1 John Chapter 4:7-21 Antique Commentary Quotes

Cambridge Bible

1 John 4:7

7–21. Love is the Mark of the Children of the God who is Love

7. Beloved, let us love one another] See on 1Jn_3:2. The transition seems abrupt, as if the Apostle had summarily dismissed an unwelcome subject. But the connexions of thought in S. John’s writings are often so subtle, that it is rash to assert anywhere that two consecutive verses or sections are entirely without connecting links. Two such links may be found here. 1. The power to love one another, no less than the power to confess the Incarnation, is the gift of the Spirit (1Jn_4:2; 1Jn_4:12-13). And faith and love mutually aid one another. This is the case even between man and man. Faith and trust soon pass into love. 2. The antichristian spirit is a selfish one; it makes self, i.e. one’s own intellect and one’s own interest, the measure of all things. Just as it severs the Divine from the human in Christ, so it severs Divine love from human conduct in man. ‘Beloved, let us do far otherwise. Let us love one another’.

For the third and last time in this Epistle the Apostle introduces the subject of brotherly love. First it was introduced as a consequence and sign of walking in the light (1Jn_2:7-11). Next it was introduced as a special form of righteousness and mark of God’s children (1Jn_3:10-18). Here it appears as a gift of the Spirit of God, a contrast to the antichristian spirit, and above all as an effluence from the very Being of God.

‘Love one another’ here, as in 1Jn_3:11, applies primarily to the mutual love of Christians. The love of Christians to unbelievers is not expressly excluded, but it is not definitely before the Apostle’s mind.

love is of God] And ‘we are of God’ (1Jn_4:6), and ‘ye are of God’ (1Jn_4:4); therefore there should be the family bond of love between us.

every one that loveth is born of God] This follows from the preceding statement. If God is the source of all love, then whatever love a man has in him comes from God; and this part of his moral nature is of Divine origin. Of ‘every one that loveth’ is this true, whether he be heathen or Christian: there is no limitation. If a Socrates or a Marcus Aurelius loves his fellow-men, it is by the grace of God that he does so. See concluding note on 1Jn_3:4.

knoweth God] He comes by experience to know Him by thus sharing the Divine nature.

Cambridge Bible

1 John 4:8

knoweth not God] Literally, knew not God, i.e. never attained to a knowledge of Him. This is a remarkable instance of S. John’s habit of not making the second part of an antithesis the exact counterpart of the first, but an advance beyond it. Instead of saying ‘is not born of God’ he says ‘never knew God’, which is much stronger. Not to have known love is not, to have known God.

God is love] This is the third of S. John’s great statements respecting the Nature of God: ‘God is Spirit’ (Joh_4:24); ‘God is light’ (1Jn_1:5), and ‘God is love’. See on 1Jn_1:5. Here, as in the other cases, the predicate has no article, and expresses not a quality which He possesses, but one which embraces all that He is. This is clear from S. John’s argument. It does not follow, because God is full of love, that one who does not love cannot have known God: all that follows from this is that his knowledge of God is very incomplete. Only if God is love, i.e. if love is Himself, is the statement true, that to have no personal knowledge of love is to have no personal knowledge of God. And here we may remark that to attain by experience to a knowledge of God (γινώσκειν τὸν Θεόν) is a very different thing from knowing something about Him (εἰδέναι τι περὶ αὐτοῦ). The Gnostics knew a good deal about God, but they did not know Him, for instead of loving those brethren who did not share their intellectual attainments, they had an arrogant contempt for them. They had recognised that ‘God is spirit’, and to some extent that ‘God is light’; for they knew Him to be an immaterial Being and the highest Intelligence: but they had wholly failed to appreciate that ‘God is love’. And yet of the three great truths this is the chief. The other two are incomplete without it. The first, ‘God is spirit’, is almost more negative than positive: God is not material; He ‘dwelleth not in temples made with hands’. The second might seem in making our idea of Him more definite to remove Him further away from us: God is perfect intelligence, perfect purity, perfect holiness. The third not only makes His Nature far more clearly known, but brings Him very close to us. The spirit is shewn to be personal, the light to have warmth and life.

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

As already stated, this truth, God is love, dominates the second main division of the Epistle. In no Book in N. T. does the substantive ‘love’ (ἀγάπη) occur so often as in these two and a half chapters (1Jn_3:1 to 1Jn_5:12); and in no Book in N. T., excepting the Fourth Gospel, does the verb ‘to love’ (ἀγαπᾷν) occur half so many times as here. No wonder that the writer of this Epistle has been known in the Church as ‘the Apostle of Love’. “If nothing were said in praise of love throughout the pages of this Epistle, if nothing whatever throughout the other pages of the Scriptures, and this one thing only were all we were told by the voice of the Spirit of God, For God is Love; nothing more ought we to require” (S. Augustine).

Cambridge Bible

1 John 4:9

In this was manifested] Or, for the sake of uniformity with 1Jn_4:10; 1Jn_4:13; 1Jn_4:17, Herein was manifested: we have the same Greek in all four verses. ‘Herein’ plainly refers to what follows: comp. 1Jn_3:16 and see on 1Jn_3:19. For ‘manifest’ see on 1Jn_1:2. This is a second reason for our loving one another. We must do this (1) because love is the very Being of Him whose children we are; (2) because of the transcendent way in which His love was manifested. The context shews that ‘the love of God’, which usually in this Epistle means our love to God, here means His love to us: comp. 1Jn_3:16.

towards us] Rather, in us: we are the sphere in which God’s love is exhibited: comp. 1Jn_4:16 and Joh_9:3, which is very parallel. The latter passage tends to shew that ‘in us’ is to be joined with ‘manifested’ rather than with ‘the love of God’: Herein was the love of God manifested in us. The rendering ‘in our case’ (R. V. margin) is improbable: comp. 1Jn_4:12.

because that God sent] Better, because God hath sent: we do not need both ‘because’ and ‘that’; and the verb is a perfect, indicating the permanent result of Christ’s mission. In the next verse we have aorists, speaking of past acts without reference to the present.

his only begotten Son] Literally, His Son, His only begotten: comp. Joh_3:16. As in ‘the life, the eternal life’ (1Jn_1:2), the repetition of the article makes both ideas, ‘son’ and ‘only-begotten’, prominent and distinct. Comp. 1Jn_1:3, 1Jn_2:7-8; 2Jn_1:11; 2Jn_1:13. His Son was much to send, but it was also His only Son. The word for ‘only begotten’ (μονογενὴς) as applied to Christ is peculiar to S. John; it occurs four times in the Gospel (Joh_1:14; Joh_1:18, Joh_3:16; Joh_3:18) and here. ‘Only-born’ would be a more accurate rendering: Christ is the only born Son as distinct from the many who have become sons. The word occurs in LXX. to translate a Hebrew word (yachid), which is elsewhere rendered ‘beloved’ or ‘darling’ (ἀγαπητός): and oddly enough where the Greek has ‘only’ the A. V. has ‘darling’ and vice versβ. Contrast Gen_22:2; Gen_22:12; Gen_22:16 with Psa_22:21; Psa_35:17. The Vulgate has unigenitus and unicus. Comp. Rom_5:8; Rom_8:32.

that we might live through him] These are the important words, setting forth that in which God’s love is so conspicuous and so unique. The only Son has been sent for this purpose (ἵνα), that we may live, and not die, as we should otherwise have done: comp. 1Jn_3:14, 1Jn_5:11; Joh_3:16-17; Joh_3:36.

Cambridge Bible

1 John 4:10

Herein is love] ‘Herein’ again refers to what follows: Love in Its full perfection is seen, not in man’s love to God, but in His to man, which reached a climax in His sending His Son to save us from our sins. The superiority of God’s love does not lie merely in the fact of its being Divine. It is first in order of time and therefore necessarily spontaneous: ours is at best only love in return for love. His love is absolutely disinterested; ours cannot easily be so. Comp. Tit_3:4. ‘For propitiation’ and ‘for our sins’ see on 1Jn_2:2. ‘To be the propitiation’ is literally ‘as a propitiation’; it is parallel to ‘that we might live through Him’ in the previous verse; but at the same time is an expansion of it. It states the manner in which life is won for us.

Beware of the unsatisfactory explanation that ‘propitiation’ is the abstract for the concrete, ‘propitiation’ (ἱλασμός) for ‘propitiator’ (ἱλαστήρ). Had S. John written ‘propitiator’ we should have lost half the truth; viz. that our Advocate propitiates by offering Himself. He is both High Priest and Victim, both Propitiator and Propitiation. It is quite obvious that He is the former; the office of Advocate includes it. It is not at all obvious that He is the latter: very rarely does an advocate offer himself as a propitiation.

The word for ‘propitiation’ occurs nowhere in N. T. but here and in 1Jn_4:10; in both places without the article and followed by ‘for our sins’. It signifies any action which has expiation as its object, whether prayer, compensation, or sacrifice. Thus ‘the ram of the atonement’ (Num_5:8) is ‘the ram of the propitiation’ or ‘expiation’, where the same Greek word as is used here is used in the LXX. Comp. Eze_44:27; Num_29:11; Lev_25:9. The LXX. of ‘there is forgiveness with Thee’ (Psa_130:4) is remarkable: literally rendered it is ‘before Thee is the propitiation’ (ὁ ἱλασμός). So also the Vulgate, apud Te propitiatio est. And this is the idea that we have here: Jesus Christ, as being righteous, is ever present before the Lord as the propitiation. With this we should compare the use of the cognate verb in Heb_2:17 and cognate substantive Rom_3:25 and Heb_9:5. From these passages it is clear that in N. T. the word is closely connected with that special form of expiation which takes place by means of an offering or sacrifice, although this idea is not of necessity included in the radical signification of the word itself. See notes in all three places.

Cambridge Bible

1 John 4:11

Beloved] For the sixth and last time the Apostle uses this appropriate address: see on 1Jn_3:2. No address of any kind occurs again until the last verse of the Epistle.

if God so loved us] As in 1Jn_3:13, 1Jn_5:9, the fact is stated gently, but without any doubt (εἰ with the indicative): here ‘if’ is almost equivalent to ‘since’; ‘If, as is manifest, to this extent God loved us’. Comp. ‘If I then, the Lord and the Master, have washed your feet, ye also ought to wash one another’s feet’ (Joh_13:14). ‘So’ refers to what is said in 1Jn_4:9-10.

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

Cambridge Bible

1 John 4:12

No man hath seen God at any time] Better, as R. V., No man hath beheld God at any time: a different verb (τεθέαται) is used here from that used in 1Jn_4:20 and in Joh_1:18 (ἑώρακαν) where we have exactly the same statement. The verb used here implies something of gazing and contemplation: our word ‘theatre’ comes from it. Comp. ‘Whom no man hath seen, nor can see’ (1Ti_6:16).

Once more (see on 1Jn_4:7) the connecting lines of thought are not on the surface, and cannot be affirmed with certainty. What follows seems to give the clue to what otherwise looks like an abrupt transition. ‘I say we must love one another, for by so doing we have proof of the presence of the invisible God. No amount of contemplation ever yet enabled any one to detect God’s presence. Let us love one another, and then we are sure, not only that He is with us but in us, and not merely is, but abides’. Here, as in Joh_1:18, ‘God’ stands first for emphasis: God no one hath ever yet beheld.

God dwelleth in us] Better, as R. V., God abideth in us (see on 1Jn_2:24): He is not a momentary visitant but a permanent friend and guest.

his love is perfected in us] Or, the love of Him is perfected in us. ‘His love’ to us can scarcely be meant; for in what sense would our loving one another perfect that? Moreover, as already noticed, ‘the love of God’ in this Epistle commonly means man’s love to Him, not His to man (1Jn_2:5, 1Jn_3:17, 1Jn_5:3). ‘His love’ might possibly mean the love which characterizes Him, or the love which He has implanted in us; but the other is simpler. Our love to God is developed and perfected by our loving one another. We practise and strengthen our love of the Unseen by shewing love to the seen. See on 1Jn_2:5.

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1 John 4:13

This should be compared with 1Jn_3:24, to which it is closely parallel. There, as here, the gift of the Spirit is the proof of God’s abiding presence: but there this is connected with keeping His commandments; here it is connected with the special duty of brotherly love.

he hath given us of his Spirit] We receive ‘of His Spirit’ (ἐκ τοῦ πνεύματος): of Christ alone was it said in the fullest sense ‘not by measure’ is the Spirit given to him (Joh_3:34). Christians are sometimes said to receive the Spirit (Gal_3:2-3; Gal_3:5; Gal_4:6), sometimes of the Spirit (see on 1Jn_3:24): only the former is true of Christ. See on 2Jn_1:4.

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1 John 4:14

And we have seen and do testify] Better, as R. V., And we have beheld and bear witness: see on 1Jn_4:12 and 1Jn_1:2. ‘We’ is emphatic, and, as in the Prologue, means S. John and the other Apostles. See on 1Jn_1:4. With their own eyes they saw the Son working out His mission as the Saviour of the world. ‘Beheld’ points back to 1Jn_4:12: ‘God Himself no one hath ever yet beheld; but we have beheld His Son’.

sent the Son] Better, hath sent the Son; as in 1Jn_4:9. ‘Of the world’ is important; not of the Jews only, or of the ‘enlightened’ Gnostics only, but of all. There is no limit but the willingness of men to accept salvation by believing on the Saviour. ‘For God sent not the Son into the world to judge the world; but that the world should be saved through Him’ (Joh_3:17). See on 1Jn_2:2.

Marvin Vincent

1 John 4:14

We have seen (πεθεάμεθα)

Have deliberately and steadfastly contemplated. Compare 1Jo_1:1, and see on Joh_1:14.

Do testify (μαρτυροῦμεν)

Rev., bear witness. See on Joh_1:7.

Sent

See on 1Jo_4:9.

The Savior of the world

See the same phrase, Joh_4:42, and compare Joh_3:17. Σωτήρ Savior, occurs in John only here and Joh_4:42. Elsewhere it is applied both to God (1Ti_1:1; 1Ti_2:3; Tit_1:3; Tit_2:10; Tit_3:4; Jud_1:25), and to Christ (Luk_2:11; Act_5:31; Act_13:23; 2Ti_1:10; Tit_1:4, etc.). The title is found in Paul’s Epistles of the Captivity (Eph_5:23; Phi_3:20), and in the Pastorals (see above), but not in Corinthians, Romans, Galatians, or Thessalonians. In classical writings the term is applied to many deities, especially to Zeus (Jupiter); also to Hermes (Mercury), Apollo, Hercules, and even to female deities, as Fortune and Aphrodite (Venus). “Zeus Soter” (Zeus Savior) was used as a formula in drinking at banquets. The third cup was dedicated to him. Compare Plato: “Then, by way of a third libation to the savior Zeus, let us sum up and reassert what has been said” (“Philebus,” 66). The drinking of this cup was a symbol of good fortune, and the third time came to mean the lucky time. “Twice then has the just man overthrown the unjust; and now comes the third trial, which, after Olympic fashion, is sacred to Zeus the savior,… and surely this will prove the greatest and most decisive of falls” (Plato, “Republic,” 583). Hence the proverb, τὸ τρίτον τῳ σωτῆρι, lit., the third to the savior; i.e., the third or lucky time. The name was also given later to princes or public benefactors. The kindred noun σωτηρία salvation, does not occur in John’s Epistles, and appears only once in the Gospel (Joh_4:22). It is found thrice in Revelation (Rev_7:10; Rev_12:10; Rev_19:1). Σώζειν to save occurs six times in John’s Gospel, and once in Revelation (Rev_21:24). It does not appear in the Epistles.

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1 John 4:15

Whosoever shall confess] This was what the false prophets refused to do: see on 1Jn_4:2-3: also on 1Jn_5:1.

dwelleth in him] Better, abideth in him: see on 1Jn_2:24.

and he in God] The communion is of the closest description: comp. 1Jn_3:24; Joh_6:56; Joh_14:20; Joh_15:5. Even Apostles, who have beheld and borne witness, can have no more than this Divine fellowship, which is open to every believer.

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1 John 4:16

And we have known and believed] Literally, And we have come to know and have believed. This is the natural order; progressive knowledge leads up to faith. But sometimes faith precedes knowledge (Joh_6:69). In either case each completes the other. Sound faith is intelligent; sound knowledge is believing. We must be ‘ready always to give answer to every man that asketh a reason concerning the hope that is in us’ (1Pe_3:15). This verse is a fulfilment of the conclusion of Christ’s High-Priestly prayer; ‘I made known unto them Thy name, and will make it known; that the love wherewith Thou lovedst Me may be in them, and I in them’ (Joh_17:26).

God hath to us] Rather, God hath in us, as in 1Jn_4:9; see note there.

he that dwelleth, &c.] Better, as R. V., he that abideth in love, abideth in God, and God abideth in him: see on 1Jn_2:24. In the true text (אBKL) the characteristic word ‘abide’ occurs characteristically three times: comp. 1Jn_4:5, where ‘the world’ occurs three times.

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1 John 4:17

Herein is our love made perfect] Better, as the margin, Herein is love with us made perfect; or, as R. V., Herein is love made perfect with us. Most earlier English Versions agree with the latter collocation. The meaning seems to be that love, which is of God (1Jn_4:7), takes up its abode with us and is developed until it is perfected. ‘Love’ here evidently means our love towards God: His love towards us can have no fear about it (1Jn_4:18). ‘Herein’ may refer to either of the two clauses which follow. ‘Herein … that’ (ἵνα) occurs possibly in Joh_15:8, and ‘Herein … because’ (ὅτι) occurs 1Jn_3:16; 1Jn_4:9-10. But it is perhaps best to make ‘Herein’ refer to what precedes; to our abiding in God and God in us. This avoids the awkwardness of making perfection of love in the present depend upon our attitude at the Judgment, which though near (1Jn_2:18) according to S. John’s view, is still future. In this way we can give its full meaning to ‘that’ (ἵνα): by close union with God our love is made perfect, in order that we may have boldness in the day of judgment. For ‘boldness’ see on 1Jn_2:28.

the day of judgment] The full phrase here used, ‘the day of the judgment’ occurs nowhere else: the usual form is ‘day of judgment’ (Mat_10:15; Mat_11:22; Mat_11:24; Mat_12:36; 2Pe_2:9; 2Pe_3:7). S. John elsewhere calls it ‘the last day’ (Joh_6:39-40; Joh_6:44; Joh_6:54), or ‘the great day’ (Rev_6:17; comp. Joh_16:14). Other Scriptural phrases are ‘the day of the Lord’, ‘the day of God’, ‘day of Christ’, ‘that day’, ‘the day’.

as he is, so are we in this world] ‘He’ (ἐκεῖνος) almost certainly is Christ, as probably always in this Epistle (1Jn_2:6, 1Jn_3:3; 1Jn_3:5; 1Jn_3:7; 1Jn_3:16). Our assurance with regard to the future Judgment is not presumption, because in this world we are in character like Christ. The resemblance is marked as close, ‘even so are we’ (καθώς); comp. 1Jn_2:6, 1Jn_3:3; 1Jn_3:7. In what does this close resemblance specially consist? In love: the whole context points to this. He need not fear the judgment of Christ who by loving has become like Christ.

Cambridge Bible

1 John 4:17

Herein is our love made perfect] Better, as the margin, Herein is love with us made perfect; or, as R. V., Herein is love made perfect with us. Most earlier English Versions agree with the latter collocation. The meaning seems to be that love, which is of God (1Jn_4:7), takes up its abode with us and is developed until it is perfected. ‘Love’ here evidently means our love towards God: His love towards us can have no fear about it (1Jn_4:18). ‘Herein’ may refer to either of the two clauses which follow. ‘Herein … that’ (ἵνα) occurs possibly in Joh_15:8, and ‘Herein … because’ (ὅτι) occurs 1Jn_3:16; 1Jn_4:9-10. But it is perhaps best to make ‘Herein’ refer to what precedes; to our abiding in God and God in us. This avoids the awkwardness of making perfection of love in the present depend upon our attitude at the Judgment, which though near (1Jn_2:18) according to S. John’s view, is still future. In this way we can give its full meaning to ‘that’ (ἵνα): by close union with God our love is made perfect, in order that we may have boldness in the day of judgment. For ‘boldness’ see on 1Jn_2:28.

the day of judgment] The full phrase here used, ‘the day of the judgment’ occurs nowhere else: the usual form is ‘day of judgment’ (Mat_10:15; Mat_11:22; Mat_11:24; Mat_12:36; 2Pe_2:9; 2Pe_3:7). S. John elsewhere calls it ‘the last day’ (Joh_6:39-40; Joh_6:44; Joh_6:54), or ‘the great day’ (Rev_6:17; comp. Joh_16:14). Other Scriptural phrases are ‘the day of the Lord’, ‘the day of God’, ‘day of Christ’, ‘that day’, ‘the day’.

as he is, so are we in this world] ‘He’ (ἐκεῖνος) almost certainly is Christ, as probably always in this Epistle (1Jn_2:6, 1Jn_3:3; 1Jn_3:5; 1Jn_3:7; 1Jn_3:16). Our assurance with regard to the future Judgment is not presumption, because in this world we are in character like Christ. The resemblance is marked as close, ‘even so are we’ (καθώς); comp. 1Jn_2:6, 1Jn_3:3; 1Jn_3:7. In what does this close resemblance specially consist? In love: the whole context points to this. He need not fear the judgment of Christ who by loving has become like Christ.

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1 John 4:18

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

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

because fear hath torment] Better, as R. V., because fear hath punishment. The word for ‘punishment’ (κόλασις) occurs nowhere else in N. T., excepting Mat_25:46, but it is not uncommon in LXX. nor in classical Greek. Its radical signification is ‘pruning’, and hence it gets the notions of ‘checking, correcting, punishing’. ‘Torment’ as distinct from ‘punishment’ is expressed by a different word (βάσανος), which occurs Mat_4:24; Luk_16:23; Luk_16:28. Both words are found together in Wis_19:4; ‘That they might fulfil the punishment which was wanting to their torments.’ Wiclif has ‘peyne’ representing poena in the Vulgate: other English Versions have ‘painfulness’. ‘Fear hath punishment’ is true in two ways; (1) fear involves the idea of punishment; (2) fear is a foretaste of punishment.

He that feareth] With Wiclif we must prefix ‘but’, or with Genevan, Rhemish, and R. V. ‘and’, to represent the Greek conjunction: and he that feareth (ὁ δὲ φοβούμενος). The main sentence is here resumed, ‘but perfect love … punishment’ being parenthetical. The present tense indicates a constant condition: the habitual fearer is necessarily imperfect in his love.

S. Paul teaches the same doctrine; ‘Ye received not the spirit of bondage again unto fear; but ye received the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father’ (Rom_8:15). The servile fear, which perfect love excludes, is therefore altogether different from the childlike awe, which is a necessary element in the creature’s love for its Creator. Even servile fear is necessary as a preparation for perfect love. ‘The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom’; and it is also the beginning of love. The sinner must begin by fearing the God against whom he has sinned. Bengel gives the various stages thus: ‘neither love nor fear; fear without love; both fear and love; love without fear’. Fear is the child of bondage; love of freedom. In this case also the bondwoman and her son must be cast out (Gal_4:30).

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1 John 4:19

We love him] Omit ‘Him’, which is a later addition to the true text: some authorities for ‘Him’ add ‘God’, and some have ‘God’ for ‘He’ in the next clause. No accusative is expressed, and none, whether ‘God’ or ‘one another’, is to be understood: Christian love of every kind is meant. Authorities are much divided between ‘we love’ and ‘let us love’; for the Greek (ἀγαπῶμεν) may be either indicative or hortative subjunctive. The former is better. The Peschito and Vulgate render ‘let us love’ and with Codex A insert ‘therefore’: nos ergo diligamus.

because he first loved us] We shall narrow the Apostle’s meaning if we limit this to the idea of gratitude evoking love. The ‘first’, which is the important word, means much more than that. 1. Our love owes its very origin to God’s love, from which it is an effluence (1Jn_4:7). 2. Love is checked by fear when it is doubtful whether it is returned. Our love has no such check; for it knows that God’s love has been beforehand with it. Bede compares ‘Ye did not choose Me, but I chose you’ (Joh_15:16).

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1 John 4:20

If a man say] We return to the form of statement which was so common at the beginning of the Epistle (1Jn_1:6; 1Jn_1:8; 1Jn_1:10). The case here contemplated is one form of the man that feareth not. His freedom from fear is caused, however, not by the perfection of love, but by presumption. He is either morally blind or a conscious hypocrite. Comp. 1Jn_2:4; 1Jn_2:9.

loveth not] As we have seen already (1Jn_3:14-15), S. John treats not loving as equivalent to hating.

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

how can he love] With אB against AKL we should probably read cannot love: the ‘how’ is perhaps a reminiscence of 1Jn_3:17; comp. Joh_3:4; Joh_3:9; Joh_5:44; Joh_6:52; Joh_9:16; Joh_14:5. In a similar spirit Philo says parents may be regarded as ‘visible gods’, and ‘it is impossible that the Invisible should be revered by those who have no reverence for the visible’.

Cambridge Bible

1 John 4:21

And this commandment have we] The Apostle drives home his arguments for the practice of brotherly love by the fact that God has commanded all who love Him to love their brethren. Some take ‘Him’ to mean Christ. But this is unlikely, as Christ has not been mentioned for several verses: although it must be admitted that S. John is so full of the truth that ‘I and My Father are one’, that he makes the transition from the Father to the Son and from the Son to the Father almost unconsciously. Where has God given this commandment? In the whole Law, which is summed up in loving God with all one’s heart and one’s neighbour as oneself (Deu_6:5; Lev_19:18; Luk_10:27). The Apostle thus anticipates a possible objection. A man may say ‘I can love God without loving my brother, and I can prove my love by keeping His commandments’ (Joh_14:15). ‘Nay’, says S. John, ‘your own argument shews your error: you cannot keep His commandments without loving your brother’. Thus then we have two revelations of God: our brother, who is His image; and His commandment, which is His will. Not to love our brother is a flagrant violation of both. As Pascal puts it, we must know men in order to love them, but we must love God in order to know Him.

that he who loveth God love his brother also] “The final particle (ἵνα) gives more than the simple contents of the commandment. It marks the injunction as directed to an aim” (Westcott). See on 1Jn_1:9.

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