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Bible Commentaries

Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible
1 John 4

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-21

1 John 4:1. Beloved, believe not every spirit, —

A simpleton believes every word that he hears, but “the wise man’s eyes are in his head,” so he examines what he sees and hears, and does not blindly accept whatever may be told to him. So John says, “Believe not every spirit,” —

1 John 4:1-3. But try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know ye the Spirit of God:

Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: and every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: If there is any question raised about the Deity and the humanity of Christ, do not listen any longer. When you taste the first morsel of meat from a joint, and you find that it is tainted, there is no necessity for you to eat all the rest to see if it is good; and if any man questions the true Divinity and the real humanity of Christ, have nothing to do with him, and give no heed to what he says, for he “is not of God.”

1 John 4:3-4. And this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world. Ye are of God, little children,

Ye who are trusting in Jesus, and are born again of his Spirit, though you may have only a small influence with others, and are but as little children in your own esteem, yet “ye are of God.”

1 John 4:4. And have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.

There are two spirits; the Holy Spirit dwells in believers, and the evil spirit dwells in the ungodly. But the Holy Spirit is stronger than the evil spirit, and will certainly overcome him.

1 John 4:5. They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them.

When people say to you, “Everybody says so-and-so,” that is not the reason why you should believe it. “All the men of advanced thought, — all the scholars of the age, speak thus;” yes, just so: “They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them.”

1 John 4:6. We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us.

The apostles spake as men sent from God, for the Spirit of God dwelt in them; and they alone know the truth who keep to that which has been revealed to us through his holy apostles and prophets.

1 John 4:6-7. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error. Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and everyone that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.

From the abundance of love which was in John’s heart, we might almost be startled at the very strong things that he writes against those who are in error, did we not remember that it is only a false charity which winks at error. He is the most loving man who has honesty enough to tell the truth, and to speak out boldly against falsehood. It is very easy to pass through this world believing and saying that everybody is right. That is the way to make a soft path for your own feet, and to show that you only have love to yourself; but sometimes to speak as John the Baptist spoke, or as Martin Luther spoke, is the way to prove that you have true love to others.

1 John 4:8-10. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

By nature, we had no love to God; we were his enemies. We loved sin, and we had ruined ourselves by it; but God took out of his own bosom the only Son he had, that he might make reconciliation for us, and put away our sin. “Herein is love,” says the apostle, as though you could find it nowhere else as it is here. Here is the height and depth of love immeasurable; here is love summed up, here is love’s climax: “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”

1 John 4:11. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.

If such was his great kindness toward us that he denied himself his own Son for our sake, ought we not to be kindly affectioned one toward another?

1 John 4:12. No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.

“God dwelleth in us” though we do not see him. The nearest approach we can have to God is by this golden way of love.

1 John 4:13-14. Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world.

John is speaking for himself and the rest of the apostles; for they were eye-witnesses who had seen Christ, and therefore could testify to him.

1 John 4:15-16. Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God. And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.

Is there anyone here who is full of anger, enmity, malice, and envy? If so, let him know that God dwells not in the heart that harbors such abominations. Until these base passions are expelled, and we feel love to all mankind for Christ’s sake, God is not in us, for “he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.” The old method, according to Jewish tradition, was, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy;” but Christ’s new rule is, “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven.” This is the point in which our likeness to God will be seen, for he loved us when we were his enemies, and he expects his children to love their enemies; may he graciously teach us that sacred art!

1 John 4:17. Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world.

If we can be to the world, in our poor feeble measure, what God is to it, —fountains of love, dispensaries of goodness, — then we need not be afraid of the verdict even of the great day of judgment.

1 John 4:18. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear:

If a man is conscious that he intends no harm to anyone, that he wishes good to all mankind, that he loves his God, and loves his fellowmen for God’s sake, what has he to fear? He becomes the bravest of the brave, and often finds himself safe and unharmed in places where others dare not go.

1 John 4:18-20. Because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. We love him, because he first loved us. If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar:

John! John! John! This is a very strong expression. Did we not always understand that John was full of affection? Yes, but he was not one of those oily, sugary sort of people who cannot speak the truth. There is no real love in that kind of man; he has only the mere pretense of love. John speaks sharply because he loves ardently. True love hates that which is unlovely. It is inevitable that a man, who is full of love, should feel intense indignation against that which is contrary to love. Hence the apostle says, “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar.”

1 John 4:20-21. For he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.

And the word “brother” is to be understood in the widest possible sense. We are all brothers, springing from the same common parent; and therefore we ought to be philanthropists, lovers of man, loving even the guilty and the worthless, having an earnest desire to do good even to those who do us ill. If we have not yet reached that spirit, we had need begin our true Christian life, at the foot of the cross, by trusting and loving him who there died out of love for sinners; for there only can we learn, in the person of Christ Jesus our Lord, this divine philosophy of love to God and men.


Verses 9-21

1 John 4:9. In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.

There is love in our creation; there is love in providence; but most of all there is love in the gift of Christ for our redemption. The apostle here seems to say, “Now that I have found the great secret of God’s love to us; here is the clearest evidence of divine love that ever was or ever can be manifested toward the sons of men.”

1 John 4:10. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

In us there was no love; there was a hatred of God and goodness. The enmity was not on God’s side toward us; but on our side toward him. “He loved us and sent his son.” The gift of Christ; the needful propitiation for our sins, was all of love on God’s part. Justice demanded the propitiation, but love applied it. God could not be just if he pardoned sin without atonement; but the greatness of the love is seen in the fact that it moved the Father to give his Son to an ignominious death, that he might pardon sinners and yet be just.

1 John 4:11. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.

Here we have a fact and an argument. We ought to love. We ought to love after God’s fashion; not because men loved us. Nor because they deserve anything at our hands. We are too apt to look at the worthiness of those whom we help; but our God is gracious to the unthankful and to the evil.

He makes his sun to rise and rain to fall for the unjust as well as for the righteous, therefore we ought to love the unlovely and the unloving. But just as God has a special love for his own people, we who believe in him ought to have a peculiar affection for all who are his.

1 John 4:12. No man hath seen God at any time.

We do not need to see him to love him. Love knows how good he is, though she hath not beheld him. Blessed are they who have not seen God, yet who love him with heart, and mind, and strength.

1 John 4:12. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.

He is not far to seek. If you love one another, God is in you; he dwells in you, he is your nearest and dearest Friend, the Author of all other love. The grace of love comes from the God of love.

1 John 4:13. Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit.

And his Spirit is the spirit of love. Wherever it comes, it makes man love his fellow man and seek his good; and if you have that love in your heart, it came from God, and you dwell in God.

1 John 4:14. And we have seen.

Yes, there is something that we have seen. John writes for himself and his fellow apostles, and he says, “No man hath seen God at any time,” but —

1 John 4:14. We have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world.

John saw him live, and saw him die, and saw him when he had risen from the dead, and saw him as he ascended. So he speaks to the matter of eyesight, and bears testimony that, though we have not seen God, we have, in the person of the representative apostles, seen the Son of God who lived and laboured and died for us.

1 John 4:15. Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God.

Let Christ be God to you, and you are saved. If, in every deed, and of a truth. You take him to be the Son of God, and consequently rest your eternal hopes on him, God dwells in you, and you dwell in God.

1 John 4:16. And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us.

How far is this true of all of you? How many here can join with the beloved apostle, and say, “We have known and believed the love that God hath to us”? We know it; we have felt it; we are under its power. We know it still, it remains a matter of faith to us; we believe it. We have a double hold of it. “We know,” we are not agnostics. “We believe,” we are not unbelievers.

1 John 4:16. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.

This is not mere benevolence; there are many benevolent people who still do not dwell in love. They wish well to their fellow men; but not to all. They are full of indignation at certain men for the wrong that they have done them. John’s words teach us that there is a way of living in which you are in accord with God, and with all mankind; you have passed out of the region of enmity into the realm of love. When you have come there, by the grace of God, then God dwells in you, and you dwell in him.

1 John 4:17. Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have a boldness in the day of judgment:

That is a wonderful expression, “boldness in the day of judgment.” According to some, the saints will not be in the day of judgment. Then, what is the use of “boldness in the day of judgment”? As I read my Bible, we shall all be there, and we shall all give an account unto God. I shall be glad to be there, to be judged for the deeds done in my body; not that I hope to be saved by them, but because I shall have a perfect answer to all accusations on account of my sin. “Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea, rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.” If I am a believer in Christ, —

“Bold shall I stand in that grand day,

For who aught to my charge shall lay?

While through thy blood absolved I am From sin’s tremendous curse and shame.”

Because as he is, so are we in this world.

Happy Christian men, who can say that? If you live among men as Christ lived among men, if you are a Saviour to them in your measure, if you love them, if you try to exhibit the lovely traits of character that were in Christ, happy are you.

1 John 4:18. There is no fear in love;

When a man loves with a perfect love, he escapes from bondage.

1 John 4:18. But perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.

There is a loving, holy fear, which is never cast out. Filial fear grows as love grows. That sacred dread, that solemn awe of God, we must ever cultivate; but we are not afraid of him. Dear heart, God is your best Friend, your choicest love. “Yea, mine own God is he,” you can say; and you have no fear of him now. You long to approach him. Though he is a consuming fire, you know that he will only consume what you want to have consumed; and will purify you, and make your gold to shine more brightly because the consumable alloy is gone from it. He will not consume you, but only that which would work for your hurt if it were left within you. Refining fire, go through my heart! Consume as thou wilt! I long to have sin consumed, that I may be like my God. Say you not so, my brethren?

1 John 4:19. We love him, because he first loved us.

The reason for our love is found in free grace. God first loved us, and now we must love him; we cannot help it. It sometimes seems too much for a poor sinner to talk about loving God. If an emmet or a snail were to say that it loved a queen, you would think it strange, that it should look so high for an object of affection; but there is no distance between an insect and a man compared with the distance between man and God. Yet love doth fling a flying bridge from our manhood up to his Godhead. “We love him, because he first loved us.” If he could come down to us, we can go up to him. If his love could come down to such unworthy creatures as we are, then our poor love can find wings with which to mount up to him.

1 John 4:20. If a man say, I love God.

Not, “if a man love God,” but if a man say, “I love God.” It is a blessed thing to be able to say, “I love God,” when God himself can bear witness to the truth of our statement; but the apostle says, If a man say, I love God, —

1 John 4:20. And hateth his brother, he is a liar:

It is very rude of you, John, to call people liars. But it is not John’s rough nature that uses such strong language; it is his gentle nature. When a loving disposition turns its face against evil, it turns against it with great vehemence of holy indignation. You can never judge a man’s character by his books. Curiously enough, Mr. Romaine. Of St. Anne’s Church, Blackfriars, wrote the most loving books that could be; yet he was a man of very strong temper indeed. Mr. Toplady wrote some of the sharpest things that were ever said about Arminians; but he was the most loving and gentle young man that ever breathed. St. John, full of love and tenderness, hits terribly hard when he comes across a lie. He was so fond of love, that he cannot have it played with, or mocked or mimicked. “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar.”

1 John 4:21. For he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.

This is that “new commandment” which our Lord gave to his apostles, and through them to his whole church. “That ye love one another as I have loved you.” John was, in a special sense, “that disciple whom Jesus loved.” It was meet, therefore, that he should be the apostle to be inspired by the Holy Spirit to bring “this commandment” to the remembrance of any who had forgotten it. “This commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.” God help us so to do, of his great grace!

Amen.

 


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Bibliography Information
Spurgeon, Charle Haddon. "Commentary on 1 John 4:4". "Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/spe/1-john-4.html. 2011.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, July 16th, 2019
the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
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