Life-Study of 1, 2, & 3 John, Judeby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
First John 4:1-6 is a parenthetical section in which the believers are warned to discern the spirits. This means that 4:7 is the direct continuation of 3:24. First John 4:7-21 is an extension of the section from 2:28 through 3:24, stressing further the brotherly love, already covered in 3:10-24, as a higher condition of the life that abides in the Lord.
In 4:7 John says, “Beloved, let us love one another, because love is out of God, and everyone who loves has been begotten of God and knows God.” Here John says that love is out of God. This indicates that when we love others, our love must be something that comes out of God. Our love for the brothers should not be something out of ourselves; it should be the love that is out of God. The believers, who have been begotten of God and know God, love one another habitually with the love which is out of God as the expression of God.
In verse 7 John says that everyone who loves has been begotten of God. The apostle’s emphasis here is still the divine birth, through which the divine life has been imparted into the believers, the life that affords them the life-ability to know God. This divine birth is the basic factor of brotherly love as a higher condition of the life that abides in the Lord. We have seen that John’s writings emphasize the divine birth (3:9; 4:7; 5:1, 4, 18; John 1:12-13), which is our regeneration (John 3:3, 5). Through the divine birth we have received the divine life, which is the eternal life (1 John 1:2), as the divine seed sown into our being (3:9). Out of this seed all the riches of the divine life grow from within us. It is by this that we abide in the Triune God and live the divine life in our human living. The divine birth, therefore, is the basis of our Christian life.
According to John’s word in 4:7, everyone who loves not only has been begotten of God, but also knows God. This knowing is by the divine life (John 17:3) received from the divine birth. The word “knows” here also implies experience and enjoyment. We cannot know God without experiencing and enjoying Him. This indicates that this knowing is an experiential knowing, not an objective knowledge of God. We know God because we have experienced Him and are enjoying Him.
In verse 8 John goes on to say, “He who does not love has not known God, because God is love.” Not to know God means not to experience Him or enjoy Him. If you have experienced and enjoyed God, who is love, surely love will come forth from you.
He who has not known God does not have the knowing ability of the divine life received from the divine birth. Such a one, who has not been begotten of God and does not have God as his life, does not love with God as his love, since he does not know God as love.
In this book John twice tells us that God is love (4:8,16). This Epistle first says that God is light (1:5), and then that God is love. Love as the nature of God’s essence is the source of grace, and light as the nature of God’s expression is the source of truth. When the divine love appears to us it becomes grace, and when the divine light shines upon us it becomes truth. Both of these were manifested in this way in John’s Gospel. We received both grace and truth there through the manifestation of the Son (John 1:14, 16-17). Now in his Epistle we come in the Son to the Father and touch the sources of both grace and truth. These sources, love and light, are God the Father Himself for our deeper and finer enjoyment in the fellowship of the divine life with the Father in the Son (1:3-7) by our abiding in Him (2:5, 27-28; 3:6, 24).
The expression “God is love,” like “God is light” (1:5) and “God is Spirit” (John 4:24), is used in a predicative sense, not in a metaphoric sense. In His nature God is Spirit, love, and light. Spirit denotes the nature of God’s Person; love, the nature of God’s essence; and light, the nature of God’s expression. Both love and light are related to God as life, which life is of the Spirit (Rom. 8:2). God, Spirit, and life are actually one. God is Spirit, and Spirit is life. Within this life are love and light. We have seen that when the divine love appears to us, it becomes grace, and when the divine light shines upon us, it becomes truth. The Gospel of John reveals that the Lord Jesus has brought grace and truth to us so that we may have the divine life (John 3:14-16). The Epistle of 1 John reveals that the fellowship of the divine life brings us to the sources of grace and truth, which are the divine love and the divine light. In John’s Gospel it was God in the Son coming to us as grace and truth that we may become His children (John 1:12-13); in his Epistle it is we the children, in the fellowship of the Father’s life, coming to the Father to participate in His love and light. This is further and deeper in the experience of the divine life. After receiving the divine life in John’s Gospel by believing in the Son, we should go on to enjoy this life in his Epistle through the fellowship of this life.
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