Saturday, April 30, 2005

An email on 1 John 4:16-18

Here is an email I sent to a friend today following a discussion on 1 John 4:16-18. It may not be understandable without knowing the context but I do not think it is worth editing it. Hi Chris, I have had some thoughts which I thought you may like to hear - I may be wrong. However, here goes. Because of our discussion in cell on Thursday, I decided to read 1 John today, and have refined my interpretation of 1 John 4:16-18 which says:
God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. 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. There isno fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. (NIV)
1 John 5:13 tells us the author’s intent in writing this letter and my reading of the letter has confirmed that to me. The author says to the church ‘I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life’. The main theme of the letter appears to be that we can tell the difference between the children of God and children of the Devil because children of God love each other, therefore we should love more, and recognise that our loving shows that the Spirit is within us and so we are God’s. In the light of this I would paraphrase the passage like this:
God is love. Therefore whoever lives a life giving a lot of love is united to God. By being united to God (by the Spirit living and working within us) we love more in both quantity and quality. So we can have confidence that we will be ok on the day of judgment, because in this world now we are like God (because we love like him). There is no fear of punishment for people who love others, because the existence of high quality love in a persons heart means fear of punishment on the day of judgment cannot remain there. The one who fears punishment is not being made by God into someone who loves like him.
Note that the next paragraph in this passage says love of God is always linked to love of others, and that God is the origin of our loving others (it is not something we can claim for ourselves). The main difference between my interpretation of the passage on Thursday and today is that now the word ‘love’ in the passage more often refers to the love of the Christian than of God. It is interesting in how much the themes of 1 John are similar to those of your ‘worship’ on the fruits of the spirit, and our recognising of them in ourselves. This is just what the John is asking the Christians who receive this letter to do, so that they may be more confident of eternal life (and in secondary themes: recognise the children of the Devil; and strive to love more themselves). Surely God was behind this neglected truth (in my experience at least) being raised twice in one meeting. Hope this was helpful, it has given me some food for thought Dave


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