We are continuing our study of 1 John this morning and let me just remind you that the theme of this book is fellowship. I trust that you understand that by now. John wants his readers to experience fellowship with the apostolic circle and with Yahweh.
We’ll be finishing up chapter 4 today. The overarching theme of 4:7–21 is that loving one another is the mark of those who are abiding in Yahweh. Abiding in Him involves spending time in the Word, obeying His commands, living as Christ lived, and loving our brothers and sisters in Christ. Abiding in Him is the same thing as what is called in other places "walking in the Spirit" or having "fellowship with Christ." It is what Jude calls,i>"Keeping yourselves in the love of God."
Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 1 John 4:8 ESV
This is not saying that if you don’t love you’re not a Christian. But if you don’t love, you are not abiding in God who is love. John uses "knowing God" as a synonym for abiding. In John's mind there may be Christians who are not abiding in God. Therefore, they are not at the present moment in fellowship with the Father and the Son. John is not writing to his adversaries. Rather, he wants his "little children" to have fellowship with God. Such fellowship is not automatic. The burden of John in the whole letter is to teach us how to be sure that God abides in us.
No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. 1 John 4:12 ESV
Now let me ask you this: What does God’s invisibility have to do with a discussion of love? Consider what John writes in verse 12. "If we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us." What does he mean? He means that the unseen God, who was historically revealed in the incarnation of the Son, is now revealed by the indwelling presence of His Holy Spirit in His people when they love one another. It’s an amazing thought! People do not see God and they may not read the Bible, but they will see God when Christians love one another. John is saying that mutual Christian love manifests the presence and action of the invisible God.
John is saying that the unseen God becomes seen in the love of believers. When we love, as we should, when His love is perfected in us, we reveal that He abides in us. Our love is evidence of His indwelling presence and it becomes the revelation of that presence to others.
In 4:14, John speaks about their fellowship with the apostolic circle in what they had seen. Then in verse 15 he talks about their fellowship with the apostolic circle in what they had heard. John is teaching that the visible manifestation of Christian love, accompanied by this confession of Yeshua, reproduced what the apostolic circle had seen in Yeshua and what they had heard about Him. So, we could say that John’s goal of leading his readers into this kind of fellowship with the apostolic circle (1:1-3) has been reached.
John's point was that his readers had personally "seen" God in a sense similar to how the apostles had seen Him. The apostles had seen God in that they had seen Him in His Son, Yeshua the Christ. God had revealed His love to the apostles through Yeshua. The readers had seen God in that they had seen Him in His Spirit-indwelt abiding believers who loved one another.
So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 1 John 4:16 ESV
John concludes this brief section with the words, "So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us"—when John says "we have come to know and to believe," he uses a verb tense (the Greek perfect) that means, "We have come to know and believe in the past with continuing results in the present and future." "The love that God has for us" is a Present active indicative expressing God's continuing love.
John’s use of the first person plural pronoun "we" here is inclusive. It includes the author himself, the readers, and all genuine Christians (as contrasted to the opponents).
It is much debated whether 16b should be seen as the beginning of a new paragraph. But that is how I have taken it. The new paragraph starts with:
"God is love"—we spent the whole message on this several weeks ago when we did verse 8, so we’re going to leave you to that and move on. But before we move on, I want to share with you what Colin G. Kruse has to say on this. He writes, "This is not intended to be an ontological statement describing what God is in his essence, but rather a statement about the loving nature of God revealed in his saving action on behalf of humankind." I think it is ontological but maybe in this context Kruse is right.
"Whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him"—this is a restatement of:
By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 1 John 4:13 ESV
This emphasizes the mutual indwelling of God and the believer. Because "God is love", the author can assure his readers that whoever lives in love lives in God and God in him. Love comes from God who is love, hence, those who live in love show that they live in God. Love for others and living in fellowship with God are inseparable. This is a restatement of what John said in 4:12, "If we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us."
By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. 1 John 4:17 ESV
"By this is love perfected with us"—"by this" refers back to the last half of 4:16, "God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him." By abiding in God and His love, "love is perfected with us."
"Perfected with us"—this Greek preposition (meta) can be understood as "in us" (TEV, NJB), "among us" (NKJV, NRSV, NIV, REB), or "with us" (ESV, NASB). John first used that phrase in 2:5 where he said, "but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected." He used it again in 4:12, "if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us." In 4:13-16, John three times elaborates on the first part of that statement, repeating the concept of God’s abiding in us and our abiding in Him. Now, he repeats three times (4:17, 18 [twice]) the concept of perfect love. What does he mean?
The Greek word translated "perfect" does not mean, as in English, to be without any flaws or shortcomings. Rather, the idea is to reach its complete development or intended goal or to be mature. So, when John talks about God’s love being perfected in us, he means that His love has reached its intended goal in us. So "perfected love" is the love of God expressing itself in our love to each other.
The entire phrase "love perfected with us" refers to what happens when believers love one another. The love that comes from God, the love that he has for us, reaches perfection in our love for others, which is what God wants and what believers are commanded to do. God’s love reaches its intended goal when it flows from God, through us, and then to our fellow believers. The love with which God loved us must in turn be extended to the fellowship of believers.
The result of this perfected love is that it gives confidence in the day of judgment.
"So that we may have confidence for the day of judgment"—John is saying that when a believer sees God’s love flowing through them to others in sacrificial deeds, it is our basis for confidence in the day of judgment. The word "confidence" which is from the Greek,parrhēsia means, "courage, confidence, boldness, fearlessness, especially in the presence of persons of high rank". (A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, Bauer, Arndt, & Gingrich [University of Chicago Press], second ed., p. 630).
Originally this term meant freedom of speech. John uses this extensively (cf. 2:28; 3:21; 5:14). It speaks of our boldness in approaching a holy God.
"The day of judgment"—From beginning to end, the Bible is clear that there is coming (from the biblical authors’ perspective) a day of judgment. Yeshua spoke often about the judgment to come (Matthew 7:21-23; 11:21-24; 25:31-46). Paul, preaching to the philosophers in Athens, declared (Acts 17:31) that God "has fixed a day on which he will judge the world". Yeshua said:
Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment. John 5:28-29 ESV
So, there is a future judgment that's coming after the resurrection of all people—the good and the evil. And Mary knew that the resurrection would occur "at the end of the age". The Bible teaches that the Resurrection, Judgment, and the Second Coming of Christ were synchronous events.
One commentator writes, "The day is coming when God will be the judge of all people. That day will be the end of the world, as we know it." If you believe that, as most Christians do, you do not believe that the Judgment has happened yet because the world hasn’t ended. Full Preterists believe that the day of Judgment happened in A.D. 70 at the destruction of Jerusalem. But everyone else believes that it is still in the future along with the Second Coming and the Resurrection.
So, who’s right? The preterist or the futurists? Let’s look at a short video clip where Doug Wilson warns us of the problem of preterism. [Video Clip] Wilson says, "The problem of preterism is that it has great explanatory power."
Let’s compare two passages:
And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming. 1 John 2:28 ESV
By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. 1 John 4:17 ESV
In 2:28 he says, "abide in him" and in 4:17 he says, "love is perfected with us." As we we have seen, this happens "when we abide in him." Verse 2:28 says that "when he appears we may have confidence, at his coming," and 4:17 says that "we may have confidence for the day of judgment." So, the Second Coming and the Judgment are synchronous events.
John's point here is that if believers abide in Christ, His love will be perfected in them so that when Yeshua appears at the Second Coming and judges his people, they may be confident and unashamed before him.
Because we as preterists believe that the Second Coming and Judgment happened in A.D. 70, how were the believers who were living then confident or disappointed or confident or fearful at the coming? Did those living then see Christ at his coming? No, they did not. His presence was made known in the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple by the Roman army.
So, if Christ was not visible at the second coming, how were believers either bold or fearful at his coming? Here is how I see it. I see the respective boldness or fear as something that takes place after the Second Coming at the Bema seat judgment. Even though eternal salvation is an entirely free gift which can never be lost, the New Testament makes plain that the believer must give an account of his or her Christian life in the presence of Christ:
Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat,/b>[bēma] of God; for it is written, As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then each of us will give an account of himself to God. Romans 14:10-12 ESV
Paul is speaking here to the Roman believers. He has a similar message to the believers in Corinth:
For we must all appear before the judgment seat,/b>[bēma] of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. 2 Corinthians 5:10 ESV
In the context, it is clear that in both incidents, Paul is addressing Christians and not unbelievers. Unlike the Great White Throne judgment of unbelievers, the Bema Seat of Christ is not for the purpose of condemnation. Christ has already borne our condemnation.
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Yeshua. Romans 8:1 ESV
So, the Bema is not a judgment of condemnation or a determiner of salvation. There are two purposes for the Bema Seat. First, according to Romans 14:10-14, believers are to "give an account" of themselves to God. "Give an account" is an expression often used for the keeping of financial records. It is to Yahweh that we all have to answer to. What kind of account will we have to give? In our text in 1 John the issue is abiding in Christ and loving our brothers.
A second function of the Bema Seat of Christ is that of God rewarding us for our service and good deeds.
For we must all appear before the judgment seat [bēma] of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. 2 Corinthians 5:10 ESV
We are going to receive what we are due for how we have lived. This is not an isolated teaching in the New Testament. Yeshua said:
Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done. Revelation 22:12 ESV
In other words, how you live is important. Christ's death for us frees us from the fear of condemnation at the Great White Throne judgment (Rom. 8:1). Our abiding life frees us from the fear of shame at the judgment seat of Christ (4:17).
Confidence is one of the consequences of having intimate fellowship with God. We can have confidence both now and when meet Yeshua when we die. We also have confidence in prayer:
Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; 1 John 3:21 ESV
John goes on in our text to say, "Because as he is so also are we in this world"—John uses the word "world" in a different way in this epistle. The expression "in this world" here almost certainly relates to the natural world in which believers now live, as distinct from being in the heavenly world in which God dwells.
"As he is so also are we"—this is not talking about our position in Christ; it is talking about our abiding in Him. We have confidence before Yeshua because we are abiding in Him and loving our brothers. The basis for this confidence is our practical conformity to the character of Christ.
The world cannot see Yeshua. Our calling, therefore, is to make Him visible through our abiding love. We are to Him what He was to the Father in the days of His flesh—"the visible image of the invisible God".
There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 1 John 4:18 ESV
This is the exact negative of verse 17. Verse 17 says that when love is perfected with us, we have confidence. Verse 18 says that when we are not perfected in love, we don’t have confidence; we fear!
"There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear"—John is not saying that we should not fear God in the sense of regarding Him with respect and reverence. There is a proper sense of fearing God.
The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. Ecclesiastes 12:13 ESV
Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor. 1 Peter 2:17 ESV
The fear John writes of here is not the appropriate reverence we should all have of God. It is the kind of fear which is punishing.
"For fear has to do with punishment"—John is saying that "fear involves punishment." The word used here for "punishment" is kolasis. It is a rare word used only here and Matthew 25:46:
And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life." Matthew 25:46 ESV
The verb form of kolasis is used in 2 Peter.
then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, 2 Peter 2:9 ESV
Commenting on "punishment," Colin Kruse writes, "‘Punishment’ (kolasis) is found in only one other place in the NT, Matthew 25:46, the words with which Jesus concludes the parable of the sheep and the goats. Punishment there is what God metes out to the unrighteous on the day of judgement. Punishment here in 1 John is also the punishment to be meted out to the unrighteous."
I don’t agree with him on this. Just because Matthew used the word kolasis for eternal punishment doesn’t mean that John does. Eternal punishment does not fit the context of John’s use. John is writing about believers abiding and therefore not being fearful.
In the context of the chapter on the Lord’s Supper Paul writes,
But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world. 1 Corinthians 11:32 ESV
He is writing to believers and he tells them that discipline, the sense of pain that we experience from time to time, is designed for our benefit.
"Whoever fears has not been perfected in love"—as we have already seen we are perfected in love when we abide in Him. But when we are not loving because we are not abiding in Him, it causes us fear because we know that we are not living in obedience to the Lord. But when we are abiding in Him we have no fear because we are living as He called us to.
We love because he first loved us. 1 John 4:19 ESV
"We love"—This is a present active indicative. The KJV adds a direct object after "we love." But the original almost certainly reads, "We love, because He first loved us." The KJV, "We love Him," is based on later manuscripts that copyists altered. The different manuscript options for a direct object are: (1) In one uncial Greek manuscript, "God" is supplied. (2) In "Him" is supplied (KJV). (3) In the Vulgate "one another" is supplied. These direct objects are probably later additions. The UBS4 gives the verb only an "A" rating (certain).
John’s point in the context is that if we love God or others to any extent with genuine biblical love, we need to remember that such love did not originate with us. It came from God who loved us.
"Because he first loved us"—this is the repeated emphasis of verse 10.
In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 1 John 4:10 ESV
God always takes the initiative. He loved us while we were enemies and as we abide in Him, His love is perfected in us. Our love is a fruit of the Spirit.
If anyone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 1 John 4:20 ESV
"If anyone says"—this is the seventh time in 1 John that he says, "If someone says" – seven times John deals with claims which are not true. "If someone says" is a third class conditional sentence which meant potential action. This is a hypothetical statement like those in 1:6, 8, 10 and 2:4, 6, 9. Like those former statements, this one almost certainly has the author’s opponents in view. They claim to love God but fail to love their fellow members of the Christian community.
Whoever says "I know him" but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, 1 John 2:4 ESV
For John, "knowing God" involves fellowship with him (1:4), walking in his light (1:7), being "in him," abiding in him (2:5–6), and loving Him (4:20). These are all parallel versions of a single claim to be in an intimate relationship with God. John uses "know" here as a synonym for loving God. For John, loving obedience is a natural result of fellowship with God. He is talking about our communion here and not our union. Our union is permanent and unchangeable; our communion can fluctuate.
He who says "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar"—some say calling them "a liar" essentially brands them as unbelievers. They would refer to John 14:6, where Yeshua says that He is the truth, and would say that Christ is not in them. But, saying they are "a liar" is not saying that they are not Christians. It reveals that His truth is not a controlling force within them. You can’t disobey Christ’s commands and say you love him.
"For he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen"—this is often taken to mean that it is much harder to love an invisible God than it is to love a brother or sister whom one can see. But John does not say that love for God is more difficult than love for others. Rather, love for God without love for others is simply impossible because God is love.
You can’t rightfully claim to love the invisible God while not loving the God who is in His people. You can’t claim to love the invisible Christ and not love Christ in His people. It’s absurd. So, it’s only reasonable then to say that ABIDING believers are characterized by loving the way God loves—sacrificially and selflessly.
So, John is saying that genuine love for God necessarily will show itself in observable love for others. If you don’t practice sacrificial and committed love for others, you are revealing that you do not really love God.
Yeshua said that the world could measure our status as disciples by the measure of our love for one another.
By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." John 13:35 ESV
To be a disciple is to abide in Christ. Others will know that we are His disciples and know that we love Him by our love for one another.
Spurgeon said, "There is no exception to this rule; if a man loves not God, neither is he born of God. Show me a fire without heat, then show me regeneration that does not produce love to God." Believers, if regeneration produced love why does the New Testament continually command believers to love? John is saying if you don’t love your brothers, you are not loving God.
And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother. 1 John 4:21 ESV
This verse summarizes the chapter! Love is the non-counterfeitable evidence that we are abiding in Him.
Here John picks up a major theme from the Last Supper discourse in the Fourth Gospel in which Yeshua stresses that his disciples’ love for him must express itself in obedience to his command that they should love one another:
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. John 13:34 ESV
"If you love me, you will keep my commandments. John 14:15 ESV
"This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. John 15:12 ESV
I love my brother because he’s been bought with a price, the precious blood of our Lord. I love my brother because his name is in the lamb’s book of life. And I love my brother because I love the Lord. And if I love Yahweh, who is love, I will love those whom He loves.