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1 John 4:19

King James Version (KJV)
Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

We love him, because he first loved us - This passage is susceptible of two explanations; either.

(1)that the fact that he first loved us is the “ground” or “reason” why we love him, or.

(2)that as a matter of fact we have been brought to love him in consequence of the love which he has manifested toward us, though the real ground of our love may be the excellency of his own character.

If the former be the meaning, and if that were the only ground of love, then it would be mere selfishness, (compare Matthew 5:46-47); and it cannot be believed that John meant to teach that that is the “only” reason of our love to God. It is true, indeed, that that is a proper ground of love, or that we are bound to love God in proportion to the benefits which we have received from his Hand; but still genuine love to God is something which cannot be explained by the mere fact that we have received favors from Him. The true, the original ground of love to God, is the “excellence of His own character,” apart from the question whether we are to be benefited or not. There is that in the divine nature which a holy being will love, apart from the benefits which he is to receive, and from any thought even of his own destiny. It seems to me, therefore, that John must have meant here, in accordance with the second interpretation suggested above, that the fact that we love God is to be traced to the means which he has used to bring us to himself, but without saying that this is the sole or even the main reason why we love him. It was His love manifested to us by sending His Son to redeem us which will explain the fact that we now love Him; but still the real ground or reason why we love Him is the infinite excellence of His own character. It should be added here, that many suppose that the Greek words rendered “we love” ( ἡμεῖς ἀγαπῶμεν hēmeis agapōmenare not in the indicative, but in the subjunctive; and that this is an exhortation - “let us love him, because he first loved us.” So the Syriac, the Arabic, and the Vulgate read it; and so it is understood by Benson, Grotius, and Bloomfield. The main idea would not be essentially different; and it is a proper ground of exhortation to love God because He has loved us, though the highest ground is, because His character is infinitely worthy of love.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
The Father sent the Son, he willed his coming into this world. The apostle attests this. And whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God. This confession includes faith in the heart as the foundation; makes acknowledgment with the mouth to the glory of God and Christ, and profession in the life and conduct, against the flatteries and frowns of the world. There must be a day of universal judgment. Happy those who shall have holy boldness before the Judge at that day; knowing he is their Friend and Advocate! Happy those who have holy boldness in the prospect of that day, who look and wait for it, and for the Judge's appearance! True love to God assures believers of God's love to them. Love teaches us to suffer for him and with him; therefore we may trust that we shall also be glorified with him, 2Ti 2:12. We must distinguish between the fear of God and being afraid of him; the fear of God imports high regard and veneration for God. Obedience and good works, done from the principle of love, are not like the servile toil of one who unwillingly labours from dread of a master's anger. They are like that of a dutiful child, who does services to a beloved father, which benefit his brethren, and are done willingly. It is a sign that our love is far from perfect, when our doubts, fears, and apprehensions of God, are many. Let heaven and earth stand amazed at his love. He sent his word to invite sinners to partake of this great salvation. Let them take the comfort of the happy change wrought in them, while they give him the glory. The love of God in Christ, in the hearts of Christians from the Spirit of adoption, is the great proof of conversion. This must be tried by its effects on their temper, and their conduct to their brethren. If a man professes to love God, and yet indulges anger or revenge, or shows a selfish disposition, he gives his profession the lie. But if it is plain that our natural enmity is changed into affection and gratitude, let us bless the name of our God for this seal and earnest of eternal happiness. Then we differ from the false professors, who pretend to love God, whom they have not seen, yet hate their brethren, whom they have seen.
Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

We love him because he first loved us - This is the foundation of our love to God.

  1. We love him because we find he has loved us.
  • We love him from a sense of obligation and gratitude.
  • We love him from the influence of his own love; from his love shed abroad in our hearts, our love to him proceeds. It is the seed whence our love springs.
  • The verse might be rendered, Let us therefore love him, because he first loved us: thus the Syriac and Vulgate.

    Ellen G. White
    The Acts of the Apostles, 551

    “Let us not love in word,” the apostle writes, “but in deed and in truth.” The completeness of Christian character is attained when the impulse to help and bless others springs constantly from within. It is the atmosphere of this love surrounding the soul of the believer that makes him a savor of life unto life and enables God to bless his work. AA 551.1

    Supreme love for God and unselfish love for one another—this is the best gift that our heavenly Father can bestow. This love is not an impulse, but a divine principle, a permanent power. The unconsecrated heart cannot originate or produce it. Only in the heart where Jesus reigns is it found. “We love Him, because He first loved us.” In the heart renewed by divine grace, love is the ruling principle of action. It modifies the character, governs the impulses, controls the passions, and ennobles the affections. This love, cherished in the soul, sweetens the life and sheds a refining influence on all around. AA 551.2

    John strove to lead the believers to understand the exalted privileges that would come to them through the exercise of the spirit of love. This redeeming power, filling the heart, would control every other motive and raise its possessors above the corrupting influences of the world. And as this love was allowed full sway and became the motive power in the life, their trust and confidence in God and His dealing with them would be complete. They could then come to Him in full confidence of faith, knowing that they would receive from Him everything needful for their present and eternal good. “Herein is our love made perfect,” he wrote, “that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as He is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear.” “And this is the confidence that we have in Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He heareth us: and if we know that He hear us, ... we know that we have the petitions that we desired of Him.” AA 551.3

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    Ellen G. White
    Christ's Object Lessons, 384

    The sanctification of the soul by the working of the Holy Spirit is the implanting of Christ's nature in humanity. Gospel religion is Christ in the life—a living, active principle. It is the grace of Christ revealed in character and wrought out in good works. The principles of the gospel cannot be disconnected from any department of practical life. Every line of Christian experience and labor is to be a representation of the life of Christ. COL 384.1

    Love is the basis of godliness. Whatever the profession, no man has pure love to God unless he has unselfish love for his brother. But we can never come into possession of this spirit by trying to love others. What is needed is the love of Christ in the heart. When self is merged in Christ, love springs forth spontaneously. The completeness of Christian character is attained when the impulse to help and bless others springs constantly from within—when the sunshine of heaven fills the heart and is revealed in the countenance. COL 384.2

    It is not possible for the heart in which Christ abides to be destitute of love. If we love God because He first loved us, we shall love all for whom Christ died. We cannot come in touch with divinity without coming in touch with humanity; for in Him who sits upon the throne of the universe, divinity and humanity are combined. Connected with Christ, we are connected with our fellow men by the golden links of the chain of love. Then the pity and compassion of Christ will be manifest in our life. We shall not wait to have the needy and unfortunate brought to us. We shall not need to be entreated to feel for the woes of others. It will be as natural for us to minister to the needy and suffering as it was for Christ to go about doing good. COL 384.3

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    Ellen G. White
    Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing, 22

    God is Himself the source of all mercy. His name is “merciful and gracious.” Exodus 34:6. He does not treat us according to our desert. He does not ask if we are worthy of His love, but He pours upon us the riches of His love, to make us worthy. He is not vindictive. He seeks not to punish, but to redeem. Even the severity which He manifests through His providences is manifested for the salvation of the wayward. He yearns with intense desire to relieve the woes of men and to apply His balsam to their wounds. It is true that God “will by no means clear the guilty” (Exodus 34:7), but He would take away the guilt. MB 22.1

    The merciful are “partakers of the divine nature,” and in them the compassionate love of God finds expression. All whose hearts are in sympathy with the heart of Infinite Love will seek to reclaim and not to condemn. Christ dwelling in the soul is a spring that never runs dry. Where He abides, there will be an overflowing of beneficence. MB 22.2

    To the appeal of the erring, the tempted, the wretched victims of want and sin, the Christian does not ask, Are they worthy? but, How can I benefit them? In the most wretched, the most debased, he sees souls whom Christ died to save and for whom God has given to His children the ministry of reconciliation. MB 22.3

    The merciful are those who manifest compassion to the poor, the suffering, and the oppressed. Job declares, “I delivered the poor that cried, and the fatherless, and him that had none to help him. The blessing of him that was ready to perish came upon me: and I caused the widow's heart to sing for joy. I put on righteousness, and it clothed me: my judgment was as a robe and a diadem. I was eyes to the blind, and feet was I to the lame. I was a father to the poor: and the cause which I knew not I searched out.” Job 29:12-16. MB 22.4

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    Ellen G. White
    Steps to Christ, 59

    There is no evidence of genuine repentance unless it works reformation. If he restore the pledge, give again that he had robbed, confess his sins, and love God and his fellow men, the sinner may be sure that he has passed from death unto life. SC 59.1

    When, as erring, sinful beings, we come to Christ and become partakers of His pardoning grace, love springs up in the heart. Every burden is light, for the yoke that Christ imposes is easy. Duty becomes a delight, and sacrifice a pleasure. The path that before seemed shrouded in darkness, becomes bright with beams from the Sun of Righteousness. SC 59.2

    The loveliness of the character of Christ will be seen in His followers. It was His delight to do the will of God. Love to God, zeal for His glory, was the controlling power in our Saviour's life. Love beautified and ennobled all His actions. Love is of God. The unconsecrated heart cannot originate or produce it. It is found only in the heart where Jesus reigns. “We love, because He first loved us.” 1 John 4:19, R.V. In the heart renewed by divine grace, love is the principle of action. It modifies the character, governs the impulses, controls the passions, subdues enmity, and ennobles the affections. This love, cherished in the soul, sweetens the life and sheds a refining influence on all around. SC 59.3

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    Ellen G. White
    Testimonies for the Church, vol. 2, 115

    Brethren who wish to change their location, who have the glory of God in view, and feel that individual responsibility rests upon them to do others good, to benefit and save souls for whom Christ withheld not His precious life, should move into towns and villages where there is but little or no light and where they can be of real service and bless others with their labor and experience. Missionaries are wanted to go into towns and villages and raise the standard of truth, that God may have His witnesses scattered all over the land, that the light of truth may penetrate where it has not yet reached, and the standard of truth be raised where it is not yet known. The brethren should not flock together because it is more agreeable to them, but should seek to fulfill their high calling to do others good, to be instrumental in the salvation of at least one soul. But more may be saved than one. 2T 115.1

    The sole object of this work should not be merely to increase our reward in heaven. Some are selfish in this respect. In view of what Christ has done for us, and what He has suffered for sinners, we should, out of pure, disinterested love for souls, imitate His example by sacrificing our own pleasure and convenience for their good. The joy set before Christ, which sustained Him in all His sufferings, was the salvation of poor sinners. This should be our joy and the spur of our ambition in the cause of our Master. In so doing we please God and manifest our love and devotion to Him as His servants. He first loved us, and withheld not from us His beloved Son, but gave Him from His bosom to die that we might have life. Love, true love for our fellow men, evinces love to God. We may make a high profession, yet without this love it is nothing. Our faith may lead us to even give our bodies to be burned, yet without self-sacrificing love, such as lived in the bosom of Jesus and was exemplified in His life, we are as sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal. 2T 115.2

    There are families that receive spiritual strength by moving to Battle Creek. It is just the place to help some, while it is the wrong place for others. Brother and Sister A are a sample of the class who may be benefited in moving to this place. The Lord directed them to take this course. Battle Creek was just the place to benefit them, and has proved a blessing to the entire family. They have, in coming here, gained strength to plant their feet firmly upon the platform of truth, and if they continue in the path of humble obedience they may rejoice for the help they have received in Battle Creek. 2T 116.1

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