21/02/21 – 1 John 4:7-10
Now we begin on one of the great love passages of the NT, 1 John 4:7 through to 5:3. It ranks alongside that other great love passage of 1 Corinthians 13.
I will only look at 4 verses today, with some extra focusing on agape love and the use of the term “propitiation” in Vs 10 below.
1 John 4:7-8 – 7Beloved (agapetos), let us love (agapao) one another: for love (agape) is of God; and every one that loveth (agapao) is born of God, and knoweth God. 8He that loveth (agapao) not knoweth not God; for God is love (agape).
Beloved – agapetos
love (verb) – agapao
love (noun) – agape
every one that loveth is born of God – If having God’s love (agape) defines you as a genuine Christian, then non-Christians (or pseudo-Christians) cannot have God’s agape love. There are many kinds of love written about in the Bible, and most of them can be found in the world in general. Many of these forms of love are quite commendable (although some are not). I have appended to the end of this study a list of kinds of love found in the NT (made up when we studied Galatians 5:22-23).
agape love can only be found in those who are born again of God. The logic here is irrefutable: if every person who loves is born of God, and every person who does not love does not know God who is agape love, then we have 2 mutually exclusive groups here, one of John’s dichotomies. Thus having agape love defines the genuine Christian.
Jesus taught that only genuine Christians can agapao one another.
John 13:34-35 – 34A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love (agapao) one another; as I have loved (agapao) you, that ye also love (agapao) one another. 35By this shall all [men] know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love (agape) one to another.
John also directly associates having God’s agape love with being born of God and knowing God, while those who do not have God’s agape love are not born of God and do not know God.
is born – gennao (to be born or generated) Perfect tense, thus “every one that loves has already been born of God”.
The associated term “born again” (or “regenerated”) is only 3 times in the NT. Only one of these uses a single word, anagennao (to be born again; born anew) in 1 Peter 1:23. The other 2 occurrences of “born again” in the NT are both in John (3:3 and 3:7) using 2 Greek terms gennao (to be born) + anothen (from above; from a higher place; from heaven; anew; over again) and have the idea of a new birth that is from heaven.
Beloved – John here defines “Beloved” as those who are in that group who are loved (agapao) by God and therefore are the agapetos (“beloved”).
So if you claim to be a genuine Christian, you must tick the agape love box. And John has given us a practical way of assessing that love in 1 John 2:10: we must love (agapao) our Christian brethren. If you say you have God’s love yet do not love your brother, then John would declare you a liar. We’ll look at this further in Vs 11 next time.
1 John 4:9 – In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.
manifested – revealed; made visible; made known. It was this act of sending Jesus into the world so that we might live through Him that manifested (revealed) God’s love toward us. For possibly some might die for a good (righteous) person, but God’s love was for sinners – those opposed to God’s righteousness. That is, the whole world (kosmos).
Romans 5:7-8 – 7For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. 8But God commendeth his love (agape) toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
And therefore Christ died for sinners, the vast majority of whom would reject Him along with His salvation. God also knew by His foreknowledge that most of the world would reject Him, yet He still made full salvation possible for all who would call upon the name of the Lord to be saved (Romans 10:13). This is where calvinism distorts the biblical gospel. Calvinism refuses to believe that God could love the whole world so much that He would die for so many who would then reject Him, and therefore calvinism has re-written the gospel such that their Christ may only die for those whom he wanted to receive him. They demand of their God that he unconditionally choose those for whom Christ would die who would then receive him and love him in return.
But the calvinist gospel being limited to so few is a lie of satan. The calvinist God can only agapao love those who will agapao love him in return. The calvinist God’s love is conditional upon being loved in return. So he ensures that all he loves will certainly love him in return. In calvinism, everyone chosen by God will be made to love him.
Yet Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 13:7 that agape love “endureth all things”, yet the calvinist God apparently cannot endure any but his own chosen ones!
God did not just love a few chosen ones by dying for only their sins. John is absolutely clear on this issue: God so loved the world (kosmos) – all mankind! – that He died for all sin of all mankind.
John 3:16 – For God so loved (agapao) the world (that same kosmos that hated Christ!), that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
Yet MacArthur says: “But His saving love for the world is limited to those in the world, the realm of humanity, who believe. “God so loved the world He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes.”” (The doctrine of actual atonement Pt 2)
It is not God who has chosen to save some and condemn the rest to hell; for the condition for salvation is that man must believe in Christ to be saved. To limit such great salvation to a few elite (“elite” derives from the same Greek word as “elect” and “eligible”) opposes John’s teachings about agape love here. This biblical gospel is a salvation made available to all, not just a privileged elite unconditional election!
You see, God’s agape love does not demand to be loved in return; likewise with the agape love of the Christian for God and for his Christian brethren. With agape love it is the act of loving itself that is the incentive to love, and not to have to be loved in return. Real agape love does not demand to be repaid in any way. It loves even if there is no love at all returned. Love is patient, kind, undemanding, does not boast, is not proud. Love is never indecent, does not demand to be treated fairly, is not easily provoked to anger and plans no evil. Love does not rejoice in wickedness, but rejoices instead in the truth. Love puts up with all provocations, believes the best of others, is always trusting, and endures all suffering.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7 – 4Charity (love – agape) suffereth long, [and] is kind; charity (love – agape) envieth not; charity (love – agape) vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, 5Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; 6Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; 7Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
Keep in mind that agape love is only manifested in those who are born of God (Vs 7 above). Therefore, it is literally impossible for a non-Christian to love in the same way as a Christian is capable of loving.
1 John 4:10 – Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son [to be] the propitiation for our sins.
the propitiation – hilasmos (propitiation; can mean conciliation) Noun. It is only used twice in the NT; the other is the classic unlimited atonement verse of 1 John 2:2.
Because propitiation is a crucial term in the NT I’ll look at some related Greek terms.
1/. While 1 John 2:2 says that the “propitiation” (hilasmos) is for “the whole world”, we generally use this verse as a biblical proof of an unlimited atonement. The actual word “atonement” is only used once in the NT, in Romans 5:11 – And not only [so], but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement. [where “the atonement” is katallage (reconciliation; atonement; a reconciling)] katallage is translated “reconciliation” in both 2 Corinthians 5:18 & 19, and “the reconciling” in Romans 11:15.
“conciliation” means the act of making peace, while “reconciliation” means the act of restoring peace. The 2 terms are very similar in their usage. Thus we may see “propitiation” and ‘atonement” as synonyms for most purposes. Therefore an unlimited propitiation (1 John 2:2) may be described as an unlimited atonement.
2/. A verb form hilaskomai (be merciful; propitiate; be placated or appeased; conciliate) is only used twice in the NT. It is translated “be merciful” in Luke 18:13 – And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as [his] eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. (or “God propitiate me, a sinner.”) Its other use is for “to make reconciliation for” in Hebrews 2:17.
Note that “propitiate” and “be merciful” can be used as synonyms.
3/. A derivation of hilaskomai, hilasterion (propitiation; mercyseat), represents the mercyseat of the ark of the covenant. Blood of the sacrifice was sprinkled on the mercyseat on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur).
hilasterion is translated “the mercyseat” in Hebrews 9:5 – And over it the cherubims of glory shadowing the mercyseat; of which we cannot now speak particularly.
The blood represented a covering of their sin (for without blood there can be no remission of sins). The word translated “atonement” in the OT is kaphar (to cover; purge; make atonement for; make reconciliation for; cover over with pitch), representing the covering of their sins from the sight of God. It was only when Christ came with His blood payment for all sin that superseded the OT “covering”.
Hebrews 9:22-26 – 22And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission. 23[It was] therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 24For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, [which are] the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us: 25Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others; 26For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.
Hebrews 9:11-14 – 11But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; 12Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption [for us]. 13For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: 14How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?
4/. The adjective form (hileos – propitious; merciful) is used only twice in the NT.
Hebrews 8:12 – For I will be merciful (hileos) to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.
“propitiation” is the act of appeasing or conciliating one who is angry. In the Bible it represents the act of appeasing God’s wrath against sin. Sin is abhorrent to holy God; therefore He is wrathful against all sin. His wrath is manifested through the condemnation of death for all who sin (Romans 6:23). Because this condemnation is God’s law, righteous God will not ignore it for even the best of mankind. The law demands death for all who have sinned and therefore all must be sentenced to death. (Romans 5:18) However, Jesus became sin for all mankind (2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 John 2:2), bringing all God’s righteous wrath at sin against Himself on the cross. When He cried, “It is finished!” (John 19:30), He was claiming that the account was finally closed. “It is finished” is teleo (bring to a close; fulfil an order or command; to pay tribute or an account) It is perfect tense which means that it is already accomplished at the point of saying it. In the context of John 19:30 it means that the account has been paid in full and the account book is closed. That is, the full penalty for the crime of sin had been paid in full. Holy God could only be wrathful at those with unpaid sin; thus, with all sin accounted for, God had now been fully propitiated (appeased from His anger against sin). It means that the propitiation for our sins (on the cross) had to be for all mankind or else God’s wrath would not have been fully propitiated.
Another way of looking at this is that Jesus was buying back (redeeming) mankind from satan; thus Jesus was able to say that His lifting up on the cross for all mankind would be the act that would remove satan from his princedom of this world (kosmos).
John 12:31-32 – 31Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out. 32And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all [men] unto me.
This propitiation for all sin effectively removed all of satan’s right to rule over the kosmos. Note that if that propitiation had missed even just one person, then satan would still have had a right (however slight) to rule. Satan’s hold over mankind was because not one with sin could approach God. Man could only escape satan’s power by returning to God, yet he was prevented from returning by that very sin that gave satan his power over mankind.
When man sinned, satan gained a de facto authority over man. God wouldn’t permit man into His presence, and so satan stepped into place to declare himself the ruler of this world. Man couldn’t escape this because he had nowhere else to go.
So in order for satan to lose his whole kingdom (the kosmos), every sinner had to be redeemed (bought back again) on the cross. If the atonement were limited to just the elect, then most of the world (kosmos) would have legally (by a de facto authority) remained in satan’s kingdom. Satan could only be defeated if he could be shown to have no legal right to anyone at all. But once man had the option of calling upon the name of the Lord to be saved, satan had then lost his ability to stop man from returning to God.
Man still retains dominion over the whole earth (Genesis 1:28) and satan has to work through that dominion of man to rule. If all mankind is bought back from the condemnation of sin (redeemed), then satan has no-one left through which to dominate; thus his kingdom has been dealt a death blow on the cross.
Of course, note that our righteousness here on earth is assured, yet by no means are we actually fully righteous. Likewise, satan’s rulership has been cast aside, yet he still holds much of his de facto authority over the world. Our perfect righteousness is imputed to us once we are saved, yet not fully actual until we die. Likewise, the destruction of satan’s kingdom is not yet fully actual but imputed, becoming actual destruction at his defeat in the end.
Therefore we may define agape love as the love God has for His creation, especially for man who was made in His image. We agape love God in return because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). God demonstrated His love when He sent Christ to die as a propitiation for our sins.
Romans 5:8 – But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
The question is: Who is “we” and “us” in 1 John 4:10? John could be seen as writing to Christians, something limited atonement supporters might grasp at, yet John has already stated that this “propitiation” was for “the whole world (kosmos)” in 1 John 2:2). Romans 5:6 says that “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for the ungodly” and Romans 5:10 says that “when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son”. But Paul in Romans also says that “all have sinned” (Romans 3:23) and that the penalty is death (Romans 6:23).
The most telling aspect of who it is that is propitiated is seen when you read Romans 3:23-25 – 23For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; 24Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: 25Whom God hath set forth [to be] a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;
Note that (a) all are sinners; (b) this same group – “all” – are the ones freely justified through Christ Jesus; and (c) whom Christ has propitiated through faith in His blood. The context clearly demonstrates that all mankind (for all have sinned) are potentially justified, as the following shows.
Romans 5:18 – Therefore as by the offence of one [judgment came] upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one [the free gift came] upon all men unto justification of life. The free gift of justification was offered to all mankind (that is, all who had been condemned for sin). Note that all men are under condemnation for sin, yet some will live, while all are offered justification of life yet some (many) will still die. Potentially all can die, yet actually some will live; potentially all can live, yet many will actually still die. It is man’s freedom of will to choose this day whom he will serve that makes the difference between potential and actual.
While all mankind was given a potential justification, it had to be claimed by faith in order to be made actual. Paul declares that God is “the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.” (Romans 3:26) The Bible declares this to be a gift (Romans 6:23) and a gift must be fully paid for and made available before it may be declared a gift. Thus for all to be offered this gift, it must have already been provided for all!
It was the propitiation that appeased God’s anger to allow man to approach God without being executed on the spot. Man’s first approach to God must be through Christ, though, via the gospel as per Romans 10:13 – For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
Therefore, here is love, that all mankind deserved to die for sin, yet all were also offered a free pardon through Christ taking the wrath of God for all sin on the cross.
Colossians 1:18-20 – 18And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all [things] he might have the preeminence. 19For it pleased [the Father] that in him should all fulness dwell; 20And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, [I say], whether [they be] things in earth, or things in heaven.
A list of Greek “love” words.
agape/agapao (noun and verb) are the most used NT words for “love”. Other Greek words “phileo” (“love”) words in the NT include the following (with Strong’s number references):
(a) phileo (to love; show affection) 5368
(b) philagathos (lover of goodness; lover of good men) 5358
(c) philadelphia (brotherly or sisterly love; love of Christians for each other as brethren) 5360
(d) philargyria (love of money) 5365
(e) philandros (loving her husband) 5362 (It is interesting that when husbands are exhorted to love their wives (Ephesians 5:25) it uses “agape” love, while wives loving their husbands uses philandros (Titus 2:4).
(f) philoteknos (love of children) 5388
(g) philanthropia (love of mankind or humanity) 5363
(h) philautos (lovers of self) 5367
(i) philedonos (lovers of pleasure 5369
(j) philotheos (lovers of God) 5377
(k) Philologos (lover of the Word) a name 5378
(l) philoneikia (lover of strife) 5379
(m) philonexia (love to strangers, hospitality) 5381
(n) philoproteuo (love to have the pre-eminence) 5383
(o) philosophia (love of wisdom) 5385
(p) philostorgos (the mutual love of parents and children and wives and husbands) 5387
(q) philotimeomai (from a love of honour to strive to bring something to pass; ambitious) 5389
Another “love” word is thelo 2309 (to be fond of doing something; have pleasure in some activity) Translated “love” in Mark 12:38 (“Beware of the scribes, which love to go in long clothing)
storge (cherishing one’s kindred, especially parents or children) is another Greek word for “love” but is not used on its own in the NT. It is used once in combination with phileo to form philostorgos in Romans 12:10 (see list above).
There is another Greek word used for love: eros (meaning sexual love), from which we get our word “erotic”. This word is not found in the Bible, probably because by NT times this term was considered extremely vulgar and therefore would not have been acceptable for use in any Christian writings or speech.