1 John 4:12-21

Wednesday Evening Bible Study

April 1, 1998


We’re going to be using the word "love" a lot tonight. In the Greek, John is going to be using the word agape, which is God’s kind of love.

We need to remember what God’s agape love is all about –

(1 Cor 13:1-8a NASB) If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. {2} And if I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. {3} And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing. {4} Love is patient, love is kind, and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, {5} does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, {6} does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; {7} bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. {8} Love never fails …

:12 No man hath seen God at any time.

seentheaomai – to behold, look upon, view attentively, contemplate

God is a Spirit (John 4:24) and you can’t see Him with your eyeballs.

John wrote,

(John 1:18 KJV) No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.

seenhorao – to see with the eyes; to see with the mind, to perceive, know

When Jesus walked on the earth, He was the image of God, and such an exact representation of God’s nature, that when you looked at Him, you could say you’d seen the Father –

(John 14:8-9 KJV) Philip saith unto him, Lord, show us the Father, and it sufficeth us. {9} Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Show us the Father?

seenhorao – to see with the eyes; to see with the mind, to perceive, know

:12 If we love one another, God dwelleth in us

When we are together, there is a sense in which God dwells in us, as if He were dwelling in a temple –

(Mat 18:20 KJV) For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.

(1 Cor 3:16-17 KJV) Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? {17} If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.

When Jesus walked on the earth, He could say to Philip, "If you’ve seen Me, you’ve seen the Father".

But now that Jesus is in heaven, when we are loving one another with His agape love, God is in our midst, and the closest we can come to seeing God, is by knowing what agape is all about.


God’s presence is demonstrated by our love.

Is it important that we love one another? Absolutely. That’s how people are going to understand God the best, by when they see our love.

(John 13:35 KJV) By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.


I grow closer to God by loving others.

Notice that John doesn’t say, "If you let others love you, then God will dwell in you …"

It’s not just in receiving love, but in giving love that we grow closer to the Lord.

We can get a twisted view of these verses by thinking, "I don’t feel like God loves me because nobody loves me".

I hear from people who are upset because people don’t reach out to them like they think they should.

The point is not to "be loved", it’s to love others!

It’s all about giving love.

And it’s not about a fuzzy, emotional kind of love, it’s all about learning to be patient with others, kind, not jealous, etc. (1Cor.13).

:12 and his love is perfected in us.

perfectedteleioo – to make perfect, complete

When we love one another, we are experiencing the fullest of God’s love for us, through one another.


God’s love is greatest when expressed through each other.

That’s when we know His love to the fullest.

You can’t get along by yourself. You’ll never know the depths of God’s love for you unless you learn to love others and be loved in return.

:13 Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit.

Addressing the Gnostics – "in this we know …"

:14 And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world.

seentheaomai – to behold, look upon, view attentively, contemplate – same word used in verse 12.

Just as no man has seen God, except that Jesus has declared Him (John 1:18), John now says that he has seen Jesus, and is a witness that He is God’s Son, sent to be the Savior of the world.

:15 Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God.

confesshomologeo – to say the same thing as another; to declare openly, speak out freely

This is the word we have seen concerning the receiving of forgiveness –

(1 John 1:9 KJV) If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.


God wants a relationship with you.

Have you noticed how many times John mentions God dwelling in us?

God doesn’t just want things to be right between us and Him, He wants to live inside of us.


The basis of a relationship with God.

John has given us three things that build our relationship with God. (in reverse order)

1) What you say publicly about Jesus. (vs. 15)

Paul wrote,

(Rom 10:9-10 KJV) That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. {10} For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.


This "confession" isn’t something you make in a dark room somewhere, but what you say out in public.

Jesus said,

(Mat 10:32-33 KJV) Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. {33} But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.

2) The Holy Spirit (vs.13)

Robertson: The Christian's consciousness of the fact of God dwelling in him is due to the Spirit of God whom God has given.

When He comes to dwell in us, there’s a sense that we know it, because the Holy Spirit begins working in us:

(Rom 8:15-16 KJV) For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. {16} The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:

3) Loving one another (vs.12)

God dwells in us as we love each other.

:16 And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.

knownginosko – to learn to know, come to know by experience.

It’s not just a matter of understanding that God loves us, it’s knowing it by experience.

to us – literally, "in us"

Believers are the sphere in which the love of God operates (Westcott).

: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.

made perfectteleioo – to make perfect, complete

boldnessparrhesia – freedom in speaking; free and fearless confidence, cheerful courage, boldness, assurance

The King James is a little weak here in the translation, and the NIV actually is a little closer to the Greek –

1Jo 4:17 In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. (NIV)

The sense seems to be this, going back to verse 12 –

As we are loving one another, and God is seen in our midst through our love for one another, and His love is being perfected in us, we find ourselves being more and more like Jesus in this world, and find that we have less and less to be concerned about in facing the day of judgment.


God doesn’t want you afraid of judgment day.

He doesn’t want you living in torment, unless you’ve never come to know the Lord.

But if you know Him, He wants you to know His love, not fear of the judgment.

Instead, we ought to be excited about Jesus coming back, the kind of thing you can hardly wait for!

:18 There is no fear in love

fearphobos – fear, dread, terror

Literally, "Fear is not in love"

We need to find the proper balance concerning fear.

There is a sense in which we ought to fear (phobos) God, as a Father who is going to judge –

1Pe 1:17 And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man's work, pass the time of your sojourning [here] in fear:

There is also a sense in which we are not to fear (phobos), as a slave fearing his master –

Ro 8:15 For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.

(2 Tim 1:7 KJV) For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.

:18 but perfect love casteth out fear

perfectteleios – related to teleioo (verse 12) – brought to its end, finished; wanting nothing necessary to completeness


Perfect love is the solution to fear.

When you’re afraid of what tomorrow is going to bring because you’re afraid that God’s going to have something terrible happen to you, then you have lost sight of His love for you.

The answer isn’t to drive out the fear, the answer is to turn on the love.


Acquire perfect love.

The reason we’re afraid is because the love we’re acquainted with is faulty.

I have told people in the past that when they’re afraid, they just need to allow God’s love to overwhelm them. Which is true.

But John has already told us how to acquire this "perfected love", back in verse 12.

By learning to love one another with His love.

:18 because fear hath torment

tormentkolasis – correction, punishment, penalty

The only other place this word is found is in –

Mt 25:46 And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.

We have a clue as to the kind of fear that isn’t good, the kind that is afraid of being punished.

:18 He that feareth is not made perfect in love.

made perfectteleioo – to make perfect, complete

:19 We love him, because he first loved us.

We can only learn about love as we open up our hearts to receive His love. Love wasn’t our idea, it was God’s idea.

:20 If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother

or, "and keeps on hating" (present tense)

:20 he is a liar

Is that simple enough?

:20 for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?

or, "Is not able to go on loving God who he has not seen"

We’ve already seen John deal with this back in chapter two –

(1 John 2:9-11 KJV) He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now. {10} He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him. {11} But he that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes.

:21 And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.

Joh 13:34 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.


It’s important to love each other!

John has given us several reasons why it’s important:

1) It helps us receive a more perfect love from God (vs.12)

2) It is a part of our relationship with God, with Him dwelling in us (vs.12,16)

3) It produces confidence on judgment day (vs.17)

4) We become more like Jesus in the world (vs.17)

5) It casts out fear (vs.18)