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the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24
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1 John 4

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and HomileticalLange's Commentary

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Verses 1-6

6. Warning and Exhortation with Reference to the False Teachers

1 John 4:1-6

1Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of1 God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. 2Hereby know ye2 the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come3 in the flesh is of God: 3And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus4 Christ is come in the flesh is not of1 God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.5 4Ye are of1 God, little children, and have 5overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world. They are of1 the world: therefore speak they of1 the world, and the world heareth them. 6We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of1 God heareth not us.6 Hereby7 know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error.


The difference of the spirits renders the trial necessary, 1 John 4:1.

1 John 4:1. Beloved:—The Apostle begins with ἀγαπητοί as 1 John 3:21 [cf. 1 John 4:7. 1 John 3:2.—M], in the joyful consciousness of the common blessings of the Divine adoption, and earnestly solicitous of inciting and exhorting those to the exhibition of brotherly love who are loved of God.

Believe not every spirit.—Here, as in 1 John 2:18-28, the Apostle adverts to the false teachers. Those who are to believe on the name of the Son of God (1 John 3:23) in the power of the Holy Ghost (1 John 3:24) given to them and bearing witness to their spirit that they are the children of God (cf. Romans 8:16), must not believe every spirit. The reference is to a plurality, a multitude of spirits (πάντι πνεύματι), not to a Dual but to a Plural. Hence, we must understand the expression of the spirits of men to whom the spirit bears witness. Every human spirit has its peculiarity, its special gifts and views, its mode of expression, which the animating, moving Spirit does not change or render uniform. Many a spirit might secure our approbation, sympathy and attention, which is not influenced by the Spirit of God. Hence the warning, to which, because of its great importance, there is forthwith annexed the exhortation:—“But try the spirits whether they are of God.” [Huther: The idea πνεῦμα is closely connected with ψευδοπροφῆται. The true prophets spoke, as we read 1 Peter 1:21, ὑπὸ πνεύματος ἁγίου φερόμενοι; the source of the revelations whose utterers (πρόφημι) they are, is the πνεῦμα ἅγιον or the πεῦμα τοῦ θεοῦ, whereby is described, not an affection of their mind, but the Divine Power, different from their own individuality, which animates and influences them (δύναμις ὑψίστου, the synonyme of πνεῦμα ἅγιον, Luke 1:35.). This πνεῦμα speaks by the prophet, entering into his πνεῦμα and communicating to him the truth to be revealed; and thus the πνεῦμα of the prophet becomes a πνεῦμα ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ. But since every prophet has his own πνεῦμα, there is, although the πνεῦμα ἅγιον is One, a plurality of prophetical spirits. The same relation takes place in an opposite direction, in the case of the pseudo-prophets. They also are under the influence of one spiritual being, to wit, under that of the πνεῦμα, that ἐκ τοῦ δεοῦ οὐκ ἕστι, the πνεῦμα τῆς πλάνης; this spirit also is one, but since it penetrates with its lie the πνεῦματα of the pseudo-prophets and makes them like itself, we may say of the πνεῦμα of each individual prophet that is not of God, that it is not a πνεῦμα τῆς�, but a πνεῦμα τῆς πλάνης.”—The rationalistic interpretation of Socinus (“sensus hominis aliquo modo inspiratus”) and Episcopius (“doctrina”), and the figurative construction of the word πνεύμα=λαλοῦντες ἐν πνεύματι of Lücke, de Wette and Calvin (“pro eo qui spiritus dono se præditum esse jactat ad obeundum prophetiæ munus”), are equally irrelevant.—M.].

But try the spirits whether they are of God.—John evidently speaks of a plurality of spirits (τὰ πνεύματα). Instead of a receiving surrender to and of agreeing with them, of the assensus (πιστεύειν) John requires a δοκιμάζειν, a cautious criticism before the κατέχειν (1 Thessalonians 5:21), and he requires it of all like Paul, Romans 12:2; Philippians 1:20; Ephesians 5:10; 1 Corinthians 10:15; 1 Corinthians 11:13, although some may have a special gift in discerning the spirits (1 Corinthians 12:10 : διακρίσεις πνευμάτων Calvin: “alloquitursingulos fideles,” as opposed to Lorinus: “Non omnium est probare; unum oportet in ecclesia summum judicem quæstionum de fide moribusque; id est sine dubio Pontifex Maximus.” [This may be conclusive reasoning to Romanists, but will be utterly repudiated by Protestants, as an arbitrary dictum repugnant to Holy Writ.—M.]. The falsity of this exposition is evident both from the object of this text which every man ought to know; εἰ ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ ἐστίν, whether they are of, originate in or proceed from God: the confession of Jesus Christ come in the flesh (1 John 4:2), and from the danger, urging such a test, to which every one is exposed and which necessitates the decision [the Apostle proceeds to specify the reason why this trial is necessary.—M.].

Because many false prophets are gone out into the world.—These ψευδοπροφῆται answer to the ἀντιχρίστοις (1 John 2:18). Cf. Matthew 7:15; Matthew 24:11; Matthew 24:24 (where also ψευδόχριστοι are specified), 2 Peter 2:1 (where ψευδοδιδάσκαλοι are paralleled with the ψευδοπροφῆται of the Old Testament). The idea of predicting something future is not any more the prominent point here than it constitutes in general the leading characteristic of the prophet; he derives his name from πρόφημι, because he has, as it were, behind him the Spirit that inspires him, whose thoughts he speaks out and makes known. The true prophet must be clearly distinguished from the hidden πνεῦμα influencing him, the true prophet is ὑπὸ πνευμάτος ἁγίου φερόμενος (2 Peter 1:21); this πνεῦμα δύναμις ὑψίστου (Luke 1:35). The point at which He unites with the prophet, is the prophet’s πνεῦμα, which as an organ to be influenced, must be clearly distinguished from the πνεῦμα ἅγιον who operates through it; for the πνεῦμα ἅγιον is the Source and Principle of the revelation, enters into the prophet’s πνεῦμα, moves and imparts to the prophet, animates and prompts him, and thus the prophet’s πνεῦμα becomes a πνεῦμα ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ, yet so that thereby the characteristics of the prophet’s spirit are neither obliterated nor annulled, neither as to his temperament, nor as to his mode of utterance, nor as to qualification for specific relations of the spiritual or material worlds. Hence there are as many πνεύματα as there are προφῆται, notwithstanding the unity of the efficient principle which influences them. But alongside this πνεῦμα ἅγιον, πνεῦμα τῆς�, there is a πνεῦμα τοῦ� (1 John 4:3), τῆς πλάνης (1 John 4:6), that makes the ψευδοπροφήτας and whose spirit must not be believed. The πνεῦμα and πνεύματα designate not absolutely ψευδοπροφῆται (Calvin, Lücke, de Wette and others), nor the sensus hominis aliquo modo inspiratus (Socinus), nor doctrina (Episcopius), nor the superhuman principle animating man (Greek Comment., Augustine, Luther, Spener, Bengel (spiritui, quo doctor aliquis agitur), Neander, Düsterdieck and others). Cf. Huther [whose note I have translated above, under “Believe not every spirit.”—M.].—With ἐξεληλύθασιν εἰς τὸν κόσμον Düsterdieck appropriately compares γεγόνασιν 1 John 2:18. After ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ we ought to supply a reference to the sending forth, the missionary activity which in the case of the false prophets is an aping of the Apostles and the prophets; they come from, proceed, go out from him that makes them prophets. Cf. John 8:42; John 13:3; John 16:27, etc. cf. John 17:18; Matthew 13:49. It is therefore neither=in publicum prodire, as Matthew 13:3; Matthew 26:55; Mark 1:35; Mark 8:11; Acts 7:7 (Grotius, Calov, Lücke, al.), nor=ex apostolis et eorum ecclesia, as in 1 John 2:19 (S. Schmidt), nor=ex sedibus suis 2 John 1:7. (Bengel).—On εἰς τὸν κόσμον cf. John 6:14; John 10:36. They come into the world, which Christ was sent to redeem, which belongs to Him, in order to destroy it with their αἱρέσεις�. (2 Peter 2:1).

The standard of the trial. 1 John 4:2-3.

1 John 4:2. In this know ye the Spirit of God.—Ἐν τούτῳ here evidently points to the following sentence and γινώσκετε is not Indicative, but like πιστεύετε, δοκιμάζετε 1 John 4:1, the Imperative [on the other hand Alford, on account of the very frequent ἐν τούτῳ γινώσκομεν, would let analogy prevail and take it as Indicative; but Huther, de Wette, Lücke and most commentators take it as Imperative.—M.].—That τὸ πνεῦμα τοῦ θεοῦ denotes the Holy Spirit is evident both from the expression itself and from the antithesis τὸ τοῦ� 1 John 4:3; the reference therefore is not to a loquens de spiritualibus ex inspiratione divina (Lyra). But the sequel shows that we have to think of the Divine Spirit working in the spirit of the prophets, to wit:

Every spirit which confesseth Jesus Christ come in the flesh, is of God.—Ὁμολογεῖν is the oral confession of a doctrinal truth (cf. 2 John 1:10.), like 1 John 2:23 (Düsterdieck, Huther and al.); confession with a walk agreeing with a Christian is not indicated here (Greek comm., Augustine, Bede), even though only a confession with the mouth emanating from the faith of the heart under the influence of the indwelling Spirit of God can be meant here, as in Romans 10:9-10; cf. 1 John 5:11 sq.; 1 John 2:22 sq.—The object of the confession: Ἰησοῦν Χριστὸν ἐν σαρκὶ ἐληλυθότα. The form is that of a substantival objective-sentence; hence the participial form should be retained, and the rendering avoided which would make it an Infinitive thus: that Jesus Christ is or has come in the flesh; it is not a predicative sentence, but ἐν σαρκὶ ἐληλυθότα is added attributively; that which is known is added in the Accusative. The names are taken in their literal sense at 1 John 2:22; here they stand, as in 1 John 1:3, in juxtaposition and must not be separated according to 1 John 2:22, as if they imported: Jesus the Christ who is come in the flesh; so Luther renders wrongly in his Scholia, and Huther inclines in that direction. In like manner ἐν σαρκὶ must be held fast and not be made equivalent to εἰς σάρκα, as maintained by Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Piscator, Sander and al.; ἐν σαρκὶ denotes the mode of existence, in which He appeared and came; nor is there any ground here to assume here a pregnancy common among the Greeks who conjoin ἐν with verbs of motion in order to describe the result, the rest (cf. Winer, p. 449), to wit, that He had come into the flesh in order to remain and work in the flesh; so S. Schmidt and others.—Jesus Christ came in the flesh from the time of His birth after He σὰρξ ἐγένετο and ἐσκήνωσεν ἐν ἡμῖν (John 1:14) cf. 1 John 1:1, sqq.—The conversatio in carne, inter homines, in vera natura humana, nor the incarnatio, which is pre-supposed as the transition, is meant here; nor is here a limiting reference to innumera mala and ipsa cruenta mors, as maintained by Socinus, who erroneously refers to Hebrews 2:14; Hebrews 5:7, and Grotius who adverts to a Hebraism.—Ἔρχεσθαι indeed is often used to designate the appearance of teachers, but then it either occurs with a qualifying ἐπὶ τῷ ὀνόματι, Matthew 24:5, or ἐν τῷ ὀνόματι, John 5:43, or εἰς μαρτυρίαν, John 1:7, or with an indication of the subject as ἐμπαῖκται, 2 Peter 3:3, or an addition like καὶ ταύτην τὴν διδαχὴν οὐ φέρει, 2 John 1:10, or as in Matthew 11:18, of John, μήτε ἐσθίων μήτε πίνων or as in Matthew 17:11 of Elias καὶ�, so that the context invariably marks either the appearance of the teacher, or distinctly states that he is not exclusively referred to as a teacher, namely in his vocation of teacher. Here also the reference seems not to be exclusively to the office of a teacher or a prophet, which is by no means indicated by ἐν σαρκὶ. But it is important to notice here the tense; for while we have in this place the part. perfecti ἐληλυθότα, 1 John 5:6 gives the part. aor. ὁ ἐλθὼν and 2 John 1:7 the part. præs. ἐρχόμενον; the Present denotes the fact which is not a single act, in a moment, like birth, but has a longer duration which may be seen and represents this in a timeless form; the Aorist denotes an act as purely historical, the Perfect an act which, though historically completed, has present continuance (Winer, Part III. § 40). Thus this confession contains the fundamental truth of the Gospel; Χριστὸς and ἐν σαρκὶ ἐληλυθότα indicate the dignity and existence of the Son of God and emphatically assert His humanity as a reality and a historical fact for all time. Bengel excellently remarks: “In carne, est ergo Ipse aliquid præter carnem; hæreses veritatem carnis Jesu Christi negantes præsupponunt et eo ipso confirmant deitatem ejus, quippe cum qua non poterant conciliare carnem, tanquam ea dignam.”

1 John 4:3. And every spirit which confesses not Jesus, is not of God.—Τὸν Ἰησοῦν comprehends what was said in 1 John 4:2, viz.; Χριστὸν ἐν σαρκὶ ἐληλυθότα, it is just the historical Christ and none other.—Ὃ μὴ ὁμολογεῖ=if he does not confess, while ὃ οὐχ ὁμολογεῖ would be=who does not confess. From this it is evident that John contemplates not so much distinct persons, as only distinct doctrines. Winer, part III. § 55. [Huther observes that μὴ denotes the contradiction of the true confession, while οὐ would express only a simple denial.—M.].

And this is the (spirit) of antichrist, of which ye have heard that it cometh, and now it is in the world already.—Τοῦτο refers to πνεῦμα, not to ὁμολογεῖν, and τὸ τοῦ� is the (πνεῦμα) of antichrist; for τὸ pre-supposes a substantive or constitutes a substantival idea; were it, as Valla, Episcopius, Huther and al. render, proprium antichristi, matter of antichrist, τοῦτο would not refer to πνεῦμα but to ὁμολογεῖν; this would be rather an artificial construction and τὸ before τοῦ� would be superfluous. The passages adduced, viz. Matthew 21:21; 1 Corinthians 10:24; 2 Peter 2:22; James 4:14, are somewhat different, for they import one and all a substantival idea, τὸ τῆς συκῆς, τὸ ἑαυτοῦ, τὸ τῆς παροιμίας, τὸ τῆς αὔριον [that of the fig tree, that of himself, that of the proverb, the event of the morrow—M.], while here the Genitive alone would have been sufficient.—Ἀκηκόατε refers not to the written word 1 John 2:18 where we have already ἠκούσατε, but to the previous oral instruction they had received. The last clause καὶ νῦν ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ ἐστὶν ἤδη, which emphatically asserts that the spirit of antichrist is already now, at the present time, working in the antichrists, is not governed by ἀκηκόατε but coördinated with καὶ τοῦτό ἐστίν τὸ τοῦ�. Cf. 1 John 2:18.

Comfortable strengthening and assurance against the false prophets. 1 John 4:4-6.

1 John 4:4. Ye are of God, little children.—The Apostle moved, and affectionately confident (τεκνία) that they all stand in the fundamental truth and are the children of God (1 John 3:1-2; 1 John 3:13-14), urgently represents to them (ὑμεῖς emphatically placed first as in 1 John 2:24; 1 John 2:27), what is given to them: ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ ἐστέ, agreeing with the leading thought 1 John 2:29 and the context: the trial to be made is εἰ ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ ἐστίν (1 John 4:1) and he that confesseth Jesus is ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ ἐστίν (1 John 4:3) and he that confesseth not Jesus ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ οὐκ ἔστιν.

And have overcome them.—Αὐτοὺς are the ψεῦδοπροφήτας (1 John 4:1), in whom the πνεῦμα τοῦ� is operative and connected with their πνεῦμα. Hence not: antichristum et mundum (Erasmus); the Vulgate renders falsely eum, which Lyra interprets: mundum, devincendo concupiscentiam, and other Roman Catholics: antichristum or spiritum antichristi in antichristis.—The Perfect νενικήσατε as at 1 John 2:13-14, where τὸν πονηρόν is the person overcome. The victory referred to there is inward in their hearts, here it is a victory not only in their hearts but also outward, visible in the life, in the sphere of their church-life, the Church; in the former place the victory is over Satan himself, here over his false prophets. But it is a victory actually achieved, and moreover a victory of continuous duration notwithstanding a succession of conflicts; through these very struggles and conflicts runs the victory already achieved and decisive, ye have overcome! ye have it! by your fidelity they with their seductive arts and temptations have been confounded (Ebrard). Cf. John 16:33. Νενικήκατε is the Perfect not propter futuritionis certitudinem (Episcopius),=potestis superare (Rosenmüller). Calvin renders not very accurately: “In media pugna jam extra periculum sunt, quia futuri sunt superiores.” The ground of their victory and overcoming lies indeed in them, yet nevertheless above them.

Because He (that is) in you is greater than he (that is) in the world.—Ὁ ἐν ὑμῖν is He of (out of) whom they are, who abideth in them (1 John 3:24; 1 John 4:1-2), that is ὁ θεὸς (Greek Comm., Calvin, Bengel, de Wette, Sander, Düsterdieck, Huther); this is also clear from the antithesis; it is understood of Christ by Augustine, Grotius, etc.—Ὁ ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ=ὁ διάβολος, whose children (τέκνα) the antichrists are, 1 John 3:10 a—God is not only greater than our heart (1 John 3:20), but also greater than Satan, than all things (John 10:29; 2 Corinthians 2:14); all things belong to Him (1 Corinthians 15:57; 1 Corinthians 3:23).—[Huther: “Instead of the more specific ἐν αὐτοῖς the Apostle uses ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ to intimate that the former, though having been for some time in the Church, belong to the κόσμος, which is expressly declared in the words following. Socinus: “Quamvis Johannes, non de eo, qui sit in falsis prophetis, sed de eo, qui sit in mundo, verba faciat, tamen necesse est, ut mundi appellatione falsos istos Prophetas comprehendat, vel polius plane intelligat, quod satis aperte declarant sequentia verba.”—M.].

1 John 4:5. The antithesis as to essence, work and success:

They are of the world.—Ἐκ τοῦ κόσμου, quatenus Satanas est ejus princeps (Calvin), hence not ἐξ ἡμῶν (1 John 2:19). Cf. John 8:23; John 8:44. The reference is not only to worldly lusts and carnal desires but to the ground and source of their life determining the exhibition of their life (διὰ τοῦτο).

Therefore they speak of the world and the world heareth them.—The substance of what they speak and their success with the world are conditioned by their being of [out of, from—as to origin—M.] the world. This λαλεῖν ἐκ τοῦ κόσμου also is deep-reaching: ex mundi vita ac sensu sermones suos promere (Bengel). Huther capitally distinguishes λαλεῖν ἐκ τοῦ κόσμου from ἐκ τῆς γῆς λαλεῖν (John 3:31) by the remark that ἡ γῆ is not an ethical notion like ὁ κόσμος. Although the separate points made by Oecumenius (κατὰ τὰς σαρκικὰς ἐπιθυμίας), the Scholiasts (ἐκ τῆς πονηρᾶς αὐτῶν γνώμης), Luther (ea quæ mundus intelligit ac probat), Grotius (mundi affectibus congruentia) and others, are correct, yet they shed light only on particular points and not on the whole. The approval and agreement of the world constitute a proof against them on the principle τῷ γὰρ ὁμοίῳ τὸ ὅμοιον προστρέχει. Cf. John 8:37; John 8:43; John 8:47; John 18:37. [The false prophets left the Church and went out into the world to which they stood in inward affinity, and proclaimed to it a wisdom that originated in it; therefore the world heard them, i.e. approved and assented to their word; τῷ γὰρ ὁμοίῷ κ. τ. λ. (Oecumenius); whereas the believers were hated and persecuted by the world, Huther.—M.].—Αὐτῶν� denotes hearing attentively with inward delight, while ἀκούειν τινα signifies hearing in general without determining the sympathy of the hearer.

Inference and conclusion. 1 John 4:6.

1 John 4:6. We are of God.—A quickly added contrast of the false prospects without δὲ. After what precedes there are here implied the two thoughts which are not expressed: διὰ τοῦτο ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ λαλοῦμεν καὶ ὑμεῖς ἡμῶν�, although the latter is indicated by ὁ γινώσκων τὸν θεὸν�. Hence the Apostle understands by ἡμεῖς himself with the Apostles and the teachers in the Church (and not himself and the Church ὑμεῖς), as opposed to αὐτοὶ (1 John 4:5) and the ψευδοπροφῆται (1 John 4:1). This is the view of most commentators in opposition to Calvin, Spener, Lücke and al.

He that knoweth God, heareth us; he who is not of God doth not hear us.—The antithesis ὁ γινώσκων τὸν θεὸν and ὃς οὐκ ἔστιν ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ requires, as is well known, that we should understand in the former clause ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ εἶναι and supply in the second γινώσκειν τὸν θεὸν as the consequence. Hence ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ εἶναι must not be taken here differently from 1 John 4:1-4 and according to the contrast in 1 John 4:5. It is consequently not a general drawing and impulse towards God (as held by Lücke and Neander), but the state of grace of God’s children, and their understanding of and conduct towards the word of God as preached to them. But nothing is said here concerning the manner how they did come into this state, nor is here any reference to predetermination (Hilgenfeld) or predestination (Calvin); we know also from 1 John 2:2; 1 John 4:14; cf. John 3:16; John 1:10 sqq. 29, that all are desired and may enter into the sonship. [Alford: Here we must remember carefully what the context is and what its purpose. The Apostle is giving a text to distinguish, not the children of God from those who are not children of God, but the spirit of truth from the spirit of error, as is clear from the words following. And this he does by saying that in the case of the teachers of the truth, they are heard and received by those who apprehend God, but refused by those who are not of God. It is evident then that these two terms here, ὁ γινώσκων τὸν θεόν, and ὃς οὐκ ἔστιν ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ represent two patent matters of fact, two classes open and patent to all: one of them identical with the κόσμος above: the other consisting of those of whom it is said above, ἐγνώκατε τὸν πατέρα…. ἐγνώκατε τὸν�’ ἀρχῆς, 1 John 2:13-14. How these two classes are what they are, it is not the purpose of this passage to set forth, nor need we here inquire; we have elsewhere tests to distinguish them, 1 John 3:9-10. …; we have a striking parallel, in fact the key to these words, in the saying of our Lord to Pilate, John 18:37.—M.].

From this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error (deception).—Ἐκ τούτου refers to hearing, but since the matter in hand relates to the trial of the spirits that teach, the reference is to hearing the false prophets and to hearing the Apostles and the ministers of the Divine word [i.e. to the reception given to both classes.—M.]. Hence we must not think here of the criterion specified in 1 John 4:2-3, as maintained by the Roman Catholic Comm., Calvin, Hunnius, Calov and Neander.

In γινώσκομεν John includes the Apostles and the Church. On τὸ πνεῦμα τῆς�, cf. John 14:17; John 15:26; John 16:13; from which passages it is evident that the Genitive indicates that which the Spirit gives, testifies, whereto He helpeth and whither He guideth and leadeth; He is that Spirit that proceedeth from God and teacheth the truth to men. In like manner, τὸ πνεῦμα τῆς πλάνης is the spirit proceeding from the devil, deceiving and seducing men (1 John 1:8; 1 John 2:26; 2 John 1:8; 1 Timothy 4:1; 1 Thessalonians 2:3; 2 Thessalonians 2:11.) The latter is certainly in him whom the world hears, the former in Him to whom the children of God give ear.


1. Δοκιμάζειν is used here as by St. Paul, (see notes on 1 John 4:1, in Exegetical and Critical) and as the Lord Himself bids His Church do, Matthew 7:15-16. The Roman Catholic proposition: “Ecclesia in suis prælatis est judex controversiarum” is not true; they limit to the ecclesia reprœsentans and to the [visible] head of that, what the Lord of the Church and his Apostles say to all believers. However it is important to remember that the Apostle restricts this right and duty of trial simply to the question whether the teachers are of God, and that he does not mean questions affecting the learning, wisdom or eloquence of teachers, or questions of secondary importance and on controversial points; he only refers to that which is necessary to the salvation of our souls. On this head every Christian ought and may, if necessary, apply the test.

2. The believing Confession of One Jesus Christ uniting in Himself the Godhead and the Manhood, even the confession of the historical Christ is necessary to salvation and essentially Christian. John, of course, understands ὁμολογεῖν as engaging the powers of the whole Christian and not only the oral confession without the heart; for he adverts to the πνεύματα, specifies the antithesis μὴ ὁμολογεῖν and proceeds throughout in a contemplative manner. If this were not so, the true disciples of Jesus would have the same confession as the demons as their distinguishing mark (Luke 4:41; Matthew 8:29); hence the contents of the confession are not decisive per se. Cf. Harless, Ethik § 39** p. 174.—But Estius has no warranty for limiting St. John’s direction to the apostolical age and for considering the confession of the Lord’s Supper as the criterion now; on the former confession depends also the latter, for the doctrine of the Lord’s Supper reflects of course the Christology, since the fellowship with Christ is accomplished in the most pregnant manner in the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. Nothing is truly Christian without the living Christ.

3. According to the Johannean mode of expression the contrast brought out here is to be conceived as an error wholly gnostic, spiritualizing and misinterpreting the historic and directed more against the corporealness, i.e. the manhood of Christ than against his Godhead, an error rather Docetical than Ebionite. For σάρξ does not denote merely the human body apart from the human ψυχή, the human νοῦς, the human will or self-consciousness, which could not be done by the preposition ἐν, but it signifies the human nature, the manhood; and this is conceived in the precise manner in which He appeared in the world. Cf. Hofmann, Schriftbeweis ii. 1. p. 76, sq.

4. John does not predicate of man independence, self-glory and perfect freedom in the sphere of his spiritual life; either the Spirit of God or the spirit of Satan determines the spirit of man and conditions his views, inclinations, knowledge, words and deeds. Behind the πνεῦμα of man stands the directing, determining, operating and fulfilling πνεῦμα, which through the former and united with it, works on the world and on men.

5. But any disposition of the human spirit for the Spirit of God or the spirit of Satan is no more taken for granted here than that the Spirit of God and the spirit of Satan are or might be supposed to be in a state of coördination. Rather, we should say, does this victory, of which the Apostle discourses in such lofty strains (1 John 4:4, cf. 1 John 2:13-14; 1 John 4:4-5), assert the superiority of the Divine Spirit to Satan and denote both the monarchy of God and the enmity of Satan, at the same time intimating however, that, though men may suffer themselves to be controlled either by God or Satan, all men ought to be and might become God’s.

6. The Apostle contemplates the reality and the possession of the Divine sonship (εἶναι ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ=γεγεννῆσθαι ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ), which is evident from his specification of the marks whereby the existence of this relation may be determined; the reference, therefore, is not to the origin, the beginning of one’s being of God, to the manner how it is attained. The same remark applies to John 18:36-37 and also to John 8:43-47, as is manifest from John 4:30 : πολλοὶ ἐπίστευσαν εἰς αὐτὸν and John 4:31 : ἐὰν μείνητε ἐν τῷ λόγῳ τῷ ἐμῷ. The sonship or state of grace of faith in John 8:0 is however quite young and only begun, while the case before Pilate and in the passage under notice respects the believing people in His Kingdom and under His Rule. According to the Johannean conception we have to view the sonship or state of grace of believers as complete from the beginning although ever progressing towards perfection and consummation and to the inheritance itself. A young babe or a suckling is surely a perfect man, a rational creature, though only as to the germ, and not yet a man, not yet fully developed in all the powers and gifts wherewith it is endowed.

[7. As supplemental to the exegetical notes on 1 John 4:3, and No. 3, above, it may be profitable to put together some of the interpretations of this difficult passage.

1. The Socinian.—Socinus: “Jesum Christum, i.e. Jesum qui dicitur Christus, non modo mortalem hominem fuisse, sed etiam innumeris malis et denique ipsi cruentæ morti obnoxium.” Grotius: “Non cum regia pompa et exercitibus, sed in statu humili, abjecto, multisque malis ac postremum cruci obnoxio.” But it has been shown that ἐν σαρκί cannot be construed in this sense.

2. Those assertive and not only implicative of our Lord’s Incarnation. The commentators, most of them orthodox, who give this interpretation, either confound ἐν σαρκί with εἰς σάρκα (Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Piscator, Sander and al.), or waver between ἐν and εἰς, e.g. Hunnius: “Tunc venire in carne dicitur Jesus Christus quando λόγος ex sua velut arcana sede prodiens assumta visibili carne se in terris manifestat. Here we must also name the exposition of Augustine, who introduces in the train of the Incarnation the death and redeeming love of Christ, and makes the confession denial depend on “caritatem habere” (Alford); saying: “Deus erat et in carne venit: Deus enim mori non poterat, caro mori poterat: ideo ergo venit in carne ut moreretur pro nobis. Quemadmodum autem mortuus est pro nobis? Majorem hac caritatem nemo habet, quam ut animam suam ponat pro amicis suis. Caritas ergo ilum adduxit ad crucem. Quisquis ergo non habet caritatem, negat Christum in carne venisse.”—To put the question in his own words: “Arius and Eunomius, and Macedonius and Nestorius own that Jesus Christ came in the flesh, are not they therefore of God?” and then replies that those hierarchs did not in fact confess Christ to have come in the flesh, because whatever they might do by words, they in their works denied Him (Titus 1:16). “They have not charity,” he say “because they have not unity, and therefore all their other gifts are of no avail.” (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).—But the Apostle says here nothing of charity, or unity, or of the love of Christ, but he simply asserts the true Manhood of our Lord, and this brings us

3. To the true interpretation which takes ἐν in its proper meaning and applies the passage to the case of the Docetæ who maintained that our Lord had only an apparent and not a real body. See also the extracts from Irenæus and Origen above in Appar. Crit. note 4.—M.].


The command: Try! 1. The occasion (1 John 4:1 : many false prophets); 2. The importance (1 John 4:1 : whether they are of God); 3. The difficulty (1 John 4:1 : the spirits); 4. The right (1 John 4:4 : ye are of God); 5. The standard (1 John 4:1; 1 John 4:3 : the confession and the contradiction, cf. 1 John 4:6.).—Be not afraid of the majority of votes, but fear the majesty of the truth of (out of) God; take care that thou do not violate it; the former cannot and must not have any influence in matters of eternal truth and of eternal life. Not from the masses comes the truth, but from One, with whom you ought to vote and to whom you ought to assent; but though it comes only from One it is nevertheless designed for all and should be brought to and diffused among the masses by means of preaching, testimony and confession.—You ought to regard as a Christian and a brother whoever clings to Christ in faith, no matter how heretical the sect to which he may belong.—Communities and Christians grow more and more imperfect, the former into sects and the latter illiberal in proportion as they strive to give undue prominence to any one point of the truth except that of a believing and vital confession of Christ. You may not even push into the background the sphere of creation with its appointments before redemption and its glory, for Christ is also the Creator of the world.—The question is the pursuit of victory in order to secure and preserve unimpaired eternal peace for eternity.—The fundamental truth is simple and ever plain to the simplicity of the heart. That with which you are familiar you understand and love; what you cling to, cleaves to you; that in which you live, lives in you; that, for and of which you speak, speaks out of you.—Either a prophet of God or a false prophet, either of God or of the world, moved either by the Spirit of God or by the spirit of antichrist, by the Spirit of truth or the spirit of error; a middle way and a third course are not provided.—Neither you nor any of your acquaintance may be able clearly to perceive your point of gravity, but it is there, and One, now a Saviour, but hereafter the Judge, knows where and what it is and will make it manifest in preliminary judgments here, but in the final judgment there.

Starke:—Trust, believe, whom? It concerns not riches and possessions, but your soul and salvation. It is amazing that most men are concerned about false wares, whereby they incur certain and eternal loss. The prudent will make inquiries and not join in with an inconsiderate credit.—Lying spirit, that sayest that the Christian religion is founded on credulity! Gross lies! it requires faith, but rejects credulity.—We ought to believe sincere, experienced and honest teachers, yet so that we look only and solely to God and rest in Him as the author of the wisdom which they proclaim. Teachers should willingly subject their teaching to the trial of others, even to the trial of their own hearers, and consequently not only not deter them from it but also to urge them to it, and direct them away from themselves to God and His Spirit; otherwise they will not make honest Christians but render themselves suspicious.—The government alone has not the power of appointing teachers at its option regardless of the views and wishes of the whole Church (or congregation), whose wishes should be duly consulted, for God has clothed it also with the power and ability to try the spirits. [Such a caution, however relevant on the Continent of Europe, is of course unnecessary in the U. S.—M.].—Whatever obscures and lessens in word or deed the person, office, doctrine and glory of Christ, is heretical.—Be of good courage! though the world and the devil rage, thou hast a strong support, for God, who is with, by and in thee, is greater than all.—Whenever we are victorious, we ought to ascribe the glory of our victory not to ourselves but to God; otherwise if we take the least credit to ourselves, we rouse a new enemy, spiritual pride, most dangerous in this that it enables Satan easily to overcome us.—Like seeks like; the world loves its own but hates those who have gone out from the world.

Heubner:—The Christian spirit of trial is intimately connected with faith. Faith is not credulity.—This trying is a duty which belongs to every age and especially in our age when so many teach against the Scripture and still set up the pretension that they have the Spirit, and consider themselves full of spirit and others spiritless. It is the duty of all Christians; consequently, also the duty of the laity.—The conditions of this trial are simplicity of heart, a firm faith, and prayer to the Lord for clearness of perception (to open our eyes). The deceived have indeed excuses to offer; but there would not be so many of the deceived, if they had a pure mind and would try. Try the more frequently and carefully, the more the spirit of deceivers flatters thee and thy vanity, and the greater the number of these spirits grow.—Everything which lays irreverent hands on the Person of Christ, from any side, is decidedly unchristian.—Should John have given us a false criterion? Maintaining this is already the sign of a bad cause. Whatever is anti-christian shows its true character by its contradicting the Apostles.—The superiority of the Spirit of Christ to the error-spirit of the world gives to the Christian the preponderance; he need not fear any assaults of unbelief. John foretells certain victory. All the shouts of victory on the part of unbelievers are nothing but false alarm. All antichristianity panders to the spirit of the world; it flatters, if not the loose morality, yet the vanity and conceit of the world which finds it burdensome and confounding to believe in the Crucified One.—The false apostles prove the dignity of the true Apostles.

Besser:—Any pupil in a catechism-class, in order to be on his guard against the false prophets, may determine whether the teaching of a prophet has the grape-taste of Christ’s vine or the sloe-taste of the thorn of the flesh and reason.—It is not because of the parts of the truth they hold in common with the Church, but because of the error wherewith they contradict the confession of the Church, because of the broken branch on the tree of truth, because of the cancer in the body of truth, that the sects are congregated as separate communities.

Krummacher:—The frontier of Christianity. 1. In which way is it decided? Are the cumbersome trinity, God, virtue and immortality, or birth within the pale of Christendom, individual interpretation, the opinion of the majority of one’s contemporaries—to determine Christianness? 2. The final infallible decision, over against the skeptics, those who are at variance with the confession, those who only seek for the word of God in the Scriptures but do not receive the Scriptures as the word of God, is given by the fundamental fact of the supernatural revelation in Christ, the necessity of regeneration, the personal preëxistence of Christ or of the Godhead.

Fronmüller:—Of the trial of the Spirits. 1. Why it is necessary? Many false spirits have gone out into the world, the spirit of antichrist is already now in the world—in the Church, in the school, in the family, in private life, in the great and in the small. 2. Which is its end and aim? Whether they are of God or not. 3. Which is its rule? The confession.

[Burkitt: 1 John 4:1.—Believe not every spirit, etc. That is, every teacher who pretends to be inspired, and every doctrine that lays claim to the authority of Divine revelation: “but try the spirits,” that is, examine their doctrine by the rule of the word of God, and try from whom they come, whether from the Spirit of God or from Satan.—M.].

[Bp. Hall: 1 John 4:2.—Every one who confesseth Jesus Christ to have been God from all eternity, and in the fulness of time to have taken our nature upon Him, and to be come in the flesh, to accomplish the perfect work of man’s redemption, is of God and speaks from God. And so by the contraries 1 John 4:3.—M.].

[Barrow:—He was not only (as the Gnostics and some other heretics have conceited) in shape and outward appearance (as a spectre, deluding men’s sight and fancy), but in most real truth, a very perfect man; having a real body, figured and circumscribed like ours, compacted of flesh and blood, visible and tangible; which was nourished and did grow, which needed and received sustenance, which was tender and sensible, frail and passible, which was bruised with stripes, torn with scourges, pricked with thorns, pierced with nails, transfixed with a spear; which was mortal and underwent death by expiring its breath, and being disjoined from the soul that enlivened it. He had also a soul, endued with the same faculties as ours; with an understanding, capable of learning and improvement (for He was a man, ignorant of some things which He might know: and He grew in wisdom and in stature), with a will, subject and submissive to the Divine Will (see Mark 13:32; Luke 2:52; Matthew 26:39; Luke 22:42; John 5:30; Matthew 21:18; John 4:6-7), with several appetites, of meat, of drink, of sleep and rest (for we read that He was hungry, that He thirsted, that He was weary); yea with various passions and affections (φυσικὰ καὶ�, I mean, that is, natural and irreprehensible passions), and these of the most troublesome and afflictive sort, such as zeal, pity and sorrow; the which were sometimes declared by very pathetical significations and are expressed in high terms; as upon occasion of His friend Lazarus’s death it is said, He groaned in Spirit and was troubled; He then and upon other occasions, out of pity and sorrow, did weep; and ye know what excesses of sorrow, what anxieties and agonies, what tribulations, disturbances and amazements, the Evangelists, using those very terms, describe Him to have undergone at His passion; so that, as the Apostle to the Hebrews speaketh, “We have not an highpriest that could not compassionate (or sympathize with) our infirmities, but who was in all points tempted (or exercised and proved) as we are, yet without sin.”—M.].

[Neander:—Here is no other test of true faith, no other law for Christian union, than steadfast adherence to that one fundamental fact of the appearing of the Divine-human Redeemer. In all which proceeds from this belief, the influences of the Divine Spirit should be acknowledged. Hence it follows, that provided faith in this one fundamental fact be the soul of the Christian life, no minor difference of creed should be allowed to disturb Christian unity; that mistakes and alloys of Christian truth, which trench not on this one fundamental fact, should not hinder us from recognizing the Divine Stamp in him whose faith and profession have their root therein,—that the bonds of Christian fellowship should not thereby be sundered or loosened. Steadfast adherence to this one foundation is the mark of being from God, of the Spirit derived from God.—

Truth and error have each their peculiar history of development. As in the continued development of Christian truth, the Holy Spirit is ever revealing Himself in the inward consciousness of believers, that Anointing spoken of by St. John; so does error, proceeding side by side with this revelation, mingle therewith its own disturbing and adulterating influence,—rending single truths from their connection with the whole system of truth and giving them the stamp of error. These are the two currents, proceeding from the ever operative Spirit of Christ and from the spirit of the world; the latter mingling with the revelations of the former its own disturbing element and imitating them with a deceptive outward seeming.—M.].
[Sermons and Sermon-themes.

1 John 4:1. Augustine,

Believe not every Spirit. Libr. of Fathers, 20. 954.


Abp. Of the trial of the Spirits. Sermons 2, 29.


Daniel, The springs and motives of false pretences to the Holy Spirit; with the rules and marks of trying and detecting them. Sermons. Works 9, 336.


Jonathan, The distinguishing marks of a work of the Spirit of God, applied to that uncommon operation that has lately appeared in New England. 120. 1742. Works. 2, 254.

Zollikoffer, C. J.

Fanaticism in general.


Fanaticism with regard to religious conceptions in particular. Sermons on prevalent errors and vices I. 95. 111.

Smith, John

Pye, On the means of obtaining satisfaction with regard to the truth of religious sentiments. A Sermon, London, 1822.

1 John 4:2. Augustine,

Every Spirit that confesseth not, etc. Libr. of the Fathers 20, 960.


De probatione Spiritum. Cr. Sac.Thes.Nov.2. 999.

1 John 4:2-3. Wilberforce, R. I.,

The sacramental system. Serm. on the New Birth, 222.

Vaughan, I. C.,

John’s test of truth. Sermons (1851), 121.

1 John 4:4. Saurin, I.,

The superior evidence and influence of Christianity. Sermons; 2, 323. In French, 7, 129.


Extraordinary gifts of the Holy Ghost.

1 John 4:4-5. Tillotson, Abp.,

The advantages of truth in opposition to error. 2 Sermons. Serm. xi. 389.—M.].


1 John 4:1; 1 John 4:1. [ἐκ, German: “out of.”—M.]

1 John 4:2; 1 John 4:2. γινώσκετε A. B. C. G. al. Cod. Sin. has in the text γινώσκομεν, but corrected γινώσκετε.

1 John 4:2; 1 John 4:2. ἐληλυθότα A. C. Sinait.—B. reads ἐληλυθέναι; Vulgate: venisse conforming to the usage of Latin. [German: “Every spirit which confesseth Jesus Christ come in the flesh.”—M.]


1 John 4:3. Instead of the reading of A. B. τὸν Ιησοῦν, G. K. and Sin. have Χριστὸν ἐν σαρκὶ ἐληλυθότα, but G. has also the Article and Sin. reads κύριον instead of Χριστὸν. Both readings, the shorter τὸν Ἰησοῦν, and the longer agreeing with 1 John 4:2, are well authenticated, and either may pass for the original reading, it being equally probable that the longer reading was abbreviated into the shorter, and that the shorter was changed into the longer; the testimony for both renders the decision very difficult; but the shorter form seems to be the lectio difficilior.—By the side of the reading ὃ μὴ ὁμολογεὶ τὸν Ἰησοῦν, the Church Fathers have the variation ὃ λύει τὸν Ἰησοῦν, among the Latins Tertullian (neganteset solventes, adv. Marc. 5, 16), Augustine qui solvit Jesum et negat in carne venisse) also the two conjoined. It is repeatedly asserted, that the heretics suppressed λύειν (Socrates h. l. 7, 32; Fulbert and Hincmar: Eraserunt, in Tischendorf 1859 editio major). Bengel well observes: humanam potius artem, quam apostolicam redolet (λύει) sapientiam. It is a dogmatical terminus technicus to denote the Nestorianism which dissolves the union of the Godhead and the humanity in Jesus, Christ.

[Socrates, H. E. VII. 1John 32: γέγραπτο ἐν τοῖς παλαιοῖς�, ἀπὸ τοῦ θεοῦ οὐκ ἔστιν. Irenæus (III, 8, p. 511 ed. Stieren): Igitur omnes extra dispositionem sunt, qui sub obtentu agnitionis alterum quidem Jesum intelligunt, alterum autem Christum, et alterum Unigenitum, et alterum Salvatorem … Sententia enim eorum homicidalis, Deos quidem plures confingens et Patres multos simulans. Comminuens autem et per multa dividens Filium Dei; quos et Dominus nobis cavere prædixit, et discipulus ejus Joannes in prædicta epistola fugere eos præcepit dicens: “Multi seductores exierunt in hunc mundum, qui non confitentur Jesum Christum in carne venisse. Hic est seductor et Antichristus. Videte eos, ne perdatis quod operati estis.” Et rursus in Epistola ait: “Multi pseudo-prophetæ exierunt de sæculo. In hoc cognoscite Spiritum Dei. Omnis spiritus qui confttetur Jesum Christum in carne venisse, ex Deo est. Et omnis Spiritus qui solvit Jesum, non est ex Deo, sed de antichristo est.” Hæc autem similia sunt illi quod in Evangelio dictum est, quoniam “Verbum caro factum est, et habitavit in nobis.”—Origen on Matthew 25:14 (Vol. I 4:359–361 ed. Lommat.): Secundum hanc divinitatis suæ naturam non peregrinatur, sed peregrinatur secundum dispensationem corporis quod suscepit.—Haec autem dicentes non solvimus suscepti corporis hominem, cum sit scriptum apud Joannem “Omnis spiritus qui solvit Jesum non est ex Deo:” sed unicuique substantiæ proprietatem servamus. Si enim omnis homo fidelis “qui conjungitur Domino unus spiritus est:” quanto magis homo ille quem secundum dispensationem. carnis Christus suscepit non est solvendus ab eo, nec alter est dicendus ab eo? Et vide quomodo ait: “Sicut homo peregre futurus” quoniam non erat homo, sed sicut homo et quasi homo peregrinabitur, qui erat ubique secundum divinitatis naturam.” While thus Irenæus and Origen clearly had the reading ὃ λύει before them, Polycarp, on the other hand, seems to quote, though loosely, the received text (Ep. ad. Philipp. cap. 7): Πάς γὰρ ὃς ἂν μὴ ὁμολογῇ Ἰησοῦν Χριστὸν ἐν σαρκὶ ἐληλυθέναι, ἀντίχριρτός ἐστι. καὶ ὃς ἂν μὴ ὁμολογῇ τὸ μαρτύριον τοῦ σταυροῦ ἐκ τοῦ διαβόλου ἐστί. καὶ ὃς ἂν μεθοδεύῃ τὰ λόγια τοῦ κυρίου πρὸς τὰς ἰδίας ἐπιθυμίας καὶ λέγῃ μήτε�, οὗτος πρωτότοκός ἐστι τοῦ Σατανᾶ. [Alford].—Huther: Very singular is the opinion of Semler that ὃλύει originated oculorum vitio; the reading may probably be accounted for from the polemics against Gnosticism (Grotius, Lücke, de Wette, Huther), and this supposition is borne out by the scholion in Matthæi p. 1John 225: προώδευσαν γὰρ αὐτοῦ (τοῦ�) αἱ αἱρέσεις, ὧν χαρακτεριστικὸν τὸ διὰ ψευδοπροφητῶν καὶ πνευμάτων λύειν τον Ἰησοῦν ἐν τῷ μὴ ὁμολογεῖν αὐτὸν ἐν σαρκὶ ἐληλυθέαι.—M.].

[German: “And every spirit which does not confess Jesus is not of God.”—M.]

1 John 4:3; 1 John 4:3. [German: “And this is the [spirit] of antichrist, of which ye have heard that it cometh, and now it is in the world already.” So Alford.—M.].

1 John 4:6; 1 John 4:6. ὃς οὐκ ἔστιν ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ, οὐκ� is wanting in A. G. (perhaps by mistake?)


1 John 4:6. ἐκτούτου B. G. K. Sinait; important on account of 1 John 3:24; ἐκ τοῦ πνεύματος.

[German: “From this.”—M.]

Verses 7-21

7. Brotherly Love and Divine Love as Related to Each Other on the Ground of Christ’s Advent

1 John 4:7-21

7Beloved, let us love one another: for8 love is of God; and every one that loveth9 is born of God, and knoweth God. 8He that loveth not, knoweth10 not God;11 for God is love. 9In this was manifested the love of God toward12” us, because13 that God sent his 10only begotten Son14 into the world, that we might live through him. Herein15 Isaiah 16:0 love, not that we loved God, but that he17 loved us, and sent18 his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.19 11Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. 12No man hath seen God at any time.20 If we love one another, God dwelleth21 in us, 13and his love is perfected in us.22 Hereby23 know we that we dwell24 in him, and he in us, because16 he hath given us of his Spirit. 14And we have seen and do testify that 15the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world.25 Whosoever26 shall confess27 that Jesus28 is the Son of God, God dwelleth13 in him, and he in God. 16And we have known and believed the love that God hath to29 us. God is love; and he that dwelleth13 17in love dwelleth13 in God, and God in him.30 Herein31 is our love32 made perfect,33 that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so34 are we in this world. 18There is no fear in love;35 but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment.36 He that feareth is not made perfect in love.37 19We love him,38 because he first loved us. 20If a man say,39 love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how40 can he love God whom he hath not seen? 21And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.41


Connection. The whole section 1 John 4:7-21 insists upon the exhibition of brotherly love, because love is the very Essence of God (1 John 4:8; 1 John 4:16), as is evident from the sending and revelation of His Son (1 John 4:8; 1 John 4:10-11; 1 John 4:14-15), from our past and present experience of the love of God (1 John 4:10-11; 1 John 4:16), from the experience of our confidence towards Him without fear (1 John 4:17-18), and because as the children of God, we ought in grateful obedience prove our enjoyment of such love by the love of our brethren, His children (1 John 4:19-21). Based on the γεννηθῆναι ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ (1 John 4:7), this exhortation belongs under the great leading thought 1 John 2:29, and connects with the warning against the false teachers, because faith in Jesus, in whom the love of the Father has been manifested and brought near to us, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit (1 John 4:13), the Spirit of truth, and the Witness of God’s love in us, must evidence and manifest their truth and vitality in brotherly love.

Exhortation to brotherly love founded on the Being of God. 1 John 4:7-8.

1 John 4:7. Beloved, let us love one another.—Ἀγαπητοί, ἀγαπῶμεν, a very emphatic expression; being loved we must love; being in the enjoyment of love we are and dare not be without love; the exhortation, as ἀλλήλους shows, must be restricted to brotherly [Christian—M.] love and not be extended to general love of man. [But the ground, on which this exortation is based, viz. that God is Love (1 John 4:8) and that He sent His Son εἰς τὸν κόσμον (1 John 4:9), shows that the love of man in general is not excluded here. Cf. 1 John 3:13; so Ebrard.—M.].

Because the love is of God, and every one, that loveth, is born of God and knoweth God.—Ὅτι indicates the ground on which the preceding exhortation is made to rest. The demonstration is conducted on a general axiom of truth: Omnis amor ex Deo est (Bengel), originem habet a Deo (Calov). This thought especially strengthened by ἐκ, must not be weakened into caritas res divina maxime laudabilis (Socinus, Episcopius), Deo maxime placet (Grotius), love is Divine as to its nature (de Wette), Deus caritatis auctor est, quatenus nobis mutuæ caritatis causas abunde suppeditat (Schlichting). Neither must we add with A. τὸν θεὸν, nor supply “the brother” with S. Schmidt, Lücke and al.—[Didymus singularly understood ἀγαπή here of Christ,—ἥτινα οὐκ�, ὥσπερ θεὸν ἐκ θεοῦ, οὕτω καὶ�:—and Augustine fitting together “Dilectio est ex Deo,” and “Dilectio est Deus” infers that “Dilectio est Deus ex Deo,” which comparing with Rom. 1 John 4:5, he infers that love is the Holy Spirit (Tract. 7:6). Alford—M.].—Now since love and life are and spring from God, a man that is born of God proves that he is born of God by loving; for he must have part of that which is in God and comes from Him. The Perfect also alongside the Present shows that here again being born of God is regarded as the antecedent fact, as the cause of love, and love as a consequence warrants and necessitates the back-inference of the truth and reality of being born of God. Cf. 1 John 2:29. Every one that is born of God knows also in his belonging to God, in his fellowship with God, God as the Source of love, and love as the Essence of God, and hence he must insist upon love and practise love, so that thereby he may prove his knowledge of and familiarity with God; to love and to know God are correlates, because love is of God. Hence Grotius (ostendit se Deum nosse sicut oportet) errs less than Calvin (vera Dei cognitio amorem Dei necessario in nobis generat).

1 John 4:8. He that loveth not hath never known God.—Consequently: he that lacks love in general, has not known God, has never learnt to know Him at all (Lücke), has never made even the beginning of the knowledge of God (Düsterdieck); this rendering is required by the Aorist ἔγνω joined to ὁ μὴ�. The reason of this is given in the following:

Because God is love.—A proposition which in the negative formula, according to the well-known manner of the Apostle, still further defines the former assertion that “love is of God.” This relation of the two propositions and of their contents requires us to give to ὅτι a causal construction; hence it indicates the reason and not the contents of ἔγνω (Tirinus: non novit, Deum esse caritatem); in that case ὁ θεὸς also ought to be wanting and it would be: οὐκ ἔγνω τὸν θεόν, ὅτι�. Cf. Acts 14:13. Winer, p. 469. Ὁ θεὸς�=Deus nihil est quam mera caritas (Luther), Dei natura nihil aliud est, quam caritas, quam bonitas, quam summum bonum, sui ipsius communicativum (Hunnius). The Being of God is Love; therefore love springs from God. The word is to be taken essentialiter with most Catholic [Anglican—M.] and Lutheran Commentators, and not ἐνεργητικῶς with Calvin and Beza: Dei natura est homines diligere; for this construction makes God’s Love-Essence give place to God’s manifestation of love and adds the limitation of its application to men, whereas angels and even the Trinitarian God are objects of the love of God. Still farther removed from the depth of this saying, even to shallowness, are the expositions of Socinus (caritas est Dei ipsiusque voluntas effectus et is quidem maxime proprius), Grotius (Deus est plenus caritate), Rosenmüller (benignissimus). In this, that God is love as to His essential Being, lies the reason, why he that is born of God, must also have love and live in love and why the love of God must be allied with the love of the brethren who are also born of God. [Equally shallow are the explanations of Benson: “God is the most benevolent of all beings; full of love to all His creatures,” Whitby: “The Apostle intends not to express what God is in His Essence … but what He is demonstrative, ἐνεργητικῶς, showing great philanthropy to men,” and Hammond “God is made up of love and kindness to mankind.”—Alford reviewing these quotations says that in them the whole force of the axiom as it stands in the Apostle’s argument is lost; “unless he is speaking of the Essential Being of God, quorsum pertineat, to say that he that loveth not never knew God, because “God is love?” Put for these last words, “God is loving,” and we get at once a fallacy of an undistributed middle: He that loveth not never knew what love is: God is loving: but what would follow? that in as far as God is loving, he never knew Him: but he may have known Him as far as He is just or powerful. But take ὁ θεὸς� of God’s essential Being,—as a strict definition of God, and the argumentation will be strict: He that loveth not never knew love: God is love [the terms are co-essential and co-extensive]: therefore he who loveth not never knew God.”—M.].

Revelation of the love of God through Christ. 1 John 4:9-10.

1 John 4:9. In this was manifested the love of God in (on) us.—“We hear the lovely, the living echo of Christ, John 3:16.” (Heubner). Ἐν τούτῳ points to the sequel. Ἐφανερώθη as contrasted with the hidden Being of the invisible God, annexes the objective, actual appearing and manifestation of the ἀγάπη τοῦ θεοῦ, of the love which is God’s, in God, as in 1 John 1:2; 1 John 3:5; 1 Timothy 3:16; there is no reference whatever to subjective knowledge. [Huther: “The Apostle does not want to say that the love of God has been known by us through the sending of His Son; cf. 1 John 4:16, but that therein it stepped forth from its concealment, and did in reality manifest itself.”—M.].—Ἐν ἡμῖν defines either the sphere in which, or the object at which [with regard to which—M.] the manifestation took place; it should be connected with the verb and rendered, either among us, with us, or at [in, with regard to] us. But the context does not introduce us merely as spectators but as receivers of the Divine love (ἵνα ζήσωμεν); and this love is not only to us an object of contemplation, which would be expressed by the Dative ἡμῖν without the preposition; but we ourselves are objects of this love, every one of us believers has experienced it; hence we ought not to leave the matter undecided (Lücke), but must decide for the rendering at [in, with regard to—M.] us (Düsterdieck), according to the manifest analogy of John 9:3, where ἐν must be thus construed and explained; hence we may not connect it with ἀγάπη τοῦ θεοῦ (Huther and al.); for it was not the love of God in believers which was manifested, as if the believers existed before the manifestation of God’s love in Christ, but the love of God appeared in Christ and was manifested not to, but at [in] the believers. On this account Bengel’s explanation: “Amor Dei, qui nunc in nobis est,” is equally untenable. Still less admissible is it to make ἐν ἡμῖν=εἰς ἡμᾶς, as is done by Luther, Spener and al. Cf. Winer, pp. 231, 436.—Ἐφανερώθη is explained by what follows:

That God hath sent His son, the only-begotten, into the world.

This is the fact of the manifestation. The designation τὸν μονογενῆ the only child (Luke 7:12; Luke 8:42; Luke 9:38; Hebrews 11:17; John 1:14; John 1:18; John 3:18), ad auxesin valet (Calvin); what love, that He sent His only son (Huther)! It is therefore not=ἀγαπητός, omnium creaturarum longe carissimus, sibi dilectissimus (S. G. Lange, Socinus, Grotius). John thus marks the exaltation of the Son, just as the term ἀπέσταλκεν εἰς τὸν κόσμον denotes His pre-existence (John 3:17; John 10:36): to be sent, to be sent into the world can only be true of one already born, not of one who is only born in the world, but one existing above and before the world, 1 John 1:1.

That we might live through Him.—Thus ἐν ἡμῖν is explained. This indication of the purpose, ἵνα, points as much to the life-fulness in Christ as to our poverty. Cf. 1 John 3:16-17. [Baumgarten-Crusius: Μονογενής and ζήσομεν are the two emphatic words: The most exalted One—for our salvation!—M.].

1 John 4:10. In this exists love.—[German like Greek “the love,” i.e. love in the abstract.—M.]. Ἀγάπη is to be taken quite general, as at 1 John 3:16 (Neander, Düsterdieck, Huther), without the supplement of τοῦ θεοῦ (Spener, Lücke, Sander, de Wette, Brückner and al.), as at Romans 5:5.

Not that we loved God, but that He loved us.—The simplest construction is to supply ἐν τούτῷ to οὐχ and ἀλλά. Thus preparation is made for the comprehensive term πρῶτος 1 John 4:19; the initiation of loving is with God; the beginning and origin of love is in God (ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ); ἡμεῖς and αὐτὸς are here emphatically contrasted like τὸν θεόν; amari dignissimum, and ἡμᾶς, indignissimos (Bengel), the self-existence, independence, of the Divine love are intimated by the prevenience of that love absolutely unconditioned by any merit on the part of men; the former is what is really said here (Huther), the other, as we may justly infer from what follows, (ἱλασμὸν) and from what precedes (ἵνα ζήσωμεν), is implied (Düsterdieck). Hence there is no reason whatsoever for rendering ὅτι once “because” and then “that” (Baumgarten-Crusius), or for translating both times “because” but only as protases, thus: not because we loved Him but because He loved us, did He send His Son (Lachmann), or for a transposition of the words as if we did read: ὅτι οὐκ (Grotius), or for taking the first proposition as a dependent clause=ἡμῶν μὴ� (Meyer: that although we have not loved God before, yet did He love us). a Lapide erroneously assigns to the implication the first place saying: “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.”

And sent His Son (as) a propitiation for our sins.—This is the proof in fact of αὐτὸς ἠγάπησεν ἡμᾶς. The Aorist ἀπέστειλεν, like ἠγαπήσαμεν, ἠγάπησεν, simply narrates, while the Perfect ἀπέσταλκεν 1 John 4:9 absolutely presentiates Christ’s having been sent (Lücke). Ἀπέστειλε stands emphatically in ante-position in order to set the act of God in relief; ἱλασμὸν περὶ τῶν� has an explanatory and substantiating reference to ζήσωμεν δι’ αὐτοῦ 1 John 4:9. Cf. 1 John 2:2; 1 John 3:16. Insufficient: testatum fecit, se velle condonare (Rosenmüller).

Brotherly love inferred. 1 John 4:11. [from, 1 John 4:9-10, and substantiating the exhortation 1 John 4:7.—M.]

1 John 4:11. Beloved—ἀγαπητοί has a peculiar emphasis and distinct meaning, i.e. it designates those who stand in the enjoyment of the experience of the love of God.

If God so loved us.—Because εἰ with the Indicative introduces the aforesaid fact, it is described as an indubitable ground for an inference to be built upon it. [Alford calls attention to the difficulty of rendering this εἰ with an Indicative in English, which is neither any expression of uncertainty, nor=since, or seeing that; he describes it as “a certainty put in the shape of a doubt, that the hearer’s mind may grasp the certainty for itself, not take it from the speaker.” If (it be true that).—is perhaps the nearest filling up of the sense.”—M.]. Οὕτως denotes the preceding description of love; it is here=hac ratione, prevenient without any merit on our part, in the sending of His Son for the propitiation of our sins; but it is not=tanta caritate, as in John 3:16 (where οὕτως—ὥστε requires such a construction, as Düsterdieck rightly observes). There is no warrant for the interpretation; nullo hominum discrimine (Grotius).

We also ought to love one another.—In the first place we have to take notice of ἡμεὶς—ἀλλήλους: we, first the object of the glorious love of God (ἡμᾶς) must, now also regard and treat every Christian as an object of Divine love and consequently become the subjects of such experienced Divine love; to this necessitates us the brother whom God loves, and to this compels us the love with which we ourselves are loved. Hence the Apostle uses the word ὀφείλομεν not only because there is extant for it an objectively given commandment and example, but also a subjective preparation for it; as God’s children, born out of Him who is Love, born out of His Love-Being, we must love one another.

There is no fellowship with God without brotherly love. 1 John 4:12-13.

1 John 4:12. No one hath ever beheld God.—. Cf. John 1:18 : ἑώρακεν. The Perfects there, like τεθέαται here are on account of πώποτε to be emphatically referred to the past with respect to its separate course and periods, and must not be construed according to a Hebraism, as carrying present force (Estius), or as comprehending the past and the present (Lücke). The word τεθέαται denotes calm, continued looking at and contemplation of a thing, but it is real seeing [in the literal sense of the word as distinguished from spiritual beholding, inward vision—M.]; this is the view of the Greek Commentators, (Augustine, Spener, Lücke and al.), as in 1 John 4:14 and=ἑώρακεν also 1 John 4:20. The sense is: God is invisible (1 Timothy 6:16). Passages like Exodus 33:20, and Genesis 12:7; Genesis 17:1 etc., are not contradictory, since where God did appear, it was not His face, but some assumed form that became visible. Consequently the passage must not be interpreted in a spiritual sense, as if it imported spiritual seeing and that God cannot be known and apprehended by man’s own, natural powers (Piscator), or immediately (Rickli), or as He is (Estius), that He is consequently inscrutable (Neander). The explanation of this axiom follows from,

If we love one another, God abideth in us and His love is perfected in us.—The proposition: θεὸν οὐδεὶς πώποτε τεθέαται, obviously refers not to the proposition ἀγαπᾷν� which contains a presupposition and a condition, but to the leading thought: ὁ θεὸς ἐν ἡμῖν μένει. The Apostle is wholly concerned with the inward life-fellowship, with the inward relation between God and man which is to be carried on to perfection and which manifests itself in brotherly love; hence brotherly love is only the presupposition and condition of the assertion and assumption of such life-fellowship with God, but not of that relation itself (contrary to Frommann). So especially Düsterdieck, Huther. The invisibility of God surely does not exclude our love to God (1 John 4:20. cf. 1 Peter 1:8); nor is the invisibility of God used here to direct us to brotherly love, as if we should show to the brethren what we cannot show to Him (Lücke and al.); in that case θεὸν οὐκ θεᾶσθαι and not ἀγαπᾷν� would have been introduced with ἐὰν. Ἀγάπη θεοῦ denotes His love, the love of God, even the love peculiar to and inhering in Him, which is in us, if He ἐν ἡμῖν μένει. In this life-fellowship with Him we participate in His love, which is τετελειωμένη, has become perfected [i.e. has reached its full completion and maturity.—M.]. This love has its history of growth and completion in us and corresponds pari passu with brotherly love: where the one is, there is also the other; they mutually conditionate each other; it is loving with God, (out) of God, in God, which with Him is in us as His Being; dutiful loving (ὀφείλομεν 1 John 4:11) is natural in believers. Hence the reference is not to God’s love to us (Hunnius, Calov, Spener, Beza, Sander and al.), for the predicate would not suit such a construction; nor to our love to God (Luther, Calvin, Grotius, Lücke, Neander, Düsterdieck and others), nor to ea dilectio quam Deus præscripsit (Socinus), nor to the mutual relation of love between God and us (Ebrard).

1 John 4:13. In this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, that He hath given us of His Spirit.—The mark of recognition of the life-fellowship of God with us, and among ourselves with God, agrees exactly with the description at 1 John 3:24, as does also the reference to the gift of the Spirit (ἐν τούτῳ): ὅτι ἐκ τοῦ πνεύματος αὐτοῦ δέδωκεν ἡμῖν. Neither οὖ 1 John 3:24, nor the preposition ἐκ here, has partitive force; it rather answers to ἀπὸ τοῦ πνεύματος, Acts 2:17; Joel 3:1 (LXX.), while the Vulgate in conformity to the original text renders spiritum meum effundam, and denotes the origin and source of the Spirit in us, although we, as distinguished from Jesus who has the Spirit οὐκ ἐκ μέτρου (John 3:34), have only part in Him; the coarse notion of a divisibility or dismemberment of the Spirit must be strenuously excluded. The Spirit Himself is given to us; nothing is said here of His gifts; there is no reference to the διαιρέσις τῶν χαρισμάτων, 1 Corinthians 12:4; 1 Corinthians 12:11—(in opposition to Estius). His Spirit (τὸ πνεῦμα αὐτοῦ, the Love-Spirit of God) answers to ἀγάπη αὐτοῦ and confirms the explanation of 1 John 4:12, as given above, and supplements the fact that His Spirit mediates in us His love and its perfections.

Evidence of this inward life-fellowship as a certain fact. 1 John 4:14-16.

1 John 4:14. And we have beheld and testify.—Antithesis to 1 John 4:12 : No one has ever beheld God, but we have seen the Son of the Father. Ἡμεῖς designates the Apostles and their associates, and this reference is confirmed by τεθεάμεθα καὶ μαρτυροῦμεν, which verbs point to an immediate, personal beholding as contrasted with the knowledge mediated by others (1 John 1:1-2; John 1:14), to their eye-and ear-witness (John 1:34). What they have beheld, that they testify also; both verbs have the same object:

That the Father hath sent the Son as Saviour of the world.—In Jesus, the Sent One from God, they have beheld δόξαν αὐτοῦ, δόξαν ὡς μονογενοῦς παρὰ πατρὸς, πλήρης χάριτος καὶ� (John 1:14), and therefore they beheld Him as the Sent One of God. Τοῦ κόσμου (cf. 1 John 2:2; John 3:16; John 4:42), implies that He is sent for every man, not only for the electi in omnibus populis (Piscator); the universality of salvation is also confirmed by the sequel:

1 John 4:15. Whosoever confesseth that Jesus is the Son of God.—This ὁμολογεῖν is the consequence of the reception of the μαρτυρεῖν of the Apostles. Cf. 1 John 2:2; 1 John 2:23. The reference here is neither to the confession in the fact of brotherly love (Bede), nor to the testimony of a holy life accompanying the confession with the mouth (Augustine, Grotius); but the faith of the heart, which receives the Apostolical μαρτυρία is taken for granted. Cf. 1 John 4:16.

God abideth in Him and He in God.—The confession, therefore, is to be taken as connected with the life-fellowship with God, and an ungodly conversation surely will not belie the confession; God in Christ Jesus will have appropriated salvation to the believer.

1 John 4:16. And we have known and believed.—The beginning καὶ ἡμεῖς exactly as in 1 John 4:14. But ἐγνώκαμεν and πεπιστεύκαμεν is matter of the disciples of Jesus without any exception whatsoever (Estius, Calov, Spener, Lücke, de Wette, Düsterdieck, Ebrard, Huther), not of the Apostles only, as in τεθεάμεθα καὶ μαρτυροῦμεν (in opposition to Episcopius, Rickli and al.). Cf. John 6:69 : πεπιστεύκαμεν καὶ ἐγνώκαμεν; cf. Lange in this Commentary, Vol. 4., p. 166, German edition. “True faith is, according to John, a faith of knowledge and experience: true knowledge of faith” (Lücke); both are in one another; each conditions and promotes the other. Hence it is really immaterial which of the two is put first; the moral act of faith and the intellectual act of knowing are ultimately not without the working of God in His Spirit on our spirit. For the reception of the word of truth in faith is a receiving from the Lord of the word, just as the shining of this bright word into the heart and the luminous rise of the truth of the word in the heart, come also from Him. The two constitute the foundation of man’s confession. Hence the Perfects which continue to operate in the present confession. The object follows, viz.:

The love which God hath in us.—Cf. John 13:35 : ἵνα�. The Present is emphatically placed first after the preceding Perfects; ἐν is used here as in 1 John 4:9. It is, as in John 6:69 (ὅτι σὺ εἶ ὁ ἅγιος τοῦ θεοῦ), something objective, God’s love on us, namely in Christ Jesus, wherefore Bede says: “Quia videlicet cum haberet filium unicum, noluit illum esse unum, sed ut fratres haberet, adoptavit illi, qui cum illo possiderent vitam æternam.” Hence neither the subjective love of God erga nos (Estius, Luther, Socinus, Grotius, Rickli and al.), nor the love of God indwelling in us (Wilke, Hermeneutik des Neuen Testaments, 11, 64,), nor our love, kindled in us by God’s love (Ebrard).—Now follows the concluding summary,

God is love and he that abideth in love, abideth in God and God abideth in him.—A combination of 1 John 4:8; 1 John 4:15. Ἐν τῇ� denotes Love absolute, as the element of those who are born of God, and neither brotherly love (Lücke and al.), nor God’s love to us (Ebrard); it occurs here without any qualifying addition. Μένωυ, however, denotes the love of man in which he abides and which dwells in him.

Perfecting of love in fearlessness. 1 John 4:17-18.

Ver 17. In this, love is perfected with us.—Ἀγάπη is again absolute as in 1 John 4:16; 1 John 4:18, and must neither be construed as God’s love εἰς ἡμᾶς, nor as our love εἰς� (Socinus), nor to God (Lange), but simultaneously as the disposition and activity of love (Huther), as at 1 John 3:18; and μεθ’ ἡμῶν must receive its full force of among, between, with us; see Winer, p. 336 sq.—Were it not parallel with ἐν ἡμῖν 1 John 4:12 we might think of fellowship, ecclesiastical fellowship, the Christian Church, within which love has been perfected; the context also points to the individual life and perfection of Christians and not to the life and perfection of the Christian Church as such. Its most natural construction is with the verb τετελείωται (Lücke, de Wette, Düsterdieck and al.), not with ἀγάπη, of which it cannot be the object, since it is not= εἰς ἡμᾶς, as supposed by Luther, Calvin, Spener, Bengel, Sander, Besser and al. The position of the words is not more decisive for the connection with ἀγάπη here than at 1 John 4:9 (in opposition to Huther); μεθ’ ἡμῶν denotes the place where love was perfected. Hence ἡμῶν must not be resolved into God and we (Rickli) and construed as the mutual love of God and Christians, which would be wholly inadmissible and repugnant to the spirit of the Gospel. Τετελείωται should be construed like τετελειωμένη ἐστίν, 1 John 4:12, and τελεία and τετελείωται in 1 John 4:18, this ἀγάπη in and on us is something to be perfected, and this perfection itself is not ready and accomplished at once; it has its stages and degrees. This is inconceivable and unpredicable of the love of God. But wherein is it primarily perfected? ἐν τούτῳ—ἵνα παῤῥησίαν ἔχωμεν:

That we have confidence in the day of judgment.—On παῤῥησία see Notes, on 1 John 2:28 in Exegetical and Critical. Ἵνα, which follows αὕτη, 1Jn 3:11; 1 John 3:23; John 17:3 and also ἐν τούτῳ, John 15:8, gives the purpose of God in the perfecting of love with us; we shall have confidence. Ἐν τούτῳ therefore must neither be referred to what goes before 1 John 4:16 (Spener), nor, with the assumption of a trajecta anticipatio, connected with ὅτι (Grotius, Beza and al.), nor must ἵνα be construed in the sense of ὥστε (Episcopius, Bengel and al.). The ἡμέρα τῆς κρίσεως is ὅταν φανερωθῇ 1 John 2:28. Of course ἐν has its usual sense and must not be explained=εἰς; for the reference here is not to the confidence of expectation, the desire of its drawing near (Augustine, Calvin), where men are liable to deceive themselves. Of course, he that may and will have confidence in the judgment, will also have confidence before it takes place; however, it is to be borne in mind that even believers, notwithstanding their activity of love, will be surprised in the judgment (Matthew 25:31 sqq.); the reference is solely to confidence in the judgment, not to confidence beforehand. It is incorrect to combine the two with Rickli, Huther and al.; nor must τετελείωται be taken as a futurum exactum. [It is doubtful whether Braune’s exegesis will carry conviction to the mind of the reader. It seems to be rather contradictory, for while he condemns the interpretation of Rickli and Huther, he seems to adopt it when he says that “of course he that may and will have confidence in the judgment, will also have confidence before it takes place.” On the whole, Huther’s explanation, which is substantially that of Alford, seems to be the most natural. He says: “The difficulty that something future (our attitude in the day of judgment), is to be valid as a mark of perfect love in the present, vanishes by the assumption that ἐν involves both the παῤῥησία of believers in the day of judgment, and their present παῤῥησία in anticipation of that day; this combination was natural to the Apostle who thought of the day of judgment not as very remote but as already dawning (1 John 2:18). In his love this future παῤῥησία is to him already present.”—M.].

Because as He is, we also are in this world.—Ὅτι annexes the reason of our confidence in the day of judgment. Ἐκεῖνος is Jesus and not God (Augustine, Calvin and al.). The Present ἐστί must not be construed= ἦν (a Lapide, Grotius, Rickli and al.), nor must the words ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ τούτῳ be referred to Christ. The comparison must be gathered from the context: it is very strict, καθὼς—καὶ. The point in hand is the μένειν ἐν τῇ�, which μένειν perfects love even unto filial confidence in the day of judgment (so Huther who cites Lorinus, “reddit nos caritas Christo similes et conformes imagini filii Dei”). Hence not likeness in suffering (Luther) or temptability (Rickli), not likeness in that, though we are in the world, we are not of the world (Sander); for nothing is said on these points; neither is here any reference to the adoption (Lücke), nor to δικαιοσύνη (Düsterdieck). Love is the eternal Being of Christ, cf. 1 John 3:7 (Huther). [The last named author lays stress on ἐστὶν and compares in the passage cited the words: καθὼς ἐκεῖνος δίκαιός ἐσ τι ν.—Alford adopts the explanation of Düsterdieck, who thus develops his view: St. John does not say that Love is perfected in confidence in us, because we resemble Christ in Love; but he refers to the fundamental truth on which our Love itself rests and says: because we are absolutely like Christ, because we are in Christ Himself, because He lives in us, for without this there cannot be likeness to Him; in a word, because we are, in that communion with Christ which we are assured of by our likeness to Him in righteousness, children of God, therefore our love brings with it also full confidence. Essentially, the reason here rendered for our confidence in the day of judgment is the same as that given, 1 John 3:21 sq., for another kind of confidence, viz., that we keep His commandments. This also betokens the δικαιοσύνη, of which Christ is the essential exemplar and which is a necessary attribute of those who through Christ are children of God.—M.]. Ἐν τῷ κόστῳ τούμῳ applied to ἐσμέν, denotes the place of abode, the earthly sphere of life, whereas Christ is in heaven, and is not an ethical idea, though we should supply with Bengel: amoris experte judicium timente.

1 John 4:18. Fear is not in love.—Antithesis of παῤῥησία ἐν τῇ ἡμέρᾳ τῆς κρίσεως. Quite general: In love is not fear; fear is not a part of love, it is something wholly foreign to it, which is only outside of it (Huther). According to the well known phrase: oderint, dum metuant, hatred and fear are congruous, but love and fear are wholly incongruous. There is nothing said of the fear of God which is the beginning of wisdom (Psalms 111:10), nor of love; hence neither our love to God, nor brotherly love (Lücke), and still less God’s love to us (Calvin, Calov, Spener).

But perfect love casteth out fear.—Τελεία is more than sincera, opposita simulationi (Beza), and ἔξω is not out of itself (Lücke), as if it were in it, but out of the heart. “Love not only does not contain fear, but it also does not suffer it alongside of itself; the love which wholly drives away fear is not love in its first beginning, love as yet weak, but love in its perfection.” (Huther). [Alford says of ἀλλά that it is not here the mere adversative after a negative clause, in which case it would refer to something in which fear is, e.g. φόβος οὐκ ἔστιν ἐν τῇ�, ἀλλ’ (ἐστιν) ἐν τῷ μισεῖ: but it is the stronger adversative, implying, “nay, far otherwise:” “tantum abest ut.… ut;” and renders: Fear existeth not in love, nay, perfect love casteth out fear, etc.—M.].—Where such love fills the heart, there is no room for fear,

Because fear hath punishment.—This is the reason why love does not suffer fear alongside itself. Κόλασις often used in the LXX., [Ezekiel 14:3-4; Ezekiel 14:7; Ezekiel 18:30; Ezekiel 44:12, cf. Wis 11:14; Wis 16:2; Wis 16:24; Wis 19:4.—M.], as in Matthew 25:46 in the sense of punishment, pain of punishment (Besser) under the menace of the κρίσις. Bengel: “tormentum habet; nam diffidit, omnia inimica et adversa sibi fingit ac proponit, fugit, odit.” Hence it is not consciousness of punishment (Lücke), for the punishment has not yet set in; nor condemnation pronounced in the final judgment on him who does not stand in the fellowship of love (Düsterdieck). Ὁ φόβος is neither pro concreto: he that fears (de Wette, Düsterdieck), nor is ἔχει=receives; and least of all: fear holds fast to, tenet, thinks of punishment, knows nothing of clemency and love (Baumgarten-Crusius).—[“The pain felt in expectation of the punishment of Him who is feared” (Huther); “Fear by anticipating punishment has it even now” (Alford).—M.].

But he that feareth is not perfected in love.—Negative connected with the main proposition: ἡ τελεία�, and application to the beginning: φόβος οὐκ ἔστιν ἐν τῇ�. Hence δὲ is by all means to be retained, and neither to be cancelled, nor to be construed=οὖν or καὶ [δὲ is strictly adversative.—M.]. It is accordingly both owing to a want of perfection in the individual and to a want of perfection of love (τετελείωται ἐν τῆ�—ἡ τελεία�), if fear is present, fear, as in Romans 8:15 : οὐκ ἐλάβετε πνεῦμα δουλείας πάλιν εἰς φόβον. Unnecessary [and diluting—M.]. are the conjectures of Grotius, who proposes to read κόλουσιν (mutilationem) instead of κόλασιν (metus amorem mutilat atque infringit, aut prohibet, ne se exserat), and κολουόμενος instead of φοβούμενος (qui mutilatur aut impeditur in dilectione), and of Lamb. Bos who reads κώλυσιν instead of κόλασιν. [Oecumenius says that there are two kinds of godly fear, φόβος προκαταρκτικός, which afflicts men with a sense of their evil deeds and dread of God’s anger, and which is not abiding; and φόβος τελειωτικός, of which it is said, “The fear of the Lord is clean and endureth forever,” Psalms 19:0, and which δέους τοιούτου�.—M.].

The love of God is necessarily united with brotherly love. 1 John 4:19-21.

1 John 4:19. We love God.—Φοβούμενος is contrasted with ἡμεῖς�, without an address, like ἀγαπητοί, 1 John 4:7. There is nothing here to indicate the Conjunctive or an exhortation. Ἡμεῖ s,—emphatically placed first, who are born of God, His children,—rather notes the fact, the Indicative (Calvin, Beza, Aretius, Socinus, Spener, S. Schmidt, Bengel, Rickli, Neander, Ebrard, Erdmann, Huther, Hofmann, Schriftbeweis II. 2, 338); it corresponds, like the whole 1 John 4:19, with οὐχ ὅτι ἡμεῖς ἠγαπήσαμεν τὸν θεόν. Neither the comparison with 1 John 4:7, nor the ground and the further development in 1 John 4:20-21, can warrant the interpretation that we must assume here an imperative Conjunctive (as Düsterdieck does). For the majority of authorities favour the addition of the object, even the οὖν of A. implies as much. [Alford, who is on the same side, fixes the connection thus: “He that feareth is not perfect in love. Our love (abstract, not specified whether to God or our brother) is brought about by, conditioned by, depends upon His love to us first; it is only a sense of that which can bring about our love: and if so, then from the very nature of things it is void of terror, and full of confidence, as springing out of a sense of His love to us. Nor only so: our being new begotten in love is not only the effect of a sense of His past love, but is the effect of that love itself.”—M.]. In the ground

Because He first loved us, πρῶτος is emphatic, and this seems to suggest a primary reference to our love to God, cf. 1 John 4:9-10. From our most natural love to God, grounded on our experience of the love of God, the Apostle now passes on to brotherly love.

1 John 4:20. If any say, I love God, and hate his brother, he is a liar.—Ἐὰν τις εἴτῃ, cf. 1 John 1:6; ὅτι before ἀγαπῶ τὸν θεόν frequently introduces direct speech. This progress confirms the assumption of the Indicative in 1 John 4:19. Here the Apostle resolves the communicate form of speech into the singular form as a conclusion and proof. Μισῇ answers to the next following ὁ μὴ�. Cf. 1 John 3:14-15. “To hate is the positive form of not to love.” (Huther). Cf. Luke 14:26. Col. Matthew 10:37. Every defect of love makes room to hatred. Hence ψεύστης ἐστὶ, as in 1 John 1:6. The reason:

For he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God (or cannot love God) whom he hath not seen?—The main stress lies in the antithesis ὃν ἑώρακεν and ὃν οὐχ ἑώρακεν. The Perfect denotes sight continuing in its effect (de Wette, Düsterdieck, Huther); Lücke: ἑωρακέναι=to have before one’s eyes; a Lapide: vidit et assidue videt. Socinus goes too far in emphasizing the Perfect so as to make it also intimate that it is enough to have seen and become acquainted with one, and that it is not necessary to have him still before one’s eyes. The saying of Gregory: oculi sunt in amore duces, and the remark of Oecumenius: ἐφελκυστικὸν ὅρασις ποὸς�, supply what is understood in the inference. Love to God, the Invisible, is difficult; also 1 Peter 1:8 : ὃν οὐκ εἰδότες� express both joy and amazement. He therefore who performs the more difficult task of loving God whom he does not see, must also perform the easier work of loving his brother whom he does see. The Apostle’s object, consequently, is not to lead us from the love to our brother to the love of God, but only to verify the latter by the former; love to God ever remains the first, the deepest and highest work, which must, however, evidence itself in brotherly love. The interrogative form is as strong and authentic as the simple negation; but the anteposition of the object τὸν θεὸν ὃν οὐχ ἑώρακεν greatly intensifies the thought. Πῶς or οὐ δύναται� presupposes ἐάν τις εἴπῃ and denotes the supposition of the assertion of loving God [under the circumstances.—M.] to be impossible, and the assertion itself a lie. The Apostle’s argumentum ad hominem applies only to the liar (Düsterdieck). Bengel: Sermo modalis; impossibile est, ut talis sit amans Dei, in præsenti. Hence the reference to the imago Dei, which Augustine [apostolus hic pro confesso sumit, Deus se nobis in hominibus offerre, qui inscriptam gerunt ejus imaginem; Johannes nil aliud voluit, quam fallacem esse jactantiam, si quis Deum se amare dicat, et ejus imaginem, quæ ante oculos est, negligat), Sander, Ebrard (who suggests that it is not easier to love one who is visible before us, but has hurt us) and al., find here is by no means warranted, nor that of Grotius who calls man opus Dei pulcherrimum. De Wette also erroneously maintains that God, the ideal, invisible object could only be loved in reality in our brother, the visible, empirical object of love.

1 John 4:21. And this commandment we have from Him.—Καὶ simply adds a new reason: the reference is to a specific commandment. This is a firmius argumentum (Calvin): for quomodo diligis eum, cujus odisti præceptum? (Augustine). ̓Απ’ αὐτοῦ refers to God (Lücke, de Wette, Düsterdieck and al.), not to Christ (Calvin), Sander, Huther and al.). The fact that δεὸν is used afterwards does not militate against the application of αὐτοῦ to θεὸν, since Jesus in His intercessory prayer John 17:3 mentions His own name instead of saying ἐμέ. The analogy of 1 John 1:5; 1 John 2:25 can not upset the context and 1 John 3:23-24, and only indicate that αὐτὸς also may designate Christ, and that not ἐκεῖνος only does designate Him. The ἐντολή is and remains a commandment, and not=ἀγγελία, doctrine (Carpzov).

That he who loveth God, love his brother also.—But this commandment is nowhere found; not even at Matthew 22:39. But the Apostle justly puts in the form of a definite Divine command the essential principle of Christian Ethics, which really and fundamentally carries everything which here (1 John 4:7 sqq. 1Jn 3:10; 1 John 3:19. cf. John 13:34, etc.) is told of the inviolable duty of brotherly love to those who are born of God and in filial love united to their Father (Düsterdieck); ἵνα denotes also here the end and aim and not only the substance of the command, as Huther supposes.


1. God is Love—a sentence, which “is the summary and most simple expression of what the Scripture, the whole Scripture teaches throughout” (Hofmann, Schriftbeweis I. p. 71), and has an important bearing retrospectively and prospectively. Retrospectively it bears even on the Being of God and on the history of God’s revelation in Christ Jesus. If the Being of God is Love it must also be personal and cannot be substance only in the pantheistic sense. Yea, it points to the Trinity or God’s vitality and fulness of life; Him that loves, who is yet not without Him that is loved, and reciprocal Love, as Augustine tried also this purely ethical construction of the Trinity alongside the psychological analogy (memoria, intelligentia, voluntas) in De Trinitate (VI. 1 John 5:0 : and therefore there are not more than three: One who loves Him who is of Him, and One who loves Him of whom He is, and Love Itself. If this is nothing, how is God Love? If it is not Substance, how is God Substance? XI. 1 John 2:0 : If I love something there are three,—I, what I love, and Love itself. For I do not love Love, if I do not love Him that loveth, for love is not where nothing is loved); hence he could, according to Romans 5:5, understand in our passage (1 John 4:7) by ἀγάπη the Holy Ghost, while Didymus explained ἀγάπη of Christ. In the middle ages Augustine was particularly followed by Richard of St. Victor, the mystic scholastic, or the scholastic mystic (cf. Liebner, Hugo von St. Victor p. 82 sqq.), in his work De Trinitate, especially III. 14—and in modern times, first of all, by Sartorius: Die heilige Liebe, Part I. p. 1 sqq., and Liebner: Christologie I (in many places). See also Nitzsch on the Essential Trinity of God in the Studien und Kritiken, 1841, pp. 295–345, especially p. 337 sqq.

2. Retrospectively, traces of this truth may be found in the History of the Revelation of God in Exodus 34:6; Psalms 103:8-13; Psalms 86:5; Psalms 86:15; Deuteronomy 32:6; Is. 73:16; Jeremiah 31:9. But. John treats in the most comprehensive manner, with perfect ease and certainty this most profound thought which would never have occurred to any thinker out of his own strength and reason! The heavens declare the glory and majesty of God only, (Psalms 19:0.) His word alone declares His grace. In nature we meet His handiwork, His Power and Wisdom, in His word alone do we encounter His Love and Mercy. The axioms “God is a Spirit” (John 4:24), and “God is Love” set forth the most vital truths concerning the Nature and Being of God.—“Spirit is His Nature, Love His Life” (Schöberlein), or Spirit is the Substance and Nature, Love the character of God and not only in His attitude.

3. Prospectively this Johannean saying points to the life of knowledge and of demeanour. Sartorius in his “Heilige Liebe” has based on this saying the whole of his Ethics. Cf. also Köhler, “Gott der allein Gute” (God the Only Good One) in Studien und Kritiken 1856, p, 426 sqq. “Practicam definitionem Dei proponit 1 John 4:8 : Deus caritas est. Ex caritate omnia Dei opera procedunt, et Spiritus Sanctus a Patre et Filio ab æterno procedens est substantialis amor Patris et Filii. In tempore Deus ex caritate omnia creavit, ex caritate misit Filium ad opus redemtionis: præstandum, ex caritate dat Spiritum Sanctum, qui similes motus in cordibus credentium accendit, ex caritate in vita æterna a facie ad faciem beatis sese intuendum præstabit.—Omnia in caritate et ex caritate agit (Joh. Gerhard Exeg. 2. p. 71). But we must guard against straightway identifying Love, which is the Nature of God, with the Personality of God which is the logical presupposition of the former (against Liebner, i. 1, 111), and to take care not to combine Love with Truth and Righteousness (as does Nitzsch, System § 63. 1), for communication of self is implied in the nature of Love, but not in the nature of truth and holiness, and what becomes of the difference between παιδεία and κόλασις, of the anti-scriptural conception of ἀποκατάστασις τῶν πάντων and the wrathless God in Origen and Schleiermacher? Cf. Thomasius, Christi Werk und Person, i. p. 127 sqq.; Philippi, Glaubenslehre, 2. p. 79 sqq.

4. The love of God was revealed in the sending of His only begotten Son. 1 John 4:2; 1 John 4:9-10; 1Jn 4:12; 1 John 4:14. Hence He is called μονογενής=μόνος γεννώμενος (John 1:14; John 1:18; John 3:16; John 3:18), and not πρωτότοκος (Romans 8:29; Colossians 1:15; Colossians 1:18; Hebrews 1:6; Revelation 1:5). The greatness of the Sent One and the object of His Mission are designed to mark the love of Him that sent Him. The reference to the first-born would mark the success of the Mission and the work of the Sent One. There is no other proof of the love of the Father, equal to this: Christ, the Son of God by His appearing and message compensates us for the want of seeing the Invisible God (1 John 4:12. Joh 14:9). Hofmann, Schriftbeweis, 1:71.

5. To see, know, believe on, confess and testify of Jesus the Son of God on the part of the Apostles, to hear, know, believe and confess on the part of the Church, is indispensable to the life-fellowship of God with us, and of us with God, since, through and through ethical, it can only be acquired and preserved by an ethical process. With the new birth out of God, spiritual regeneration, begins the life-process of sanctification. To remain untouched, unmoved in the presence of Jesus, or only to be turned to Him outwardly, or even to turn away from Him, to deny Him in doubt or decided unbelief, is immorality.
6. The nature of this life-fellowship, begun with our regeneration, is mutuality in continuous reciprocity of action; He to and in us, we in Him, believingly knowing and confessing Him, living and loving, we full of confidence, He in His ever prevenient grace and work of grace to and in us.
7. The degrees of development are given by Bengel thus: “Sine timore et amore, cum timore sine amore, cum timore et amore, sine timore cum amore.” And Augustine: “Timor quasi locum præparat caritati. Si autem nullus timor, non est, qua intret caritas. Timor Dei sic vulnerat, quo medici ferramentum. Timor medicamentum, caritas sanitas. Timor servus est caritatis. Timor est custos et pædagogus legis, donec veniat caritas.” Though man in his sin begin with servile fear before God, in the presence of God’s Nature of Love and attitude of Love he will progress in filial fear even unto fearlessness and confidence in all humility.

8. Brotherly love is and remains the measure of our life from God, from whom comes all love; he that abides in God, cannot be without love, and he that is without love cannot be in God, nor can God abide in him. He, who is Love, has thus ordained it Himself; it is His Will, His explicit commandment, even as it is in conformity with His Nature.

9. [Wordsworth on 1 John 4:10 : “A statement of the doctrine of the Atonement, and a statement the more remarkable, because it anticipates the objections that have been made to it in later times.—These objections have taken the following form. God, it is said, is Love (1 John 4:8). He loves us, and He loves His only-begotten Son. We are sinners; and as long as we are sinners, and without pardon from God, we have no hope of heaven. As sinners we owe an infinite debt to God, which we can never pay. But God is infinite in Love; He willeth not that any should perish (2 Peter 3:9), but that all should be saved (1 Timothy 2:4). He can forgive us the debt. He can do this freely. To suppose that He cannot do so, is to set limits to His Omnipotence. To imagine that He will not do so, is to disparage His Love. To allege, that He will require an equivalent for the debt, is to represent the God of mercy as a rigorous exactor, and to believe that He required such a price for our pardon, as the blood of His own beloved Son, and that He exposed Him who is perfectly innocent, to the death of the cross for our sakes, at the hands of wicked men, is to charge God with cruelty, injustice and weakness; and to suppose Him to be angry with us, at the same time that we say that “He loved us,” and gave His only Son to die for us (1 John 3:16; 1 John 4:10), is, it is alleged, to involve ourselves in inconsistency, and to misrepresent God, as if He were affected by human passions. And lastly, to say that Christ shed His blood as a ransom to deliver us from the captivity of Satan, is, it is argued, to make the Son of God tributary to the Evil One. Such are the objections made by Socinians and others, to the doctrine of the Atonement.—These objections rest on fallacious grounds. They proceed on the supposition that as sinners we are only debtors to God. But in His relation to us, God is not only a Creditor, but He is our Lawgiver and Judge, our King and Lord; and He is perfectly just and holy.

Besides, as St. John teaches (1 John 3:4), the, essence of sin is, that it is a violation of God’s Law, and all are sinners (1 John 1:10). And God represents Himself in Scripture as a Moral Governor, infinite in justice, and when we contemplate Him as He is represented by Himself in His own Word, and when we regard sin as it is in His sight, and as it is described in the Holy Scriptures, we must conclude that He is grievously offended by sin; and He has declared in His word that He is angry with it and will punish it. The wrath of God is revealed against all ungodliness (Romans 1:18). The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23).—But this proposition is not at variance, as has been alleged, with St. John’s declaration, that God loved us, and sent His own Son, the only begotten, that we might live through Him; and that herein consists Love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son a propitiation for our sins.

That which God loved in us was not our sin, but our nature. It was that nature which God Himself had made in His own likeness, and which we had marred, and which He desired to repair. And because He hates sin, and knows its consequences, even death eternal, and because He loved our nature which was exposed by it to everlasting perdition; and because being infinitely just, He must punish sin, which He, who is infinitely pure, must hate, and which He who is infinitely true, has declared that He will punish; and because the sins of the whole world are so heinous, and because they demand a satisfaction infinite in value, and because without shedding of blood there is no remission (Hebrews 9:22); therefore, in His immense love for our nature, which He had made and which we had marred by sin, He sent His own Son, God of God, to take that Nature, the Nature of us all, in order to be the substitute of all, and Saviour of all, and to become our Emmanuel, God with us (Matthew 1:23), God manifest in the flesh (1 Timothy 3:16), partaking of our flesh and blood and to be the Lord our Righteousness (Jeremiah 23:6; Jeremiah 33:16), and to suffer death, the wages of sin, in our nature, as our Proxy and Representative, and to appease God’s wrath by an adequate propitiation, and to take away our guilt, and to redeem us from bondage and death by the priceless ransom of His own blood, and to deliver us by His death from him who had the power of it, even the devil, and to reconcile us to God, and to restore us to His favour, and to effect our atonement with Him, and to purchase for us the heavenly inheritance of everlasting life. See Hebrews 2:14; Hebrews 2:17.—As Origen says (in Matthew 16:0.): “Homo quidem non potest dare aliquam commutationem pro anima sua (Psalms 49:9; Matthew 16:26); Deus autem pro animabus omnium dedit commutationem, pretiosum sanguinem Filii sui (1 Peter 1:18).” “Si non fuisset peccatum, non necesse fuerat Filium Dei Agnum fieri; nec opus fuerat Eum in carne positum jugulari; sed mansisset hoc, quod in principio erat, Deus Verbum. Verum, quoniam introiit peccatum in hunc mundum, peccatiautem necessitas propitiationem requirit, et propitiatio non fit nisi per hostiam, necessarium fuit pro-videri hostiam pro peccato.” (ibid. hom. 4 in Num.) If it be said that according to this statement the just suffer for the unjust, and that the beloved Son of God was delivered to death for the offences of those who did hot love Him, but were at enmity with Him, this is perfectly true; it is the assertion of God Himself in Holy Scripture, see 1 Peter 3:18; 2Co 5:21; 1 Peter 1:19.—The Just suffered for the unjust. Yes, suffered for a time. But this is not at variance with daily experience. Parents suffer for children; brethren for brethren; friends for friends; subjects for sovereigns, and sovereigns for subjects. And if we are to reject the doctrine of the Atonement on the plea that vicarious sufferings are not reconcilable with justice, we cannot stop short of Deism or even of Atheism. Cf. Bp. Butler’s Analogy of Religion. Part II. 1 John 5:0.

If any victim was to take away sin, that victim must be innocent. In order to take away infinite guilt, it must be infinitely innocent. The price paid for Infinite Justice must be infinite in value. In order to suffer for men the victim must be human; and in order to satisfy God, it must be Divine. Be it remembered also that the Son of God suffered willingly. He gave Himself a ransom for all (1 Timothy 2:6). The Good Shepherd giveth His life for the sheep (John 10:11). Cf. Matthew 20:28; Galatians 1:4; Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 5:2; Titus 2:14; Hebrews 9:14.—They also for whom He gave Himself are His own flesh and blood. He is their Head, they His members. They are one with Him.—Still further.—By His meritorious sufferings in that human nature, which He has taken, and joined forever in His own Person to the Nature of God, He has delivered that nature from sin and death, and has exalted it to the right hand of God. Therefore He suffered joyfully. To do evil is indeed evil; and to suffer evil in eternity, is dreadful; but to suffer evil in time, in order that others by our means may be happy in eternity, is not evil, but glorious. Earthly conquerors die with joy in the hour of victory. Much more Christ. He knew that suffering was His path to glory. He knew that because he was obedient to death, even to the death of the cross, therefore God would highly exalt Him, and give Him a Name above every name (Philippians 2:8-9). He saw of the travail of His soul and was satisfied (Isaiah 53:11). Doubtless, in His human flesh He shrank from the cup of agony and from the anguish of the cross. But even in the glorious hour of His transfiguration He had talked with Moses and Elias of His death (Luke 9:31). His Divine eye pierced through the clouds of suffering, and saw the visions of glory to which it would lead, a victory over Satan, a world rescued from his grasp, God’s justice satisfied, His wrath appeased, His love glorified; and so the cross became a triumphal chariot, in which the Conqueror rode in victory (Colossians 2:14), and mounted to heaven, and bore mankind with Him through the gates of the heavenly palace of the everlasting capital and was greeted by the song of the angels; “Lift up your heads,” etc. Psalms 24:7.

It has been alleged that if by sin we were prisoners to Satan, therefore the price of Christ’s blood which He paid upon the cross for our liberation from Satan was paid to Satan. But this we deny. See Greg. Nazianzen, Orat. 45, p. 862, ed. Paris, 1778. It might as well be said that the ransom paid for the delivery of prisoners from a king’s prison, is paid to the gaoler in whose custody they are. We, by our sins, had made ourselves slaves of Satan: and as a just punishment for our sins, we were made prisoners of Satan. Satan was God’s executioner against us. He was our gaoler. Tophet is ordained of old (Isaiah 30:33), as one of God’s instruments of death (Psalms 7:14). But Christ, by dying for us, delivered us from death. He rescued us from the hands of Satan, and paid the price of our ransom, not to Satan, but to God. He delivered us from Satan by offering Himself to God. (Cf. Romans 3:23-26).

They who contravene the doctrine of the Atonement often claim the credit of exercising their Reason, and deny that unbelief of the doctrine of the Atonement rests on the foundation of reason. But a right use of reason leads to a firm belief in the doctrine of the Atonement; and a denial of it proceeds from an abuse of reason.—

The doctrine of the Atonement cannot be discovered by reason. No; but we can prove by reason that the Holy Scriptures are from God, and that the doctrine of the Atonement is clearly revealed in the Holy Scriptures. And thus this doctrine rests on the foundation of reason. Being a portion of supernatural truth revealed by God in Scripture to the world, it is not to be discovered by reason, or fully comprehended by reason, but it is to be heartily embraced and surely held fast by faith, which implies a right use of reason. And reason teaches us, that it would be very unreasonable to expect, that what is contained in a revelation from such a Being as God to so frail a creature as man, in his present state on earth, should be fully comprehended by reason; and that, if reason could understand everything, there would be no use in revelation, and no place for faith. Right reason itself teaches us that to deny the Lord who bought us (2 Peter 2:1), because we cannot understand, why God allowed sin to prevail, which required the sacrifice of the death of His own ever-blessed Son, would be to renew the indignities of the crucifixion, and to smite our Redeemer with a reed, the reed of our unregenerate reason, when we ought to fall down and worship in faith. Reason itself teaches us that it is very reasonable to expect mysteries in revelation; and that they are our moral discipline, and exercise our humility, patience, faith and hope, and teach us to look forward to that blessed time, when we, who now see through a glass darkly (1 Corinthians 13:12), shall behold the clouds removed, etc. Thus reason leads us to the door of the Holy of Holies; and then we pass within the veil by faith; and there we stand, and with the eye of faith, we behold God enthroned upon the Mercy Seat, sprinkled by the blood of Christ. Further, as reasonable men, looking at the cross of Christ, we see there the most cogent reasons for presenting ourselves, our souls and bodies a living Sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is our reasonable service (Romans 12:1).

This doctrine of the Atonement is the root of Christian practice, and they, who impugn that doctrine, are not only undermining the foundations of Christian faith, but also of Christian morality. This was clearly evinced even in the Apostolic age, by the licentiousness and profligacy, engendered by heretical doctrines, against which St. John contends in his Epistles, concerning the Incarnation and Death of Christ.

We cannot adequately estimate the moral heinousness of sin, without considering the sacrifice which it cost to redeem us from its power and guilt. We cannot duly understand the obligations of love and obedience, under which we lie to Christ, and the motives which constrain us to holiness, without remembering that we are not our own, but have been bought with a price—the blood of Christ—and are therefore bound to glorify Him in our bodies which are His. See 1 Corinthians 6:20.

Accordingly, St. John, having stated the doctrine of the Atonement, proceeds and continues to the end of the Epistle, to enforce the moral duties consequent on this doctrine. “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” He teaches us to contend earnestly for the doctrine of the Atonement, as the groundwork of Christian duty to God and man. Cf. Pearson on the Creed, art. 10. pp. 670–688.—M.].


In love, even in God’s glorious Love thou livest—well, let love live also in thee!—the primal fount of the Love in God streams round thee, and onward to thee, also through thy heart; wilt thou enjoy it without having part thereof?—Out of thee must shine forth that which has been manifested to thee, even the love and kindness of God thy Saviour, which seeks that which is lost. Brotherly love must grow warm in filial love which has been kindled at the Father’s heart.—In thy child people recognize a member of thy family, thy race; and ought not our heavenly Father to be recognized in thee? Therefore exercise thyself in love of the brethren!—Dost thou boast of thy knowledge of God, of understanding the Holy Scripture? prove it in thy brotherly love!—In nature thou seest His handiwork, the traces of His Omnipotence, in Christ the love-purpose of His heart, His peace-thoughts respecting thee (cf. Doctrinal and Ethical No. 2). He takes care that thy sins be atoned for, that thou become not estranged from Him, or keep remote from His life; do not build anew at the wall of partition between Him and thee; such building destroys thy life and thy salvation.—The anticipating offices of friendship are gratifying and humiliating; realize and receive the prevenient grace of God.—As He took the initiative in creation, so He had to take it also in redemption, which is also a creation; and how Has He done it! Though without thee He could create thee, yet Ho neither can nor will save thee without thee.—Above thee rules thy Father, for thee the Son is sent, in thee works His Spirit; do not hinder the work of God for and in thee; do not in unkindness to thyself and thy brethren arrest the perfecting of His work of love.—Do not reject the testimony of eye-and ear-witnesses; surrender to it, receive it in faith, hold it fast in confession; exercise thyself in the love which thou believest and knowest. For to be unloving is to be ungodly, and to be ungodly is to be unloving. If thou art disposed to disparage confession, recollect that like love it radiates from faith; confession is the love of the mouth, love is the confession of the deed, and both come from the heart.—Behind the judgments in the world’s history and in the history of thy life, there is a judgment, to stand in which is salvation and bliss.—The unloving must be undone in the judgment of Him who is Love, before the Judge who desired to become the Saviour.—That cannot be our desire in life which does not give us confidence in the last judgment.—Fear, which does not strengthen but expels love, is worthless; so is also that love, which is unable to overcome fear (cf. Doctrinal and Ethical, NO. 7).—Brotherly love, in comparison with the love of God, is as inferior as is rendering unto Cæsar the things that are Cæsar’s, in comparison with rendering unto God, the things that are God’s; but on that account both must not be undervalued, for both are enjoined upon us. Still it is certain that when the less is wanting, the greater has no room and cannot find the ability to practise it.—Behold of brotherly love: 1. The origin. 2. The measure. 3. The power. 4. The growth. 5. The prize and victory.—Only in obedience to the will of God thou growest in the nature of God and art changing from a creature into a child, from a servant into an heir of God.—The glory of love: 1. Whence is it? 2. Where was it manifested? 3. What does it effect? 4. whither; does it lead?—The power of love 1. on earth with reference to the brethren, even to hostile ones; 2. in heaven, in the judgment, before God and Jesus Christ, the Holy One.—The perfecting of love to the brethren Isaiah 1:0. difficult, 2. appointed, 3. sure, 4. glorious.

Bernard:—God is Love: what then is more precious than love? And he that abides in love, abides in God; what then is more sure than love?

Augustine:—Thou beholdest the Trinity, when thou beholdest Love, for there are three, he that loveth, he that is loved, and reciprocal love.

Luther:—For what shall one say much of it? If one says in a lengthy way, that it is a lofty, noble qualitas in the soul and the most precious and perfect of virtues, as the philosophers and work-teachers discourse of it; all this is nothing in comparison with this word which he pours forth in overflowing eloquence that “God is Love,” and that His Being and Nature is wholly Love. If any tine would paint and produce a likeness of God, he must produce a picture which is wholly love; as if the Divine Nature were nothing else than an oven and fire of love, filling heaven and earth. And again, if Love could be painted and portrayed, it ought to be a picture that is neither real and human, nor angelic and heavenly, but God Himself. See thus the Apostle understands to paint here, that he represents God and Love as identical, in order that by such a noble, precious and lovely picture He may draw and attract us more to Himself and to make us strive to have love among ourselves and to beware of envy, hatred and discord. For as Love is a picture of God, neither a dead picture nor painted on paper, but a living Being of Divine Nature, burning and overflowing with whatever is good, so hatred and envy are a veritable picture of the devil, not human or devilish only, but the devil himself, who is nothing in his nature but an eternal burning of hatred and envy of God and all His works, both man and all creatures; so that that would be the best picture of the devil which would represent all hatred and envy.—As there are also among us still many who hear and teach the Gospel with us, use the same sacraments and affect the manners of genuine Christians; but they are among us like chaff among the wheat; if the battle approaches it becomes manifest whose they are and whither they belong. For there is nothing but pride, vanity, envy, contempt and the devil himself.—It is not a great art to begin a Christian life and love; but it is an art and a task to abide therein and perseveringly to continue therein especially in the presence of temptation and opposition. Although there still are many rough, coarse people that fall off spontaneously like rotten worm-eaten apples or pears, and proceed drowned in their avarice, pride, envy, etc., they are spoiled, useless fruit, wholly unprofitable, that shall and can not remain. But we refer to those who are blown off or struck down by wind and weather, that is, those who suffer themselves to be changed by temptations and thoughts like these: Why should I abide by the doctrine? I well perceive, that it yields no other returns than those of being burdened with the disfavour, contempt, enmity, rage and fury of all the world, that I must risk my body and life, and must ever take the lead against the devil, the world and the flesh, etc. Who can come up to this and persevere, if that is all he is to get?—But it is not to be so; the true course is rather to tear through all opposition, to proceed without heeding obstacles, whether we meet with the sour or the sweet, however it fare with us, be it friend or enemy, or the devil himself and ever to think: I have not entered upon this work in order that the people should give, love or reward me; and therefore no desisting from it though I receive the reward of ingratitude, envy and hatred. It (the world) shall not be so ill to me, as to overcome me with its ill: I will the rather, in opposition to it, continue to do good, regardless of thee or any one else, but for the sake of my Lord Christ, even as He did and still doeth.

Starke:—Have we become partakers of the Divine Nature, if we are heavenly-minded and lead a heavenly life? It is infallible. As much true love, so much resemblance to God. He is a wise teacher who grounds his exhortations more on the Gospel than on the Law. The power and efficacy of encouragements are in proportion to their friendliness and lovingness.—You say much concerning God, but lack the best thing. You know Him in words, but deny Him in works. You do not know Him at all and will not be known of Him.—In order that one, provoked to anger, may not be overcome by the temptation and succumb, he should forthwith remember that “God is Love.” That will be a good medicine to him and preserve him.—None can attain the life of glory without having first experienced here on earth the life of grace in Christ.—Holy Scripture does not expatiate in multiplied phrases which mean the same thing; but what it does repeat, is peculiarly emphatic, and intended to be carefully remembered.—Nothing can be more sweet, agreeable and delightful to us poor men in the vale of misery of this world, than to hear and to receive the assurance that God loves us. The love of God is the cause and rule of our love.—Love is not the cause of our union with God, but it assures, cements, confirms, and preserves it.—Beloved, though sometimes you do not feel any thing of the grace of the union of God and your heart, if you love cordially and abide in love, you have sufficient evidence that you are nevertheless united with God.—None is able to commend love to others with a good conscience, joyfulness and success, who does not himself walk in love. Preachers, more especially, ought to remember that when they exhort others to love, they themselves should copy the example of Christ and practise love.—God is willing, if we do not hinder Him, to make His love more full and to increase its efficacy; and then all the powers of the inner man do also grow in us, and among their number, the love of our neighbour.—Of what avail are the best testimonials if conscience contradicts them? A heart, full of love, is the best witness of friendship with God that endures also in the fire of temptation.—Thou art pleased when a loved friend comes to see thee, and is thy guest for a few days. Rejoice! God, thy best friend, dwells in thee, abides with thee, and possesses thee altogether, but thou art His property and possession. With God thou hast all things.—The love of God manifested in Jesus Christ, is the most excellent object of our faith and knowledge. The more we study it, the greater is our taste of its sweetness.—A glorious mark of the Christian religion as the only Divine religion, viz.: it effects so great a union between man and God, that God is in man and man in God.—O, wicked man, how canst thou be joyful in anticipation of the judgment-day? Beware that thou do deceive thyself with a false security instead of joyfulness!—Good Christian, whenever thou art about to do or to omit a thing, ask thyself: did my Saviour also do or omit this? It will be of great benefit to thee and happily further thee in thy Christian course.—Be not afraid if thou art summoned before an earthly court of justice; if thou lookest joyfully forward to the great judgment of the world, why shouldest thou not be equally joyful in respect of a little human judgment day? Wherever a Christian may be, he should always suffer himself to be seen without fear or dismay. [Verse of old German hymn.—M.].

A. H. Francke:—One droplet of faith is more glorious than a whole ocean of science, even though it be the historical science of the Divine word.

Heubner:—Love has illuminating power, while hatred darkens the soul. The more you love, the greater the brightness of your knowledge; the more you love, the less it is possible for you to be deceived.—Want of love is a token of want of real knowledge of God. All knowledge, all theology must be rooted in love. Theology without the love of God is deception and show. What dry metaphysics have often been called religion and philosophy of religion, without containing a breath of love!—God who is Love can only be known e praxi, ex usu; as long as I have not made personal experience of the infinite Love of God, I can at the most only repeat what others say of God. Lauding the love of God from what is seen of Him in nature, is not the shadow of the love of God in Christ.—Proud philosophy could assert virtue and morality without the love of God and even go as far as to maintain that virtue without religion is even stronger and purer [than virtue with religion—M.].—Want of love to God is the most telling proof of the fall. For in the statu integro our first sign of life ought to be love to God, even as a babe is naturally drawn to its mother’s breast. It is true that our love to God proceeds from a sense of shame, from conviction [of sin and ingratitude—M.]; but that cannot now be altered: and he that would deny it ought first to turn the whole world round. And who will most readily own it? They who have begun to love God: they are painfully aware how little they love God!—If there had been no apostasy, no breach, what necessity would there be for reconciliation? If reconciliation could have been effected without the Son, by our own efforts, by our own improvement and amending, what purpose would have been served by the sending of the Son?—This is the miracle of love in God, that He kept immovable in His Love and continued to love His creature now as ever, sought the creature although the creature had rebelled in enmity against Him. The love of God, therefore is eternal, unchangeable and having its cause in Himself, without having ever been greater or less than it is. This miracle of love no man can know before he has become aware of his misery, has had his eyes opened and seen with tearful eyes how loving the Lord is.—God has loved us; He has also deemed my neighbour worthy of His love; if God loves him, am I to refuse loving him? A knowledge of the love of God that has remained unfruitful, is not yet perfected.—There is sympathy or antipathy between the plants of God’s planting and of those of his enemy’s planting. The children of God are sensible of the spirit of affinity or antipathy in others. So it is said of Coccejus, who beyond all other things strove after a pure heart, that he frequently knew men at the first encounter.—He that underrates historical evidence, overthrows the whole foundation of Christianity and opens the gate and the door to all deception and delusion. Historical knowledge and personal spiritual life-experience together constitute true Christianity. God is through and through Love, His whole Essence, His real Nature is Love, i.e. is essentially His property to communicate Himself, to impart Himself, to cause His glory and felicity to stream forth on others [i.e. His creatures—M.], as it is the essential property of the sun to shine. It is true that the love of God, like the heat of the sun, manifests itself to men only by way of gradation. God is Love to all who stand in love and turn to His Love, but He is a consuming fire to those who stand outside of love. Love spurned brings torment: evil men, because of their own guilt, experience a sense of wrath. Every thing depends upon the attitude of men towards God.—The Bible is, as it were, the trumpet of the love of God, not nature, by a long way; it is only to believing Christians that nature becomes the trumpet of the love of God. The first tones of the love of God may be heard in Genesis 1:3.; but they sound loudest in the New Testament.—Man is not lost as long as he believes in love; but he is lost, when he loses that belief. Chrysostom says that the devil would be saved if he could believe in the love of God.—Love changes God the Judge into God the Father.—He that cannot confide in love, is unable to endure the look of the Most Loving. Who but those who have pure and indefatigable love are in this world like God and representatives of God?—Where we experience fear, a secret dread, aversion to and distrust of God, love is not yet perfected; fear is the first discipline of boys.—1 John 4:19. The whole wonderful structure of the Christian system; the one half is morality: to love God with every thing implied therein; the other half the doctrine of faith, the conditioning ground: the love of God to us sinners in Christ. The ground must be before the superstructure.—Love is most touching where it prevents the unworthy.—We can only exhibit our love to God the Unseen in His children that are seen.—Christianity indissolubly unites the love of God and the love of the brethren; its characteristic is that in it religion and virtue commingle in the Spirit of love.

Gerok (1 John 4:7-12): Love the fundamental law of the world: 1. As written in heaven: for God is Love. 2. As written on the cross: for Christ is Love. 3. As written in our hearts: for Christianity is Love.

Leonhardi (1 John 4:9): The manifestation of the love of God to us in holy Christmas. It shines forth: 1. from the Divine Christmas-gift, and 2. from its blessed destination for us. It was manifested 1. in God sending His only-begotten Son into the world, 2. in that we should live through Him.

Clauss:—The sending of Christ is the greatest proof of Divine Love. 1. Christ is the Only Begotten. 2. He brings life to the world.

The same (on 1 John 4:12-16):—The mystery of the Divine Essence. 1. In which sense does It always remain concealed? 2. In what form has It been revealed? 3. With what eye only are we able to recognize It?

Wilhelm:—The Church of the Lord. 1. The good it has; 2. The confession it makes: the signs whereby it is known.

Leonhardi:—Whereon is based our Trinity-rejoicing? 1. We know that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world (1 John 4:14-15); We have learned in the Son the love which the Father has in regard to us (1 John 4:15-16); we know from our love to one another, that He has given us of His Spirit.

Luthardt (1 John 4:9, Advent-Sermon):—The love of God in Christ is our life. I. The love of God; 2. The sending of his Song of Song of Solomon 3:0. Our life.

Spurgeon (1 John 4:19):—Real love viewed 1. as to its origin, 2. as to its maintenance, 3. as to its progress.

Ahlfeld (Marriage address on 1 John 4:19, and Sermon on 1 John 4:9-16):—With threefold bonds are we tied to the Triune God. 1. In the love among one another God abides in us; 2. In the Holy Ghost we abide in God and God in us; 3. In the confession of the Son of God, God abides in us and we in God.

On the Epistle for the first Sunday after Trinity, 1 John 4:16-21.

Heubner:—The belief, that God is Love, our only consolation in evil times. 1. Why is it thus? 2. How do we become capable of this consolation? The Divine nature of love. 1. Proof (1 John 4:16-18); 2. Inferences (1 John 4:19-21).—God is Love.—1. Explanation. 2. Proof (also Defence); 3. Duties, arising therefrom, incumbent upon us.—Belief in the love of God. 1. Description of what it is, and whereon it is founded; 2. The power of this belief; 3. Inferences (resistance to attacks on that belief; its animation by the imitation of Christ).

C. J. Nitzsch (1813 during the siege of Wittenberg, inaugural Sermon on the Epistle for 1st Sunday after Trinity, 1 John 4:16-21):—The value of true love under the fear of exciting prospects of the future. Love exalts us above the whole of our earthly future. Her pains are deep, her complainings sincere; yes, she looks so much the more sadly out into the future, because she can never suffer for herself alone, but true love can nevermore cease to confide or despair of deliverance. To all true love is accorded the privilege of overcoming the world and to soar beyond time in the strength of true faith. She casts the brightest looks into the shadow of the future. She is not blind through fear, and knows that every time will have its own salvation, its own footprints of Divine Love, from the ruins of the old there will spring up the new and the better, in the school of distress there will mature and prosper a nobler liberty and wisdom of the nations, our children and the grandchildren of our race in a rejuvenated world will think with emotion and edification of their fathers, and we ourselves shall never fall short of the assistance and comfort which we need in our weakness. And bright-eyed love has also an indefatigable arm; it makes the best provision for whatever may be in store.

Schleiermacher:—Perfection of love. 1. The token, indicated by the Apostle, of the perfection of love. 2. That that, whereof he treats, can only be achieved by the perfection of love.

Kapff:—God is Love, and love only makes us one with God.

Gerok:—Another love sermon. 1. The eternal fountain of love. 2. The holy duty of love. 3. The true test of love. 4. The blissful happiness of love.

Ranke:—Life in love is the noblest life! let that be our conviction; we will abide in this love! let that be our resolve; then God will abide with us, let that be our blessing.

J. Müller:—Love, the Essence of the Christian life. 1. The Christian life begins with love to God through Christ; 2. it develops into love to our neighbour; 3. it perfects itself in the perfection of this twofold love.

Harless:—Who knows and loves the living God who is Love? 1. He who instead of deifying his own love, knows and loves God in His love-manifestation in Christ; 2. he who, instead of loving God without fear, in his love fears God without torment; 3. he who, instead of calling in such love all the world his brethren, loves every one, but after the manner of God in Christ.

Spitta:—The word of the Holy Apostle John concerning love. 1. A word of doctrine, wherein he teaches us love; 2. A word of exhortation, wherein he exhorts us to practice love.

Claus Harms:—Let us love God! Consider 1. The ground of the love of God, 2. its power and manifestation inwardly, 3. its power and manifestation outwardly.

Bobe:—God is love! 1. A confession of gratitude (1 John 4:8); 2. a voice of comfort (1 John 4:17-18); 3. a rule of life (1 John 4:19-20).

Florey:—The hallowing power of love on the heart of man. 1. It unites the heart of man separated from God (1 John 4:16); 2. it calms—the anxious heat (1 John 4:17-18); 3. it warms—the cold heart (1 John 4:19); 4. it purifies—the impure and sinful heart (1 John 4:20); it animates and fructifies—the dead heart (1 John 4:21).

Genzken (Confession-address):—What do I yet lack of true Christianity? 1. Its beginning is that we know the love which God has to us. 2. Its progress, that we abide in this love; 3. Its full measure, that the experience of its hallowing power expels the fear of death and the judgment; 4. The test of all this is brotherly love.

[Pearson:—1 John 4:9. Our belief in Christ, as the eternal Son of God, is necessary to raise us unto a thankful acknowledgment of the infinite love of God, appearing in the sending of His only-begotten Son into the world to die for sinners. This love of God is frequently extolled and admired by the Apostles. See John 3:16; Romans 8:5; Romans 8:32. If we look upon all this as nothing else but that God should cause a man to be born after another manner than other men, and when he was so born after a peculiar manner, yet a mortal man, should deliver him to die for the sins of the world; I see no such great expression of His love in this way of redemption more than would have appeared, if He had redeemed us in any other way. It is true indeed, that the reparation of lapsed man is no act of absolute necessity in respect of God, but that he hath as freely designed our redemption as our creation: considering the misery from which we are redeemed, and the happiness to which we are invited, we cannot but acknowledge the singular love of God, even in the act of redemption itself; but yet the Apostles have raised that consideration higher, and placed the choicest mark of the love of God in choosing such means, and performing in that manner our reparation, by sending His Only-begotten into the world; by not sparing His own Son, by giving and delivering Him up to be scourged and crucified for us, and the estimation of this act of God’s love must necessarily increase proportionably to the dignity of the Son thus sent into the world; because the more worthy the Person of Christ before He suffered, the greater His condescension unto such a suffering condition; and the nearer His relation to the Father, the greater His love to us, for whose sakes He sent Him to suffer. Wherefore to derogate any way from the Person and Nature of our Saviour before He suffered, is so far to undervalue the love of God, and consequently to come short of that acknowledgment and thanksgiving which is due unto Him for it. If then the sending of Christ into the world were the highest act of the love of God which could be expressed; if we be obliged to a return of thankfulness some way correspondent to such infinite love; if such a return can never be made without a true sense of that infinity, and a sense of that infinity of love cannot consist without an apprehension of an infinite dignity of nature in the Person sent; then it is absolutely necessary to believe, that Christ is so the Only-begotten Son of the Father, as to be of the same substance with Him, of glory equal, of majesty coëternal.—M.].

[Barrow: (on 1 John 4:9).—How indeed possibly could God have demonstrated a greater excess of kindness to us, than by thus, for our sake and good, sending His dearest Son out of His bosom into this sordid and servile state, subjecting Him to all the infirmities of our frail nature, exposing Him to the worst inconveniences of our low condition? What expressions can signify, what comparisons can set out, the stupendous vastness of this kindness? If we should imagine that a great prince should put his only son (a son most lovely, and worthily most beloved) into rags, should dismiss him from his court, should yield him up to the hardest slavery, merely to the intent that he hereby might redeem from captivity the meanest and basest of his subjects, how faint a resemblance would this be of that immense goodness, of that incomparable mercy, which in this instance the King of all the world hath declared toward us His poor vassals, His indeed unworthy rebels?—And what greater reason of joy can there be, than such an assurance of His love, on whose love all our good dependeth, in whose love all our felicity consisteth? What can be more delightful than to view the face of our Almighty Lord so graciously smiling upon us?—M.].

[Bernard, de Nativ. Serm. 1. Apparuerat ante potentia in rerum creatione, apparebat Sapientia in earum gubernatione; sed benignitas misericordiæ nunc maxime apparuit in humanitate.

P. Leo M., de Nativ. Serm. 1. Semper quidem diversis modis, multisque mensuris humano generi bonitas divina consuluit, et plurima providentiæ suæ munera omnibus retro seculis clementer impertüt; sed in novissimis temporibus omnem abundantiam solitæ benignitatis excessit; quando in Christ. ipsa ad peccatores misericordia, ipsa ad errantes veritas, ipsa ad mortuos vita descendit, etc.—M.].

[Secker: (on 1 John 4:18).—For want of cultivating the love of 

God, the thoughts of Him are dreadful to the generality of men. Too many are tempted to wish in their hearts, if they durst, that He were not, or had no regard to human conduct; and if any of them can but persuade themselves for a while on the strength of some poor cavil, to hope what they wish, they triumph in the imagined discovery, that sets them so much at ease. From the same default, humbler and righter minds consider Him very often in no better light, than as a rigid lawgiver arbitrarily exacting a number of almost impracticable duties, and enforcing them with the dread of insupportable punishments: whence they are ready to sink under the terrors of religion, even while they are conscientiously fulfilling its precepts. Looking on God as the object of love would rectify these mistaken conceptions entirely. We should all see and feel, that a Being of infinite goodness, directed by infinite wisdom, is the highest blessing: and the want of such an one would be the greatest calamity that is possible: we should be satisfied that the strictest of His laws, and the severest of their sanctions, are means which He knows to be needful for our good; that His mercy will forgive on repentance our past transgressions of them; that His grace will strengthen us to keep them better; and that He will never reject a soul affectionately devoted to Him. In proportion then as we are so, all terrifying apprehensions will vanish from us. “There is no fear in love” saith the Apostle; “but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment.”—M.].
[Jortin:—The love of God differs so much from the love of sensible objects, and from our other passions, that it can hardly be called a passion in the same sense in which they are so called. It differs in this, that it is at first raised, and afterwards kept up, by reason. It is therefore a religious habit and virtue, which no other passion is, unless it hath God and morality and religion for its objects. In this also it differs from them, that being both produced and preserved by reason, it is a sober and moderate affection, accompanied with no blind impetuosity, no restless uneasiness, no violent commotion of mind, like other passions; and as it riseth not to the same height with them, so neither does it sink as low at other times, but shews itself in an uniform and sedate love of righteousness, of every thing that God approves. Some persons, not duly considering this, sincerely desire to please God, and carefully endeavour to lead a good life; and yet sometimes are afraid that they have no love for God, because they experience not in themselves that warmth of affection, to which others pretend, and which is expressed and required in some books of devotion. They may learn from the Scriptures, that where there is obedience there is always love; and that whoever delights in holiness, and justice, and goodness, and mercy, and truth, may reasonably conclude that his heart is right towards God. Others looking upon the love of God as upon a mere passion, a disposition of mind producing devotion and ending there, have excited in themselves a high zeal and affection for God, and a firm persuasion, that they were His favourites: and, having done this, have thought themselves arrived at Christian perfection; whilst at the same time they have perhaps been under the dominion of evil habits, and addicted to wrath, malice, covetousness, censoriousness, injustice, pride, ambition, sensuality. This strange mixture of hypocrisy, vice and enthusiasm, hath been common in all ages, and ever will be so. There are always those, whose religion and devotion is, to use the words of St. Paul, “sounding brass,” or clamour and confidence; whilst true goodness is modest and unaffected, and teaches men to make less noise, to live more honestly. To preserve us from such delusions, Christ hath told us, that we should either keep His commandments, or not pretend to love Him; and that it signifies nothing to say to Him, “Lord, Lord,” and not to do what He requires.—Other love towards God than this the Scriptures know not: they never recommend that spiritual fever, those warm transports, and that bold familiarity, which some zealots affect; nor that cold, refined, mysterious, and disinterested devotion, which another sort of fanatics require: for, first, the love of God is sober reason, and not blind passion; reverence, and not presumption: secondly, it is gratitude; and we “love Him, because He first loved us.”—M.].

[Horne: (on 1 John 4:21).—Observe the firm basis on which is forever fixed the morality of the Gospel. How clear in its principles! how powerful in its motives! “We love God, because He first loved us;” “and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. If God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.” For “he who loveth Him that begat, loveth Him also that is begotten of Him.” The head of the most unlearned cannot but comprehend the meaning of these few words: and the heart of the most learned must feel the force of them. Such is the ground of that charity, which performeth every duty of social life, and fulfilleth the law. To inculcate and produce in us this heavenly disposition, is the end of the Gospel and all its doctrines. It is deduced in Scripture even from those that may seem to be of the most mysterious and speculative nature: the unity of the Divine Persons; the Divinity and the satisfaction of Christ; doctrines, which cannot therefore be denied or degraded, without removing or proportionably lessening the most endearing and affecting incitements to the Christian life. Indeed the happy temper of a Christian is the natural and kindly effect of the great evangelical truths, when treasured up in the mind, and made the subjects of frequent meditation. The ideas of a reconciled God; a Saviour and Intercessor on high; a gracious Spirit, informing our ignorance, purifying our hearts, relieving our necessities, alleviating our cares, and comforting our sorrows: such ideas as these enable us to bridle the appetites of the body, and to calm the emotions of the mind; to bear with patience and cheerfulness the calamities of life: they sweeten the tempers, and harmonize the affections, resolving them all into one, diversified according to the different situation of its proper object; of which grief laments the absence, and fear apprehends the loss; desire pursues it; hope has it in view; anger rises against obstruction, and joy triumphs in possession. Thus religion fixes the heart on its treasure, in faith without wavering, and resignation without reserve: it draws the affections upwards towards heaven, as the sun does the exhalations of the earth, to return in fruitful showers, and bless the world. M.].

[Sermons and Sermon Themes.

1 John 4:8. Leland, John, The goodness of God. 4. Serm. Disc. I. p. 225.

Dwight, T., Benevolence of God is proved by the works of creation and providence.—Benevolence of God, as exhibited by revelation.—Theology I. pp. 119, 139.

Scott, T., God is Love. Works, 4, 69.

1 John 4:9. Tillotson, Abp., The love of God to men in the incarnation of Christ. Serm. 6, 3.

1 John 4:9-10. Simeon, C., The love of God in giving His Son for us. Works 20, 479.

1 John 4:10. Henry, Phil., Christ is our Propitiation. M. Henry’s Works. Appendix, 40.

1 John 4:10-11. The unpurchased love of God in the redemption of the world by Jesus Christ, a great argument for Christian benevolence.

1 John 4:11. Horne, Bp., Charity recommended on its true motive. Disc. 5, 441.

1 John 4:18. Saurin, La tranquillité qui nait de la parfaite charité Serm. 6. 483.

1 John 4:18-21. M’Cheyne, R. M., The perfect love of God to us. Remains, 368.

1 John 4:19. Erskine, R., Preventing love; or God’s love the cause of our love to Him. Works, 2, 1.

Wardlaw, R., On the question how far disinterestedness is an essential quality in legitimate love to God. Christian Ethics, 278.

Chalmers, T., Gratitude, not a sordid affection. Works, 8, 222.

1 John 4:20. Howe, John, The love of God and our brother, considered in Seventeen Sermons. Works, 6, 1.

Williams, Isaac, Love the mark of God’s children. Serm. 2, 51.

1 John 4:21. Smalridge, Bp., The necessary connection between the love of God and our brother. Sermons 310.

Wilberforce, S., The love of the brethren. Sermons on several occasions. 78.—M.].


1 John 4:7; 1 John 4:7. [German: “The love.”—M.]

1 John 4:7; 1 John 4:7. πᾶςὁἀγαπῶν without τὸν θεὸν, B. C. Sin. al.—A. adds τὸν θεὸν.

1 John 4:8; 1 John 4:8. [German: “Knew not God;” Alford: “hath never known God;” Lücke “hath never learned to know Him at all.” The force of the Aorist that he hath not once known God should be brought out.—M.]

1 John 4:8; 1 John 4:8. ὁ μὴ� is wanting in Cod. Sin., but adds ἔγνωκεν instead of γινώσκει (from 1 John 5:7). A.

1 John 4:9; 1 John 4:9. [ἐν ἡμῖν=German: “in us” (an uns) “in regard to us.” Alford.—M.]

1 John 4:9; 1 John 4:9. [ὅτι, not “because” but “that;” so German, Alford, Lillie.—M.]

1 John 4:9; 1 John 4:9. [German: “His Son, the only begotten.”—M.]

1 John 4:10; 1 John 4:10. ἐν τούτῳ; render “In this” as in 1 John 4:9. instead of the unnecessary variation “herein” of E. V.—M.]

1 John 4:10; 1 John 4:10. [German: “exists” Wordsworth “consists.”—M.]

1 John 4:10; 1 John 4:10. αὐτὸς, the most authentic reading; A has ἐκεῖνος.

1 John 4:10; 1 John 4:10. Instead of ἀπεστείλεν, Cod. Sin. reads ἀπέσταλκεν as in 1 John 4:9; 1 John 4:14.

1 John 4:10; 1 John 4:10. [German: “And sent His Son as propitiation for our sins.” More correctly: “And sent His Son a propitiation for our sins.” No need for the supplement to be in E. V.—M.]

1 John 4:12; 1 John 4:12 [German: “God hath no one ever seen.” Alford: “God hath no one ever beheld.” But render more idiomatically: “No one has ever beheld God.”—M.

1 John 4:12; 1 John 4:12 [μένει, μένομεν, etc., had better be rendered uniformly “abide.”—M.]

1 John 4:12; 1 John 4:12 There is a great variation in the readings of the final words: ἐν ἡμῖν before τετελειῳμένη ἐστίν A. Vulg; ἐν ἡμῖν after τετελειωμένη ἐστίν G. K. and many versions; ἐν ἡμῖν between τετελ. and ἐστίν Cod. Sin. B. [Alford: The love of Him is perfected in us.—M.]

1 John 4:13; 1 John 4:13. [ἐν τούτῳ=“In this.” See note 7 above.—M.]

1 John 4:13; 1 John 4:13. [German: “that.”—M.]

1 John 4:14; 1 John 4:14. [German: “As Saviour of the world.” So Alford, Lillie. No need for the supplement to be in E. V.—M.]

1 John 4:15; 1 John 4:15. Instead of ὃς ἂν, B. reads ἐὰν.

1 John 4:15; 1 John 4:15. [German: “confesseth;” so Alford who justly objects to all Futures “shall confess,” and Futuri exacti “shall have confessed” and recommends the English Present with an exegesis,—viz., “that this Present betokens not a repeated act and habit, but a great act once for all introducing the man into a state of ὁμολογῆσαι.”—M.]

1 John 4:15; 1 John 4:15. B. adds Χριστός after Ἰησοῦς.

1 John 4:16; 1 John 4:16. [ἐνἡμῖν. German: “an uns” literally “at or on us“ to which “concerning us” or “in regard to us” come nearest.—M.]

1 John 4:16; 1 John 4:16. B. G. K. Cod. Sin. add μένει, which owing to the same conclusion of the preceding verse was more likely to be omitted than added.

1 John 4:17; 1 John 4:17. [“In this.” See note 7 above.—M.]

1 John 4:17; 1 John 4:17. Cod. Sin. adds ἐν ἡμῖν after μεθ’ ἡμῶν, probably an error (with reference to 1 John 4:12) as ἐν� is plainly a slip of the pen.

1 John 4:17; 1 John 4:17. [German: “In this love with us is perfected;” Alford: “In this is love perfected with us.” The rendering “our” of E. V. is almost solitary and should be changed. See below in Exeget. and Critical.—M.]

1 John 4:17; 1 John 4:17. [German: “Because as He is, we also are in this world.” So Alford and Lillie, who transpose, however: “Are we also, etc.”—M.]

1 John 4:18; 1 John 4:18. [German: “Fear is not in love.” Alford: “Fear existeth not, etc.”—M.]

1 John 4:18; 1 John 4:18. [German: “Punishment;” so Lillie, see note in Exeget. and Critical.—M.]

1 John 4:18; 1 John 4:18. [German: “Is not perfected in love.” Alford: “Hath not been perfected in [His] love.”—M.]


1 John 4:19. Cod. Sin. reads τὸν θεὸν after ἀγαπῶμεν; G. K. αὐτὸν [A. B. omit either.—M.] A inserts οὖν after ἡμεῖς.

[German: “We love God.”—M.]

1 John 4:20; 1 John 4:20. [German: “If one says … hateth …” Translate: “If any say … hate …”—M.]


1 John 4:20. πῶς, A. [K. L. al. Tischend. Alford—M.]; οὐ, B. Cod. Sin. [Lach. Buttm. al.—M.] The true reading cannot be determined by the analogy with 1 John 3:17 (Düsterdieck), or by the consideration that the interrogative is more expressive than the negative (Huther).

[German: “How can he love God (or: cannot love God) whom he hath not seen?”—M.]

1 John 4:21; 1 John 4:21. [German: “Also love his brother.” Doddridge—“Love also his brother” Alford, Lillie.—M.]

8. The power of faith (1 John 5:1-5), its testimony (1 John 5:6-10), and substance (1 John 5:11-12)

Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on 1 John 4". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lcc/1-john-4.html. 1857-84.
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