WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER FOUR (Lesson LXXIII) 04/29/22

COMMENTARY

Bede the Venerable (672-735) sees a correlation between God’s agápē for us and our love for each other. He writes that this is what the Apostle Paul meant when he wrote, “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as the Anointed One loved us and gave Himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”[1] [2]  And Œcumenius notes that as imitators of God: “The love we show to one another ought to be like God’s love to us. It should be sincere and pure; without ulterior motives or other hidden thoughts of the kind we normally associate with robbers and other evildoers.”[3]

John Trapp (1601-1669) warns his fellow believers. If God loved us so much, His one example answers all our objections. It removes all our excuses, such as our fellow believers are inferior and mean spirited, and we deserve better.[4]

John Owen (1616-1683) encountered doubters who objected to what the Apostle John says in verse sixteen about trusting God to love them. Owen responds by saying that this is one of the most unbelievable thoughts anyone can take a stand on. But it is the easiest way to try and rob God of His glory by refusing to accept the truth that we love God because He loved us.[5] The Holy Spirit inspired John to say, “This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us.” There is no reason to invert the order and say, this is love: not that God loved us, but that we loved Him first.

Why try and take God’s glory from Him? He loves us without reason as to what we have to offer Him.[6] But we have every reason to worship Him. Or would you rather say that God loved you just because of who you are? This is human nature’s way of trying to find out, but it will not bring glory to God nor peace to your soul. So put this kind of thinking out of your mind, then take God at His word by believing the Gospel message, and that will open your soul free it to join the Lord in the communion of love.[7]

Isaac Barrow: 1630-1677) comments on what the Apostle John says here in verse eleven, “Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” Since He so lovingly gave up His only Son for us, shouldn’t we express kindness toward our fellow believers in imitation of Him concerning gratitude? How many good things can we do for them; what part of our lives should be so dear to us to share what we can for their good?[8] Those are questions we must ask ourselves since our Master told us, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

William Burkitt (1650-1703) makes a good point that the Apostle John’s argument here is to provoke us to do something we should already be doing. God is to be loved by us for His wondrous love: But as God is unseen, we must love Him through others. It is because He made His creatures after His image and likeness: And if we love the divine image of God in each other, it is evidence that God dwells in us, and we in Him; namely, by the indwelling of His Holy Spirit, which is a Spirit of love in us, draws forth our love towards Him and others.[9]

Thomas Pyle (1674-1756) suggests that such an unparalleled instance of divine compassion to sinful creatures ought to make us express the tenderest regard to the welfare of all those whom God was pleased to put such high a value on. Not only that, but demonstrate our appreciation by showing mercy, even to those who least deserve it.[10]

John Wesley (1703-1791) picks up on the Apostle John’s words where he says that God gave us this command: If we love God, we must also love each other as brothers and sisters[11] and that our love must be real. We must show our love by the things we do.[12] With these things being true, says Wesley, then we must heed what John then says, that is how much God loved us, dear friends! We also must love each other in the same manner.[13] As King David said, to every human soul, “The Lord is good to everyone. He showers compassion on all His creation.[14]

We must agree, says Wesley, that the affection of those who receive God’s agápē must include humanity for His sake, not excluding the ones they’ve seen or those they knew nothing about except that they were “the offspring of God.”[15] (Never say you don’t have God’s agápē in your heart because the Holy Spirit put it there, [16] you just choose not to use it.) So, John included those whose souls for whom God’s Son died, not omitting the “evil” and “unthankful,” and least of all their enemies who hated, persecuted, or despitefully used them for their Master’s sake. These had a peculiar place, both in their heart and prayers. They loved them, “even as the Anointed One loved us.”[17] [18]

John Brown of Haddington (1722-1787) asks since God so loved us with such high and astonishing standards, we whom He so loved and redeemed by His Son’s precious blood most certainly ought, under the influence of this agápē, and in imitation of it, to maintain the most enthusiastic affection toward our fellow Christians for His sake and in obedience to His will.[19] Again, Dr. Brown asks us to compare our love for Him with His agápē for us. Most certainly, all of us would fall way short of any expectation of equaling His example.

William Jones of Nayland (1726-1805) believes Christians are obligated to copy the Divine example in loving one another, grounded upon our relation to Him as His children. Because we are “born again of God,[20] we should seek to resemble Him. The Apostle Paul’s argument is similar: You are God’s children, so be like Him.[21] If we are “partakers of the Divine nature,” we should imitate the Divine example. First, relative to mankind in general.[22] He loved us with the love of compassion before He could love us with the love of contentment. Let us imitate Him regarding our relationship with those who are yet in their sins. Second, relative to the Christian brotherhood in particular.[23] Let us demonstrate our relation to the Father, who is infinite Love, by our sincere love for our Christian brothers and sisters. Let the supreme manifestation regarding His agápē for us produce its appropriate effect in us.[24]

Charles Hodge (1797-1878) says that the Scriptures do not mock us when they say that God is like a father to us, tender and sympathetic, especially to those who reverence Him.[25] Our heavenly Father meant what He said when He proclaimed that Yahweh, the Lord, is a kind and merciful God. He is slow in getting angry, full of great love, and can be fully trusted.[26] That’s why the Apostle John can say that we should love each other because love comes from God. Everyone who loves has become God’s child. And so, everyone who loves knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God because God is love. It is how God showed His agápē to us by sending His only Son into the world to give us eternal life through Him. True love is God’s agápē for us, not our love for God. He sent His Son as a way to take away our sins. That is how much God loved us, dear friends! We must do the same.[27] The word love has the same sense throughout this passage. God is love, and love in Him is what love is in us, in all that is essential to its nature. That’s why we do rejoice, yes, and will rejoice.[28]

Pastor Samuel Martin, (1802-1877) pastor of the General Baptist Conigre Chapel, Trowbridge County, England, famous for its woven cloth, 120 miles west of London, says that God’s agápē is the pattern for our love. And here are the reasons why: 1. Because ignorance of what God means by love must now be willful. 2. Because doubt and uncertainty about the objects of love are forever excluded. 3. Because the power of love to conquer obstacles and impediments is most gloriously shown in God’s case. 4. The restoration of love between humans is one of God’s objects in that redemption, proving His agápē for us. 5. Because we are required to be followers of God as dear children. 6. Because love on our part must be pleasing to God. 7. Because “as a result of this, we express our love towards God.”[29]

William Graham (1810-1883) says that the subject of Love contained in the seventh to eleventh verses in various forms is like surveying a magnificent building from multiple sides and angles, that you might gain the combined idea of the whole in all its varieties of architectural elegance: so, the Apostle John contemplates the theme of Love from all angles and finds it ever new and beautiful; for, in all its manifoldness, it comes from God and returns to God. It’s all about “brotherly love.” We are loved, says John; therefore, we should treasure the arms of the Father around us, and, consequently, we ought to love one another. The experience of His agápē to us awakens the consciousness of our duty to love one another. This we find practically true in our experience among people, for where we find those who love God, we are sure to find love to the brethren in a similar proportion. His agápē is first, and then, loving Him in return, we are also conscious of the obligation to love the brethren. May we seek to remove every impediment to exercising this noble affection. May we recognize all those of our brethren and fellow pilgrims of every name and country who love the Lord in our daily walk. Jesus the Anointed One in sincerity and truth![30]


[1] Ephesians 5:1-2

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

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

[4] Trapp, John: Commentary upon all books of New Testament (1647), op. cit., p. 477

[5] 1 John 4:10-11

[6] Romans 5:8

[7] Owen, John: On Communion with God, op. cit., Ch. 4, p. 49

[8] Barrows, Isaac: An Exposition on the Creed, op. cit., p 181

[9] Burkitt, William: Notes on N.T., op. cit., p. 731

[10] Pyle, Thomas: Paraphrase, op. cit., p.

[11] 1 John 4:21

[12] Ibid. 3:18

[13] Ibid. 4:11

[14] Psalm 145:9 – New Living Translation

[15] Acts of the Apostles 17:29

[16] Romans 5:5

[17] Ephesians 5:2

[18] Wesley, John, the Works of: Vol. 5, Sermon 4, pp. 25, 99

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

[20] See 1 John 4:7

[21] Ephesians 5:1-2

[22] Matthew 4:44-45

[23] Cf. 1 John 3:10-18

[24] Jones, William: First Epistle of John, Pulpit Commentary, Vol. 22, op. cit., Homiletics, p. 121

[25] Psalm 103:13

[26] Exodus 34:6

[27] 1 John 4:7-11

[28] Hodge, Charles. Systematic Theology, op. cit., Vol. I, p. 404

[29] Martin, Samuel: The Biblical Illustrator, op. cit., 1 John 4, p. 88

[30] Graham, William: A Practical and Exegetical Commentary on the First Epistle of John, op. cit., pp. 254, 270

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WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER FOUR (Lesson LXXII) 04/28/22

4:10 This is real love – not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.

Colin G. Kruse (1950) believes that the Apostle John wanted to make something clear to his community in negative terms, that love is not to be understood in terms of our love for God: “This is love: not that we loved God.” Then, having made that clear, John states that love is to be understood as God’s love for us: “This is love … that He loved us by sending His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” The combined effect of verses nine and ten is that the expression “God is love” is to be understood not as a supernatural statement about God’s essential being, but in terms of the love of God expressed historically in the sending of His only Son into the world as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.[1]

Judith M. Lieu (1951) says it is evident that the world is the setting into which the Son is sent, but the purpose of His mission is that “we” might live. The word “world” (Greek kosmos) describes the planet earth in general in contrast to its negative connotations elsewhere.[2] However, when set alongside 1 John 3:8, it would allow us to envision the assignment of God’s Son into hostile territory to rescue those who count themselves among “us.” Since the sphere of the world is that of hatred and death, that rescue leads to true living; the verb “to live” appears only here in the Epistle, but even, as here, without the adjective “eternal.” This noun has been used for the life that belongs to God’s realm.[3] The means of that gift of life is expressed in verse seven, the most general of terms, “through Him” (His Son).[4] John is not disregarding the atonement purchased by the Anointed One on the cross. Instead, he lines up his thoughts to amplify in verse eight how and why God manifested His agápē in such a manner.

Ben Witherington III (1951) stresses that first, the Apostarele John emphasizes that Jesus was sent so that we might have life through Him. Second, God sent His Son as a sacrifice of atonement to appease divine anger about sin. If God is love, then it is hardly a surprise that God is supremely and righteously indignant about our sinning because it destroys our love relationships with God and each other. We have statements here are similar to what we find in John’s Gospel.[5] Love and life are the opposites of hate and death, yet the substitutionary and atoning death of Jesus is the prime example of God’s love for us.[6]

Gary M. Burger (1952) says that Christians who claim to be loving should exhibit much more. They also give evidence that they have been born from God and know Him.[7] The first verb is a perfect tense, suggesting that divine rebirth is in the past, yet bearing fruit is in the present. A person once converted now demonstrates the fruit of that conversion. The second verb is in the present tense, implying that love is connected to an ongoing awareness of who God is. Why did John select these particular words? Spiritual rebirth and divine knowledge were undoubtedly promoted among those who forsook the community.[8] John, therefore, gives a test of true spiritual maturity that defeats in a stroke his opponents’ spiritual claim; he bases his comments on their unspiritual conduct in that they have been unloving.[9]

Bruce G. Schuchard (1958) states that earlier in this passage, the Apostle John contrasted “everyone who loves… knows God” and “the one who does not love has not known God.” Here, John likewise concludes with the division of “not because we have loved God” and “but because He loved us first.” Sinful human nature has taught us that unbelievers are so smothered in sin’s embrace they cannot think or feel anything good about God. Consequently, they do not love God but hate Him because He ruined their lives. Therefore, as John says, it’s not that we loved God, but in the Anointed One, love found us. What a wondrous thought! Found us when we were not seeking Him, but because He loved us first. Therefore, a proper understanding of love does not begin with the question of our love for God but His love for us.[10]

Marianne Meye Thompson (1964) highlights that the atoning death of Jesus provides how believers come into a life-giving realm where love is received and expressed.[11] Second, we do not simply gaze at the painting on the wall; stand in front of a statue; count beads with our fingers, or read we are touched by the hand of God and receive life-giving love. And third, because life and love come from God, God’s activity and not our behavior and efforts define the essence of love.[12]

Peter Pett (1966) This is the ultimate definition and revelation of agápē. It is not found in any love that we have but in God’s great Love in which He sent His own beloved Son to be the remedy for our sins. It is a Love that has provided a way back to God. Likewise, it is a love that offers a means of doing everything necessary to remove the effects of sin from those who respond to Him. The Greek noun hilasmos (translated by KJV as “propitiation”) might be too strong a word because it might suggest unrighteous anger, and God’s “anger” is holy[13] and pure and never unrighteous.

What this propitiation achieves, says Pett, is that what Jesus did through His sacrifice can make a person as though they never sinned because of all the consequences of God’s total dislike for sin. But despite that, the penalty for our sin was carried by Jesus the Anointed One to the cross, and through His death, He was given our punishment as a payment. Through it, He has redeemed humanity from sin, delivering them by the price of His life for our life. He made a “ransom” payment for many.[14] He Who knew no sin was, as it were, made sin for us, suffering on our behalf, that we might be made right with God in Him.[15] There can be no greater love than this. Love expressed itself when God humbled Himself, and in Jesus, the Anointed One became human to bear in Himself the sin of the world.[16] [17]

Karen H. Jobes (1968) relates that human history has witnessed many things motivated by love for God. Some of them were horrendous acts of evil. Even the purest and well-intentioned “love” for God that has its origin in only human emotions and sentiments is not the kind of agápē of which John speaks. The Apostle John has already stated that “God is love” and that God’s love motivated the incarnation of Jesus the Anointed One so that “we might live through Him.”[18] In verse ten, John restates that true love is the agápē that originates with God, not whatever might pass for love by human origin and definition. The agápē of which John speaks does not originate within the human being, but is from God’s Spirit’s divine being.[19]

4:11     This shows how much God loved us, dear friends!  So, we must love each other the same way.

EXPOSITION

John could have said this with such conviction had he not been there after Jesus washed their feet and told them, “I give you a new command: Love each other. You must love each other just as I loved you. All people will know that you are my followers if you love each other.[20] And when Jesus was teaching the disciples about His being the vine, and they serve as branches, He told them, “This is what I command you: Love each other as I have loved you. The greatest love people can show is to die for their friends.[21] Recipients of God’s agápē have a responsibility. How can a Christian not love someone God loves? God’s agápē is a motivation for the love of fellow Christians. We have a moral obligation to love as Jesus loved. None of us has gone to the extent of the cross for others. The very nature of the cross is selflessness. If God loved us without our loving Him, then we ought to love others without their loving us.

The word “ought” employed by KJV translators is a contraction of two English words: “owes it.” That is what the Greek verb opheilō means. We owe love to fellow Christians for God’s sake and the sake of His agápē for us. We ought to serve them and minister to them. There is no question that the believer falls under a moral obligation to love fellow Christians. We find the word “ought” is utilized the same way in this Epistle.[22] It established a principle: If God loved us without loving Him, we ought to love others without them loving us.[23]

This is the sixth and last time John uses “beloved” for his readers.  John was passionate about his readers, and God loved John’s readers as well. God’s example of love should set an example for the believer’s love for Christians.  The “if” in Greek assumes that John’s readers agreed with the reality of God’s agápē for them.  “If” or, better, “since” refers to verse ten. The word “so” is just as broad as John 3:16. How robust is God’s agápē in sending His Son to die for us? There is no way to measure it.  Nothing men did or said about God changed His agápē for them. 

Responsibility to love falls on those who receive God’s agápē. How can a Christian not love someone God loves? God’s agápē is a motivation for the love of fellow believers. It is incumbent upon us to love as Jesus loved. None of us has gone to a cross for others. The very nature of the cross is selflessness. If God loved us without our loving Him, then we ought to love others without their loving us. We owe love to fellow Christians for God’s sake and the sake of His agápē for us.


[1] Kruse, Colin G., The Letters of John (The Pillar New Testament Commentary (PNTC)), op. cit., loc. cit. Kindle Edition

[2] Cf. 1 John 2:15-17; 3:13; 4:4-5

[3] Ibid. 1:2; 3:14

[4] Ibid. 3:16

[5] John 3:16-17

[6] Witherington III, Ben: Letters and Homilies for Hellenized Christians: op. cit., loc. cit., (Kindle Locations 7173-7177)

[7] 1 John 4:7b; cf. 5:4

[8] Ibid. 3:9

[9] Burge, Gary M., The Letters of John (The NIV Application Commentary), op. cit., p. 186

[10] Schuchard, Bruce G., Concordia Commentary, op. cit., p. 449

[11] John 3:16; 1 John 3:16

[12] Thompson, Marianne M., The IVP New Testament Commentary, op. cit., p. 123

[13] Romans 1:18

[14] Mark 10:45

[15] 2 Corinthians 5:21

[16] Philippians 2:5-11

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

[18] 1 John 4:8-9

[19] Jobes, Karen H., 1, 2, and 3 John (Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on The New Testament, Book 18), p. 192

[20] John 13:34

[21] Luke 15:12-13

[22] 1 John 2:6; 3:16

[23] Derickson, Stanley L., Notes on Theology, op. cit., pp. 254-255

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WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER FOUR (Lesson LXXI) 04/27/22

4:10 This is real love—not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.

John concludes by saying that God “sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” Earlier in his epistle, John wrote the same words.[1] God’s only Son covered our sins and set us free from guilt. Note that the contrast is between God’s Son and our sins in this last part of verse ten. God took the initiative in showing His agápē to mankind when He sent His Son.[2] It should wake us to consider our answer to the question, “What have you done for Him?” Not to pay Him back, that’s impossible, but as a way of saying, “I love you too, Lord.”

Stephen S. Smalley (1931-2018) sees the thought of verse nine paralleled in verse ten, which develops the ideas in the previous verses by explaining the nature of the divine mission undertaken for humanity’s salvation. The words “through Him” in verse nine form the bridge, for John is now going on to describe how it is that “through” the work of the Son we can experience the Father’s love and life.[3] It is essential to get the Apostle John’s point here about love. It is not simply the awakening of some dormant feeling we already have in us. It was never there before, so it must be instilled in us. And that does not come by way of meditation or assimilation but a deliberate act of the Holy Spirit.[4] Therefore, the fountain of this agápē is not self-generated but flows from God in and through us to others.

Edward J. Malatesta (1932-1998) sees verse ten as being in step with verse nine, but adds the thought that the nature of God’s agápē is such that He took the initiative and loved us first. It didn’t start when Jesus came; it was in God’s Spirit before the world was formed. His coming was significant in many ways; He not only came to cover our sins and remove the penalty of eternal separation from the Father, but to give of His life so that we could live on earth as He did, loving others. It cost Him His physical life, so we could have eternal spiritual life with Him.[5]

Muncia Walls (1937) states that another interesting thing about this verse is the fact the definite article (“the”) appears before the word love. So, we are not considering just any love here, but the unique love which only God could manifest to His creation. Our Lord’s great love was a direct result of His will. He did not love us because we loved Him. He loved us even though we did not love Him. In fact, we could not manifest this love until He first loved us and manifested it through us.[6] So, that leaves us with this question: Since Jesus told us to love one another as He loved us, [7] should we wait for those who refuse to love us first? If you want to be like Jesus, no; we must love them first.

Stanley L. Derickson (1940) says there are different levels of love. One may be the levels that a couple passes through on their way to the altar. They first get that fuzzy feeling when they are getting to know one another. They may then move into the area where they are deep friends. Furthermore, they may even begin to see the beauty in us, that inner beauty that expresses itself. However, the love that a marriage needs to survive is the love that determines to do good for the other partner. Couples may get married in the first level of love and find that they have worked through the other three to a solid marriage; however, a marriage in the first three levels is not usually rock-solid. The first three types of love lack the total commitment of the final level of love. God’s agápē is far above all four of these human levels of love. His agápē is that within Him that moves Him to give of Himself to His creatures, regardless of their merit. He does this of His free will and does it eternally. This agápē is what the Apostle John talks about, which shows that God sent the Anointed One in love with a people who did not love Him or God. “This is love! It is not that we loved God, but that He loved us. For God sent His Son to pay the penalty for our sins with His blood.”[8]

Derickson recalls that he once heard a little boy say, “If I were God, I’d go to every country in the world and say, ‘You guys love one another or else!’” God does not operate in this way, however. He gives His agápē and does not force that love upon those that reject it. The Apostle Paul tells us that while we were yet sinners, He acted by sending His Son. He did not wait for someone to approach Him.[9] And the Apostle John also said that God loved us so much He sent His only Son to die so that we could be free to love Him and each other.[10]

Michael Eaton (1942-2017) points out that men and women did not reach out after God in true worship and gratitude. Although they knew that God was there, they did not glorify Him as God and were ungrateful to Him.[11] The initiative was entirely on God’s side. He took the steps that were needed to bring us to Himself. The purpose was “that we might become spiritually alive through Him.” When we are cleansed from our sins, the result is the spiritual liveliness that comes from God.

The situation for humanity was awful, says Eaton. God was righteously angry with the human race. Yet, He sent His Son to be a “propitiation.” Although scholars have discussed the meaning of this word many times, there can be little doubt that it includes the notion of turning away anger. Propitiation is “a sacrifice that turns away anger.” God is love, but there is such a thing as God’s anger. It is not a matter of God losing His temper. God’s anger is His purposeful reaction to sin and evil, through which He wishes to express His disgust and call people to repentance. In Torah, we read that God’s anger is a reaction. It is not inherent and spontaneous, as is His agápē. Love in God is eternal; God’s anger is holy. It bums when holiness is scorned.[12] God’s anger is injured, love.[13] [14]

William Loader (1944) notes that the Apostle John had already referred to the Anointed One’s atoning work.[15] He probably wants us to understand sacrifice in very general terms. As there were sacrifices for sin in the First Covenant order, the Anointed One’s sacrifice deals with sins supremely. There is no indication that John is thinking here of any particular offering, such as the sacrifices of the Day of Atonement or the Passover lamb, which developed atoning significance.[16] To put this another way, John sees Jesus’ coming to destroy the devil’s works, not to quench the spark of each sin but to put a blanket of His blood upon all the flames of sin to extinguish the fire.

David Jackman (1947) says that verses nine and ten are packed full of meaning as the Apostle John elaborates his second great theme. Since God is love, all our definitions of what love is and how it behaves must be drawn from Him if they are to accord with reality· This also helps elaborate and explain the quality of love, to which John has been referring in the previous two verses. The love which is the proof of a genuine relationship with God is a love manifested in actions for the benefit of others, even to the point of self-sacrifice. To understand that love, we have to understand the heart of God. It also underlines that only those who love has ransomed know its full extent. As the Apostle Peter said, “It is all so wonderful that even the angels eagerly watch these things happen.”[17]

It is expressed in an old hymn that reads:

His love is stronger than death and

Its riches are unsearchable.

The first-born sons of light

Desire in vain its depths to see;

They cannot reach the mystery,

The length, and breadth, and height.[18]

So, let us grasp a further truth about what the death of the Anointed One accomplished. He died for our sins. It was because of our sins that Jesus died, for He had none of His own. He dealt with them in that death because He paid the penalty of separation from the heavenly Father, which we deserve. Therefore, our sins are forgiven and removed because of the cross, the consequence being that we might live through Him. So, the ultimate purpose of this sending and commissioning His Son was that we might receive eternal life in the place of everlasting death. It is only through Jesus that such energy can come to us.[19]

John W. (Jack) Carter (1947) points out that some might teach a heresy that states that one can lose their salvation by expressing any individual or number of sins.  Some communicate that salvation is lost for any sin that one has not subsequently repented of and sought forgiveness.  However, the scriptural evidence is clear that salvation is secure, simply because sin no longer has the power to separate us from God.  God keeps the commitment for us.  The decision for faith was not a vow to stop sinning.  The decision for faith was a commitment to repent from our sin, as we strive to live a life of obedience to the one to whom we have committed our lordship.[20]

Robert W. Yarbrough (1948) states that the Apostle John’s theological sociology is not rosy. The Jesus of John’s Gospel told listeners, “I know that you do not have God’s love in your hearts.”[21] Later in this epistle, John laments, “The whole world is under the control of the evil one.”[22] The stubbornness of the human heart made it impossible for Jesus to “entrust Himself” even to His disciples.[23] John portrays the Anointed One as having addressed people – “the world[24] – “whose hearts were blinded and deadened.”[25] It is only through spiritual rebirth that people are infused with capacities that make reception of divine love, and thereby the expression of divine love, a possibility.[26]


[1] See 1 John 2:2; cf. Romans 3:25

[2] Kistemaker, Simon J., New Testament Commentary, op. cit., p. 333

[3] Smalley, Stephen S., Word Biblical Commentary, Vol. 51, op. cit., pp. 242-243

[4] Romans 5:5

[5] Malatesta, Edward J., Interiority and Covenant, op. cit., pp. 297-298

[6] Wall, Muncia: Epistles of John & Jude, op. cit., p. 74

[7] John 13:34

[8] 1 John 4:10

[9] Romans 5:8

[10] 1 John 4:10

[11] See Romans 1:21

[12] See Exodus 32:10ff; Isaiah 5:25

[13] Hebrews 10:31

[14] Eaton, Michael: Focus on the Bible, 1.2.3 John, op. cit., pp. 149-151

[15] 1 John 2:2

[16] Loader, William: Epworth Commentary, op. cit., p. 53

[17] 1 Peter 1:12b

[18]O Love Divine, How Sweet Thou Art,” by Charles Wesley (1749) 

[19] Jackman, David: The Message of John’s Letters, op. cit., pp. 119, 121

[20] Carter, Dr. John W. (Jack). 1,2,3, John & Jude: Holding to the Truth in Love (The Disciple’s Bible Commentary Book 48), pp. 107-108

[21] John 5: 42 – NIV

[22] 1 John 5:19

[23] John 2:24

[24] 1 John 1:10-11

[25] John 12:49

[26] Yarbrough, Robert W., 1-3 John (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament), op. cit., p. 239

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WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER FOUR (Lesson LXX) 04/26/22

4:10 This is real love—not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981) says that in verses nine and ten, the Apostle John is anxious to remind us that God is manifesting that essential nature of His – He is love. Out of mercy for us, God manifested that love. He did not leave it up to our imagination. He made it unmistakably plain and clear. So, we can express John’s immediate argument: “If only you simply understood agápē, if only You knew something about it, then most of your problems and difficulties would immediately vanish.” So, John then proceeds to tell us more about this great and glorious agápē of God.

At this point, Lloyd-Jones admits that sometimes he cannot understand the hardness of his heart. How could we look at and believe all that John has said and not be overwhelmed by God’s love? How can we contemplate these things and not be thoroughly humbled? How can any hatred remain in us? How can we do anything but love one another, as we consider such astonishing love? How can we look at these things and believe them and not feel utterly unworthy and ashamed of ourselves and that we owe everything to Him and that we dedicate our lives to expressing our gratitude, praise, and thanksgiving?

Then Lloyd Jones makes a request that we should follow today. He says, let us resolve together to meditate more and more every day upon this amazing love. First, look at it in terms of yourself, then in terms of God, what God has done, what the Anointed One has done. Go over these things; study them; read more in the Bible about them; examine them. Go on looking at them; contemplate them until your heart melts, and You feel God’s agápē possessing You wholly. Then Lloyd-Jones offers the words of an old hymn which is still sung today in many churches.[1] The lyrics read:

When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.
[2]

Rudolf Schnackenburg (1914-2002) sees the Apostle John contemplating on the nature of love. He is profoundly impressed by the unique and supreme deed of God’s agápē as he has just described it. This, in turn, leads him to recognize that such a perfect revelation of love and the reality of such love exist only as a result of a gracious act of God. It is this act that forms the center of the Christian revelation. Love could not become an adequate existential power in the world through human effort, but only through God. There is no parallel to these statements outside of Christianity.[3] They contain genuine Christian insights, which the author has grasped in-depth. In them, the essence of Christianity is recognized as a religion of “to-love” (each other) and “not-love” (the world.) Not, however, in the sense that love is the peak and centerpiece of Christian teaching, but in the much more important reason that the human race only knows what love is since the sending of God’s Son. Only in Him have they experienced an unconditional love given to them to its furthermost depths and heights.[4]

Daniel C. Snaddon (1915-2009) says that this perfected love of which the Apostle John speaks is unrelated to anything humans could do. It’s “not that we loved God, but that He loved us.” This perfect love flowed “toward us” and is expressed in the gift of Jesus the Anointed One.[5] God’s agápē cannot be compared with or related to human love. According to Paul, these are rare examples of a person dying for an upright man. There are other examples of people who have given their lives for a good person. Such care is extremely rare indeed.

God’s agápē cannot be measured – size – height – depth– length – width, says Snaddon. It is a love that transcends all human logic.[6] And to compare it to other loves, God’s agápē is “a depth without a bottom” and “a sea without a shore,” “a beachless ocean,” God’s agápē knows no bounds; deep, vast, immense, unfathomed, incredibly profound! What can ever separate us from the Anointed One’s love?[7] His agápē gives us confidence in the day of judgment.[8] He came to seek and save that which was lost.[9] Like the woman with the issue of blood[10] or the woman caught adultery, [11] He came to save you even if you are a lost sheep[12] or a prodigal son.[13] [14]

John Phillips (1927-2010) concludes that nothing a person could have done or said for God to adopt a favorable attitude or kindly disposition toward us. God is appeased because His holy and righteous character has been vindicated through the Anointed One’s sacrifice and atonement on our behalf. He eradicated our guilt and sin so that He could show mercy to believing sinners like us – Love found a way. At the same time, it is never said that God is reconciled to us. All the hostility exists on our side, not His. We need to be reconciled with God, not He with us. He has always been ready to embrace us. God is immutable, changeless, and forever the same. He can act differently toward those who approach Him, but such action is based solely upon the ground of the atoning work of the Anointed One at Calvary, not because He has changed. He can act differently toward the believer because Calvary, having removed our sin and guilt, makes it possible for Him to do so. He always works in keeping with His changeless righteousness as well as in keeping with His boundless love.[15]

Raymond E. Brown (1928-1998) comments on the Apostle John’s words here, “Herein is love,” (KJV); “This is love” (NIV), and suggests that we see it as, “In this, then, does love consist.” In this instance, virtually all commentators agree. In verse nine, says Brown, the Apostle John said that God’s agápē was revealed; now he tells us what this agápē consists of. Not surprisingly, a scribe named Sinaiticus copied the Greek text in what is known as “Codex Sinaiticus[16] and added “God” after “Herein is [God’s] love,” in imitation of verse nine. So also, a scribe named Sahidic added “of God” after “love” for the same reason in the Ethiopian Coptic language. But this was all unnecessary, since John is speaking of a comprehensive love, which only God contains.[17]

John R. W. Stott (1921-2011) puts verses nine and ten together to be read as one. It is not our primary love, but God’s, free, unconditional – so we don’t have to earn it; and spontaneous – so we don’t have to beg for it; all our love is but a reflection of His and a response to it. We must ask ourselves if the love we use is the same. If not, then it is not God’s agápē. Therefore, the coming of the Anointed One is a concrete, historical revelation of God’s agápē, for agápē is self-sacrifice, seeking another’s positive good at one’s own cost. A more incredible self-giving than God’s gift of His Son has never existed, nor ever will be.[18]

David E. Hiebert (1928-1995) designates “only begotten” as a key term. As applied to the Anointed One, it is unique to the Apostle John.[19] Elsewhere in the Gospels, it is used of an only child.[20] In the Book of Hebrews, it is used of Isaac to indicate his unique relationship to Abraham as the only son of promise[21] The term is derived from the Greek mono (“only,” “single”) and genes (“kind”), which denotes uniqueness (“the only one of its kind”) rather than origin. The term denotes that as the “only” Son of God, He has no equal and can fully reveal the Father. It is why the Apostle Paul’s expression “His own Son” reflects the same concept.[22] Actually, the familiar English rendering “only begotten Son” was based on Jerome’s usage of the Latin unigenitus in the Vulgate for the Old Latin translation unicus.[23] It is where we get our English word “unique,” which is borrowed from the French unique. No doubt that is why the NIV and NLT leave out the word “begotten” and render it as “one and only.”

Simon J. Kistemaker (1930-2017) includes these two verses among the treasured passages of the entire epistle. They, too, speak of love that originates in God and describe the believer as a person who loves and knows God. John states that love stems from God, not mankind.[24] God loves the unlovable. As a hymn writer once wrote:

I sought the Lord, and afterward I knew

He moved my soul to seek Him seeking me;

It was not that I found, O Savior true,

No, I was found, was found of Thee.

Thou didst reach forth thy hand and mine enfold,
I walked and sank not on the storm-vexed sea.
‘Twas not so much that I on thee took hold
as thou, dear Lord, on me.

I find, I walk, I love; but O the whole

Of love is but my answer. Lord, to Thee!

For Thou wert long beforehand with my soul,

Always, always thou lovedst me.[25]


[1] Lloyd-Jones, Martyn: Life in the Anointed One, op. cit. pp. 429-430, 438-439

[2] When I Survey the Wondrous Cross, (1707), with lyrics by Isaac Watts (1674-1748), and music by Lowell Mason (1792-1872)

[3] See Excursus 10.4

[4] Schnackenburg, Rudolf: The Johannine Epistles, op. cit., p. 209

[5] See Ezekiel 41

[6] Ephesians 3:18-19

[7] Romans 8:35-39

[8] 1 John 4:17

[9] Luke 19:10

[10] Mark 5:25-34

[11] John 8:3-11

[12] Luke 15:3-7

[13] Ibid. 15:11-12

[14] Snaddon, Daniel C., Plymouth Brethren Writings, loc. cit.

[15] Phillips, John: Exploring the First Epistle of John, op. cit., p. 140

[16] Codex Sinaiticus, found in Sinai, written circa 330-360 AD

[17] Brown, Raymond E., The Anchor Bible, op. cit., p. 518

[18] Stott, John. The Letters of John (Tyndale New Testament Commentaries), op. cit., pp. 162-163

[19] John 1:14, 18; 3:16, 18

[20] Luke 7:12; 8:42; 9:38

[21] Hebrews 11:17

[22] Romans 8:32

[23] Hiebert, David E., Bibliotheca Sacra, op. cit., January-March 1990, p. 74

[24] Ref. 1 John 4:19; 2 Thessalonians 2:16

[25] From the hymn, “I Sought the Lord, and afterward I knew,” by Jean Ingelow, 1870

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WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER FOUR (Lesson LXIX) 04/25/22

4:10 This is real love – not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.

How should we be affected by this manifestation of God’s agápē, asks Morgan? It ought to make us ashamed of our rebellion. It should encourage us to return to God in repentance and faith. It ought to urge us to love Him who first loved us. It ought to engage all our energies for His service. But we may well say, the love of the Anointed One controls us because we know that one person died for everyone. He died for all so that those who live would not continue to live for themselves. He died for them and was raised from death so that they would live for Him.[1]  Nor let us fail to add if this agápē is rejected and dishonored, it must seriously aggravate our guilt. “What makes us think we can escape if we ignore this great salvation?”[2]What will the outcome be for those who do not obey the Gospel of God?”[3] Fearful beyond all wrath will be “the wrath of the Lamb.”[4] [5]

Alonzo R. Cocke (1858-1901) reminds us that not only were we spiritually dead, but guilty of breaking God’s law and going against His will. We were creatures who needed punishment for our “sins” and “misery” linked to sin. The Anointed One wanted to save us from such pain and bear our sins. But first, He must take our guilt upon Himself and make it His own. We all would earn the eternal separation from God awaiting us unless the Anointed One accepted that penalty. Not only was He “made of a woman,” “made under the law,”[6] but He became “obedient to death, even the death of the cross.”[7] So then, if we want to know the vastness of God’s agápē for those who didn’t love Him, look at how He gave His Son as payment for our sins. No one will join the multitudes in heaven as they celebrate the removal of sin’s debt to God, “Praise the Lord! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God.”[8] until they first sing here on earth: “All glory to Him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by shedding His blood for us.”[9] [10]

Albert Barnes (1872-1951) says that God’s great gift of His Son is the highest expression of Love, as if it had done, all it can do. It wasn’t that we loved God first or were in such a high moral state that we might suppose He would make such a sacrifice for us, but just the opposite. If we had loved and obeyed Him, we might have had reason to believe that He would be willing to show His agápē to us in a corresponding manner. But we were alienated from Him. We had no desire for His friendship and favor. In this state, He showed the greatness of His agápē for us by giving His only Son to die for His enemies, in that He loved us first. Not that He approved our wickedness, but that He desired our welfare. He loved us not with the love of complacency, but with the love of compassion.[11]

Harry A. Ironside (1876-1951) mentions that it is an interesting fact that the original word translated as “propitiation” is the same word used for “atonement” in the Septuagint’s (LXX) translation of the First Covenant by seventy Jewish scholars in Alexandria, Egypt from Hebrew to Greek around 230 BC. In that translation, wherever the translators sought to reproduce the Hebrew word caphar or atonement, they used the Greek word hilasmos rendered propitiation. The Hebrew word atonement comes from a root meaning “to cover,” and so this word speaks of an expiation (“to compensate”), a settling of the sin question, so that one who was once lost and guilty may stand in the presence of God without one charge against them. The finished work of compensation covers all their transgressions by the Lord Jesus, the Anointed One – covered so effectually and entirely that they can never be found again.[12]

Paul E. Kretzmann (1883-1965) says that verses seven to ten are one of the most beautiful and, at the same time, the most powerful passages in the entire Final Covenant. For the third time in this letter, the Apostle John feels it necessary to speak of brotherly love and plead with all Christians to show God’s love was placed into their hearts by faith. Such love is the essence of God; it is a reflection of God’s agápē in the hearts of those that have learned to know His agápē. It is a part of the new divine disposition and conduct which characterizes the believers. It is a proof of the new birth by the power of God through the Gospel; it is an outgrowth, a fruit, of faith, of the saving knowledge of God. On the other hand: Those that do not love do not know God. Where there is no love toward the brethren in the conduct and life of a person, this is a sure and certain sign that they have not yet come to know God as they should, that there is no saving knowledge, no faith toward God in their heart.[13]

Bishop of Rochester, England, Christopher M. Chavasse (1884-1962) states that Love for God must come down from heaven like the rain and the snow. The Apostle of love, John, tells us love is of God, yet He placed within our reach how we learn to love God or love Him better than we do already. Let me remind you what some of these are:

            First, Thirst: We receive grace in proportion as we desire it. For example, do we wish to love God? Then, eventually, that desire will be satisfied if it is the supreme desire of the heart. And that is for two reasons – God never implants a desire in a person’s heart to mock Him, but in due time, He may satisfy it. And that desire will find its voice in prayer and worship. A great promise was made: “Ask, and it will be given.”

      Second, Faith: The secret of loving God is to believe that God loves us, not to try to force ourselves to love God, but to accept the great truth that God loves us. And God has given our faith two footholds upon which we may plant our feet and be perfectly sure that God loves us. The first is the cradle of Bethlehem, and the second is the Cross of Calvary.

     Third, Service: The cause of Jesus the Anointed One wants our service, wants our heart. Work because God loves you and loves everyone; and as we act out the love of God, or because God loves them and us, our love will grow. Love can only live by loving, and by serving, love will grow.

      Fourth, Sharing: God is training us all by the sweet, pure love of home life to love Him. Some people say, take care that you do not love your husband, wife, friend, or child too much. You can never love them too much if you love them in God and for God. God will train you to love Him through loving your dear ones at home. And in the love that the husband has for the wife, or the wife has for the husband, we have a dim reflection of the love wherewith the heavenly Bridegroom loves His Church. The husband and the wife will say: If our love is so strong and deep and dignifying, what must be the love wherewith the Anointed One loves us? We will mature by using the stepping-stones of human love to realize God’s love for us and love Him back. First faith, then service, then love to the creature: these are some means that God has put within our power to make us love Him better.[14]

Charles H. Dodd (1884-1973) says that the way Aristotle and other Greek philosophers’ thought was certainly dominant in the religious world of Hellenism.[15] However, those with different religious preferences kept breaking away from it in various ways. Over against it stands the Christian affirmation: Love is anchored in this, not in our love for Him, but His agápē for us. Appropriately, Greeks use a different word for “love.” In Plato and Aristotle, usually, the word is eros, after the Greek god Eros, a term connoting primarily sexual desire. Here, as all through the Final Covenant, the word is agápē. Eros is a comparatively colorless noun. The First Covenant translators of the Hebrew verb ‘āhaḇ preferred for God’s agápē to humanity and their response, [16] and by doing so, they began to fill it with a specific content for which paganism, even in its highest forms, had no proper expression.[17]

William Neil (1909-1979) says that caring for and about each other brings us into the very presence of God because God is agápē. Other motives could have made God send His only Son to live with us, to allow us to live as He meant us to live. Let us not define love by any human standards. It is something divine that moved our heavenly Father to send His Son so that the power of sin over us might be destroyed.[18] But sin is like the ocean; your sailboat will drift if there is no wind. The devil has not such wind; only the Holy Spirit can provide such a moving force to those on their voyage to heaven’s shores.

F. F. Bruce (1910-1990) agrees with the Apostle John that the purpose of God sending His Son is our blessing – allowing us to receive life through Him. Here the initiative lies entirely with God. Before there was any possibility of our exercising such love, God first must manifest it by “loving us and sending His Son as a propitiation (“ransom payment”) for our sins.” These last words in verse ten are repeated from chapter two, verse two. Professor Bruce pointed out earlier that the Greek noun hilasmos is used in 1 John 2:2 and 4:10. It basically means “to appease,” such as bringing an argument to an end, paying a debt, or settling a question. Why the KJV translators chose this Latin term might be that “propitious” means “to be merciful” or “for mercy’s sake.”[19]


[1] 2 Corinthians 5:14-15

[2] Hebrews 2:3

[3] 1 Peter 4:17

[4] Revelation 6:16-17

[5] Morgan, James B., An Exposition of the First Epistle of John, op. cit., Lecture XXXII, pp. 322-323

[6] Galatians 4:4

[7] Philippians 2:8

[8] Revelation 19:2

[9] Ibid. 1:5b

[10] Cocke, Alonzo R., Studies in the Epistles of John, op. cit., loc. cit., Logos

[11] Barnes, Albert: New Testament Notes, op. cit., p. 4865

[12] Ironside, Harry A., Epistles of John and Jude, op. cit., pp. 142-143

[13] Kretzmann, Paul E., Popular Commentary, Vol. II, op. cit., pp. 572-573

[14] Chavasse Christopher M: Christian World Pulpit, vol. 78, p. 97

[15] Hellenism was the national character or culture of Greece, especially ancient Greece. The word Hellenistic comes from the root word Hellas, which was the ancient Greek word for Greece. The Hellenic Age was the time when Greek culture was pure and unaffected by other cultures. By comparison, Helvetia. The Old Swiss Confederacy of the early modern period was often called Helvetia or Republica Helvetiorum (“Republic of the Helvetians”). The Latin name is ultimately derived from the name of the Helvetii, Frenchmen living on the Swiss plateau in the Roman era.

[16] See Genesis 22:2; Proverbs 8:17; Hosea 14:4; Ecclesiastes 3:8

[17] Dodd, Charles H., Moffatt Commentary, Johannine Epistles, op. cit., p. 111

[18] Neil, William, Harper’s Bible Commentary, op. cit., p. 529

[19] Bruce, F. F., The Epistles of John: A Verse-by-Verse Exposition. Kingsley Books, Inc. Kindle Edition.

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POINTS TO PONDER

CYNICS may ask, why don’t people follow the advice found in the numerous proverbs and maxims of forethought available for centuries? Instead, they conclude that they are only used after some hopeful venture has gone “horribly wrong.” When, for instance, a person gambles and loses all they have, including their house, they should have remembered the old Scottish proverb which declares that “willful waste leads to woeful want.” But didn’t the gambler know this well-worn saying from earlier years? But, what good, then, did it do? Are the maxims of morality useless because people disregard them? For Christians and Jews, the Book of Proverbs is a great example. But what about other religions?

Here is one to consider by 6th century Sanskrit poet Bharavi, the author of the classical Sanskrit epics classified as a mahakavya (“great poem”). He wrote:

Some who wish their friends well try to please them with words which are not true.”

It sounds very similar to what the great wise King Solomon wrote,

Some people try to cover their dislike with pleasant words, but they’re deceiving you. They pretend to be kind, but don’t believe them. Their hearts are full of evil thoughts. While they may conceal contempt with trickery, their wrongdoing will be exposed publicly. If you set a trap for others, you will get caught in it yourself. If you roll a boulder down on others, it will crush you instead. A lying tongue hates its victims, and flattering words cause ruin.” (Proverbs 26:24-28)

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SERENDIPITY FOR SATURDAY

When Bryan Chapell was eight years old, his father took him out in the woods behind his house to teach him how to use one of those old-timey two-person saws. They practiced using the saw by cutting through some fallen trees. They happened to cut into a small log that had a rotten core. When the saw finished going through it, the round piece of wood fell off. That’s when Bryan noticed that the rotten part inside looked like a horse’s head. Inspiration struck! He had a great idea for a gift for his dad. So, when his father wasn’t looking, Bryan grabbed that round piece of wood and stuffed it inside his jacket.

When Bryan got home, he took the rotten log that looked like a horse’s head, and attached it to a short piece of two-by-four. Thus, he now had a horse head and horse body! He then went out in his yard and found some sticks, which he glued on either end of the two-by-four.  He now had a horse head, body, and four legs. Bryan then found some twine and glued it onto the end of the two-by-four opposite the head.  He now had a horse head, body, four legs, and tail. Oh, but he wasn’t done yet! 

Bryan then found a dozen or so nails and hammered them partway, two inches apart, into the side two-by-four. Also, as an eight-year-old kid, you have to imagine that they were all crooked. Bryan then wrapped the whole thing in butcher block paper and went to give it to his father. When Bryan’s dad took off the wrapping, he smiled and did what any good parent would do. He said, “Oh wow, Buddy! Thank you so much! This is really great! Uh, what is it?” “It’s a horse-head tie rack!” Bryan exclaimed, “A tie rack that looks like a horse!” “Of course, it is!” his father said as he gave him a big hug. He then hung the tie rack up on his closet wall, where he used it for years and years.

When Bryan first gave that rotten-log-horse-head tie rack to his father, he believed it was a beautiful and helpful thing. In his mind, it was a work of art worthy of being displayed in the Louvre in Paris. But as Bryan got older, he realized that his tie rack was not the fantastic piece of art that he had originally imagined. From being objectively beautiful and objectively practical, it was, in fact, ugly and barely usable. Of the ten or so nails sticking out of it, only a few were at an angle that they could support a tie without it falling off. However, his father received and used that gift not because of its inherent goodness, but out of love for his child.

It’s often hard to wrap our minds around God’s love of all people: Martin Luther King, Jr. and Ted Bundy, Mother Theresa and Vladimir Putin, You and the jerk that cut you off on your way home from work. Yes, it’s hard to comprehend the fact that while you’re doing your best to live right, to help others, to make our world a better, more habitable place for all of God’s children, God’s love can feel less like the gift that it truly is, and more like payment for services rendered.

But if we, like Bryan, step back, and take a hard look at all the things we do that made us more deserving of God’s love than others, we begin to recognize how imperfect our actions are. And yet, like a good father, God receives those imperfect gifts of ours and uses them as building blocks for the kingdom of heaven here on earth. Which is to say, God’s love is not something that we earn by virtue of the majestically carved teak-wood stallions that we lay at God’s feet in the form of worship and service. Rather, God’s love is a gift to us that works in and through our lives despite the decaying, rotten wooden horse-head tie racks we keep pitching God’s way. Thank God for that!

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WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER FOUR (Lesson LXVIII) 04/22/22

4:10 This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent His Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.

William Kelly (1822-1888) points to the fact that, first of all, God is love. It is the entire motive in His goodness. Humanity, however, has a reverse nature. The believer receives grace as a lost sinner in all its sovereignty as its object, and having life eternal in the Anointed One has it flowing constantly. It is, therefore, of the Spirit acting on the new nature, as being born of God. Therefore, believers are entitled to boast in God[1] and God’s agápē without any motive but the good He is, which He delights to communicate to others. Such Christians are filled by faith, firstly with being loved of His agápē, and secondly, carried out in the exercise of that love to their brethren by the Spirit of God. Kelly exposes an understated distinction by saying that we were “first loved by His agápē” instead of “He loved us first.” Seeing it in this latter tone may mistakenly cause someone to believe that our love for God is because He loved us first. But taking in the former sense, it is better seen as God’s first putting His agápē in us so that we were capable of loving Him with that same agápē in return.

But the principle is very apparent, says Kelly: to love is inseparable from being born of God; so, that love proves by this very fact that they are children of God. It has nothing to do with natural affections, which everybody ought to know may be strong in the most wicked men and women. Deadly enemies of God, given up to base lusts and passions, yet they may have much natural sweetness and warm benevolence. None of these things is God’s agápē, nor anything but that which excelled in the Lord Jesus. “Agápē,” says the Apostle John, “comes from God.” Whatever is of ourselves is not of God. But this agápē is not of ourselves, even in a believer. They derive it entirely from above; they are born of the Spirit, and what is so born is spirit, and not flesh is born of God, and God is love.[2]

Kelly also emphasizes what joy we have that God does not separate but unites life and satisfies God’s demand for justice against sin through our Lord and His work! No one should try and contradict what John says here. Let no one split apart what God has joined together.[3] He has given the same Anointed One who is life to settle our account with God because of our sins. Such is the teaching of verses nine and ten, both being the display of God’s agápē, and in contrast with Law, which had no life to give and could only judge but not be able to put away sin.[4]

Daniel Steele (1824-1914) says that “real love,” or agápē as I call it, in its origin, is not human but divine. Its source is not a blind impulse but an intelligent movement of God’s free will, having compassion on a sinful race and approving those who trust in His Son, whom He sent into a fallen world. In this act, God’s agápē reached its climax. Human love, at best, is only responsive; it is never original and spontaneous. It is never strictly unbiased, as God’s agápē is. The theology that requires of humanity such love is too high for the holiest believers and angels to reach. The great secret of God’s method with people is that He loves them into loving. There is no other force so mighty as love, and nothing else so contagious. It is the royal law of the Christian life because it has been the majestic force in God’s dealing with His children. Having been won to the Father by the Father’s agápē, the child is bound by the very nature of the new life to show the same agápē to others.[5]

Brooke F. Westcott (1825-1901) mentions that since we didn’t know anything about agápē until God introduced us to it, it helps us see the true nature of agápē. The source of agápē is the free will of God. He loved us “because.” Consequently, if we are going to love others with this same agápē, it must be done of our free will. He is love and in virtue of that love sent His Son. So, the origin of agápē lies beyond the reaches of humanity.[6]

Charles Montgomery Merry (1826-1876) points out that when the Apostle John wrote that God sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins, His only begotten Son, so that we who were spiritually dead in sin, become born again alive through Him. Just think! – this agápē has been shown to us! God did all this to prove Himself gracious, loving, and kind to us – to you and me. So, why is it that the most ungrateful and hard-hearted today do not and will not love Him in return? Not even after learning that He loved them first, before they heard or knew about Him.

So, the Apostle is talking here about “life,” a happy existence in an unhappy world. God required a ransom for freeing us from sin’s dungeon. We couldn’t pay it; all the riches in the world would not cover the cost. He knew that someone, some human, had to die on our behalf to set us free. But no such human could be found on earth. So, He sent His only begotten Son to pay the price, so we could have life and live it to the fullest. It was to be a life whose vigor and vitality no power of disease could undermine, whose actions are superior to waste and fatigue, whose duration is as lasting as Yahweh. Oh! How can we measure the love which provided the Anointed One to acquire for us such a benefit as this? What excuse, then, does anyone have for not loving Him in return?[7]

John James Lias (1834-1923) takes the Apostle John’s words here and paraphrases them this way, “The love to which I am exhorting you consists not in our having in the first instance loved God, but in this; that He loved us, and sent His Son to be a propitiation for our sins.” It does not seem that some have observed that this is the Apostle Paul’s doctrine in another form.[8] For John, to do righteousness, keep God’s commandments, and love are equivalent to each other.[9] In other words, the initiative in the work of salvation comes from God and Him alone.[10]

This truth, says Lias, means that no one can attain salvation by themselves. Being spiritually dead in trespasses and sins, how could we find the power to break free? Alienated from God by wicked works, how can we learn to love Him? The impulse must come from without, from above. We must feel that God’s Fatherly heart yearns for us, even in the depths of sin and sorrow. We must become sensible of its warmth in the icy outer darkness of godlessness. We must see the Eternal Son descending from His heavenly home to seek and save what was lost. Thus stirred, our hearts may warm to Him once more.[11]

Augustus H. Strong (1836-1921) states that while the atonement exalts the holiness of God, it surpasses every other view in its moving exhibition of God’s agápē. This love is not satisfied with suffering in and with the sinner, or with making that suffering a demonstration of God’s regard for the law. On the contrary, love dissolves the sinner’s guilt and bears their penalty, comes down so low as to make itself one with them in all but their depravity. It makes every sacrifice but the sacrifice of God’s holiness – a sacrifice which God could not make without ceasing to be God, as the Apostle John explains here in verse ten.[12]

Dwight L. Moody (1837-1899) commented that God loved us before we ever thought of loving Him. And so, long before we ever thought of God, we were in His thoughts. What brought the prodigal son home? It was the thought that his father loved him. Suppose the news had reached him that his father did not care for him anymore, would he have gone back? Never! But the thought dawned on him that his father still loved him: so, he got up and returned home. Dear friends, says Moody, the love of the Father ought to bring us back to Him. It was Adam’s calamity and his sin that revealed God’s agápē. When Adam fell, God came down and dealt in mercy with him. If anyone is lost, it will not be because God does not love them: it will be because they resisted God’s agápē.[13]

Clement Clemance (1845-1886) says that none of us should think or imagine that there is any higher manifestation of love than what we find here in verse ten. It is not in any love of humanity to their Maker, but their Maker’s love for them.  That manifestation is how the fundamental nature of love was perceived. Note the change from perfect tense in verse nine (showed His agápē) to the imperfect tense (His agápē for us) in verse ten – shows His agápē expresses the permanent results of the mission. The words here “and sent” state the mission a fait accompli.[14]

William Sinclair (1850-1917) states that as God bestowed His undeserved affection on us, we benefitted to an inconceivable degree. Thus, we can give Him nothing equal in return, but only pay the debt we owe by showing that same love to our fellowmen. Therefore, although our happiness depends strictly on God, still He has allowed us to be His stewards to some small degree for the enjoyment of those around us.[15] In other words, we can do for them what God did for us, even though it is of a lesser degree in terms of Love. Still, we can reckon it came from God to us, so we can give it to them.

James B. Morgan (1850-1942) looks at verses nine and ten and calls it a blessed revelation. It removes every difficulty out of the sinner’s way. It assures them that not only may they be saved, but that in no way can they effectually honor God than by becoming a subject of His grace. They can plead for their salvation and that of others on the high ground, of which the Psalmist says, “The nations will revere the name of Adonai and all the kings on earth Your glory when Adonai has rebuilt Tziyon and shows Himself in His glory.[16] May we heartily and gratefully agree with the whole testimony that the Apostle John conveys to God’s agápē, “By this was manifested the agápē of God.[17]


[1] Psalm 34:2; cf. 2 Corinthians 10:17

[2] Kelly, William: An Exposition of the Epistles of John the Apostle, op. cit., Logos, loc. cit.

[3] Cf. Mark 10:9

[4] Kelly, William: Lectures on the Catholic Epistles of John, op. cit., p. 326

[5] Steele, Daniel: Half-Hour, op. cit., p. 106

[6] Westcott, Brooke F., The Epistles of St. John, op. cit., p. 150

[7] Merry, Charles M., The Biblical Illustrator, op. cit., 1 John 4, p. 61

[8] See Titus 3:5; also, Romans 3:20-22; 5:8-10; Ephesians 2:4, 8-9; 2 Timothy 1:9

[9] Note 1 John 3:10; 5:3; 2:29; 4:7; cf. John 6:44

[10] Lias, John James: The First Epistle of St. John with Exposition, pp. 314-315

[11] Ibid. The First Epistle of St. John with Homiletical Treatment, pp. 315-316

[12] Strong, Augustus H. Systematic Theology, Vol 2, op. cit., p. 702

[13] Moody, Dwight L., The Way to God and How to Find it, The Bible Institute Colportage Association, Chicago, 1884, op. cit., Ch. I, pp. 14-15

[14] Clemance, Clement: First Epistle of John, Pulpit Commentary, Vol. 22, Exposition, op. cit., p. 103

[15] Sinclair, William: A New Testament Commentary for English Readers, op. cit., pp. 488-489

[16] Psalm 102:15-16 – Complete Jewish Bible (102:16-17)

[17] 1 John 4:9

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WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER FOUR (Lesson LXVII) 04/21/22

4:10 This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent His Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.

Dr. Hodge explains that the Greek text in verse ten is clear, there are still some who “do not believe testimony which God testified concerning His Son.” God is saying that He offered us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.[1]  There could hardly be a more straightforward statement of the Scriptural doctrine as to the nature of faith. Its object is what God has revealed. Its ground is God’s testimony, and receiving that witness seals our belief that God is faithful. To reject it is to make God a liar. We find this teaching in the Holy Scriptures. The basis on which we are authorized and commanded to believe is not conforming to the truth revealed for our understanding, nor its effect upon our feelings, nor it’s meeting the necessities of our nature and condition, but simply, “Thus saith the Lord.”[2]

William Lincoln (1825-1888) observes that when anyone invents a religion or cult, which links them to Jesus because He took on human nature, they forget that He was a holy human and humankind are not born holy but as wretched sinners. In verse ten, the Holy Spirit says, “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the remedy for our sins.” In other words, God created us, so He could love us. Here we see love in its descending scale; it will reach us, no matter how low we are. Lincoln said that he often observed that when Christians discuss these things, the truth is so strong, so extreme, they frowned at it. He also listened as Christians spoke of the Anointed One hanging on “the accursed tree.

This is not the language of Scripture; Scripture does not say the tree was cursed, but He who hung upon it was cursed; not the tree, but the holy, blessed, pure One, was made a curse for us; the Holy Spirit says it. He was not only accused but was “made a curse.”[3] It is strong language, which everyone would hesitate to use unless the Holy Spirit said so, as if all our curse fell upon Him. Oh, Lord! Your love is great, stooping down until He could not get any lower. “The Anointed One was made sin for us,”[4] there is the agápe of God “completed.” If we are Christians at all, it is because His agápe reached down as far as it could to save us.[5]

Alfred Plummer (1841-1926) again picks up on how “Herein” refers to what follows: Love in its complete perfection is seen, not in man’s love for God, but His to humanity, which reached a climax in His sending His Son to save us from our sins. The superiority of God’s agápe does not lie merely in its being Divine. It is first in order of time and therefore necessarily spontaneous: ours is at best only love in return for love. His agápe is unbiased; ours cannot easily be so.[6] To be “the propitiation” is literally “as a propitiation (atoning for).” In verse nine, it is parallel to “that we might live through Him.” But at the same time is an expansion of it. It states how eternal life is won for us.[7]

Robert Smith Candlish (1806-1873) states that we are to love as God loves, and because God loved the world that He sent His Son to save all who believed. Therefore, we are to love one another like God’s longing and yearning for someone’s salvation, that all may turn and live; and with what passion to delight in all who are really in the Anointed One, who “live through Him,” and live to be indeed our brothers and sisters because they are His![8]

William E. Jelf (1811-1875) points out that love spoken of here is more certainly and truly conceived when we don’t think of our loving God, but of His loving us. Love has its origin not in human nature, but in God and His Divine nature. It is not a chief attribute of human nature or human excellence, with God being the object whereby we honor Him and His deeds, which forces Him to love us in return. Still, the most authentic and highest conception of agápe existed before human love and was exhibited to us, so we are motivated to love God. This then being the perfect type of love, human love must be reformed in like manner. As God’s agápe exhibited itself chiefly in love towards those He has redeemed by His Son, so must our love be directed towards and displayed in the same objects. Hence, the love of brothers and sisters – proper love only for those in whom it is interested – is not to be some type of Christian love, but the Divine agápe towards the redeemed.[9] Agápe also refers to the past instances of God’s agápe to us rather than its present impact. In verse nine, the Greek verb apostellō (“sent”) expresses the continued and permanent effect of God’s past acts of agápe -love.[10]

John Stock (1817-1884) makes a good point. He says if we conclude that we can make it without God’s grace, then grace would cease to be grace. A poster read: “Grace is getting something you don’t deserve, and mercy is not getting what you deserve.” On the second Sunday in Lent, the Anglican Church has the priest pray, “Almighty God, who sees that we have no power of ourselves to help ourselves: Keep us both outwardly in our bodies, and inwardly in our souls; that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus the Anointed One our Lord. Amen.” The problem is, we are in love with that which will destroy us.  “All that hate Me,” says God, “love death.”[11] As soon as we are born, we go astray and begin lying, says Stock. As such, we are voluntarily sinners and alienated from the life of God due to the ignorance that is in us, [12] and we should get all the punishment we deserve as a result of our immoral deeds.

Again, notes Stock, here is what the priest prays on the fourth Sunday of Lent: “Grant, we beseech You, Almighty God, that we, who for our evil deeds do worthily deserve to be punished, by the comfort of Your grace may mercifully be relieved; through our Lord and Savior Jesus the Anointed One. Amen.” A carnal mind has hatred against God, for it is not subject to God’s law, nor can it be.[13] People’s mouths are compared to an open grave – out of which come infections – and they are off and running to where they can wound, assault, and even kill.[14] They lack peace and are full of ingratitude filled with sinful tendencies, without understanding, unmerciful, a sinner, and having pleasure in those like themselves.[15] The Methodist Articles of Faith read: “We are accounted righteous before God only for the merit of our Lord and Savior Jesus the Anointed One, by faith, and not for our works or expected merits.[16]

Stock concludes. To oppose the agápe of God, as presented by grace in the Gospel with unbelief, is to be insensible of it; refuse its offered benefits; leave unnoticed the outstretched hand of God, pleading with us to be reconciled to Him; live, as if no such revelation existed; push salvation away from us without any let-up, is to resist the Holy Spirit.[17] We are being as wicked as we can be by disobeying more than Satan, to whom no such offer of salvation was ever made, and plunge headlong into an incomprehensible pit of endless misery and be a partaker of a deserved damnation.[18]

Johannes H. A. Ebrard (1818-1888) sees John emphasizing the truth that love consists in this – not that we love God, but that He loved us. First, we must inquire what the words mean and how they are construed; then, their impact. Agápe is expressed here in the widest generality, and it is wrong and illogical to explain it here by “God’s agápe to us.” The expression, “The agápe of God to us, consists not in our love to God, but in His agápe to us,” would have been no better than a meaningless platitude.

So, to what end could the Apostle have so formally stated what was so plainly understood? He speaks quite generally of the nature of love universally, and expresses a thought of much importance in itself. All love consists – that is, has its root – not that we love God, but, that He loved us. According to its essence, love has its source in God’s agápe to us, not in our love for God. It is not by nature, striving upward towards God which proceeds from mankind, but a flame which proceeds from God, that kindles agápe – love in the human heart. Therefore, it is divine and flows from the essence of God. So, our love is nothing but the production and copy of the perfect agápe of God.[19]

Charles Kingsley (1819-1875) asks, “What is any kind of love worth which does not show itself in action; which does not show itself in passion, in the true sense of that word, namely, in suffering?” On the Cross of Calvary, God the Father showed His character and the character of His co-equal and co-eternal Son and the Spirit that proceeds from both. The comfortable, prosperous individual shrinks from the thought of the Anointed One on His Cross. It tells them that those better than them have had to suffer, and that God’s Son had to suffer. But they do not like suffering; they prefer ease and luxury.

Yes, says Kingsley, many say too often, as long as the fine weather lasts and all is smooth and bright, they’ll do what they can. But when setbacks come with losses, affliction, shame, sickness, grief, bereavement, and still more, Passion week begins to mean something to them; and just because everything is going bad, the cross looks the brightest of all time. It’s then that the Cross of the Anointed One brings a message such as no other thing or being on earth can bring. It says – God does understand your situation. The Anointed One understands what you are going through. According to the whole world, the entire universe, sun, moon, and stars, proves the law that nothing lives merely for itself; God ordains everything to help the surrounding things, even at its own expense.[20]


[1] 1 John 5:10-11

[2] Ibid. Vol III, pp. 65-66

[3] Galatians 3:13

[4] 2 Corinthians 5:21

[5] Lincoln, William: Lectures on 1 John, op. cit., Lecture VII, pp.118-119

[6] Cf. Titus 3:4

[7] Plummer, Alfred: Cambridge Commentary, op. cit., p. 149

[8] Candlish, Robert S., First Epistle of John, op. cit., pp. 104-105, 118

[9] See 1 John 2:3

[10] Jelf, William E., First Epistle of St. John, op. cit., p. 61

[11] Proverbs 8:36

[12] Ephesians 4:18

[13] Romans 8:7

[14] Ibid. 3:13, 15

[15] Ibid. 1:20, et. al.

[16] Articles of Religion (Methodist), Article IX, John Wesley’s abridgment of the Thirty-nine Articles of the Church of England.

[17] Acts of the Apostles 7:51

[18] Stock, John: Exposition of First Epistle of John, op, cit., pp. 346, 349

[19] Ebrard, Johannes: Biblical Commentary on the Epistles of St. John, p. 290

[20] Kingsley, Charles, Biblical Illustrator, op. cit., Vol. 22, pp. 74-75

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WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER FOUR (Lesson LXVI) 04/20/22

4:10 This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.

Isaac Barrow (1630-1677) repeats the Apostle John’s words here, “This is how God showed His agápe-love to us: He sent His only Son into the world to give us life through Him. True love is God’s agápe-love for us, not our love for God. He sent His Son as the way to take away our sins.”[1] Can we imagine, asks Barrow, any equal, any such expression of kindness, of mercy, of humbleness, of goodness, like the King of the Universe, perfectly glorious and free to offer His most dearly beloved Son to suffer abusive grievous torments, for the welfare of His declared enemies, traitors, and rebels – sinners like you and me? God expressed such goodness to us. Therefore, it is only fitting that we show our gratitude to Him.[2]

Daniel Whitby (1638-1726) says that here, in this verse, the Apostle John expresses the freedom and the greatness of the agápe-love of God with great energy.  As for its privilege, He loved us first when there was nothing in us to deserve or move people to pity our miserable state. But there were many things that both deserved and might have provoked God to implement His anger, since by our wicked ways we were His enemies. Yet, see its greatness: First, the great God of heaven sending someone who humbled Himself even in addition to what was, and He did in heaven. Therefore, shouldn’t we be fully aware of His presence? Second, the person God sent was His only-begotten Son, His legitimate Son.[3] For if we call God His approving Father, it makes Him equal to God, [4]

By His Father calling Him His only Son, says Whitby, we must equally exalt Him. Even Episcopius[5] declares Him to be called such because He received His essence from the Father, His source. For it is certain that the John is here praising the agápe-love of God to the highest pitch and therefore must use this phrase, the only-begotten Son of God, in the most inspiring sense in which that word is used in Scripture. Third, the world to which He was sent was full of wickedness. Fourth, the errand on which He was sent: One, to give Himself up as a sacrifice for the ransom payment for our sins: Two, to procure for us, who were dead in trespasses and sins, eternal life.[6]

William Burkitt (1650-1703) observes that the wisdom and power of God did not act to the fullest of their effectiveness in the work of creation; He could have framed a more glorious world had it pleased Him to do so. But God’s agápe-love in our redemption by the Anointed One could not be expressed or presented to a higher degree. Therefore, when Almighty God wanted us to give the most excellent demonstration of His favor, He gave us His eternal Son, the Son of His agápe-love. In fact, the giving of heaven itself, with all its joys and glory, is not as full and perfect a demonstration of the agápe-love of God as the giving of His Son to die on our behalf. That’s what we call unconditional love.[7]

Thomas Pyle (1674-1756) feels that we should be awestruck by the fact that by an act of divine love, God procured a pardon and salvation for a sinful world by sending His Son to become human for our sake, which must be amplified beyond comparison, that it began on God’s part, was voluntary and free, without the least merit or obligation on our part to persuade Him to do it.[8]

John Brown of Haddington (1722-1787) say that the Apostle John shows us here that God’s agápe-love was manifested toward us by sending His only begotten and eternally beloved Son to assume our nature; and by obeying and dying on our behalf to atone for the sins of such worthless worms, enemies, and ungodly wretches – that He might thereby purchase eternal salvation and everlasting joy for us, and successfully bestow it on us.[9] It raises the question, “And what have we done for Him lately?”

Charles Simeon (1759-1836) says that some might ask, couldn’t God find another way of accomplishing His plan of salvation other than sending His only Son? But when you stop to think about it, it is reasonable to believe that nothing less than the incarnation of His only-begotten Son could make it happen. And how wonderful it is that He adopted such a marvelous measure as that! Yet, no matter how much He might desire our rescue from sin, it is still incredible that He should ever condescend to use such means to effect it: yet we are told that He did so. That’s why, says Simeon, He didn’t send an angel, nor an Archangel, nor all the hosts of angels, but “His only-begotten Son, into the world, that we might live through Him.”[10] [11]

There is no other religion on earth that can make this claim. It is in Christianity alone that God sends His only Son to die for sinners so that He might have millions of sons and daughters in His royal family. Why worship any god who is only imaginary when you can serve an unimaginable God like the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob?

Edward Dorr Griffin (1770-1837) tells the touching story of Cleopatra (the Younger), the wife of Armenian King Tigranes the Great. On a particular weekday when Cyrus, the conqueror of Asia, was reviewing his troops, the captives pressed forward to see the conqueror. Tigranes, who served in Cyrus’ army, saw that His father, mother, sisters, brothers, and even his wife were among the prisoners; he presented himself before Cyrus and offered a thousand talents for the redemption of his wife. Among the observations made afterward respecting the appearance and glory of the conqueror, this noble lady was asked what she thought of Cyrus. On what was your attention fixed? Her answer was, “On the man who offered a thousand talents for my redemption.”[12] [13]

So, says Griffin, on whom should the attention of Christians be chiefly fixed, but on Him who gave, not a thousand talents, but His most precious life, for their redemption? For instance, when we watch Judah, we admire his generosity and concern for the sorrows of an aged parent, offering himself to servitude in for favorite son, Benjamin, of the deceased Rachel.[14] But what was this compared with Him who took the sinner’s place under the law, so to speak, received the full punishment of Divine wrath? Let all the archives of antiquity be explored; bring forward all the generous sacrifices of Greece and Rome, and how they compare to God’s amazing love displayed here? The love which we celebrate stands alone and without a challenger. It is the most profitable subject of contemplation that can occupy the mind. It carries you up to those views of God, which are the most sublime, the most transforming, and the most joyful.[15]

Adam Clarke (1772-1832) tells us that in the principles of the Christian religion, we have, therefore, three great gifts, for which we should incessantly magnify God: First, His Son, the Anointed One Jesus. Second, The influence of His Holy Spirit. And, Third, His holy Word, “This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”[16] [17]

Augustus Neander (1789-1850) says that regarding the revelation made in humanity that God is Love, the Apostle John then refers in the succeeding words. “God showed how much He loved us by sending His only Son into this wicked world to bring us eternal life through His death. In this act [herein], we see what real love is: it is not our love for God but His agápe-love for us when he sent His Son to reconcile us with God.”[18] When you think of the word “reconcile,” it infers a previously good relationship – like the case of the Prodigal Son.[19] So, when did we have a favorable relationship with God? It was through Adam and Eve before their fall. Now, the only way to reconcile humanity with the Father is through His Son, who took the punishment for sin on Himself and died on our behalf to pay the ransom price.

Gottfried C. F. Lücke (1791-1855) says that in verse ten, the Apostle John makes the greatness of God’s agápe-love the sending of the Anointed One more apparent by showing that this agápe-love was not God’s return for our love to Him, or, as it were, love of the second rank; but rather a pure love of mercy and because of this agápe-love He sent His Son as satisfaction for our sins.[20] Therefore, even without considering the redemption through the Anointed One, man’s love to God is only love in return, and God is always the first to love; in this respect, too, agápe-love is always God’s love.[21] [22]

Charles Hodge (1797-1878) sees the goodness of God in the form of generosity as revealed in the whole constitution of nature. As the universe abounds with life, it also overflows with enjoyment. There are no devices in nature to promote pain for its sake, whereas the manifestations of design for the production of happiness are beyond counting. The expression of God’s kindness in the form of love, especially love to the undeserving, is the great end of the work of redemption as John wrote in his Gospel, [23] and here in verse ten, he spells out how God displayed His compassion on earth. Therefore, the Apostle prays that believers might be able to comprehend the height and depth, the length and breadth, of that love which passes knowledge.[24] [25]


[1] 1 John 4:9-10

[2] Barrow, Isaac: An Exposition on the Creed, op. cit., p. 180

[3] Romans 8:32

[4] John 5:18

[5] Episcopius, Simon: (1583-1643), was a Dutch theologian and systematized Arminianism, a liberal reaction to the Calvinist doctrine of predestination. He studied theology at Leiden and in 1610 became a pastor at Bleiswyk, Holland

[6] Whitby, Daniel. op. cit., p. 467

[7] Burkitt, William, Notes on the N.T., op. cit., p. 731

[8] Pyle, Thomas: Paraphrase, op. cit., p. 396

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

[10] John 3:16

[11] Simeon, Charles: Horae Homileticæ, op. cit., Discourse 2455, p. 481

[12] Cyropaedia: Education of Cyrus I by Xenophon, translated by Walter Miller, Bk. 3, Section 1

[13] Griffin, Edward D: Biblical Illustrator, op cit., Homilies, 1 John 5:9, 10

[14] Genesis 44:18-34

[15] Griffin, Edward Dorr, Biblical Illustrator, First Epistle of John, op. cit., pp. 65-66

[16] 1 John 4:10; See Luke 11:13; John 5:39

[17] Clarke, Adam: Clavis Biblica, op. cit., The Apocalypse, or Book of the Revelation p. 52

[18] Neander, William: First Epistle of John, op. cit., Chapters IV, V, pp. 257-258

[19] Luke 15:11-32

[20] John 3:16; Romans 5:6ff, 8:22ff

[21] See 1 John 5:7

[22] Lücke, Gottfried: Bible Cabinet, op. cit., Section Eight

[23] John 3:16

[24] Ephesians 3:19

[25] Hodge, Charles. Systematic Theology, op. cit., Vol. I, pp. 427-428

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