“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. 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” (1 John 4:16-17).
“And we have known and believed”
John opens the passage with important words. In the KJV, the force of what is being said is not adequately presented. In some of the more modern translations, it is made clear.
John has come to know and believe is the message of the apostle. Thus, he has grown in his knowledge and belief.
The Greek word translated as knowledge is ginosko which also carries the meaning of knowing something absolutely, being sure of something, or understanding something.
Simply put, John was sure of what he would soon say. As a result, he also believed what he was about to say.
In these opening words, it is certain that faith and knowledge build upon one another. Without knowledge, it is impossible to believe.
Paul has said, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?” (Rom. 10:14).
Paul states relatively clearly that faith presupposes knowledge. How can one believe unless he first hears the Gospel? Thus, knowledge of the Gospel comes before faith.
However, it is also true that faith increases knowledge, and knowledge is meant to be laid upon the foundation of faith. Peter has stated, “And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge” (2 Pet. 1:5).
In essence, faith and knowledge work together and form a close partnership.
“the love that God hath to us”
Here John tells his readers what he has come to know and believe. He has come to know and believe the love God has for His children. John was convinced of the love of God. He knew the love of Christ that surpassed the knowledge of man. He was keenly aware of Christ’s compassion toward him.
However, this did not come overnight.
Instead, John was a disciple of Christ for three years. Then he witnessed the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. He stood by the cross and saw the wounds of Jesus. He saw the blood. He saw the scars. He heard the cries of Christ for the forgiveness of sinners.
As he beheld the glory of the Lord, he was transformed into the likeness of Christ. He was baptized by the Spirit, and the Spirit worked the divine nature into His inner man. The final product was a man convinced of God’s love.
To know the love of God is not a minor matter. Instead, it is life-changing. To know the love of God is to be compelled like Paul by the love of God. To know the love of God is to be filled with the fullness of god, as Paul prayed in Ephesians.
It is not simply something that makes a person feel better. It is transformative.
“God is love”
Why does God love? It is because He is love. Love is so closely connected with the character of God that God was confident in saying, “God is love.” The only two other times the same wording is used is when the Bible states that God is light and spirit.
For God not to love would be contrary to His nature. God is love, and as a result, He loves. Even God’s anger, wrath, and judgment do not rule out His love. God loves the sinner whether he repents or not. This does not mean that all will inherit salvation.
But God so loved the world that He gave His Son does not simply imply He loved those who would love Him.
Instead, the Bible teaches the love of Christ in the Sermon on the Mount. Does God only love those who love Him? Even the unbelieving Gentiles do that.
God is love, and He is unchanging.
“and he that dwelleth in love”
As a result of God being love, the Christian needs to dwell in love. The Greek word translated as love is meno, meaning staying in a place or relation to something. Meno also conveys the idea of abiding, continuing, remaining, enduring, tarrying, and standing.
The point is evident. The Christian is called to abide in love.
“dwelleth in God, and God in him”
But then the reader is made aware of why he must abide in love. John already laid the foundation with the character of God. God is love. Since God is love, the conclusion must be drawn; the one who abides in love abides in God.
Jesus spoke about the need to abide in love in John 15. There is a remarkable resemblance between John’s Gospel and epistles.
Jesus said, “As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love” (John 15:9-10).
But the Christian must never forget the assuring words of Jesus when he said, “…If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and make our abode with him” (John 14:23). The words abode, dwell, abide, and continue are used in the context of love and God’s presence.
When someone truly loves, as the Bible states, he will dwell with God and God with him.
“Herein is our love made perfect”
When the Christian abides in love, his love is made perfect. In actuality, there is no other way. When God gives the Christian grace, he must use it. God has provided everything pertaining to life and godliness. The Christian has the Holy Spirit. He has also died to sin, been raised with Christ, and been made into a new creation.
Therefore, the Christian has been given much grace.
Then God continues to pour out grace through His Spirit and strengthens the Christian in the inner man. The Christian must learn to use the grace given to him and to walk in the love of Christ.
When the Christian learns to use the grace given to him, he will dwell in love, and the love will be perfected in him. He will learn to plant good seeds, and in due time he will reap a harvest if he does not give up.
“that we may have boldness in the day of judgment”
Then John gives his fifth reason in his epistle for why a Christian loves. Love will, in the end, provide the Christian with confidence on the Day of Judgment. The commands of Christ can be summed up in a few words believe and love.
When someone loves God and their neighbor, he will have an assurance of a good outcome when standing before the judgment seat of Christ.
John did not have an eternal judgment in mind when writing these words whereby the Christian’s eternal state concerning hell or heaven is determined. A justified believer can have assurance in this life that he is going to heaven.
However, the day will come when the Christian stands before the judgment seat of Christ, and the good he has done will be brought to the forefront.
“because as he is, so are we in this world”
The connection is obvious. A Christian is known by his fruits. It is impossible for a Christian to be fruitless. There must be something because as He is, so is the Christian in the world. God is love. Thus, the Christian must conclude what that means for him. As He is, so are we.
Father, I thank You for the reminder of my need to love as You love. You have set the example, and I am to follow. Teach me to honor You in my application of Your Word. In Jesus’ name, Amen.