1 John 4:17
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.
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1 John


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. God and the world, life and death, love and hate, light and darkness, these are the favourite words round which his thoughts gather. Here are nine little monosyllables. What can be simpler than, ‘As He is, 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?

But the connection of my text is quite as striking as its substance. John has been dwelling upon his favourite thought that to abide in love is to abide in God, and God in us. And then he goes on to say that ‘Herein’--that is, in such mutual abiding in love--’is love made perfect with us’; and the perfection of that love, which is thus communion, is in order that, at the great solemn day of future trial, men may lift up their faces and meet His glance--which is not strange to them, nor met for the first time--with open-hearted and open-countenanced ‘boldness.’ But ‘love’ and ‘abiding’ are the source of confidence in the Day of Judgment, because love and abiding are the source of assimilation to Christ’s life. We have boldness, ‘because as He is, so are we in this world’; and we are as He is, because we love and abide in Him. So here are three thoughts, the assimilation of the Christian man to Christ; the frank confidence which it begets; and the process by which it is secured.

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. That might well repel us from all thought of possible resemblance, but the light, however brilliant it may be, is not blinding, and it is the Christ as He is, and not only--true as that is--the Christ as He was, who is the original of which Christian men are copies.

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. That dead Man is living, and His present life has in it elements which we can grasp, and to which every Christian life is to be conformed.

Is there anything, then, within the glory to which I, in my poor, struggling, hampered, imperfect life here on earth, can feel that my character is being shaped? Yes, surely there is. I have no doubt that, in the words of my text, the Apostle is remembering the solemn ones of our Lord’s high-priestly prayer as recorded in the seventeenth chapter of his gospel, where the same antithesis of our being in the world, and His not being there, recurs; and where the analogy and resemblance are distinctly stated--’I in Thee, and Thou in Me, that they also may be in us.’

So, then, when we stand with our letter-writer in his Patmos island, and see the countenance ‘as the sun shining in his strength, and the eyes as a flame of fire,’ and the many crowns upon the head, and the many stars in the hand, though we may feel as if all resemblance was at an end, and aspiration after likeness could only fall at His feet and cover its face, yet there is within the glory something which may be repeated and reproduced in our lives, and that is, the indissoluble union of a Son with a Father, in all loving obedience, in all perfect harmony, in all mutual affection and outgoing of heart and thoughts. This is the centre of the life, alike of the Christ when He is glorified, and of the Christ when He was upon earth. So the very secret heart of the mysterious being of the Son is to be, and necessarily is, repeated in all those who in Him have received the adoption of sons.

Or to put the whole thing into plainer words, it is the religious and the moral aspects of Christ’s being, and not any one particular detail thereof; and these, as they live and reign on the Throne, just as truly as these, as they suffered and wept upon earth--it is these to which it is our destiny to be conformed. 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. And thus ‘we,’ even here, ‘bear the image of the heavenly, as we have borne the images of the earthly.’ Now I am not going to dwell upon details; all these can be filled in by each of us for himself. The centre-point which I insist upon is this--the filial union with God, the filial submission to Him, and the consequent purity as Christ is pure, righteousness as Christ is righteous, and walking even as Christ walked, for ever in the light.

But then there is another point that I desire to refer to. 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 exhorting, he is affirming. He 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. Or, to put it into other words, likeness to the Master is certain. It is inevitably involved in the relation which a Christian man bears to the Lord. There may be degrees in the likeness, there may be differences of skill and earnestness in the artist. We have to labour like a portrait painter, slowly and tentatively approaching to the complete resemblance. It is ‘a life-long task ere the lump be leavened.’ This likeness does not reach its completeness by a leap. It is not struck, as the image of a king is, upon the blank metal disc, by one stroke, but it is wrought out by long, laborious, and, as I said, approximating and tentative touches. My text suggests that to us by its addition, ‘So are we, in this world.’ The ‘world’--or, to use modern phraseology, ‘the environment’--conditions the resemblance. As far as it is possible for a thing encompassed with dust and ashes to resemble the radiant sun in the heavens, so far is the resemblance carried here. Some measure of it, and a growing measure, is inseparable from the reality of a Christian life.

Now, you Christian people, does that plain statement touch you anywhere? ‘So are we.’ Well! you would be quite easy if John had said: ‘So may we be; so should we be; so shall we be.’ But what about the ‘so are we’? What a ghastly contradiction the lives of multitudes of professing Christians are to that plain statement! ‘Like Jesus Christ’--would anybody say that about anything in me? ‘So are we’--no words of mine, dear brethren, can make the statement more searching, more impressive; but, I pray you, lay this to heart: ‘If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His.’ You may take sacraments and profess Christianity, or, as we Nonconformists have it, ‘join churches,’ and do all manner of outward work for ever and a day; but if you have not the likeness of Christ, at least in germ, and growing to something more than a germ, in your characters, you had better revise your position, and ask whether, after all, you have not been walking in a vain show, and fancied yourselves the servants of Christ, while you bear the image of Christ’s enemy.

A very tiny gully on a hillside, made by showers of rain, may fall into the same slopes, and has been created by the very same forces, working according to the same laws, as have scooped out valleys miles broad, bordered by mountains thousands of feet high. And in my little life, poor as it is, limited as it is, environed as it is by the world, and therefore often hampered and stained, as well as helped and brightened, by its environment, there may be, and there will be, in some degree, if I am a Christian man, the very same power at work by which Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father shines as the sun on the throne of the universe.

But then, notice further, how that limitation to which I have referred in this world carries with it another message. There is Christ in the heavens, veiled and unseen. Here are you on earth, his representative. There is a rage at present for putting pictures into all books, and folk will scarcely read unless they get illustrated literature. The world has for its illustrations of the gospel the lives of us Christian people. In the book there are principles and facts, and readers should be able to turn the page and see all pictured in us.

That is what you are set to do in this world. ‘As the Father sent Me, even so send I you.’ ‘As He is, so are we in this world.’ It may be our antagonist, but it is our sphere, and its presence is necessary to evoke our characters. Christ has entrusted His reputation, His honour, to us, and many a man that never cares to look at Him as He is revealed in Scripture, would be wooed and won to look at Him and love Him, if we Christian people were more true to our vocation, and bore more conspicuously on our faces and in our characters the image of the heavenly.

II. Look for a moment at the second thought that is here: 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.

‘We have boldness,’ says John, because ‘as He is, so are we.’ Now that is a very strong statement of a truth that popular, evangelical theology has far too much obscured. People talk about being, at the last, ‘accepted in the beloved.’ God be thanked, it is true. A sweet old hymn that a great many of us learned when we were children, though it is not so well known in these days, says:--

‘Bold shall I stand in that great day,

For who aught to my charge shall lay,

While through Thy blood absolved I am

From sin’s tremendous curse and shame?’

I believe that, and I try to preach it. But do not let us forget the other side. My text is in full accordance with the principles of our Lord’s own teaching; and who knows the principles of His own words so well as the judge, who tells us, in His pictures of that great day, that the question put to every man will be, not what you believe, but what did you do, and what are you?

But this truth of my text has been not only wounded in the house of the friends of Christianity, but it has been overlooked by one of the very frequent objections that we hear made to evangelical teaching, that, according to it, a man is judged according to his belief and not according to his deeds. A man is judged according to his--not belief--but according to his faith. But he is judged according also to--not his work--but according to his character.

And I wish, dear friends, to lay this upon your hearts, because many of us are too apt to forget it, that 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. ‘The judgment of God is according to truth,’ and what a man is determines where a man shall be, and what he shall receive through all eternity. Remember Christ’s own teaching. Remember the teaching of that other apostle than John, according to which the ‘wood, hay, stubble,’ built by a man upon the foundation shall be burned up, and the builder himself be saved, yet so as by fire. And lay this to heart, that 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. Lay up in store for yourselves a good foundation unto eternal life. And take this as the preaching of my text; character, and character alone, will stand the judgment of that great day.

There is no real antagonism between such truths and the widest preaching of salvation by faith. It is the same man who, in his gospel, says, as from the lips of the Lord Himself, ‘He that believeth is not judged,’ and in his letter says, ‘We may have boldness in that day, because, as He is, so are we in this world.’

III. One word about the last point; the process by which this likeness is secured.

That is contained, as I tried to show in my introductory remarks, in the earlier part of the verse. 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. To be like Jesus Christ, what is needed is that we love Him, and that we keep in touch with Him. What is it to ‘abide’ in Him?--to direct the continual flow of mind and love and will and practical obedience to Him, to bear Him ever in the secret place of my heart whilst my hands are occupied with daily business, and my feet are running the sometimes rough race that is set before me. Think of Him ever, love Him ever. Let His name be like a perfume breathed through the whole atmosphere of your lives. Keep your wills in the attitude of submission, of acceptance, of indecision when necessary, and of absolute dependence upon Him. Let your outward acts be such as shall not bring a film of separation between Him and you. When thus our whole being is steeped and drenched with Christ, then it cannot but be that we shall be like Him. Even ‘clouds themselves as suns appear, when the sun pierces them with light.’ ‘Abide in Me, and I in you.’ You cannot make yourselves like Christ, but you can fasten yourselves to Christ, and He will give you power which shall make you like Him.

But, remember, such abiding is no idle waiting, no passive confidence. It is full of energy, full of suppression, when necessary, of what is contrary to your truest self, and full of strenuous cultivation of that which is in accord with the will of the Father, and with the likeness of the ‘first-born among many brethren.’

Dear friends, lie in the light and you will become light. Abide in Christ, and you will get like Christ; and, being like Him, you will be able to lift up your heads, and rejoice when you front Him on the Throne, and you are at the bar. Then, when you are no more in the world, the likeness will be perfected, because the communion is complete. ‘We shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.’

4:14-21 The Father sent the Son, he willed his coming into this world. The apostle attests this. And whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God. This confession includes faith in the heart as the foundation; makes acknowledgment with the mouth to the glory of God and Christ, and profession in the life and conduct, against the flatteries and frowns of the world. There must be a day of universal judgment. Happy those who shall have holy boldness before the Judge at that day; knowing he is their Friend and Advocate! Happy those who have holy boldness in the prospect of that day, who look and wait for it, and for the Judge's appearance! True love to God assures believers of God's love to them. Love teaches us to suffer for him and with him; therefore we may trust that we shall also be glorified with him, 2Ti 2:12. We must distinguish between the fear of God and being afraid of him; the fear of God imports high regard and veneration for God. Obedience and good works, done from the principle of love, are not like the servile toil of one who unwillingly labours from dread of a master's anger. They are like that of a dutiful child, who does services to a beloved father, which benefit his brethren, and are done willingly. It is a sign that our love is far from perfect, when our doubts, fears, and apprehensions of God, are many. Let heaven and earth stand amazed at his love. He sent his word to invite sinners to partake of this great salvation. Let them take the comfort of the happy change wrought in them, while they give him the glory. The love of God in Christ, in the hearts of Christians from the Spirit of adoption, is the great proof of conversion. This must be tried by its effects on their temper, and their conduct to their brethren. If a man professes to love God, and yet indulges anger or revenge, or shows a selfish disposition, he gives his profession the lie. But if it is plain that our natural enmity is changed into affection and gratitude, let us bless the name of our God for this seal and earnest of eternal happiness. Then we differ from the false professors, who pretend to love God, whom they have not seen, yet hate their brethren, whom they have seen.Herein is our love made perfect - Margin, "love with us." The margin accords with the Greek - μεθ ̓ ἡμῶν meth' hēmōn. The meaning is, "the love that is within us, or in us, is made perfect." The expression is unusual; but the general idea is, that love is rendered complete or entire in the manner in which the apostle specifies. In this way love becomes what it should be, and will prepare us to appear with confidence before the judgment-seat. Compare the notes at 1 John 4:12.

That we may have boldness in the day of judgment - By the influence of love in delivering us from the fear of the wrath to come, 1 John 4:18. The idea is, that he who has true love to God will have nothing to fear in the day of judgment, and may even approach the awful tribunal where he is to receive the sentence which shall determine his everlasting destiny without alarm.

Because as he is, so are we in this world - That is, we have the same traits of character which the Saviour had, and, resembling him, we need not be alarmed at the prospect of meeting him.

17, 18. (Compare 1Jo 3:19-21.)

our love—rather as the Greek, "LOVE (in the abstract, the principle of love [Alford]) is made perfect (in its relations) with us." Love dwelling in us advances to its consummation "with us" that is, as it is concerned with us: so Greek. Lu 1:58, "showed mercy upon (literally, 'with') her": 2Jo 2, the truth "shall be with us for ever."

boldness—"confidence": the same Greek as 1Jo 3:21, to which this passage is parallel. The opposite of "fear," 1Jo 4:18. Herein is our love perfected, namely, in God dwelling in us, and our dwelling in God (1Jo 4:16), involving as its result "that we can have confidence (or boldness) in the day of judgment" (so terrible to all other men, Ac 24:25; Ro 2:16).

because, &c.—The ground of our "confidence" is, "because even as He (Christ) is, we also are in this world" (and He will not, in that day, condemn those who are like Himself), that is, we are righteous as He is righteous, especially in respect to that which is the sum of righteousness, love (1Jo 3:14). Christ IS righteous, and love itself, in heaven: so are we, His members, who are still "in this world." Our oneness with Him even now in His exalted position above (Eph 2:6), so that all that belongs to Him of righteousness, &c., belongs to us also by perfect imputation and progressive impartation, is the ground of our love being perfected so that we can have confidence in the day of judgment. We are in, not of, this world.

And by this means (viz. of our inwardness with God) doth our love grow to that perfection, that we shall have the most fearless freedom and liberty of spirit in the judgment day; our hearts no way misgiving to appear before him as a Judge, whose very image we find upon ourselves, he having beforehand, made us such even in this world, though in an infinitely inferior degree, as he is, compositions of love and goodness. Or, if

the day of judgment should mean, as some conceive, of our appearance before human tribunals for his sake, such a temper of spirit must give us the same boldness in that case also.

Herein is our love made perfect,.... Or love with us; which some understand of the love of God towards his people, and which is shed abroad in them: this indeed removes all fear of an awful judgment, and renders that amiable and desirable; and such who are interested in it, shall stand in that day with intrepidity and boldness; and this sense may seem to be favoured by the Syriac version, which reads, "his love with us"; and especially by the Vulgate Latin version, which renders it, "the love of God with us"; but it is best to understand it agreeably to the context, of our love to God, which is with and in our hearts; and which is made, or made to appear to be perfect, true, and genuine, by our love to the brethren; since the love of God to us does not admit of degrees, nor does it, or the reality and sincerity of it, depend upon our love to the saints; See Gill on 1 John 4:12;

that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; not of men's judgment, when brought before judges, governors, and kings, for the sake of Christ and the Gospel, and stand at their bar, where saints, who have true love to God and Christ and the brethren, have stood with great courage and intrepidity, and shown much boldness, and used great freedom of speech; nor of judgment in this life, which sometimes begins at the house of God, though the saints often have great boldness and presence of mind, and freedom of expression both to God and man in a day of affliction, as Job had; but of the future judgment, which, though it will be very awful and solemn, Christ the Judge will appear with great majesty and glory, and all men will stand before him, and the books will be opened, and the judgment will proceed with great strictness and justice, and will issue in the everlasting perdition of devils and wicked men, yet the saints will have boldness in it: while evil men and devils tremble at the thoughts of it now, they rejoice and are glad; they love it, look for it, long for it, and hasten to it; and will stand fearless, and without the least dread, while others will flee to the rocks, and into the holes of the earth; and they will use freedom of speech with Christ, as the word here signifies; they will sing his new song, and ascribe the glory of their salvation to him, and express their praises of him, and love to him, then and to all eternity: and this boldness the saints may be said to arrive at through a perfect, or sincere, and genuine love of the brethren; for by this they know they are born again, and are born to an inheritance incorruptible, which they have both a meetness for, and a right unto; and knowing hereby that they are passed from death to life, they justly conclude they shall not enter into condemnation, and therefore are not afraid of the awful judgment: hereby they know that their faith is right, and that therefore they are manifestly the children of God; and if children, then heirs, and so shall be saved, and have everlasting life:

because as he is, so are we in this world; which may be understood either of God, to whom the saints are like; for such who are born again, as those who love the brethren are, they are partakers of the divine nature, and bear a resemblance to God, even in this present state of things; and as it becomes them to be holy in all manner of conversation, as he is holy, and to be merciful to wicked men, as he is merciful, so to love the saints as he does, and to be kind, tenderhearted, and forgive one another, as he for Christ's sake has forgiven them; for as God is love, they should be all love likewise; or of Christ, see 1 John 3:3; and that with respect to God; as he is the Son of God, so are they the sons of God; he by nature, they by grace and adoption; as he is loved by God with an everlasting and unchangeable love, with a love of complacency and delight, so are they loved by him with the same kind of love, even while they are in this world; and as he is the chosen of God, and precious, so they are chosen in him, and unto salvation by him. The Syriac, Arabic, and Ethiopic versions, render it, "as he was": and the sense may be, as he was in this world, so are they; and which may regard not so much likeness in nature, though there is an agreement in that, excepting sin, but the sameness of state and condition; as he was a man of sorrows, attended with afflictions, loaded with reproaches, and followed with the persecutions of men, so are they; nor need they wonder that they are the objects of the world's hatred and contempt, since he was also; as he was tempted by Satan, forsaken by his friends, and deserted by his God, so sometimes are they in this world; and as he went through a variety of sufferings, and death itself, to glory, so through many tribulations do they enter the kingdom: moreover, as he now is in heaven, so are they in this world; even as he is in heaven, so are they representatively in him, while in this world; and as he is righteous, being justified and acquitted from all the charge of sin he took upon him, and therefore will appear a second time without sin, so they are completely righteous in him: and once more, as he is, so they are, or should be in this world; they should be holy as he is holy, and be humble, meek, and patient, as he is, and walk as he walked; and particularly love the saints and one another, as he does; and which seems to be greatly intended here, and must be understood not of an equality, but of a likeness. The Arabic version reads the words conditionally, and as depending on the preceding clause, "if as he was, we are in this world"; and then the sense is, that the saints shall have boldness in the day of judgment, provided they are in this world as Christ was.

{13} Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because {i} as he is, so are we in this world.

(13) Again (as before) he commends love, seeing that by our agreement with God in this thing, we have a sure testimony of our adoption, it comes to pass by this that without fear we look for that latter day of judgment, so that trembling and torment of conscience is cast out by this love.

(i) This signifies a likeness, not an equality.

1 John 4:17. After the apostle has said in 1 John 4:16 that he that dwelleth in love (and therefore no one else) has fellowship with God, he now indicates wherein love shows itself as perfected; the thought of this verse is accordingly connected with the preceding: ὁ μένων ἐν τῇ ἀγάπῃ.

ἐν τούτῳ τετελείωται ἡ ἀγάπη μεθʼ ἡμῶν] Several commentators, Luther, Calvin, Spener, Grotius, Hornejus, Calovius, Semler, Sander, Besser, Ewald, etc., understand by ἡ ἀγάπη “the love of God to us,” interpreting μεθʼ ἡμῶν = εἰς ἡμᾶς, and τετελείωται as referring to the perfect manifestation of the love of God; Grotius: hic est summus gradus delectionis Dei erga nos.[272] This interpretation, however, has the context against it, for in 1 John 4:16 : ὁ μένων ἐν τῇ ἈΓΆΠῌ, as well as in 1 John 4:18 : Ὁ ΦΌΒΟς ΟὐΚ ἜΣΤΙΝ ἘΝ Τῇ ἈΓΆΠῌ, by ἈΓΆΠΗ is meant the love of man, the love that dwells in us; comp. also 1 John 4:12. Here also, therefore, ἈΓΆΠΗ must be understood of this love, with Estius, Socinus, Lange, Lücke, de Wette, Neander, Gerlach, Düsterdieck, Braune, etc.; ΤΕΤΕΛΕΊΩΤΑΙ is used in the same sense as ΤΕΤΕΛΕΙΩΜΈΝΗ ἘΣΤΙΝ, 1 John 4:12; comp. also 1 John 4:18 : Ἡ ΤΕΛΕΊΑ ἈΓΆΠΗ.

It is not the object of the love that is described by ΜΕΘʼ ἩΜῶΝ, for ΜΕΤΆ is not = ΕἸς, but it means “in;”[273] it either belongs to the verb: “therein is love made perfect in us” (Lücke, de Wette, Düsterdieck, Braune, etc.; Erdmann, who explains ΜΕΤΆ = ἘΝ), or to ἈΓΆΠΗ: “the love which exists (prevails) in us is,” etc. With the first construction, the addition appears rather superfluous; besides, its position would then be more natural before Ἡ ἈΓΆΠΗ. The underlying idea is that the love which has come from God (for all love is ἘΚ ΤΟῦ ΘΕΟῦ) has made its abode with believers. Here, also, Ἡ ἈΓΆΠΗ is used without more particular definition, as in 1 John 4:16, and is therefore not to be limited to a specific object (so also de Wette, Düsterdieck, Braune); it is therefore neither merely “love to the brethren” (Socinus, Lücke,[274] etc.), nor merely “love to God” (Lange, Erdmann); Baumgarten-Crusius not incorrectly explains the idea by “the sentiment of love;” only it must not be forgotten that true love is not merely sentiment, but action also; comp. chap. 1 John 3:18.

ἐν τούτῳ does not refer to the preceding, nor to dwelling in love, nor to fellowship with God, but to what follows; not, however, to ὅτι, as Beza,[275] Grotius, etc., assuming an attraction, think, but to ἵνα παῤῥησίαν ἔχωμεν ἐν τῇ ἡμέρᾳ τῆς κρίσεως. From 1 John 4:18 it is clear that the chief aim of the apostle is to emphasize the fact that perfect love (ἡ τελεία ἀγάπη, 1 John 4:18) is free from fear, or that he who is perfect in love (τετελειωμένος ἐν τῇ ἀγάπῃ) experiences no fear, but has confident boldness (παῤῥησία). The thought of this verse is no other than this, that love has its perfection in the fact that it fills us with such παῤῥησία; the clause beginning with ἵνα therefore contains the leading thought, to which the following ὅτι is subordinated. It is true, the combination ἐν τούτῳἵνα (instead of ὅτι, 1 John 4:9-10, and frequently) is strange, but it is quite John’s custom to use the particle of purpose, ἵνα, not seldom as objective particle; the same combination is found in the Gospel of John 15:8 (Meyer, indeed, differently on this passage); comp. chap. 1 John 3:10, 23: αὕτηἵνα (Gospel of John 17:3); by ἵνα, παῤῥησίαν ἔχειν is indicated as the goal, not “which God has in view in the perfecting of love in us” (Braune), but which the ἀγάπη in its perfection attains (Düsterdieck). With παῤῥησίαν ἔχειν, comp. chap. 1 John 2:28.[276]

The ἡμέρα τῆς ΚΡΊΣΕΩς is the day ὍΤΑΝ ΦΑΝΕΡΩΘῇ ἸΗΣΟῦς ΧΡΙΣΤΌς, 1 John 2:28. The preposition is not to be interpreted = ΕἸς, and ἜΧΩΜΕΝ is not to be taken as a future (Ewald: “that we shall have”) the difficulty that anything future (behaviour on the judgment-day) should be taken as the evidence of perfect love in the present (ΤΕΤΕΛΕΊΩΤΑΙ is not to be taken as future complete, but as perfect: “has been made perfect,” or “has become perfect” = “is perfected”), is removed if we take it that in ἘΝ the ΠΑῤῬΗΣΊΑ, which the believer will have at the judgment-day, and which he already has when he thinks of the judgment, is included, which could the more easily occur in John, as in his view the judgment-day did not lie in far-off distance, but was already conceived as begun (chap. 1 John 2:18). The future ΠΑῤῬΗΣΊΑ is to him in his love already present: similarly de Wette, Sander, Besser.[277]

The following words: ὅτι καθὼςτούτῳ, serve to establish the foregoing thought. By ἘΚΕῖΝΟς we are not to understand, with Augustine, Bede, Estius, Lyranus, Castalio, etc., God, but, with most commentators, Christ, who is also suggested by the idea: ἡ ἡμέρα τῆς κρίσεως.

The comparison (ΚΑΘΏς) does not refer to ΕἾΝΑΙ ἘΝ Τῷ ΚΌΣΜῼ ΤΟΎΤῼ, so that the sense would be: “as Christ is in this world, so are we also in this world,” for (1) Christ is no longer in this world (comp. Gospel of John 17:11), and (2) in the fact that we are in this world lies no reason for ΠΑῤῬΗΣΊΑ at the day of judgment. By ΚΑΘῺςΚΑΊ it is rather the similarity of character that is brought out, as in 1 John 2:16, where καθώς does not refer to the idea of ΠΕΡΙΠΑΤΕῖΝ in itself, but to the character of the walk, so that it is to be interpreted: “as the character of Christ is, so is our character also;” in the second clause ΟὝΤΩς is to be supplied, as in 1 Corinthians 8:2; Ephesians 4:17; Ephesians 4:21. What sort of character is meant must be inferred from the context; it is entirely arbitrary to find the similarity in the temptation (Rickli) or in the sufferings of Christ (Grotius), or in the fact that Christ was in the world but not of it (Sander), for there is no such reference in the context. But it is also inadmissible to regard as the more particular definition of ΚΑΘΏς the ΔΙΚΑΙΟΣΎΝΗ (Düsterdieck), or the Sonship of God (Lücke: “as Christ is the Son of God, so are we also children of God”), for neither do these ideas appear in the context. We are rather to go back to Ὁ ΜΈΝΩΝ ἘΝ Τῇ ἈΓΆΠῌ, and accordingly to refer ΚΑΘΏς to love (so Lorinus: “reddit nos charitas Christo similes et conformes imagini filii Dei;” Bengel, de Wette, Ewald, Myrberg, Braune, etc.[278]), so that the sense is: “if we live in love, then we do not fear the judgment of Christ, because then we are like Him, and He therefore cannot condemn us.”[279] The present ἐστί is to be retained as a present, and not to be turned into the preterite (Oecumenius: Ὡς ἘΚΕῖΝΟς ἮΝ ἘΝ Τῷ ΚΌΣΜῼ ἌΜΩΜΟς ΚΑῚ ΚΑΘΑΡΌς). Love is the eternal nature of Christ, comp. 1 John 3:7 : ΚΑΘῺς ἘΚΕῖΝΟς ΔΊΚΑΙΌς ἘΣΤΙΝ. In the concluding words: ἘΝ Τῷ ΚΌΣΜῼ ΤΟΎΤῼ, which belong, not to ἘΣΤΙ, but only to ἐσμεν, it is brought out that we are still in the earthly world (κόσμος οὗτος is not an ethical idea), whereas Christ has already ascended from it into heaven.

[272] Sander: “That it is made perfect must only mean: this love of God which was manifested in the sending of His Son is manifested in its might and glory in this, that, as overcoming everything, it brings us so far that we,” etc.—Calovius: Perficitur dilectio Dei in nobis, non ratione sui, sic enim absolute perfecta est, sed ratione nostri, non quoad existentiam, sed quoad experientiam.

[273] Hence ἡ ἀγ. μεθʼ ἡμῶν is neither = ἡ ἀγ. (τοῦ Θεοῦ) εἰς ἡμᾶς, nor = ἡ ἀγάπη (ἡμῶν) εἰς ἀλλήλους, as Lücke in his 1st ed. interprets (“our love among ourselves, i.e. our mutual love”); still less justifiable is the interpretation of Rickli: “the mutual love between God and the believer;” for John never includes God and men in ἡμεῖς. When Ebrard, admitting this, nevertheless accepts the interpretation of Rickli as far as the sense is concerned, explaining “the love of God with us” by “the love which exists between God and us,” this is purely arbitrary, for even though μετά is frequently used to denote a reciprocal action (see Winer, p. 336; VII. p. 352 ff.), yet this reference is here unsuitable, for it is not God and we, but love and we, that are placed together. Moreover, to supply τοῦ Θεοῦ with ἡ ἀγάπη is at the best only defensible if in μεθʼ ἡμῶν the subject to which the love refers is stated; but this is grammatically impossible. If, as Ebrard thinks, ἡ ἀγάπη denotes not love, but the love-relationship, then ἡ ἀγάπη μεθʼ ἡμῶν may only mean “the loving-relationship that exists among us;” this idea, however, as Ebrard with justice says, does not suit the context.

[274] According to Bertheau’s note in the 3d ed. of Lücke’s Commentary (p. 364), Lücke has, however, in the edition of 1851 interpreted ἡ ἀγάπη: “brotherly love combined with love to God.”

[275] Beza’s interpretation runs: Charitas adimpletur in nobis per hoc quod qualis ille est, tales et nos simus in hoc mundo, ut fiduciam habeamus in die judicii.

[276] In Luther’s version, παῤῥησία is here, as elsewhere frequently, translated by “Freudigkeit;” this is not a word derived from “Freude” (joy), but the old German word “Freidikeit” (from “freidic, fraidig”) = haughtiness, boldness, confidence (comp. Vilmar’s pastoral-theol. Blätter, 1861, vols. I. and II. p. 110 ff.); in the older editions it is written sometimes “freydickeyt” (Wittenb. ed. 1525), sometimes freydigkeit (Nürnberg ed. 1524), but in 1537 (in a Strasburg ed.) “freudigkeit.” In what sense Luther understood the word is clearly seen from a sermon on 1 John 4:16-21 (see Plochmann’s ed. XIX. 383), in which he says: “he means that faith should thus show itself, so that when the last day comes, you may have boldness and stand firm.” It is to be observed also that such Hebrew and Greek words as contain the idea of joy Luther never translates by that word (“boldness”), but by “joyous,” “joy.”

[277] Braune, though he explains correctly the particular thought, denies that these two elements are here to be regarded as combined; but without entering into the difficulty which lies in the expression. Ebrard states the meaning of the words incorrectly thus: “In the fact that the will of God, that we should have boldness in the day of judgment, is internally revealed to us, and manifests itself as a power (of confidence) in us (even now), the loving relationship of God with us is shown to be perfect.” How many elements foreign to the context are here introduced!

[278] The reference of καθώς to love is the only one demanded by the context, so that it is not suitable to regard love only as a single element in the likeness of believers to Christ which is here spoken of, as is the case with Lücke, for instance. Erdmann lays the chief emphasis not so much on love as on fellowship with God, which exists in love; but by καθὼςἐστι it is not a relationship, but a quality that is indicated.

[279] Ebrard in his interpretation arrives at no definite result; as, on his supposition that the centre of the tertii comparationis lies in the words ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ τούτῳ, the present ἐστί is objectionable to him, he would prefer to conjecture “οὕτως” instead of ἐστί; but “as a faithful attention to the requirements of Biblical exegesis would scarcely permit such a conjecture,” he thinks that nothing else remains but either to suppose that ἐστί (in the sense of a historical present) “is added as an indifferent, colourless word,” or to refer καθὼς ἐκ. ἐστιν to the fact that Christ even now “still exists in the wicked world to a certain extent, namely, in the Church, which is His body.” Ebrard regards the second conjecture as the more correct, and in accordance with it thus states the sense: “We look forward to the judgment with boldness, for, as He (in His Church) is still persecuted by the wicked world (even at the present day), so are we also in this world (as lambs among wolves)” (!). Ebrard groundlessly maintains, against the explanation given in the text, “that with it an οὕτως could not be omitted, nay, that even this would not suffice, but that it would have to read: ὅτι οἷος ἐκεῖνός ἐστι, τοιοῦτοι καὶ ἡμεῖς ἐσμεν, and that even then the passage remains obscure enough;” and “that with this acceptation ἐν τ. κ. τ. almost appears quite superfluous and foreign.” Against the statement that “our confidence in view of the judgment could not possibly be founded on our likeness to Christ, but only on the love of God as manifested in Christ,” it is a decisive answer that John in other passages as well makes the παῤῥησία dependent upon our character, comp. 1 John 2:28, 1 John 3:21.

1 John 4:17. τετελείωται, cf. 1 John 4:12. μεθʼ ἡμῶν: love is a heavenly visitant sojourning with us and claiming observance. Love has been “carried to its end” when we are like Jesus, His visible representatives. ὅτι resumes ἐν τούτῳ, ἵνακρίσεως being parenthetical: “herein … because” (1 John 3:16, 1 John 4:9-10). παρρησίαν, see note on 1 John 2:28. ἐκεῖνος, see note on 1 John 2:6. ἐστιν, “is,” not ἧν, “was”. Jesus is in the world unseen, and our office is to make Him visible. We are to Him what He was to the Father in the days of His flesh—“Dei inaspecti aspectabilis imago”.

17. Herein is our love made perfect] Better, as the margin, Herein is love with us made perfect; or, as R. V., Herein is love made perfect with us. Most earlier English Versions agree with the latter collocation. The meaning seems to be that love, which is of God (1 John 4:7), takes up its abode with us and is developed until it is perfected. ‘Love’ here evidently means our love towards God: His love towards us can have no fear about it (1 John 4:18). ‘Herein’ may refer to either of the two clauses which follow. ‘Herein … that’ (ἵνα) occurs possibly in John 15:8, and ‘Herein … because’ (ὅτι) occurs 1 John 3:16; 1 John 4:9-10. But it is perhaps best to make ‘Herein’ refer to what precedes; to our abiding in God and God in us. This avoids the awkwardness of making perfection of love in the present depend upon our attitude at the Judgment, which though near (1 John 2:18) according to S. John’s view, is still future. In this way we can give its full meaning to ‘that’ (ἵνα): by close union with God our love is made perfect, in order that we may have boldness in the day of judgment. For ‘boldness’ see on 1 John 2:28.

the day of judgment] The full phrase here used, ‘the day of the judgment’ occurs nowhere else: the usual form is ‘day of judgment’ (Matthew 10:15; Matthew 11:22; Matthew 11:24; Matthew 12:36; 2 Peter 2:9; 2 Peter 3:7). S. John elsewhere calls it ‘the last day’ (John 6:39-40; John 6:44; John 6:54), or ‘the great day’ (Revelation 6:17; comp. John 16:14). Other Scriptural phrases are ‘the day of the Lord’, ‘the day of God’, ‘day of Christ’, ‘that day’, ‘the day’.

as he is, so are we in this world] ‘He’ (ἐκεῖνος) almost certainly is Christ, as probably always in this Epistle (1 John 2:6, 1 John 3:3; 1 John 3:5; 1 John 3:7; 1 John 3:16). Our assurance with regard to the future Judgment is not presumption, because in this world we are in character like Christ. The resemblance is marked as close, ‘even so are we’ (καθώς); comp. 1 John 2:6, 1 John 3:3; 1 John 3:7. In what does this close resemblance specially consist? In love: the whole context points to this. He need not fear the judgment of Christ who by loving has become like Christ.

1 John 4:17. Μεθʼ ἡμῶν, with us) The love of God in itself is always the same, and perfect: but with us τετελείωται, it is brought to its consummation, rising more and more from its descent to us.—ἵνα) to such a degree that.—παῤῥησίαν, confidence) The opposite term is fear.—ἐν, in) Thus, in, Romans 2:16, note.—ἡμέρᾳ, the day) most terrible to others, more so than the day of death itself.—τῆς κρίσεως) of the last judgment.—ὅτι, because) The because has reference to τούτῳ, this.—ἐκεῖνός ἐστι, He is) Jesus Christ is love, in heaven; which is silently opposed to the world. By the words, in heaven, however, I suppose His previous dwelling in the world: the word is, on the other hand, shows certainly the present state of Jesus Christ.—ἡμεῖς ἐσμεν, we are) who love God. See the next ver.; John 15:10.—ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ τούτῳ, in this world) which is void of love, and fears judgment. The mention of the world is an argument that the word He denotes Jesus Christ. Comp. 1 John 4:9.

Verse 17. - This verse raises various questions which can scarcely be answered with certainty. Does "herein" ἐν τούτῳ look back to verse 16? or forwards to "that" ἵνα? or forwards to "because" ὅτι? Again, does "with us" μεθ ἡμῶν belong to "is made perfect" τετελείωται? or to "love" ἡ ἀγάπη? John 15:8 inclines us to refer "herein" to "that" ἵνα; and "with us" or "among us" goes better with the verb than with the subject: "Herein has love reached its perfection among us Christians, i.e., in the Church, that we have confidence in the day of judgment." This is the perfection of love to have no fear. The ὅτι, introduces the reason for this confidence: its basis is our likeness to Christ. especially in being united to the Father (John 17:21, 23, 26). Compare "even as he is pure" (1 John 3:3), and "even as he is righteous" (1 John 3:7): καθὼς ἐκεῖνος in all three cases. 1 John 4:17Herein (ἐν τούτῳ)

To what does this refer? Two explanations are given. (1.) To the following that we may have boldness. So Huther, who argues thus on the ground that 1 John 4:18 shows that the drift of the writer's thought is toward the fearlessness of love. According to this, therefore, love has its fulfillment in freeing us from fear, and inspiring us with boldness even in view of the final judgment. (2.) To what precedes, viz., our dwelling in God and He in us. So Westcott: "The fellowship of God with man and of man with God, carries with it the consummation of love." I prefer the latter, principally on the ground that in such phrases as ἐν τούτῳ in this, διὰ τοῦτο on this account, therefore, the pronoun usually refers to something preceding, though more fully developed in what follows. See John 5:16, John 5:18; John 6:65; John 8:47; John 10:17; John 12:18; John 16:15.

Our love (ἡ ἀγάπη μεθ' ἡμῶν)

The A.V. construes μεθ' ἡμῶν with us, with love, making with us equivalent to our. In that case it might mean either the love which is between Christians, or the love which is between God and Christians. The Rev. construes with us with the verb: love is made perfect with us. The latter is preferable. I do not think it would be easy to point out a parallel in the New Testament to the expression ἀγάπη μεθ' love that with us equals our love. The true idea is that love is perfected in fellowship. The love of God is perfected with us, in communion with us, through our abiding in Him and He in us. "Love is not simply perfected in man, but in fulfilling this issue God works with man" (Westcott). Compare 2 John 1:3, "grace shall be with us" (true reading); and Acts 25:4, "what things God had done with them." See also Matthew 1:23; 1 Corinthians 16:24; Galatians 6:18. Μετά with, is used constantly in the New Testament of ethical relations. See Matthew 20:2; Matthew 2:3; Luke 23:12; Acts 7:9; Romans 12:15; 1 John 1:6.

Boldness (παῤῥησίαν)

See on 1 John 2:28.

The day of judgment (τῇ ἡμέρᾳ τῆς κρίσεως)

Lit., the day of judgment. The exact phrase occurs here only. Ἡμέρᾳ κρίσεως day of judgment, without the articles, is found Matthew 10:15; Matthew 11:22, Matthew 11:24; Matthew 12:36; 2 Peter 2:9; 2 Peter 3:7. The day is called the great day of their wrath (Revelation 6:17); the day of wrath and of revelation of the righteous judgement of God (Romans 2:5); the day of visitation (1 Peter 2:12); the last day (John 6:39, John 6:40, John 6:44, John 6:54); that day (Matthew 7:22; Luke 6:23; Luke 10:12). The judgment is found Matthew 12:41, Matthew 12:42; Luke 10:14; Luke 11:31, Luke 11:32.


Likeness to Christ is the ground of boldness.

As (καθὼς)

Not absolutely, but according to our measure, as men in this world.

He is

The present tense is very significant. Compare 1 John 3:7, "is righteous even as He is righteous." The essence of out being as He is lies in perfected love; and Christ is eternally love. "He that abideth in love abideth in God and God in him." Compare 1 John 3:2.


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