God is Love Pt II

Exegetical Study: 
Linked Article: 

John identifies that God is love. In verses 9 – 10, he depicts God's love manifesting in Jesus as our sin offering. In verse 15, John climatically tells the believers that those who confess that Jesus is the Son of God will abide in God. John's plea addresses those who wavered in their understanding of Jesus. These individuals thought of Jesus as less than God and required reminding of His divinity.[1] In confessing that Jesus is the Son of God, they adequately acknowledged Jesus' humanity. In relation to the New Testament, the TDNT possesses three definitions for ὁμολογέω (confess). In correlation to the Johannian literature, definition three proclaims, "to make solemn statements of faith," "to confess something in faith."[2] Thus, John contends that those who confess Christ are also making a statement of their faith.Subsequently, the person's faith attests to the whole truth of Christ. Jesus also attested to the truth before Pilate. John 18:37 states, "Therefore Pilate said to Him, “So You are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice." Similarly to Christ bearing witnesses to the truth, believers must publicly declare this truth. 1 Timothy 6:12 – 13 declares, "Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who testified the good confession before Pontius Pilate." In both scriptures John 18:37 and 1 Timothy 6:12 -13, confession occurred in the presence of a witness or witnesses. In verse 15, when John asserts that whoever confesses, he understands that these individuals publicly "express a specific truth, the only possible relation to Christ."[3] In their confession, believers publicly announce the truth of Christ.

 

Publicly confessing Jesus caused hardships for those of faith. John 9:22 states, "His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone confessed Him to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue." The consequence for confessing Christ meant expulsion from the Jewish religious community. Even though they did not profess the religious community, the synagogue was the nucleus of their community. Most likely, John understands this consequence of confessing Christ. In verse 15, term, ὁμολογέω parses to the aorist active subjective form. This form 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."[4] 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.[5] 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. John exclaims that knowing and believing Christ fosters knowing and believing the love that God has for believers. In John 6:69, Peter confesses that the disciples believed and knew that Christ is the Holy One of God. John uses this same language to describe believers knowing and believing the love of God. Therefore, to know and believe God's love means to know and believe in Christ. John continues his thesis of God's love by noting that those who abide in love, abides in God, and God in him. The TDNT contends "by the use of μένειν John seeks to express the immutability and inviolability of the relation of immanence.[6] 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.[7] God abides in Christ; Believers abide in Christ and Christ in them.[8] The relationship continues with God abiding in believers, and believers in God.[9] In verse 16, John uses μένειν three times to explain this relationship. The term parses to present active participle or present active indicative. All forms represent 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. In relation to 1 John 4:18, The TDNT definition of τελειόω "denotes the completeness or perfection of the love of God or of the Christian in love."[10] 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.[11] To describe God's perfecting, John uses perfect passive tense to indicate an action in past time with extended results. Simply, 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 (φόβος). Fear involves punishment relinquished on the Day of Judgment. On the contrary, God's love ensures the believer's salvation, not punishment.[12] John asserts that love and fear do not coexist. He places emphasis on this understanding by repeating the term, fear (φόβος) four times in the passage. John further contends that God's perfect love drives out fear. Therefore, if a believer fears God and judgment, then the believer's being is not entirely controlled by love.[13] 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.[14] 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.[15] 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."[16] 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."[17] 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.[18] This form of oneness demonstrates to non-believers that believers follow Christ. Therefore, the believer's brotherly love publicly confesses that they follow Christ.

Continue Reading: God is Love Pt III



[1] Dr. Stephen S. Smalley, 1, 2, and 3 John, Volume 51:Revised, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008), xxiii

[2] Theological Dictionary of the New Testament: ὁμολογέω, s.v. "Michel", (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964 - 1976), 209.

[3] Ibid., 210.

[4] Ibid., 211.

[5] Marshall, 220.

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

[7]  Ibid.

[8]  Ibid.

[9]  Ibid.

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

[11] Ibid., 82.

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

[13]  Ibid.

[14] Marshall, 225.

[15]  Ibid.

[16] Marshall, 225.

[17] Ibid., 225 – 226.

[18] Ibid., 226.