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God’s Love and Ours March 1, 2014

Posted by flashbuzzer in Books, Christianity.
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Here are my thoughts on 1 John 4:7-21.

Summary: John begins by exhorting his readers to exercise mutual love, as those who do not exercise mutual love lack the true knowledge of God. Indeed, the principal evidence of the free love of God is the fact that He exposed His only Son to death for the sake of believers. God freely loved believers; thus, He sent His only Son to reconcile them by His death. Since God freely loved believers, they should seek the good of others – proving that God remains in them.

John then states that the apostles recognized the glory of God in Christ, as God sent Him to reconcile believers. Thus, those who truly believe in Christ:

  • are united to God
  • will know His love toward them
  • necessarily seek the good of others.

John notes that God has abundantly poured out His love to believers, and so they resemble His image; thus, they can confidently go to His tribunal. Since believers are assured of God’s love toward them, they have a peaceful calmness – as fear stems from unbelief.

John then reiterates that since God freely loved believers, they should seek the good of others; indeed, anyone who claims to love Him while not seeking the good of others is a liar. John concludes by stating that God has previously commanded believers to seek the good of others.

Thoughts: In verse 10, John states that before we loved God, He loved us and sent Jesus Christ to expiate our sins. Calvin offers some head-scratching thoughts on this point:

But here there seems to be some inconsistency, for if God loved us before Christ offered himself to die for us, what need was there for another reconciliation? In this way the death of Christ may seem to be superfluous. To this I answer that when it says that Christ reconciled the Father to us, it refers to our apprehension, for as we are conscious of being guilty, we cannot conceive of God except as one displeased and angry with us, until Christ absolves us from guilt.

While it is true that at least some sinners are terrified of God’s wrath before their conversion, Calvin seems to present an unbalanced view of our relationship with God. In particular, I believe that while God did love believers before they loved Him, their sins were still odious in His sight. Any sin incites the wrath of God, as He is holy and cannot tolerate sin. Thus, He was “displeased and angry with” believers before their conversion, regardless of their conception of His wrath. Of course, my interpretation raises the following question: how can God be both loving and wrathful toward believers before their conversion? Perhaps we are called to remain in that tension – instead of following Calvin’s example by attempting to resolve it. Hopefully I am not misunderstanding Calvin on this point…

In verses 20 and 21, John states that anyone who claims to be a believer – yet does not seek the good of others – is a liar. I find this to be an extremely challenging point, since I know that I often entertain negative thoughts about others, including other Christians. When I read through Calvin’s commentary on these verses, I was hoping that he would:

  • allude to the difficulties that all believers face in terms of living up to this exhortation
  • state that those who strive to live up to this exhortation are truly believers.

Yet Calvin did not state anything along these lines; thus, I am faced with a very high bar, and I do wonder if I will be able to clear it. Hopefully this will spur me to pray more intensely for God’s strength to live up to this exhortation. I also sense that I should pray that God will allow me to capitalize on opportunities to seek the good of others in both big and small ways.

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