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Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges
1 John 4

 

 

Other Authors
Verse 1

1. ἀγαπητοί. See on 1 John 3:2. The tender address once more introduces a matter of deep practical importance: comp. 1 John 3:21.

μὴ παντὶ πνεύματι πιστεύετε. This exhortation does not give us the main subject of the section, any more than ‘Marvel not, brethren, if the world hate you’ (1 John 3:12) gave us the main subject of the last section (1 John 3:12-24). In both cases the exhortation is introductory and momentary. Having spoken of the Spirit by which we know that God abides in us, the Apostle goes on to speak of other spiritual influences which indubitably exist, and of which every one has experience, but which are not necessarily of God because they are spiritual. “He does not discredit the fact that spiritual influences were widely diffused; he does not monopolize such influences for the Christian Church. How could he discredit this fact? How can we? Are there not myriads of influences about us continually, which do not act upon our senses but upon our spirits, which do not proceed from things which may be seen and handled, but from the spirits of men? (Maurice). But besides ordinary spiritual influences, S. John probably has in his mind those extraordinary and supernatural powers which at various periods of the Church’s history persons have claimed to possess. Such claims exhibit themselves in professed revelations, prophecies, miracles, and the like. About all such things there are two possibilities which must put us on our guard: [1] they may be unreal; either the delusions of fanatical enthusiasts, or the lies of deliberate impostors: [2] even if real, they need not be of God. Miraculous powers are no absolute guarantee of the possession of truth. The present imperative has the same force as in 1 John 3:13 : ‘do not continue to believe, as I fear some do, whenever occasion arises’.

δοκιμάζετε. Prove the spirits. There are two words in N.T. meaning ‘to try, test, prove’; δοκιμάζειν and πειράζειν. The latter is used of the Jews trying or tempting Christ (Mark 8:11; Mark 10:2; &c.) and of the temptations of Satan (Matthew 4:1; Matthew 4:3, &c). Neither are common in S. John’s writings. He nowhere else uses δοκιμάζειν, which occurs about 20 times in N.T., and only 4 times uses πειράζειν (John 6:6; Revelation 2:2; Revelation 2:10; Revelation 3:10), which occurs about 40 times in N.T. The A.V. is very capricious in its renderings of the former; ‘allow’ (Romans 14:22), ‘approve’ (Romans 2:18), ‘discern’ (Luke 12:56), ‘examine’ (1 Corinthians 11:28), ‘like’ (Romans 1:28), ‘prove’ (Luke 14:19), ‘try’ (1 Corinthians 3:13); while the latter is rendered ‘examine’ (2 Corinthians 13:5), ‘prove’ (John 6:6), ‘tempt’ (Matthew 22:18), ‘try’ (Revelation 2:2). The Revisers have somewhat reduced this variety. In the one case ‘allow’ has been changed to ‘approve’; ‘examine’ and ‘try’ to ‘prove’: in the other case ‘examine’ has been changed to ‘try.’ The difference between the two words (which are found together 2 Corinthians 13:5 and Psalms 26:2) is on the whole this, that δοκιμάζειν commonly implies a good, if not a friendly object; to prove or test in the hope that what is tried will stand the test; whereas πειράζειν often implies a sinister object; to try in the hope that what is tried will be found wanting. The metaphor here is from testing metals. Comp. ‘Prove all things; hold fast that which is good’ (1 Thessalonians 5:21).

εἰ ἐκ τοῦ Θεοῦ. Whether their origin (ἐκ) is from God: comp. 1 John 3:2; 1 John 3:12. With δοκιμάζειν εἰ comp. πειράζειν εἰ (2 Corinthians 13:5).

A verse such as this cuts at the root of such pretensions as the Infallibility of the Pope. What room is left for Christians to ‘prove the spirits,’ if all they have to do is to ask the opinion of an official? The Apostle’s charge, ‘prove ye the spirits,’ may be addressed to Christians singly or to the Church collectively: it cannot be addressed to one individual exclusively. Comp. Romans 12:2; Ephesians 5:10; 1 Corinthians 10:15; 1 Corinthians 11:13. The verse also shews us in what spirit to judge of such things as the reported miracles at Lourdes and the so-called ‘manifestations’ of Spiritualism. When they have been proved to be real, they must still further be proved to see ‘whether they are of God.’ We are not to judge of doctrine by miracles, but of miracles by doctrine A miracle enforcing what contradicts the teaching of Christ and His Apostles is not ‘of God’ and is no authority for Christians. Comp. Galatians 1:8; Deuteronomy 13:1-3.

ὅτι πολλοὶ ψευδοπρ. The caution is against no imaginary or merely possible danger; it already exists. Warnings respecting the coming of such had been given by Christ, S. Paul, S. Peter, and S. Jude; and now S. John, writing long afterwards, tells the Church that these prophecies have been fulfilled. The πολλοὶ ψευδοπροφῆται include the antichrists of 1 John 2:18; and what is here said of them seems to indicate that like Mahomet, Swedenborg, the Irvingites, and others, they put forth their new doctrine as a revelation.

ἐξεληλύθασιν εἰς τ. κ. This probably has no reference to what is said in 1 John 2:19 about their ‘going out from us’. It need mean no more than that they have appeared in public; but it perhaps includes the notion of their having a mission from the power that sent them: comp. John 3:17; John 6:14; John 10:36; John 11:27; John 12:47; John 12:49; and especially John 16:28. We need not confine these ‘many false prophets’ to the antichrists who had left the Christian communion. There would be others who, like Apollonius of Tyana, had never been Christians at all: and others even more dangerous who still professed to be members of the Church. The difficulties in the Church of Corinth caused by the unrestrained ‘speaking with tongues’ point to dangers of this kind.


Verses 1-6

1–6. This section is an amplification of the sentence with which the preceding chapter ends. We certainly have the Holy Spirit as an abiding gift from God, for otherwise we could not believe and confess the truth of the Incarnation. As usual, S. John thinks and teaches in antitheses. The test which proves that we have the Spirit of God proves that the antichrists have not this gift but its very opposite. In chap. 2. the antichrists were introduced as evidence of the transitoriness of the world (1 John 2:18): here they are introduced as the crucial negative instance which proves that every true believer has the Spirit of God.


Verses 1-21

1 John 2:29 to 1 John 5:12. GOD IS LOVE

There seems to be no serious break in the Epistle from this point onwards until we reach the concluding verses which form a sort of summary (1 John 5:13-21). The key-word ‘love’ is distributed, and not very unevenly, over the whole, from 1 John 3:1 to 1 John 5:3. Subdivisions, however, exist and will be pointed out as they occur. The next two subdivisions may be marked thus; The Children of God and the Children of the Devil (1 John 2:29 to 1 John 3:12); Love and Hate (1 John 3:13-24). The two, as we shall find, are closely linked together, and might be placed under one heading, thus; The Righteousness of the Children of God in their relation to the Hate of the World (1 John 2:29 to 1 John 3:24).


Verse 2

2. ἐν τούτῳ γινώσκετε. Once more we have a verb which may be either indicative or imperative (1 John 2:27; 1 John 2:29). The indicative is to be preferred in spite of the imperative in 1 John 4:1. The passage is closely analogous to 1 John 3:16; 1 John 3:19; 1 John 3:24, which must be indicative. In all four cases the Apostle appeals to the progressive experience of Christians. Ἐν τούτῳ refers to what follows: see on 1 John 3:19. Nowhere else in the Epistle is ἐν τούτῳ joined to an imperative.

πᾶν πν. δ ὁμολογεῖ. This idea of ‘confessing’ one’s belief is specially frequent in S. John: John 2:23; John 4:15; 2 John 1:7; John 9:22; John 12:42; comp. Romans 10:9.

Ἰησ. Χρ. ἐν σαρκὶ ἐληλύθοτα. See on 2 John 1:7. This is the crucial test, and one which would at once expose ‘the spirits’ of Cerinthian and Docetic teachers. We are not to suppose that all other articles of faith are unimportant; or that to deny this truth is the worst of all denials (see on 1 John 2:22); or that such denial involves every kind of doctrinal error. But against the errors prevalent in that age this was the great safeguard. The confession must of course be not with the tongue only but in truth, and in deed as well as in word (1 John 3:18): non lingua sed factis, non sonando sed amando (Bede).

The sentence may be taken in more ways than one: [1] as both A.V. and R.V.; [2] more accurately and with some difference of meaning, confesseth Jesus Christ as come in the flesh; [3] confesseth that Jesus is the Christ come in the flesh. Remark that S. John does not say ‘come into the flesh,’ but ‘in the flesh’: Christ did not descend (as Cerinthus said) into an already existing man, but He came in human nature; He ‘became flesh.’ Moreover he does not say that the confession is to be of a Christ who came (ἐλθόντα), but of a Christ who is come (ἐληλυθότα). This ‘coming’ is not an exhausted fact: He is come and abides in the flesh. Some Latin writers have in carnem venisse for in carne venisse; but this is bad Latin rather than bad doctrine. The translator has not been able to mark the difference between εἰς σάρκα and ἐν σαρκί.

S. Paul gives almost exactly the same test: ‘I give you to understand that no man speaking in the Spirit of God saith, Jesus is anathema; and no man can say, Jesus is Lord, but in the Holy Spirit’ (1 Corinthians 12:3).

ἐκ τοῦ Θεοῦ ἐστίν. Proceeds from Him as its source. Comp. 1 John 4:3; 1 John 4:6-7; 1 John 2:16; 1 John 3:10; 3 John 1:11; John 7:17; John 8:47. Outside S. John’s writings the expression is not common: comp. Acts 5:38; 1 Corinthians 11:12. It is closely akin to the idea of Divine birth (1 John 2:29; 1 John 3:9) and being children of God (1 John 3:1-2; 1 John 3:10). “To confess that Jesus the anointed is come in the flesh, is to confess that there is a medium of spiritual communications between the visible and the invisible world, between earth and heaven. It is to confess that there is one Mediator for all men” (Maurice).


Verse 3

3. δ μὴ ὁμολογεῖ τὸν Ἰ. The words inserted in [760] and some other authorities are an obvious interpolation by some early transcriber who wished to make the two sides of the antithesis exactly equal. But, as we have repeatedly seen (1 John 1:5-8; 1 John 1:10, 1 John 2:10; 1 John 2:22-23, &c.), this is rarely the case in S. John’s oppositions.

There is yet another very ancient and very interesting difference of reading here: every spirit which severeth Jesus, or unmaketh Jesus, or destroyeth Jesus, or, as the margin of R.V., which annulleth Jesus (ὁ λύει, qui solvit), the verb which in 1 John 3:8 is used for ‘to destroy.’ This reading appears to have been known to Tertullian (A.D. 210), who quotes S. John, qui jam antichristos dicit processisse in mundum praecursores antichristi spiritus, negantes Christum in carne venisse, et solventes Jesum, scilicet in Deo creatore (Adv. Marcion. v. xvi.), and to Irenaeus (A.D. 180), who quotes the whole passage, and in this place has omnis spiritus qui solvit Jesum (Haer. III. xvi. 8). But it can scarcely be genuine, for it is not found in a single Greek MS., nor in any version except the Vulgate. And we have no certain knowledge that any Greek Father had this reading. ‘Qui solvit’ in the Latin translators of Irenaeus and of Origen may be interpretation rather than literal translation. Socrates the historian (A.D. 440) charges the Nestorians with tampering with the text and ignoring the reading ὃ λύει τὸν Ἰ.; just as Tertullian accuses the Valentinians of falsifying the text of John 1:13, and S. Ambrose the Arians of inserting οὐδὲ ὁ υἱός into Mark 13:32 and of mutilating John 1:6. In all these cases the supposed heretical reading is the right one. In this very verse Nestorius was blamed for a reading which his opponent Cyril has also. See Appendix G.

The passage in S. Polycarp’s Epistle already alluded to (see on 1 John 2:18) is against the reading advocated by Socrates: ‘For every one who coniesseth not that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is an Antichrist; and whosoever confesseth not the witness of the Cross is of the devil’ (Phil. VII.). The expressions ‘confess’, ‘come in the flesh’, ‘Antichrist’, ‘is of the devil’, place S. Polycarp’s knowledge of his master’s First Epistle beyond all reasonable doubt. This is very early testimony (A.D. 112–118) to the existence of the First Epistle.

The variations as regards reading are testimony to the same effect. Such things take time to arise and spread. If a corrupt reading is known to Tertullian in Africa, and (apparently) adopted by Irenaeus in Gaul, before the end of the second century, then the original document written in Asia Minor cannot be much later than the end of the first century, at which time S. John was still living.

Note the μή after the relative; ‘every spirit who is of such a kind as not to confess’. Comp. ᾦ μὴ πάρεστι ταῦτα, τυφλός ἐστιν (2 Peter 2:9). The μή in Colossians 2:18 is of very doubtful authority. Winer, 603.

ἐκ τ. Θεοῦ οὐκ ἔστιν. S. John gives two tests: one for trying human conduct, the other for trying spiritual claims. ‘Everyone that doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother’ (1 John 3:10). And ‘Every spirit which confesseth not Jesus is not of God’.

τὸ τοῦ ἀντιχρίστου. The (spirit) of antichrist. Nothing better than ‘spirit’ can well be inserted in English, and some insertion is necessary. But we need not suppose that πνεῦμα is to be understood. Τὸ τοῦ ἀντ. is a comprehensive term covering all the principles and powers, all the essential characteristics of Antichrist: what Aristotle would call τὸ τί ἦν εἶναι (Eth. Nic. II. vi. 17), and we might call ‘the antichristian nature’. The nearest parallel is τὸ τῆς ἀληθοῦς παροιμίας (2 Peter 2:22), ‘the very thing which the true proverb says’: Matthew 21:21; 1 Corinthians 10:24; James 4:14 are parallel only as regards the grammatical construction.

ὅτι ἔρχεται. As R.V., that it cometh. Wiclif, Purvey, and the Rhemish have ‘he cometh’. Most English Versions before 1611 have ‘he’ for ‘it’; as also has Luther. This is due to the Vulgate, which has antichristus for illud antichristi. ‘It’ is certainly right. Not Antichrist, but the antichristian nature, is affirmed to be now in the world already. The spirit of antagonism to Christ has passed from “the invisible world of spiritual wickedness” to the visible world of human action. The addition of ‘already’ hints that something more may be expected to follow. Comp. τὸ γὰρ μυστήριον ἤδη ἐνεργεῖται τῆς ἀνομίας (2 Thessalonians 2:7). Here ἤδη comes last for emphasis, as in λευκαί εἰσιν πρὸς θερισμὸν ἥδη (John 4:35); where, however, some editors put a stop at θερισμόν and join ἤδη to the next verse. The ἔρχεται points once more to the parallel and opposition between the Christ and the Antichrist: each may be spoken of as ὁ ἐρχόμενος (1 John 2:18).


Verse 4

4. ὑμεῖς. Ye, with emphasis and in marked contrast to the false teachers, are of God. The emphasis is intensified by the asyndeton.

νενικήκατε αὐτούς. In the masculine S. John passes from the antichristian spirits to the false prophets who are their mouthpieces. By not listening to these seducers his ‘little children’ have overcome them. ‘A stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him, for they know not the voice of strangers’ (John 10:5). Thus the stranger is defeated.

ὅτι μείζων ἐστὶν ὁ ἐν ὑμῖν. Qui audit ‘Vicistis’ erigit caput, erigit cervicem, laudari se vult. Noli te extollere. Vide quis in te vicit (S. Augustine). ‘Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord of Hosts’ (Zechariah 4:6). It is precisely for this reason that they may have confidence against all spiritual enemies: it is not confidence in themselves (1 Corinthians 15:57 and especially Ephesians 6:10-17). In ὁ ἐν ὑμῖν and ὁ ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ we have two personal powers opposed to one another: and therefore ὁ ἐν ὑμῖν must be understood of God or Christ rather than of ὁ λόγος τοῦ θεοῦ.

ὁ ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ. The same as ὁ ἄρχων τοῦ κόσμου τούτου (John 12:31), the devil, the father of these lying teachers (1 John 3:10; John 8:44), whose works Christ came to destroy (1 John 3:8). By saying ‘in the world’ rather than ‘in them’, the Apostle indicates that they belong to ‘the world’. “S. John constantly teaches that the Christian’s work in this state of probation is to conquer ‘the world’. It is, in other words, to fight successfully against that view of life which ignores God, against that complex system of attractive moral evil and specious intellectual falsehood which is organized and marshalled by the great enemy of God, and which permeates and inspires non-Christianized society” (Liddon).


Verse 5

5. αὐτοὶ ἐκ τ. κ. εἰσίν. The pronouns at the beginning of all three verses are in emphatic opposition; ὑμεῖςαὐτοὶἡμεῖς. That they, the antichristian teachers, are ‘of the world’ was implied in 1 John 2:19, where it is stated that they are ‘not of us’: for there is no middle neutral position. The verse is another reminiscence of the Lord’s farewell discourses: ‘If ye were of the world, the world would love its own’ (John 15:19; comp. John 17:14).

διὰ τοῦτο ἐκ τ. κ. λαλοῦσιν. Therefore of the world they speak: as in John 3:31, the Greek order is impressive and worth preserving. (See on 1 John 3:1; but here διὰ τοῦτο is not followed by ὄτι.) The impressive repetition of ‘the world’ is very characteristic of S. John’s style; e.g. John 1:10; John 3:17; John 15:19; John 17:14. Comp. ‘He that is of the earth, of the earth he is, and of the earth he speaketh’ (John 3:31): where, however, ἐκ τῆς γῆς λαλεῖν is to speak of God’s work on earth; whereas ἐκ τ. κόσμου λ. is to speak what is alien from God’s work and opposed to it. ‘To speak of’ (λαλεῖν ἐκ) is not the same as ‘to speak concerning’ (λέγειν περί) 1 John 5:16; John 1:22; John 1:47; John 2:21, &c. ‘To speak of the world’ is to have the world as the source of one’s words, so that one’s inspiration flows from it: and of course the world ‘heareth,’ i.e. loves to hear, the wisdom derived from itself. It expects to secure everything, the honour of the Christian name and the credit of lofty spiritual γνῶσις, without any humiliation or crucifixion of the flesh.


Verse 6

6. ἡμεῖς. Once more we have no barren seesaw, but an advance. Αὐτοί is opposed to ἱμεῖς, and ἡμεῖς is opposed to αὐτοί: but ἡμεῖς is not a return to ὑμεῖς. The contrast between ὑμεῖς and αὐτοί is that between true and false Christians. The contrast between αὐτοί and ἡμεῖς is that between false and true teachers. As in 1 John 4:14 and 1 John 1:4, ἡμεῖς probably means the Apostles. Comp. 1 Corinthians 14:37.

ὁ γινώσκων τὸν Θεόν. Both the verb itself and the present participle are very expressive; ‘He that is increasing in the knowledge of God’. It is with a view to this increase that Christ has given us διάνοια (1 John 5:20); and he who has it ἀκούει ἡμῶν, listens to us. Here again we have that magisterial tone of Apostolic authority which is so conspicuous in the Prologue (1 John 1:1-4). It underlies the whole Epistle, as it does the whole of the Fourth Gospel, but here and there comes to the surface. It is the quiet confidence of conscious strength. Comp. ‘He that is of God heareth the words of God; for this cause ye hear them not because ye are not of God’; and, ‘Every one that is of the Truth heareth My voice’ (John 8:47; John 18:37). For ordinary Christians to adopt this language is presumptuous sectarianism.

Note, that, as usual, the antithesis is not exact: ‘he that knoweth God’ is balanced by ‘he that is not of God’; indicating that it is the child of God who comes by experience to know Him.

ἐκ τούτου. A fresh sentence should begin here. It is not certain whether ‘from this’ refers to the whole section (1–6), or to the latter half (4–6), or only to the first half of 1 John 4:6. In any case the meaning is, not that those who hear the Apostle have the Spirit of truth, while those who refuse to hear have the spirit of error; but that the Apostles have the Spirit of truth because God’s children listen to them, while the false prophets have the spirit of error because the world listens to them. On the other hand the world does not listen to the Apostles, because it has no sympathy or affinity with what they have to teach (1 Corinthians 2:14).

τὸ πνεῦμα τῆς ἀληθείας. The Holy Spirit; John 14:17; John 15:26; John 16:13 : comp. 1 Corinthians 2:12. It is not easy to decide whether τῆς ἀληθείας expresses the character of the Spirit, as in τῷ πνεύματι τῆς ἐπαγγελίας τῷ ἁγίῳ (Ephesians 1:13), and τὸ πνεῦμα τῆς χάριτος (Hebrews 10:29), or the source, as τῷ πνεύματι τοῦ θεοῦ (1 Corinthians 6:11). The Spirit is the Truth (1 John 4:6), proceeds from Him who is the Truth (John 14:6; John 14:26), communicates and interprets the Truth (John 16:13-14).

τὸ πνεῦμα τῆς πλάνης. The expression occurs nowhere else in N.T. Comp. τὸ πνεῦμα τοῦ κόσμου (1 Corinthians 2:12). It is the spirit which emanates from him who ‘is a liar and the father thereof’ (John 8:44).


Verse 7

7. ἀγαπητοί, ἀγαπῶμεν ἀλλήλ. See on 1 John 3:2 and 1 John 4:11. The transition seems abrupt, as if the Apostle had summarily dismissed an unwelcome subject. But the connexions of thought in S. John’s writings are often so subtle, that it is rash to assert anywhere that two consecutive verses or sections are entirely without connecting links. Two such links may be found here. 1. The power to love one another, no less than the power to confess the Incarnation, is the gift of the Spirit (1 John 4:2; 1 John 4:12-13). And faith and love mutually aid one another. This is the case even between man and man. Faith and trust soon pass into love. 2. The antichristian spirit is a selfish one; it makes self, i.e. one’s own intellect and one’s own interest, the measure of all things. Just as it severs the Divine from the human in Christ, so it severs Divine love from human conduct in man. ‘Beloved, let us do far otherwise. Let us love one another’.

For the third and last time in this Epistle the Apostle introduces the subject of brotherly love. First it was introduced as a consequence and sign of walking in the light (1 John 2:7-11). Next it was introduced as a special form of righteousness and mark of God’s children (1 John 3:10-18). Here it appears as a gift of the Spirit of God, a contrast to the antichristian spirit, and above all as an effluence from the very Being of God.

‘Love one another’ here, as in 1 John 3:11, applies primarily to the mutual love of Christians. The love of Christians to unbelievers is not expressly excluded, but it is not definitely before the Apostle’s mind.

ἡ ἀγάπη ἐκ τ. Θεοῦ ἐστίν. And ‘we are of God’ (1 John 4:6), and ‘ye are of God’ (1 John 4:4); therefore there should be the family bond of love between us.

πᾶς ὁ ἀγαπῶν κ.τ.λ. This follows from the preceding statement. If God is the source of all love, then whatever love a man has in him comes from God; and this part of his moral nature is of Divine origin. Of ‘every one that loveth’ is this true, whether he be heathen or Christian: there is no limitation. If a Socrates or a Marcus Aurelius loves his fellow-men, it is by the grace of God that he does so. See first note on 1 John 3:3.

γεγέννηται. ‘Hath been begotten of God and remains His child’; the full sense of the perfect. Translate with R.V. is begotten of God. καὶ γινώσκει. And groweth in the knowledge of God: see on ὁ γινώ σκων in 1 John 4:6. A loyal child must increase in knowledge of its father.


Verses 7-21

7–21. LOVE IS THE MARK OF THE CHILDREN OF THE GOD WHO IS LOVE


Verse 8

8. ὁ μὴ ἀγαπῶν. For the μἡ comp. 1 John 3:10; 1 John 3:14; 1 John 2:4. οὐκ ἔγνω. Literally, knew not God, i.e. never attained to a knowledge of Him. Comp. 1 John 3:1; John 16:3. We have here a remarkable instance of S. John’s habit of not making the second part of an antithesis the exact counterpart of the first, but an advance beyond. Instead of saying ‘is not born of God’ he says ‘never knew God’, which is much stronger. Not to have known love is not to have known God.

ὁ Θεὸς ἀγάπη ἐστίν. This is the third of S. John’s great statements respecting the Nature of God: ‘God is Spirit’ (John 4:24); ‘God is light’ (1 John 1:5), and ‘God is love’. See on 1 John 1:5. Here, as in the other cases, the predicate has no article, and expresses not a quality which He possesses, but one which embraces all He is. This is clear from S. John’s argument. It does not follow, because God is full of love, that one who does not love cannot have known God: all that follows from this is that his knowledge of God is very incomplete. Only if God is love, i.e. if love is Himself, is the statement true, that to have no personal knowledge of love is to have no personal knowledge of God. And here we may remark that to attain by experience to a knowledge of God (γινώσκειν τὸν Θεόν) is a very different thing from knowing something about Him (εἰδέναι τι περὶ αὐτοῦ). The Gnostics knew a good deal about God, but they did not know Him; for instead of loving those brethren who did not share their intellectual attainments, they had an arrogant contempt for them. They had recognized that ‘God is spirit’, and to some extent that ‘God is light’; for they knew Him to be an immaterial Being and the highest Intelligence: but they had wholly failed to appreciate that ‘God is love’. And yet of the three great truths this is the chief. The other two are incomplete without it. The first, ‘God is spirit’, is almost more negative than positive: God is not material; ‘He dwelleth not in temples made with hands’. The second might seem in making our idea of Him more definite to remove Him further away from us: God is perfect intelligence, perfect purity, perfect holiness. The third not only makes His Nature far more clearly known, but brings Him very close to us. The spirit is shewn to be personal, the light to have warmth and life.

If no previous religion, not even the Jewish, had attained to the truth that ‘God is light’, still less had any attained to the truth that ‘God is love’. To the heathen world God is a powerful, a terrible, and often a cruel being; one whose fierce wrath needs to be deprecated and whose ill-will needs to be propitiated, rather than one on whose love men may rely. To the Jews He is a just and a jealous, if also a merciful God, of whose inmost being all that was known was I AM THAT I AM. To the Christian alone He is known as LOVE.

As already stated, this truth, God is love, dominates the second main division of the Epistle. In no Book in N.T. does the substantive ‘love’ (ἀγάπη) occur so often as in these two and a half chapters (1 John 3:1 to 1 John 5:12); and in no Book in N.T., excepting the Fourth Gospel, does the verb ‘to love’ (ἀγαπᾷν) occur half so many times as here. No wonder that the writer of this Epistle has been known in the Church as ‘the Apostle of Love’. “If nothing were said in praise of love throughout the pages of this Epistle, if nothing whatever throughout the other pages of the Scriptures, and this one thing only were all we were told by the voice of the Spirit of God, For God is Love; nothing more ought we to require” (S. Augustine).


Verse 9

9. ἐν τούτῳ ἐφ. For the sake of uniformity with 1 John 4:10; 1 John 4:13; 1 John 4:17, Herein was manifested: we have the same Greek in all four verses. ‘Herein’ plainly refers to what follows: comp. 1 John 3:16 and see on 1 John 3:19. For ἐφανερώθη see on 1 John 1:2. This is a second reason for our loving one another. We must do this [1] because love is the very Being of Him whose children we are; [2] because of the transcendent way in which His love was manifested. The context shews that ‘the love of God’, which usually in this Epistle means our love to God, here means His love to us: comp. 1 John 3:16.

ἐν ἡμῖν. Rather in us than ‘toward us’: we are in the sphere in which God’s love is exhibited: comp. 1 John 4:16 and John 9:3, which is very parallel. The latter passage tends to shew that ἐν ἡμῖν is to be joined with ἐφανερώθη rather than with ἡ ἀγάπη τ. θεοῦ: Herein was the love of God manifested in us. The rendering ‘in our case’ (R.V. margin) is improbable: comp. 1 John 4:12.

τὸν υἱὸν αὐτοῦ τὸν μον. His Son, His only-begotten: comp. John 3:16. As in τήν ζωὴν τὴν αἰώνιον (1 John 1:2), ἡ κοινωνία ἡ ἡμετέρα (1 John 1:3), ἡ ἐντολὴ ἡ παλαιά (1 John 2:7), and τὸ φῶς τὸ ἀληθινόν (1 John 2:8), the repetition of the article makes both ideas, ‘son’ and ‘only-begotten’, prominent and distinct. Comp. 2 John 1:11; 2 John 1:13. His Son was much to send, but it was also His only Son. ΄ονογενής as applied to Christ is peculiar to S. John: it occurs four times in the Gospel (John 1:14; John 1:18; John 3:16; John 3:18) and here. ‘Only-born’ would be a more accurate rendering: Christ is the only born Son as distinct from the many who have become sons. The word occurs in LXX. to translate a Hebrew word (yachid), which is elsewhere rendered ἀγαπητός (‘beloved’ or ‘darling’): and oddly enough where the Greek has μονογενής the A.V. has ‘darling’ and vice versa. Contrast Genesis 22:2; Genesis 22:12; Genesis 22:16 with Psalms 22:21; Psalms 35:17 : in the latter texts R.V. has ‘my only one’ in the margin. The Vulgate has unigenitus and unicus. Comp. Romans 5:8; Romans 8:32.

ἀπέσταλκεν. Hath sent; the perfect indicates the permanent result of Christ’s mission and should be distinguished from the aorists, ἠγάπησεν and ἀπέστειλεν, which express past acts without reference to their permanent effects (1 John 4:10).

ἵνα ζήσωμεν διʼ αὐτοῦ. These are the important words, setting forth that in which God’s love is so conspicuous and so unique. The only Son has been sent for this purpose (ἵνα), that we may live, and not die, as we should otherwise have done; comp. 1 John 3:14; 1 John 5:11; John 3:16-17; John 3:36; John 10:10; John 11:25-26. Just as πάντα διʼ αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο (John 1:3), so He was sent ἵνα σωθῇ ὁ κόσμος διʼ αὐτοῦ (John 3:17) and ἵνα ζήσωμεν διʼ αὐτοῦ.


Verse 10

10. ἐν τούτῳ. This again refers to what follows: Love in its full perfection is seen, not in man’s love to God, but in His to man, which reached a climax in His sending His Son to save us from our sins. The superiority of God’s love does not lie merely in the fact of its being Divine. It is first in order of time and therefore necessarily spontaneous: ours is at best only love in return for love. His love is absolutely disinterested; ours cannot easily be so. Comp. Titus 3:4. For ἱλασμός and περὶ τῶν ἁμ. see on 1 John 2:2; ἱλασμὸς περὶ τ. ἀμ. is parallel to ἵνα ζήσωμεν διʼ αὐτοῦ in the previous verse, but an advance on it. It is by being a propitiation for our sins that He wins life for us. Bede tells us that some MSS. had the reading ‘Et misit Filium suum litatorem pro peccatis nostris, adding Litator autem sacrificator est. But litator is more than sacrificator, it is ‘one who sacrifices with favourable results’. Augustine has litator, Lucifer expiator, the Vulgate propitiatio.


Verse 11

11. ἀγαπητοί. For the sixth and last time the Apostle uses this appropriate address. Here also it affectionately emphasizes a deduction of practical importance. See on 1 John 3:2 and comp. 1 John 4:7. No address of any kind occurs again until the last verse of the Epistle.

εἰ οὕτως ὁ Θ. ἠγ. ἡμᾶς. ‘If, as is manifest, to this extent God loved us’. The fact is stated gently, but not doubtfully, just as in 1 John 3:13; 1 John 5:9. Comp. εἰ οὖν ἐγὼ ἔνιψα ὑμῶν τοὺς πόδας, … καὶ ὑμεῖς ὀφείλετε ἀλλήλων νίπτειν τοὺς πόδας (John 13:14). Οὕτως is emphatic, and refers to 1 John 4:9-10.

καὶ ἡμεῖς ὀφείλομεν. As R.V., we also ought: καί belongs to ἠμεῖς; we as well as God. In the spiritual family also noblesse oblige. As children of God we must exhibit His nature, and we must follow His example, and we must love those whom He loves. Nor is this the only way in which the Atonement forms part of the foundation of Christian Ethics. It is only when we have learned something of the infinite price paid to redeem us from sin, that we rightly estimate the moral enormity of sin, and the strength of the obligation which lies upon us to free ourselves from its pollution. And it was precisely those false teachers who denied the Atonement who taught that idolatry and every abominable sin were matters of no moral significance.


Verse 12

12. Θεὸν οὐδεὶς πώποτε τεθέαται. As R.V., No man hath beheld God at any time, to mark the shade of difference between this and Θεὸν οὐδεὶς ἑώρακεν πώποτε (John 1:18). Here gazing and contemplation are implied; there not. Each word suits its own context. The order here is striking: God no man ever yet hath beheld. In both cases Θεόν stands first with great emphasis and without the article. Dr Westcott tabulates a number of instances and draws the following conclusion from them: “In Θεός the general conception of divinity is prominent, and in ὁ Θεός that of the One Being in personal relation to others”. This distinction holds good with great precision in the present passage. Comp. ὃν εἶδεν οὐδεὶς ἀνθρώπων οὐδὲ ἰδεῖν δύναται (1 Timothy 6:16).

Once more (see on 1 John 4:7) the connecting lines of thought are not on the surface, and cannot be affirmed with certainty. What follows seems to give the clue to what otherwise looks like an abrupt transition. ‘I say we must love one another, for by so doing we have proof of the presence of the invisible God. No amount of contemplation ever yet enabled any one to detect God’s presence. Let us love one another, and then we may be sure that He is not only with us but in us, and not merely is, but abides’. For μένει see on 1 John 2:24 : He is not a momentary visitant but a permanent friend and guest.

ἡ ἀγάπη αὐτοῦ. The love of Him. ‘His love to us’ can hardly be meant: in what sense would our loving one another perfect that? Moreover, as already noticed, ‘the love of God’ in this Epistle commonly means man’s love to Him, not His to man (1 John 2:5, 1 John 3:17, 1 John 5:3). ‘His love’ might possibly mean the love which characterizes Him, or the love which He has implanted in us; but the other is simpler. Our love to God is developed and perfected by our loving one another. We practise and strengthen our love of the Unseen by shewing love to the seen. See on 1 John 2:5.

τετελειωμένη ἐν ἡμῖν ἐστίν. In a perfected form is in us: ‘is perfected in us’ hardly does justice to the Greek. Τελειοῦσθαι is frequent in Hebrews (Hebrews 5:9; Hebrews 7:28; Hebrews 11:40; Hebrews 12:23) and in this Epistle (1 John 2:5; 1 John 4:17-18).


Verse 13

13. This should be compared with 1 John 3:24, to which it is closely parallel. There, as here, the gift of the Spirit is the proof of God’s abiding presence: but there this is connected with keeping His commandments; here it is connected with the special duty of brotherly love.

ἐκ τοῦ πνεύματος αὐτοῦ δέδ. We receive of His Spirit. Of Christ alone was it said in the fullest sense that οὐκ ἐκ μέτρου is the Spirit given to Him (John 3:34). Christians are said sometimes τὸ Πνεῦμα λαβεῖν (Galatians 3:2 : comp. 1 John 4:6), sometimes ἐκ τοῦ Πνεύματος λαβεῖν, as here. Only the former is true of Christ. See on 1 John 3:24 and 2 John 1:4.


Verse 14

14. τεθεάμεθα καὶ μαρτ. As R.V., we have beheld and bear witness: see on 1 John 4:12 and 1 John 1:2. ἡμεῖς is emphatic, and as in the Prologue and in 1 John 4:6, means S. John and the other Apostles. See on 1 John 1:4 and 1 John 4:6. With their own eyes the Twelve saw the Son working out His mission as the Saviour of the world. Τεθεάμεθα points back to τεθέαται in 1 John 4:12 : ‘God Himself no one hath ever yet beheld, but we have beheld His Son’.

ἀπέσταλκεν. Hath sent, as in 1 John 4:9. τοῦ κόσμου is important. The Son has been sent as Saviour, not of the Jews only, nor of the ‘enlightened’ Gnostics only, but of all. There is no limit to His mission to save, and no limit to its success, excepting man’s unwillingness to accept salvation by believing on the Saviour. See on 1 John 2:2 and comp. John 3:17. Only twice in his writings does S. John use the word σωτήρ, here and in the Samaritans’ confession (John 4:42). In both places it is followed by τοῦ κόσμου.


Verse 15

15. ὃς ἂν ὁμολ. Quicunque confessus fuerit (Vulgate): less well, Si quis confessus fuerit (Jerome Adv. Jovin. II. 29). This explains and confirms τοῦ κόσμου. Without any exception, Whosoever shall confess (see on 1 John 2:5) God abideth in him: but this was just what the false prophets refused to do. See on 1 John 4:2-3, and on 1 John 5:1. Comp. Ephesians 3:17.

ὁ Θεὸςτῷ Θεῷ. The communion is of the closest kind: comp. 1 John 3:24; John 6:56; John 14:20; John 15:5. Even Apostles, who have beheld and borne witness, can have no more than this Divine fellowship, which is open to every believer. For μένει see on 1 John 2:24. Vicissim in se habitant qui continet et qui continetur. Habitas in Deo, sed ut continearis: habitat in te Deus, sed ut contineat ne cadas, quia sic de ipsa caritate apostolus ait; Caritas nunquam cadit. Quomodo cadit quem continet Deus? (Bede).


Verse 16

16. καὶ ἡμεῖς. This is perhaps the Apostolic ‘we’ again, as in the Prologue and 1 John 4:6; 1 John 4:14.

ἐγνώκ. καὶ πεπιστ. τὴν ἀγάπην. The accusative shews that ἑγνώκαμεν is the leading verb: we have come to know the love and have believed it. The Vulgate has cognovimus et credidimus caritati, as if S. John had written τῇ ἀγάπῃ, and adds Dei as in 1 John 3:16. Obviously knowledge, when it precedes, is the main thing. Faith then follows as a matter of course: and this is the natural order—progressive knowledge (γινώσκειν) leading up to faith. But sometimes faith precedes knowledge (John 6:69). In either case each completes the other. Sound faith is intelligent; sound knowledge is believing. We must be ‘ready always to give answer to every man that asketh a reason concerning the hope that is in us’ (1 Peter 3:15). This verse is a fulfilment of the conclusion of Christ’s High-Priestly prayer; ‘I made known unto them Thy name, and will make it known; that the love wherewith Thou lovedst Me may be in them, and I in them’ (John 17:26). With ἀγάπην ἔχειν (here and John 13:35) comp. ἐλπίδα ἔχειν (1 John 3:3).

ἐν ἡμῖν. In us, as in 1 John 4:9, not ‘to us’. Note the characteristic repetition of the characteristic verb μένειν; thrice in one verse, like ὁ κόσμος in 1 John 4:5 : comp. 1 John 2:24. Cyprian (according to the best authorities) translates; Deus agape est, et qui manet in agape in Deo manet, et Deus in eo (Test. III. 2). So also in some MSS. Quomodo agape Dei manet in illo (1 John 2:17 quoted Test. III. 1). Was agape the original African rendering, afterwards altered to caritas or dilectio?


Verse 17

17. ἐν τούτῳ τ. ἡ ἀγ. μεθ ̓ ἡμῶν. Here R.V. Herein is love made perfect with us, or the margin of A.V. Herein is love with us made perfect, is to be preferred to A.V. Most earlier English Versions agree with R. V.; and μεθ ̓ ἡμῶν probably belongs to τετελείωται, not to ἡ ἀγάπη. So also the Vulgate (Cod. Am.), perfecta est nobiscum caritas: while Augustine renders perfecta est dilectio in nobis. Ἡ ἀγάπη here must mean our love towards God: His love towards us cannot have any fear (1 John 4:18) in it. This love takes up its abode, is developed, and perfected, with us. Ἐν τούτῳ may refer to either of the clauses which follow. Ἐν τούτῳἵνα is a possible construction, and perhaps occurs John 15:8; and ἐν τούτῳ ὅτι occurs 1 John 3:16; 1 John 4:9-10. But it is perhaps best to make ἐν τούτῳ refer to what precedes; to our abiding in God and God in us. This avoids the awkwardness of making perfection of love in the present depend upon our attitude at the Judgment, which though near (1 John 2:18) according to S. John’s view, is still future. In this way we can give its full meaning to ἴνα: by close union with God our love is made perfect, in order that we may have boldness at the Day of Judgment. For παρρησία see on 1 John 2:28. Quisquis fiduciam habet in die judicii, perfecta est in illo caritas (Bede from Augustine).

τῇ ἡμέρᾳ τῇς κρίσεως. The full phrase occurs nowhere else: the usual form being ἡμέρα κρίσεως (Matthew 10:15; Matthew 11:22; Matthew 11:24; Matthew 12:36; 2 Peter 2:9; 2 Peter 3:7). S. John elsewhere calls it ἡ ἐσχάτη ἡμέρα (John 6:39-40; John 6:44; John 6:54; John 11:24; John 12:48), or ἡ ἡμέρα ἡ μεγάλη (Revelation 6:17) or ἡ ἡμ. ἐκείνη ἡ μεγάλη (Revelation 16:14). Other Scriptural phrases are ἡ ἡμ. ἐκείνη (Matthew 13:1; Mark 13:32; Luke 10:12), ἡ ἡμ. τοῦ Κυρίου (1 Corinthians 5:5; 2 Corinthians 1:14; 2 Thessalonians 2:2), ἡ τοῦ θεοῦ ἡμέρα (2 Peter 3:12), ἡ ἡμ. (Hebrews 10:25), ἡμ. αἰῶνος (2 Peter 3:18), κρίσις μεγάλης ἡμ. (Judges 1:6), ἡ κρίσις (Matthew 12:41-42; Luke 10:14).

καθὼς ἐκεῖνοςκαὶ ἡμεῖς. For καθὼςκαὶ … see on 1 John 2:18. Ἐκεῖνος, as elsewhere in this Epistle (1 John 2:6; 1 John 3:3; 1 John 3:5; 1 John 3:7; 1 John 3:16), almost certainly means Christ. Our assurance with regard to the future Judgment is not presumption, because so far as is possible in this world we are in character like Christ. The resemblance is marked as close, ‘even so are we’ (καθώς); comp. 1 John 2:6; 1 John 3:3; 1 John 3:7. In what does this close resemblance specially consist? In love: the whole context points to this. He need not fear the judgment of Christ who by loving has become like Christ. ἐν τῷ κ. τούτῳ does not belong to both clauses; otherwise we should have had καθὼς ἐκεῖνος ἡν. The plural throughout is to be noted: μεθʼ ἡμῶνκαὶ ἡμεῖς. “The Apostle does not write to any individuals as individuals, but to the members of the congregation as such. In the Church alone, but certainly there, is to be found such a consummation of love, such a perfection of fellowship with God” (Haupt).

Here again Jerome differs considerably from his own Vulgate. In the latter; In hoc perfecta est nobiscum caritas, ut fiduciam habeamus in die judicii, quia sicut ille est et nos sumus in hoc mundo: in his own works (Adv. Jovin. I. 40); In hoc perfecta est nostra caritas, si fiduciam habeamus in diem judicii; ut quomodo ille est, sic et nos simus in hoc saeculo.


Verse 18

18. Proof of the preceding statement that perfect love will give us boldness, by shewing the mutually exclusive nature of love and fear. Love moves towards others in the spirit of self-sacrifice: fear shrinks from others in the spirit of self-preservation. The two are to be understood quite generally; neither love of God nor fear of God is specially meant. In all relations whatever, perfect love excludes fear, and fear prevents love from being perfect. And the two vary inversely: the more perfect the love, the less possibility of fear; and the more the fear, the less perfect the love. But, though as certain as any physical law, the principle, that perfect love excludes all fear, is an ideal that has never been verified in fact. Like the first law of motion, it is verified by the approximations made to it. No believer’s love has ever been so perfect as entirely to banish fear; but every believer experiences that as his love increases his fear diminishes. It is worthy of note that S. John here abandons his antithetic method. He does not go on to state anything about him that feareth not. And rightly, for the absence of fear proves nothing: it may be the result of ignorance, or presumption, or indifference, or unbelief, or inveterate wickedness.

Tertullian quotes this verse in insisting on the duty of suffering martyrdom, adding “What fear would it be better to understand than that which gives rise to denial (of Christ)? What love does he assert to be perfect, but that which puts fear to flight, and gives courage to confess (Christ)? What penalty will He appoint as the punishment of fear, but that which he who denies is to pay, who has to be slain, body and soul, in hell” (Scorp. XII.). Simon Magus is said to have “freed his disciples from the danger of death” by martyrdom, “by teaching them to regard idolatry as a matter of indifference” (Origen c. Celsum VI. xi).

ὁ φόβος κόλασιν ἔχει. As R.V., fear hath punishment. ‘Torment’ would be βάσανος (Matthew 4:24; Luke 16:23; Luke 16:28). Wiclif has ‘peyne’ representing poena in the Vulgate. Other Versions have ‘painfulness’, Luther Pein. Κόλασις, common in classical Greek and not rare in LXX., occurs only here and Matthew 25:46 in N.T. Its primary meaning is ‘pruning’, and hence ‘checking, correcting, punishing’: whereas the primary meaning of βάσανος is ‘testing’, and hence ‘trying by torture, tormenting’. Comp. ἵνα τὴν λείπουσαν ταῖς βασάνοις προσαναπληρώσωσι κόλασιν (Wisdom of Solomon 19:4).

ὁ δὲ φοβ. The δέ, omitted in A.V., connects this clause with the first one, ἀλλʼ … ἔχει being parenthetical. Wiclif has ‘forsothe’ and Purvey ‘but’, the Genevan, Rhemish, and R.V. have ‘and’. None are satisfactory, owing to the preceding ἀλλά. The passage is a good instance of the difference between ἀλλά and δέ (sed and autem, sondern and aber). The one introduces a sharp opposition, the other a qualification, objection, or contrast. Winer, 551, 552. The present participle indicates a constant condition: the habitual fearer is necessarily imperfect in his love.

S. Paul teaches the same doctrine; ‘Ye received not the spirit of bondage again unto fear; but ye received the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father’ (Romans 8:15). The servile fear, which perfect love excludes, is therefore altogether different from the childlike awe, which is a necessary element in the creature’s love for its Creator. Even servile fear is necessary as a preparation for perfect love. ‘The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom’; and it is also the beginning of love. The sinner must begin by fearing the God against whom he has sinned. Bengel gives the various stages thus: ‘Neither love nor fear; fear without love; both fear and love; love without fear’. Fear is the child of bondage; love of freedom. In this case also the bondwoman and her son must be cast out (Galatians 4:30).


Verse 19

19. ἡμεῖς ἀγαπῶμεν. The Old Vulgate here is trebly wrong: nos ergo diligamus invicem, the New has Deum; Augustine omits both,—Nos diligamus. [1] The οὖν inserted in A and some other authorities is a false reading. [2] There is no invicem either stated or implied by the Greek. [3] Ἀγαπῶμεν is indicative, not subjunctive, as is shewn in the ἡμεῖς: the hortative verb would hardly have the pronoun expressed; contrast 1 John 4:7. Some authorities insert τὸν θεόν or αὐτόν after ἀγαπῶμεν: so A.V., ‘we love Him’. Nothing is to be understood, Christian love of every kind being meant. The power of loving is a Divine gift.

ὅτι αὐτὸς πρῶτος. The πρῶτος is the important word and implies three things. 1. Our love owes its origin to God’s love, from which it is an effluence (1 John 4:7). 2. Love is checked by fear when it is doubtful whether it is returned; and our love has no such check, for God’s love has been beforehand with it. 3. Gratitude easily blossoms into affection, especially gratitude for love. With God’s priority in loving us Bede compares Christ’s priority in choosing His disciples (John 15:16).


Verse 20

20. ἐάν τις εἴπῃ. We return to the form of statement which was so common at the beginning of the Epistle (1 John 1:6; 1 John 1:8; 1 John 1:10). The case here contemplated is one form of the man that feareth not. His freedom from fear is caused, however, not by the perfection of love, but by presumption. He is either morally blind or a conscious hypocrite. Comp. 1 John 2:4; 1 John 2:9.

ὁ γὰρ μὴ ἀγαπῶν. As we have seen already (1 John 3:14-15), S. John treats not loving as equivalent to hating. For μή see on 1 John 2:4; 1 John 3:10; 1 John 3:14.

ὃν ἑώρακεν. S. John does not say ‘whom he can see’, but ‘whom he has continually before his eyes’. The perfect tense, as so often, expresses a permanent state continuing from the past. His brother has been and remains in sight, God has been and remains out of sight. ‘Out of sight, out of mind’ is a saying which holds good in morals and religion as well as in society. And if a man fails in duties which are ever before his eyes and are easy, how can we credit him with performing duties which require an effort to bear in mind and are difficult? And in this case the seen would necessarily suggest the unseen: for the brother on earth implies the Father in heaven. If therefore even the seen is not loved, what must we infer as to the unseen? The seen brother and unseen God are put in striking juxtaposition in the Greek; ‘He that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, the God whom he hath not seen cannot love’. But in English this would be misunderstood.

οὐ δύναται. It is a moral impossibility: comp. 1 John 3:9; John 3:3; John 3:5; John 3:27; John 5:19; John 5:30; John 7:7; John 7:34; John 8:21; John 8:43; John 12:39; John 14:17. The reading πῶς δύναται is perhaps a reminiscence of 1 John 3:17 or John 3:4; John 3:9; John 5:44; John 6:52; John 9:16. See critical notes.


Verse 21

21. καὶ τ. τ. ἐντ. ἔχ. ἀπ ̓ αὐτοῦ. The Apostle drives home his arguments for the practice of brotherly love by the fact that God has commanded all who love Him to love their brethren. So also S. Paul, here again in harmony with S. John: ‘The whole law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself’ (Galatians 5:14). Some take ‘Him’ to mean Christ. But this is unlikely, as Christ has not been mentioned for several verses: although it must be admitted that S. John is so full of the truth that ‘I and My Father are one’, that he makes the transition from the Father to the Son and from the Son to the Father almost unconsciously. Where has God given this commandment? In the whole Law, which is summed up in loving God with all one’s heart and one’s neighbour as oneself (Deuteronomy 6:5; Leviticus 19:18; Luke 10:27). The Apostle thus anticipates a possible objection. A man may say, ‘I can love God without loving my brother, and I can prove my love by keeping His commandments’ (John 14:15). ‘Nay’, says S. John, ‘your own argument shews your error: you cannot keep His commandments without loving your brother’. Thus then we have two revelations of God: our brother, who is His image; and commandment, which is His will. Not to love our brother is a flagrant violation of both. As Pascal puts it, we must know men in order to love them, but we must love God in order to know Him.

ἵναἀγαπᾷ. “The final particle (ἵνα) gives more than the simple contents of the commandment. It marks the injunction as directed to an aim” (Westcott). See on 1 John 1:9.

 


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Bibliography Information
"Commentary on 1 John 4:4". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cgt/1-john-4.html. 1896.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, July 23rd, 2019
the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16
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