WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER FOUR (Lesson CXI) 07/13/22

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.

William E. Shepard (1862-1930) says how sad it is to think that what God intended for light should now be extinguished for darkness; that what He designed for help should be turned into a hindrance; that what He meant to bless should be made a curse; and that what He meant for a life of holiness should be construed to indicate a life without sanctification! O, the disappointment that must be to the Anointed One! What regret will fill their souls! What an awful wail will be heard on that last great day!

The Apostle John explains, argues Shepard, that 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 worry because we are like Jesus in this world. On the other hand, if we fail in receiving this agápē or forfeit the same, we may expect to not succeed on the day of judgment. God bless those who believe in holiness. God bless the faithful witnesses of holy living. God help the Christians seeking the Light. God pity those turning out their Light in the darkness and expelling His truth from their souls, causing their destruction. Let us be faithful to God, dedicated to His Word, devoted to each other, and honest with ourselves. We will soon be through with this world; let us have the experience and live the life we wish we had when we face the stern realities of the other world. Amen.[1]

David Smith (1866-1932) notes that the Apostle John lets us know that when we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God in us. This way, love has the run of the house, feels at home, and matures in us so that we’re free of worry on Judgment Day – our standing in the world is identical to that of the Anointed One.[2] That’s because Love is a heavenly visitor journeying with us and requires observance of His guidelines. Love has been “carried to its end” when we are like Jesus, His visible representatives.[3]  Jesus is in the world unseen, and our office is to make Him visible. We are to Him what He was to the Father in the days of His flesh.[4] [5]

Harry A. Ironside (1876-1951) shares his testimony about struggling with the idea of “perfect love.” I confess to you, says Ironside, that there were years in my Christian life when I was confused about what these words, perfect love, really meant. Yet today, I know of no other passage of Scripture that gives me greater joy or seems more apparent than this verse that puzzled me for so long. Shortly after I converted, I stared at it and said, “I don’t understand.” But, of course, I was misinformed by the KJV reading. I kept reading the words, “Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as He is, so are we in this world.” I said, “If boldness in the day of judgment depends upon my love being perfect, how can I ever be sure that everything will be right with me?”

You could say that I was looking at myself and within my heart for perfect love, confesses Ironside, and as I searched my heart, I always found something contrary to ideal love, and I would say to myself, “Am I ever going to be perfect in love? I cannot have boldness on judgment day until my love is perfect.” I would go to God and earnestly pray for understanding. I sought to make a complete surrender. I would ask Him to make me perfect in love and then get up, look within, and say, “Let me see; is it alright now? Do I love everybody perfectly?” Then I would go out among people again and find I did not like this person and that one, and sometimes little twinges of jealousy would spring up. I knew I should never be jealous or envious of anyone I loved. I would end up saying, “I am just as bad as ever; how am I ever going to stand with confidence on the day of judgment?” Does this sound familiar to anyone?

I remember how glorious my conversion was that when I was born again, God showed me that perfect love did exist in another Man, the One I had been looking up to for six and a half years after my conversion. That’s when I turned away from looking at myself and said, “Look up there!” By faith, I saw another Man, Jesus the Anointed One, seated in highest glory at the Father’s right hand. Then God told me, “There, perfect love is displayed in the Anointed One.” It finally struck me; it was manifest in this world through God’s agápē. God sent His only begotten Son into the world that we might live through Him. So, this perfect love is not that we loved God first, but that He loved us and sent His Son to cover our sins with His blood. “Oh,” I said, “I see it at last. Perfect love led the Anointed One to come from Godhead’s immeasurable glory down to Calvary’s rugged hill of shame and suffering. It was perfect love that led Jesus to look upon a lost, ruined, guilty world, take all their sins upon Him, and die on their behalf on a cross meant for criminals.” So, I want to return the feeling this perfect love gave me back to the One who sent His Son to die on my behalf; like Him, I must be willing to give that same kind of love to others.[6]

Charles H. Dodd (1884-1973) states that the conformity of the Christian life with the divine character as revealed in the Anointed One is an idea never far from the Apostle John’s mind. Sometimes it is expressed precisely in De Imitatione Christi (1418-1427),[7] where the sequence of thought may be compared with verse seventeen. The context shows that John is appealing to the example of the Anointed One as the One of whom it can be said, without qualification, that He remains in love, and love is complete in Him. In John’s Gospel, we learn that the Anointed One is in perfect union with the Father, Father, and Son, dwelling mutually in one another;[8] and this union with God by mutual indwelling is held up as the archetype, or ideal, of the communion of the Christian with God.[9] All this is in John’s mind when he says, “in this world, we are conducting ourselves as He did.[10]

Greville P. Lewis (1891-1976) asserts that if constant judging is continuous, it follows that the final judgment at the end of history will not be an investigation into our fate; it will be the finalization of divine conclusions which have already been made on each individual and each nation or civilization in the world.[11] In other words, for the unconverted, they will be getting what they deserve – everlasting separation from God, while believers get what they didn’t deserve – an eternal presence with God.

Amos N. Wilder (1895-1993) sees two lines from our abiding in God’s agápē now being drawn, one concerning anxiety in the face of the Judgment, the other with anxiousness in general in the past. In that case: The perfection of the divine love is achieved among us in the twofold abiding; so great is this agápē, for example, that even on Judgment Day, we will be boldly confident. This, however, probably looks forward. Our glad boldness on the day of judgment (now upon us) is a supreme instance of the full realization of the divine love in our midst. The anguish of the great tribulation with the judge intimidated the hearts of these Christians the Apostle John is writing.[12] But, since the Antichrist was at work, the coming of the Lord was imminent. Therefore, confidence at His appearing is assured in 1 John 2:28 to those who abide in Him. Those who have a kinship with the Judge have no reason to fear Him.[13]

Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981) The whole of our life must always be present in our minds, and we must always be doing everything in the light of its eternal consequences. Cause always produces an effect; we cannot divide these things into compartments and categories. That general principle covers the three arguments the Apostle John makes. Three things are inevitable consequences of dwelling in love, of abiding in love.

Here is the first: To dwell in love is the final proof that God lives in us and that we are in God. We could never stay in love and love one another were it not that we dwell in God and God in us. This is a sheer impossibility to the human mind controlled by hatred and malice. The Bible is full of that teaching; it does not paint a rosy picture of human nature. I have often said that if we had no other reason for believing the Bible to be God’s Word, this would be sufficient for us: the stark honesty and truthfulness of the Bible, which tells the truth about humanity, is the only book that does it.

The second conclusion that we draw is that this is the demonstration of the fact that love has been perfected in us. The KJV reads, “Herein is our love made perfect.” But it is generally agreed that the better translation is, “Herein is love made perfect in us.” It gives ample proof that God’s agápē is in us. What does that mean? It means that God’s ultimate purpose in salvation and in all He has done for us in His Son, our Lord Jesus the Anointed One, is that we might become such people. This, says John, is the perfecting of God’s agápē, the perfect carrying out of God’s purpose of love.

And that brings us to the third and last conclusion in this graphic and striking form by the Apostle John: “Herein is our love made Perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment.”  Of course, this is one of the greatest and mightiest matters confronting us in the Scriptures – the doctrine of judgment, a theme taught in the Bible from beginning to end. So, what does John mean when he makes that statement? Let’s read it like this: The Day of Judgment is not merely a figurative expression of what happens to us when we die. Death, of course, is judgment because once we die, our fate is forever determined, but it is not death that determines our fate. On the contrary, death puts us in a position where we can do nothing. There is no second chance in the Bible.

It’s always one thing or the other that decides our destiny in the world of time. So, death is a serious matter; but it is not everything. The Day of Judgment is not death. Rather, it is a great event that, according to Scripture, will take place at the end of the world, at the end of time. The only question that needs to be answered between then and now is this: “Are we ready for Judgment Day?” The Apostle John says, “Yes!” Because as we live in union with the Anointed One, our love grows more perfect and complete.[14]


[1] Shepard, William E., Wrested Scriptures Made Plain, op. cit., p. 95

[2] 1 John 4:17; Cf. 4:12

[3] Ibid. 4:10

[4] John 12:49

[5] Smith, David: Expositor’s Greek Testament, op. cit., p. 192

[6] Ironside, Harry A., The Epistles of John and Jude, op. cit., pp. 161-164

[7] Thomas à Kempis (1380-1471), De Imitatione Christi (The Image of the Anointed One), Bk. 2, Chap. 6; Bk. 3, Chap. 3; See also Bk. 1, Chap. 7 and Bk. 2, Chap. 29

[8] John 14:10-11

[9] Ibid. 15:9-10; 17:21-23

[10] Dodd, Charles H., The Moffatt Commentary, Johannian Epistles, op. cit., pp. 119-120

[11] Lewis, Greville P., The Epworth Commentary, The Johannine Epistles, op. cit., p.108

[12] 1 John 2:28-29; 3:19-20

[13] Wilder, Amos N., The Interpreter’s Bible, op. cit., 1 John, Exposition, p. 285

[14] Lloyd-Jones, Martyn: Life in the Anointed One, op. cit., pp. 528-532

About drbob76

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