By Dr. Robert R Seyda


CHAPTER FOUR (Lesson CVIII) 07/08/22

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.

Johann Bengel (1687-1752) says that God’s agápē is always the same and perfect: but with usit is brought to its consummation, rising more and more from its descent to us to the level of boldness. Bengel then parses verse seventeen to show how this agápē is perfected: “Herein is our love made perfect, that [to such a degree] we may have boldness [the opposite of fear, (see verse eighteen).] in the day[1] [more terrible than the day of death] of judgment: because  [this refers to herein.] as He is, [Jesus the Anointed One is love, (in heaven; which words, though unexpressed, contrast with in the world.)] so are we [who love God.][2]  in this world. [which is devoid of love and in dread of judgment.][3] [4]

Thomas Pyle (1674-1756) says that we must firmly adhere to this fundamental truth of one’s faith and practice that love and kindness joined together, which is the principal test of our conformity to His excellence, and our return of gratitude to Him. In other words, by loving our fellow believers, as God loved us, and ready to suffer for their sakes, as the Anointed One suffered for us, we prove ourselves His true disciples, in full and perfect union with Him. Thus, we can expect the glorious reward He promised on the great day of final judgment.[5]

James Macknight (1721-1800) comments that those of whom the Apostle John speaks will have boldness in the day of judgment because, as God’s children, by loving God and their neighbor, their Judge will not condemn them. The verb in this clause is in the present tense. So, the relative “He” must be understood as God, represented in verse eleven as the object of our imitation of His agápē to mankind. If the reader thinks that the Anointed One is meant and that the words “in this world” are connected not only with the words “we are,” but with the words “He is,” the translation should read, “as He was, so we are in this world.” According to this translation, likewise, the sentiment expressed is perfectly appropriate.[6]

John Brown of Haddington (1722-1787) says that the appearance and the sincerity and strength of our love encourage our hope that we will appear with bold confidence before God’s judgment seat because we have been faithful to Him according to our faith and obedience, having passed through this tempting and entangling world, we still have our hearts filled with supreme love for God and with a sincere and passionate love for His children for His sake.[7] Unfortunately, some Christians mistakenly believe they will pass God’s judgment based on faithful church attendance, daily Bible reading, nightly prayers, and participating in church activities. But John makes it clear that God is not looking for that. Instead, he wants to see our record of loving one another as we would like to love Him.

Alfred Plummer (1841-1926) says that the earliest English Versions, except for Wycliffe and the King James Version, agree on how God’s agápē is perfected.

In this thing is the perfect God’s agápē with us (Wycliffe Bible-Purvey Bible 1395)

Herein is the love perfect in us (Tyndale 1534)

Herein is the love perfect in us (Bishop’s Bible 1568)

Herein is that love perfect in us (Geneva Bible 1599)

Herein is our love made perfect (King James Version 1611)

The meaning seems to be that love, which is of God, takes up its abode with us and is developed until it is perfected. “Love” here evidently means our love towards God: His agápē towards us can have no fear about it.[8]Herein” may refer to either of the two clauses which follow. “Herein….that(ἵνα – hina) occurs possibly in John 15:8, and “Hereinbecause” (ὅτι – hoti) occurs in 1 John 3:16; 4:9, 10. But it is perhaps best to make “Herein” refer to what precedes; to our abiding in God and God in us. It avoids the awkwardness of making agápē’s perfection in the present depend upon our attitude at the judgment, which though near, according to John’s view,[9] is still in the future. In this way, we can give its full meaning to “that” ((ἵνα – hina): by close union with God, our love is made perfect so that we may have boldness on judgment day.[10]

Charles Simeon (1759-1836)  asks, what are the true Christians’ noble ambitions? It certainly is not some inferior pattern that they are content to follow. They look to see what God Himself is to His creatures and would He be to the utmost extent of His power. The Apostle Paul said he wanted to be an imitator of God.[11] Is God love? Paul also wants to be the embodiment of love; he would do nothing except out of love and say what love would accept. What a heaven would earth be if all were of this mind and spirit!

So, Pastor Simeon cries out, “Come, beloved, and rise to the occasion. See what God is to the world at large: and do the same, according to your power, all caring and love. See also what God is to His Church in particular: and be same towards every member of that Church, so far as the individual is worthy of it, alike in satisfaction and demonstration.” In a word, let your endeavor be not only godly but God-like; “Be holy now in everything you do, just as the Lord is holy, who invited you to be His child,” [12] and “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” [13] [14]

Augustus Neander (1789-1850) notices that the Apostle John characterizes the disposition of the mind, where this abiding in God’s agápē has matured. So he interprets John’s words here in verse seventeen that even when thinking about the coming judgment, our fellowship in union with God has for its bold confidence, undisturbed by fear. For the English word “boldness,” Luther uses “Freudigkeit,” which means either “joyfulness” or “readiness.” Both terms indicate such a relation to another that it allows us to talk with Him in an open conversation, to tell Him without reserve all that is in our hearts, and to turn to Him with all our concerns with faultless confidence. Such a state of joyful assured confidence, disturbed by no fear, no apprehension, in which we turn to God under all circumstances and necessities, is the one indicated.[15]

Gottfried C. F. Lücke (1791-1855)  says that some authors understood the term “love” as meaning God’s agápē to us. Others, in the sense of love for each other. The reading “of God” after “agápē” lend little support to the first interpretation. The translators of the King James version make a similar mistake by inserting “our” before “agápē.” The Greek text reads, “In this has-been-perfected the love with us.” See how love is referred to in verse sixteen if we want a clue: “We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in His love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them.” The Apostle Paul said to the Corinthians, “May the grace of the Lord Jesus the Anointed One, and God’s agápē, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” [16] We may accept what little may be gained by this interpretation of whose love it is. One simple way to consider it is that our love is from God, not from ourselves, which we share with our brothers and sisters.

Lücke mentions that Dutch lawyer and Bible scholar Hugo Grotius (1583-1645), referring to “herein” in verse seventeen, changes it to the unclear “that is how” and declares the words “in boldness” to be what gives the sense of the passage – the highest degree of love toward us. In addition, much of this world’s hatred was shown to our Lord; we grimaced in pain following His divine love’s supreme example.[17] So, being constant in enduring evil promotes the model of the Anointed One. It allows us to enjoy the best while waiting to hear from Him. But even this explanation does not remove the difficulty and almost insurmountable obscurity of Hugo Grotius’ (1583-1645) [18] interpretation; it exhibits a sentiment, which indeed is true, but in this context, entirely foreign and which is far from being suggested by any previous passage or alluded to in any subsequent one, as it is from being naturally or contained in the words with which it has been randomly connected. Without hesitation, Lücke gives preference to the opposite opinion and explains the passage according to the analogy of 1 John 3:19, in conjunction with 3:15, as expressing the power of brotherly love to give perfect confidence on the day of the divine judgment to those who exercise it according to the Anointed One’s example.

Daniel D. Whedon (1808-1885) talks about “Boldness” – Fearlessness. A calm assurance that the Savior is the Judge, a close friend of ours, and that for us, there is no fear of sin’s punishment – eternal separation from God and heaven. And this boldness is not based on the idea that there is no punishment for unrepented sin, except for the consciousness, through the spirit of love bestowed upon us, that our reconciliation with Him is a welcomed Day of judgment – His Parousia[19] or coming! As He is, so are we – our moral conformity in love gives us a trusting sympathy. He is God’s holy Son, and we, His reconciled children in this world, are equally opposed to us.[20]

Richard H. Tuck (1817-1868) says that the words “made perfect” can be understood as reaching their purpose and end. The sign of its full development in us will be the removal of fear with the “Day of Judgment.” We shall no more fear it than Jesus did. Enter into sonship, and all thought of judgment day passes away. Obedient children should not be afraid of their fathers.[21]

[1] Romans 2:16

[2] 1 John 4:18; John 15:10

[3] See 1 John 4:9

[4] Bengel, Johann: Critical English Commentary, op. cit., pp. 321-322

[5] Pyle, Thomas: Paraphrase, op. cit., p. 397

[6] Macknight, James, Literal Paraphrase, op. cit., pp. 94-95

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

[8] See 1 John 4:18

[9] 1 John 2:18

[10] Plummer, Alfred: Cambridge Commentary, op. cit., p. 151

[11] Ephesians 5:1

[12] 1 Peter 1:15

[13] Matthew 5:48

[14] Simeon, Charles: Hor Homileticæ, op. cit., Discourse 2459, p. 508

[15] Neander, Augustus: First Epistle of John, Chapters IV, V, pp. 268-269

[16] 2 Corinthians 13:14

[17] See 1 Peter 2:19; 4:16

[18] Hugo Grotius was a Dutch humanist and jurist whose philosophy of natural law had a major impact on the development of seventeenth-century political thought and on the moral theories of the Enlightenment. 

[19] The term Parousia is transliterated from Greek to denote the future coming of the Anointed One. This use of the term is based upon its New Testament meaning when related to the Anointed One. Cf. Matthew 24:3, 27, 37, 39; 1 Corinthians 15:23; 1 Thessalonians 2:19; 3:13; 4:15; 5:23; 2 Thessalonians 2:1,8,9; James 5:7,8; 2 Peter 1:16; 3:4,12; 1 John 2:28

[20] Whedon, Daniel D., Commentary of the Bible, op. cit., p. 275

[21] Tuck, Richard H., Preacher’s Compete Homiletical Commentary, op. cit. p. 310

About drbob76

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