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Galatians 5:16-23 teaches that at any moment we are either walking by the Holy Spirit or according to the sin nature. Walking by the Spirit, enjoying fellowship with God, walking in the light are virtually synonymous. During these times, the Holy Spirit is working in us to illuminate our minds to the truth of Scripture and to challenge us to apply what we learn. But when we sin, we begin to live based on the sin nature. Our works do not count for eternity. The only way to recover is to confess (admit, acknowledge) our sin to God the Father and we are instantly forgiven, cleansed, and recover our spiritual walk (1 John 1:9). Please make sure you are walking by the Spirit before you begin your Bible study, so it will be spiritually profitable.

1 John 4:14-15 by Robert Dean
Duration:1 hr 11 mins 2 secs

Mechanics for Maturing Love; 1 John 4:12-15

1 John 4:12 NASB "No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected [has been matured] in us." The word "perfected" is the Greek word teleioo [teleiow] and it has to do not so much with perfection in the sense of flawlessness or that which is impeccable, but it has to do with brining something to completion or to maturity. God abiding in us means that His love has been brought to maturity in us. Then he come back to that concept of maturity in verse 17: "love is perfected with us" [nasb]—or, love has been matured among us in this—"so that we may have confidence [boldness] in the day of judgment…" The day of judgment is the judgment seat of Christ, and the theme of this whole section is how the believer can have confidence at the judgment seat of Christ (1 John 2:28) and not be ashamed at the judgment seat of Christ. The key is maturing in love, i.e. love standing for the adult spiritual life or reaching maturity in the spiritual life.

1 John 4:12 NASB "No one has seen God at any time…" In this point he is simply referring to the fact that no one has ever seen God the Father. This is the perfect middle indicative of verb theaomai [qeaomai] which means to see, to witness, to look intently upon, to perceive. John uses it again in verse 14, so we see how this vocabulary intertwines through this section. How did they know the Father? Remember that Jesus told Philip: "If you have seen Me you have seen the Father." They knew the Father because they saw Jesus. John's point is that no one has seen God at any time. So how do we know God? "… if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us." So he is going to lay down his argument for the advanced spiritual life being exemplified in love for one another. What he is going to say is that if you want to see God you see it when believers are loving one another. That is when you see the character of Christ.

First of all we have to understand the nature of the condition: "if we love one another." It is a third class condition which means: If, maybe you will and maybe you will not. Sometimes we love one another; sometimes we don't. So John is going to have a supposition here that if, assuming you will (but you may not), under that condition God abides in us. The key word in this section is the word "abide," the Greek word meno [menw] which means to abide, to dwell, to remain, to stay. meno is used 24 times in 1 John. That tells us it is a crucial word. It is used six times between verses 12 and 16 of this chapter. That tells us it is a key concept here.

meno is a word that has generated a tremendous amount of theological debate. There are those who argue that meno really means, or is very similar to, believe, almost synonymous with believe; and they say all genuine believers, true believers, abide. What they are saying is that if you are a true believer you are always abiding, whereas we have taken the position that abide has to do with remaining in fellowship or continuing to have fellowship with Christ, and when we sin we stop abiding.


1.  Abiding is a technical term in John for the believer who is having fellowship with God, walking by the Spirit and walking in the light.

2.  Only the believer who abides in Christ can advance and mature. When a believer is not abiding in Christ he is out of fellowship and is controlled by the sin nature.

3.  As we abide in Him not only does he abide in us but His Word abides in us and God abides in us. Abiding is mutual. The more we abide in Him the more he abides in us; the more we abide in Him the more His Word abides in us.

4.  Not all believers abide. Those who don't abide will suffer divine discipline in time and loss of rewards and shame at the judgment seat of Christ.

So abide is a term for fellowship and for someone who is spending time staying in fellowship and growing to spiritual maturity. What we read here is, "if we love one another God abides in us." We can't love one another unless God is abiding in us; God won't abide in us unless we are abiding in Christ. We are not going to be abiding in Christ unless we stay in fellowship. We have to bring all this together. The key is, we stay in fellowship, we abide in Christ, and then God in turn abides in us, and He is producing something in us: His character. This is exemplified by the fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22, 23. So love doesn't come automatically, it comes as a result of walking by means of God the Holy Spirit. That means that in order to love one another we have some preconditions. We have to be learning doctrine. We have to be using 1 John 1:9 to not only recover fellowship but then we have to be applying doctrine while we are not sinning because when we are sinning we are out of fellowship.

Loving one another brings into focus the aspect of the mutual ministry of believers to one another in the body of Christ. This usually functions under the category of spiritual gifts. Remember, there are two categories of spiritual gifts: temporary and permanent. Love is not automatic in the spiritual life; it doesn't just happen. We have to go through the process. The last clause in verse 12: "His love is matured in us," is a perfect passive participle and the perfect tense indicates emphasis on the present results of a past action. So for the mature believer at X point in time, we see God in him. We see him demonstrate God's character and at that point he is following the command of loving one another. This is the result of something that has happened in the past. The past action is the completion of love, or maturity.

1 John 4:13 NASB "By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit." How do we know that we have reached this level of maturity where we can be said to abide? When we reach maturity we are spending more time in fellowship than out of fellowship and we can therefore be said to abide in Christ in a more full sense. "… and he [abides in] us, because He has given us of His Spirit." In the English this looks rather simple, it looks like He has given us His Spirit. He gave us the Spirit at the instant of salvation but that isn't how we know we abide. He is using abide now in a more technical sense of almost maturity where the believer is spending more of his time in abiding and loving. We received the Spirit when we were saved, not when we get to maturity. So it is confusing. When we look at the Greek, though, it is even more interesting. The main verb is a perfect active indicative of didomi [didomi]. The perfect emphasises present reality. So He gave it in the past and it is emphasising the present reality of it here. The active voice means the subject performs the action: God gave the Spirit. The indicative mood is the mood of reality. He gave the Spirit in the past to us. "To us" is a dative case and it is a dative of advantage, meaning He gave the Spirit to us for our advantage or benefit. It doesn't just say "of His Spirit." When we have phrases with "of" it indicates a genitive construction. Too often a genitive construction is rather superficially translated as of something or, let's say, Peter's confession (the confession of Peter). But there are at least 35 different meanings to the genitive case. We don't get those meanings from the grammar itself, we have to look at the context and think about it.

Then there is something else here. That is, it is not simply "of the Spirit" in the Greek, there is a preposition in front of it, the preposition ek [e)k] which is usually the preposition indicating source or separation. The preposition always takes a genitive case. There are five different shades of meaning to an ek plus the genitive. Which one you use has to be determined by usage and by comparing and contrasting context. John uses this phrase in one other place, in 1 John 3:24, "We know by this that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us." This is a slightly different construction. The relative pronoun tells us that it is the Spirit that is given. This relative pronoun is the subject of the aorist tense verb here and in the English is appears to be the same. But in 4:13 it is a perfect tense, and the subject of the "has given" is He, "has given to us." In 3:24 the subject of the verb is the relative pronoun "whom" which refers to "Spirit." So the Spirit is what is given to us in 3:24 but something else is given to us in 4:13. The something isn't spelled out in 4:13, what we have is a genitive clause. Notice something else. In 3:24 it says "by the Spirit." That's means: "by means of the Spirit." It is still ek tou pneumatos [e)k tou pneumatoj], the same preposition and the same genitive construction. There are four different meanings to ek, one of the more rare or less common emphasis is means. The translator nailed it in 3:24; it is means there, the context indicates it. By means of the filling of the Spirit; that's how we know that He has been given to us, but it is not the normal en [e)n] plus the dative which is normally how means is expressed, it is a little different. But in 4:13 he takes the same construction and the same phrase with the same context and he translates it with this nebulous, meaningless "of the Spirit."

1 John 4:13 should be translated: "By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given (something) to us by His Spirit." What did He give to us? What He gave to us is 1 John 4:12—love, the fruit of the Spirit. to love one another. So how do we know that we are abiding in Him and He is us? By love for one another which is produced by God the Holy Spirit. So the ek plus the genitive in 4:13 is actually an expression of means—"by means of the Spirit," that love is produced.

We have tied in 1 John 3:16 where we saw that by this we know love, that Christ died as a substitute for us. We saw in 4:9 that "in this the love of God was manifested that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world that we might live through Him. So how do we know love? We know love by looking at the cross. So now we have two verses that talk about love and then he is going to wrap that third strand back as he continues to weave his theme.       

1 John 4:14 NASB "We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son {to be} the Savior of the world." This verse doesn't mention love or abiding, it picks up a totally different subject—salvation. It goes right back to the cross and reminds us of what took place on the cross as the foundation for our understanding of what love is. This is a strong verse for unlimited atonement. What we are talking about here is loving one another, and that love for one another is a love that doesn't take into account sin, the failures of the person we love, so when John says the Father has sent the saviour of the world he is reminding us of God's love for fallen, undeserving man; not a special kind of love in limited atonement which is limited only to those who believe and who believe because they are given that faith to believe. That is Calvinism.

Unlimited atonement

1.  Unlimited atonement means unlimited in its extent. Jesus Christ died for every single human being.

2.  Atonement is a summary term for all of Christ's work on the cross and it is based on the Hebrew concept expressed in the Day of Atonement where kaphar means to cleanse or to purify.

3.  Atonement is substitutionary. Romans 5:5.

The problem is that unlimited atonement has really been taught two ways. There is what might be called classic unlimited atonement. This is potential substitution. Almost every theologian that we read holds to a classic unlimited atonement—as potential. What that means is that they will say Christ died for the all but if the unbeliever rejects Him he will go to the lake of fire and will pay the penalty for his sins because he has rejected Christ's payment. That is, it was only made potentially, it would have been his if he had accepted it; but he didn't accept it so now somebody has to pay for it. But that causes tremendous problems with the concept of substitution because there is no such thing as potential or hypothetical or theoretical substitution. Ultimately when the unbeliever ends up in the lake of fire and you go to him and ask why he is in the lake of fire, what is he going to say? I'm paying for my sins. If he is paying for his sins now in the lake of fire that means Christ didn't pay for them on the cross! If Christ didn't pay for his sins on the cross then that is limited atonement, isn't it? That is one of the problems with the classic formulation. The "real" substitution says that at the great white throne judgment the issue is not sin, the sin was actually paid for. The issue is human good and, is your righteousness good enough to meet the standard of Christ's perfect righteousness. If it is not good enough to meet that standard then you are sent to the lake of fire, not because of your sin but because you are not good enough to get into heaven. It is because you are a sinner but not because of your personal sins.

John 3:16 NASB "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life."

Acts 10:43 NASB "Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins." "Believe" there is in the subjunctive mood (potential).

2 Corinthians 5:14 NASB "For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; [15] and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf. . . . . [19] namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world [not just the elect] to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation."

1 John 2:2 NASB "and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for {those of} the whole world."

1 Timothy 2:6 NASB "who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony {given} at the proper time. . . . [4:10] For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers."