it meant parking in the employee’s lot and taking a shuttle to the hospital, which would add an extra thirty minutes to her schedule and force her to get up that much earlier and come home that much later, I turned to her and said, “Sweetheart, I live for you.” She couldn’t help it; in front of anybody who may have been looking, she hugged and kissed me with tears in her eyes. I could only do that because the same agápē God had for me was in my heart for her.
John now turns to the consequences of intimate fellowship with God. He presents it in favorable terms in verse seventeen, negative words in verse eighteen, and an optimistic expression in verse nineteen.
Boldness at the Judgment Seat of the Anointed One for believers. (Verse 17)
No fear or shame before God. (Verse 18)
We love God because He first loved us. (Verse 19)
As Dr. Richison says: “God perfects His agápē among us.” Love reaches its intended goal when it engages in active love toward others. God’s agápē finds fulfillment in reproducing itself in the conduct of His children. We do not reach perfection in our love on earth, but love can help us attain God’s intended goal. Through His agápē, He motivates believers to love one another. Christians who exercise love from the infilling of the Spirit can have confidence at the Judgment Seat of the Anointed One.
The phrase “that we may” indicates purpose. The person who engages in fellowship with the Lord by loving fellow Christians will have confidence at the Judgment Seat of the Anointed One. “Boldness” means confidence. Believers will have freedom in the presence of God because they have nothing to hide, nor do they have any shame. The word “have” conveys present possession. We have boldness now about future judgment. We can have “boldness” at the Judgment Seat of the Anointed One if we trust God’s agápē for us.
The “day of judgment” is the Judgment Seat of the Anointed One, not the Great White Throne judgment. The Great White Throne judgment is for non-Christians. The Judgment Seat of the Anointed One is the place to evaluate the effectiveness of the Christian life. There is no punishment at this judgment because Jesus took all the punishment for every Christian.
However, God will evaluate the works of Christians at the Judgment Seat of the Anointed One for rewards. If Christians walk in fellowship by manifesting love to other Christians, they can have confidence on the “day of judgment” that God will reward them. Assurance about a good reward at the Judgment Seat of the Anointed One revolves around our fellowship with God in time. The ground of our confidence at the Judgment Seat of the Anointed One is who Jesus is and what He did for us on the cross. The Greek emphasizes “He.” Therefore, we could translate “He” as “that one.” The Father was well pleased with the Son when He was on earth. It is not as if Jesus was on earth, but as He is in heaven. He is now in the closest fellowship of love with the Father.
Note the “because as He is, so” connection between these two phrases. As the Anointed One demonstrated love on earth, any Christian’s love will cause them to have boldness at the Judgment Seat of the Anointed One. The basis of our confidence is our likeness to the Anointed One. Therefore, as we manifest God’s agápē to others, there will be no blame on that day. We will stand there without reproach and regret. Note that this is present tense, not future tense. We are like Him here as He is there. He represents us there, and we represent Him here. He is my assurance that I will have His heaven. He is already there, making room for me. He is Himself the guarantee that I will be with Him. We are here just like Jesus is there.
It seems that John now looks at the consequences of intimate fellowship with God. He puts this in positive terms in verse seventeen and negative in verse eighteen. It gives us boldness at the Judgment Seat of the Anointed One for believers, we have no fear or shame before God, and we love because we were first loved. In this way, God perfects His love among us. Love reaches its intended goal when it engages in active love toward others. God’s love finds fulfillment in reproducing itself in the conduct of His children. We do not reach perfection in our love on earth, but love can reach God’s intended goal for us. This is the love God produces in the process of abiding in the believer. Through His love, He moves the believer to love others. That means Christians who exercise love from the filling of the Spirit can have confidence at the Judgment Seat of the Anointed One.
 Pett, Peter: Commentary on the Bible, op. cit., PDF, loc. cit.
 Isaiah 62:5
 This conclusion by Heaster is filled with misunderstanding. The human body that clothed Him was recently created in Mary’s womb, the soul and life that activated it eternally preexisted. Jesus, the man, did not have a separate mindset other than that of the preexisting Word. (John 1:1)
 Legge, David: 1,2,3 John, Preach the Word, op. cit., Christian Love: Its Source and Sign, Part 13
 John 5:24
 Jobes, Karen H., 1, 2, and 3 John (Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on The New Testament, Book 18), pp. 199-200
 Richison, Dr. Grant C., Verse by verse Commentary, Vol. 14
 1 John 2:28
 1 John 5:17-19