(1 John 4:7-21)
A Paper by
Dr. Janice L. Duce
In partial fulfillments of the requirements of
Doctrine of Holiness
Nazarene Bible College
Colorado Springs, CO
November 29th, 2015
ORIENTATION AND CONTENT
Significance of Text
We see in 1 John that there is a division happening in the church. It has climaxed to where members went one way and the rest went another. This included teachers in the church. It seemed like the ones who separated themselves were even trying to entice those who stayed, to come and join their new community. With this division of community also came a confusion of the faith. In Johns letter’s we see what the false teachers denied. They didn’t believe Jesus was the Christ(1 John 2:22), they didn’t believe Christ had come in the flesh(1 John 4:2), they didn’t believe what Jesus said was to be true(Gaebelein 297). They refused to see salvation was found through the work of Christ and refused to see their own sinfulness(1 John 2:4; 2:2). There was a real danger here in threatening the basics and fundamentals of Christianity(Gaebelein 297).
Historical and Social Setting
The Heresy of Gnosticism was present here which had a theology that said that the spirit is completely good and the body or matter is completely evil. This came from the belief in dualism. The early philosopher Plato believed that the body was a prison for the soul in which the prisoner could only view reality through the bars that hold them(Barclay). Gnosticism believed that salvation was found through a “special knowledge” or an illumination and enlightenment, not faith in Christ. John writes to reassure the believers and the faithful to remembers the doctrines of the church and to encourage them of faith in Christ that is their salvation(Robertson).
He reminded them that walking in the light is walking in love and that God is that love. This “epistle” more so a theological treatise was written in response to this crisis of heresy. Many scholars such as Gaebelein believe the book of 1st John was written between 85-90 A.D. External biblical evidence suggests this date as religious leaders such as Papias, Tertullian and Polycarp quote 1 John in there manuscripts. Also the date was named authentic by early church figures such as Jerome, Augustine, and Irenaeus(Malick). It was more than likely written to one church but, was meant to circulate to other churches as well. Most scholars and theologians would agree that it was John the son of Zebedee, who also wrote the gospel of John, wrote this epistle. This being because the writing in both the epistle and the gospel have a similar form and terminology present
1 John is known as an epistle but it is different the 2nd and 3rd John. 1 John doesn’t have the standard greeting or benediction that we see in most epistles in the New Testament. Also in 2nd and 3rd John the author addresses himself as “Elder”. In 1st John the author doesn’t address himself at all so it’s safe to say that he is very familiar with the audience. We see the author use strong language and describe those that caused the division over their difference in beliefs as “anti-Christ’s” and “false prophets”. This illustrates the seriousness of the false beliefs of those that separated. We see all throughout this epistle many contrasts such as light and darkness. life and death, saint and sinner, love and hate, Christ and antichrist (Beacon Bible Commentary 346).
PRESENTATION OF TEXT
1 John 4:7 “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. 9 In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to bethe propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us. 13 By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.16 And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him. (NKJV)
Outline of Passage
- The perfecting of God’s love vv.7-12
- love one another v.7-8
- God is manifested through humanity by his love for us v.9-12
- Love is the nature of God vv.13-21
- Assurance of the abiding Spirit of God v.13-16
- The experience of God’s perfected Love v.17-18
- The results of God’s perfected love v.19-21
THE PERFECTING OF GOD’S LOVE
The apostle John starts off in verse 7 by addressing the audience as “beloved”. This term denotes a closeness, intimacy, and the pastoral heart from the apostle. Love has its source in God. Barclay said ” Love has a double relationship to God. It is only by knowing God that we learn to love and it is only by loving that we learn to know God(Barclay) (1 John 4:7-8). Love comes from God, and love leads to God.” We cannot love until we know what love is, or rather who love is. The author makes a command to love one another. The author uses the idea of loving one another as evidence that someone is truly born again. God created man in his own image(Gen. 1:27) so they can be a reflection of God and so the life of God could be imparted in us so His love could flow through us. How one acts toward another believer reveals whether they have the Spirit of Christ living in them proves if they really know God.
The phrase ” He that loveth not knoweth not God” could be referring to the sect that was causing division in the church by teaching something contrary to the truth. We seeing in the following verses (v.9-10) the author describes the manifestation of love being Jesus Christ and his propitiation for our sins so that we might live through Him. That is being “re-created” as it says in 2 Corinthians 5:17 ” Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” Love is that evidence of the new birth but, we also are expected by God with the grace that we have been given that we are to grow in Him. We are to continue to show love to people and to God because we share in his very nature with the beginning of sanctification. That being the case we are to “abide” in God by continuing love others because God loves us and this is how His love is perfected in us. God’s love isn’t just one activity but, everything God does, He does out of love. Dodd said this..”All His activity is loving activity. If he creates, He creates in love; if He rules, He rules in love; if He judges, he judges in love. All that He does is the expression of His nature, is to love”(110).
LOVE IS THE NATURE OF GOD
Now in verse 13 we see the assurance of the love of God given by the Holy Spirit. This verse is almost parallel to what we find in 1 John 3:24. We see here that the father indwells the believer with the promise of the Holy Spirit. With verses 13 and 14 we see the whole trinity mentioned, father, son, and Holy Spirit as all three have fellowship with each other which as we can see happened in the creation account, so are we suppose to also have fellowship with God and also with others. We have this inner confidence that the father has sent to the son to be the savior of the world. Even this confidence is an extension of God’s grace. Before we even come to God, He is drawing us to himself through His Spirit. God gives us two types of revelation. General and special. General is what is revealed in creation revealing aspects of God. Whereas, special revelation reveals the person and work of Christ that is necessary for salvation. God makes himself known to mankind in order to save people who will come to Him in faith. According to Dunning God makes himself known on his initiative for three reasons. These are: the transcendence of God, nature of God as personal, and the fallenness of humanity(Dunning 98). We need a special revelation in order to know God in a personal, real, and life changing way. Divine revelation occurs in many ways such as the incarnation of Jesus Christ, visions, dreams, etc.. General revelation is given to all people in all places whereas, with special revelation God reveals himself in miraculous ways.
We need a special revelation in order o experience salvation in Christ. Dunning also says that “all the fruit of the Spirit is present at the beginning of the Christian life because love is present from the beginning”(Dunning 78). Then he quotes John Wesley when he said..”There is a great a change wrought in our souls when we are born of the Spirit, as was wrought in our bodies when we are born of a woman. This, in that hour, a great change from inward sinfulness, to inward holiness. The love of the creature is changed to the love of the creator; the love of the world into the love of God (Dunning 489 ;Wesley 78). Serving God isn’t a chore for someone who is being perfected but it’s a joy. They don’t have to worship but, they get to worship. That is the attitude of someone who is walking in the Spirit and is sanctified and is being sanctified. Wesley describes the new believer can be confused that after regeneration sin still remained as Wesley describes this as one’s love being mixed but, then when they are entirely sanctified as having unmixed love toward God. We find our author, Apostle John in this text as saying “perfect love cast out fear”. This is not the fear of God that is honoring but this is spirit that we are told that we are not given in 2 Timothy 1:7 which says..” For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline”(NIV). In our text it talks about the thing that we would fear is God’s judgment but, those who have the confidence and witness of the spirit have had that fear of God’s wrath replaced with God’s peace. Perfected or télos(Youngs 745) as used in 1 John 4:12 literally means to end, complete. When we are perfected in love our hearts have been made completely clean and we can approach the throne of grace with boldness and the evidence of such a condition of our hearts is that we love people & love God. This we cannot separate.
The Apostle John wrote this epistle to encourage the congregation(s) to love one another and to remember the fundamentals of their faith. To remember that Christ died for their sins and to warn believers of those who are teaching things contrary to the love of God. We are commanded to love one another by this we know that we know God. God’s love was shown to us by Jesus Christ and his work on the cross. God’s perfect loves shows us how to love one another. We are given assurance by the Holy Spirit that we are walking in love and abiding in Him. Love and hate can’t co-exist in the heart of the believer. Perfect love cast out all fear.
The application of this text is to love people and to love God and we know God’s love by the witness of his Spirit and we love God by loving others.
Gaebelein, Frank E., J. D. Douglas, and Dick Polcyn. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: With the New InternationalVersion of the Holy Bible. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Pub. House, 1976. Print.
Harper, A. F., and W. T. Purkiser. Beacon Bible Commentary: In Ten Volumes. Kansas City, MO: Beacon Hill, 1965.Print.
Dodd, C. H. The Johannine Epistles. New York: Harper, 1946. 110. Print.
Dunning, H. Ray. Grace, Faith, and Holiness: A Wesleyan Systematic Theology. Kansas City, MO: Beacon Hill of Kansas City, 1988. Print.
“1 John Overview – Robertson’s Word Pictures of the New Testament.”StudyLight.org. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Dec. 2015.
Wesley, John. Wesley’s Sermons. Sin in Believers.–Repentance in Believers.–Scripture Way of Salvation.–Patience.–Perfection. Chicago: Christian Witness. Print.
Malick, David. “An Introduction To The Book Of 1 John.” Bible.org.Web. 13 Dec. 2015.
Barclay, William. “1 John 4 Commentary – William Barclay’s Daily Study Bible.” StudyLight.org.Web. 14 Dec. 2015.
Young, Robert. Young’s Analytical Concordance to the Bible. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1992. Print.