Attention!
Partner with StudyLight.org as God uses us to make a difference for those displaced by Russia's war on Ukraine.
Click to donate today!

Bible Commentaries

International Critical Commentary NT

1 John 4

Verses 1-99

II. 4:1-6. The Christological thesis. The Spirit which is of God recognizes Jesus as the Christ come in flesh.

1. 4:1-3. Content of the Confession

4:1-3. In accordance with his usual custom, the writer finds a transition to a new section in the repetition of the last prominent idea. The gift of the Spirit ensures to them knowledge. But all spiritual activities of the time could not be traced back to the Spirit of God as their source. The suggestions of every spirit could not be accepted as true. As at Corinth in the days of S.Paul, spiritual phenomena must be tested. And the reader’s experience supplied them with a test by which they could know whether the spirits were of God or not. The surest criterion was the confession of the Incarnation, or rather of the Incarnate Christ. Those who saw in Jesus of Nazareth as He appeared on earth in fleshly form the complete revelation of the Father, were of God. Those who refused to confess Jesus were not of God. Such a refusal was the peculiar characteristic of Antichrist, whose coming they had been taught to expect, and whose working they could already perceive.1.�

μὴ παντὶ πνεύματι πιστεύετε] Cf. Didache, 11:8, οὐ πᾶς δὲ ὁ λαλῶν ἐν πνεύματι προφήτης ἐστίν,�John 8:31, πρὸς τοὺς πεπιστευκότας αὐτῷ Ἰουδαίους.

ἀλλὰ δοκιμάζετε] Cf. 1 Corinthians 12:10, ἄλλῳ δὲ διακρίσεις πνευμάτων, where the “discerning of spirits” is one of the recognized kinds of χαρίσματα. In the earlier generations the spiritual phenomena which accompanied the growth of Christianity were a cause of grave anxiety to all Christian leaders. It needed a special grace to distinguish between the true and the false. They might be delusions or impostures; if real, they might be evil. Cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:19-21, τὸ πνεῦμα μὴ σβέννυτε· προφητείας μὴ ἐξουθενεῖτε· πάντα δὲ δοκιμάζετε. It would generally have been far easier to say, with the ἰδιώτης of Corinth, μαίνεσθε. The difficulty, which culminated in Montanism, is of periodic recurrence. But the writer reminds his hearers that the grace of discernment was part of the Christian endowment, if Christians were willing to use the χάρισμα which they possessed. Compare the passage quoted above from the Didache; and, for the danger of yielding to the opposite temptation, compare the preceding sentences (11:7), καὶ πάντα προφήτην λαλοῦντα ἐν πνεύματι οὐ πειράσετε ὐδὲ διακρινεῖτε· πᾶσα γὰρ ἁμαρτία�


ὅτι πολλοὶ κ.τ.λ.] The clause explains the necessity for the testing. The spirit of evil has sent forth his messengers into the world, and their activity is well known.

ψευδοπροφῆται] Cf. Matthew 7:15, προσέχετε�


ἐξεληλύθασιν] Contrast the tense of 2:19, where the definite fact of their separation from the Body of the Faithful is stated. Here the thought is of their sending forth by the Spirit who inspires them, and of the effect of their mission in the world. Here ὁ κόσμος is used in its natural sense of the world of men, and is not specially contrasted with the Christian Body.

πιστευετε] πιστευητε 31 Rev_2 scr..


τα πνευματα] pr. παντα K; παν πν̄α H δ6 (Ψ).

του] om. Ia δ254.

εστιν] εισινIb δ507 (241).

2. ἐν τόυτῳ] refers to what follows, according to the customary usage of this Epistle.

γινώσκετε] The word may be taken either as imperative or indicative. At first sight the use of the imperative in ver. 1 would seem conclusive as to the interpretation of this verse. But an appeal to his readers’ knowledge and experience is more in accordance with the writer’s method. The aim of the whole Epistle is to remind them of what they already possess, and to base on it an appeal to them to make use of that which they have. In the Christian faith, as it has been taught to them from the beginning, they have adequate provision against the dangers to which they now find themselves exposed. All that is needed is that they should use what they already possess. They must trust the powers with which the Christ has endowed them. Cf. 2:29. Nowhere in the Epistle does the imperative follow ἐν τούτῳ: 2:3, 5, 3:16, 19, 24, 4:13, 5:2.

The reading γινώσκεται, which has passed into the Vulgate (cognoscitur), is an obvious corruption, the interchange of αι and ε being perhaps the commonest itacism in Greek manuscripts. The direct appeal to his readers is far more congruous with the author’s style, and suits the context better.

τὸ πνεῦμα τοῦ θεοῦ] Here only in the Johannine books. Cf. ver. 13, ἐκ τοῦ πνεύματος αὐτοῦ. The vacillation between singular and plural, and the various genitives connected with πνεῦμα, may perhaps serve as indications that the doctrine of the Spirit is not yet clearly defined in precise terms.ὁμολογεῖ] The verb is used in the Johannine books with the following constructions: (1) absolutely, cf. John 1:20, John 1:12:42; (2) with ὅτι, cf. 1 John 4:15; (3) with the single accusative, cf. 1 John 1:9 (τὰς ἁμαρτίας), 2:23 (τὸν υἱόν), 4:3 (Ἰησοῦν); (4) with the double accusative, cf. John 9:22, ἐάν τις αὐτὸν ὁμολογήσῃ Χριστόν. The construction of 2 John 1:7, οἱ μὴ ὁμολογοῦντες Ἰησοῦν Χριστὸν ἐρχόμενον ἐν σαρκί, is parallel to this verse, and equally obscure. Three constructions are possible here. (1) Ἰησοῦν Χριστόν may be the object and ἐληλυθότα ἐν σαρκί the predicate. The confession of Jesus Christ as one who has come in the flesh is the test proposed. We may perhaps compare S. Paul’s test in 1 Corinthians 12:3, οὐδεὶς δύναται εἰπεῖν Κύριος Ἰησοῦς εἰ μὴ ἐν πνεύματι ἁγίῳ. In favour of this construction is the natural connection which it gives of Ἰησοῦν Χριστόν, which can hardly be separated unless the context clearly suggests their separation. (2) The form of ver. 3, according to the true text, is in favour of regarding Ἰησοῦν as object and the rest of the words as predicate. The error which the writer condemns seems to have been the rejection of the identity of the historical man Jesus with the pre-existent Christ, truly incarnate in His manhood, in favour of the view that some higher power, as the Aeon Christ, descended upon the man Jesus at the Baptism, and left him before the Passion. There is nothing in the Epistle which compels us to suppose that the author is combating pure Docetism, though, of course, such teaching would be excluded by the phrases used in these verses, in whatever way they are interpreted. The construction of John 9:22 may perhaps be urged as supporting this interpretation. And it probably emphasizes most clearly the view on which the writer wishes to lay stress. It is the denial of Jesus as the incarnate Christ which he regards as the source of all error, as the true text of ver. 3 (μὴ ὁμολογεῖ Ἰησοῦν) shows. But so far as grammar and syntax are concerned this separation of Ἰησοῦν from Χριστόν, without anything in the context to necessitate it, or even to suggest it, is difficult. (3) The simplest construction is, therefore, that in which the whole phrase is regarded as connected. The confession needed is of one who is Jesus Christ incarnate, a man who lived on earth a true human life under the normal conditions of humanity, and who is also the preexistent Christ who manifested God’s glory in this form. And the true text of ver. 3 favours this construction, if it is not regarded as too awkward.


But whichever construction be adopted, the confession demanded is not of the truth of certain propositions about a certain person, but the confession of a Person, of whom certain propositions are true, who is possessed of the nature and qualities which they define. It is a confession not of the fact of the Incarnation, but of the Incarnate Christ.

ἐν σαρκὶ ἐληλυθότα] The phrase describes the method rather than the fact. The revelation of God was made to men by the Son of God appearing in human form and living a human life. It was given in a form which made it comprehensible to men, and its effects were abiding (ἐληλυθότα). Its whole validity depended on the Revealer being true man, who could speak to men as one of themselves. The guarantee for its completeness and its intelligibility was destroyed if the Revealer and the man were not one and the same. And the confession involved allegiance to the Person of the Revealer; without that men could not make the revelation their own. Non sonando, sed amando (Bede).

The reading ἐληλυθέναι which is found in some important authorities is a natural correction of a difficult and somewhat awkward phrase. When Polycarp uses the passage he not unnaturally substitutes the infinitive for the participle. (Polycarp, ad Philipp. 6:3 f.,�

ἤδη] Cf. John 4:35, ὅτι λευκαί εἰσιν πρὸς θερισμὸν ἤδη, and 9:27, εἶπον ὑμῖν ἤδη. With these three exceptions, of which 4:35 is doubtful, the Johannine use of ἤδη is to qualify the words which follow.


πνευμα (? 1:0)] om. H 257 (33) Ia 70, 65. 172 (505) | ο (? 1:0) + αν Ia 70 (505) | μη] om. Ib δ152 (491).

ο μη ομολογει] λυει vg. (soluit) Ir. Or. Aug. Fulg. cdd. uet. op. Socr. Cf. Lcif. Tert.

τον ιησουν Α Β h 13. 27. 29. 69 ascr cdduet ap. Socrat. Cyr. Thdt. vg. fu. harl. tol. syrutr boh-ed. arm-cod. aeth. Ir. Or. Lcif. Did.] ιησουν κυριον א : τον ιησουν χριστον L al. plu. boh-codd. cat. Oec.: τον χν̄ ιν̄ Ia 192, δ254, δ454 (318) Ic 364-208. δ299 (137): ιησουν χριστον K al. plus 30 Polyc.

Thyphl. am. demid. sah. arm-ed. Aug. Tert.: + εν σαρκι εληλυθοτα א K L al. pler. cat. syrutr arm. Thphyl. Oec. Tert. (uenisse) Cyp.: + εν σαρκι εληλυθεναι H δ48 (33) Aπρι (K) Polyc.

τον] κν̄ Ic 487 (-).

εκ] om. K L kscr al. plus10 cat.

τουτο- ο 2:0] hic est Antichristus quem sah. boh. arm.

το] om. I a δ203ff, 254 (205) K δ364 (51) | του2:0] om. Ia 264 (233).

ο2:0] ο τι א 5. 6. 39. 100: ου H δ6 (Ψ).

ακηκοατε] ακηκοαμεν H δ2 (א) Ia δ 453-173 (5).

The evidence for the reading λύει = soluit in this verse is mainly Latin; before von der Goltz’s discovery, described below, it was almost exclusively so. The statements of Clement, Origen, and Socrates are most naturally explained as proving the existence of such a reading in Greek. Taking the evidence roughly in chronological order, we must notice first that of Irenaeus, though it is unfortunately only preserved in a Latin dress. In 3:16. 8 (Massuet, 207), Irenaeus is denouncing the Gnostics who distinguish between Jesus, the Christ, the Only-begotten, the Saviour. He accuses them of making many Gods, and Fathers many, and of dividing up the Son of God. The Lord warns us to beware of such, and John, His disciple, in his afore-mentioned Epistle says, “lat (2 John 1:7, 2 John 1:8). lat.” The actual reading, “lat,” may be due to the Latin translator; but it must be noticed that it suits the preceding words of Irenaeus, comminuens autem et per multa diuidens Filium Dei, so much better than the common reading μὴ ὁμολογεῖ (non confitetur), that it is more natural to suppose that Irenaeus had in his Greek text either λύει or some equivalent phrase, unless his translator has very freely paraphrased the whole passage to bring it into agreement with the text of the Epistle with which he was acquainted. (See, however, Westcott,p. 157.)The evidence of Clement of Alexandria was also available only through Latin sources. The Latin summary of his Hypotyposes has no equivalent for this passage; but in the summary of the Second Epistle we find, “Adstruit in hac epistola perfectionem fidei extra caritatem non esse, et ut nemo diuidat Iesum Christum, sed unum credat Iesum Christum uenisse in carne,” words which do not go far towards proving that Clement knew of the reading λύει in Greek, but when taken in connection with two passages in Origen suggest the possibility that the reading was known at Alexandria in Clement’s time.In the Latin version of Origen’s Commentary on S.Matthew, § 65, the reading “soluit Jesum” is found. The passage is an explanation of the parable, Matthew 24:14. The man who went on a journey being naturally identified with the Lord, Origen raises the difficulty, “How can He be said to go on a journey who promised that where two or three are gathered together in His name, He will be in their midst?” He finds a solution of the difficulty which he has raised in the distinction between the Lord’s divine and human natures. “Secundum hanc divinitatis suae naturam non peregrinatur, sed peregrinatur secundum dispensationem corporis quod suscepit.” He adds other instances of statements which must be referred to His human nature, and then adds, “Haec autem dicentes non soluimus suscepti corporis hominem, cum sit scriptum apud Joannem ‘Omnis spiritus qui soluit Iesum non est ex Deo’ sed unicuique substantiae proprietatem seruamus.” The whole argument is so thoroughly in Origen’s style, that we should hestitate to attribute the quotation of the verse in this form to the Translator, though we cannot be certain that Origen read λύει in his Greek text. The passage has been quoted frequently, but it is curious that another passage in the part of his Commentary on S.Matthew which is extant in Greek has been generally overlooked. I had noted the passage several years ago, but have seen no reference to it earlier than Dr. Zahn’s Introduction. In 16:8, Origen is commenting on the words δοῦναι τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ λύτρον�Romans 5:17, and in Rufinus’ translation (v. 8; Lomm. p. 386) 1 John 4:2 is quoted, so that it is not unlikely that in the original Greek the quotation included the third verse with the reading λύει. Thus, if we may trust the evidence of the Scholion, and there are no good grounds for not doing so, in the three instances where extant Latin evidence suggested that the reading was known to Greek writers, we have now definite evidence that it was found in their Greek text.


The only other Greek evidence for the reading is the well-known passage of Socrates about Nestorius (H. E. 7:32), αὐτίκα γοῦν ἠγνόησεν ὅτι ἐν τῇ καθολικῇ Ἰωάννου γέγραπτο ἐν τοῖς παλαίοις�

ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ ἐστέ] Cf. John 8:23, John 8:17:14, John 8:16; 1 John 3:19, 1 John 5:19, 1 John 2:19. By the phrase εἶναι ἐκ the writer seems to denote more than merely “belonging to.” It suggests primarily spiritual dependence. A man is said to be “of God,” “of the Devil,” who draws all his inspiration, all that dominates and regulates his thought and action, from the sources out of which he is said to be. Εἶναι ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ denotes especially the state of those who have experienced the spiritual regeneration which is the true note of the Christian, and who are true to their experience. Εἶναι ἐκ τοῦ κόσμου is the state of those who still, whether nominally Christian or not, draw their guidance from human society, considered as an ordered whole, apart from God.


νενικήκατε] by remaining true to the Christianity which they had been taught�

6. ἡμεῖς] The contrast with ὑμεῖς (ver. 5) suggests that the teachers and not the whole body of Christians are meant. They know whence they draw the inspiration of their life and work. And they will be recognized by those who have begun to live the eternal life which consists in knowing God and His messenger (cf. John 17:3).


ὁ γινώσκων τὸν θεόν] The phrase is used as practically equivalent to εἶναι ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ, but it emphasizes one particular point in the continual progress made by those who “are of God,” viz. the knowledge of Him which comes from experience of life in fellowship with Him.

ὃς οὐκ ἔστιν κ.τ.λ.] They cannot know or welcome the truth, because the principles which guide their thoughts are not derived from the truth.

ἐκ τούτου] Cf. John 6:66, John 19:12, in neither of which verses is the meaning exclusively temporal. The phrase is not used again in the Epistle, or in the Johannine writings, with γινώσκειν. As compared with ἐν τούτῳ it may perhaps suggest a criterion which is less obvious, and which lies further away from that which it may be used to test. The character of their confession offers an immediate test of the spirits. It requires a longer process of intelligent observation to determine the character of the reception with which the message meets. The “test” here is the fact that the one message is welcomed by those who are of God and know God, the other only by those who are of the world. Cf. John 15:19.


γινώσκομεν] The preceding ἡμεῖς and ἡμῶν make it natural to refer this to the teachers, and grammatically this is no doubt the more correct interpretation. But when the writer is meditating, rather than pursuing a course of logically developed thought, his meditation is apt to pass out into wider spheres, and it is more than probable that he now includes in the first person plural the whole body of those whom he is addressing, as well as the teachers, with whom he began by associating himself.

τὸ πνεῦμα τῆς�

7.�Ephesians 3:15.


πᾶς ὁ�

ουκ εγνω] om. εγνωκεν אc 31: ου γινωσκειA 3. 5. 13 Revelation 4:0 arm. Or. cf. Lcif. Did. Fulg.: non cognoscit sah.


9. ἐν τούτῳ] The true nature of God’s love has now been shown, in a way which men can understand and appreciate, in the fact and the purpose of the Incarnation. God gave His best, that men might be enabled to live the life of God.

ἐν ἡμῖν] Not “among us.” still less “to us.” If the writer had meant “God’s love to us,” he would doubtless have used the Greek words which would convey that meaning, ἡ�

ο θεος]om. 15. 18. 25. 98. 100 Revelation 5:0 arm. aeth. Aug.


ζησωμεν] ζωμεν א*.

10. True love is selfless. It is not a mere response. It gives itself. The sending of God’s Son was not the answer of God to something in man. It was the outcome of the very Nature of God. Cf. odes of Solomon, iii. 3, 4, “I should not have known how to love the Lord, if He had not loved me. For who is able to distinguish love, except the one that is loved?”

ἱλασμόν] Cf. 2:2. God could not give Himself while men’s sins formed a barrier between them and Him. True love must sweep away the hindrances to the fulfilment of the law of its being. While Vulg. has propitiatio, Aug. has litator, and Lucif. expiator, emphasizing the fact that that which reconciles is a person.

η αγαπη] + του θεου אsah. cop.

ηγαπησαμεν] ηγαπηκαμεν B L ηγαπησεν pr. πρωτοςK δ364 (51).

αυτος] εκεινοςA: pr. Deus sahw.

απεστειλεν] απεσταλκεν א.

περι] υπερIa 200 (83): om. Ic 174 (252).

(b) 11, 12. Love of the Brethren the test of Fellowship

In the light of such a manifestation of God’s love there can be no question about the obligation to mutual love among those who have experienced it. True knowledge always finds expression in action. The true nature of God cannot be made visible to the eye. His presence cannot be seen. But it is known in its results. Where love is, there we know that God abides in men. His abiding in men is the most complete expression of His love.

11.�

οὕτως] Cf. John 3:16, of which this verse seems to be an echo. Οὕτως defines the way in which God manifested the true nature of love, by giving His Son.


καὶ ἡμεῖς] The writer and his readers, or more generally the Christian Family, those who have experienced and appropriated the revelation of love. Those who have learned the true character of love are under the strongest obligation to carry out, in such spheres as they can, the lesson which they have learned. The proper result of divine birth is divine activity.

ο θεος] post ημαςIb 253f. 559. δ152. δ260 (2).

οφειλομεν και ημειςIa δ453-173 (5).

12. θεὸν κ.τ.λ.] Cf. John 1:18, where the order of the first two words is the same. The absence of the article throws the emphasis on the nature and character of God. As He is in His true nature He cannot be made visible to the eyes of men, so that they can grasp the meaning of what they see (θεᾶσθαι, contrast the ἑώρακεν of the Gospel, which merely states the fact).


ἂν κ.τ.λ.] What cannot be seen can be known by its fruits. Mutual love is a sign of the indwelling of God in men. “Through our love for each other (as Christians) we build the Temple, in which God can dwell in and among us” (Rothe). His love for men receives its most perfect expression in His giving Himself to men, and entering into fellowship with them.

αὐτοῦ] There is the usual division of opinion as to whether the genitive is subjective or objective, or whether the two meanings are to be combined, the love which comes from God and which He causes to exist in men. The context on the whole favours the view that it should be taken as subjective. God’s love to men is realized most fully in His condescending to abide in men. Cf. ver. 9, ἐφανερώθη ἡ�

13. The writer passes from the facts to Christian consciousness of the facts. We are assured that fellowship between God and us really exists, because he has given us of His Spirit, and the effects of His gifts are permanent. Cf. 3:24, where the same conclusion is reached. For the use of the preposition, cf. Matthew 25:28, δότε ἡμῖν ἐκ τοῦ ἐλαίου ὑμῶν. For the general arrangement of the matter, cf. 1 John 2:5, 1 John 2:6.


μενομεν] + και ημεις13.

αυτος] + est s. manet sah. boh.: + (?) ο θεοςIa 158 (395).

πῡς] πρσ̄O46(154).

δεδωκεν א B K L al. plur. cat. Ath. Cyr.] εδωκεν13, 27, 29 cscr Ath. Bas. Cyr.

14. Beside the internal witness of the Spirit, there is also the external witness of those who saw the great proof of God’s love. Their vision was complete, and lasting in its results. The testimony, therefore, which they bear is sure.

ἡμεῖς] The word must here refer to the actual eye-witnesses of the life of Jesus on earth. The exaggeration of the view which finds “the αὐτόπται of the Province”1 in each use of the first person plural of the pronoun in the Epistle, should not be allowed to obscure the natural meaning of certain expressions which it contains; cf. 1 John 1:1. The verb looks back to ver. 12: “God Himself no one has ever yet beheld; but we have beheld His Son.

σωτῆρα] Cf. John 4:42, οὗτός ἐστιν�


τεθεαμεθα א B K L al. longe. pler. cat. Thphyl. Oec.] εθεασαμεθα A 27. 29. 33. 34. 66**. 68. 98 al. aliq. Cyr.

μαρτυρουμεν] testati sumus sah.

απεσταλκεν] απεστειλενIa 396fff (96) Ib 78-157 (—) O46 (154).

υιον] + αυτουIc 364, 259 (137).

15. ὁμολογήσῃ] Cf. 4:2 and notes. The confession is stated variously; cf. 4:2; 2 John 1:7, and the various confessions is the Gospel. The essential point seems to be the identity of Jesus, the man who lived on earth a human life, with the Son of God, who as only-begotten Son of His Father could reveal the Father to men. In the thought of the writer no other conditions could assure the validity of the revelation and the possibility of its comprehension by man. He who “confesses” this, i.e. makes this belief the guiding principle of his life and action, is assured of the truth of his fellowship with God. Thus the work of the original witnesses is continued in the “confession” of those who “have not seen and yet have believed.” Such a confession is as sure a test of Divine fellowship as “mutual love.” As it cannot be true unless it issues in such mutual love, it is difficult to distinguish the two. The writer probably puts it forward rather for its value as an objective sign to others, than for its power of giving assurance to him who makes it. In the Christian community there is external as well as internal assurance to be found by those who look for it.

16a. καὶ ἡμεῖς ἐγνώκαμεν καὶ πεπιστεύκαμεν] If, as seems probable, the first person plural still refers to the writer and other teachers who, like him, had seen the Lord on earth, he is thinking of his early experiences in Galilee or Jerusalem, when growing acquaintance passed into assured faith, which had never since been lost. Contrast the order in the confession of S. Peter, John 6:69. The growth of knowledge and the growth of faith act and react on each other.


ἐν ἡμῖν] The love which God has for men is manifested in those who respond to it, in whom it issues in higher life. But perhaps it is safer to regard the preposition as a trace of the influence of Aramaic forms of expression on the writer’s style.

ομολογηση] ομολογηA 5 | ιησους] κσ̄Ia 101 (40): χσ̄ κσ̄Ia 382 (231): + χριστοςB m, arm-codd. Cf. Tert.

αυτος] ουτοςIa δ 457-110 (209) : + est s. manet boh. sah.

πεπιστευκαμεν και εγνωκαμενarm. | πεπιστευκαμεν] πιστευομενA 13 am. tol. cop.

την αγαπην] +Dei am. * arm.

εχει] εσχενH δ6 (Ψ).

εν ημιν] μεθ ημωνIa 397ffff. δ157 (96).

16b-21. Love and Faith in relation to Judgment. The nature of true love.Since God is love, he who abides in love abides in God and God in him. Thus the test of love can give full assurance with regard to the reality of our fellowship with God. It is a logical deduction from the very nature of God. Love has been made perfect in us when, and only when, we can look forward with entire confidence to the great day of God’s judgment, knowing that as the exalted Christ abides in the Father’s love, so we abide in it so far as that is possible under the conditions of our present existence. Where full confidence is not yet possible, love is not yet made perfect, for fear and dread have no place in true love. It drives them out completely from the sphere of its activity. For fear has in itself something of the nature of punishment, and he who experiences it has not yet been made perfect in love. How then can we say that we have love? Because our love, in whatever degree we possess it as yet, has its origin in something that is above and beyond us. It has its origin in God. It is called out in response to the love which God has for us. But our claim to love can be put to an obvious test. Love is active, and must, if it is real, go forth to those who need it. If any one claims to love God and does not show love to his brethren, his claim is not only false, but reveals a falseness of character. Love will show itself wherever an object of love is to be found. He who will not take even the first step can never reach the goal. If the sight of his brother does not call out his love, the fact shows that he cannot have love enough to reach as far as God. And for us the matter is determined, once for all, by the Master’s command. He has said, “The first commandment is, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God. And the second is this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”

16b. ὁ θεός κ.τ.λ.] Cf. ver. 8, where love is shown to be the necessary condition of knowledge of God. Here it is presented as the necessary condition of fellowship.

ὁ μένων κ.τ.λ.] Cf. ver. 12, where the writer emphasizes the fact that God’s love for men is shown most completely in His willingness to “abide” in us. Here the emphasis is laid on the mutual character of the intercourse, ἐν τῷ θεῷ μένει καὶ ὁ θεὸς ἐν αὐτῷ, and especially on the human side. By abiding in love, the Christian realizes the divine fellowship.

και4o—μενει2o] om. Syrsch | om H δ2 (א)—μενει2oא B K L al. fere. 50 sah. cop. syrp arm. Cyp. Aug.] om. A al. sat. mul. cat. vg. aeth. Thphyl. Oec. Cyp.

17. ἐν τούτῳ κ.τ.λ.] Two interpretations of this verse are possible, according as the words refer to what precedes or to what follows. Ἐν τούτῳ may recapitulate the clause ἐν τῷ θεῷ μένει καὶ ὁ θεὸς ἐν αὐτῷ. Love finds its consummation in the realization of this mutual fellowship. But it would be truer to say that love is made perfect, not in fellowship generally, but in perfect fellowship; and this is hardly expressed by the words. And in the general usage of the author ἐν τούτῳ refers to what follows, whenever the sentence contains a clause which allows of such a reference. Such clauses are either added without connecting particle, or are introduced by ὅτι, ἐάν, or ὅταν. There is no certain instance of the construction ἐν τούτῳ ἵνα. But John 15:8 should probably be interpreted in this way (ἐντούτῳ ἐδοξάσθη ὁ πατήρ μου, ἵνα καρπὸν πολὺν φέρητε). And the writer’s use of the purely definitive ἵνα is so well established that such a construction causes no difficulty. If ἐν τούτῳ refers to the clause introduced by ἵνα the meaning will be that love is made perfect in full confidence, It has been perfectly realized only by those who can look forward with sure confidence to the judgment of the Great Day. Such confidence is the sign of perfect love. The thought is developed further in ver. 18. Cf. also 2:28.


παρρησίαν] See the note on 2:28.

μεθʼ ἡμῶν] As contrasted with ἐν ἡμῖν (א)it is possible that the phrase may emphasize the co-operation of men in the realization of fellowship, “In fulfilling this issue, God works with man” (Westcott, who compares Acts 15:4). But it is at least equally possible that the usage of the Hebrew preposition עם may have influenced the choice of preposition.

ὅτι κ.τ.λ.] The ground of the assurance. Those who have attained to fellowship share, in some degree, the character of the Christ, as He is in His exalted state, in perfect fellowship with the Father. Cf. John 17:23, ἐγὼ ἐν αὐτοῖς καὶ σὺ ἐν ἐμοί· ἵνα ὦσιν τετελειωμένοι εἰς ἕν. Those who are like their Judge, can await with confidence the result of His decrees. The fellowship is limited by the conditions of earthly life (ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ τούτῳ). Οὗτος“emphasizes the idea of transitoriness.” But so far as it goes the fellowship is real.


ἐκεῖνος] is generally used in this Epistle of the exalted Christ; cf. 2:6, 3:3, 5, 7, 16.

ἐν τῇ ἡμέρᾳ τῆς κρίσεως] Cf. 2:28, ἐὰν φανερωθῇ. However much the writer may seek to spiritualize the ordinary Christian, or even the Synoptic, eschatology, he has not eliminated from the sphere of his theological thought the idea of a final “day” of judgment, when the processes which are already at work shall reach their final issue and manifestation. The attempts which have been made to draw a distinction in this respect between the Gospel and the Epistle cannot be said to have been successful.

η αγαπη] + του θεου96 alpauc vgcle tol. sahbw: eius arm.

μεθ ημων] + εν ημιν א.

εχωμεν] εχομεν א K Revelation 5:0: σχωμεν Ib 78 (-).


τη] om. Ia δ454 (794).

ημερα] αγαπη א.

οτι… εσμεν] ut … simus sahbw (non liquet sahd).

κρισεως] + προς τον ενανθρωπησαντα Ic 208-116, 356 (307).

εκεινος] κακεινος13 Revelation 2:0.


εστιν] ην εν τω κοσμω αμωμος και καθαρος ουτως Ic 116, 356 (-).

εσμεν] εσομεθα א.

18. Fear, which is essentially self-centred, has no place in love, which in its perfection involves complete self-surrender. The two cannot exist side by side. The presence of fear is a sign that love is not yet perfect. “Love cannot be mingled with fear” (Seneca, Ep. Mor. 47:18).

κόλασιν ἔχει] not only “includes the punishment which it anticipates,” but is in itself of the nature of punishment. Till love is supreme, it is a necessary chastisement, a part of the divine discipline, which has its salutary office. κόλασις is used in the New Testament only here and in Matthew 25:46; Matthew 25:2Matthew 25:2 Mac. 4:38. (Contrast the use of τιμωρία, “requital.”) The expression must mean here more than “suffers punishment,” as in Hermas, S. 9:18. 1, ὁ μὴ γινώσκων θεὸν καὶ πονηρευόμενος ἔχεικόλασίν τινα τῆς πονηρίας αὐτοῦ.

ἔξω βάλλει] Cf. Matthew 5:13, Matthew 5:13:48; John 6:37, John 9:34, John 12:31, John 15:6. Love must altogether banish fear from the enclosure in which her work is done.


ὁ δὲ φοβούμενος κ.τ.λ.] Till fear has been “cast outside,” love has not been made perfect. Cf. Philo, quod Deus sit immut. 69 (Cohn, 2:72), τοῖς μὲν οὖν μήτε μέρος μήτε πάθος ἄνθρωπου περὶτὸ ὂν νομίζουσιν,�

19. ἡμεῖς] We Christians, as in ver. 17. The point has been much disputed whether the verb �3 John 1:8), or the insertion of an object for the verb (τὸν θεόν, αὐτόν, inuicem). And both modifications would be natural if the clause is to be taken as hortatory. But a further meditation on the nature of love as manifested in us is more suitable to the context, and it gives a deeper meaning to the words. Our love is not self-originated. It has a divine origin. It is called out in response to what God has given. Thus interpreted, the words offer a far more powerful incentive to the exercise of love than a mere exhortation, and they have their natural place in the writer’s thoughts. God is love; by the path of love we can enter into His fellowship (16): in our case love is made perfect in proportion as it casts out fear and establishes full confidence (17, 18). And it rests on something greater and stronger than our own powers. It is the response of our nature to the love which God Himself has shown. Such love which He has called out in us must find an object. If it fails to find out the nearer object, it will never reach the further (19, 20). And besides this, there is the Lord’s express command (21).


αὐτός] The variant ὁ θεός is probably a true explanation. But αὐτός is not only better attested, it is more in harmony with the writer’s style.

πρῶτος] Cf. John 1:42.


ημεις א B K L al. longe. plur. cat. sah. cop. syrp arm. Thphyl. Oec. Aug.] + ουν A 5. 8. 13. 31. 98. 101. 105. 106**. 107. 177** gscr kscr al. pauc. vg. syrsch.

αγαπωμεν A B 5. 27. 29. 66** fu. aeth. boh-codd. Aug. Pelag. Bed.] scimus sah.: + τον θεον א 13. 33. 34. 68. 69. 91. 137 ascr cscr dscr vg. demid. harl. tol. sur. boh-ed. arm. Leo: + αυτον K L al. longe. plur. cat. Thphyl. Oec. Aug.: + inuicem am. Leo.

αυτος א B K L al. pler. cat. harl. sah. cop. syr. arm. aeth. Thphyl. Oec Aug.] ο θεος A 5. 8. 13. 14*. 33. 34. 81. vg. Pelag.

πρωτος] πρωτον 5. 8. 25. 40. 69. ascr.

ηγαπησεν] ηγαπηκεν 13.

20. ἐάν τις εἴπῃ] Cf. 1:6, ἐὰν εἴπωμεν, and the more definite ὁ λέγων (2:4). The false claim is mentioned quite generally. At the same time, it is not improbable that the false teachers, who claimed to possess a superior knowledge of the true God, may also have laid claim to a superior love of the Father, who was “good,” and not merely “just,” as the God of the Old Testament. And the emphasis laid throughout the Epistle on the duty of mutual love makes it clear that their “superior” love had been more or less conspicuous in its failure to begin at home, or to master the import of the Lord’s verdict, ἐφʼ ὅσον οὐκἐποιήσατε ἑνὶ τούτων τῶν ἐλαχίστων, οὐδὲ ἐμοὶ ἐποιήσατε.

μισῇ] Cf. 2:9.

ψεύστης ἐστίν] He not only states what is false (ψεύδεται), but reveals by his false claim a real falseness of character, if the difference between two possible forms of expression is to be pressed.

ὁ γὰρ κ.τ.λ.] Love must express itself in action. He who refuses to make use of the obvious opportunities, which his position in this world affords him, cannot entertain the highest love.

ὃν ἑώρακεν] Cf. Oec. ἐφελκυστικὸν γὰρ ὅρασις πρὸς�

αγαπαν] αγαπησαι13 Revelation 2:0.


21. The duty of love not only follows necessarily from what God has done for us, it rests on His direct commandment.

ἀπʼ αὐτοῦ] naturally refers to God, as the variant in the Vulgate interprets it, though here as elsewhere, in the language of meditation, when the writer is of Semitic origin, a change of person is by no means impossible.

The most direct statement of the command is Mark 12:29 ff., where the Lord quotes the command of Deuteronomy 6:4, Deuteronomy 6:5. The writer no doubt knew the Marcan passage, even if he had not himself heard the saying which it records, when it was originally spoken. Cf. also John 13:34.


εχομεν] accepimus sah. boh-codd.

απ αυτου] απο του θεου A vg. am. demid. harl. tol.

om. θεον… τον 2:0 B* A* (uid.).

om. και 2:0 13. 34.

αυτου (? 2:0)] εαυτου Ic 114 (335).









Ψ̠δ6. Athos. Lawra 172 (β52) (viii.-ix.).

אԠא. δ2. Codex Sinaiticus. Petersburg (iv.).

A δ4. Codex Alexandrinus. London. Brit. Mus. Royal Libr. I. D. v.-viii. (v.).

B δ1. Codex Vaticanus. Rome. Vat. Gr. 1209 (iv.).

C δ3. Codex Ephraimi. Paris. Bibl. Nat. 9 (v.); 1 John 1:1 τους—(2) εωρα[κομεν]. 4:2 εστιν—(3 John 1:2) ψυχη.


L α5. Rome. Angel. 39 (ol. A. 2. 15) (ix.).

13 13 ( = 33gosp.). δ48. Paris. Bibl. Nat. Gr. 14 (ix.-x.).

1 Cf. Holtzmann on 3 John 1:9.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Driver, S.A., Plummer, A.A., Briggs, C.A. "Commentary on 1 John 4". International Critical Commentary NT. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/icc/1-john-4.html. 1896-1924.