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1 John 4:12-14 says,
12 No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us. 13 By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. 14 And we have beheld and bear witness that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world.
John says that no one has seen God. When Moses requested to see God’s glory in Exodus 33:18, he was shown only God’s afterglow, for God told him in Exodus 33:20, “You cannot see My face, for no man can see Me and live.”
Moses asked to see His glory, and God showed him His “goodness” (Exodus 33:19). His goodness is the visible glory of God that we are allowed to see. Jesus is the goodness of God, “the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature” (Heb. 1:3), God made visible in the earth. When God passed by, it says that He proclaimed the name of the Lord. In Hebrew, one’s name signifies one’s nature. In this case, the name of Yahweh was the revelation of his nature, i.e., His goodness.
John takes this idea a step further, telling us that “because He has given us of His Spirit,” and because “we have beheld and bear witness” of Christ, we may now behold the glory of God in each other, if we have eyes to see. The goodness of God is now manifested in us as we live a life of perfected love. Love is the evidence “that we abide in Him and He in us,” for it is the evidence that His Spirit resides in us.
Thus, we “bear witness” of Christ. Though Jesus has ascended to the right hand of the Father, the world may continue to behold Him by looking at His goodness in His witnesses who remain on earth. This is the reason that the sons of God must continue to live on this earth. Those who remain in darkness need to see the light and glory of God coming from those who have His Spirit and who exemplify His love.
There are times when the power of God is manifested, often by signs and wonders, but the primary purpose of God’s witnesses is to manifest the love of Christ to all. Men are always impressed by the power of God, but lives are changed only by the revelation of His love.
1 John 4:15 continues, saying,
15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.
To “confess that Jesus is the Son of God” is more than verbalizing the words. The words must be motivated by genuine faith. This takes us back to the earlier part of the chapter, where the apostle writes in 1 John 4:2, “every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God.” In other words, this confession, when verbalized, must be an expression from one’s spirit as a response to hearing the voice of God—which alone can produce faith (Rom. 10:17).
This genuine confession, or profession of faith, is evidence that one has received the incorruptible seed of the word and has been begotten by God. Hence, it can be said that “God abides in him, and he in God.” Out of this intimate relationship with the Father, this “new man” is “Christ in you” (Col. 1:27), and we are given a new identity, no longer being the old man of the fleshly soul, but the new man of the spirit.
1 John 4:16 says,
16 We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.
To abide in God is to abide in love, for “God is love.” When God proclaimed His name to Moses, He revealed His glory, which is goodness, and His goodness is love. When we have resolved our identity crisis, when we know who we are, when our conscious self is the begotten son of our heavenly Father, and when we live and move and have our being out of that new man, then we will abide in God and become the expression of His character, His goodness, and His love.
1 John 4:17 says,
17 By this, love is perfected with us, that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment [kolasis, “correction, punishment, torment”], and the one who fears is not perfected in love.
There are lower forms of love, such as eros and phileo, but agape is perfected love. It is how John defines the love of God. This is the manner of love that abides in us as well, “because as he is, so also are we in this world.” This assumes, of course, that we live according to the new man, rather than the old. It assumes that we have a new identity and are not hanging on to the identity from our earthly fathers.
Abiding in such love eliminates all fear, for “there is no fear in love,” i.e., in agape. Those who fear are not yet walking in this perfect love of the new man but are still attached in some manner to the old man. Within the old man resides fear, first instilled in him through divine judgment when God judged Adam for sin.
The new man, however, has no reason to fear judgment, because perfect love cannot be corrected (kolasis) through judgment. There is nothing to alter or correct.
The judgments of God are ultimately designed to correct men in order to conform them to the image of God. This is the purpose of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, which is a holy fire that purifies us from all that brings fear. The Holy Spirit works in us until our love has been purified, eliminating fear and its root causes until we come into the full image of Christ.
1 John 4:19 says,
19 We love, because He first loved us.
Whatever manner of love the Spirit of God works into us is not a credit to our own efforts, but to the Holy Spirit that is working in us to eliminate fear. Jesus established the model and the standard of love for all mankind by His willingness to die for ungodly sinners and enemies.
There are some who would question the validity of “loving the wicked,” not realizing that we have all been enemies of God at some point in our lives. We are fortunate that God loved us while we were yet enemies, for His love is the very thing that has changed our hearts.
1 John 4:20, 21 concludes,
20 If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.
The implication is that one’s brother is an unbeliever who does not share the same love of God that abides in the believer. John’s prime example (1 John 3:12) is seen in Cain and Abel. Cain offered sacrifice to God, but he did not love his brother. Hence, when Cain offered his sacrifice in Gen. 4:3, he claimed to love God, but because he did not love his brother, he was proven to be a liar in this regard.
There are many professions of faith and many religious acts performed as expressions of love toward God, but only those done by love are acceptable. Those who kill others as an expression of their so-called love for God are not offering an acceptable sacrifice. Killing those who are perceived to be God’s enemies does not duplicate the kind of love that Jesus had when He came to die for His enemies. In fact, such killing is done by those who lack sufficient love to overcome the world.
The law of God commands us to love, saying in Lev. 19:18,
18 You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord.
Many have debauched the requirement of love by insisting that it applies only to those who love God or those who are part of their own family, race, or religion. But Jesus defined one’s “neighbor” in his parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:29-37 after a man asked Him “who is my neighbor?” Jesus shows in this parable how a priest and a Levite did not fulfill the requirement of the law, while a despised Samaritan did.
Love is not merely a way of acting toward others; it is a way of life that comes from one’s very nature. When we have the same love nature as God Himself, then we will act in the same manner that God has acted. We will not be able to stop the flow of love that comes out of us, because such perfect love is unrestricted and full.
There is no hatred in love, at least not on an emotional level. Biblical hatred is a judicial hatred, which is really about hating sin and correcting the sinner. The paradox of God’s love and hate is resolved in His display of judgment for sin. Judgment gives the appearance of divine hatred, but in reality, God also loves the sinner.
The conflict is resolved when we understand that God’s judgments are temporary (aionian) and that they are designed to correct the hearts of sinners so that they may come into fellowship with God. Such is the expression of God’s love and hatred at the same time.
When our love is unmixed with fear or hatred, then can it be said that we know the same love of God that sent Jesus to die for the sin of the world (1 John 2:2).