God is Love: Nuts & Bolts Pt II

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Purpose
In verse 15, John uses the term, confess in a manner that represents probability or doubt. Not everyone will confess Jesus as the Son of God. However, for those who do acknowledge Christ, God abides in him or her. The scriptures declare another promise for those who confess Christ; Christ will confess him or her before God, Matthew 10:32. John's declaration that confession results in abiding in God also means that the confession made by believers joins them into a fellowship with God. John reveals that a person who states having fellowship with God but walks in darkness is a liar and not practicing the truth, 1 John 1:6. On the contrary, walking in the Light equates to fellowship with one another, and the blood of Christ cleanses believers from all sin, 1 John 1:7. Also, 1 Timothy 6:12 – 13 reveals believers as "committed to passing on the proclamation, keeping the commandment and walking without blame until Christ is manifested."[1] Such commitment is declared during baptism when one confesses Jesus is Lord. Therefore, confession goes beyond the mere recognition that the Father sent the Son and the Son is Jesus Christ.[2] Confession is the catalyst for a fellowship with God in the Light.

 

A fellowship with God also constitutes abiding in love and ultimately abiding in God's love. The TDNT contends "by the use of abide John seeks to express the immutability and inviolability of the relation of immanence.[3] Plainly, John indicates that the relationship of the indwelling is unchangeable and incorruptible. The TDNT continues to assert that such paradigm elevates the Christian religion above the Hellenistic rapture and the prophecy of Israel.[4] God abides in Christ; Believers abide in Christ and Christ in them.[5]The relationship continues with God abiding in believers, and believers in God.[6] Abide represents a continuous action; thereby the indwelling relationships occur continuously. In contrast, those who do not abide in God, Christ, and ultimately in love, they abide in darkness (John 12:46) and death (1 John 3:14).

 

John concludes that the continuous indwelling relationship of God, Christ, and love is made complete in the believers. John also contends that whoever keeps God's Word and loves one another, they abide in God and his love is perfected (1 John 2:5; 4:12). John uses the same language to describe God's Word and loving one another as a result of abiding in God. Therefore, the love of God comes to entirety in the man who keeps God's Word, His commandments, and loves one another.[7] Plainly, John states that God's love has been perfected in believers and will remain perfect in them. While believers continue in His Word and love others, God's love for them does not change and will come to completion in them.

 

John declares that the perfecting of God' love allows believers to be confident in the Day of Judgment. Believers do not have to worry about judgment as they maintain an indwelling fellowship with God's love. John reiterates that this fellowship reflects the believers' imitation of God's character and actions (1 John 4:17). In 1 John 2:6, he clearly states this directive: "the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked." Since the believer remains immersed in God's love and godly life, they should not fear. Fear involves punishment relinquished on the Day of Judgment. On the contrary, God's love ensures the believer's salvation, not punishment.[8] Therefore, if a believer fears God and judgment, then the believer's being is not entirely controlled by love.[9] In this condition, perhaps the believer's being is being tempted or controlled by sinful actions. For instance, when one loves another, the individual does not fear the command that forbids murder.[10] However, when one disengages from love and hates another, then fear of the law should alarm an individual to prohibit any violent or murderous action.[11] The outcome of such fear should return a person to love.

 

John transitions his discourse back to his original thesis in 1 John 4:7 of loving one another. After explaining that God is love, John emphasizes that the believers love because God first loved them. This love is based on God sending His Son as a sin offering (1 John 4:10). God's love goes beyond the believer's sinful state to extend salvation. Romans 5:8 states, "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." In this redemption, God possesses hope when he forgives the believer's sins and provides salvation. With this form of love as an example, the scriptures call the believers to love others with mercy, grace, and hope. The believers mimic this love because God first bestowed His love on them. Therefore, motivated by the love bestowed on them, the believers now give it to others. John subsequently addresses the desire or understanding to love God alone. Being motivated by God's love should not restrict the believer to only love God in return. In fact, loving God and hating or not loving one's brother contradicts the love of God. John previously stated in 1 John 1:6 that if the believers say they have fellowship with Him but walk in darkness, then they lie and do not practice the truth. In John 2:1, he further asserts, "But the one who hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes." Fellowship with God means abiding in His love and practicing the truth. This truth manifests when the believers love those whom they can see. Howard Marshall contends, "A person may deceive other men by declaring that he loves God; but since God cannot be seen, there is no direct way of telling whether he truly loves God."[12] He continues to state, "But a person cannot so easily deceive others regarding his love for his fellow Christians; since they can be seen, the person's relation with them is also visible."[13] John challenges the believers to love the visible as it reflects their love for the invisible God.

 

In 1 John 4:21, John concludes his thesis of the believers loving one another, by emphasizing Jesus' commandment. Jesus commandment resides in John 13:34 – 35 and exclaims, "A new commandment I give to you that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." John's conclusion reiterates Jesus' command and reminds the believers of such command. God's love and brotherly love are inseparable.[14] This form of oneness demonstrates to non-believers that believers follow Christ. Therefore, the believer's brotherly love publicly confesses that they follow Christ.

Application
When I started this study, I aimed to prove that God' love remains complete and that His believers reside in His love. I wanted to demonstrate that when believers are imperfect, God perfectly loves them. This understanding is true. God loved us first, so much so that He sent His Son as our sacrifice. In this sacrificial love, God tells us that we do not need to fear the Day of Judgement. Fearing Judgment Day means that we have not embraced the salvation that He has provided. At this point, I wanted the study to be complete. I wanted to know and allow others to know that there is no fear in God's love and judgment. His love is perfect and complete. However, in His perfect love, God prompts us to respond to make it complete.

 

In I John 4:15, John indicates that whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him and him in God. By examining the historical context, we understand that John addressed Christians who needed to believe and commit to Jesus being in the flesh. This declaration meant publicly testifying to the truth. It also signified being isolated from one's community. Therefore, the announcement had consequences. People knew that those who confessed embraced a lifestyle contradictory to their own culture. Most Christians in the western world do not endure such hardships for their faith. Instead, they have the freedom to profess Christ without any persecution. In such freedom, it is easy to not fully grasp the implications of the sacrifice of one's faith. However, John understood that faith alone did not foster the indwelling of God's love. Even though God first loved us, Christians are called to respond to this love. Furthermore, John describes the appropriate response of believers.

 

Initially, when I read 1 John 4:16, I assumed that I just needed to know and believe in God's love for me. The outcome of such faith allowed me to dwell in God's love. However, when I kept searching the Word, I discovered that this belief depends on Christ being in the flesh and dying for my sins. I easily clung to this understanding. Jesus' sacrifice allows me to be alive today and free from my sinful character. On the other hand, I ended up wrestling with the "and" of this knowledge. Reading the Bible requires time to search out the hidden trues and to discover how everything interconnects. When I was willing to do this, I noticed that John stated that those who keep God's Word and love his brother, God abides in them and His love is made complete in them (1 John 2:5; 4:12). God's love becomes complete in me each time I read and obey His Word or love my fellow brother or sister. Therefore, it becomes imperative that I read the Bible. It is also essential that I love others. When I am not reading or loving others, I halt God's love working in my being. As I reflected, I remembered those times when I did not feel connected with God. I also remember those times where people bothered me, or they infuriate me. In those moments, I remembered that I stopped reading my Bible or praying. I became very selfish only thinking of my needs. I also realized that I started to believe that God did not love me or have my best interest at heart. Therefore, even though I did not want to admit it or want to believe the scriptures; I knew they were accurate when stating that God's love prompts a response. In this response, I walk in the Light, fellowship with others, and am cleansed from my sins through Christ (1 John 1:7). In this response, I proclaim my faith and dwell in God's love.



[1] Michel, 210.

[2] Ibid., 211.

[3] Marshall, 220.

[4] Theological Dictionary of the New Testament:μένω, s.v. "Hauck", (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964 - 1976), 576.

[5]  Ibid.

[6]  Ibid.

[7]  Ibid.

[8] Theological Dictionary of the New Testament:τελειόω, s.v. "Delling", (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964 - 1976), 81.

[9] Ibid., 82.

[10] G.J.Wenham, J.A. Motyer, et al, 1407.

[11]  Ibid.

[12] Marshall, 225.

[13]  Ibid.

[14] Marshall, 225.