WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER FOUR (Lesson CLI) 08/31/22

4:20If anyone says, “I love God,” but keeps hating their spiritual brothers or sisters, they are lying; for if they don’t love their fellow believers right in front of their eyes, how can they love God whom they have never seen?

Marianne Meye Thompson (1964) ties 1 John 4:21-5:1 together as one extended thought. Finally, John tells us that God commands us to love. Whether we speak of love for God or others, God characterizes His divine will for humans in love. All those who are God’s children, like the Anointed One, are to love each other. It is a family affair. In 5:1, there are two parallel statements. One points to the importance of faith in Jesus, the other to the extent of loving each other.

These are not two separate commands a person must keep in becoming a child of God; instead, they are two expressions of what the child of God does. Faith and love express God’s work in a believer’s life. Each is centered in the person of Jesus the Anointed One: our faith is in Jesus as the Messiah of God, who provides the fundamental manifestation of God’s love for us to cope with others.[1]

Ken Johnson (1965) is unequivocal in saying that no one who hates their Christian brother or sister – does not testify that Jesus is the only begotten Son of God and the only way of Salvation – has God’s love abiding in them.[2]

Peter Pett (1966) says that those who are spiritual brothers and sisters in the Anointed One are where we can see God at work. His efforts are active within them as it is in us. He carries out His will through them. Each member has their part to play, and we are not whole without each member. If we do not love them (purpose well towards them and seek their good and rejoice in the truth we share with them), then we do not love the unseen God Who dwells within them, nor are we aware of the purpose to which He has called us.[3]

Duncan Heaster (1967) notes that the Apostle John offers the “commandment” to love our brethren as Jesus loved us on the cross.[4] Here the implications are unpacked further. That love of our fellow believers is part and parcel of our love for God. John repeats the same things from different angles and slightly plays with the words – in a desperate attempt to get us all to perceive the utterly fundamental importance of love for all our fellow believers is the only way we can love God.[5]

David Legge (1969) states that there is one more theme we need to look at: the social test of love. You might believe the correct doctrine and even behave morally – but listen to what the Apostle John says at the end of this chapter. If anyone starts bragging, “I love God,” and goes on hating their Christian brother or sister, thinking nothing of it, they are liars. If these people won’t love the person they can see, how is it possible for them to love the God they can’t see?

In the early days of radio in Britain, says Legge, Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) mentioned that mishearing can sometimes lead to mispronunciation of a name or phrase. For instance, in a famous Scottish ballad in the 1500s, “The Bonnie Earl o’Moray,” stanza three reads like this:

 “You highlands and you Lowlands

O, where have you been?

They have slain the Earl of Moray

And laid him on the green.

Someone, who was not that good a speaking Irish, heard it and began quoting it as follows:

You Highlands and you Lowlands

O, where have you been?

They have slain the Earl Amurray

And Lady Mondegreen.

John is asking, did you hear what I said? Listen to me again; if you hate your Christian brother or sister, you lie when you say you love God. The command from the Godhead is blunt: Loving God includes loving people, and you’ve got to love both; just one won’t do.[6]

Gary H. Everett (1972) notes that using the word “Amen” at the end of most books of the Final Covenant suggests that it was supplied later as a liturgical confession. For example, in the Greek Textus Receptus, the word “Amen” is attached to the end of all thirteen of Paul’s epistles. The four Gospels, as well as the General Epistle of Hebrews, 1-2 Peter, 1-3 John, and the Book of Revelation. Epistles of Hebrews, 1-2 Peter, 1-2 John, and the book of Revelation. However, because “Amen” is missing in the more ancient manuscripts, many scholars believe this word is a later liturgical addition.

This declaration goes back to the Mosaic Law when the Israelites were to declare “Amen” at reading God’s Laws and judgments to affirm these truths over their lives.[7] Likewise, the psalmists used this word to conclude several psalms.[8] The fact that “Amen” comes at the end of all the books in the Final Covenant, except Acts of the Apostles, James, and 3 John, suggests that this Jewish tradition carried over into the Final Covenant Church.

Furthermore, the Apostle Paul uses “Amen” in his letters to the Corinthians[9] as his benediction. Therefore, the early apostolic churches perhaps added “Amen.” We see this in Paul’s declaration, “For all of God’s promises have been fulfilled in the Anointed One with a resounding “Yes!” And through the Anointed One, our “Amen” ascends to God for His glory.”[10] The closing declaration of “Amen” in the books of the Final Covenant is a Hebrew word that means “I believe,” “so be it,” or “yes,” and God’s people use it throughout the Scriptures as a verbal affirmation of their faith in the truth of His Word. This word has echoed throughout heaven for eternity past, and heaven’s angelic hosts and God’s children will shout “Amen” eternally.[11] [12]

As we have seen, chapter four emphasizes how God’s agápē removes the natural human horror of rejection. Fear is a punishment of its own, and those who do not believe have reason to dread judgment. Believers, on the other hand, be bold. Not only has the Anointed One forgiven our sins, but He gives us God’s agápē. Following in this love leads to acceptance, confidence, and driving out any anxiety. This chapter is the crucial section of John’s letter, explaining how faith builds up confidence in the life of a believer.

THE END

Congratulations! Your faithfulness and interest in God’s Word have brought you to a landmark accomplishment. In thirty weeks, you just finished reading 151 Lessons on John’s First Epistle.

Any comments, suggestions, or questions are welcomed and would be greatly appreciated.

We will take a break in September and return for the last road trip through the fifth chapter of John’s First Epistle. I know you will enjoy it because portions are very profound, but you will learn much about the evidence for claiming that Jesus is the Anointed One, the Messiah, God’s only begotten Son. 

[1] Thompson, Marianne M., The IVP New Testament Commentary, op. cit., p. 129

[2] Johnson, Ken. Ancient Epistles of John and Jude, op. cit., p. 79

[3] Pett, Peter: Commentary on the Bible, op. cit., PDF, loc. cit.

[4] John 13:34

[5] Heaster, Duncan: New European Commentary, op. cit., 1 John, p. 37

[6] Legge, David: 1,2,3 John, Preach the Word, op. cit., “Christian Love: Its Source and Sign,” Part 13

[7] Numbers 5:22, Deuteronomy 27:15-26, 1 Chronicles 16:36, Nehemiah 5:13; 8:6, Jeremiah 28:6

[9] 1 Corinthians 14:16

[8] Psalms 41:13; 72:19; 89:52; 106:48

[10] 2 Corinthians 1:20 – New Living Translation (NLT)

[11] Revelation 5:14; 7:12; 19:4

[12] Everett, Gary H., Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures, The Epistle of 1 John, by Gary H. Everett, loc. cit.


About drbob76

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