By William V. Beasley
According to 1 John 5:13 we, along with the first century Christians, can know if we have eternal life. This is something we should want to know. To know is a source of great comfort or the motivation, if necessary, to make correction. John has given us the key or standard to know. To know two things are necessary: (1) careful study of 1 John (actually the whole New Testament) to learn how to know, and (2) prayerful consideration of our life with an open and honest heart to see if we know.
This lesson, covering 1 John 4:7-21, is repetitive-the major points have already been mentioned in previous articles. John, guided by the Holy Spirit, thought it well to repeat with added emphasis these points. We can do no better.
“Love One Another. . .” (1 John 4:7-11, 16)
Irk these verses, John exhorts, “Beloved, let us love one another . . . ” (4:7) and then gives us reasons for loving one another and also some results of loving one another. We ought to “love one another” because “God is love” (4:8, 16). This is more than an attribute of God; it is the very nature of God. Loving some of God’s wayward children is not easy. It may be that we need God’s help (partake of His spirit, His nature) to love some of our brethren. We should “love one another” because of the example of God’s love of us (4:9). The marginal reading for “in us” (ASV) in this verse is “in our case.” Herein was the love of God in our case, that God sent his only begotten Son in the world . . . ” (4:9). Contemplate the love of John 3:16. God loved that much. The statement, “We love because he first loved us” (4:19), is not speaking primarily of our loving God because He first loved us, but of loving one another because God first loved us. We, beloved, should copy the example of love given to us (4:11, 19). We should love one another because of the results of God’s love for us (this is still a part of the reasons for loving one another). Because of the love which God had for us, we “might live through him” (Christ, 4:9). Without the giving of Jesus, there would have been nought but death (John 14:6; Acts 4:12). Jesus Christ is the “propitiation for our sins” (4:10). Jesus is the “sacrifice of atonement,” our “mercy seat” before God. His blood covers our sins from the eyes of God.
The results of loving one another are many. If we “love one another,” we are “begotten of God” (4:7). This is a part of doing righteousness (2:29). If we have love one for another, we “knoweth God” (4:7-8), i.e., we know God in the sense of obedience (2:4-5), and “God .abides in us” (4:12, 16). We are to live that others may see God in us (Matt. 5:15; Gal. 2:20). This loving also indicates that we “abide in God”(4:16). We are to partake of the nature of God and strive to be like Him (1 Pet. 2:21). Finally, when we love one another, “His love is perfected in us” (4:12, 17). His love is brought to full fruition when we keep His word (2:5) and “love one another. “
“Given US Of His Spirit” (1 John 4:12-14)
The basic idea may be a repetition of what we saw earlier (2:24; 3:9; 4:2), i.e., the spirit of a man is changed by the word (seed) of God; we become like unto Him. The ones who “behold and bear witness that the Father hath sent his Son to be Savior of the world” (4:14) are, as in 4:6, the apostles. The apostles were to be witnesses (Acts 1:8; 2:32). One qualificattion to be an apostle was to be an eye witness (“beheld” – 4:14) of the resurrection (Acts 1:21-22).
Perfect Love (1 John 4:17-18)
This could have been discussed under the heading of “results of loving one another.” In this section we are speaking only of “perfect love” (4:18). This “perfect love” gives us “boldness in the day of judgment” (4:17). We are not bold to stand before God because of doubts, our doubts are because of a lack of obedience and our lack of obedience is because of an imperfect love. It is also true that “perfect love casteth out fear” (4:18). The word for “fear” (Greek, phobos) is defined as: “1. fear, dread, terror . . . 2. reverence, respect” (Joseph Thayer, Greek-English Lexicon, p. 656). Perfect love does not cast out the reverence we owe the Almighty. It does cast out the dread and terror of the disobedience (when they turn to God in loving obedience). Some might ask, “What about Matthew 10:28?” If there is any fear (dread, terror), let it be of God that it might bring us to obedience, but perfect love casts this out. If any fear (reverence), it must be of God.
Confess “Jesus Christ . . .” (1 John 4:15)
“Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God abideth in him, and he in God” (4:15). This is the same basic idea we found in 4:2. We are to confess with our mouth and also with a life lived for Him. This is not “six word salvation.”
Liar (1 John 4:20-21)
Love of brethren is necessary to love God: “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar . . . ” (4:20). It is impossible (“cannot”) to love God while hating one’s brother. Brotherly love is the “commandment” (4:21) of God. If one does not love his brother he cannot love God; if he does not love God, he is going to hell (1 Cor. 16:22).
Brethren, do you know about your eternal salvation? Do you love God? You do not unless you love your brethren. God said so.
Truth Magazine XXIII: 4, pp. 70-71
January 25, 1979