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1 John 4:7-16

Context
God is Love

4:7 Dear friends, let us love one another, because 1  love is from God, and everyone who loves 2  has been fathered 3  by God and knows God. 4:8 The person who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 4  4:9 By this 5  the love of God 6  is revealed in us: 7  that God has sent his one and only 8  Son into the world so that we may live through him. 4:10 In this 9  is love: not that 10  we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice 11  for our sins.

4:11 Dear friends, if God so loved us, then 12  we also ought to love one another. 13  4:12 No one has seen God at any time. 14  If we love one another, God resides 15  in us, and his love is perfected in us. 16  4:13 By this 17  we know that we reside in God 18  and he in us: in that he has given us of his Spirit. 19  4:14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior 20  of the world.

4:15 If anyone 21  confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God resides 22  in him and he in God. 4:16 And we have come to know and to believe 23  the love that God has in us. 24  God is love, and the one who resides 25  in love resides in God, and God resides in him.

1 tn This ὅτι (Joti) is causal, giving the reason why the readers, as believers, ought to love one another: because love comes from God. The next clause, introduced by καί (kai), does not give a second reason (i.e., is not related to the ὅτι clause), but introduces a second and additional thought: Everyone who loves is fathered by God and knows God.

2 tn As in 2:23 and 3:4, the author uses πᾶς (pas) with the present articular participle as a generalization to describe a category of people.

sn From the author’s “either/or” perspective (which tends to see things in terms of polar opposites) the use of a generalization like everyone who presents a way of categorizing the opponents on the one hand and the recipients, whom the author regards as genuine Christians, on the other. Thus everyone who loves refers to all true Christians, who give evidence by their love for one another that they have indeed been begotten by God and are thus God’s children. The opposite situation is described in the following verse, 4:8, where (although everyone [πᾶς, pas] is omitted) it is clear that a contrast is intended.

3 tn The verb γεννάω (gennaw) in this context means to be fathered by God and thus a child of God. The imagery in 1 John is that of the male parent who fathers children (see especially 3:9 and 5:1).

4 tn The author proclaims in 4:8 ὁ θεὸς ἀγάπη ἐστίν (Jo qeo" agaph estin), but from a grammatical standpoint this is not a proposition in which subject and predicate nominative are interchangeable (“God is love” does not equal “love is God”). The predicate noun is anarthrous, as it is in two other Johannine formulas describing God, “God is light” in 1 John 1:5 and “God is Spirit” in John 4:24. The anarthrous predicate suggests a qualitative force, not a mere abstraction, so that a quality of God’s character is what is described here.

5 tn Once again there is the problem of determining whether the phrase ἐν τούτῳ (en toutw) refers (1) to what precedes or (2) to what follows. This is the first of 5 uses of the phrase in the present section (4:9, 10, 13, 17; 5:2). In this case (as also in the next two instances) there is a ὅτι (Joti) clause following which is related and which explains (i.e., which is epexegetical to) the phrase ἐν τούτῳ. Thus the meaning here is, “By this the love of God is revealed in us: that God has sent his only Son into the world in order that we might live through him.”

6 tn In terms of syntax the force of the genitive τοῦ θεοῦ (tou qeou) may be (1) objective, (2) subjective, or (3) both. The phrase occurs for the first time in the letter in 2:5. Here in 4:9 the epexegetical ὅτι (Joti) clause which follows makes it clear that this is a subjective genitive, emphasizing God’s love for us rather than our love for God, because it describes God’s action in sending his Son into the world.

7 tn This phrase is best understood as the equivalent of a dative of sphere, but this description does not specify where the love of God is revealed with regard to believers: “in our midst” (i.e., among us) or “within us” (i.e., internally within believers). The latter is probable, because in the context the concept of God’s indwelling of the believer is mentioned in 4:12: “God resides (μένει, menei) in us.”

8 sn Although the word translated one and only (μονογενής, monogenhs) is often rendered “only begotten,” such a translation is misleading, since in English it appears to express a metaphysical relationship. The word in Greek was used of an only child (a son [Luke 7:12, 9:38] or a daughter [Luke 8:42]). It was also used of something unique (only one of its kind) such as the mythological bird called the Phoenix (1 Clement 25:2). From here it passes easily to a description of Isaac (Heb 11:17 and Josephus, Ant. 1.13.1 [1.222]) who was not Abraham’s only son, but was one-of-a-kind because he was the child of the promise. Thus the word means “one-of-a-kind” and is reserved for Jesus alone in the Johannine literature of the NT. While all Christians are children of God (τέκνα θεοῦ, tekna qeou), Jesus is God’s Son in a unique, one-of-a-kind sense. The word is used in this way in all its uses in the Gospel of John (1:14, 18; 3:16, 18).

9 tn Once again there is the (by now familiar) problem of determining whether the referent of this phrase (1) precedes or (2) follows. Here there are two ὅτι (Joti) clauses which follow, both of which are epexegetical to the phrase ἐν τούτῳ (en toutw) and explain what the love of God consists of: first, stated negatively, “not that we have loved God,” and then positively, “but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.”

10 tn The two ὅτι (Joti) clauses are epexegetical to the phrase ἐν τούτῳ (en toutw) which begins the verse.

sn What is important (as far as the author is concerned) is not whether we love God (or say that we love God – a claim of the opponents is probably behind this), but that God has loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice which removes believers’ sins. This latter point is similar to the point made in 2:2 and is at the heart of the author’s dispute with the opponents, because they were denying any salvific value to Jesus’ earthly life and ministry, including his death on the cross.

11 sn As explained at 2:2, inherent in the meaning of the word translated atoning sacrifice (ἱλασμός, Jilasmos) is the idea of turning away the divine wrath, so that “propitiation” is the closest English equivalent. God’s love for us is expressed in his sending his Son to be the propitiation (the propitiatory sacrifice) for our sins on the cross. This is an indirect way for the author to allude to one of the main points of his controversy with the opponents: the significance for believers’ salvation of Jesus’ earthly life and ministry, including especially his sacrificial death on the cross. The contemporary English “atoning sacrifice” communicates this idea more effectively.

12 tn Grk “and.” The Greek conjunction καί (kai) introduces the apodosis of the conditional sentence.

13 tn This is a first-class conditional sentence with εἰ (ei) + aorist indicative in the protasis. Reality is assumed for the sake of argument with a first-class condition.

sn The author here assumes the reality of the protasis (the “if” clause), which his recipients, as believers, would also be expected to agree with: Assuming that God has loved us in this way, then it follows that we also ought to love one another. God’s act of love in sending his Son into the world to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins (v. 10) ought to motivate us as believers to love one another in a similar sacrificial fashion. The author made the same point already in 1 John 3:16. But this failure to show love for fellow believers is just what the opponents are doing: In 1 John 3:17 the author charged them with refusing to love their brothers by withholding needed material assistance. By their failure to love the brothers sacrificially according to the example Jesus set for believers, the opponents have demonstrated again the falsity of their claims to love God and know God (see 1 John 2:9).

14 sn An allusion to John 1:18.

15 tn The phrase “God resides in us” (ὁ θεὸς ἐν ἡμῖν μένει, Jo qeo" en Jhmin menei) in 4:12 is a reference to the permanent relationship which God has with the believer. Here it refers specifically to God’s indwelling of the believer in the person of the Holy Spirit, as indicated by 4:13b. Since it refers to state and not to change of status it is here translated “resides” (see 2:6).

16 tn The phrase “his [God’s] love is perfected (τετελειωμένη ἐστίν, teteleiwmenh estin) in us” in 4:12 is difficult. First it is necessary to decide whether αὐτοῦ (autou), which refers to God, is (1) subjective (God’s love for us) or (2) objective (our love for God). It is clear that a subjective genitive, stressing God’s love for us, is in view here, because the immediate context, 4:11a, has believers as the objects of God’s love (ὁ θεὸς ἠγάπησεν ἡμᾶς, Jo qeo" hgaphsen Jhma"). The entire phrase ἡ ἀγάπη αὐτοῦ ἐν ἡμῖν τετελειωμένη ἐστίν (Jh agaph autou en Jhmin teteleiwmenh estin) then refers to what happens when believers love one another (note the protasis of the conditional sentence in 4:12, ἐάν ἀγαπῶμεν ἀλλήλους [ean agapwmen allhlou"]). The love that comes from God, the love that he has for us, reaches perfection in our love for others, which is what God wants and what believers are commanded to do (see 3:23b).

17 tn Again whether the referent of the phrase ἐν τούτῳ (en toutw) (1) precedes or (2) follows is a problem. This time there are two ὅτι (Joti) clauses which follow. The first is an indirect discourse clause related to γινώσκομεν (ginwskomen) and giving the content of what believers know: “that we reside in him and he in us.” The second ὅτι clause is epexegetical (or explanatory) to the ἐν τούτῳ phrase, explaining how believers know that they reside in God and God remains in them: “in that he has given us of his Spirit.”

sn By this we know. According to the author of 1 John, the Father’s giving of the indwelling Holy Spirit to the believer is one means of providing assurance to the believer of his relationship to God. This is what was also stated in 1 John 3:24b in essentially identical terms.

18 tn Grk “in him.” Context indicates that the pronoun refers to God (see 4:12).

19 sn The genitive of his Spirit here, like the phrase in 3:24, probably reflects a partitive nuance, so that the author portrays God as ‘apportioning’ his Spirit to individual believers. This leads to the important observation that the author is not particularly interested in emphasizing (1) the ongoing interior witness of the Holy Spirit (which is what the passage is often understood to mean) but is emphasizing (2) the fact that God has given the Spirit to believers, and it is this fact that gives believers assurance of their relationship to God. In other words, it is the fact that the Holy Spirit has been given to believers, rather than the ongoing interior testimony of the Holy Spirit within the believer, which is the primary source of the believer’s assurance.

20 tn Because σωτῆρα (swthra) is the object complement of υἱόν (Juion) in a double accusative construction in 4:14, there is an understood equative verb joining the two, with the resultant meaning “the Father sent the Son to be the Savior of the world.”

21 tn Grk “Whoever.”

22 tn Here μένει (menei, from μένω [menw]) has been translated as “resides” because the confession is constitutive of the relationship, and the resulting state (“God resides in him”) is in view.

23 tn Both ἐγνώκαμεν (egnwkamen) and πεπιστεύκαμεν (pepisteukamen) in 4:16 are perfect tenses, implying past actions with existing results. In this case the past action is specified as the recognition of (ἐγνώκαμεν) and belief in (πεπιστεύκαμεν) “the love which God has in us.” But what is the relationship between the two verbs γινώσκω (ginwskw) and πιστεύω (pisteuw)? (1) Some interpreters would see a different nuance in each. (2) But in the Gospel of John the two verbs frequently occur together in the same context, often in the same tense; examples may be found in John 6:69, 8:31-32, 10:38, 14:7-10, and 17:8. They also occur together in one other context in 1 John, 4:1-2. Of these John 6:69, Peter’s confession, is the closest parallel to the usage here: “We have come to believe [πεπιστεύκαμεν] and to know [ἐγνώκαμεν] that you are the holy One of God.” Here the order between “knowing” and “believing” is reversed from 1 John 4:16, but an examination of the other examples from the Gospel of John should make it clear that there is no difference in meaning when the order of the terms is reversed. It appears that the author considered both terms to describe a single composite action. Thus they represent a hendiadys which describes an act of faith/belief/trust on the part of the individual; knowledge (true knowledge) is an inseparable part of this act of faith.

24 tn The force of the preposition ἐν (en) in the phrase ἐν ἡμῖν (en Jhmin) in 4:16a is disputed: Although (1) “for” (in the sense of “on behalf of”) is possible and is a common English translation, the other uses of the same phrase in 4:9 (where it refers to God’s love for us) and 4:12 (where it refers to God’s indwelling of the believer) suggest that (2) the author intends to emphasize interiority here – a reference to God’s love expressed in believers. This is confirmed by the only other uses in 1 John of the verb ἔχω (ecw) with the preposition ἐν (3:15 and 5:10) both of which literally mean something in someone.

25 tn Once again μένω (menw) in its three occurrences in 4:16 looks at the mutual state of believers and God. No change of status or position is in view in the context, so the participle and both finite verbs are translated as “resides.”



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