WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER FOUR (Lesson CVII) 07/07/22

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.

So, how does this apply to us? When God sees His love completed in us demonstrated by our love for others, He perceives a likeness in how His Son operated on earth. He observes the character of the Anointed One in us.  The Father said that He was well pleased with Jesus on earth. God calls on each member of His family to show His family’s characteristics. God expects us to love His people. That’s why God’s love can only be consummated in us as He works with or associates with us to extend love to others. Fellowship with God causes us to abide in His love. These kinds of Christians will hold nothing back out for fear of being shamed at the Anointed One’s Judgment Seat.  God’s love makes it possible for Christians to have boldness on the day of judgment.[1] 

Therefore, the foundation for our confidence before the Anointed One’s Judgment Seat is how and what Jesus did for us on the cross. The Greek emphasizes “He.” We could translate “He” as “that one.” The Father was well pleased with the Son when He was on earth. It differs from what Jesus was on earth because He is now in heaven. Our Lord is now in close fellowship with the Father.[2] Notice in verse seventeen the “as He is, so are we” connection between these two phrases. As the Anointed One exhibited love on earth, Christians’ love will give them cause to have boldness at the Judgment Seat of the Anointed One. The basis of such confidence is our likeness to the Anointed One. In so far as we manifest God’s love to others, there will be no blame on that day. We will stand there without reproach and regret. Note that this is in the present tense, not the future tense. We here are just like He is there. He represents us there, and we represent Him here. He assures me that I will share heaven with Him. He is already there, making a place for me.  He is the guarantee that I will be with Him.

Consequently, God’s love in communion with us attains its consummation in the Anointed One’s likeness. The reduplication of the Anointed One’s love in our lives ensures that we shall be beyond censure and rebuke at the Judgment Seat regarding rewards. The likeness here is not positional but practical and experiential. We will also have positional privilege before the Father at the Anointed One’s Judgment Seat. As the Father was well pleased with the Son on earth, He will be happy with us at His Son’s Judgment Seat. We are also spiritually one with the Anointed One. We stand at the judgment seat with the Anointed One’s authority. God will see us united to Him. As Jesus moved from suffering to glory, we will do the same. There might have been some doubt about whether we would ever make it to heaven. Thank God that Jesus made it there for us. He is our assurance that, from here, we will be with Him there because He is already there. He is our guarantee that we will be with Him one day. His ascension guarantees our moving up.[3]

COMMENTARY

Augustine of Hippo (354-430 AD) says this is how everyone ought to test the progress of love in themselves, or their progress in love, for if God is love, there can be no progress or regress, and love is only said to make progress in you since you make progress in love.[4]

And Hilary of Arles (401-449 AD) advises that while in this world, we must do our best to be generous, godly, merciful, and patient, imitating God as closely as we can.[5]

Andreas,[6] a seventh-century AD monk, collected commentary from earlier writers to form a catena on various biblical books. For example, he advises that Jesus said: “The ruler of this world is coming, and he shall find nothing in me.”[7] Therefore, we ought to be the same so that God can find no worldliness in us.[8]

Bede the Venerable (672-735 AD) gives his view on the confidence a believer can have when facing Judgment Day.  He writes that John tells us how we can know where we stand in God’s eyes. Everyone who has assurance on the day of judgment has perfected love in Him. What does it mean to have such security? It means that we are not afraid of the coming of judgment. When someone is newly converted, they start by being respectful of the day of judgment because when the righteous Judge appears, they might be condemned as unrighteous if not careful. But as they grow in faith and start to change, they learn not to be anxious anymore but to look forward eagerly to the coming of the One who is the desire of the nations, hoping that on the strength of their good life, they will be crowned among the saints.”[9]

For John Calvin (1509-1564), in stating that we may now have boldness before God, the Apostle John shows God’s gift of divine love towards us, though afterward shows it more clearly from the contrary effect. It is, however, an invaluable benefit that we can boldly stand before God. By nature, indeed, we dread the presence of God, and rightly so, for, as He is the Judge of the world, our sins hold us guilty. Often, death and hell come to our minds whenever we think of God. Accordingly, that dread makes people stay away from God as much as possible. But John says that the faithful do not fear, even when mention of the last judgment is made. The opposite is true for the believer; they go to God’s tribunal confidently and cheerfully because they are assured of His unchanging love. Everyone who becomes more and more proficient in faith is well prepared in their mind to look forward to the day of judgment.[10]

John Trapp (1601-1669) says that on the day of judgment, those that bear His image will hear his eulogy; “well done,” He will own them and honor them, and their faith that worked by love, “may result in praise, glory, and honor when Jesus, the Anointed One is revealed.”[11] He who willingly submitted to judgment on their behalf will render no stiff sentence against them.[12]

Matthew Poole (1624-1679) says that by our inward union with God, our love grows to that perfection, giving us fearless freedom and liberty of spirit on judgment day. Our hearts will not hesitate to appear before Him as a Judge, whose very image we find mirrored in ourselves by His making us more like Him even in this world, though not in His perfection of love and goodness. Or, if the day of judgment is understood, as some conceive, as our appearance before human tribunals for His name’s sake, such a spiritual attitude will give us the same boldness in that case as well.[13]

John Flavel writes how Jesus, the Anointed One, exercises kingly power over the souls whom the Gospel influences to obey His Word. It implies that we must consider how great sin and misery are to those who continue in bondage to sin. That’s why we need to inquire and determine whose rule and reign we live. Whether the Anointed One or Satan is on the throne of our lives, they wave their scepter over our souls. It also begs the question, “Does the Anointed One exercise such a kingly power over the souls of all those influenced by His Gospel?” O then! Exclaims Flavel, let all who are under the Anointed One’s management walk as subjects of such a King. Imitate your King; the examples of kings are very influential upon their adherents.[14]

John Bunyan (1628-1688), speaking on the resurrection of the wicked, starts by saying that the wicked will come out of their graves to face God with the chains of eternal death handing on them.[15] By comparison, the resurrection of the godly will be glorious. The saints will arise in power, the wicked in weakness and astonishment. But, Bunyan asks the godless, will not the ghastly jaws of despair stare at you? Will not the convictions of your conscience continually batter against your weary spirit like thunderclaps? It is the redeemed who boldly stand on Judgment Day.[16]

Bunyan also sees that sin and guilt bring weakness and feebleness in this life; how much more, when both with all their power and force, like a giant, fasten on them; as God said, “Can your courage last, can your strength continue during the days when I deal with you?”[17] Will those ghastly jaws of despair leave you with spiritual condemnations of conscience, like thunderclaps against your weary spirit? No, the godly will have confidence on judgment day,[18] but the wicked will be like the straw the wind drives away.[19] Oh, the fear and the heartache that will seize them in their rising! The frightful thoughts that then will fill their throbbing hearts! Now their soul suffers in hell’s fire. So, keep it, I say, with the hot scalding stink of hell upon it. They shall not be able to lift their head forever; spasms will take hold of them, their hands will grow limp, and everyone’s heart will seize up, “looking aghast at each other’s faces all aflame.[20] [21]

William Burkitt (1650-1703) still sees the Apostle John proceeding by argument to enforce upon us the obligation of our duty to love one another. He assures us here that if our love is to be made perfect, that is, heightened and improved by exactly corresponding with the divine pattern and Gospel. Suppose we love one another in obedience to God’s command and conformity to the Anointed One’s example. In that case, it will give us boldness on the day of judgment, and we may think and speak of, we may expect and look for the approach of that day without fear and dismay of mind; the reason is added because as the Anointed One was, so are we in the world; that is, as He was full of holiness and purity, love and kindness, so we must endeavor to be an imitation of His example, according to our measure, in some proportion and degree.[22]


[1] 1 John 4:9, 12; John 13:1

[2] Matthew 3:17; 17:5

[3] John 16:8-11

[4] Augustine: (Bray Ed.), James, 1-2 Peter, 1-3 John, Jude, op. cit., loc. cit., Ten Homilies on 1 John 9.2

[5] Hilary of Arles: Ancient Christian Commentary, Vol. XI, Bray, G. (Ed.), James, 1-2 Peter, 1-3 John, p. 216

[6] Andreas: Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: Introduction and Biographic Information, Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2005, pp. 486–487

[7] John 14:30

[8] Andreas, Ancient Christian Commentary, Vol. XI, Bray, G. (Ed.), James, 1-2 Peter, 1-3 John, p. 216

[9] Bede the Venerable, Ancient Christian Commentary, Vol. XI, Bray, G. (Ed.), James, 1-2 Peter, 1-3 John, p. 216

[10] Calvin, John: Commentary of the Catholic Epistles, op. cit., loc. cit.

[11] 1 Peter 1:7

[12] Trapp, John: Commentary upon all books of New Testament (1647), op. cit., pp. 477-478

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

[14] Flavel, John: The Fountain of Life, op. cit., Sermon 16, p. 198

[15] Cf. Mark 9:44

[16] 1 John 4:17

[17] Ezekiel 22:14 – Complete Jewish Bible

[18] 1 John 4:17

[19] Psalm 1:4

[20] Isaiah 13:8

[21] Bunyan, John:  Practical Works, Vol. 1, Manner of the Resurrection of the Wicked. p. 304

[22] Burkitt, William: Notes on the N.T., op. cit., p. 732

About drbob76

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