I John 4



          The Source of Son-Ship. Possession of the Spirit. (ch.4:1-5:12)


(vs. 1-6)  Confession of the Incarnation is the assurance that the Spirit of God, who is

the SPIRIT OF TRUTH is working in us, and not the  spirit of error.   The passage

seems clearly to teach that there are two rival influences contending for power over

the spirits of men. We must test men’s spirits to see whether they are organs of the

Spirit of truth or of the spirit of error.


1“Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God:

because many false prophets are gone out into the world.”  Beloved (the apostle

again breaks out with a personal appeal into an earnest exhortation suggested

by the statement just made), prove the spirits δοκιμάζετε τὰ πνεύματα

dokimazete ta pneumatatry the spirits; be ye testing the spirits. 

“The spirits” are principles and tendencies in religion: these need to be

tested, for earnestness and fervor are no guarantee of truth. And to test

these principles is the duty of the individual Christian as well as of the

Church in its official capacity. Just as every Athenian was subjected to an

examination δοκιμασία  - dokimasia - as to his origin and character before he

could hold office, so the spirit of every religious teacher must be examined

before his teaching can be accepted. (like the Bereans in Acts 17:10-11 –

“they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the

Scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” – CY – 2015)  This is no useless

precaution; because, as Christ has ἐξελήλυθε exelaeluthe - come forth from God

(John 16:27-28;  compare John 8:42; 13:3), many false prophets have come forth

ἐξελήλυθασίν exelaeluthasinhave come out - from the spirit of error. But perhaps

“have gone forth into the world” means no more than ‘‘ have displayed themselves”

in publicum prodierunt. There is probably no reference to the false teachers having

“gone forth from us” (ch.2:19). Besides Cerinthus and other Gnostics, there were

the Nicolaitanes, astrologers, professors of magic, and dealers in charms, some of

which seem to have had their origin in Ephesus, for they were known as

“Ephesian letters.” Apollonius of Tyana was eagerly welcomed at Ephesus,

and it is not impossible that his visit took place during John’s lifetime.  (See

Revelation 2:15)


2 “Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that

Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God:” This verse contains the main subject

of the section. To confess the Incarnation is to prove that one draws one’s inspiration

from God through His Spirit. Know ye; or, recognize ye γινώσκετε ginoskete

ye are knowing; know ye -  may be either imperative, in harmony with “believe”

and “prove” (v. 1), or indicative, in harmony with “we know” (ch. 3:16, [19,] 24).


3 “And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the

flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have

heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.”

Every spirit (not so much the personal teacher as the principle or tendency

of the doctrine) which confesseth not Jesus. This is the true reading, the words

Xριστὸν ἐν σαρκὶ ἐληλυθότα Christon en sarki elaeluthotaChrist in the flesh

having come - being a spurious addition from v. 1. As so often, John states the case

both negatively and positively for emphasis. There is an ancient variant reading of

much interest, probably of Latin origin, which can be traced back to the second

century, being known to Tertullian and Iranaeus. For μὴ ὁμολογεῖ τὸν Ἰησοῦν

mae homologei ton Iaesounconfesseth not Jesus -  it gives λύει τὸν Ἰησοῦν

luei ton Iaesounsolvit Jesum. This corruption of the text was evidently aimed

at those who distinguished the man Jesus from the Divine Christ, and thus

“dissolved” His Personality. The Greek manuscripts are quite unanimous against

the reading. Is not of God; and therefore is of the evil one (see on ch.3:10). These

professedly Christian teachers are ever among the most dangerous who treat the

Divinity of Jesus Christ as more or less of an open question, or as a matter

of indifference. Τὸ τοῦ ἀντιχρίστου – To tou antichristou -  probably means “the

spirit of antichrist,” understanding πνεῦμα pneumaspirit - from the preceding

clause rather than (quite vaguely) “the characteristic of antichrist” (see on ch.2:18,

to which passage, however, ἀκηκόατε akaekoateye have heard - does not refer,

(but to Christian teaching in general). And now it is in the world already. This is an

independent statement; John does not say that they had heard this previously.



                        Tests of True or False Prophets (vs. 1-3)


Connecting link: The apostle had just declared that, in a life of obedience

to and of like spirit with God, we had a twofold seal:


o       firstly, that we are of the truth; and

o       secondly, that God abideth in us.


But it was not to be supposed that all this would remain unimpugned from without,

however clear it might be to the spirit within. At the same time, we are not to be

easily moved from our ground. But should any attempt to seduce us from

the faith, we are to apply to such a very searching test. Hence our topic —

Teachers of novelties to be severely tested. For many an age there have

been and will be two classes of men — one, desirous of uttering any new

fancy that seizes them, or of disputing any accepted faith which they

themselves are not disposed to embrace; and another, equally ready to

listen to any novelty in doctrine which may at any time be propounded to

them. Even in the age when the Apostle John wrote this letter, “many false

prophets” had “gone out into the world.” And it is a great blessing for us

that the aged apostle took occasion from that fact


(1) to administer a caution against a too ready acceptance of any new prophet, and

(2) to supply a test, at once exclusive and inclusive, which might serve the

     Churches for all time.



            CHRISTIAN, AND IS INALIENABLE. A Christian is under no obligation

            to let any new prophet gain his acceptance without severely testing him.


Ø      The Lord Jesus Christ Himself had never called for a blind acceptance of

                        His claims. He courted inquiry. He repelled objectors by statements of

                        infinite dignity and power. He appealed to their reason, their candor, and

                        their sense of right. One assertion indeed He made and maintained —

                        that He was the Son of God and the King of men. This was the sole

                        charge which led Him to the cross. For the first part of the assertion He

                        was condemned by the Sanhedrin, as if He were against Moses; for the

                        second by the Roman power, as if He were the rival of Caesar. But no

                        fewer than six different lines did He suggest on which the proof of

                        His claims might be tried.


o       His character (John 8:46).

o       His works (John 14:10-11).

o       Prophecy (Luke 24:27).

o       Testimony (John 8:17-18).

o       His resurrection (John 2:19).

o       The promise of the Holy Ghost (Acts 1:4).


Ø      In receiving the Lord Jesus, believers, whether Jew or Gentile, had

                        found their very strongest prepossessions in an opposite direction

                        overborne by the accumulated force of the evidence that Jesus was the

                        Christ, the Son of God (John 20:30-31).


Ø      The reception of Christ as a living and reigning Saviour had been

                        followed by a new and. regenerated social life.


Ø      Consequently, it could never be right to consent to imperil all this at the

                        bidding of any new prophet that might arise, until they had submitted

                        that prophet to a scrutiny as severe and as searching as their own Lord

                        and Master had invited when He called for the adhesion of their hearts.

                        The reason was satisfied when the Christ was accepted; and if any

                        further claims arise the reason must still assert its right to examine them,

                        and to be equally satisfied on them before accepting them. So in every

                        age. New critics must be criticized.



            ARE TO BE BROUGHT. Note here:


Ø      The point to be tested — “whether they are of God.”


Ø      The one point which will be the test of that — Do they or do they not

                        confess that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh? i.e., Do they in all their

                        teachings maintain the honor of our Lord. Jesus, as the incarnate Son of

                        God, the Saviour of the world, the Christ, the Lord and King of men?

                        Yes or no! It is a plain issue. And it is manifestly reasonable to compel

                        men to try the whole question at issue, as to the truth or otherwise of

                        any new prophet on a point so distinct and so sharply defined. For:


o       It is the point. For if the Lord Jesus is all that He claimed to be,

                                    Christianity stands. If He be not, it falls with a crash.

o       The claims of Christ are so vast that they stand absolutely alone.

o       Some point of invalidity in them must be shown before those

      claims can be displaced.

o       This never has been, never will be, NEVER CAN BE DONE!

o       Hence any “spirit” that would relegate Christ to an inferior

      place, is to be rejected forthwith.





Ø      If he confesses the glory of Christ as the incarnate Son, he is “of’ God.”

                        He may not “follow with us;” he may be uncertain and inaccurate on

                        minor points, He may come in no line of succession, and have felt the

                        imposition of no priestly hand; still, if he avows “the Christ,” he is

                        “of God.”


Ø      If he disavows the Christ, he is “not of God,” however plausible his

                        pretensions or captivating his words. Without the Christ, no Christian

                        truth stands. “In Him all things consist” (see Greek); Colossians 1:17.


There may indeed be — there are — demurs against drawing the division

so sharply as yes or no — true or false; and against the applicability of a

like test to every age. E.g., it is objected:


  • It may surely be contended that, through prepossession on the part of

            the sacred writers, embellishments may have gathered round the history of

            a true Jesus, without insinuating that either it or he was absolutely false.

            We reply: The theory of prepossession will not hold; for the supreme

            testimony of all the New Testament is to the resurrection of Christ: as for

            the Jew, it was most violently contrary to all his prepossessions that the

            one whom his own nation hanged on a tree should have risen from the

            dead; and as for the Gentile, it was equally contrary to his prepossessions

            to believe in a resurrection at all! It is objected:


  • We admire Christ extremely; we honor Him as the Prince of teachers. In

            fact, no praise of Him can be excessive, if He be but put on the merely

            human platform. We reply: That intermediate position cannot consistently

            be held. So strongly was this felt at the outset, that the watchword of the

            pagan camp was, “Jesus Christ is anathema;” that of the Christian camp,

            “Jesus Christ is Lord.” There is no halting-place between the two. It is



  • Is there, then, to be no progress in the course of the ages? is all other

            science to advance and Christian knowledge remain stationary, so that in

            the twenty-first century the same test of truth applies as at the first? We

            reply: Yes; there is to be progress IN THE TRUTH, but not from it.

            Jesus Christ is what He is. He is what He claims to i.e., A thousand millions

            of ages cannot alter that fact. Jesus Christ is “the same yesterday, and today,

            and for ever.”  (Hebrews 13:8)  Hence at any point of time, however distant,

            whoever withholds from Him His due, cannot be “OF GOD!”




  • The “trying the spirits,” as prophets and teachers, is not by any means to

            be confounded with all attempt to decide or to sit in judgment upon their

            spiritual position individually, as in the sight of God. To their own Master

            they stand or fall. We judge their teachings, not them.


  • At the same time, any one who comes to teach with a view of displacing

            Jesus from the throne of our hearts, must be prepared to undergo a

            scrutinizing ordeal. We can criticize as well as he, and we will.


  • In repelling attacks on the Christian faith, our wisdom lies in

Ø      setting minor matters in due relation to the rest, and then

Ø      remaining calmly in our stronghold, compelling an onset there,

                        if any be ventured on at all.


  • Our attitude, perpetually, must be this: “We know we have a Saviour,

            who has saved us, who is saving others by us, and who is perpetually

            proving what He is by causing:

Ø      the lame to walk,

Ø      the blind to see,

Ø      the dead to live; and

            you must displace these facts before you attempt disturb our faith.”


4 “Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because

greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world.”

Ye are of God. The ὑμεῖς  - humeis -  you - is in emphatic opposition to the false

teachers (compare ch.2:20). They are on one side, and the apostle’s

readers on the other, and it is from this standpoint that they are to “prove

the spirits.” John knows nothing of any neutral position from which the

Spirit of truth and the spirit of error can be criticized “with absolute

impartiality.” “He that is not with me is against me.”  (Matthew 12:30)

This assumed neutral position is already within the domain of error. Ye have

overcome them. “Them” means the false teachers; but in what sense have John’s

“little children” overcome them? He may be speaking by anticipation; confident

of the victory, he writes of it as an accomplished fact (compare John 16:33).

But it is better to take the statement literally. By refusing to listen

to the false teachers (ibid. ch.10:8) the sheep have conquered them: the

seducers have “gone out” (ch.2:19), unable to hold their own within the fold.

Nor is this wonderful: the one side have God with them, the other Satan.

‘Ο ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ - Ho en to kosmothe one in the world - here is equivalent to

ἄρχων τοῦ κόσμου τούτου – ho archon tou kosmou toutouthe prince of

this world (John 12:31). Just as God is in believers and they in God, so the world

is in the evil one (ch. 5:19) and the evil one in it.



The Victory of the Christian over Antichristian Teachers. (v. 4)


“Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them,” etc. Very

suggestive are the words with which our text begins, “Ye are of God.” As

having communion with Him; as heartily holding and confessing the truth

which unites with Him (v. 2); as having been born of Him, and being His

offspring morally and spiritually, they were of God. The text suggests the

following observations.



HERETICAL TEACHERS. It was so in John’s time. There were those

that denied that Jesus Christ had come in the flesh, maintaining that His

human body was apparent, not real. And others held, with Cerinthus, “that

the AEon Christ had entered into the man Jesus at His baptism, and

remained with Him until the commencement of His sufferings; but denied

that Jesus Christ came in the flesh. Christians are still assailed by

the teachers of grave errors, many of which relate to the Person and work

of the Lord Jesus Christ.



HERETICAL TEACHERS. John’s readers had done so. “Ye have

overcome them.” By their fidelity to the truth they had obliged the teachers

of error to retreat (compare ch. 2:14, 19). And their complete and final

victory the apostle looks upon as an assured certainty. The false prophets

were probably plausible, persuasive, and influential; but they were not

irresistible. They had been repulsed; they would be completely vanquished.

We are not bound to accept any teaching that is offered to us. If we please,

we may refuse to read the questionable book or to hear the teacher of

whom we stand in doubt. Or we may read the book and hear the teacher,

and then test their teaching by that of our Lord and His apostles, and accept

or reject it according to its agreement or disagreement with the Divine

standard. “Despise not prophesyings; prove all things; hold fast that which

is good.”  (I Thessalonians 5:20-21)




WITHIN THEM. “ Ye have overcome them: because greater is he that is

in you than he that is in the world.” He that was in the Christians is God;

he that was in the world is Satan, “the prince of this world.”


Ø      God dwells in His people.


o       By His Word. The author whose works have been sympathetically

and diligently studied may be said to be in the student. The student

knows th e views and opinions, the thoughts and theories, the

principles and convictions, of his favorite author, and sympathizes

with them.  The godly soul knows God in His Word (Psalm 1:2;

119:97); and by means of His Word is filled with His thoughts,

feelings, and principles.


o       By the faith which they exercise in Him. Their faith in Him is not

      mere intellectual assent, but spiritual conviction, which makes His

      existence and presence real unto them.


o       By their love to Him (compare vs. 12-13,16; John 14:23). There is no

real spiritual indwelling apart from love.


o       By his Spirit (compare v. 13; John 14:16-17).


Ø      God is greater than Satan. “Greater is He that is in you than he that

      is in the world.”


o       God is independent, but Satan is dependent. Satan cannot do

      anything except by permission of the Most High (compare Job

      1:12; 2:6). But as for God, “He doeth according to His will in the

      army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and

     none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?”


o       God is infinite, but Satan is finite. However great the power of the evil

one may be, it is limited. His intelligence is limited, his agencies and

instruments are limited, and the duration of his power is limited

(Revelation 20:1-3). But God is infinite in intelligence, in wisdom, in

power, in duration, in perfection.


o       God is the God of truth, but Satan is the father of lies (John 8:44).

Truth is a permanent and victorious force; falsehood is transient,

feeble, and doomed to extinction. The power of the prince of this

 world is based upon lies, and, for that reason, its overthrow is

certain. But the  power of God is the power of truth and holiness,

and is therefore destined to continue and grow eternally.


o       “God is love,” but Satan is malignant. However persistent and strong

hatred may be, it is not persistent, patient, or powerful as love. In love

God dwells in His people for their salvation; but Satan dwells in the

world for the destruction of the worldly. And the loving, saving Spirit

is immeasurably greater and mightier than the hating, destroying



Ø      God’s presence within His people is the secret of their victory over

heretical teachers. “Ye have overcome them: because greater is He,”

etc.  This Presence in the soul imparts power for spiritual conflict and

conquest.  The most effective safeguard against error in religious faith

and union is not the subtle and strong intellect, but the devout and

godly spirit and the upright life. “The meek will He guide in judgment

and the meek will He teach His way,”  “The secret of the Lord is with

them that fear Him; and He will show them His covenant.”  (Psalm

25:9, 14); “If any man willeth to do His will, he shall know of the

teaching,” etc. (John 7:17).  In the conflicts of the spiritual life the

mightiest weapons are not logical, but devotional. In this sphere the

greatest victories are often won upon our knees. The consciousness

of God’s presence within us is the inspiration for the achievement

of the sublimest conquests.


5 “They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the

world heareth them.”  The source of their character and their teaching is the

world; from it they derive their inspiration; and of course the world listens to

them. Once again (see on ch.3:23) we have an echo of Christ’s last discourses:

“If ye were of the world, the world would love its own” (John 15:19).


6 “We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of

God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the

spirit of error.” The opposite case stated again, but not in the same form as in

v.4. The “we” here is not the same as the “ye” there, with the mere

addition of the writer. “We” here seems to mean the apostles. If it is

considered “broad enough to include all who have truly received Christ by

faith,” it leaves no one to be the hearers. “He that knoweth God heareth

us” will mean that we hear ourselves, if “us” means all believers. But.

John’s meaning seems rather to be that he who acquires knowledge γινώσκων

ho ginoskon -  of God is ready to listen to further apostolic instruction. From

this ἐκ τούτου ek toutouout of this; hereby -  need not be confined to v. 6;

it may apply to the whole passage. For the Spirit of truth, compare John 14:17;

15:26; 16:13.



                        The Power of Trying the Spirits (vs. 1-6)


In the preceding homily we laid stress on the duty here indicated of “trying

the spirits,” and also on the test with which we are furnished for applying

to them through all time. We moreover there referred almost exclusively to

them as ψευδοπροφῆταi pseudoprophaetaifalse prophets -  rather than as

false πνεύματαpneumataspirits.   But a close study of

all the clauses in these six verses will disclose to us teachings of great

vividness and power concerning the false prophets themselves:


  • the point from whence they started,
  • the mission on which they are sent,
  • the region to which they are bound, and
  • the spirit with which they are inspired.


In fact, the apostle views their embassy and action as a part of the great mystery

of “antichrist,” which had been foretold, which had actually made its

appearance, and which would have to be fought against and overcome. It is

the right and the duty of Christians to “try the spirits” (as we have seen).

But they are not left to go to this warfare at their own charges, or without

being adequately empowered. To them the right belongs, to them the duty

attaches, because to them the power is given. Let us see how, in the

paragraph before us, this is shown. Topic — The power of trying the

spirits a Divine bestowment.




            Indeed, it is only as “prophets” bring messages of truth or of falsehood —

            messages which belong to the spiritual realm — that we have any special

            concern with them; i.e., as we regard them and their message as above

            and beyond the sphere of the phenomenal, and as representing the

            noumenal (compare I Kings 22:20-24; II Peter 1:21; 2:1; I Timothy 4:1).


            Note: It is by clearly apprehending the teachings of the Word of God

            concerning the spiritual world that we shall most be guarded against the

            prying and unholy pretensions of a spurious spiritualism.



            THE DEVELOPMENT OF ANTICHRIST. “This is that [spirit] of

            antichrist” (v. 3); see homily on ch.2:18.



            MISSION TO THIS WORLD. The apostle says of them, they “are gone

            out into the world”on a mission of evil from their dark home. This world

            is regarded as the sphere in which they are to propagate their negations. This

            is but one of the many forms in which Scripture sets forth the mysterious

            conflict between good and evil, of which this world is at once the theater and

            the witness. The struggle is between:


Ø      the serpent and Eve;

Ø      Christ and the tempter;

Ø      Christ and the world;

Ø      the tempter and the individual;

Ø      error and truth;

Ø      the Church and the world;

Ø      the Church and the evil one;

Ø      the antichristian embassy and the body of believers.



            A SPIRIT OF ERROR. And the apostle shows us here, as before (see

            homily on <620218>1 John 2:18, ut supra), that it is the business of this embassy

            to deny the truth. The first lie was, “Ye shall not surely die.” The supreme

            lie of antichrist now is, “Jesus is not the Son of God.” Wherever that lie

            flourishes, no saving truth can live. The forms in which it is now put are




            TO A PERSONAL LEADER.  V. 4, ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ - ho en to kosmo

            he that is in the world; the one in the world. The apostle sets forth here the

            personality of the evil one, as the one animating leader of the false prophets,

            just as vividly as our Lord set forth the personality of the devil as the father

            of lies. (John 8:44)  Difficult as the doctrine undoubtedly is, it is far

            less so than any theory of moral evil which represents it as having its seat in

            no one, and nowhere (compare II Corinthians 4:4; Ephesians 2:2;). The fact is,

            neither the beginnings nor the endings of sin are shown us in the word.

            We only know what lies within the revealed termini.




            μείζων ἐστὶνἐν ὑμῖν meizon estin ho en humingreater is the One

            in you. Satan is mighty, but there is a Mightier. The strong one has been

            vanquished by a Stronger (Matthew 12:28-29; 4:11; John 16:33;

                        Colossians 2:15; John 12:31). The evil one proved no match

            for Jesus Christ the Righteous when he sought to prevail against Him

            in the desert. (Matthew 4:1-11)  By the cross Satan was dethroned and

            Christ enthroned. And not all the band of hell-taught emissaries with which

            the world and the Church may be plagued for a while will ever overthrow

            the Spirit, the army, and the saving work of Christ. “God will bruise Satan

            under our feet shortly.”  (Romans 16:20)


  • THIS GREATER POWER IS “OF GOD.” The Divine Spirit may

            take possession of the human spirit. He does. The life of God in the soul of

            man is the great secret of personal religion. As bearing on our present

            theme, there are four ways in which God’s Spirit may influence man’s.


Ø      By what has been called “prevenient grace;” where the Spirit of God

                        goes beforehand, and predisposes him to hear God’s Word. Our Lord

                        spake of this, in words which have never yet been sufficiently laid hold

                        of by the Church (John 8:47).


Ø      By regenerating grace. When a man is born of God, that wicked one

                        toucheth him not.  (ch. 5:18)


Ø      By the unction from above (ch.2:20; see homily on ch.2:20, 27).

      This imparts spiritual discernment.


Ø      By the ardor and courage of a holy combativeness (Ephesians 6:10-17).



            POWER OF ANTICHRIST IS GONE.   Nενικήκατε αὐτούς

            - Nenikaekate autousconquered; overcome them. All of them.

            “Ye have overcome them.” You have already gained the victory!

            Your Lord’s triumph is yours. On those who have in them the Spirit of

            God, antichrist can have no hold. So Paul (I Corinthians 12:3). All

            depends on men being filled with the Spirit. If a man has not the Spirit of

            God, he will not say, “Jesus is Lord.” If a man has the Spirit of God, he

            will not say, “Jesus is anathema.” Against antichrist he will have an

            effectual guard. How will this be? Thus, by the teaching and power of the

            Spirit, he will be enabled:


Ø      to perceive,

Ø      to receive, and

Ø      to hold fast THE TRUTH!


            He will be enabled:


Ø      to detect,

Ø      to expose,

Ø      to combat, and

Ø      to overcome THE ERROR!




  • It is an unspeakable mercy to have THE SPIRIT DWELLING WITHIN

      US,  by virtue of His unction, light, and might we shall have an inward

      and effective guard against the heresies of this and of every age. The

      possession of spiritual religion will be the surest preservative against the

      snares of infidelity and the seductions of a false philosophy.


  • It is by means of the conflict that the believer is himself confirmed in the

            truth. We do not envy the man who shrinks from open conflict against

            error on the behalf of Christian truth. Such timidity argues either little faith

            in the power of the truth, or else small trust in the power of his Saviour.

            Let him in Christ’s strength go forth to war, and when he is more than

            conqueror through Him who loved him, he will have learned a lesson of

            priceless worth in THE POWER OF CHRIST  and the impotence of




The Spirit of Truth and the Spirit of Error (vs. 1-6)


  • NEED FOR TESTING. “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but prove the

spirits, whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out

into the world.” Again, at the thought of danger, his heart warms toward

his readers as his beloved. It is necessary to bear in mind the circumstances

in which they were placed. They had the help of true prophets. The

apostolic age had not come to an end. John was still living; and there were

others who had inspired utterance. They had that for which some minds

still crave — infallible guidance on the spot. But they were not placed

beyond danger, as minds never are in this world. Many false prophets had

gone out into the world, and were in their neighborhood, as they are in all

neighborhoods where Christ’s truth is published and finding acceptance.

The false prophets are Satan’s counterpoise to the true prophets, and, as

the true prophets were really under Divine inspiration, the false prophets

claimed to be under Divine inspiration too. For that lie best succeeds which

is made to bear the closest resemblance to the truth that is active.

Christianity was at that time wonderfully active in many places. How was it

to be counteracted? We can understand that forming the subject of evil

counsel. One way was to incorporate Judaism with Christianity. Another

way was to incorporate Gentile philosophy with Christianity, to which the

name of Gnosticism is given. The general drift of Gnosticism is to

substitute, for the plain facts of the gospel, philosophic myths. Cerinthus,

who was a contemporary of John in proconsular Asia, is described by

Neander as “the intermediate link between the Judaizing and the Gnostic

sects.” “As a Judaizer, Cerinthus held, with the Ebionites, that Jesus was

only the son of Joseph and Mary, born in the natural way. As a Gnostic, he

maintained that the Christ first descended, in the form of a dove, on the

carpenter’s son at his baptism; that He revealed to Him the unknown Father,

and worked miracles through Him; and that at length He took his flight, and

left Him, so that Jesus alone suffered and rose, while the Christ remained

impassible.” There is reason for believing that this was the particular

danger, or something not unlike it, which beset the circle or circles to

which John writes in this Epistle. There therefore arose a necessity for

discriminating between the true prophets and the false prophets, that the

one class might be followed and the others shunned. How was this

necessity to be met? Only by the action of the Christians themselves. The

duty of discrimination is here laid upon them. For this they were not

specially inspired; but they had the ordinary assistance of the Holy Spirit.

Observe the language in which the duty is described. “Believe not every

spirit, but prove the spirits, whether they are of God: because many false

prophets are gone out into the world.” They were not enjoined to sit in

judgment upon the prophets as individuals, but in respect of their prophetic

teachings, which they claimed to have received from God. There were

spirits of God to whom afterward is attributed the confessing of Christ; and

there were spirits not of God to whom afterward is attributed the refusal to

confess Christ, the organs of the latter being the false prophets. How are

we to understand this plurality of spirits? Are we to think of the spirits of

the prophets as objectified? or are we to think of spirits as connected with

separate movements, finding their organs in prophets true or false? The

latter view is not excluded by the language; but we know very little of the

sphere in question. The practical thing is that there are true teachers and

false teachers, between whom a discrimination has to be made. The

Christian ministry should be in the service of truth; but it would be vain to

think that the teaching from every Christian pulpit is true. There are times

when many go forth from our theological halls with rationalistic tendencies.

What are Christian people to do? They are not to believe every spirit.

Whoever the Christian teacher is, the influence resting upon him and giving

character to his utterances must be tested, to see whether it is of God.

There are teachers rising up from time to time of commanding ability. They

are, or seem to be, burdened with a message for their age. Their influence

extends beyond the readers of their books or listeners to their orations. It is

soon to be found in novels, in magazines, in newspapers, in conversation.

What are Christian people to do. They are to discriminate, they are not to

believe every spirit; they are to satisfy themselves that the influence present

in the teaching is of God before they yield themselves to it. If they are not

satisfied, then they must do what they can to make themselves impervious

to, or vigorously to counteract, the influence. For very much depends on

what teaching we receive through all channels, it being either for our

spiritual advancement or for our spiritual deterioration (destruction).


  • THE TEST TO BE APPLIED. “Hereby know ye the Spirit of God.”


Ø      Positive. “Every spirit which confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the

flesh is of God.” Teaching is to be judged in relation to Christ. It is due to

Christ that there should be an open declaration in His favor. The object of

confession is (strictly) Jesus Christ come in the flesh. It is to be borne in

mind that Jesus is the historical name. It is admitted on all sides that “one

Jesus” lived about twenty hundred years ago, and that His influence has

extended far and wide. What account is to be given of this Personage?

The right teaching is that which confesses Him to be the Christ. This is in

agreement with ch.2:22. Cerinthus taught that the Christ had a temporary

abode in Jesus; the Christian teacher declares Jesus to be the Christ. But

the Christ refers us to Divinity, eternal Sonship, with which we associate

ideas of immateriality, invisibility, impassibility, exemption from death.

This was virtually the understanding of Cerinthus, and his way of

accounting for the ordinary manifestations of humanity in Jesus was that

he was only apparently the Christ. This was the usual solution of the

difficulty by the Gnostics. The right teaching is that Jesus is Christ come

in the flesh.  That is to say, the true solution is the Incarnation. Christ is

Divine, and as such we can think of Him as essentially immaterial,

invisible, impassible, undying; and. yet He is human, and as such there

could be connected with Him materiality, visibility, suffering, death.

The Incarnation is well worthy of being made the great object of

confession. For it proclaims the wonderful and indissoluble union

 between God and man with a view to human redemption, which

sometimes tends to repel by its strangeness. It proclaims a new and

unexpected outlet for Divine love, transcending all finite power of

 thought, to be estimated adequately only by him in whose heart the

love burned. In this view we obtain facts which are rich in meaning.

We first stand in presence of His birth, when the mysterious union

commenced. We are amazed as we contemplate Him growing up to

manhood. We behold Him setting Himself to His work, and proving

Himself in a threefold encounter with the tempter. (Matthew 4:1-11)

We are overwhelmed with awe to think of Him, in death, passing under

the eclipse of the Father’s countenance. We are profoundly interested to

behold Him rising from the dead, and to think of Him as passing into the

heavens in our glorified nature. That is the right kind of teaching which

deals with these facts, puts them forward for the grasp of faith, uses

them for the clearing of thought and the stirring up of love.


Ø      Negative. “And every spirit which confesseth not Jesus is not of God:

and this is the spirit of the antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it

cometh; and now it is in the world already.” The true confession has

been defined; this is its contradiction. There is implied a certain

knowledge of Christianity. The news has gone forth that God has

become incarnate  for human salvation. It is news which is fitted to

arrest, and leaves no excuse for want of inquiry into the question of fact.

Every teacher especially should have his mind made up with regard to it.

The apostle lays it down as the test of a true confession. By this

Cerinthus and other Gnostic teachers were to be condemned. They

found a way of avoiding the Incarnation, and thus took away the

impression of the great love of God manifested toward men. The same

thing is done by the Unitarians now. They withhold acknowledgment

from Jesus. Many of their teachers plead for warmth of feeling toward

Christ. Without the passions which move incessantly, like glittering and

intense fire, around the Person of Christ, religious teaching will not make

men’s hearts so to burn within them as to bring them in crowds to hear

and to obey, and to be impelled to become teachers in turn”

They do not, however, leave room for the calling forth

of such love, inasmuch as they represent Christ as a mere man, only

transcending other men in excellence of character. They do not accept

the Incarnation; it is not credible to them; it takes away from the

simplicity of the faith. Their declaration must go forward to judgment;

a Higher than man will one day pronounce upon its worth. It is an

important consideration for our guidance that Unitarianism stands

clearly condemned by the apostolic test. It confesses not Jesus, admits

not the higher view of His Person and work. There are teachers of great

eminence “who occupy rather a negative and undefined position in

relation to Christ and Christianity. They have written upon almost every

subject of human thought — upon government and the Church, upon

history and biography, upon morals and destiny. They have gone round

the world to find heroes and representative men, and have said many

true and striking things about them; but, strange to say, they have never

clearly informed the world as to what they think of JESUS CHRIST!

They are unaccountably reticent upon a subject that is the most important

of all. They allow a painful silence to brood over A NAME THAT IS

ABOVE EVERY NAME!   What can be the meaning of this? Is it

because they have no faith in Christ, but do not think it prudent or

necessary to profess their unbelief? Can they have faith without

professing it? The fact remains that they have thought it their business

to act as guides to the world, and have thought it necessary to publish

many volumes of their opinions, and. yet have never directly told the

world what they think of Christ. That fact remains; and alongside of

it the truth remains, “Every spirit which confesseth not Jesus is not

of God.”  Of the Corinthian Gnosticism, which set aside the Incarnation,

John says that it was the presence of antichrist. So early had the

announced opposition to Christ commenced; it still exists under other

specious forms. The most radical opposition is that which is directed

against the central fact of the Incarnation, which would reduce Christ

to the position of a mere human teacher.




Ø      The fact of victory. “Ye are of God, my little children, and have

overcome them.” This is another occasion on which the apostle is so

affectionate as to call them his little children. He thinks of something

which was greatly to their honor. They had overcome the false prophets.

We are not told the wiles which were used by these prophets. They

pretended to be under Divine inspiration. Very probably they pretended

to work miracles. We do not know that they held out the inducement of

false pleasures. Whatever the wiles were, in vain were they tried on those

to whom John is now writing. They held tenaciously to the fact of the

Incarnation, and to its blessed import. Nay, we can understand that they

succeeded in separating from their communion all who were not in

sympathy with the Incarnation, who for the fact put some fanciful idea.

“They went out from us,” it is said of these prophets in ch. 2:19,

which, taken in connection with what is said here, gives us an impression

of their moral defeat. There needed to be no recourse to the disciplinary

power of excommunication; they went out when they could no longer

endure the power of the truth.


Ø      The ground of victory. “Because greater is He that is in you than He

      that is in the world.” The Divine Person is left undefined. We naturally

      think of Christ in the Spirit. For the victory lies in discrimination; and

      John’s conception of their qualification is their having an anointing from

      the Holy One. As qualified in the same way, Christ had to fight. He was

      brought into conflict with him that is in the world. All attempts were

      made to delude Him, to lead Him to abandon the Father’s cause; but He

      conquered. “Now is the judgment of this world; now shall the prince

      of this world be cast out.”  (John 12:31)  As the hour approaches, He

      announces His victory for the encouragement of His followers: “Be of

      good cheer; I have conquered the world.”  (John 16:33)  John’s

friends conquered too, because greater was He that was in them than he

that was in the false prophets, and in the world to which properly these

belonged, though they had once been connected with the communion of

Christians. Christ is in us by His Spirit, to unmask all designs on us, to

expose all fallacies, to disclose all the beauties of truth. He that is in the

world has great power of delusion; but we can think of it as vanquished,

and we can think of the victory as sure for us in the power of His Spirit

which is within us as our equipment. Therefore let us be of good cheer.


Ø      The manner of victory.


o       Discrimination in respect of the false prophets. “They are of the

      world: therefore speak they as of the world, and the world

      heareth them.”  How are false prophets to be known? They are

      the birth of a worldly state of society, they give utterance to

      worldly sentiment, they gain worldly applause. As for the

       Incarnation, it is remote from their thoughts; it is too high

      for their low origin; it is too self-abasing, too self-restraining.

      Let a field be sought where looser sentiment may be uttered, or

      where there may be a grim handling of abuses and unrealities

      and failings, and, if there is only sufficient vis in

the teacher, certain men will loudly applaud.  (The modern

terminology would be “talking points.”  - CY – 2015)

“The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not

seek after God:  God is not in their thoughts.”  (Psalm 10:4)


o       Discrimination in respect of the true prophets. “We are of God:

      he that knoweth God heareth us; he who is not of God heareth

      us not.” How are true prophets to be known? They may be said to

      be the birth of a quickened Church; they are here represented as

      the birth of God. They teach about God, and they set forth the

      Incarnation as the grandest manifestation of what God is

      as the fact of facts and the truth of truths.  He that is in the

      school of God, and seeks to advance in the knowledge of

God, is attracted to them; while he who is not yet born of God

is repelled from them. “I have set thee,” says God to Jeremiah,

“for a tower and a fortress among my people, that thou mayest

know and try their way.” (Jeremiah 6:27) 


o       Marking of the discrimination. By this we know the spirit of

      truth, and the spirit of error.” We are to understand the principle

      laid down. By it we discriminate between the spirit of truth

      resting on the true teachers, and the spirit of wandering resting

      on the false teachers. There is implied the test of the Incarnation.

      According as teachers are attracted to it do they come into

THE LIGHT OF GOD!   According as they are repelled from

it do they wander themselves, and lead away others, INTO



(vs. 7-21) God is Love, and love is the surest test of birth from God. From

ch. 3:11-12, John renews his exhortations to love, this time at greater length

and in closer  connection with the other great subject of this second half of

the Epistle, the birth from God.


7 “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one

that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.” Beloved (see on v. 1).

The address is specially suitable where the subject is love. As before, we must

not look for the chief purport of the section in the exhortation with which it opens.

Just as “prove the spirits” is subordinate to “every spirit which confesseth,” etc.,

so “let us love one another” is subordinate to “God is Love.” (For the history

and meaning of the specially Christian term ἀγάπηagapaelove - see Trench’s

‘Synonyms of New Testament.’)


8 “He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.”

In giving the opposite, John again varies the thought, this

time very remarkably. Instead of “love is of God” (v.7), we have “God

is Love” — a far deeper thought; and instead of knoweth not God,” we

have “knew not God,” or, as we should say in English, “hath not known”

or “never knew God.” The man’s not loving his brother shows that in no

real sense has he ever in the past known God: he is of the world (ch. 3:1),

not of God. We must beware of watering down “God is Love” into

“God is loving,” or even “God of all beings is the most loving.” Love is not

a mere attribute of God; like light, it is His very nature. As “God is Light”

sums up the Being of God intellectually considered, so “God is Love” sums

up the same on the moral side. Only when this strong meaning is given to

the statement does John’s argument hold, that “he that loveth not

knoweth not God.” A man who has no idea of any one of the attributes of

God, as order, or beauty, or power, or justice, has an imperfect knowledge

of God. But he who has no idea of love has no knowledge of God, for love

is Himself. God alone loves in the fullest and highest sense of the word; for

He alone loves with perfect disinterestedness. It is love which alone can

EXPLAIN CREATION!   Why should a Being perfectly blessed in Himself

create other beings, but to bestow a blessing upon them?


9 “In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God

sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live

through Him.” The verse is very similar to ch. 3:16, “in this” referring to

what follows, and introducing a concrete and crucial example of love.

Beware of the inadequate and misleading rendering “towards us” for ἐν ἡμῖν

en haeminin us, and belongs to “manifested,” as John 9:4 plainly

shows. We must not connect together “the love of God in us,” still less

“the love of God toward us,” as one idea. “In us” means “in our case,” and

the whole may be paraphrased: “A transcendent manifestation of the love

of God has been made in regard to us, in that He hath sent,” etc. The verse

might serve as a summary of John’s Gospel. The word μονογενής  - monogenaes

only begotten; only generated – as applied to Christ is peculiar to John; it and

ζήσωμεν zaesomenwe might live -  are the key-words of the passage.

“This is love indeed; it is His only Son whom He has sent, and He has sent

Him to give us life.” Note the double article — “His Son, yes, His Only Begotten.”


10 “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and

sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”  Let no man think that any higher

manifestation of love than this can be found. It is not in any love of man to his

Maker, but in His Maker’s love to him, that the real nature of love can be perceived.

Note the change from perfect to aorist; ἀπέσταλκεν apestalkenhas sent; has

dispatched - in v. 9 expresses the permanent results of the mission; ἀπέστειλεν

apesteilensent; dispatches; commissions - here states the mission as an

accomplished fact complete in itself. (For ἱλασμός, - hilasmospropitiation - see

on ch. 2:2.)


11 “Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.”

Beloved introduces a solemn exhortation, as in vs. 1, 7. The “if” implies no

uncertainty (see on ch.5:9); it puts the fact more gently, but not more doubtfully,

than “since.” The οὕτως houtosso; thus – covers both the quality and the

quantity of the love. Καὶ - kai – also; and - belongs solely to ἡμεῖς haemeis

we - “we also on our part ought to love one another.” We should have expected

as the apodosis, “we also ought to love God.” But this link in the thought

the apostle omits as self-evident, and passes on to state what necessarily

follows from it. In v. 12 he shows how loving God involves loving one’s

fellow-men (compare ch. 2:5 for a similar passage over an intermediate link).



The Supreme Manifestation of Love   (vs. 9-11)


“In this was manifested the love of God toward us,” etc. Our text does not

speak of the only manifestation of the Divine love. In many things is the

love of God manifested to us — in the beauty, the utility, and the fertility

of our world; in the exquisite structure of our souls and bodies; in the apt

relations of the outer world to our nature. Nor does our text mention the

manifestation to angelic beings of the love of God. But John sets forth

the richest and most glorious exhibition in regard to us of the love of God.

We see here several aspects of the Divine love.


  • IN ITS GREAT ORIGIN. “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but

that He loved us”


Ø      God’s love to man originated entirely with Himself. This love in its

beginning was all on God’s part, and none on ours. We did not love

Him.  There was nothing in us to awaken His love to us. We were not

beautiful, or amiable, or meritorious, or good. “But God commendeth

his own love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ

died for us.”   (Romans 5:8)  It was our sin and suffering and deep need

that called forth His compassion toward us; and ere He could love us with

the love of complacency, He loved us with the love of tender and Divine



Ø      God is the Fountain of all love. Love flows from the essential nature of

the Divine Being. “Love is of God… God is Love” (vs. 7-8). As light

and heat from the sun, so all true love everywhere flows from Him, or

took its rise from Him. And seeing that He is love, that love is of His

essence, the flowing forth of His love to us is the giving of Himself

to us. But the love of God was manifested in our case:



“Herein was the love of God manifested in us [or, ‘in our case’], that God

hath sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through

him.” Notice:


Ø      The pre-existence of Jesus Christ. This is clearly implied in the

expression, “God hath sent his Son into the world” (compare

John 3:17,34; 17:4-5).


Ø      The endearing relation of Jesus Christ to God the Father. He is “His

only begotten Son.” The word “Son” alone would suggest that their

relation is one of deep affection; but other terms are added, which

intensify and strengthen this idea. The Father speaks of Him as

“my- beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). Paul

writes of Him as “God’s own Son” (Romans 8:3). And John styles Him

“the Only Begotten of the Father.… the only begotten Son, which is in

the bosom ofthe Father” (John 1:14, 18); “The Father loveth the Son,

and hath given all things into His hand” (ibid. ch.3:35). And our Saviour

said, “Father, thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world”

(John 17:24). It is impossible for us to comprehend this ineffable and

nfinite love subsisting between the Father and His only Son, or the deep

and unutterable joy of their communion. In sending such a Messenger

to our world, what a revelation we have of the love of God!


Ø      The subordination of Jesus Christ to God the Father in the work of

redemption. “God sent his only begotten Son into the world.” “As thou

didst send me into the world, even so sent I them into the world” (John

17:18). The Divine Son cheerfully became a servant that His Father’s

authority might be vindicated, and His Father’s glory be promoted in the

redemption of the human race (compare Philippians 2:6-8).



might live through Him.” Notice:


Ø      The condition in which the love of God finds man. “Dead by reason of

trespasses and sins.” There is a resemblance between a dead body and

the state into which the soul is brought by sin. In both there is the absence

of vision, of hearing, of sensibility, and of activity.


Ø      The condition into which the love of God aims to bring man. “That we

might live through him.” His design is to quicken men into spiritual life -

the life of true thought, pure affection, righteous and unselfish activity,

and reverent worship. This life is eternal in its nature. It is not perishable

or decaying, but enduring and progressive. And it is blessed. Life in the

text comprises salvation in all its glorious fullness. How clear is the

manifestation to us of the Divine love in this!



FOR US. “He sent His Son to be the Propitiation for our sins.” The best

commentary on Christ the Propitiation that we know, is that found in the

words of Paul, in Romans 3:24-26. Two remarks only do we offer

concerning the propitiation.


Ø      It was not anything offered to God to render Him willing to bless and

save us.


Ø      It was designed to remove obstructions to the free, flowing forth of the

mercy of God to man.  How splendid the expression of the love of God

in sending His Son, only and well-beloved, to be the Propitiation for our




God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” The obligation to

copy the Divine example in this respect is grounded upon our relation to

Him as his children. Because we are “begotten of God” (v.7) we should

seek to resemble Him. The argument of the Apostle Paul is similar: “Be ye

therefore imitators of God, as beloved children, and walk in love,” etc.

(Ephesians 5:1-2). If we are “partakers of the Divine nature,” we

should imitate the Divine example.  (II Peter 1:4)


Ø      In relation to mankind in general. “I say unto you, Love your enemies,

and pray for them that persecute you; that ye may be sons of your Father

which is in heaven,” etc. (Matthew 5:44-45). He loved us with the love

of compassion before He could love us with the love of complacency. Let

us imitate Him in this respect in our relation to those who are yet in their



Ø      In relation to the Christian brotherhood in particular. (Compare ch.

3:10-18.) Let us evince our relation to the Father, who is infinite Love,

by our unfeigned love to our Christian brethren. Let the supreme

manifestation in regard to us of His love thus produce its appropriate

effect in us.


12 “No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God

dwelleth in us, and His love is perfected in us.” No one hath ever yet beheld

God. Θεόν TheonGod stands first for emphasis. and without the article,

as meaning the Divine Being rather than the Father in particular: “With regard

to God — no one hath ever yet beheld Him” τεθεάται tetheataihath gazed;

hath seen – (view attentively; to see with admiration; desire or regard) -  

stronger than ἑώρακενheorakenhath seen (mentally).  Why

does John introduce this statement here? Not, of course, as implying that to

love an invisible Being is impossible; but that the only security for genuine and

lasting love in such a case is to love that which visibly represents Him.

Seeing that God is invisible, His abiding in us can be shown only by His

essential characteristic being exhibited in us, i.e., by our showing similar

self-sacrificing love ἀγάπη αὐτοῦ - Hae agapae autouHis love; the

love of Him - can scarcely mean God’s love for us; for how can our loving

one another make His love perfect? Nor yet vaguely, “the relation of love

between us and God;” but, as in ch.2:5, our love for Him. Our love towards

God is perfected and brought to maturity by the exercise of love towards

our brethren IN HIM!



                                                Love  (vs. 7-12)


Connecting link: The apostle here seems to begin a new paragraph; yet it is

one by no means disconnected from that which precedes. If antichrist plies

its seductive arts without, it is for those who are “of God” to cleave closer

together; knit by the bonds of a holy love, which is of itself born of Him

who is love. Topic — Love’s fount, channel, stream, and outlet. We have

more than once had occasion to remark that both the matter and the style

of the Apostle John are peculiarly his own. The matter, for it gathers round

a few key-words — “light,” “life,” “love.” The style, for it is not like

Paul’s, cumulative; it is rather radiative. We have no specimens of

prolonged and closely connective argument; but a series of rich and

beautiful teachings throughout a paragraph, on one of his key-words. Here

the keyword is — LOVE.   Respecting it we have eight distinct assertions.


  • GOD IS LOVE. In John 4:24 we have “God is Spirit.” In chapter

            1:5 “God is Light.” Here “God is Love.”


Ø      The first indicates the substance of the Divine naturepersonal,

      conscious, intelligent Spirit.

Ø      The second declares the perfection of that nature in knowledge and

      in purity.

Ø      The third shows the benevolence of the Divine nature in its regard

      for those who are the creatures of His power and the subjects of

      His grace.


            These three words contain more information about God than all the sacred
            books of the East put together.
They are a revelation. We are taught how

            to think about God, and if we keep within the lines marked out by these

            three words, we cannot go far wrong.


            Note: This light thrown on God’s nature gives us the clue to the meaning of

            His works and ways in:


Ø      nature,

Ø      providence, and

Ø      grace.


            The three spheres give us the triple unfolding of infinite love, and nothing else.



      Through whom? His only begotten Son.” How? “A Propitiation.”

            For what? “For our sins.” With what intent? That we might live through

            Him. No true life of peace, joy, and fellowship with God was possible for us

            until sin was put away. No one could do this but One in and of the race,

            yet over it — One who by His humanity could represent earth, and who yet

            as the eternal Son could represent the Father; HE ALONE could take this

            place, and by offering Himself to the Father, for us, on account of our sin,

            He revealed how sin burdened the heart of God, and gave BY HIS OWN

            SACRIFICE such an expression to man of the Divine holiness and rectitude,

            that, on the ground thereof, the infinitely Pure One might receive the

            penitent lovingly to His embrace, yet make no compromise with sin.



            UNIQUE. (vs. 9-10) “In this,” etc. “Herein is love ;” as if it were seen

            nowhere else. All other love fades away in comparison herewith. This will

            appear as we study:


Ø      Its origin. God’s own love, self originated and sustained, unbought,


Ø      Its method. The bestowment of the greatest possible gift, and that

      as a sacrifice.

Ø      Its objects. He loved us sinners, traitors, alienated ones.

Ø      Its extent. “The whole world;” i.e., all the race on the globe through

      all time!

Ø      Its intent. That we might live. That all who believe might be made

      heirs of glory.



            LOVE ON OUR PART.   (v. 11.) Nothing ever threw so much light

            on the value of man in God’s eye as the work of the Lord Jesus Christ on

            his behalf. Nothing else ever disclosed what God meant to do with us. But,

            it once being shown how great are the possibilities opening up to man

            through Christ, all the relations between man and man come to be invested

            with new meaning; and the self-evidencing force of the appeal of v. 11

            ought to be irresistibly felt.



            CREATIVE POWER. (v. 7.) “Every one that loveth is born of God.”

                It should never be forgotten that ἀγάπηagapaelove - is a word born

            within the bosom of revealed religion; it occurs in the Septuagint, but there

            is no example of its use in any heathen writer whatever. The pure and holy

            parental love, the love of children as we understand it, the fondest ,and

            purest affections of husband and wife, are the birth of Christianity, i.e., of

            DIVINE LOVE AS REVEALED IN CHRIST!   Men cannot know how

            truly and how largely this is the case till they examine into the state of the

            pagan world at the time of Christ. The apostle himself declares, “We love,

            because He first loved us.”



            BROUGHT INTO FELLOWSHIP WITH HIM. (vs 12-13.) When

            God hath given us of His own Spirit of love, so that we in our measure

            come to love like God, then we know that “we dwell in Him, and He in us.”

            There is a loving and abiding intercommunion. We, being in full sympathy

            with God, must needs yearn to pour forth ourselves to others, as God hath

            given Himself to us. And this outgoing of ourselves to our brother is a sure

            pledge of God being in us, and we in Him.



            (v.12.) The first and second clauses of this verse are very closely

            connected together. “No man hath seen God at any time, [but] if we love

            one another, God dwelleth in us, and His love is perfected in us;” and so we

            come to know God, though no one hath ever seen Him. We know Him

            through love whom we cannot behold by the sight (compare Matthew 5:8).

            Only love can possibly read love. A cold heart can never understand a

            warm one, but one warm heart can read another. So we come to know

            God through learning from Him to love as He loves. And the more

            complete our devotion to man for God’s sake, the fuller and richer will be

            our knowledge of GOD’S INFINITE LOVE!



            (v. 8.) The love of God is so vast that it embraceth “a great multitude

            which no man can number.” It is so minute that it yearns for “one sinner”

            to repent. It is so active that it sent its noblest embassy to invite the

            wanderers to return. It is so tender that it would not that “one of these

            little ones should perish.” How can, a man who does not love understand

            all that? It is not that God closes His heart against the man; it is the man

            that steels his heart against God. And until the warmth of Divine love melts

            the thick-ribbed ice of his frozen soul, no stream of love will ever flow

            from him to gladden and fertilize a world.


Note:  See what it is will estrange a man for ever from his God, and will

shut him up in hopeless ignorance of God — unlovingness; simply this.

Objection: But are you not reasoning in a circle? You say man does not

love till God’s love kindles his, and yet that he cannot know God till he

loves! Which is first? Surely here is vicious circle. No; not at all. God’s

love goes out first. That love is manifested in the work of Christ. When we

were yet sinners Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)   “He that would be warm must

keep near the fire,” said Matthew Henry. Even so, let the cold frozen heart stay

near the cross, till, feeling the warmth of love there, it is set aglow. Then,

being set aglow by learning of the love of God, he will at once begin to

understand THE LOVE OF GOD!


13 “Hereby know we that we dwell in Him, and He in us, because He

hath given us of His Spirit.”  Almost identical with ch.3:24. In vs. 1-7 the

apostle says that confession of the Incarnation proves possession of the

Spirit; and in v. 12 that love of the brethren proves the indwelling of

God. He now (v. 13) goes on to say that possession of the Spirit proves

the indwelling of God; and (v. 15) that confession of the Incarnation

proves the same. So that these four facts:


·         confession of the Incarnation,

·         possession of the Spirit,

·         love of our fellow-men, and

·         indwelling of God


mutually involve one another. John does not say, “He has given us His

Spirit,” but - ἐκ τοῦ Πνεύματος αὐτοῦ - ek tou Pneumatos autou

of His Spirit!  It is impossible for us to receive more than a portion; the fullness

of the Spirit is possessed by Christ alone. In John 1:16 we have a similar use of

ἐκ (out of;  i.e; the Spirit -)(compare John12:3).



            God-likeness the Seal of a Divine Indwelling  (v. 13)


Connecting link: This verse is closely allied to the verse preceding. Though

no one has at any time seen God, yet God is within us if His love is

reproduced in us by the new birth of the Holy Ghost. Hence our present

topic — Conformity to God the proof that God is the Life of our lives.

There is in some respects a considerable resemblance between this verse

and ch.3:24. But the student desiring to be exact in his unfolding of

the writer’s words will note:


(1) that the complexion of words is much modified by their connection; and


(2) that often as the apostle seems to use approximately the same words,

yet what seems at first sight to be but a very slight variation will, when he

catches the precise hue of each clause, start him on a distinctly different

line of thought and teaching. Here, set in relation to the context, the

apostle’s teaching manifestly is this — In possessing, and in being

possessed by, a spirit of love, we are conscious of a life that is from God

Himself, who is Love.


  • HERE IS A FACT ASSERTED. “He hath given us of His Spirit.” Both

            the Gospel and the Epistles of John are Trinitarian. The Father, the Son,

            the Holy Spirit, all are there, each fulfilling His own part in the saving work.

            The Father the Origin, the Son the Channel, the Spirit the Agent, in the

            redemptive economy.


o       The Father sends the Son.

o       The Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son.

o       The Father plans the redeeming work.

o       The Son carries it out objectively for man.

o       The Spirit applies it subjectively in man.


            It is the last-named act which is specified here.


Ø      The Spirit of God comes within man, freely. “Given.” The gift of the

                        Spirit within is as gratuitous on God’s part as the gift of His dear Son.

                        He is bestowed by the Son, as the Gift of the Father’s love (Luke 11:13;

                                                John 1:33; 14:16-17).


Ø      The Spirit of God, when within us, controls us. We are “led by the

                        Spirit;” we “live in the Spirit;” we “walk in the Spirit”  (Galatians

                        5:16-18); and the entire direction of the new life is in His gracious hands.


Ø      The Spirit of God, by controlling us, transforms us. We come to love as

                        God loves. We come to be, in our measure, as the governing force of our

                        spirits is. And since that is love, we love; we catch the holy impulse of

                        the self-sacrificing zeal; and yearn to lay ourselves out for those around




            PROOF AND SEAL OF A DIVINE INDWELLING. This may be set in

            two ways.


Ø      Positively.


o       This dwelling of God in the heart is what is promised (John 14:23).

o       This is the conscious experience (Romans 5:5).

o       This is the actual power (Galatians 2:20).


                        The living on another, drawing our life, joy, love, might, all from another,

                        is as real to us as the air we breathe. And if we have any likeness to God,

                        it is to God Himself we owe it, and by fellowship with Him it is nourished

                        and increased.


Ø      Negatively. This life of love cannot be attributed to any other cause; for:


o       It is not natural to us.

o       We did not get it from man.

§         Not from the world; for there man turneth “every one to

      his own way.”  (Isaiah 53: 6)

§         Not from the Church; for no one has power to impart the

      grace of love.

o       We never caught sight of such love till it was shown us in Christ.

o       Even then we never shared it till He who died for us breathed

      the new life within. Oh, if we have come to love like God, it

      can only be through the gracious indwelling of the God of love!





Ø      For the unregenerate. They should learn what it is they need. Life, life

                        within them!

Ø      For the inconsistent professors. They want reality, not a sham life.

Ø      For those who do not know where they are in religion. Let them not

                        waste time in “feeling their pulse;” let them open their hearts to

                        receive God; they will soon know their state then.

Ø      For those seeking after the evidences of Christianity. They will find

                        them in men filled with the Spirit of God.

Ø      For the students of history. They wilt find a new world of love, slowly

                        yet surely forming, under the power of the cross and of the Spirit of

                        our God.


14 “And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be

the Savior of the world.” And we have beheld, and do bear witness. The emphatic

ἡμεῖς haemeiswe - clearly means “we apostles;” and τεθέαμεθαtetheametha

have seen; beheld; have gazed implies contemplation with bodily eyes, as in v.12.

The invisible God can be only “invisibly seen” by the pure heart. But the incarnate

Son has been visibly contemplated; and to bear witness of this fact was the very

office of an apostle (John 15:27; Acts 1:8). The language of this verse, as of

ch. 1:1, 3, would be strained and rather unreal in one who had not seen

the Christ in the flesh. Note that σωτῆρα sotaeraSaviour -  has no article, and

is not in mere apposition, but is a second predicate: “The Father hath sent [see on verse

10] the Son as Saviour,” i.e., to be such. “The world,” as commonly in John’s writings,

is specially the unregenerate among the human race.



            The Historic Basis of the Christian Testimony (v. 14)


Connecting link: The mutual indwelling of God in us and of our spirits in

God is the result of a Divine revelation of love made to us on God’s part,

and of the reception of that love on our part. That love, which has been

and is still the object of our adoring contemplation, and to speak it out

among the people is the business of our lives.  “The Lord gave the Word:

great was the company of those that published it.”  (Psalm 68:11) “We have

seen,” etc. We may be permitted here to quote in full a note of unusual value

from the ‘Speaker’s Commentary’ upon this verse: “‘We have seen with adoring

wonder, and the impression of the sight abides with us τεθέαμεθαtetheametha

have seen; beheld;, and are bearing witness μαρτυροῦμεν marturoumen

are testifying, that the Father hath sent [perfect] the Son as the Saviour of the world.’

One of the numerous loops that bind the Epistle to the Gospel” (compare

ch.1:1-3, John 1:32, 34; 19:35).




            (John 1:16; 19:35.) In this Epistle (and in the Gospel by the same

            apostle) we have the history of our Lord’s life given us by one who had

            followed with Him, and who understood the meaning of that life at least as

            well as any other of the apostles. But we note:





            and leading features thereof are given here.


Ø      That Jesus Christ was “the Son” of God. Not merely a Son.

      Not a Son merely in the same sense that others may become.

      But the only begotten Son; of the same nature with the Father.

Ø      That He was “sent” by the Father.

Ø      That He was sent to save — to save from sin.

Ø      That His mission was for the race. “The Saviour of the world.”



            GREAT BUSINESS OF THEIR LIVES. “We do testify.” They lived for

            this. They suffered for this. If need be, they were prepared to die for it. To

            assert it over and over again they gave up all that earth calls dear; they

            encountered opposition and fiery persecution; they counted not their lives

            dear unto them. So that their testimony was of such a kind as could not

            possibly be false. We say this, well weighing our words, and fully assured

            that the scientific value of the testimony to the facts of our Lord’s life,

            death, and resurrection cannot be overestimated, and that it is a question

            which demands more careful study from the unbeliever than many will

            consent to give to it. The testimony stands thus:


Ø      It rests on a clear and distinct historical basis.

Ø       It is given by men who were eye-witnesses of the main facts they relate.

Ø      The meaning of the facts was directly opposed to their national

                        expectations and prepossessions, and such as they could only have been

                        induced to give when all their prejudices were overborne by a Power

                        from on high.

Ø      In such a life and work, so full of Divine meaning, there was a message

                        presented to the people for them to believe (John 20:31). The reception

                        of the message was intended to lead up to a living faith in Jesus as the

                        Saviour of the lost (compare John 4:42).

Ø      Such faith in Jesus would ensure the privileges of sonship (John 1:12).

      With sonship would come fellowship, with fellowship knowledge of

                        God. In this knowledge would be the eternal life (ch. 5:9-12).



            GREAT RESPONSIBILITY. Such a testimony, so given, with such a

            purpose, cannot leave us where it found us. We are responsible to God for

            the use we make of such a message as this. We are bound:


Ø      to hear devoutly and thoughtfully;

Ø      to receive it believingly and lovingly;

Ø      to use it

o       for the purpose of being saved by Him who has come that

                                    He might save, and

o       for the purpose of joining in the witness-bearing,

                                    and so co-operating with Jesus in saving others. His name is

                                    called “Jesus,”


                        His name is called “Jesus,” for He saves His people from their sins.



The Great Mission of Christ  (v. 14)


“And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son,” etc. The

mission of Jesus Christ appears here in a threefold relation.


  • IN ITS RELATION TO THE WORLD. “The Father sent the Son to be

the Saviour of the world.” Notice.


Ø      The world’s need of a Saviour. It was in a morally lost and undone

condition. It was perishing by reason of its sins. Take the world of

John’s day, or of our own day, in confirmation of this.


Ø      The world’s inability to provide for itself a Saviour. Many times and in

various ways it has made the attempt, but IT HAS ALWAYS FAILED!

Schemes of political organization, or liberal education, or social

amelioration, or even moral reformation, do not reach the central depths

of the need of our race. Man needs SALVATION, REDEMPTION!


Ø      The son of God came to the world as ITS SAVIOUR!  “The Saviour of

the world.” The expression “the world” is to be understood in its plain,

natural meaning (compare ch. 2:2; John 3:16). He saves men from sin by

the influence:


o       of His life and work upon earth,

o       of His sacrificial death,

o       His glorious resurrection, and

o       His effectual intercession.


How benevolent is this mission! He might have come to judge, condemn,

and destroy our rebellious race. But “God sent not His Son into the

world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be

 saved?”  (John 3:17)  How stupendous is this mission! Creation is a great

and glorious work. The Divine agency in upholding the universe, and

presiding over its vast and infinitely diversified affairs, baffles our every

attempt to comprehend it. The immensity of its extent, the minuteness of

its attention, the infinity of its wisdom, the almightiness of its power,

immeasurably transcend our utmost thought. But the salvation of lost men

is God’s greatest and most glorious work. In the Divine Son

accomplishing His redemptive mission we have the clearest and fullest

manifestation of God.


  • IN ITS RELATION TO THE FATHER. “The Father hath sent the Son

to be the Saviour of the world.”


Ø      The Saviour is the Son of the Father. Frequently is this relationship

expressed in the sacred Scriptures, and in a way which indicates its

ineffable sacredness and dearness (see Matthew 3:17; 17:5; John

1:14, 18; 17:24; Romans 8:3; and v. 9).


Ø      The Saviour is the Sent of the Father. “The Father hath sent the Son.”

This is affirmed again and again in the writings of John (John 3:17, 34;

7:16; 10:36; 16:5; 17:3-5, 18, 21, 23, 25). Being thus sent by the

Father, the Son’s mission as a Saviour is DIVINE IN AUTHORITY!

 He claimed this Himself: “I have not spoken of myself; but the Father

which sent me, He gave me a commandment,” etc. (John 12:49-50).

The apostles made the same claim on His behalf (see Acts 2:22; 10:38).


  • IN ITS RELATION TO THE APOSTLES. “And we have seen, and

do testify, that the Father sent,” etc.


Ø      Their knowledge of the Saviour. John, writing of himself and his

fellow-apostles, says, “We have beheld,” etc. They had seen their Lord

in the exercise of His miraculous powers, and in wondrous glory on the

Mount of Transfiguration; they had beheld the perfect purity and beauty

of His daily life; they had seen Him dead upon the cross, and His sacred

body laid in its rocky sepulcher; they had afterwards repeatedly seen Him

living; and they beheld Him as “He was taken up; and a cloud received

Him out of their sight.”  (Acts 1:9-12)


Ø      Their testimony concerning the Saviour. “We have beheld and bear

witness that the Father,” etc. They testified to the facts which we have

already noticed:


o       That Jesus Christ was the Son of God.

o       That He was the Sent of God.

o       That He was sent of God as the Saviour of the world.

Their Lord had appointed them to be witnesses for Him (John 15:27;

Acts 1:8). And this may fairly be said to be the sum of their

testimony: “The Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world.”

And it is beyond reasonable question that their testimony is “worthy

of all acceptation.”  Thus we have seen that the great mission of

Jesus Christ:


§         meets man’s deepest need;

§         rests upon the SUPREME AUTHORITY;  and

§         is attested by competent and trustworthy witnesses.


Therefore let us believe their testimony, and turn heartily to THE SON OF



15 “Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him,

and he in God.”  Whosoever confesseth - ὁς ἄν ὁμολογήσηhos an homologaesae

whosoever confesseth - This rendering seems preferable to “whosoever shall confess”

or “shall have confessed.” The exact meaning is, “Whosoever has once for all taken

up the position of confessing.” V. 14 gave the case of the apostles; this gives that of

those who accept their witness. In the next verse we have that of both together.


16 “And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us.

God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.”

And we have come to know and believe. Both perfects are virtually presents,

expressing the present continuance of a condition begun in the past: “We know

and continue to believe.” Experience and faith are intimately connected; and

sometimes the one precedes, sometimes the other (John 6:69). As in v. 9, ἐν ἡμῖν

en haemin should be rendered in us, not “to us” or “toward us;” and here also

the interpretation, “in our case,” is certainly possible, and perhaps safer. But the

meaning may be that the object of our knowledge and faith is that portion of His

own love which God has in us. It is “in us,” and is exercised towards Him and our

brethren, but in reality it is His — it is Himself abiding in us. In either case love is

the object of our faith. Thus love is not only the true note of the Church (John 13:35),

it is also the Church’s creed. The second half of the verse restates the main proposition

of this section with a view to further development.



     Divine Love a Home for the Soul, and a Force Within It.  (vs. 15-16)


Connecting link: There is a connection between the several verses on

which we are now dwelling (vs. 7-19). But it is not so much a

connection of thoughts that follow consecutively one from another, as a

connection such as exists between glowing sparks that follow one after

another, from the same mass, when struck upon the same anvil, by the

same hammer, wielded by the same arm. The apostle gives us here a

startlingly beautiful succession of truths concerning love — Divine love

revealed in Christ, and laying hold of men. Obviously, in vs. 15-16

there are two statements concerning believers generally — “Whosoever

shall confess,” etc.; “He that dwelleth in love,” etc. There is also one

statement concerning the apostle and his fellow-workers — “We have

known,” etc. Let us take these in their order.





Ø      Here is a supremely happy condition. It is twofold.


o       The soul full of God. “God dwelleth in him” (compare

      John 6:56; 14:23; Colossians 1:27; Galatians 2:20;

      II Corinthians 13:5; Romans 8:9; Ephesians 2:22; 5:18;

            Revelation 3:20). In some passages the Dweller in the heart

      is spoken of as “Christ,” sometimes as “the Spirit,” sometimes

      as “the Father with the Son,” sometimes as “God

                                    by the Spirit.” In all cases the meaning is that there is a

                                    Divine Energy within the man, quickening, inspiring, and

                                    controlling him — a new directing and strengthening force,

                                    leading on to all holy action, to patient endurance, to final

                                    victory. Man moves not upward and heavenward by a

                                    self-elicited force, but soars thither by a Divine power

                                    imparted and sustained from above!


o       The soul at home in God. “He dwelleth in God.” God is not

      only a new life in him, but a new home for him, in which He

      abides, and from which He cannot be dislodged. His wanderings

      are over. He has a settled rest, an everlasting home. It is in the

      Father’s house, nay, in the Father’s heart, the heart of boundless

      love. He is seated now in “the heavenly places in Christ

                                    Jesus.” Happy, happy home!


§         It is heaven.

§         It will never break up.

§         No foe can invade it.

§         Sin shall not mar it.

§         Death cannot disturb it.


                                    Oh, to have found already a home like this! It is well worth

                                    our while to ask to whom it belongs. (Note: The two indwellings

                                    complete each other. God dwelling in the soul ensures the soul

                                    continuously dwelling in its true home; and the soul, being always

                                    at home, has entire repose, leaving all its force free for

                                    happy, holy service.)


Ø      To whom does this twofold blessedness belong? There are here two

      statements in reply to this question. The apostle says, “Whosoever

      shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God” is thus blessed; and that

      “he that dwelleth in love” is so also. We must elucidate this by offering,

      first, a word or two on each phrase, and then by showing the connection

      that exists between them.


o       The twofold indwelling is realized by him who “dwells in love,”

       i.e., whose whole being is, as it were, bathed in an atmosphere

      of love; who lives, moves, thinks, acts, in that sphere, and never

      out of it. Such a one “dwells in God,” etc. The definite article

      ἐν τῇ ἀγάπῃ - en tae agapaein the love - should be noticed

                                    here, as defining the love. Following, too, on the phrase,  

                                    θεὸς ἀγάπη ἐστίν – Ho Theos agapae estinGod is love,

                                    its force is equivalent to “God is love, and he that lives and

                                    moves in that love of God has his abiding home in the God

                                    of love.”


o       The twofold indwelling is realized also by him who “confesses

      that Jesus is the Son of God.” This sentence probably is

      suggested by v. 14, indicating that the continuous witness-

      bearing for Christ caused them to realize more fully than

      ever their heavenly privilege, a privilege which the

                                    apostle seems to say, “Every confessor will share with us.”

                                    It is very remarkable, however, that the apostle should attribute

                                    a like blessedness to such apparently different (but not

                                    contradictory) conditions. The reciprocal indwelling is realized

                                    by him who lives and moves in love, and also by him

                                    who openly and continuously avows a certain “dogma” (to use

                                    a common mode of expression). The former is clear enough.

                                    Not so, perhaps, the latter. But what if the two should be



§         that “Jesus is the Son of God,” and as such the

      Revealer of love, is the message addressed to faith.

§         Faith receives Him, and with Him the love which He


§         Confession constantly rings out the faith, and by so

      doing vastly increases faith’s realizing power.

§         This, through the energy of the Holy Ghost

      (I Corinthians 12:3), makes the love of God in Christ

      so real to the faithful confessor, that he actually dwells

      in love, and so reaches the state specified as “dwelling

      in love” (v. 16). Thus the two conditions differ only

      as the terminus a quo from the terminus ad quem.

      Confession is the former; dwelling in love is

                                                the latter.


Note: This is verified by the order of the phrases being in the one case,

“God dwelleth in him, and he in God;” and in the other, dwelleth in

God, and God in him.”



            HIMSELF AND HIS FELLOW-BELIEVERS. He has not been writing at

            random, nor has he been moving in a region so transcendental that

            experience cannot verify it. He can verify it from his own experience.

            Those to whom he is writing can verify it from theirs. The difference

            between the Authorized Version and the Revised Version should be noted

            here: “We have known and believed the love that God hath in us ἐν ἡμῖν

            en haeminin us,.”  Not “toward us” or “to us,” as if it were ἐν ἡμᾶς

            en haemas. The marginal rendering in the Revised Version should also be

            carefully avoided: “in our case” (!). The believer has gone much further

            than to know the love of God to him. He knows it in him, as a reviving,

            cheering, glowing, inspiring, life-giving power. It is in him as the “living

            water springing up into everlasting life.”  (John 4:14)  The following order

            of thought might develop this. Divine love is:


Ø      A manifestation amongst us, ἐν ἡμῖν (as above and in v.9).

Ø      An impartation realized in us (Romans 5:5).

Ø      A reciprocated love, as ours has been called forth thereby (v.19).

Ø      A transforming love, causing us to love as God loves (v. 12).

Ø      A self-consummating love, fulfilling its own ends in and through

                        us, and causing its outworking to be perfected in us, as its newly

                        opened channel, through which it is flowing on to the boundless

                        ocean of everlasting life and glory  ἀγάπη αὐτοῦ τετελειωμένη

                        ἐστιν ἐν ἡμῖν hae agapae autou teteleiomenae estin en haemin

                        His love is perfected in us.


            Who, who is equal to the adequate unfolding of thoughts so sublime? In

            writing this homily we feel as if human words were an intrusion; and such

            they are, if irrelevant or superfluous. But if they are such as we aim to

            make them — illustrative of the thoughts in the text — then the gracious

            Spirit will deign to own them, however far they fall short of what the

            writer’s largest wishes could desire. With three queries for the conscience

            and the heart we close.


(1) Who can adequately extol the greatness of the Divine condescension, in

choosing us as vehicles through which His love may be conveyed, and so

taught to others?


(2) Who can but wonder at the dignity conferred on man, in making him

the means of manifesting such a love?


(3) Who would not open his heart to God that He may dwell therein and sanctify

it, having expelled the sin which would have corrupted and destroyed it?



The Love of God (v.16)


“God is Love.” “God is.” To this almost all peoples assent. The belief in a

Supreme Being is nearly coextensive with the human race. Very different

are the attributes ascribed to Him and the names applied to Him; but as to

the fact of His existence well-nigh all are agreed. But what is God? Many

and various are the answers to this inquiry. To some He is unintelligent and

irresistible Fate. To others, Nature. To others, the beautiful Order and

stupendous Forces of nature. To others, “the Something, not ourselves,

which makes for righteousness.” To others, “an Infinite and Eternal Energy

from which all things proceed.” To others, the Creator, Sustainer, and

Sovereign of the universe. But what saith the Supreme concerning Himself?

“God is Light;” “God is Love.” A complete apprehension of what God is,

is unattainable by us. The finite cannot comprehend the Infinite. “God is

Love;” we can understand that. But GOD IS INFINITE!   Combine the two

statements. “God is Infinite Love.” Here we are lost. The highest and

mightiest of created beings cannot comprehend the infinite love. The

knowledge which holy spirits have of God will go on increasing for ever;

but at no period in the everlasting future will any one be able fully to know

Him. Yet as to His being and character we may each attain such a

knowledge as will enable us to confide in Him, and to enter upon the

blessed and unending career of moral assimilation to Him. Though we

cannot comprehend Him who is Infinite Love, yet through Christ we may

apprehend Him, trust Him, love Him, commune with Him, and become one

with Him. God is Love.” Let us consider:




Ø      In creation. The machine is a revelation of the mechanist; the building,

of the architect; the painting, of the painter; the poem, of the poet. So the

universe is an embodiment of the ideas of the Divine mind, a revelation

of the thought and feeling of the Creator. A careful survey of God’s

work will lead to the conclusion that “God is good to all, and his tender

mercies are over all His works.”  (Psalm 145:9)  Contrivance proves

design; and the predominant tendency of the contrivance indicates the

disposition of the desirer. The world abounds with contrivances; and all

the contrivances which we are acquainted with are directed to beneficial

purposes.… We never discover a train of contrivance to bring about an

evil purpose. No anatomist ever discovered a system of organization

calculated to produce pain and disease; or, in explaining the parts of the

human body, ever said, ‘This is to irritate, this to inflame, this duct is to

convey the gravel to the kidneys, this gland to secrete the humour which

forms the gout.  Viewed from this standpoint, the universe appears to be

a grand outflow of the love of God, a convincing witness of His delight

in promoting the well-being and the gladness of His creatures. The

seasons of the year supply evidence of this truth.


o       Spring, with its gradual unfolding of young life and verdant

beauty, its quickening and joy-giving influence, is a revelation

of God’s tenderness and grace.


o       Summer, with its rich light and heat, its abounding life and glory,

is a revelation of the inexhaustible beauty and glory and

munificence of God.


o       Autumn, with its maturity and mellowness and plenty, proclaims

the fidelity and bountifulness of God.


o       But what shall we say of winter, with its storms and tempests,

its somber clouds and stern colds? Even this — that it is not

without its beauties, and in its bleak and trying months nature

is silently and secretly preparing the beauties of the coming

spring, the glories of summer, and the bounties of autumn.


Rightly regarded, even winter testifies that “God is Love.” But man,

with guilty conscience, and a dread of God, and viewing Him only

through the distorted medium of his own sinful soul, fails to read the

revelation of Him in nature correctly. And even if he should do so,

there arises the inquiry — Is God love in His relation to the sinful?

To this, nature has no satisfactory response. Creation may have been

a sufficient revelation of God for unfallen men, but for sinful men

it is very insufficient.


Ø      In the Bible. The Bible is the revelation of God in His relation to man as

a sinner. And this revelation reaches its clearest, fullest, and most

influential development in JESUS CHRIST, THE SON OF GOD!


o       In the Bible, God appears as the Giver of every good, the Fountain

of all blessings. “He giveth us richly all things to enjoy.”  

(I Timothy 6:17)  “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from

above,” etc. (James 1:17)  Material, mental, and spiritual good

we derive from Him. He gives:


§         Restoration to the lost,

§         pardon to the guilty,

§         sanctification to the sinful,

§         glory to the degraded!


Through Christ, He bestows all good here, and eternal and glorious

life hereafter TO ALL WHO BELIEVE IN HIM!


o       God confers these blessings upon those who are entirely

undeserving of them. It is not to His loyal subjects alone that these

gifts are bestowed, but also to rebels against His authority. “He

maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good,” (Matthew

5:45)  Not only are we undeserving; we are ill-deserving;

we have merited His wrath; yet He imparts to us the gifts of

His love.


o       In order to bestow these gifts upon us, He gave us a Gift of greater

value than all the others. “He gave his only begotten Son.” This

Gift immeasurably transcends all the others. Without this they

would not have reached us. They flow to us through THE



o       And Jesus was given, not to those who waited to receive and honor

Him, but to those who despised and rejected Him. He was given

to labor and suffer and die for men, in order that they might have

life and joy (compare vs. 9-10; Romans 5:8; John 3:16). “God so

loved the world, that He gave,” etc. Who can declare the sweep

and intensity of that little adverb “so”? It indicates an infinity

of love, a shoreless, bottomless ocean of love. “Love, Divine

love, Divine love giving, Divine love giving its only begotten Son,

that whosoever believeth — not ‘payeth,’ not ‘worketh,’ not

putteth out some external strength,’ but ‘believeth’ should

not perish, but have everlasting life!”  Great as was the love

between the Father and the Son, the Father “spared not His

own Son, but delivered Him up for us all.”  (Romans 8:32)

All the love of the Saviour’s life was the love of God. “God

was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself.” (II

Corinthians 5:19)  In all the life of our Lord I read our text,

and in His death it is proclaimed with an almost irresistible

fullness and force that “GOD IS LOVE!”



presence of sin and suffering in the world tends to make men doubt the

love of God. If God is love, how is it that there is so much evil amongst

men? If He is omniscient, He must have foreseen it; and, foreseeing it, if He

is omnipotent, He might have prevented it. Why did He not do so? Why

does He allow it to remain?


Ø      In relation to the existence of sin, or moral evil, amongst us, observe this

the moral consciousness of men ever charges sin upon themselves,

not upon God. The weak and depraved reason of man may be so perverted

as to charge or implicate the Almighty with the origin and presence of sin;

but the heart and conscience never do so. Conscience brings the guilt

home to the sin-doer, and under its influence he cries, “Against thee,

 thee only, have I sinned,” (Psalm 51:4)  Remorse, penitence, prayer

for pardon, efforts to repair wrongs which have been done, — all

these prove that man feels himself, and not God, to be chargeable

with sin. And in relation to the origin of evil, whatever dark

suggestions may be presented to our mind, we always feel that it

cannot be of God, but is against Him. The presence of evil He

permitted and still permits; but it did not originate with Him.

All His works and ways are utterly opposed to sin. His material

creation, His universal providence, His moral laws, and the

redemptive mission of His Son, are all resolutely set against evil.

He is not darkness, but light; not malignity, but love.


Ø                  Suffering, or natural evil, as it is sometimes called, is the result of sin,

or moral evil. Whence come war and slavery, distress and poverty, pain

and sorrow, disease and “the bitterness of death”? If men would “cease

 to do evil, and learn to do well”  (Isaiah 1:16-17), suffering would

disappear from our world almost entirely.


Ø                  Much of our suffering is self-inflicted. We violate the laws of God’s

universe, and we suffer in consequence. “Whoso breaketh an hedge, a

serpent shall bite him.”  (Ecclesiastes 10:8)  This is never so realized

as by those who break the hedge or fence of God’s Ten Commandments!

CY – 2015)  This is an arrangement of love.


Ø      The sufferings of the world are small when compared with its

enjoyments. Pain is the exception, not the rule, in human life. The joy

that is in the world is far greater than the sorrow. The sufferings of

our race are only like one dark and stormy day in a whole year of

smiling and joyous sunshine.


Ø      The suffering that is in the world is often the means of goodness and

joy. In itself evil is and ever must be evil; in itself suffering is ever

painful and bitter. But through the goodness of God evil is not an end,

but is often used and overruled for the promotion of good. “All

chastening seemeth for the present to be not joyous, but grievous:

yet afterward it yieldeth peaceable fruit unto them that have been

exercised thereby, even the fruit of righteousness.” (Hebrews 12:11)

Severe suffering is like a great thunderstorm which sweeps over a

country, and, by its flashing flames and awful booms and pelting rain,

fills the minds of men with terror; but it passes away, and leaves the

air purer and the heavens brighter. Therefore “let us rejoice in

our tribulations: knowing that tribulation worketh patience,” etc.

(Romans 5:3-5; also 8:18, 28; II Corinthians 4:16-18; James 1:2-3,12).

You must cut the diamond to understand its value, and to behold

the play of its tremulous colors when the sun-rays fall upon its surface.

Thus do afflictions bring to light what was latent in the heart. The

strongest faith, the intensest love, the profoundest gratitude, and the

sublimest moral and spiritual power have been manifested, not by

men in the clear day of their prosperity, but by the children of

affliction in the dark night of sorrow. Thus even suffering and

trial, when received and borne in a right spirit, witness to this

glorious truth, that “GOD IS LOVE!”


17 “Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the

day of judgment: because as He is, so are we in this world.”

This verse raises various questions which can scarcely be answered with certainty.

Does “herein” ἐν τούτῳ - en toutoin this; herein - look back to v.16?

or forwards to “that” ἵνα (that)? or forwards to “because” ὅτι (because; seeing

that)? Again, does “with us” μεθ ἡμῶν – meth haemon(with us; our) belong to

“is made perfect” τετελείωται teteleiotai(made perfect; has been perfected)?

or to ἀγάπη hae agapae - love?  John 15:8 inclines us to refer “herein” to “that”

 ἵνα; and “with us” or “among us” goes better with the verb than with the

subject: “Herein has love reached its perfection among us Christians, i.e.,

in the Church, that we have confidence in the day of judgment.” This is the

perfection of love to have no fear. The ὅτι (because), introduces the reason for this

confidence: its basis is our likeness to Christ, especially IN BEING UNITED

UNTO THE FATHER!   (John 17:21, 23, 26) Compare “even as He is pure”

(ch. 3:3), and “even as He is righteous” (ch.3:7): καθὼς ἐκεῖνος kathos ekeinos

even as He is - in all three cases.


18 “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because

fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.

Love implies attraction, fear repulsion; therefore fear exists not

in love. Love here means the principle of love in general; it must not be

limited to God’s love to us, or our love to God, or our love of the

brethren. Love and fear coexist only where love is not yet perfect. Perfect

love will absolutely exclude fear as surely as perfect union excludes all

separation. It is self-interested love that fears; pure and unselfish love has

no fear. Yet nothing but perfect love must be allowed to cast out fear.

Otherwise this text might be made an excuse for taking the most

unwarrantable liberties with Almighty God. To cease to fear without

attaining to perfect love is to be irreverent and presumptuous. Hence the

apostle is once more pointing out an ideal to which Christians must aspire,

but to which no one attains in this life. There is a fear which prepares the

way for love, and which comes only to depart again when its work is done.

Because fear hath punishment. κόλασιν kolasinchastening -  must

not be rendered indefinitely “suffering’’ or “torment” (Matthew 25:46;

Ezekiel 43:11). But κόλασιν ἔχει kolasin echeichastening is having –

does not mean “deserves”  or “will receive punishment,” but quite literally

“has it.” It is the day of judgment and fear in reference to that day that is

under consideration; and fear of punishment is in itself punishment by

anticipation. Note the ἀλλά - allabut -  and the δέ - de – yet, introducing

a contrary and then a contrast back again: “There is no fear in love; nay,

perfect love casteth out fear: but he that habitually feareth [present participle]

is not made perfect in love.” The dread of punishment may deter men from sin;

but it cannot lead them to righteousness.  For that we need either the sense of

duty or the feeling of love.



Love’s Boldness in the Day of Judgment.  (vs. 17-18)


Connecting link: The apostle had been speaking of God’s love being

perfected in us. He now glances forward to the outlook of believers, as

bounded by the παρουσία parousiacoming - and the κρίσιςkrisis

judgment, and in so doing he shows that, as love attains its perfection, all

dread which might otherwise attend on the prospect is removed; so that the

believer may have παρρησίανparraesian boldness - even on the

judgment-day. As, however, in these verses there is some room for

differences of interpretation, we must first state what appears to us to be

the meaning of some of its clauses, since the entire structure of this homily

depends thereon.


1. “Herein is the love made perfect with us.”The love,” i.e., God’s love

which (v. 12) is perfecting itself in the soul that loves. “With us.” With

whom? “With us, as believers, one towards another?” or “with believers

and God?” We adopt the latter view — God’s own love consummating

itself in working through believers; and their love consummating itself also

in laying hold of God’s. It is difficult not to feel that there is some subtle

reference to the idea of God with us.  Love is not simply perfected in

man by an act of Divine power, but in fulfilling this issue God works with



2. “Because as He is, so are we in this world.” In what sense are believers

in the world as Christ is? or rather, what is the sense in which it is so

intended here by the apostle? Is it not this — we are looking forward to the

day of judgment as the consummation of our hope, and the Redeemer is

working in the world with a view to the day of judgment as the

consummation of his mediatorial work? In this view we are confirmed by a

remark of Canon Westcott: “‘This world’ as distinguished from ‘the world’

emphasizes the idea of transitoriness.” Just so, Christ, in His redeeming

work, and we in our believing hope, are working with the same goal in

view — “the day of judgment.” This world is but a passing phase of things.


3. “Fear hath punishment [Authorized Version, ‘torment’].” There is

nothing here to suggest that “fear” has any disciplinary effect in inducing

love. The apostle views it simply as the ever-attendant penalty of

unlovingness. He whose nature is out of harmony with God’s must dread

Him everywhere and always. Spirits in league with evil will seek rest in

vain. They will tremble. But in the perfecting of love all this is done away.



            day in which our Lord Jesus is carrying on His saving work in the world,

            and His educating process in the Church; and all with a view to “THE

            GREAT DAY!”   Believers, too, are only in the preliminary period of their

            training, and hence they too believe and hope and love with a view to

            “the great day.”  As their Lord is, so are they in this passing world, looking to

            and preparing for what lies above and beyond it. Hence such passages as these:

            Matthew 25.; Mark 13:35-37; Luke 13:24-25; 18:8; 21:36; John 14:3;

                        Acts 2:20-21; Romans 14:9-12; I Corinthians 4:5; II Corinthians 5:10;

                        Philippians 1:6, 10; Colossians 1:28; I Thessalonians 5:23; II Timothy 1:12.



            DAY OF JUDGMENT.” It is the day of the Lord, when He shall be

            manifested. It may be as lengthened a period as the present one, which is

            “the day of salvation.” As the day of judgment, it will close the probation

            of the race; while for those who are looking for our Lord it will bring in THE


            (I Peter 1:5) In the word “judgment,” however, much more is included than

            at first sight appears. “Judgment” is indeed a rectification, an adjustment;

            but then what that may mean in detail depends on the person or thing to be



Ø      If, e.g., any one is unlawfully bound, judgment would be liberation.

Ø      If any one be deprived of a right, his judgment would mean restoration.

Ø      If unjustly accused, vindication.

Ø      If misunderstood or misinterpreted, manifestation.

Ø      If good and evil are mixed up together, judgment would be

                        separation; and as the result, for the bad condemnation, and for the

                        righteous glorification.

            Judgment is, in fact, the restitution of all things, not necessarily in the sense

            attributed to that phrase by advocates of universal restoration, but in a far

            higher sense, even that of rendering to every man according as his work

            shall be (compare Acts 17:31).



            THERE IS SOME DEFICIENCY IN OUR LOVE. That aught so solemn

            as the final destinies of a race can be contemplated without a feeling of awe

            — an awe that is sometimes overwhelming — is not desirable, even were it

            possible. Reverence, indeed, forbids it otherwise. But this holy, reverent

            awe must not be confounded with the servile dread referred to in the text:

            εὐλαβείας  - eulabeiasgodly fear; piety - (Hebrews 12:28) is very different

            from φόβος phobos - fear. The fear which is inconsistent with perfect love

            is the fear of the slave dreading the lash, or the culprit dreading the verdict.

            But if the love of God is within us, sweetly subduing us with its tenderness,

            and if through that love sin is pardoned and destroyed, why, there is no

            lash to dread, there is no adverse verdict to fear (John 5:24, Revised Version);

            for in such a case, to see the Judge upon the throne will be to look upon the

            face of an infinite Vindicator and Friend, in whose love we have lived here,

            and the enjoyment of whose love is the highest heaven for ever! And so far

            as the judgment will bear on others, the man of love will be more than content

            with the decisions of the Son of God and Son of man, and will desire

            nothing more than that the entire race should be dealt with by Christ as He

            sees fit. Evidently, if this be not our state of mind, there must be deficiency

            in love in exactly the same degree as there is any restless fear.



            BE PERFECTED IN LOVE. We may take this in either or both of two



Ø      Let it be our concern that God’s own love may be so richly

                        communicated to us as to transform us to His likeness.  (ch. 3:2)


Ø      Let it be our concern to have so clear an apprehension and knowledge

      of God, that we shall see in Him and in all His attributes only pure

      and perfect love. In the former case there can be nothing to dread

      for ourselves. In the latter case we shall dread nothing in Him,

      φόβος (fear) has no door of entrance whatever.



            THE DAY OF JUDGMENT. “Confidence,” “boldness,” “freedom of

            speech” (compare ch.2:38; 3:21, Greek). Dread seals the lips. Love

            opens them (Luke 21:36; Romans 14:12; Mark 6:30). The

            “salvation” which will serve then is not an artificial plucking out of a

            burning ruin, irrespectively of character; it is being made perfect by Divine

            grace, even as our Father in heaven is perfect.



      QUESTIONWhat will the judgment-day bring to me“boldness” or

      punishment”? One or the other must be. Which? There may be an attempt

      to lessen the weight of these thoughts by objections or pleas; e.g.,

      it may be said:


Ø      The “punishment” is corrective. We suggest three replies.


o       If it be, is that any reason for being content with needing

      correction, when we ought to be awaiting honor?

o       It is folly to urge the plea, unless men are very sure of its

      accuracy. But are they?

o       I Corinthians 11:32 is totally against any such plea. Or it may

      be said:


Ø      There is no knowing when the judgment may come (compare Ezekiel

                        12:27). But men forget that the judgment is but the manifestation of

                        that which is going on now and ever. A spirit out of harmony with

                        God must be ill at ease ALWAYS and EVERYWHERE!   Fear hath

                        torment, NOW;  and can never be separated from it, any more than

                        a man can flee from his own shadow (Job 15:21-35).



The Victory of Love over Fear  (vs. 17-18)


“Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of

judgment, etc. Our text authorizes the following observations.



FUTURE. John speaks of “the day of judgment.” The evidence for the

coming of such a day is various and strong.  (Acts 17:31)


Ø      The administration of moral government in this world requires it. In

this present state the distribution of good and evil, of prosperity and

adversity, among men is not in harmony with their respective characters.

We find Paul in prison, and Nero on the throne; the infamous Jeffreys

on the bench, the sainted Baxter at the bar. This aspect of the Divine

government occasioned sore perplexity to Asaph (Psalm 73:2-14), and

from that perplexity he obtained deliverance by the recollection of the

truth that a time of judgment and retribution awaits our race in the

future (ibid. vs.16-20).


Ø      Conscience anticipates the coming of such a day. The “dread of

something after death” has been felt by most men at some time or

other.  The voice within testifies to the solemn truth that after

death cometh JUDGMENT!


Ø      The Bible declares the coming of such a day. (See Ecclesiastes 11:9;

12:14; Matthew 12:36; 25:31-46; Acts 17:31; Romans 2:16; 14:10,12

II Corinthians 5:10; Jude 1:14-15; Revelation 20:11-13.)



FITTED TO AWAKEN HUMAN FEARS. Very clearly is this implied in

the text. The awakened conscience cries, “Enter not into judgment with thy

servant; for before thee no man living is righteous.” (Psalm 143:2)  Two

things in connection with the day of judgment are likely to lead to fear.


Ø      The consciousness of our sins. No human being can stand before the

great tribunal and plead “Not guilty.” In relation to man we may be

guiltless; that is possible. But in relation to the holy God and His

perfect Law, we have each sinned, and brought ourselves into

condemnation, and merited punishment. Hence the prospect of the

day of judgment may well awaken our fear.


Ø      The Omniscience and Holiness of the Judge. He knows our every sin.

Even our sinful thoughts and feelings are manifest unto Him. He has

set our iniquities before Him, our secret sins in the light of His

countenance (Psalm 90:8). And He cannot excuse any sin. Sin is the

abominable thing which He hates (Jeremiah 44:4). He is “of purer

eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look on iniquity” (Habakkuk 1:13).

Who, then, can stand before Him in that day?



HOLY CONFIDENCE. “Herein is love made perfect with us, that we may

have boldness in the day of judgment,” etc. “Love” here is not merely our

love to God, or our love to our neighbor, but the principle of love, the love

which subsists between God and us; thus that simple relation of love of

which the apostle had spoken in v. 12, and just now again in v. 16.” And

its being perfected cannot mean that it is so fully developed as to be

incapable of further increase or improvement.  In that sense love will never

be altogether “made perfect with us.” One meaning of “to be made perfect”

is “to attain its end.” And one of the designs of God is that love should

 inspire us with holy boldness in the day of judgment.  The confidence

which we shall have in that day, and which we have even now by

anticipation of that day, is the perfection of our love; grounded on the

consideration which follows;” viz. “Because as He is, even so are we

in this world.”


Ø      Perfect love expels servile fear. There is a reverent fear which increases

as our love increases. “O fear the Lord, ye His saints,” etc. (Psalm

34:9); “Ye that fear the Lord, trust in the Lord,” etc. (ibid. ch. 115:11,

13). But servile fear, the fear which hath torment, is incompatible with

Holy love. “There is no fear in love: but perfect love casteth out fear,”

(v. 18)  What countless fears agitate the hearts of those who are not in

sympathy with God! Some men are dreading secular poverty; others,

painful and lingering illness; others, death; others, judgment; others,

God Himself. Such fears agitate and distress souls; they have torment.

Perfect love will expel each and all of these tormentors. It clothes our

life and its experiences in new aspects, by enabling us to regard them

in a different spirit. This love is of God; it proceeds from Him and

returns to Him, and it cannot dread Him or His appointments in

relation to us. In this way it banishes from the heart the dread of

death and of the judgment.


Ø      Perfect love inspires holy confidence. It will impart “boldness in the

Day of judgment.” Holy love is a most courageous thing. “Love is

strong as death.… Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the

floods drown it.”  (Song of Solomon 8:6-7)  Since this relation of love

subsists between God and us, and since God is what He is, viz. “love”

(v. 16) and “light” (ch.1:5), we can do no other than trust Him, and

even now look forward with confidence to the day of judgment.

Perfect love not only expels servile fear, but inspires victorious

trust in God.




WELL-GROUNDED.   “Because as he is, even so are we in this world.”

“God is love; and he that abideth in love abideth in God, and God abideth

in him;” and in a measure he is like unto God. Moreover, love is a

transforming principle and power; and they who abide in love are ever

growing into more complete likeness to God in Christ; and for this reason

they may be well assured that in the day of judgment they will be accepted

of Him. If we are in this relation of holy love, we have communion with

our Lord and Saviour, He dwells in us, we dwell in Him, and we may

rejoice in the assurance that, because we morally resemble Him, He will

not condemn us in that day.


19 “We love Him, because He first loved us.”  We love. The αὐτόν auton

Him - is spurious, and is not to be understood: the love is again quite general.

“We have this principle of love.” To take ἀγαπῶμεν agapomenlove; are

loving -  as subjunctive in the sense “let us love” is less forcible. John

states as a fact what ought to be a fact. We Christians do not fear, but

love. Yet this is no credit to us. After God’s love in giving His Son for us

it would be monstrous not to love.



            Creed and Life: The Relation Between Them. (v. 19)


Connecting link: The apostle had shown that only as love is perfected in us

can we be free from the fear which has torment, and so have boldness in

the day of judgment. The verse before us declares that, as matter of fact,

this love is being inwrought, and the sole cause thereof is that God first

loved. “We love, because He first loved us.” The verse is one of peculiar

beauty and value. “It is the sanctuary of my soul,” said an aged Christian to

the writer, referring to this text. And well it may be. We propose its

homiletic exposition here, as a verse which sets forth with striking, yea,

almost startling, clearness the relation between creed and life. Often have

we been pained by the statement, “Religion is not a creed, but a life.”

There is enough truth in those words to make them attractive, and enough

error to make them deceptive. Let us rather say, “Religion is not only a

creed, but also a life,” and then we shall be nearer the truth. Following the

words of our text, observe:


  • IN RELIGION THERE, IS A CREED. “He first loved us.” Here, in

            these four short words, is the first creed of the Christian Church — a creed

            which it had before even the New Testament existed; and through all the

            Christian centuries, with all their perplexing entanglements and sharp

            controversies, these words have run like a golden thread through the faith

            of the Church. “He first loved us.” What is love? It is righteousness and

            benevolence acting in harmony. Now, here is love’s origin. He first loved.

            That is, God loved. Note: The word “love” is current coin throughout the

            universe of God, AND MEANS WITH HIM WHAT IT MEANS FOR

            US!   (For an opening up of the wonders of God’s love, see homily on

            vs. 7-12.)


                                    “All my life I still have found,

                                       And I will forget it never —

                                    Every sorrow hath its bound,

                                       And no cross endures for ever.

                                    After all the winter’s snows

                                       Comes sweet summer back again

                                    Patient souls ne’er wait in vain:

                                       Joy is given for all their woes.

                                    All things else must have their day;

                                       God’s love only lasts for aye.”


            But that does last — the constant wealth, life, and joy of believers. This,

            this is their creed; not held, indeed, as a dead dogma, but as a living and

            inspiring faith through the energy of the Spirit of God.


  • IN RELIGION THERE IS A LIFE. “We love.” Although we hold fast

            to the principle that the word “love” means the same as applied to God and

            to us, yet we cannot shake off a sense, even painful, of the wide contrast in

            degree. “God loves… we love.” That is from sunlight to rushlight (a type

            of candle) in a moment. They are both lights, it is true; but what a space

            between them!  Again, God’s love is a self-kindled fire. Our hearts are like

            fuel in a grate, needing the spark from without ere it will burn. Still, in our

            measure “we love.” But what? whom?


Ø      We love God. He is our love’s supreme Object.

Ø      We love each other as fellow-believers.

Ø      We love man as man.


            If this is the word in which our Christian life is summed up, three additional

            matters should be noted ere we pass on to the next main division.


o       Almost every Christian grace which can be named is love in

      some form or other.

§         Repentance is love grieving.

§         Faith is love leaning.

§         Hope is love anticipating.

§         Courage is love daring, etc.

o       So that we see a man has just as much religion as he has love,

      and no more.

o       And, further, if more energy is wanted in any one of the graces,

      let a man love more, and every grace will be the stronger.


“Yes,” it may be said, “that is true enough. But how are we to love more?”

Let us now look into the Christian philosophy of loving.



            CREED. We love because He loved. God first loved. Even so. There is the

            spark, and there only, which kindles ours. We may set this truth on several



Ø      We set it on the ground philosophy. We do not believe it possible for

                        any created being to learn to love except through being loved. (This

                        seems to be evident by the terrible plight of the modern family – CY –

                        2015)  We do not believe any angel in heaven would have ever come

                        to love God had he not known that God was love. Nor could we.


Ø      We set it on the ground of history. Take:


o       Paganism. We read of the pagans dreading their gods, seeking to

                                    propitiate them, being very much obliged to their gods for giving

                                    them a good harvest, and such like; but nowhere do we read of a

                                    pagan loving his god. Why? Because they never dreamed of a god

                                    who loved them. And as to love to man, the heathen world, even

                                    at its best, was a world without love.


o       Judaism. The command of Moses was that the Hebrew should

     love God. But — a God who did not care for them? By no means.

     “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God, who brought thee up,” etc.

     Their love was called for as a response to God’s.


o       Christianity. What evoked, nay, what created, the ardent love of

     the first Christians? What has sustained the impassioned preachers,

                                    missionaries, and philanthropists ever since? Love, Divine love;

                                    nothing but that. The truth, “by His stripes we were healed,”

                                    (Isaiah 53:5) has more power to create love than all the moralists

                                    in the world could call forth. Take the cross away, and humanity

                                    would revert to a glacial age.


o       We set it on the ground of experience. What first moved us to

     love?  What moves us still? What revives us when we are

     sluggish?  Is it not this


                                                “Sweet the moments, rich in blessing,

                                                    Which before the cross I spend”?


                        It is this — it is this which kindles us to a flame. If we love, it is because

                        He first loved us.




Ø      It is quite intelligible how some men should come to hate what they call

                        dogma. If a man accepts a form of sound words, and is dead withal, he

                        must not be surprised if his words are thought to be “an empty sound.”

                        Can anything be more unutterably offensive than a bundle of dead

                        creeds avowed by dead men? Men ought to hate them. But if a man

                        says, “My religion is this — ‘I love God and man because God

                        loves me;’“ and if he shows it while he says it, men will not despise

                        him or his doctrine either. He will redeem dogma from discredit by

                        inspiring it with life.


Ø      Whoever expects a living Church without a creed, expects an

                        impossibility. If we let go our faith, we put out our fire. If any Church

                        lets go its hold on the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord, its life

                        will not be worth twenty years’ purchase.


Ø      If God first loves, then we should consent to let God’s love be first.

                        What is the use of trying to work ourselves into favor with God? The

                        very effort is sin. If God did not love us out of the promptings of His

                        own nature, nothing that we can ever do would be good enough to

                        induce Him to love.


Ø      If God first loves us, and seeks “the love of poor souls,” how

      ungrateful and unjust will it be on our part if we do not love in



Ø      Here is a glorious object on which we may set our gaze — Divine love.

                        Yea, it is a staff on which we can lean, a pillow on which we may

                        repose; nay, more, it is a vast and gorgeous cathedral in which we

                        can worship and adore; it is the soul’s home and joy and rest. Here

                        is “the simplicity which is in Christ.” (II Corinthians 11:3)  Here are

                        theology, religion, and philosophy in one sentence:


o       Theology: God loves.

o       Religion: we love.

o       Philosophy: we love because he loves.


                        Here is that which is simple enough for the child, yet so grand that

                        not the wisest philosopher as such has found, or ever will find, aught

                        worthy to be compared with it.



God’s Love and Ours (v. 19)


“We love, because He first loved us.”


  • GOD LOVES. He is not an impassive, unemotional, passionless Being.

From all eternity there was a tender, infinite, ineffable love between the

Father and the Son. When the Scriptures represent God as having a heart,

as pitying, sorrowing, repenting, loving, hating, there is a true meaning in

the representations. If we take the corresponding emotion in ourselves,

purge it from evil, elevate and sublime it as much as possible, then we have

that which in its character resembles the emotion which is predicated of

God. God truly loves.


  • GOD LOVES MAN. He loves not only His equal Son, or the Holy

Spirit, or great and good angels, but man — weak, frail, and sinful. Yes,

“sinful;” for He loves man as man; not merely the pure and lovable, but the

sinful and morally deformed. If God loved only those whose hearts had

some love toward Him, He would love none; for all are estranged from Him

by sin. But “He first loved us.” “In this was manifested the love of God

towards us,” etc. (vs. 9-10); “For when we were yet without strength,

in due season Christ died for the ungodly,” etc. (Romans 5:6-8); “God

who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, even when

we were dead through our trespasses,” etc. (Ephesians 2:4-5); “God so

loved the world,” etc.



MAN’S LOVE. “We love, because He first loved us.” The love of God to

us is the source of all our love. The flowers that slumber in the earth

during winter do not start forth in spring and woo the sun’s warm return;

but the sun comes bathing their beds with light and warmth until they feel

his genial influence and respond thereto. So is it with God’s love and ours.

“Love begets love;” and so God’s love to us begets love in us. It follows

from this that our love, in its character, though not in its degree, must

resemble that of God. There is something in us which has an affinity to His

love, and therefore responds to it. We were made in His image, and thus

our love is like unto His. Every form or expression of human love finds its

archetype and its perfect expression in God. Take the love of a father for

his child. A noble thing is a father’s love. It is, however, perfect only in

God. “A Father of the fatherless is God in His holy habitation” (Psalm

68:5) … Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that

 fear him;” (Psalm 103:13)  “Behold what manner of love the Father hath

 bestowed upon us,” (ch. 3:1`)   A mother’s love is one of the most holy and

beautiful things in the universe; but it is perfect only in God. “Can a woman

forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son

of her womb?” etc. (Isaiah 49:15-16); “As one whom his mother comforteth,

so will I comfort you.” (ibid. ch. 66:13)  A husband’s love is perfect only in

God. “Thy Maker is thine Husband; the Lord of hosts is his name.”  (Isaiah

54:5)  His fidelity is steadfast, His protection is constant and adequate, etc.

The love of friends is found in perfection only in God. “The Lord spake unto

Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend;”  (Exodus 33:11)

“Abraham was called the friend of God.”  (James 2:23)  Jesus Christ, the

Revealer of God, is the “Friend that sticketh closer than a brother.”

(Proverbs 18:24) “Having loved His own which were in the world, He

 loved them unto the end.”  (John 13:1)  The love of a child for its parents

also finds perfect expression in the Divine nature. Jesus Christ as the Son

of God and as the Son of Mary is the perfect pattern of such affection.

Thus every aspect of true human love is beautiful, sacred, DIVINE!

God has them all in all perfection in Himself. He has manifested them,

and still manifests them to us. Our Lord Jesus is the completest, brightest

manifestation of love. Behold it in Him. Condescension, labor, humiliation,

patient submission, and uttermost self-sacrifice for sinners. Can you conceive

any manifestation of love more complete, more sublime, more Divine? The

personal realization of a love such as this must beget love in us. Its nature or

ours must be changed ere it can be otherwise. If you love Him not, you are

really not fully persuaded that He loves you. Behold in Jesus Christ the love

of God towards you. Did He not love you? Is He not love? Then, why not

love Him? Gratitude should constrain you to do so. Some can adopt the

 language of the text as their own: “We love, because He first loved us.”

And others have advanced to love Him because of what He is in Himself.

Let us endeavor to love Him more and know Him more, to know Him more

and love Him more, and so BECOME INCREASINGLY LIKE HIM!


20 “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that

loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he

hath not seen?”  What is this love of which the apostle has been speaking?

Is it the love of God or of our fellow-men? Both; love of our brethren is

organically bound up with love of God. To love God and hate one’s brother is

impossible. Sight, though not necessary to affection, aids it; and it is therefore

easier to love men than God. If a man fails in the easier, will he succeed in the

harder? Moreover, to hate one’s brother is to hate God. “Whoso rejecteth you

rejecteth me, and whoso rejecteth me rejecteth him that sent me.” (Luke

10:16)  Note the negative, μή - mae - not οὐ - ou.. John has no definite person

in view as οὐκ ἀγαπῶν – ho ouk agapon -  but any one who may happen to be

of such a character, μὴ ἀγαπηνho mae agaponhe who loveth not.

As before, μὴ ἀγαπῶν (one who loves not) and μισῶν – ho mison

one who hates - are treated as equivalent; there is no neutral term between

“love” and “hate.”


21 “And this commandment have we from Him, That he who loveth

God love his brother also.” That he who loveth God love his brother also. This is

the great commandment, on which hang all the Law and the prophets

(Matthew 22:37, 39; Luke 10:27; John 13:34), and, whatever we may think

of the relation between seeing and loving, there is the Divine command to love,

not only the invisible God, but the visible brother in whom the invisible God

dwells. Sight may hinder as well as help; it is hard to love what is squalid and

hideous. In such cases let us remember the Divine command; let us remember

the Divinity which even the most debased humanity contains.



Threefold Recommendation of the Duty of Loving One Another. (vs. 7-21)



ORIGIN IN GOD. The duty enjoined. “Beloved, let us love one another.”

John has a winning way of urging duty, addressing his readers as objects of

his affection, and desiring himself to be stirred up to duty. He has in view

the absolute type of love in the Christian circle. There are considerations

adduced which go beyond brotherly love, which suggest rather compassionate

love. But it is to be remembered that love to child, to friend, to sinner, is intended

to have its outcome and complete satisfaction within the, Christian circle.


Ø      Divine origin of love.


o       Positive. “For love is of God; and every one that loveth is

      begotten of God, and knoweth God.” It is true of all physical

      force that there is in the world, that it is of God, in this sense —

      that love came originally from the creative energy of God. In

      the same way, love is of God, inasmuch as we have been created

      with a capacity of loving. But that will not meet the requirement

      of the thought here. Love is of God in the sense that, as an actual

      spiritual force, it has come from a fountain of love in God. Every

one that loveth, then, is begotten of God, i.e., has had a nature

imparted to him like God’s, and so that he is a child of God. He

also knoweth God, i.e., has daily and growing acquaintance with

God, through which there is communicated to him more of the

force of Divine love.


o       Negative. Statement. “He that loveth not knoweth not God.”

      There is not derivation in this case; but there is the singling out

      of a person in whom love is not a force, and it is said of him

      (passing over nature) that he knoweth not God. The difference

      of tense, which is not brought out in the translation, seems to be

      aimed at apparent knowledge. When he said, at his baptism or at

      any other time, that he knew God, looking to the absence of love

      as a force in his life, John is confident that he never knew him.

Reason. “For God is Love.” This is the way in which the most

sublime statement of Scripture is the first time introduced. One

of the most striking introductions to a sermon is that by the late

M. Monod of Paris, in which he supposes an almost effaced bit

of paper to have been found among the ruins of Herculaneum.

After great difficulty, the assembled men of letters

succeed in deciphering the first two words, “God is.” There is

dreadful suspense, while they labor to decipher the third word.

What is God? is a question upon the answer to which human

destiny very much depends.  There is a glow of satisfaction when,

at last, they make out letter by letter 1-o-v-e. God is Love. It was

left to the disciple of love to make this late, but fully satisfying,

announcement about God, if from his own consciousness, also

from the spirit of inspiration. God is a Spirit — that is

a statement of cur Lord’s recorded by John (John 4:24),

describing the Divine nature as above all limitations of space and

time. God is Light — that is a statement already made in this

Epistle, describing the Divine nature as purity with no

limit to its diffusiveness. God is Love — that is a statement the

excellence of which lies in its bringing out the personal element

in the Divine nature.  (Is it not wonderful that God is a One on

one God! – CY – 2015)  This God is essentially, apart from all

thought of creation. But how are we to think of Him as love in

the depths of His own being? Love involves a subject and an

object, and that which unites both. We must not, therefore, think

merely of the love of God to the creature, but also of the

inner Divine Trinitarian love in God. There is the outgoing of

infinite love in the Father which finds an infinite response in

the Son, and this is maintained through the Spirit. That

language is vague; but it may serve to mark the loving

intercommunication that there is within Godhead.

It is because God essentially realizes love, without going

outside of His own being, that He is Self-blessed.


Ø      The love of God was manifested in the Incarnation. Herein was the

love of God manifested in us, that God hath sent His only begotten Son

into the world, that we might live through Him.” There is the full

satisfaction of love within Godhead; and yet there was a movement

of love with an object beyond Godhead. It was love that moved God

 to create — the desire to communicate of the riches of His own Being.

It can be said that, even from eternity, we lay in the thoughts of God,

with the clearness of the Divine intentions and the kindling of the

Divine affection around us. And so the place of all beings and of all

things in His world lay before Him, as that in which, anticipatively,

He took delight. When angels were brought into being, it was love

that was operating, and, there being none other, God Himself

rejoiced over them.  (Just as He sings over us!  Zephaniah 3:17 – CY –

2015)    When the foundations of the earth were fastened, and the

2016)    cornerstones thereof laid, it was love that was operating;

and “the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted

for joy.” (Job 38:7)  “Herein was the love of God manifested.” Creation,

in all its lines, has been drawn by love, and so it is essentially a glad

study, calling forth, from the students of its many parts, the symphonious

song, and the common shout of joy. But it is not to this manifestation

that John calls attention. His mind has been filled, from the beginning

of his letter, with that which is the manifestation of love by pre-eminence.

It is the Incarnation that he cannot leave out of sight. “Herein was the

love of God manifested.” The manifestation is said to be in us, i.e., in

believers; for it is in them that the Incarnation reaches its end. The

Incarnation is described as God sending His only begotten Son into

the world. We start from the thought of HIS DIGNITY as the only

begotten Son of God, besides whom the Father had none in whom

the Father’s love found an adequate object. He found the condition

appointed for Him in the world. That is, without ceasing to be the

only begotten Son, He became a man among men, even sharing

the evil of their condition, yea, suffering death at the hands of

sinners. What was the meaning of this strange manifestation?

It was not that God took delight in the evil condition of His Son.


a dead state, in relation to the vindication of Law, and in relation to

our true life; and we had not yet come to the worst. God did not blot

out the fair page of creation, He did not part with one son out of


 THE MOST GLORIOUS OF ALL BEINGS  perfectly reflecting

 His own majesty, that we might LIVE THROUGH HIM!   He

made the sacrifice in which His feelings were the most deeply involved,

that our interests might be advanced to the highest point. “Herein was

 the love of God manifested.”


Ø      The Incarnation is proof that love was not first in us, but in God.

“Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent

His Son to be the Propitiation for our sins.” Whence has love sprung?

Was it first in our hearts, and then, by contact with love in our hearts,

was it kindled in the Divine heart? Ah! no; love has its eternal dwelling-

place in God. It was not that we loved God; any movement of love in us

was necessarily subsequent to the movement of the Divine love in

creating us.  It was not that we loved God; we were not actually lovers

of God in our characters. We were laden with sins, those sins being

all love of self and lack of love toward God. It was that HE LOVED

US and He created us that He might make us SHARERS WITH

HIM IN HIS BLISS!   It was that He loved us; and, when we had

frustrated the end of His love, He did not leave us in our sins.

He acted without prompting from without, He acted with absolute

spontaneity, He acted out of the infinite freedom of His own will;

and what did He do. He sent his Son to be the Propitiation for our

sins; i.e., sent Him into our nature to remove all the obstacles that

our sins presented to our enjoying the blessings of Divine fellowship.

Love is free, and yet it has an inner law of righteousness. Our sins

could not be removed in any way, they could not be removed by

Divine fiat, they could not be removed without adequate satisfaction.

And, when righteousness demanded that the satisfaction should be

given in our nature, Divine love proved equal to the emergency.

The Son, breathing forth the Father’s love, did not eschew our

nature, and, IN IT DYING, made infinite satisfaction for our sins.

Such is love, in all the glory of its freedom and of its power.



TO FELLOWSHIP WITH GOD. The duty inferred from the Incarnation.

“Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” John

again adopts the affectionate form of address. He proceeds on the manner

of love brought out in the preceding verse. “If so [the emphatic position]

God loved us.” It is implied that we have been brought into the position of

God’s children, and should act as God does. The conclusion then follows,

that we should love one another. As for the manner of our love, it should

be love that can go the length of sacrifice, and love that can conquer

obstacles of sin. But as for the object of our love, why is it loving one

another? It is to this point that John directs himself.


Ø      To love one another is the way to have fellowship with the invisible

God. “No man hath beheld God at any time: if we love one another,

 God abideth in us, and His love is perfected in us.” The fact of the

invisibility of God is also stated in John 1:18, “No man hath seen

God at any time.” The verb is different here, conveying the idea of

seeing intently, seeing so as to image to the mind what God is through

the sense of sight. In John 1:18 the invisibility of God is regarded as

relieved by the Incarnation. Here the invisibility of God is regarded in

connection with fellowship with God, and there is brought into view,

not the visible Mediator, but our visible brethren. How are we to have

(not to prove that we have) fellowship with the invisible God? The way

is to have visible objects for our love, especially to love one another in

the Christian circle. Loving one another, on the one hand, “God abideth

in us,” so as to be nearer to us for fellowship, than if we beheld Him.

Loving one another, on the other hand, His love, i.e., our love to Him,

is perfected. It cannot be brought to perfection unless with the help

of love to the brethren. This thought receives further expression at the

close of this chapter.


Ø      Participation in the Spirit is the sign of fellowship with God. “Hereby

know we that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He hath given

us of His Spirit.” The thought is similar in ch.3:24. Loving one another

leads to mutual abiding. But how is this to be discovered? It is by the

distribution to us of the Spirit. He cannot be communicated to us in the

full flood of His influence, but only according to our nature and

disposition. It is evident that the Spirit is the common element on which

our fellowship with God proceeds. But another question at once arises —

How do we know that we participate in the Spirit? The answer, given

in what follows, is, our appreciation of the Incarnation.


Ø      There can be no fellowship with God apart from THE INCARNATION!


o       The Incarnation historically attested. “And we have beheld and

       bear witness that the Father hath sent the Son to be the Saviour

      of the world.” Strictly speaking, what the apostles beheld was

      what Christ was in the flesh. There was thus a good historical basis

      for their testimony. They knew, at first hand, that Christ was

      baptized, wrought miracles, was transfigured, died, rose again,

      and that He claimed to be the Son of God. But the testimony

      is carried here beyond the actual facts to the meaning of the facts.

      As here expressed, it is that “the Father hath sent the Son to be

the Saviour of the world.” The apostles, carefully observing the

facts, gave this as their only rational explanation. He with whom

they had been thrown into closest contact, was no mere man,

but the Son of God. He was the object of the Father’s infinite

love; but the Father, in a wondrous manner, sent Him forth on

a mission of a saving nature and wide as the world in its reach.

John here echoes the Samaritans, of whom he records that they

said to the woman with whom Christ had a conversation,

“Now we believe, not because of thy speaking: for we have

heard for ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Saviour

of the world.” (John 42)  It is well to have a title that sets

forth so clearly the impartiality, the universality, of Christ’s

mission. It is implied that His mission is lasting. He is still to

be thought of as sent into the world as its Saviour. Every

unsaved person has a right to claim Him as his Saviour; and

that is the simple fact with which we have to do. There is

hint here of a love that oversteps love of the brethren.


o       The test of confession. “Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is

       the Son of God, God abideth in him, and he in God.” It underlay

      the apostolic attestation that Jesus is the Son of God. This, then,

      is the form which the test takes, in agreement with forms in which

      it has already been put. The Unitarians escape the application

      of the test, by retaining the language while taking away from the

       meaning. To us, He is the first of the sons of God, the Son by

      peculiar nearness and likeness to the Father. In this mighty

      universe, framed to be A MIRROR OF ITS AUTHOR, we turn

      to Jesus as the brightest Image of God, and gratefully yield Him a

place in our souls, second only to the infinite Father, to whom He

Himself directs our supreme affection.  But the whole aspect of

the Incarnation is changed if we think of Jesus as only an

exalted creature, humbling himself to a lower creaturely condition,

and not as the uncreated Son, humbling Himself to what was

infinitely below Him. As an exhibition of love, the one

humbling is not to be compared with the other. The Son is to

be taken as absolutely as the Father, i.e., One in whom the Father

sees His perfect image. Where the Spirit of God works, there is

prompting to the confession of the mysterious entering of the

Divine Son into our nature; and it is only in the line of this

thought that we can maintain fellowship with God.


Ø      Experience of love in which there is fellowship with God.


o       Experience of love. “And we know and have believed the love

      which God hath in us.” The comfort of the Incarnation is that it

      is infinite love finding a lodging in our nature, and especially in

      our hearts as believers.  According as we believe, have we

      experience of the love: and, however much we have experience

      of it, there is still room for the exercise of faith.


o       Restatement regarding the nature of God. “God is Love.” In

      neither case is the statement made to stand out; it is introduced

      as though it were a familiar thought to the writer. “Pure,

      universal Love thou art.” One bearing of this is that God

      cannot love partially, loving one and not loving another.


For the dear God who loveth us,

He made and loveth all.”


Another bearing of it is that God cannot love feebly. Even in His

reserve there is strength. He rests in His love (Zephaniah 3:17);

but it is because He is conscious of His strength. He had infinite

repose in view of the entrance of sin into the world; but it was

because He was conscious of His power to defeat it for His own

glory on the cross. And we must think of Him as having infinite

repose in view of the final issue of things. That He is Love means

this to us — that all means will be used to overcome the evil

of our hearts.


o       Inference regarding fellowship with God. “And he that abideth

      in love abideth in God, and God abideth in him.” If God is

      Love, as the Spirit gives us to see in the Incarnation, then he

      who moves habitually in love as the sphere of his being, keeps

      up fellowship with God.





Ø      Consummation. “Herein is love made perfect with us, that we may have

boldness in the day of judgment; because as he [that One] is, even so are

we in this world.” It is a most solemn thought that there is before us all

the day of judgment. “It is appointed unto men once to die, and after

this cometh judgment.”  (Hebrews 9:27)  There is a final and authoritative

judgment to be pronounced on the value of our life. What has there been

in it of obedience to God? How far have we received Christ into it?

Upon that the sentence must turn. Love is now with us; i.e., joined

to us as an influence in our life.  What is the greatest thing that it

can do for our future? It is this, to inspire us with boldness that day

when we stand before the judgment-seat of Christ. The ground of

our present confidence is likeness to Christ. That One who is to be

on the judgment-seat was once in this world in bodily form; He is

still in the world in spirit, loving those who are His people, and

seeking to embrace all others within the number of His people.

According as we are in sympathy with the movements of His love —

love His people, and seek to embrace others within the number of

His people — can we assure our hearts in view of the day of judgment.


Ø      Imperfection on the way to the consummation. “There is no fear in

       love; but perfect love casteth out fear, because fear hath punishment;

      and he that feareth is not made perfect in love.” The opposite of

      boldness is fear: this is excluded from love. It is of the nature of fear

      to shrink back from a person; it is of the nature of love to be attracted

      toward a person. There is naturally fear in us to be cast out. According

      as love takes possession of us does it cast out fear. Men may have a

      certain fear of each other on first acquaintance; but let love be drawn

      out, and fear is gradually expelled. So we have a feeling of fear

      toward God, while our relations to Him are not satisfactorily

      determined, while we have not satisfactorily discovered His

feelings toward us. We are startled when we think of our sin,

when we think of the Divine indignation against sin. But when

we think of God as in infinite compassion making provision for

us as sinners, we are emboldened.  “He is near that justifieth me;

who is he that will contend with me?”  (Isaiah 50:8)  And as

we realize more of the greatness of redeeming love, there is less

room left for fear. There is a punitive office fulfilled by fear. It is

God in a painful manner dealing with us for our imperfect love,

and telling us that we must love better.


Ø      Love that is operative is caused by anticipative love. “We love, because

He first loved us.” There is an affirmation here, and an explanation. The

affirmation is, “We love” (without definition of object), There are

multitudes who, without untruthfulness and without presumption, can

say, “We love.” Can we say this? The love of parents to their children is

acknowledged to be real. We are not long in a home before we see that

love is, in no feigned manner, operating. The parents cannot suffer their

children to be long out of their sight. They have doubts and fears about

them in many ways. And they are always planning for their well-being.

Do we love all round in the same way? Would we be conscious of a great

blank in our existence if we had not a God to love? Would the light of our

eye, the joy of our heart, be gone? Do we delight in fellowship with God?

Do we form plans for advancing the glory of God? Does love, too,

operate toward our brethren? Have we a real interest in them, rejoicing

with them when they rejoice, and weeping with them when they weep? 

(Romans 12:15)  Does our love operate toward those who are not yet

brethren, leading us to make sacrifices for them, and to form plans

for their being brought into the fold of the Redeemer? But there is

also an explanation. “We love, because He first loved us.” What is the

origin of love in us? It is God exercising influence over us; but in what


o       Not by the manifestations of His power,

o       not by the manifestations of His wisdom,

o       not by the manifestations of His righteousness;

o       but by the manifestations of HIS LOVE!


Like produces like!  God loved us before we had the opportunity of

loving. He loved us in creating us, in putting it into the hearts of parents

to care for us in infancy and childhood. He thus anticipated us with

goodness. And then He was ready with a scheme of mercy for our

coming into the world. We are not long in the world before we learn

that we have got evil hearts, that we are in the midst of sin and misery;

(“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked:

who can know it?”  - Jeremiah 17:9)  and sometimes the prospect seems

dreary enough. But, on the other hand, it is true that God has made

the world warm for our coming into it. There is love in it as well as sin;

and thus God has been beforehand with us. He did not wait until we

sinners returned to Him.  (“But God commendeth His love toward

us, in that, while we were yet sinners, CHRIST DIED FOR US!”

(Romans 5:8)  That was impossible by an act of our own will, even

by an act of the Divine will, as sheer force. It needed some powerful

influence to bear upon our hearts; and that was found in the anticipative

love of God IN REDEMPTION!   It is the greater love that ever

comes first. Two persons have a quarrel. The one comes to the other,

and desires a reconciliation; the other is overcome, and loves in return.

That was the greater love which took the initiative, and broke down the

alienation. So God’s love is the greater, for He speaks the first word

of reconciliation. And what makes it all the greater is that the fault

was entirely on our side. We had wronged Him; He regarded our sin

with the utmost displeasure; and yet He loved us.  The love with which

He anticipated us was greater than any of which we were capable;

GREAT AS HIS OWN NATURE!   That love has received ample

manifestation. There was once a poor Man in this world. He was brought

up in an insignificant little town. He received no education but what that

little town could afford Him. He at first worked as a carpenter, eating his

bread in the sweat of His brow. Then He began to work miracles as with

Divine power, and to teach as with Divine wisdom. His public career was,

however, cut short; for men did not like His teaching, and plotted His

death.  He was crucified as a malefactor at the age of thirty-three. This

poor Man was none other than THE SON OF GOD!. What was the

meaning of this humiliation? It was anticipative love. “God commendeth

His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for

us.”   (Repetition is the way we learn! – CY – 2015)  Of this love we

can give no account, no explanation; it is a mystery, before which we

must bow. But our love is capable of explanation. “We love, because

He first loved us.” Let the pressure of anticipative love upon us be

evermore felt.


Ø      Love that is operative rises from the seen to the unseen. “If a man say, I

love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his

brother whom he hath seen, cannot love God whom he hath not seen.

And this commandment have we from Him, that he who loveth God love

his brother also.” It is declared in the most emphatic manner that love to

God cannot exist apart from love to our brother, on the ground that

there is a close connection between loving the seen and loving the unseen,

and further, on the ground that this connection is embodied in a positive

Divine command. A first noticeable thing is that love should form the

subject of a command. It seems strange that we should be commanded

to love. Love is supposed to have a freedom, an immunity of its own.

And yet it must be with the affections as with other parts of our nature.

They must be placed under government and discipline. There must, in

the first instance, be the voice of God, the voice of conscience,

authoritatively prescribing their course, directing them to proper objects,

and keeping them in just harmony. This would be necessary, even if the

affections were naturally pure. The authority of conscience would need

 to be exercised over them in order to give them character. It is, therefore,

all the more necessary, seeing their most fine gold has become changed.

They (we) are not naturally Christian.  Christ is the very last Person

round whom they would center. For “He hath no form nor comeliness;

 and when we shall see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire

Him.”  (Isaiah 53:2)  And HOW HARD IT IS TO Christianize the

affections, to give them the genuine, unmistakable Christian stamp

and temper; to give them Christ’s steadiness, and tenderness, and

fervor, and catholicity! How hard for us, who are beset with sin, to

reach to that! A first love, a youthful enthusiasm, is beautiful, as youth

always is. But it is not true to Christ, as the needle to the pole; it is

notoriously erratic. Neither is it strong and enduring, as the feeling

of him who has been accustomed to the storm; it soon waxes faint.

And when youth is past, how dull and sluggish the affections, how

unexcitable even before the cross, and in presence of human sin and

sorrow! how unseemly, and perhaps malicious, when they come

unexpectedly out in the conflict of opinion and interest! They need to

be treated with severity; they need to be dragged at the heels of duty.

It is only by superintendence and watchfulness and chastening that

they can be brought into loving obedience to Christ Jesus, THE

ALTOGETHER LOVELY!  (Song of Solomon 5:16)  A

commandment, then, is reasonable; it is urgently needed, and shall be

needed until love is the law of our being — until love shall perform

every function in the body of Christ, with all the quickness and all

the regularity of an instinct. A second noticeable thing is the manner

in which John issues the command. There were two commands from

Him, i.e., from God. The first and great commandment is that we

should love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul,

 and with all our mind, and with all our strength. (Mark 12:30)

It might seem, then, that we should not love others at all. But Christ,

going beyond the lawyer’s question, brings into view the second

commandment, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself,” (ibid.

v. 31)  connecting it by declaring it to be like unto the first.

John, in the line of the Master’s thought, brings the two more closely

together, calling them one commandment. The broad principle here is

this — that the love of our brother man, whom we see, is a help to the

love of our Father-God, whom we do not see.


o       The family affections. What does the family institution teach us

regarding God? Nature gives us an idea of God as the great and

inexhaustible Creator. To the magnitude and beauty of His

working there no one has yet discovered the limit. Every

augmentation of optical power, every improvement in the

science of seeing, only brings fresh worlds into view — a truth

which holds not merely in astronomy, but in the whole circle of

the sciences. (I highly recommend Fantastic Trip on You Tube –

CY – 2015)  And yet the distance between God and nature is

very great — all the distance there is between a workman and

his work, between an author and his book. Nature, after all

that can be said of it, is only a work, a production, a thing made.

Society gives us a higher idea of God; for here, under a variety

of forms, we have the relation of governing and governed. The

state, especially, is the great governing institution. It gives us the

idea of God as the righteous Governor; One ruling in right,

and backed by power. This brings God nearer to us; for the

distance between a ruler and his subjects is much less than

between a workman and his work. But the family gives us a

still higher, and the very highest, conception of God; for it is to

be regarded as the revelation of His Fatherhood.  (With the

low estate of the modern family, this is for the broken family

a very hard row to hoe because there is no father figure in

many homes and God has chosen to work through the home

and fathers, therefore many have no frame of reference – CY –

2015)  We are more than creatures, we are more than subjects; we

are sons. We stand in the most intimate relation to God: a more

intimate relation we do not know. And we take it that God has

founded the family, has instituted the relationship of father and

son among men, just to show us HOW CLOSELY RELATED

WE ARE TO HIM!    The family is full of spiritual interest and

meaning. Traces of infinite benevolence and wisdom are to be

found in all its arrangements. The first significant fact is that the

opening period of each human life is marked by helplessness.

This is not peculiar to man; for the same arrangement is found in

other creatures. In the human economy, however, it is most

strongly marked. In comparison with other creatures, man is but

slowly furnished with the knowledge and strength needful for

self-subsistence. The period of his pupilage or dependence may

be said to extend to a third or a fourth of his lifetime. At first

sight this does not seem to be honoring to man. Would it not be

better for him to spring at once into self-subsistence, with powers

not needing to be matured? But the true explanation is greatly to

his honor. Among the lower creatures, it is those that in infancy

are most dependent that show THE GREATEST NATURAL

AFFECTION!  And so it is because infancy and childhood, and