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Expositor's Dictionary of Texts Expositor's Dictionary
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Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on 1 John 4". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ edt/ 1-john-4.html. 1910.
Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on 1 John 4". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://studylight.org/
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1 John 4:1
We are all discerners of spirits. That diagnosis lies aloft in our life or unconscious power. The intercourse of society its trade, its religion, its friendships, its quarrels is one wide, judicial investigation of character.
Emerson, on The Over-Soul.
1 John 4:1
A poor man, in our day, has many gods foisted on him; and big voices bid him, 'Worship or be !' in a menacing and confusing manner. What shall he do? By far the greater part of said gods, current in the public, whether canonised by Pope or Populus, all were dumb apises and beatified Prime-oxen; nay, some of them, who have articulate faculty, are devils instead of gods. A poor man that would save his soul alive is reduced to the sad necessity of sharply trying his gods whether they are divine or not; which is a terrible pass for mankind, and lays an awful problem upon each man. The man must do it, however. At his own peril he will have to do this problem too, which is one of the awfulest; and his neighbours, all but a most select portion of them, portion generally not clad in official tiaras, can be of next to no help to him in it, nay, rather will infinitely hinder him in it, as matters go.
Carlyle, Latter-Day Pamphlets (VIII.).
References. IV. 1. W. G. Horder, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lvii. p. 235. IV. 2, 3. J. T. L. Maggs, Preacher's Magazine, vol. xviii. p. 295. IV. 4. W. C. E. Newbolt, Church Family Newspaper, vol. xv. p. 12. IV. 6. G. Bellett, Parochial Sermons, p. 1.
1 John 4:7
God desires neither narrow hearts nor empty heads for His children, but those whose spirit is of itself indeed free, yet rich in the knowledge of Him, and who regard this knowledge of God as the only valuable possession.
'The true sage,' says Maeterlinck, 'is not he who sees, but he who, seeing furthest, has the deepest love for mankind. He who sees without loving is only straining his eyes in the dark.'
I never yet cast a true affection on a woman; but I have loved my friend, as I do virtue, my soul, my God. From hence, methinks, I do conceive how God loves man; what happiness there is in the love of God.
Sir Thomas Browne, Religio Medici (pt ii. sec. 5).
References. IV. 7. Archbishop Alexander, Christian World Pulpit, vol. liv. p. 20. J. Keble, Sermons for Sundays After Trinity, pt. i. p. 223. T. Binney, King's Weigh-House Chapel Sermons, p. 206. IV. 7, 8. H. S. Holland, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lvi. p. 107.
The Master Key
1 John 4:8
Here is all we want. Here we have three words, which are three syllables, and they are bigger words than all the piled words of the most elaborate dictionary ever constructed. These are the words out of which all the other words come.
The use of this text is not to be found in its own verbal exposition. This is a text that is to be carried all over the Bible; this is the commentator of the whole Scripture. Turn over a page where is the lamp? That is Bible reading. You fail to expound the Scripture because you have lost the lamp. Do not suppose, then, that 'God is love' is a text that can be explained in one discourse or explained in all the discourse ever poured from the fluent tongue of eloquence. Never read a chapter without lighting the lamp and putting it just over the chapter you are reading. What is your lamp? God is love.'
I. The lamp! We might take it with us now and look at a few passages in the light of this gleaming candle of God. Take this awful text: 'In the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die'. He threatens the man whom He has made! He does not. The lamp! now read under the light of the lamp, and you will find that this is no threat, this is no uplifting of the arm of Jehovah, as who should say, Take care what you are about, or one mistake on your part and you are a dead man. God never learned that savagery of tone; God speaks in another music. These were hard words, no doubt, to the man who heard them for the first time. When you point out to your dear little child that if he goes into a certain place he will be injured, you are not threatening the boy; we cannot say, Why speak to the dear little boy in that tone? You properly reply that the tone is an expression of solicitude, anxiety, tenderest love, saying in all the music of the parental heart, Take care! If you go down there you will be perhaps injured, something may meet you there that will frighten you; if you once go into that den or jungle where the wild beast is you will be torn to pieces: take care not to go in that direction. That is not threatening; that is loving, caring-for, going-out-after, with tender desire and anxiety. So I take my lamp text, 'God is love,' and hold it all above the story of Eden, and behold, I know that God has made all things good and designed all things in love, and that the very voice of warning is a new accent in the music of sweetest, tenderest care.
II. Let us hold the lamp over another text that is almost too terrible to read. May I read it in a genteel assembly? shall I not be hissed out of the pulpit I degrade if I read this text? 'The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God.' I admit that it is possible so to utter these words as to import into them a false meaning and a false tone, but I insist that it is also possible so to read them as to make them about as tender words as can be found in the whole compass of inspired revelation. This is not wrath, it is pleading, it is the expression of solicitous love: as who should say, My dear soul, do you really know what wickedness is? do you know what it means, what it involves, and what it really must come to in the bitter end? Here, in one of those socalled rough imprecatory passages, wherein God is supposed to be very wrathful and very stormy, here, we find the very heart of love; in the midst of all this warning there is one large tender tear that wets the cheek of God. Do not believe those persons, therefore, who point out the imprecations and denunciations, and wish you to believe that all these things are indications of the wrath of God. Hear me, they are not; they are indications of the love of God; God in His mercy thinks it right to tell us what the harvest of sin-sowing is, and if He had never told us, how could He judge us? and if He had never told us and attempted to judge us, what a standing-ground we would have for self-vindication, how we might charge Him with injustice for having kept back the secret of the evolution of moral processes. We go to the judgment with our eyes open, we go to perdition with the Scriptures written in plainest language of entreaty and love.
III. The lamp! What is this? 'It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you.' 'God is love.' He does not judge promiscuously or indiscriminately; there is not one lot for all; if a man has begun with much, much will be required of him, and if he has begun with little, he will be judged accordingly.
IV. So I come back to my little Bible, my three syllabled Bible, the Bible that holds all the Bible. When I come upon a great and awful mystery I call for the lamp, and it has a way of throwing its beams down into its deepest cavities. I have held it over the grave. This epigrammatic sentence fits all graves, it fits all cemeteries; it is the word that is written on its portals of the churchyard, 'God is love'.
Joseph Parker, City Temple Pulpit, vol. III. p. 238.
References. IV. 8. F. W. Farrar, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlv. p. 321. W. C. Wheeler, Sermons and Addresses, p. 125. W. J. Hocking, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlvi. p. 61. Lyman Abbott, Ibid., vol. liv. p. 109. R. J. Campbell, Ibid., vol. lvi p. 321. M. Gardner, Ibid., vol. lxx. p. 407.
Love's Supreme Disclosure
1 John 4:8-9
Love, as John tells us again and again, is to be seen and known only in what it does. We shall therefore look at this love of God disclosing itself in lovely deeds, and rise step by step to see the supreme disclosure in the Cross of Christ.
I. The first and simplest thing to say about love is this it is a social passion. There cannot be love without at least two, a lover and a beloved. The man who had never seen the face of a fellow-man could not know the meaning of love. The faculty of love would be dormant in him, and be felt only as an unsatisfied yearning. If God be love, He must have loved from all eternity. Before the angels were created, or the universe had being, God was love God never dwelt in a still and awful loneliness.
II. The second simple thing to say about love is this love is creation. Love must create, and it must create well-being. Love cannot be inactive. It must plan and toil and spend its resources and exert its energy. It must devise order, goodness, beauty, joy. Here we have the mighty motive of creation. Love is the source and creation is the stream. God does not love the world simply because He created it He created this world of life and beauty and order because He is love. It is always love that builds a home. It is always love that makes a garden. It is always love that peoples a wilderness. The first words of the Bible are a revelation of love: 'In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth'.
III. The third simple thing to say about love is this that love is providence. Love cannot be content with creation. It must pass on to care, and God's care is His providence. Your little son makes himself a rudely shapen boat. Its designing has filled his heart and busied his hand for hours. At length he launches his little mimic craft by some beach. Does he set his venture afloat and then turn his back upon it, heedless of its fate? Mark how he waits and watches and risks himself lest his little vessel come to untimely shipwreck. Love created it, and love hangs over it in absorbing care. And so God did not create the universe, and make all things beautiful in their season, and set His spirit in man, and then turn His back and vanish into silence. He does not sit afar off on the world's edge to see it go. The world is not a piece of clockwork, finished once for all, and set agoing by an almighty mechanic. It is a living and growing organism. God's eyes are ever watching it. His fingers are ever working upon it, His hands ever devising new beauty in it.
IV. The fourth thing and the great thing to say about love is this love is grace. This is where love makes its supreme disclosure. What is grace out love dealing with sin? What can God, who is love, do for the sinner but pour Himself out in costly sacrifice to redeem him?
V. The fifth thing to say about love is love is discipline. Love's supreme disclosure is the Cross, but love which redeems must pass on to discipline. Love's redeeming work was not done when Christ had burst the gates of hell. The dominion of sin was broken, but its fascination and power were not wholly annulled. No man who has accepted the forgiveness of God, and put himself under the mastership of Christ, can be ignorant that the power of indwelling sin is his most humbling experience. There is a work of God for man. There is also a work of God in man. Therefore God disciplines His redeemed. He chastens by mercy and by judgment, through limiting privation and burdening care, by the shadow on the heart and the thorn in the flesh, to purify and to perfect in righteousness.
VI. The sixth thing to say about love is love is heaven. In New Testament teaching that is the issue of love's work in the Cross and by the discipline of God. Love can never be satisfied without the loved one's presence and fellowship. 'I go to prepare a place for you, that where I am ye may be also,' was the last assurance of incarnate love. To that message all the New Testament writers make a yearning response.
W. M. Clow, The Cross in Christian Experience, p. 41.
1 John 4:8-9
Of the reality of God's love St. John had no doubt; neither need we have any, though some do doubt it, thinking that God's justice and hatred of sin interfere with His love. But justice does not interfere with love in God. Justice and love are compatible in man, and much more so in God. The cross of Christ reveals and establishes the harmony between righteousness and mercy. There justice gets its own, and love has its way, and God is a 'just God and a Saviour,' and 'grace reigns through righteousness'. Christ's cross is not the cause but the consequence of God's love. The text asserts God's love before He sent Christ; affirms Christ's mission to be the manifestation of God's love. There need be no doubt, then, as to the fact, that God loves us, has loved us. But more than this, the text not only implies that God is loving and loves us, but asserts that He is love. Love is the sum and harmony of all His attributes, His essence.
I. The Manifestation of God's Love. God's love is manifested in creation, in preservation, and in all the blessings of this life, but above all in redemption.
(a) God sent His Son. He did not merely allow or consent to His coming. He Himself sent His Son, gave Him His commission and authority.
(b) God sent His only-begotten Son. He who was sent by God as a gift of love was no less than His only-begotten Son. Then God's love is as great as the divine glory of His Son. God sends no servant, no archangel, but His equal and co-eternal Son Who, as His only-begotten, and sharing that nature which is love, could best manifest God's love.
(c) God sent His Son into the world. The destination of the Son, His being sent into a fallen and sinful world, a world disordered and corrupt, a world which during thousands of years had not grown better but worse, manifested God's love. Christ's personal history and experience in the world manifested how great was the love of God that sent Him to such a world and to such treatment in it.
(d) God sent His Son... that we might live through Him. The purpose of Christ's mission, involving His death as a sacrifice for sin, His giving His life to redeem ours, manifested God's love. They for whom He sent His Son were sinners, guilty, helpless, unloving.
II. Some Thoughts which Emerge. (1) Here is the spring and motive of love to God and the love to man which is its evidence.
(2) If God has given His only-begotten Son for our life, with Him also He shall freely give us all things.
(3) How precious is the soul of man! It is the subject of God's love, and Christ was sent to give it true life.
(4) We must become sons of God, born sons, if we are to manifest His love.
(5) To reject God's love thus manifested must be the greatest sin and misery, and it is self-inflicted misery as it is wilful sin.
References. IV. 8-10, 16. G. Body, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lix. p. 137. IV. 9. C. Bradley, Faithful Teaching, p. 12. J. R. Illingworth, University and Cathedral Sermons, p. 87. Expositor (5th Series), vol. vii. p. 42. IV. 9, 10. J. Cumming, Penny Pulpit, No. 1687, p. 91.
Learning to Love God
1 John 4:10
Love to God, like the rain and the snow, must come down from heaven. St. John, the Apostle of love, tells us love is of God; and yet I think that God has placed within your reach, and mine, certain means by which we may learn to love God, or learn to love Him better than we do already. Let me remind you what some of these are.
I. First, Thirst. Canon Mozley, one of the ablest men in the Church of England in the nineteenth century, has a remarkable sermon on the strength of wishing, and in that sermon he points out that the Bible teaches us that, if a man wishes for any great spiritual gift, sooner or later that gift will be his, provided it be the supreme wish of his heart; and he quotes some great words of Bishop Wilson of Sodor and Man, that we receive grace in proportion as we desire it. Do we desire to love God? Then, sooner or later, that desire will be satisfied, if it is the supreme desire of the heart. And that for two reasons God never implants a desire in a man's heart to mock him, but that sooner or later He may satisfy it. And that desire will find its voice in prayer, and to prayer the great promise is made, 'Ask and it shall be given'.
II. The second, Faith. St. John, the apostle of love, the disciple whom Jesus loved, tells us in this very chapter how he came to love God: 'We have known and believed the love that God hath to us'. The whole secret of loving God is to believe that God loves us; not to try to force ourselves to love God, but to accept the great truth that God loves us. And God has given our faith what I will venture to call two footholds upon which we may plant our feet and be perfectly sure that God loves us. The first is the cradle of Bethlehem; and the second the Cross of Calvary.
III. The third, Service. Samuel Taylor Coleridge, in his 'Aids to Reflection,' says that if you would restore a commonplace truth to its first lustre you must translate it into action. Here is a great truth that God loves us. Go and act as if it were true. Amongst your friends is one who, in popular language, is going wrong. Try and save him, write to him, talk to him, pray for him, consider what you can do to rescue him from ruin. Do it because God loves you and loves him. In your neighbourhood is a family sorely pressed with poverty. Try and help them; feed the hungry, clothe the naked, lift up the fallen; do what you can to stand by them in their time of trouble, and do it because God loves you and loves them. The cause of Jesus Christ wants your service, wants your heart. Give, work, because God loves you and loves all men; and as you act out the love of God, or because God loves you and them, your love will grow. Love can only live by loving; and by serving love will grow.
Lastly, there is love for the creature. I believe that God is training us all by the sweet pure love of home life to love Him. There are some people who say, Take care that you do not love your husband, or your wife, or your lover, or your friend, or your child, too much. If you love them in God, and for God, you can never love them too much. Nay, God will train you to love Him through loving your dear ones at home. And in the love that the husband has for the wife, or the wife has for the husband, we have a dim reflection of the love wherewith the heavenly Bridegroom loves His Church and every member of His Church, and the husband and the wife will say: If our love is so strong and deep and ennobling, what must be the love wherewith Christ loves us? And so we will rise, I say, on the stepping-stones of human love to realise God's love to us, and to love Him back. First faith, then service, then love to the creature: these are some means which God has put within our power to enable us to love Him better.
Bishop Chavasse, Christian World Pulpit, vol. LXXVIII. p. 97.
References. IV. 10. R. J. Campbell, Christian World Pulpit, vol, liii. p. 198. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xli. No. 2394; vol. xlii. No. 2248. H. T. Potten, British Congregationalist, 20th September, 1906, p. 177. Expositor (4th Series), vol. vi. p. 347. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture 1 John, p. 329. IV. 10, 11. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxix. No. 1707.
1 John 4:11
Blessed is he that loveth Thee, and his friend in Thee, and his enemy for Thee.
Augustine, Confessions (IV. 9)
References. IV. 11. S. Gregory, How to Steer a Ship, p. 103. Archbishop Benson, Living Theology, p. 71. IV. 12. R. W. Church, Village Sermons (2nd Series), p. 221.
1 John 4:12-13
Sir, there may be artificial pride in this humility; but for me, I neither know what He is, nor His Son's Name, nor where He dwelleth. I hear a report of Christ great enough, and that is all. Oh! what is nearness to Him? What is that, to be 'in God,' to 'dwell in God'? What a house that must be I How far are some from their house and home?... When shall we attain to a living in only, only God!
S. Rutherford to Colonel Gilbert Ker.
1 John 4:16
In his essay on Boswell's Life of Johnson, Carlyle defines the few higher natures of every age as people who 'examine and determine, not what others do, but what it is right to do.... These are properly our Men, our great Men; the guides of the dull host which follows them as by an irrevocable decree. They are the chosen of the world; they had this rare faculty not only of "supposing" and "inclining to think," but of knowing and believing; the nature of their being was, that they lived not by Hearsay, but by clear Vision.'
References. IV. 14. U. R. Thomas, Christian World Pulpit, vol. 1. p. 310. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xl. No. 2383. IV. 14, 15. Expositor (6th Series), vol. v. p. 290. IV. 15. C. S. Macfarland, The Spirit Christlike, p. 157. Expositor (5th Series), vol. vii. p. 210. IV. 16. R. M. Grier, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlvi. p. 28. C. D. Bell, The Power of God, p. 13. Bishop Gore, Christian World Pulpit, vol. 1. p. 49. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. v. No. 253. G. F. Pentecost, Christian World Pulpit, vol. li. p. 232. IV. 16-18. C. Kingsley, The Good News of God, p. 256.
The Servant As His Lord
1 John 4:17
Large truths may be spoken in little words. Profundity is often supposed to be obscurity, but the deepest depth is clear. John, in his gospel and epistles, deals with the deepest realities, and with all things in their eternal aspects, but his vocabulary is the simplest in the New Testament. What can be simpler than 'As He, so are we in this world?' And what can go beyond the thought that lies in it, that a Christian is a living likeness of Christ?
I. A Christian is Christ's living likeness. That is a startling thing to say, and all the more startling if you notice that John does not say 'As He was, in this earthly life of humiliation and filial obedience, but 'as He is,' in His heavenly life and reign and glory. Now there is the difference between the teaching of such classes of religionists as represent Christ's humanity as all in all, and preach to us that He, in His earthly life, is the pattern to whom we are to seek to conform our lives, and the true evangelical teaching. We are like Him, if we are His, in this that we are joined to God, that we hold fellowship with Him, that our lives are all permeated with the Divine, that we are saturated with the presence of God, that we have submitted ourselves to Him and to His will, that 'not my will, but Thine, be done' is the very inmost meaning of our hearts and our lives. I have put an emphasis upon the 'is' instead of the 'was,' as it applies to Jesus Christ. I would further put an emphasis upon the 'are,' as it applies to us. 'So are we' John is not saying what Christian men ought to strive to be, but he is saying what all Christian men, by virtue of their Christian character, are. 'So are we, in this world. ' The 'world' or, to use modern phraseology, 'the environment' conditions the resemblance. But notice further, how that limitation carries with it another message. There is Christ in the heavens, veiled and unseen. Here are you on earth, His representative.
II. Such a likeness to Jesus Christ is the only thing that will enable a man to lift up his head in the Day of Judgment. Whilst unquestionably the beginning of salvation, and the condition of forgiveness here, and of acceptance hereafter, are laid in trust in Jesus Christ, that trust is sure to work out a character which is in conformity with His requirements and moulded after the likeness of Himself. It is only when faith works in us, through love and communion, characters like Jesus Christ's, that we shall be able to stand though even then we shall have to trust to Divine and infinite mercy, and to the sprinkling of His blood before the Throne of God.
III. The process by which this likeness is secured. Our love is made perfect by dwelling in God, and God in us; in order that we may be thus conformed to Christ's likeness, and so have boldness in that great day. 'Abide in Me, and I in you.' But, remember, such abiding is no idle waiting, no passive confidence.
A. Maclaren, Triumphant Certainties, p. 286.
References. IV. 17. Bishop Winnington-Ingram, Under the Dome, p. 236. R. F. Horton, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lii. p. 225. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture 1 John, p. 338. IV. 17, 18. R. W. Church, Village Sermons (3rd Series), p. 268.
Fear and Love
1 John 4:18
Fear and love these two and the greater of these is love. We are all agreed that love is the mightiest lever in the universe; but it is very possible that we are not all of one mind as to the use of fear in religion. And has it any legitimate use? Our answer is decidedly in the affirmative. The Bible speaks of two kinds of fear the filial and the slavish. We fear God, and we fear the devil; but we do not fear the one in the same sense as we fear the other. Filial fear is a duty; but slavish fear is a sin. The one attracts us to God; but the other drives us away from Him. Fear's thunders, unless followed by love's enrapturing melodies, have a baneful influence upon the human soul; and this we shall endeavour to show.
I. Fear has a tendency to produce a Morality of Policy, unless supplemented by Love. The terrified soul strives to be virtuous, not from any love for virtue per se, but from fear of sin's punishment. We must strive to hate sin as sin, and love virtue as virtue, independently of the punishment or reward.
II. Incessant appeals to Fear have a sadly enervating influence upon the moral nature. Fear paralyses the soul, deprives it of its moral vigour, and positively hinders effort. Fear weakens the physical frame, and paves the way for any disease that may be hovering about And is not this true of the intellect? Fear may drive the soul out of Egypt; but we need a more benignant power to lead it into Canaan.
III. Incessant appeals to Fear tend to promote unbelief. A dreaded God will eventually become a God despised, hated and denied.
IV. Incessant appeals to Fear tend to make spiritual worship impossible. Love delights to commune with its object; but a dreaded object will put a summary end to all pleasurable communion. A dreaded God cannot be heartily and devoutly worshipped. You can no more love Him than you can caress a volcano!
V. Incessant appeals to Fear may lead to a forced Obedience which is practically worthless. 'A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.' When the judgments were removed, Pharaoh forgot all his promises. Forced obedience, generated by fear, is little better than disobedience. In the face of all that we have said, some may be tempted to ask, 'What, then, is the use of fear in religion? Has it any use at all'. Our reply is that fear must be used to pave the way for something better than itself; in itself, it must be the herald and forerunner of love Sinai must be the precursor of Calvary. It is so in the Bible, it is so in Providence, and it must be so in the spiritual history of the individual.
J. Ossian Davies, Old Yet Ever New, p. 179.
Love and Fear
1 John 4:18
John has been speaking of boldness, and that naturally suggests its opposite fear. He has been saying that perfect love produces courage in the day of judgment, because it produces likeness to Christ, who is the judge. In my text he explains and enlarges that statement For there is another way in which love produces boldness, and that is by its casting out fear. These two are mutually exclusive. There are three things here that I wish to notice the empire of fear, the mission of fear, and the expulsion of fear. I. The Empire of Fear. Fear is a shrinking apprehension of evil as befalling us, from the person or thing which we dread. (1) There are conditions of human nature, in which the God who ought to be our dearest joy and most ardent desire becomes our ghastliest dread. The root of such an unnatural perversion of all that a creature ought to feel towards its loving Creator lies in the simple consciousness of discordance between God and man, which is the shadow cast over the heart by the fact of sin. (2) Arising from that discomforting consciousness of discord there come, likewise, other forms and objects of dread. For if I am out of harmony with Him, what will be my fate in the midst of a universe administered by Him and in which all are His servants? (3) Then there rises up another object of dread, which, in like manner, derives all its power to terrify and to hurt from the fact of our discordance with God; and that is 'the shadow feared of man,' that stands shrouded by the path and waits for each of us. There is something else that casts out fear than perfect love, and that is, perfect levity. A man who is in discord with God has reason to be afraid, and I come to you with the old exhortation of the prophet, 'Be troubled, ye careless ones'.
II. The Mission of Fear. 'Fear hath torment.' 'Torment' does not convey the whole idea of the word. It means suffering, but suffering for a purpose: suffering which is correction; suffering which is disciplinary; suffering which is intended to lead to something beyond itself. The intention of fear is to lead to that which shall annihilate it by taking away its cause. (1) Let the dread direct me to its source, my own sinfulness. (2) Let the discovery of my own sinfulness direct me to its remedy, the righteousness and the Cross of Jesus Christ.
III. The Expulsion of Fear. If I go to Jesus Christ as a sinful man, and get His love bestowed upon me, then, as the next verse to my text says, my love springs in response to His to me, and in the measure in which that love rises in my heart will it frustrate its antagonistic dread. Remember that it is 'perfect love' which 'casts out fear'. A little love has not mass enough in it to drive out thick, clustering fears.
A. Maclaren, Triumphant Certainties, p. 296.
1 John 4:18
Cromwell wrote in 1652 to his son-in-law, General Fleetwood:
'Salute your dear wife from me. Bid her beware of a bondage spirit. Fear is the natural issue of such a spirit, the antidote is love The voice of fear is: If I had done this, if I had avoided that, how well it had been with me! I know this hath been her vain reasoning; poor Biddy!'
Love argueth in this verse, What a Christ have I; what a Father in and through Him! What a name hath my Father; merciful, gracious, longsuffering, abundant in goodness and truth; forgiving iniquity, transgression and sin.... This commends the love of God; it is Christ dying for men without strength, for men whilst sinners, whilst enemies.... Acts of obedience are not perfect, and therefore yield not perfect grace. Faith, as an act, yields it not; but 'only' as it carries us into Him, who is our perfect rest and peace; in whom we are accounted of, or received by the Father, even as Christ Himself. This is our high calling. Rest we here, and here only.
1 John 4:18
Other fears and sorrows, grievances of body and mind, are troublesome for the time; but this is for ever, eternal damnation, hell itself, a plague, a fire; an inundation hurts one province alone, and the loss may be recovered; but this superstition involves all the world almost, and can never be remedied. Sickness and sorrows come and go, but a superstitious soul hath no rest.
Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy.
Charles Kinsley's eldest son once wrote that '"Perfect love casteth out fear" was the motto on which my father based his theory of bringing up his children; and this theory he put in practice from their babyhood till when he left them as men and women. From this, and from the interest he took in all their pursuits, their pleasures, trials, and even the petty details of their everyday life, there sprung up a "friendship" between father and children that increased in intensity and depth with years.'
'In a sense, we were afraid of him,' Thomas Arnold writes of his father, Dr. Arnold of Rugby, in Passages in a Wandering Life (p. 9); 'that is, we were very much afraid, if we did wrong, of being found out and punished, and still worse, of witnessing the frown gathering on his brow. Yet in all of us on the whole love cast out fear; for he never held us at a distance, was never impatient with us; always, we knew, was trying to make us good and happy.'
'Can there be true love without wholesome fear? And does not the old Elizabethan "My dear dread" express the noblest voluntary relation in which two human souls can stand to each other? Perfect love casteth out fear. Yes: but where is love perfect among imperfect beings, save a mother's for her child. For all the rest, it is through fear that love is made perfect; fear which bridles and guides the lover with awe even though misplaced of the beloved one's perfections; with dread never misplaced of the beloved one's contempt.'
Charles Kingsley, Essays, p. 344.
There comes a time when neither Fear nor Hope are necessary to the pious man; but he loves righteousness for righteousness' sake, and love is all in all. It is not joy but escape from future perdition that he now feels; nor is it hope for some untold happiness in the future: it is a present rapture of piety and resignation and love a present that fills eternity. It asks nothing, it fears nothing; it loves and it has no petition to make. God takes back His little child to Himself a little child that has no fear, and is all trust.
Fear and Love
1 John 4:18
In heaven, love will absorb fear; but in this world, fear and love must go together. No one can love God aright without fearing Him; though many fear Him, and yet do not love Him. Self-confident men, who do not know their own hearts, or the reasons they have for being dissatisfied with themselves, do not fear God, and they think this bold freedom is to love Him. Deliberate sinners fear but cannot love Him. But devotion to Him consists in love and fear, as we may understand from our ordinary attachment to each other. No one really loves another who does not feel a certain reverence towards him. When friends transgress this sobriety of affection, they may indeed continue associates for a time, but they have broken the bond of union. It is mutual respect which makes friendship lasting. So again, in the feelings of inferiors towards superiors. Fear must go before love. Till he who has authority shows he has it and can use it, his forbearance will not be valued duly; his kindness will look like weakness. We learn to contemn what we do not fear; and we cannot love what we contemn. So in religion also. We cannot understand Christ's mercies till we understand His power, His glory, His unspeakable holiness, and our demerits; that is, until we first fear Him.
J. H. Newman.
References. IV. 18. S. Cox, Expositions, p. 364. E. M. Geldart, Echoes of Truth, p. 143. F. de W. Lushington, Sermons to Young Boys, p. 60. Expositor (4th Series), vol. ii. p. 213. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture 1 John, p. 347.
The Ray and the Reflection
1 John 4:19
The correct reading of my text, as you will find in the Revised Version, omits 'Him' in the first clause, and simply says 'we love,' without specifying the object. That is to say, for the moment John's thought is fixed rather on the inward transformation effected from self-regard to love than on considering the object on which the love is expended. When the heart is melted, the streams flow wherever there is a channel. The river, as he goes on to show us, parts into two heads, and love to God and love to man are, in their essence and root-principle, one thing. So my text is the summary of all revelation about God, the ultimate word about all our relations to Him, and the all-inclusive directory as to our conduct to one another.
I. The ultimate word about God. 'He first loved us.' Properly and strictly speaking, that 'first' only declares the priority of the Divine love towards us over ours towards Him. But we may fairly give it a wider meaning, and say first of all, ere Creation and Time first of all things was God's love: last to be discovered because most ancient of all. (1) Consider, for a moment, the relation which all the other perfections of the Divine nature have to this central and foundation one. There is the central blaze: the rest is but the brilliant periphery that encloses it. (2) Are we not warranted in believing that in that which we call the love of God there do abide the same elements as characterise the thing that bears the same name in our human experience? The spectrum has told us that the constituents of the mighty sun in the heavens are the same as the constituents of this little darkened earth. And there are the same lines in the Divine spectrum that there are in ours.
II. Here we have the ultimate word as to our religion. (1) A simple trust in the love of God, as manifested in Jesus Christ, our Lord, is the only thing which will so deal with man's natural self-regard and desire to make himself his own object and centre, as to substitute for that the victorious love of God. (2) If we love Him, it will be the motive power and spring of all manner of obedience and glad services. St. Augustine's paradox, rightly understood, is a magnificent truth, 'Love! and do what you will'.
III. Here is the ultimate word about our conduct to men. The only victorious antagonist to the self-regarding temperament of average men, and the only power which will change philanthropy from a sentiment into a self-denying and active principle of conduct, is to be found in the belief of the love of God in Jesus Christ, and in answering love to Him.
A. Maclaren, Triumphant Certainties, p. 305.
1 John 4:19
It was in his happier state of mind that Law was found by Wesley, and in this spirit he said to him: 'You would have a philosophical religion, but there can be no such thing. Religion is the most plain, simple thing: in the world. It is only, we love Him, because He first loved us'.
The religious idea is essentially not an individualist perception, not a single fact which stands separate and palpable, but an organic and organising principle, which binds man to man, and of which the Church is the embodiment and evidence. 'How can a man love God,' it is said, 'if he love not his brother also?' How, it may be added, can one see and realise God, unless he see and realise the community and solidarity of man? On the coherence and coincidence of these two aspects all religion depends: it is this which, when it is alive, makes it always propagandist; for you feel that it cannot be really true for you unless it is true for others also.
Prof. William Wallace, Gifford Lectures, pp. 47, 48.
1 John 4:20
'But,' said Vinet half-sadly, half-ironically, in his diary, 'it is just the brother one sees whom it is so difficult to love'.
References. IV. 19. H. S. Holland, Christian World Pulpit, vol. liv. p. 168. W. H. Evans, Short Sermons for the Seasons, p. 96. R. J. Campbell, City Temple Sermons, p. 122. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. v. No. 229; vol. xvii. No. 1008; vol. xxii. No. 1299, and vol. xlvii. No. 2730. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture 1 John, p. 355. IV. 20. J. M. Whiton, Summer Sermons, p. 53. H. S. Holland, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlv. p. 329. Bishop Riley, Church Family Newspaper, vol. xv. p. 536. IV. 20, 21. J. C. M. Bellew, Christ in Life: Life in Christ, p. 315. IV. 21. J. S. Boone, Sermons, p. 190. V. 1. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xvii. No. 979. V. 1-5. Expositor (6th Series), vol. v. p. 287.