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Bible Commentaries
1 John 4

Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New TestamentMeyer's Commentary

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Verse 1

1 John 4:1 . The apostle first exhorts them not to believe παντὶ πνεύματι . The idea πνεῦμα is in closest connection with ψευδοπροφῆται . The true prophets spoke, as we read in 2 Peter 1:21 : ὑπὸ πνεύματος ἁγίου φερόμενοι ; the source of the revelations which they proclaim ( πρόφημι ) is the πνεῦμα ἅγιον or πν . τοῦ Θεοῦ , by which is meant not an affection of their mind, but the power of God, distinct from their own personality, animating and determining them ( δύναμις ὑψίστου , synonymous with πνεῦμα ἅγιον , Luke 1:35 ). This πνεῦμα speaks through the prophet, penetrating into his πνεῦμα and communicating to him the truth to be revealed; thus the πνεῦμα of the prophet himself becomes a πνεῦμα ἐκ τοῦ Θεοῦ . As every prophet has his own πνεῦμα , there exists, though the πνεῦμα ἅγιον is a single being, a plurality of prophetic spirits. The same relationship holds good, on the other hand, in the case of the false prophets. These also are under the influence of a spirit, namely, of the πνεῦμα which ἐκ τοῦ Θεοῦ οὐκ ἔστι , of the πνεῦμα τῆς πλάνης ; this similarly is a single being, but inasmuch as with its lie it penetrates the πνεύματα of the false prophets and makes them like itself, it is true of the πνεῦμα of every individual prophet that it is not of God, not a πνεῦμα τῆς ἀληθείας , but a πνεῦμα τῆς πλάνης . As John speaks here of a plurality of spirits ( παντὶ πνεύματι , τὰ πνεύματα ), we are to understand by πνεῦμα in this passage not the higher spirit different from the human spirit, but this spirit itself, penetrated, however, and filled with the former [253] (comp. 1 Corinthians 14:32 , and Meyer on this passage). This spirit, however, may be spoken of, not merely in plurality, but also in unity, that is, in collective sense, for on each of the two sides all πνεῦματα , being animated by one and the same spirit, whether the divine or that which is against God, are of one nature, and so form together one unity. It is incorrect to understand by πνεῦμα here by metonymy, “the prophets” themselves (= ΛΑΛΟῦΝΤΕς ἘΝ ΠΝΕΎΜΑΤΙ , Lücke, de Wette, Calvin: pro eo, qui spiritus dono se praeditum esse jactat ad obeundum prophetae munus; so also Erdmann, Myrberg, etc.), or “their inspiration” (Socinus, Paulus), or even “the teaching of the prophet, his inspired word” (Lorinus, Cyril, Didymus, etc.).

ἈΛΛᾺ ΔΟΚΙΜΆΖΕΤΕ ΤᾺ ΠΝΕΎΜΑΤΑ ] The appearance of the ΨΕΥΔΟΠΟΡΟΦῆΤΑΙ , i.e. such teachers as, moved by the ungodly spirit, proclaimed instead of the truth the antichristian lie, under the pretext of speaking by divine inspiration, necessitated in the Christian Church a trial of the spirits (a διάκρισις of them, 1 Corinthians 12:10 ; 1 Corinthians 14:29 ); comp. 1 Thessalonians 5:20-21 ; in order to know ΕἸ ἘΚ ΤΟῦ ΘΕΟῦ ἘΣΤΙΝ , i.e. (if ἐκ is to be retained in its exact meaning), if they originate in and proceed from God.

This trial is to be exercised by all (comp. Romans 12:2 ; Ephesians 5:10 ; 1 Corinthians 10:15 ; 1 Corinthians 11:13 ), for “alloquitur (apostolus) non modo totum ecclesiae corpus, sed etiam singulos fideles” (Calvin); against which Lorinus arbitrarily says: non omnium est probare; unum oportet in ecclesia summum judicem quaestionum de fide moribusque; is est sine dubio Pontifex Maximus.

The necessity of the trial John establishes by the words: ὅτι πολλοὶ ψευδοπροφῆται κ . τ . λ . These ΨΕΥΔΟΠΡΟΦῆΤΑΙ are the same as in chap. 1 John 2:18 are called ἈΝΤΙΧΡΊΣΤΟΙ ; comp 1 John 4:2-3 . The name ΨΕΥΔΟΠΡΟΦῆΤΑΙ indicates that the teachers proclaimed their doctrine, not as the result of human speculation, but as a revelation communicated to them by the ΠΝΕῦΜΑ of God. The expression: ἘΞΕΛΗΛΎΘΑΣΙΝ ΕἸς ΤῸΝ ΚΌΣΜΟΝ , does not merely signify their public appearance (Socinus: existere et publice munus aliquod aggredi; Grotius: apparere populo), nor is “ ἐξ οἰκῶν αὐτῶν to be mentally supplied” (Ebrard), but it is to be explained by the fact that the prophets, as such, were sent (comp. John 17:18 ), and therefore go out from Him who sends them. It is He, however, that sends them, who through His πνεῦμα makes them prophets. The idea of ἘΞΈΡΧΕΣΘΑΙ is accordingly different here from what it is in chap. 1 John 2:19 (contrary to Lorinus, Spener, etc.); a going out of the false prophets from the Church of the Lord is not here alluded to. With ΕἸς ΤῸΝ ΚΌΣΜΟΝ , compare John 6:14 ; John 10:36 .

[253] Düsterdieck considers the expression as describing “the superhuman principle animating the man who prophesies,” and explains the plural in this way, that “those different principles reveal themselves differently in their different instruments;” but with this interpretation the plural would be used in a very figurative signification. Braune correctly: “The question is not about a dual, but about a plural; we must therefore understand the spirits of men , to whom the Spirit bears witness.”

Verses 1-6

1 John 4:1-6 . Resumption of the warning against the false teachers; comp. chap. 1 John 2:18 ff. The connecting link is formed by ἐκ τοῦ πνεύματος , chap. 1 John 3:24 ; the object is to distinguish between the πνεῦμα which is of God and the πνεῦμα which is not of God (1 John 4:2-3 ), between the πν . τῆς ἀληθείας and the πν . τῆς πλάνης : the distinguishing mark is the confession; the former confesses, the latter denies Jesus; the former is mightier than the latter; therefore the believers have overcome the ψευδοπροφήτας ; the words of the former spring ἐκ τοῦ κόσμου , and are pleasing to the κόσμος ; the words of the latter are accepted by him who is ἐκ τοῦ Θεοῦ .

Verse 2

1 John 4:2 . Statement of the token by which the πνεῦμα τοῦ Θεοῦ is to be recognised.

ἐν τούτῳ refers to the following sentence: πᾶν πνεῦμα κ . τ . λ .

γινώσκετε is imperative, comp. πιστεύετε , δοκιμάζετε , 1 John 4:1 .

πᾶν πνεῦμα ὃ ὁμολογεῖ Ἰησοῦν Χριστὸν ἐν σαρκὶ ἐληλυθότα ] It is arbitrary not only to change the participle ἐληλυθότα into the infinitive ἐληλυθέναι , but also to change ἐν into εἰς (so Luther, Calvin, Piscator, Sander); by ἐν σαρκί the flesh, i.e. the earthly human nature, is stated as the form of being in which Christ appeared. The form of the object is explained by the polemic against Docetism; it is to be translated either: Jesus Christ as come in the flesh ” (Lücke, de Wette, Düsterdieck, Ebrard, etc.); or: “Jesus, as Christ come in the flesh;” the last interpretation has this advantage, that it not only brings out more clearly the reference to the Cerinthian Docetism , [254] but it makes it more easy to explain how the apostle in 1 John 4:3 can designate the object simply by ΤῸΝ ἸΗΣΟῦΝ . It might, however, be still more suitable to take ἸΗΣΟῦΝ ἘΛΗΛΥΘΌΤΑ as one object = “ the Jesus Christ who came in the flesh ,” so that in this expression the individual elements on which John here relied in opposition to Docetism have been gathered into one; so perhaps Braune, when he says: “the form is that of a substantive objective sentence,” and “in ἐν σ . ἐλ . it is not a predicate, but an attributive clause that is added.” That the apostle has in view not only the Cerinthian, but also the later Docetism, which attributed to the Saviour only a seeming body, cannot be proved from the form of expression used here. The commentators who deny the reference of the apostle to Docetism find themselves driven to artificial explanations; thus Socinus, who expands the participle by quamvis, and Grotius, according to whom ἐν σαρκί refers to the status humilis in which Christ appeared, in contrast to the regia pompa in which the Jews expected the Messiah. [255] To exact unbelievers there can here be no reference, as, according to chap. 1 John 2:2 , the false prophets had previously belonged to the Church itself. [256] That John brings out as the token of the Spirit, that is, of God, just the confession of this particular truth, has its ground in the circumstances that have been mentioned; while it is also so very much the fundamental truth, that, as Lücke on ch. 1 John 2:22 with justice says: “every ψεῦδος is contained in this and amounts to this, the denial of that truth in any sense.” [257]

[254] In the first interpretation the antithesis to the Corinthian Docetism lies not merely in the combination of Ἰησοῦν Χριστόν as one name (Ebrard), but also in this, that this subject so described, which contains in it the idea Χριστός , is more particularly defined as having come in the flesh.

[255] Socinus: Qui confitetur Jesum Christum i.e. eum pro suo servatore ac domino et denique vero Christo habet, quamvis is in carne venerit h. e. homo fuerit, non modo mortalis, sed infinitis malis obnoxius. Without any ground, Baumgarten-Crusius asserts: “If any force were to be assigned to the predicate: come in the flesh, the infinitive would have been used.” Brückner thinks that if in ver. 3 the shorter reading (without the apposition) be the correct one, the reference to Docetism is here uncertain and unnecessary; but the uncertain expression is plainly to be interpreted in accordance with the more certain, and not, contrariwise, the latter in accordance with the former.

[256] Comp. with this passage Polycarp, ep. ad Philipp.: πᾶς γὰρ ὃς ἂν μὴ ὁμολογῇ Ἰησοῦν Χριστὸν ἐν σαρκὶ ἐληλυθότα , ἀντίχριστός ἐστι καὶ ὃς μὴ ὁμολογῇ τὸ μαρτύριον τοῦ σταυροῦ ἐκ τοῦ διαβόλου ἐστί .

[257] Augustine peculiarly turns this sentence against the Donatists, whom he reproaches with a denial of their love, on account of their separation from the Catholic Church, when he says that John speaks here of a denial of Christ not merely by word, but also by deed: quisquis non habet charitatem negat Christum in carne venisse; so Bede: ipse est Spiritus Dei, qui dicit Jesum Christum in carne venisse, qui dicit non lingua, sed factis, non sonando, sed amando.

Verse 3

1 John 4:3 . In the reading: ὁ μὴ ὁμολογεῖ τὸν Ἰησοῦν , the article (which is not, with Lücke, to be deleted) must not be overlooked, for it indicates Jesus as the historical person who is Christ. The false teachers did not confess Jesus when they ascribed the work of healing, not to Jesus, but to the Aeon Christ. The particle μή indicates the contradiction of the true confession, whilst οὐ would only express the simple negation. At the words: καὶ τοῦτό ἐστι τὸ τοῦ ἀντιχρίστου , almost all commentators (even Brückner and Braune) supply with τό the word πνεῦμα ; but Valla (with whom Zegerus agrees) interprets: et hic est antichristi spiritus, vel potius: et hoc est antichristi i.e. proprium antichristi; if this latter interpretation be correct, then τοῦτο refers to μὴ ὁμολογεῖν , and τὸ τοῦ ἀντιχρίστου is “the antichristian nature.” As it is not easy to see why John should have left out πνεῦμα , this interpretation is to be preferred to the usual one (so also Myrberg; Ewald similarly interprets: “the work of Antichrist;” the same form of expression in Matthew 21:21 ; 1 Corinthians 10:24 ; 2 Peter 2:22 ; James 4:14 ). [258]

ὃ ἀκηκόατε ὅτι ἔρχεται ] compare chap. 1 John 2:18 . Stephanus, groundlessly, would read “ ὅν ” instead of ὅ ; the relative does not refer to ἀντιχρίστου , but to τὸ τ . ἀντιχρ .

καὶ νῦν ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ ἐστὶν ἥδη ] i.e. in the false prophets; comp. 1 John 4:1 . John does not say here that Antichrist, but only that the antichristian nature (or the spirit of Antichrist) is already in the world; ἤδη is doubtless added, not merely to intensify the νῦν , but to point to the future time of the appearing of Antichrist, which is already being prepared for. According to Ebrard, the last sentence depends on ὅ ; this, however, is not likely, as ὅ is the accusative; it is rather connected, as an independent sentence, with the preceding one.

[258] Braune thinks that in these passages it was of importance to form a substantive conception, but that here the simple genitive would have been sufficient; it is plain, however, that the substantive idea τὸ τοῦ ἀντιχρ . is here also more significant than a mere genitive connected with ἐστίν .

Verse 4

1 John 4:4 . After the apostle has characterized the twofold πνεῦμα , he directs the attention of his readers to the relationship in which they stand to the false prophets.

ὑμεῖς ἐκ τοῦ Θεοῦ ἐστε ] A contrast to those who are ἐκ τοῦ κόσμου ; believers are of God, because the πνεῦμα which animates them is the πνεῦμα τοῦ Θεοῦ .

καὶ νενικήκατε αὐτούς ] αὐτούς is not = antichristum et mundum (Erasmus), but τοὺς ψευδοπροφήτας , in whom the antichristian nature dwells.

νενικήκατε is to be retained as perfect, comp. chap. 1 John 2:13 ; Calvin inaccurately interprets: in media pugna jam extra periculum sunt, quia futuri sunt superiores. John could say to his readers: νενικήκατε , not only inasmuch as in them was mighty the strength of Him who had said: θαρσεῖτε , ἐγὼ νενίκηκα τὸν κόσμον , and inasmuch as they in Him were sure of ultimate success (Neander, Düsterdieck), but also inasmuch as their opponents with their seductive arts must have been put to shame by their faithfulness, and must have been repulsed by them (Ebrard, Braune). The cause of this victory, however, did not and does not lie in the human power of believers, but in the fact ὅτι μείζων ἐστὶν ὁ ἐν ὑμῖν ἢ ὁ ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ ;

ὁ ἐν ὑμῖν , i.e. ὁ Θεός (according to Grotius, Erdmann, and others: ὁ Χριστός ); as the believer is of God, God remains in him as the soul of his life; ὁ ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ , i.e. ὁ διάβολος , “whose children the antichrists are” (Lücke). Instead of the more particular ἐν αὐτοῖς , John uses the more general ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ , in order thereby to signify that they, although they were for a while in the Church, belong nevertheless to the κόσμος , which the following words expressively bring out.

Verse 5

1 John 4:5 . In chap. 1 John 2:19 , John had said of the false teachers: οὐκ εἰσὶν ἐξ ἡμῶν ; now he states from what source they spring; this is the κόσμος ; the antichristian nature in them belonged to the world , quatenus Satanas est ejus princeps (Calvin). The manifestation of life corresponds with the source of it; because they are of the world, διὰ τοῦτο ἐκ τοῦ κόσμου λαλοῦσι ; ἐκ τ . κόσμου λαλεῖν means: to speak that which the κόσμος supplies, to take the burden of their speech from the κόσμος , ex mundi vita ac sensu sermones suos promere (Bengel). This is not identical with ἐκ τῆς γῆς λαλεῖν (John 3:31 ), for ἡ γῆ is not an ethical idea like ὁ κόσμος .

καὶ ὁ κόσμος αὐτῶν ἀκούει ] The false prophets had gone out from the Church into the world, to which they inwardly belonged, and proclaimed to it a wisdom which originated in it; therefore the world heard them, i.e. gave to their words applause and assent: τῷ γὰρ ὁμοίῳ τὸ ὅμοιον προστρέχει (Oecumenius); in contrast to which believers were hated and persecuted by the world.

Verse 6

1 John 4:6 . ἠμεῖς ] Antithesis of αὐτοί , 1 John 4:5 ; either specially John and the other apostles (Storr, Düsterdieck, Brückner, Braune, etc.) as the true teachers, or believers generally (Calvin, Spener, Lücke, de Wette, etc.); in favour of the former interpretation is the fact that believers are addressed in this section in the second person, together with the following ἀκούει ἠμῶν , as also the antithesis to ψευδοπροφῆται indicates teachers.

With ἐκ τοῦ Θεοῦ ἐσμεν we are to supply, according to 1 John 4:5 , the thought διὰ τοῦτο ἐκ τοῦ Θεοῦ λαλοῦμεν ; the following words: ὁ γινώσκων τὸν Θεὸν ἀκούει ἡμῶν , contain the proof of the thought just expressed.

ὁ γιν . τὸν Θεόν forms the antithesis of ὁ κόσμος , and is synonymous with ὅς ἐστιν ἐκ τ . Θεοῦ , for it is only he who is a child of God that possesses the true knowledge of God. According to Lücke and others, the apostle means by this those to whom belongs the “ general ἐκ τοῦ Θεοῦ εἶναι , i.e. the divine impress and instinct, which is the condition of childhood of God in Christ; ” but the expression itself is opposed to this, for the knowledge of God is necessarily conditioned by faith in Christ.

In the second clause: ὃς οὐκ ἔστιν … οὐκ ἀκ . ἡμῶν , ὃς … Θεοῦ forms the antithesis to ὁ γινώσκων τ . Θεόν . This is the antithesis between “world” and “church of the children of God.”

In the concluding clause: ἐκ τούτου … τῆς πλάνης , it is to the immediately preceding thought that ἐκ τούτου refers. According to the usual view, with which Düsterdieck agrees, the sense of this passage is: He who hears the apostles shows thereby that the πνεῦμα τῆς ἀληθείας is in him; he who, on the contrary, does not hear them, shows that the πν . τῆς πλάνης is in him; it is in his relation to the apostolic teaching that any one shows of what spirit he is the child. [259] But, according to the train of thought in this section, it is not the spirit of the hearers , but that of the teachers that is the subject (so also Myrberg and Braune); the sense therefore is: That the πνεῦμα τῆς πλάνης prevails in the false prophets, may be known by this, that the world hears them; that in us, on the contrary, the πνεῦμα τῆς ἀληθείας dwells, may be perceived by this, that those who know God, i.e. the children of God , hear us. The πν . τῆς ἀληθείας cannot be in him whom the world hears, nor can the πν . τῆς πλάνης be in him whom the children of God hear; Braune: “the πν . τῆς πλάνης is certainly in him whom the world hears, and the πν . τῆς ἀληθείας in him whom the children of God hear.”

τὸ πνεῦμα τῆς ἀληθείας ; comp. John 14:17 ; John 15:26 ; John 16:13 ; a description of the Holy Ghost, inasmuch as He not only produces a knowledge of the truth, but “makes the truth His very nature” (Weiss). [260] τὸ πν . τῆς πλάνης , the spirit that emanates from the devil, which seduces men to falsehood and error; comp. chap. 1Jn 1:8 ; 1 Thessalonians 2:3 ; 1 Timothy 4:1 .

[259] Luther: “If we hear God’s true messengers, that is a plain token of true religion; if, however, we despise and mock them, that is a plain token of error.”

[260] The thought of this passage corresponds with that of John 10:3-5 , where Christ appeals for a proof that He is the Good Shepherd to the fact that the sheep know and hear His voice, whilst they do not know the voice of the stranger, and flee from it.

Verses 7-8

1 John 4:7-8 . Exhortation to mutual love, and the establishing of this.

The address ἀγαπητοί emphatically introduces the command: ἀγαπῶμεν .

The object ἀλλήλους shows that here also it is not human love in general, but Christian brotherly love that is the subject. Mutual love is the holiest calling of Christians who are τέκνα τοῦ Θεοῦ , for ἡ ἀγάπη ἐκ τοῦ Θεοῦ ἐστι , [261] i.e. love proceeds from God; Calovius: originem habet a Deo. Unsatisfactory is the explanation of Grotius: Deo maxime placet bonitas. ἡ ἀγάπη is used without a determining object, because it is love in its full extent that is meant.

καὶ πᾶς ὁ ἀγαπῶν ἐκ τοῦ Θεοῦ γεγέννηται κ . τ . λ .] Inference from what immediately precedes. If love is of God, then he who lives in love must also be born of God and know Him. The relation of ἀγαπᾷν and ἐκ τοῦ Θεοῦ γεγεννῆσθαι is not to be defined thus, that the former is the condition of the latter (de Wette), but thus, that the former is to be regarded as the criterion of the latter; to be born of God does not follow from love, but love follows from being born of God. The same relationship exists also between ἀγαπᾷν and γινώσκειν τὸν Θεόν ; [262] what sort of a knowledge of God is meant, however, is seen from the close connection of ΓΙΝΏΣΚΕΙ with ἘΚ ΤΟῦ ΘΕΟῦ ΓΕΓΈΝΝΗΤΑΙ . 1 John 4:8 . From the foregoing it follows further: ΜῊ ἈΓΑΠῶΝ ΟὐΚ ἜΓΝΩ ΤῸΝ ΘΕΌΝ ; ΟὐΚ ἜΓΝΩ , i.e. has not known. ” The reason is: ὅτι ὁ Θεὸς ἀγάπη ἐστίν .

By this thought the preceding ἈΓΆΠΗ ἘΚ ΤΟῦ ΘΕΟῦ ἘΣΤΊ receives its full comprehension.

ἈΓΆΠΗ is without the article, because it is considered as a general definition of the nature of God; so 1 John 4:16 , comp. 1 John 1:5 : ΘΕῸς Φῶς ἘΣΤΊ . “Love is not so much a quality which God has , as rather the all-embracing total of what He is ” (Besser). Luther: Deus nihil est quam mera caritas; Grotius tamely: plenus est dilectione.

[261] Neander: “The apostle does not here lay down a commandment of love; he does not want to impress on believers new motives for love, but to convince them that as sure as they are God’s children, this fact must he manifested by mutual love. As proof he adduces that love is of God, and therefore every one who loves is born of God.”

[262] It was previously stated in this commentary: “John does not here say that love flows from the knowledge of God, but that love, because it is of divine nature, necessarily brings with it the knowledge of God.” This is incorrect, since γινώσκει τὸν Θεόν stands in the same relationship to ἀγαπῶν as ἐκ τοῦ Θεοῦ γεγέννηται does, even though it is in itself true also that only he who himself loves can really know God, who is love. For the correct explanation, see Lücke, Braune, Weiss. It has already been observed, however, that the last-named does not correctly state the connection between being born of God and the knowledge of God, as he makes the latter the condition of the former.

Verses 7-21

1 John 4:7-21 . After the apostle, induced by the appearance of the antichristian nature, has characterized the spirit of truth and the spirit of error, he passes on directly to a detailed account of the elements of faith and love alluded to in chap. 1 John 3:23 .

Verse 9

1 John 4:9 . The manifestation of the love of God is the sending of His Son.

ἐν τούτῳ refers to the following ὅτι .

ἐφανερώθη ἡ ἀγάπη τοῦ Θεοῦ ἐν ἡμῖν ] ἐφανερώθη expresses the objective fact, not the subjective knowledge; the apostle does not mean that the love of God is known by us through the sending of His Son (comp. 1 John 4:16 ), but that it has by that means come forth from its concealment, has manifested itself in act. ἐν ἡμῖν is therefore neither “ in ” nor “ among ” us; neither must it be explained = εἰς ἡμᾶς ; ἐν is here, as in 1 John 4:16 and John 9:3 = “ to; ” either connected with ἐφανερώθη or with ἡ ἀγάπη τ . Θ .; hence either: “it has been manifested to us” (Düsterdieck, Brückner, Braune, etc.), or: “the love of God to us” (Ewald) has been manifested. With the first interpretation the sentence: ὅτι … εἰς τὸν κόσμον , makes a difficulty which has been overlooked by the commentators; [263] with regard to the second, the article is wanting before ἘΝ ἩΜῖΝ ; but a direct connection of an attributive clause with a substantive, without a connecting article, is very often found in the N. T., and is therefore not “ungrammatical” (as Düsterdieck thinks); the idea is here, then, the same as that which John in 1 John 4:16 expresses by: ἈΓΆΠΗ ἫΝ ἜΧΕΙ ΘΕῸς ἘΝ ἩΜῖΝ . [264] The difference between ΕἸς ἩΜᾶς and ἘΝ ἩΜῖΝ is this, that the former indicates only the tendency towards the goal, the latter the abiding at the goal. By ἩΜῖΝ we are to understand not mankind in general, but believers in particular, so also 1 John 4:10 in the case of ἩΜΕῖς Κ . Τ . Λ .

In the following sentence: ὍΤΙ ΤῸΝ ΥἹῸΝ ΑὐΤΟῦ ἽΝΑ ΖΉΣΩΜΕΝ ΔΙʼ ΑὐΤΟῦ , the special emphasis rests on the last words, for the love which God has towards us is manifested in the fact that He sent His Son into the world for this purpose , that we might live through Him, i.e. become partakers through Him of the life of blessedness. It is especially in its purpose that the sending of His Son is the manifestation of God’s love to us. The more particular description of the Son of God as ὁ μονογενής , which is frequently found in the Gospel of John, appears only here in his Epistles. In Luke (Luke 7:12 , Luke 8:42 , Luke 9:38 ) and in the Epistle to the Hebrews (Hebrews 11:17 ), ΜΟΝΟΓΕΝΉς denotes the only child of his parents. So the expression is used by John also to denote Christ as the only Son of God, “besides whom His Father has none.” This predicate is suitable to Him, inasmuch as He is the λόγος who is ἘΝ ἈΡΧῇ , ΠΡῸς ΤῸΝ ΘΕΌΝ , ΘΕΌς . Lorinus arbitrarily explains ΜΟΝΟΓΕΝΉς = ἈΓΑΠΗΤΌς ; comp. Meyer on John 1:14 . Calvin rightly remarks: “quod unigenitum appellat, ad auxesin valet.” How great the love of God, in that He sent His only-begotten Son in order that we might live! Baumgarten-Crusius: “ ΜΟΝΟΓΕΝΉς and ΖΉΣΟΜΕΝ are the principal words: the most glorious … for our salvation!”

[263] Even Ebrard has not perceived the difficulty. It lies in this, that by ὅτι κ . τ . λ . something is mentioned which happened for us, but not which happened to us; differently in John 9:3 . Brückner thinks that the difficulty is removed by the fact that “in the purpose of the sending of Christ there also lies something which happened to us;” incorrectly, since even if the purpose of that is our life ( ἵνα ζήσωμεν ), yet it cannot be said that the love shown in the sending of Christ has manifested itself to us; the result is then that ἑφανερώθη is taken = “has operated,” and that an emphasis is laid on ἐν ἡμῖν which it does not receive from the context.

[264] Lücke incorrectly observes that with this connection there is in ἐν ἡμῖν “something superfluous and unsuitable.” This is so far from being the case, that it is just in this that the apostle arrives at the consideration of the relationship between God and the believer. True, the love of God relates to the whole world, John 3:16 : ἠγάπησεν ὁ Θεὸς τὸν κόσμον , and to all, without exception, He has given, by sending His Son, the possibility of not being lost, but obtaining eternal life, but the loving purpose of God is accomplished only in them that believe; the unbelieving remain ἐν ὀργῇ τοῦ Θεοῦ ; hence the love of God to the world is more narrowly limited than His love to believers, who are His τέκνα .

Verse 10

1 John 4:10 . ἐν τούτῳ ἐστὶν ἡ ἀγάπη ] i.e. herein consists love ,” love is in its nature of this kind. Oecumenius inaccurately: ἐν τούτῳ , δείκνυται , ὅτι ἀγάπη ἐστὶν ὁ Θεός ; for ἐστί is not = δείκνυται ; nor is τοῦ Θεοῦ to be supplied with ἡ ἀγάπη (with Lücke, de Wette, Brückner, etc.), but the expression means love in general , as in 1 John 4:7 in the words: ἡ ἀγάπη ἐκ τοῦ Θεοῦ ἐστί (Düsterdieck, Ebrard, Braune).

οὐχ ὅτι ἡμεῖς ἠγαπήσαμεν τὸν Θεόν , ἀλλʼ ὅτι κ . τ . λ .] Grotius and Lange arbitrarily render οὐχ ὅτι here = ὅτι οὐχ . Several commentators take the first part as, according to its sense, a subordinate clause = ἡμῶν μὴ ἀγαπησάντων ; Meyer: “Herein consists love, in that, although we had not previously loved God, He nevertheless loved us;” [265] this, however, is incorrect; as John in 1 John 4:7 has said that love is ἘΚ ΤΟῦ ΘΕΟῦ , so here also he would emphasize the fact that love has its origin not in man, but in God; it is originally in God, and not first called forth in Him by the love of men; the latter is rather first the outcome of the divine love; [266] the words οὐχ ὅτι therefore serve to specify love as something divine, not, however, as Düsterdieck (who otherwise interprets correctly) thinks, to emphasize the fact that “the love of God to us is entirely undeserved;” this is a thought which is only to be derived from the statement of the apostle (Braune).

ἩΜΕῖς and ΑὐΤΌς are emphatically contrasted with one another.

ΚΑῚ ἈΠΈΣΤΕΙΛΕ ΤῸΝ ΥἹῸΝ ΑὐΤΟῦ Κ . Τ . Λ . ] states the actual proof of ΑὐΤῸς ἨΓΆΠΗΣΕΝ ἩΜᾶς ; here also the special emphasis rests, not on ἈΠΈΣΤΕΙΛΕ , but on ἹΛΑΣΜῸΝ Κ . Τ . Λ . , which corresponds to the ἽΝΑ ΖΉΣΩΜΕΝ of 1 John 4:9 , inasmuch as it states the basis of the ΖΩΉ ; with ἹΛΑΣΜΌΝ , comp. chap. 1 John 2:2 . The aorists ἨΓΑΠΉΣΑΜΕΝ , ἨΓΆΠΕΣΕ , ἈΠΈΣΤΕΙΛΕΝ , are to be retained as historical tenses (de Wette); by the perfect ἈΠΈΣΤΑΛΚΕΝ , 1 John 4:9 , the sending of Christ is merely stated, whereas the aorist employed here narratively depicts the loving act of God in the sending of His Son (Lücke).

[265] Similarly a Lapide: Hic caritatem Dei ponderat et exaggerat ex eo, quod Deus nulla dilectione, nullo obsequio nostro provocatus, imo multis injuriis et sceleribus nostris offensus, prior dilexit nos.

[266] With this interpretation it is not at all necessary, as Baumgarten-Crusius thinks, to give a different meaning to the ὅτι in each case: “not as if … but in the fact that;” but ὅτι has the same meaning both times, as the sense is: “this is not the nature of the love that we were the first to love, but that God was the first to love.”

Verse 11

1 John 4:11 . Conclusion from 1 John 4:9-10 , giving the motive for the exhortation in 1 John 4:7 .

The love of God (previously described: οὕτως ) to us obliges us, believers, to love one another. The obligatory force lies not merely in the example given by God’s act of love, but also in this, that we by means of it have become the children of God, and as such love as He loves (Lücke). At the same time, however, the correspondence between ἡμᾶς and ἀλλήλους is to be observed; the Christian, namely, as a child of God, feels himself bound to love his brother because he knows that God loves him, and him whom God loves God’s child cannot hate.

Verse 12

1 John 4:12 . The blessing of brotherly love is perfect fellowship with God.

Θεὸν οὐδεὶς πώποτε τεθέαται ] comp. 1 John 4:20 and Gospel of John 1:18 . In opposition to Rickli’s view, that these words were spoken in polemic reference to the false teachers who pretended to see God, i.e. to know Him fully, Lücke rightly asserts that in that case the apostle would have more definitely expressed the polemic element; τεθέαται does not here at all denote spiritual seeing or knowledge (Hornejus, Neander, Sander, Erdmann), but seeing in the strict sense of the word (de Wette, Düsterdieck, Braune). John, however, does not here emphasize this invisibility of God (in which He is infinitely exalted above man; comp. 1 Timothy 6:16 ) in order to suggest that we can reciprocate the love of God, not directly, but only through love to our visible brethren (Lücke, Ebrard; similarly Hornejus, Lange, etc.), but in order thereby to emphasize still more the following: ὁ Θεὸς ἐν ἡμῖν μένει κ . τ . λ . as the Scholiast in Matthiae indicates by paraphrasing: ὁ ἀόρατος Θεὸς καὶ ἀνέφικτος διὰ τῆς εἰς ἀλλήλους ἀγάπης ἐν ἡμῖν μένει ; a Lapide correctly interprets: licet eum non videamus, tamen, si proximum diligamus, ipse invisibilis erit nobis praesentissimus (so also de Wette, Düsterdieck, Erdmann, Myrberg, Braune). The πώποτε which is added shows that τεθέαται is regarded as the simple perfect, and does not “include past and present” (Lücke); nevertheless with the thought: “no one has seen God at any time,” the further thought: “no one can see Him,” is tacitly combined. That the apostle had in view the passage Exodus 33:20 (Sander), is the more improbable, as both thought and expression are different. In reference to the appearances of God which the O. T. in Genesis 12:7 ; Genesis 17:1 , and elsewhere, relates, Spener rightly remarks: “All such was not the seeing of the Divine Being Himself, but of an assumed form in which His being manifested itself.”

ἐὰν ἀγαπῶμεν ἀλλήλους , ὁ Θεὸς ἐν ἡμῖν μένει ] In these words the blessing of brotherly love is stated: With brotherly love fellowship with God is associated, because, indeed, love is of God. The explanation of several commentators: “if we love one another, then it may thereby be known that God is in us,” weakens the thought of the apostle. [267] God’s dwelling in us is certainly not meant to be represented here as a result or fruit of our love to one another (as Frommann, p. 109, interprets); and just as little is it the converse relation; but it is the inseparable co-dependence of the two elements, which mutually condition each other (so also Braune).

ΚΑῚ ἈΓΆΠΗ ΑὐΤΟῦ ΤΕΤΕΛΕΙΩΜΈΝΗ ἘΣΤῚΝ ἘΝ ἩΜῖΝ ] ἈΓΆΠΗ ΑὐΤΟῦ is not here “the love which God has to us” (Calovius, Spener, Russmeyer, Sander, Erdmann, etc.), for the idea ΤΕΤΕΛΕΙΩΜΈΝΗ ἘΣΤΊΝ does not agree with this, comp. 1 John 4:18 , but the love which the believer has; ΑὐΤΟῦ may, however, be either the objective genitive (so most commentators) or the subjective genitive; but in the latter case we must not interpret, with Socinus: “ea dilectio, quam ipse Deus nobis praescripsit,” nor, as Calvin thinks probable: “caritas, quam Deus nobis inspirat,” but “ the love which is inherent in God ” (which is His nature and ἐξ αὐτοῦ ); this, however, considered as dwelling in believers ( ἘΝ ἩΜῖΝ ) as the soul of their life (so also Brückner and Braune). This explanation, in which no object which would restrict the general idea of love has to be supplied (comp. 1 John 4:7-8 ; 1 John 4:16 ; 1 John 4:18 ), deserves the preference, because the specific love to God is first mentioned in 1 John 4:19 . Quite unjustifiably Ebrard asserts that ἈΓ . ΑὐΤΟῦ denotes “the mutual loving relationship between God and us; comp. 1 John 2:5 .”

[267] Weiss insists on this interpretation, because “it is meant to be shown how we have in brotherly love the visible evidence of an existence of God who is in Himself invisible; ” incorrectly, for (1) Christians need no visible proof of the existence of the invisible God, and, besides, it is not the existence of God, but God’s dwelling in us, etc., that is the subject here; (2) the conjunction ἐάν shows that the subordinate clause states the condition under which what is stated in the principal clause takes place; (3) the supplement of a γινώσκομεν is purely arbitrary.

Verse 13

1 John 4:13 . The token of our fellowship with God ( ἐν αὐτῷ μένομεν corresponds to the preceding: ἡ ἀγάπη αὐτοῦ … ἐν ἡμῖν ) is: ὅτι ἐκ τοῦ πνεύματος αὐτοῦ δέδωκεν ἡμῖν ; comp. 1 John 3:24 . The expression: ἐκ τοῦ πνεύματος (instead of τὸ πνεῦμα ), is explained by the fact that the πνεῦμα of God is the entire fulness of the life of God operating in believers, of which his share is given to each individual. The expression is not to be connected with the διαίρεσις τῶν χαρισμάτων , of which Paul speaks in 1 Corinthians 12:4 ; 1 Corinthians 12:11 . Compare Acts 2:17 ; in reference to Christ it is said: οὐκ ἐκ μέτρου δίδωσι τὸ πνεῦμα , Gospel of John 3:34 . Against the view that by πνεῦμα here “love” or a similar quality is to be understood, Spener says: “it is the Spirit Himself, and not His gifts only, that we receive.” [268]

ὅτι does not mean “if” (Baumgarten-Crusius), for John supposes that his readers are believers, and as such are certainly partakers of the Spirit.

[268] Weiss incorrectly uses this passage as a proof that, whilst Jesus considered the Holy Ghost as a personal being, John had not yet perfectly taken hold of this conception; for even if it be admitted that the expression used here does not specify the personality of the Spirit, yet it is in no way contradictory to it. Besides, Weiss himself admits that the passage: τὸ πνεῦμά ἐστιν ἡ ἀλήθεια . (chap. 1 John 5:6 ), points to the personality of the Spirit.

Verses 14-15

1 John 4:14-15 . That love brings with it fellowship with God, is caused by the fact that God is love and love springs from God. But God’s love was made manifest by the sending of His Son, and this is testified by the apostles, who themselves have seen Him. The last thought which 1 John 4:14 expresses serves as an introduction to the thought that follows in 1 John 4:15 , in which the believing confession (and therefore faith) is described as the condition of fellowship with God, and hence also of true love.

καὶ ἡμεῖς ] By ἡμεῖς John means here himself and his fellow-apostles; comp. 1 John 4:6 .

τεθεάμεθα καὶ μαρτυροῦμεν , comp. chap. 1 John 1:1-2 . τεθεάμεθα expresses the direct seeing (Gospel of John 1:14 ), not knowledge through the medium of others. The apostles saw that the Father sent the Son, inasmuch as they saw the Son Himself and not after the flesh merely, but also as the μονογενὴς παρὰ πατρός . With τεθεάμεθα corresponds the closely-connected idea μαρτυροῦμεν , which presupposes one’s own direct experience; comp. Gospel of John 1:34 .

The subject of this testimony is: ὅτι ὁ πατὴρ ἀπέσταλκε τὸν υἱὸν σωτῆρα τοῦ κόσμου , comp. 1 John 4:9-10 ; σωτῆρα τ . κ . states the purpose of the sending, which does not refer to particular elect ones, but to the whole number of sinners (comp. chap. 1 John 2:2 and Gospel of John 3:16 ). 1 John 4:15 . With ὁμολογήσῃ , comp. 1 John 4:2 . The subject of the confession is: ὅτι Ἰησοῦς ἐστιν ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ Θεοῦ ; this is precisely what the antichrists deny; comp. 1 John 4:2-3 .

Weiss erroneously interprets: “Whosoever abides in this confession, in him it is seen that God is in him;” the words “in him it is seen” are a mere interpolation.

Verse 16

1 John 4:16 . The beginning of this verse: καὶ ἡμεῖς , is indeed of the same import as the beginning of 1 John 4:14 ; but ἡμεῖς here does not merely mean the apostles (Myrberg), for otherwise ἐν ἡμῖν also would have to be referred to them, and a contrast, here inappropriate, would be drawn between the apostles and the readers, but it is used in its more general sense (as most commentators take it), which is also indicated by the connection of this verse with the preceding one.

With ἐγνώκαμεν καὶ πεπιστεύκαμεν , comp. John 6:69 . As the object of faith must have been previously made known to us, and hence made the subject of knowledge before we can take hold of it in faith, and as, on the other hand, it is only through faith that knowledge becomes the determining principle of our life, and these two elements mutually condition each other continually in the Christian life, knowledge, therefore, can be put before faith, as here, and faith can also be put before knowledge, as in John 6:69 . [269]

τὴν ἀγάπην , ἣν ἔχει ὁ Θεὸς ἐν ἡμῖν ] is not, with Wilke ( Hermeneutik des N. T. II. 64), to be interpreted: “the love which God has in us, i.e. as a love dwelling in us,” or, with Ebrard: “God’s love which He has kindled in us, by means of which, as by His own nature, He works in us,” for the verbs ἐγνώκαμεν and πεπιστεύκαμεν show that the subject here is not something subjective, and therefore not our love (which only in so far as it is the outcome of the divine love is described as the love which God has in us), but something objective, and therefore the love of God, which has manifested itself in the sending of His Son for the propitiation for our sins. ἐν is used here just as in 1 John 4:9 . The following words: ὁ Θεὸς ἀγάπη ἐστὶ κ . τ . λ ., which are closely connected with what immediately precedes, form the keystone of the foregoing, inasmuch as the particular ideas of the previous context are all embraced in them.

On ὁ Θεὸς ἀγ . ἐστί , see 1 John 4:8 .

καὶ ὁ μένων κ . τ . λ . is the inference from the thought that God is love, in this way, namely, that all true love springs from Him. The idea of love here is not to be restricted to brotherly love (1 John 4:12 , ἐὰν ἀγαπῶμεν ἀλλήλους ), but (as also Düsterdieck, Braune, and Weiss remark) [270] is to be understood quite generally. [271] The idea of fellowship with God is here expressed just as in 1 John 4:15 . If John makes it at one time dependent on knowledge, and at another dependent on love, this is explained by the fact that to him both knowledge and love are the radiations of that faith by means of which the new birth operates.

[269] Lücke: “True faith is, according to John, intelligent and experienced; true knowledge is a believing knowledge. Both together form the complete Christian conviction, so that John, when he wants to express this very strongly, puts them both together, in which case it is indifferent whether the one or the other comes first.” Comp. also Neander on this passage, and Köstlin, der Lehrbegr. des Ev. etc., pp. 63, 215 ff.

[270] Weiss further erroneously observes that “here also being in God is not to be made dependent on love, but love on being in God.”

[271] Ebrard introduces a reference foreign to the passage when he includes in μένειν ἐν τῇ ἀγάπῃ also the “dwelling in the love of God to us, in faith in God’s love;” Erdmann also incorrectly interprets: “ τῷ μένειν ἐν τῇ ἀγάπῃ eadem animi nostri ad caritatem Dei relatio denotatur, quae verbis ἐγνώκαμεν καὶ πεπιστεύκαμεν significatur.” Had the apostle meant this, he would have added to ἀγάπῃ , as a more particular definition, τοῦ Θεοῦ . Comp. Gospel of John 15:10 .

Verse 17

1 John 4:17 . After the apostle has said in 1 John 4:16 that he that dwelleth in love (and therefore no one else) has fellowship with God, he now indicates wherein love shows itself as perfected; the thought of this verse is accordingly connected with the preceding: ὁ μένων ἐν τῇ ἀγάπῃ .

ἐν τούτῳ τετελείωται ἡ ἀγάπη μεθʼ ἡμῶν ] Several commentators, Luther, Calvin, Spener, Grotius, Hornejus, Calovius, Semler, Sander, Besser, Ewald, etc., understand by ἡ ἀγάπη “the love of God to us,” interpreting μεθʼ ἡμῶν = εἰς ἡμᾶς , and τετελείωται as referring to the perfect manifestation of the love of God; Grotius: hic est summus gradus delectionis Dei erga nos. [272] This interpretation, however, has the context against it, for in 1 John 4:16 : ὁ μένων ἐν τῇ ἈΓΆΠῌ , as well as in 1 John 4:18 : ΦΌΒΟς ΟὐΚ ἜΣΤΙΝ ἘΝ Τῇ ἈΓΆΠῌ , by ἈΓΆΠΗ is meant the love of man, the love that dwells in us; comp. also 1 John 4:12 . Here also, therefore, ἈΓΆΠΗ must be understood of this love, with Estius, Socinus, Lange, Lücke, de Wette, Neander, Gerlach, Düsterdieck, Braune, etc.; ΤΕΤΕΛΕΊΩΤΑΙ is used in the same sense as ΤΕΤΕΛΕΙΩΜΈΝΗ ἘΣΤΙΝ , 1 John 4:12 ; comp. also 1 John 4:18 : ΤΕΛΕΊΑ ἈΓΆΠΗ .

It is not the object of the love that is described by ΜΕΘʼ ἩΜῶΝ , for ΜΕΤΆ is not = ΕἸς , but it means “in;” [273] it either belongs to the verb: “therein is love made perfect in us” (Lücke, de Wette, Düsterdieck, Braune, etc.; Erdmann, who explains ΜΕΤΆ = ἘΝ ), or to ἈΓΆΠΗ : “the love which exists (prevails) in us is,” etc. With the first construction, the addition appears rather superfluous; besides, its position would then be more natural before ἈΓΆΠΗ . The underlying idea is that the love which has come from God (for all love is ἘΚ ΤΟῦ ΘΕΟῦ ) has made its abode with believers. Here, also, ἈΓΆΠΗ is used without more particular definition, as in 1 John 4:16 , and is therefore not to be limited to a specific object (so also de Wette, Düsterdieck, Braune); it is therefore neither merely “love to the brethren ” (Socinus, Lücke, [274] etc.), nor merely “love to God ” (Lange, Erdmann); Baumgarten-Crusius not incorrectly explains the idea by “the sentiment of love; ” only it must not be forgotten that true love is not merely sentiment , but action also; comp. chap. 1 John 3:18 .

ἐν τούτῳ does not refer to the preceding, nor to dwelling in love, nor to fellowship with God, but to what follows; not, however, to ὅτι , as Beza, [275] Grotius, etc., assuming an attraction, think, but to ἵνα παῤῥησίαν ἔχωμεν ἐν τῇ ἡμέρᾳ τῆς κρίσεως . From 1 John 4:18 it is clear that the chief aim of the apostle is to emphasize the fact that perfect love ( ἡ τελεία ἀγάπη , 1 John 4:18 ) is free from fear, or that he who is perfect in love ( τετελειωμένος ἐν τῇ ἀγάπῃ ) experiences no fear, but has confident boldness ( παῤῥησία ). The thought of this verse is no other than this, that love has its perfection in the fact that it fills us with such παῤῥησία ; the clause beginning with ἵνα therefore contains the leading thought, to which the following ὅτι is subordinated. It is true, the combination ἐν τούτῳ … ἵνα (instead of ὅτι , 1 John 4:9-10 , and frequently) is strange, but it is quite John’s custom to use the particle of purpose, ἵνα , not seldom as objective particle; the same combination is found in the Gospel of John 15:8 (Meyer, indeed, differently on this passage); comp. chap. 1 John 3:10 , 1 John 3:23 : αὕτη … ἵνα (Gospel of John 17:3 ); by ἵνα , παῤῥησίαν ἔχειν is indicated as the goal, not “which God has in view in the perfecting of love in us” (Braune), but which the ἀγάπη in its perfection attains (Düsterdieck). With παῤῥησίαν ἔχειν , comp. chap. 1 John 2:28 . [276]

The ἡμέρα τῆς ΚΡΊΣΕΩς is the day ὍΤΑΝ ΦΑΝΕΡΩΘῇ ἸΗΣΟῦς ΧΡΙΣΤΌς , 1 John 2:28 . The preposition is not to be interpreted = ΕἸς , and ἜΧΩΜΕΝ is not to be taken as a future (Ewald: “that we shall have”) the difficulty that anything future (behaviour on the judgment-day) should be taken as the evidence of perfect love in the present ( ΤΕΤΕΛΕΊΩΤΑΙ is not to be taken as future complete, but as perfect: “has been made perfect,” or “has become perfect” = “is perfected”), is removed if we take it that in ἘΝ the ΠΑῤῬΗΣΊΑ , which the believer will have at the judgment-day, and which he already has when he thinks of the judgment, is included, which could the more easily occur in John, as in his view the judgment-day did not lie in far-off distance, but was already conceived as begun (chap. 1 John 2:18 ). The future ΠΑῤῬΗΣΊΑ is to him in his love already present: similarly de Wette, Sander, Besser. [277]

The following words: ὅτι καθὼς … τούτῳ , serve to establish the foregoing thought. By ἘΚΕῖΝΟς we are not to understand, with Augustine, Bede, Estius, Lyranus, Castalio, etc., God , but, with most commentators, Christ , who is also suggested by the idea: ἡ ἡμέρα τῆς κρίσεως .

The comparison ( ΚΑΘΏς ) does not refer to ΕἾΝΑΙ ἘΝ Τῷ ΚΌΣΜῼ ΤΟΎΤῼ , so that the sense would be: “as Christ is in this world, so are we also in this world,” for (1) Christ is no longer in this world (comp. Gospel of John 17:11 ), and (2) in the fact that we are in this world lies no reason for ΠΑῤῬΗΣΊΑ at the day of judgment. By ΚΑΘῺς ΚΑΊ it is rather the similarity of character that is brought out, as in 1 John 2:16 , where καθώς does not refer to the idea of ΠΕΡΙΠΑΤΕῖΝ in itself, but to the character of the walk, so that it is to be interpreted: “as the character of Christ is, so is our character also;” in the second clause ΟὝΤΩς is to be supplied, as in 1 Corinthians 8:2 ; Ephesians 4:17 ; Ephesians 4:21 . What sort of character is meant must be inferred from the context; it is entirely arbitrary to find the similarity in the temptation (Rickli) or in the sufferings of Christ (Grotius), or in the fact that Christ was in the world but not of it (Sander), for there is no such reference in the context. But it is also inadmissible to regard as the more particular definition of ΚΑΘΏς the ΔΙΚΑΙΟΣΎΝΗ (Düsterdieck), or the Sonship of God (Lücke: “as Christ is the Son of God, so are we also children of God”), for neither do these ideas appear in the context. We are rather to go back to ΜΈΝΩΝ ἘΝ Τῇ ἈΓΆΠῌ , and accordingly to refer ΚΑΘΏς to love (so Lorinus: “reddit nos charitas Christo similes et conformes imagini filii Dei;” Bengel, de Wette, Ewald, Myrberg, Braune, etc. [278] ), so that the sense is: “if we live in love, then we do not fear the judgment of Christ, because then we are like Him, and He therefore cannot condemn us.” [279] The present ἐστί is to be retained as a present, and not to be turned into the preterite (Oecumenius: Ὡς ἘΚΕῖΝΟς ἮΝ ἘΝ Τῷ ΚΌΣΜῼ ἌΜΩΜΟς ΚΑῚ ΚΑΘΑΡΌς ). Love is the eternal nature of Christ, comp. 1 John 3:7 : ΚΑΘῺς ἘΚΕῖΝΟς ΔΊΚΑΙΌς ἘΣΤΙΝ . In the concluding words: ἘΝ Τῷ ΚΌΣΜῼ ΤΟΎΤῼ , which belong, not to ἘΣΤΙ , but only to ἐσμεν , it is brought out that we are still in the earthly world ( κόσμος οὗτος is not an ethical idea), whereas Christ has already ascended from it into heaven.

[272] Sander: “That it is made perfect must only mean: this love of God which was manifested in the sending of His Son is manifested in its might and glory in this, that, as overcoming everything, it brings us so far that we,” etc. Calovius: Perficitur dilectio Dei in nobis, non ratione sui, sic enim absolute perfecta est, sed ratione nostri, non quoad existentiam, sed quoad experientiam.

[273] Hence ἡ ἀγ . μεθʼ ἡμῶν is neither = ἡ ἀγ . ( τοῦ Θεοῦ ) εἰς ἡμᾶς , nor = ἡ ἀγάπη ( ἡμῶν ) εἰς ἀλλήλους , as Lücke in his 1st ed. interprets (“our love among ourselves, i.e. our mutual love”); still less justifiable is the interpretation of Rickli: “the mutual love between God and the believer;” for John never includes God and men in ἡμεῖς . When Ebrard, admitting this, nevertheless accepts the interpretation of Rickli as far as the sense is concerned, explaining “the love of God with us” by “the love which exists between God and us,” this is purely arbitrary, for even though μετά is frequently used to denote a reciprocal action (see Winer, p. 336; VII. p. 352 ff.), yet this reference is here unsuitable, for it is not God and we , but love and we , that are placed together. Moreover, to supply τοῦ Θεοῦ with ἡ ἀγάπη is at the best only defensible if in μεθʼ ἡμῶν the subject to which the love refers is stated; but this is grammatically impossible. If, as Ebrard thinks, ἡ ἀγάπη denotes not love, but the love- relationship , then ἡ ἀγάπη μεθʼ ἡμῶν may only mean “the loving-relationship that exists among us;” this idea, however, as Ebrard with justice says, does not suit the context.

[274] According to Bertheau’s note in the 3d ed. of Lücke’s Commentary (p. 364), Lücke has, however, in the edition of 1851 interpreted ἡ ἀγάπη : “brotherly love combined with love to God.”

[275] Beza’s interpretation runs: Charitas adimpletur in nobis per hoc quod qualis ille est, tales et nos simus in hoc mundo, ut fiduciam habeamus in die judicii.

[276] In Luther’s version, παῤῥησία is here, as elsewhere frequently, translated by “ Freudigkeit; ” this is not a word derived from “Freude” (joy), but the old German word “Freidikeit” (from “freidic, fraidig”) = haughtiness, boldness, confidence (comp. Vilmar’s pastoral-theol. Blätter , 1861, vols. I. and II. p. 110 ff.); in the older editions it is written sometimes “freydickeyt” (Wittenb. ed. 1525), sometimes freydigkeit (Nürnberg ed. 1524), but in 1537 (in a Strasburg ed.) “freudigkeit.” In what sense Luther understood the word is clearly seen from a sermon on 1 John 4:16-21 (see Plochmann’s ed. XIX. 383), in which he says: “he means that faith should thus show itself, so that when the last day comes, you may have boldness and stand firm.” It is to be observed also that such Hebrew and Greek words as contain the idea of joy Luther never translates by that word (“boldness”), but by “joyous,” “joy.”

[277] Braune, though he explains correctly the particular thought, denies that these two elements are here to be regarded as combined; but without entering into the difficulty which lies in the expression. Ebrard states the meaning of the words incorrectly thus: “In the fact that the will of God, that we should have boldness in the day of judgment, is internally revealed to us, and manifests itself as a power (of confidence) in us (even now), the loving relationship of God with us is shown to be perfect.” How many elements foreign to the context are here introduced!

[278] The reference of καθώς to love is the only one demanded by the context, so that it is not suitable to regard love only as a single element in the likeness of believers to Christ which is here spoken of, as is the case with Lücke, for instance. Erdmann lays the chief emphasis not so much on love as on fellowship with God, which exists in love; but by καθὼς … ἐστι it is not a relationship, but a quality that is indicated.

[279] Ebrard in his interpretation arrives at no definite result; as, on his supposition that the centre of the tertii comparationis lies in the words ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ τούτῳ , the present ἐστί is objectionable to him, he would prefer to conjecture “ οὕτως ” instead of ἐστί ; but “as a faithful attention to the requirements of Biblical exegesis would scarcely permit such a conjecture,” he thinks that nothing else remains but either to suppose that ἐστί (in the sense of a historical present) “is added as an indifferent, colourless word,” or to refer καθὼς ἐκ . ἐστιν to the fact that Christ even now “still exists in the wicked world to a certain extent , namely, in the Church, which is His body.” Ebrard regards the second conjecture as the more correct, and in accordance with it thus states the sense: “We look forward to the judgment with boldness, for, as He (in His Church) is still persecuted by the wicked world (even at the present day), so are we also in this world (as lambs among wolves)” (!). Ebrard groundlessly maintains, against the explanation given in the text, “that with it an οὕτως could not be omitted, nay, that even this would not suffice, but that it would have to read: ὅτι οἷος ἐκεῖνός ἐστι , τοιοῦτοι καὶ ἡμεῖς ἐσμεν , and that even then the passage remains obscure enough;” and “that with this acceptation ἐν τ . κ . τ . almost appears quite superfluous and foreign.” Against the statement that “our confidence in view of the judgment could not possibly be founded on our likeness to Christ, but only on the love of God as manifested in Christ,” it is a decisive answer that John in other passages as well makes the παῤῥησία dependent upon our character, comp. 1 John 2:28 , 1 John 3:21 .

Verse 18

1 John 4:18 serves to establish the preceding thought, that love has its perfection in παῤῥησία .

φόβος οὐκ ἔστιν ἐν τῇ ἀγάπῃ ] The thought is quite general in its character: “where love is, there is no fear” (Ebrard); φόβος is therefore not specially the fear of God , and by ἀγάπη we are not to understand specially love to God , but at the same time this general thought is certainly expressed here in reference to the relationship to God. It is quite erroneous to explain ἀγάπη here, with Calvin, Calovius, Flacius, Spener, etc., as “the love of God to us;” [280] but it is also incorrect, with Lücke and others, to understand by it, specially, brotherly love. [281]

The preposition ἐν is not = with (à Mons: ne se trouve avec la charité); Luther correctly: “Fear is not in love;” i.e. it is not an element in love, it is something utterly foreign to it, which only exists outside it. By the following words: ἀλλʼ ἡ τελεία ἀγάπη ἔξω βάλλει τὸν φόβον , the preceding thought is confirmed and expanded: love not only has no fear in it, but it does not even endure it; where it enters, there must fear completely vanish. Beza inadequately paraphrases the adjective τελεία by: sincera, opposita simulationi; it is not love in its first beginnings, love which is still feeble, but love in its perfection, that completely casts out fear. The reason why love does not suffer fear to be along with it is: ὅτι ὁ φόβος κόλασιν ἔχει . The word κόλασις (besides here, only in Matthew 25:46 ; comp. Wis 11:14 ; Wis 16:2 ; Wis 16:24 ; Wis 19:4 ) has always the meaning of “ punishment ” (also LXX. Ezekiel 14:3-4 ; Ezekiel 14:7 ; Ezekiel 18:30 ; Ezekiel 44:12 , as incorrect translation of מִכְשַׁוֹל ); if we adhere to this meaning, that expression can only mean: fear has punishment, in which case that which it has to expect is regarded as inherent in it, just as on the other hand it could be said: ἈΓΆΠΗ ἜΧΕΙ ΖΩῊΝ ΑἸΏΝΙΟΝ (this being considered as future happiness, as in Matthew 25:46 ); this idea has nothing against it, for fear, as rooted in unbelief, is in itself deserving of punishment, and therein lies the reason ( ὍΤΙ ) why perfect love casteth out fear. [282] Several commentators, however, explain κόλασις by “pain,” thinking that “here causa is put pro effectu” (Ebrard), or, in more correspondence with the thought, by “pain of punishment” (Besser, Braune, so also previously in this comm.); similarly Lücke explains κόλασις = “consciousness of punishment.” The thought that then results is indeed right in itself, for “certainly this having of κόλασις does actually show itself in the consciousness or the pain of the expectation of punishment” (Brückner); but such a change in the meaning of the idea κόλασις cannot be grammatically justified. The following sentence: ὁ δὲ φοβούμενος οὐ τετελείωται ἐν τῇ ἀγάπῃ , which is not connected with the subordinate clause ὅτι ὁ φόβος κ . τ . λ ., but with the preceding principal clause, does not contain a conclusion from this ( δέ is not = οὖν ), but (as Braune also thinks) expresses the same thought in negative form (hence the connection by δέ ); only with this difference, that what was there expressed in an objective way, here receives a subjective aspect. It needs no proof that the apostle has in view in this verse no other fear than that of which Paul says, Romans 8:15 : οὐκ ἐλάβετε πνεῦμα δουλείας πάλιν εἰς φόβον , and therefore not the childlike awe of God arising from the consciousness of God’s glory, which forms an essential element of love to God. [283] The conjectures of Grotius, instead of κόλασιν : κόλουσιν ( i.e. mutilationem; so that the sense is: “metus amorem mutilat atque infringit, aut prohibet, ne se exserat”), and instead of φοβούμενος : κολουόμενος (“qui mutilatur aut impeditur in dilectione, is in ea perfectus non est”); and that of Lamb. Bos: instead of κόλασιν , κώλυσιν , are not merely useless, but even rob the thought of the apostle of its peculiar force.

[280] Calovius interprets: charitas divina, quae apprehensa per fidem , omnem servilem timorem expellit, whereby a reference foreign to the context is plainly introduced.

[281] For justification of this interpretation Lücke refers to the words: ἔξω βάλλει τὸν φόβον , and remarks: “it cannot be said of the love of God in its perfection, that it casts out fear of God, for it has not got any.” But John does not say that love casts out fear out of itself; the idea rather is: it drives fear out of the heart in which it dwells before it (love) obtains its entrance. If ἀγάπη and φόβος ere meant to have different references, the apostle would certainly have indicated this.

[282] It is unnecessary to take the abstract ( ὁ φόβος ) for the concrete ( ὁ φοβούμενος ), as de Wette and Düsterdieck do; de Wette incorrectly interprets ἔχει by “receives,” and Baumgarten-Crusius by “keeps, tenet, thinks of … punishment” (so that the sense is: “Fear knows nothing of mercy, of love”).

[283] That the fear which the apostle means has its necessary place also in the development of the spiritual life, Augustine strikingly expresses thus: Timor quasi locum praeparat charitati. Si autem nullus timor, non est qua intret charitas. Timor Dei sic vulnerat quomodo mediei ferramentum. Timor medicamentum, charitas sanitas. Timor servus est charitatis. Timor est custos et paedagogus legis, donee veniat charitas. The different steps are thus stated by Bengel: varius hominum status: sine timore et amore; cum timore sine amore; cum timore et amore; sine timore cum amore.

Verse 19

1 John 4:19 . ἡμεῖς ἀγαπῶμεν ] According to this reading (omit αὐτόν ), ἀγαπᾷν is here to be taken in the same comprehensive way as ἀγάπη in 1 John 4:16 (Düsterdieck, Myrberg, [284] Ebrard), and must not be restricted to “brotherly love” (Lücke).

ἀγαπῶμεν , in analogy with ἀγαπῶμεν in 1 John 4:7 , and with ὀφείλομεν , 1 John 4:11 , is taken by Hornejus, Grotius, Lorinus, Lange, Lücke, de Wette-Brückner, Baumgarten-Crusius, Sander, Besser, Düsterdieck, Myrberg, etc., as imperative subjunctive; but it might be more correct to regard this verse, just as 1 John 4:17 , as an expression of the actual character of true Christians, with whom, in 1 John 4:20 , by ἐάν τις εἴπῃ the false Christian is contrasted, and therefore to take ἀγαπῶμεν , with Beza, Socinus, Spener, Bengel, Rickli, Neander, Ebrard, Hofmann ( Schriftbew. II. 2, p. 338), Braune, etc., as indicative, in favour of which is also the prefixed ἡμεῖς .

The reason of ἡμεῖς ἀγαπῶμεν is stated in ὅτι αὐτὸς πρῶτος ἠγάπησεν ἡμᾶς , in which the chief emphasis rests on πρῶτος ; comp. 1 John 4:9-10 .

[284] Myrberg remarks: totum genus amoris hic proponitur; sed ubi totum genus amoris nuncupatur, ibi mens ante omnia fertur ad considerationem amoris erga Deum.

Verse 20

1 John 4:20 . This verse divides itself into two parts, the second part confirming the thought of the first.

ἐάν τις εἴπῃ ] The same form of thought as in chap. 1 John 1:6 ff.

ὅτι ἀγαπῶ τὸν Θεόν ] ὅτι is used, as frequently, at the commencement of the direct oration.

καὶ τὸν ἀδελφὸν αὑτοῦ μισῇ ] With μισῇ corresponds the subsequent ὁ μὴ ἀγαπῶν , comp. chap. 1 John 3:14-15 . Spener: “not only with actual hatred towards him, but even not loving him in perfect truth.” To hate is the positive expression for “not to love” (so also Braune).

ψεύστης ἐστίν ] see chap. 1 John 1:6 . The truth that he who hates (or, does not love) his brother, also does not love God, the apostle confirms by the contrast between ὃν ἑώρακε and ὃν οὐχ ἑώρακεν , in which the visibility of the brother is contrasted with the invisibility of God. The perfect indicates the permanent state; comp. 1 John 4:12 , Gospel of John 1:18 . Lücke: ἑωρακέναι = “to have before one’s eyes;” a Lapide: “vidit et assidue videt.” Socinus incorrectly lays a certain emphasis on the preterite when he says: quandoquidem satis est ad amorem per cognitionem alicujus erga illum excitandum, quod quis ipsum aliquando viderit; nee necesse est, ut etiam nunc illum videat. The premiss for the conclusion of the apostle is, that the visible as the object directly presented to the sight is more easily loved than the invisible. Even the natural man turns with love to the visible, [285] whereas love to God, as the Unseen, requires an elevation of the heart of which only the saved are capable. Hence brotherly love is the easier, love to God is the more difficult. In him who rejects the former, the latter has certainly no place. The truth that love to God is the condition of Christian brotherly love, is not in contradiction with this; for that love, as the glorification of natural love, has its necessary basis in the natural inclination which we have to our visible brother, who is like us. It is therefore unnecessary to attach any importance to elements which the apostle here leaves quite untouched, as is the case with Calvin (with whom Sander, Ebrard, etc., agree) when he says: Apostolus hic pro confesso sumit, Deum se nobis in hominibus offerre, qui insculptam gerunt ejus imaginem; Joannes nil aliud voluit, quam fallacem esse jactantiam, si quis Deum se amare dicat, et ejus imaginem , quae ante oculos est, negligat; [286] and with de Wette in his interpretation: “the brother is the visible empiric object of love; whereas God, the ideal invisible object, can really be loved only in him. ” By the interrogative: πῶς δύναται ἀγαπᾷν (comp. chap. 1 John 3:17 ), and by placing the object τὸν Θεόν first, the expression gains in vivacity and point.

πῶς δύναται must not be taken: “how can he attain to that?” but: “how can we suppose that he loves?” (Baumgarten-Crusius). Bengel: sermo modalis: impossibile est, ut talis sit amans Dei, in praesenti.

[285] Oecumenius: ἐφελκυστικὸν γὰρ ὅρασις ἀγάπην . Hornejus: Sicut omnis cognitio nostra communiter a sensu incipit, ita amor quoque, unde facilius et prius amatur, quod facilius et promptius cognoscitur. Similarly Luther, Calovius, etc. Compare also the statement of Gregory ( Homil. XI. in Evang. ): Oculi sunt in amore duces; and Philo ( ad Decalog. ): ἀμήχανον εὐσεβεῖσθαι τὸν ἀόρατον ὑπὸ τῶν εἰς τοὺς ἐμφανεῖς καὶ ἐγγὺς ἀσεβούντων .

[286] The objection of Ebrard, that “it is not easier to love a person who stands visibly before me, and has, for instance, injured me, than a person whom I have not seen at all,” is overthrown by the fact that the apostle does not here make the slightest reference to the conduct of persons standing in visible opposition to us, by whom the natural feeling of love towards our equals is destroyed and turned into hate. As the apostle is contrasting the elements of visibility and invisibility, it is so much the more arbitrary to introduce here a reference to the imago Dei, as this is not something visible, but something invisible, the object, not of sight, but of faith.

Verse 21

1 John 4:21 . Alterum argumentum cur amare proximum (or, more correctly: fratrem) debeamus: quia Deus id praecepit (Grotius).

καί ] not = and yet (Paulus); for this verse does not contain an antithesis, but an expansion of the preceding thought.

ταύτην τὴν ἐντολὴν κ . τ . λ .] Lange interprets ἐντολή here by: “teaching;” and Grotius paraphrases ὁ ἀγαπῶν τὸν Θεόν by: qui a Deo pro amante ipsius haberi vult; both false and unnecessary; for although brotherly love is the natural fruit and activity of love to God, yet at the same time the practice of it is the habitual task which he who loves God has to perform, as one appointed him by God. It is doubtful whether we are to understand by αὐτοῦ God (Baumgarten-Crusius, de Wette, Düsterdieck, etc.) or Christ; that in the latter case ἐκείνου must be read is unfounded; because τὸν Θεόν follows, the second view seems to be the more correct; but as in the context there is no reference here at all to Christ, it might be safer to understand by αὐτοῦ God.

By ἵνα referring back to ταύτην , it is here, as frequently after verbs of wishing and commanding, not so much the purpose as the purport of the commandment (the realization of which is certainly the aim and object of the commandment) that is stated, which Braune here also incorrectly disputes.

Bibliographical Information
Meyer, Heinrich. "Commentary on 1 John 4". Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/hmc/1-john-4.html. 1832.
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