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Vincent's Word Studies, by Marvin R. Vincent, [1886], at

1 John Chapter 4

1 John 4:1

jo1 4:1


Again the recognition of danger from false spirits prompts this affectionate address. Compare Jo1 3:21.

Try (δοκιμάζετε)

Better, as Rev., prove. See on Pe1 1:7; see on Luk 12:55. Compare the phrase discerning of spirits, Co1 12:10.

Of God (ἐκ)

Out of: proceeding from.

False prophets (ψευδοπροφῆται)

The term is applied in the New Testament to rivals of true prophets under the old dispensation (Luk 6:26; Pe2 2:1), and to rivals of the apostles under the gospel economy (Mat 7:15; Mat 24:11, Mat 24:24; Mar 13:22). In Revelation to "the embodied power of spiritual falsehood" (Rev 16:13; Rev 19:20; Rev 20:10). The false prophet supports his claims by signs and portents (Mat 24:24; Act 13:6; Rev 19:20) and is thus distinguished from the false teacher. See Pe2 2:1, where the two terms occur together.

Are gone out (ἐξαληλύθασιν)

The perfect tense indicates that the influence of their going out on their false mission is in operation at the present.

1 John 4:2

jo1 4:2

Hereby (ἐν τούτῳ)

See on Jo1 2:3.

Know ye (γινῶσκετε)

Perceive. See on Joh 2:24.

Confesseth (ὁμολογεῖ)

See on Mat 7:23; see on Mat 10:32.

That Jesus Christ is come in the flesh (Ἱησοῦν Χριστὸν ἐν σαρκὶ ἐληλυθότα)

Lit., Jesus Christ having come, etc. The whole phrase forms the direct object of the verb confesseth.

Of God

Compare Co1 12:3.

1 John 4:3

jo1 4:3

Is come in the flesh

Omit. Render, confesseth not Jesus. So Rev. An ancient reading is λύει τὸν Ἱησοῦν annulleth or destroyeth Jesus." The simple Jesus emphasizes the humanity of our Lord considered in itself. See Rom 3:26; Rom 10:9; Co2 11:4; Eph 4:21; Heb 2:9.

This (τοῦτο)

Not this spirit, but this non-confession, summed up in all its manifestations.


See on Jo1 2:18.

1 John 4:4

jo1 4:4

Have overcome

See on Jo1 2:13.


Compare Jo1 3:20.

In you

The Christian society. Compare Joh 6:56; Joh 14:20; Joh 15:4-10; Joh 17:23, Joh 17:26; Gal 2:20 (of the individual).

He that is in the world

In Jo1 5:19, the world is said to be in the evil one. Compare Eph 2:2.

1 John 4:5

jo1 4:5

Of the world (ἐκ τοῦ κόσμου)

Proceeding from, as their source (ἐκ). Different from ἐκ τῆς γῆς from the earth (Joh 3:31), as marking the whole worldly economy morally considered.

Speak they of the world (ἐκ τοῦ κόσμου λαλοῦσιν)

An ambiguous rendering, which might readily be interpreted "they speak concerning the world." Literally it is: "they speak out of the world; i.e., the character of their utterances corresponds to their origin. Rev., "speak they as of the world." The position of the world in the sentence is emphatic: "it is out of the world that they speak."

1 John 4:6

jo1 4:6

He that knoweth (ὁ γινώσκων)

Lit., the one knowing: he who is habitually and ever more clearly perceiving and recognizing God as his Christian life unfolds. The knowledge is regarded as progressive and not complete. Compare Phi 3:12, and He who is calling (ὁ καλῶν, Th1 5:24) also ὁ ἀγαπῶν he that loves (Jo1 4:7).

Hereby (ἐκ τούτου)

Not the same as the common ἐν τούτῳ (Jo1 4:2). It occurs only here in the Epistle. Ἑν τούτῳ is in this: ἐκ τούτου from this. The former marks the residing or consisting of the essence or truth of a thing in something the apprehension of which conveys to us the essential nature of the thing itself. The latter marks the inference or deduction of the truth from something, as contrasted with its immediate perception in that something. Rev., by this.

The spirit of error (τὸ πνεῦμα τῆς πλάνης)

The phrase occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. Compare πνεύμασι πλάνοις misleading spirits, Ti1 4:1.

1 John 4:7

jo1 4:7

Of God (ἐκ τοῦ Θεοῦ)

Flows from God.

1 John 4:8

jo1 4:8

Knoweth not (οὐκ ἔγνω)

The aroist tense: did not know, from the beginning. He never knew.

Is love (ἀγάπη ἐστίν)

See on God is light (Jo1 1:5), and the truth (Jo1 1:6); also God is spirit (Joh 4:24). Spirit and light are expressions of God's essential nature. Love is the expression of His personality corresponding to His nature. See on love of God (Jo1 2:5). Truth and love stand related to each other. Loving is the condition of knowing.

1 John 4:9

jo1 4:9

Was manifested

See on Joh 21:1; see on Jo1 3:5.

Toward us (ἐν ἡμῖν)

Wrong. Not "among us," as Joh 1:14, nor "in us;" but as Rev., in margin, in our case.

Sent (ἀπέσταλκεν)

John describes the incarnation as a sending, more frequently than in any other way. Ἁποστέλλω is to send under commission, as an envoy. The perfect tense, hath sent, points to the abiding results of the sending. See on Jo1 3:5.

His only-begotten Son (τὸν υἱὸν αὐτοῦ τὸν μονογενῆ)

Lit., His Son, the only-begotten (Son). A mode of expression common in John, enlarging upon the meaning of a noun by the addition of an adjective or a participle with the article. See Jo1 1:2; Jo1 2:7, Jo1 2:8, Jo1 2:25; Jo1 5:4; Joh 6:41, Joh 6:44, Joh 6:50, Joh 6:51; Joh 15:1, etc. On only-begotten, see on Joh 1:14.

1 John 4:10

jo1 4:10


See on Jo1 2:2.

1 John 4:11

jo1 4:11

So (οὕτως)


We ought

See on Jo1 2:6.

1 John 4:12

jo1 4:12


Beginning the sentence emphatically, and without the article: God as God. "God hath no man ever yet seen." Compare Joh 1:18.

His love

Not our love to Him, nor His love to us, but the love which is peculiarly His; which answers to His nature.

1 John 4:14

jo1 4:14

We have seen (πεθεάμεθα)

Have deliberately and steadfastly contemplated. Compare Jo1 1:1, and see on Joh 1:14.

Do testify (μαρτυροῦμεν)

Rev., bear witness. See on Joh 1:7.


See on Jo1 4:9.

The Savior of the world

See the same phrase, Joh 4:42, and compare Joh 3:17. Σωτήρ Savior, occurs in John only here and Joh 4:42. Elsewhere it is applied both to God (Ti1 1:1; Ti1 2:3; Tit 1:3; Tit 2:10; Tit 3:4; Jde 1:25), and to Christ (Luk 2:11; Act 5:31; Act 13:23; Ti2 1:10; Tit 1:4, etc.). The title is found in Paul's Epistles of the Captivity (Eph 5:23; Phi 3:20), and in the Pastorals (see above), but not in Corinthians, Romans, Galatians, or Thessalonians. In classical writings the term is applied to many deities, especially to Zeus (Jupiter); also to Hermes (Mercury), Apollo, Hercules, and even to female deities, as Fortune and Aphrodite (Venus). "Zeus Soter" (Zeus Savior) was used as a formula in drinking at banquets. The third cup was dedicated to him. Compare Plato: "Then, by way of a third libation to the savior Zeus, let us sum up and reassert what has been said" ("Philebus," 66). The drinking of this cup was a symbol of good fortune, and the third time came to mean the lucky time. "Twice then has the just man overthrown the unjust; and now comes the third trial, which, after Olympic fashion, is sacred to Zeus the savior,... and surely this will prove the greatest and most decisive of falls" (Plato, "Republic," 583). Hence the proverb, τὸ τρίτον τῳ σωτῆρι, lit., the third to the savior; i.e., the third or lucky time. The name was also given later to princes or public benefactors. The kindred noun σωτηρία salvation, does not occur in John's Epistles, and appears only once in the Gospel (Joh 4:22). It is found thrice in Revelation (Rev 7:10; Rev 12:10; Rev 19:1). Σώζειν to save occurs six times in John's Gospel, and once in Revelation (Rev 21:24). It does not appear in the Epistles.

1 John 4:15

jo1 4:15

Whosoever (ὀς ἐὰν)

Lit., who if there be any.

Shall confess

See on Jo1 1:9.

Son of God

See on Jo1 1:7.

1 John 4:16

jo1 4:16

The love which God hath

On this use of ἔχειν to have, see on Joh 16:22. Compare Joh 8:35.

To us (ἐν ἡμῖν)

Rev., in us. Compare God abideth in Him.

Dwelleth in love, etc.

See Joh 15:9, Joh 15:10. Rev., abideth.

1 John 4:17

jo1 4:17

Herein (ἐν τούτῳ)

To what does this refer? Two explanations are given. (1.) To the following that we may have boldness. So Huther, who argues thus on the ground that Jo1 4:18 shows that the drift of the writer's thought is toward the fearlessness of love. According to this, therefore, love has its fulfillment in freeing us from fear, and inspiring us with boldness even in view of the final judgment. (2.) To what precedes, viz., our dwelling in God and He in us. So Westcott: "The fellowship of God with man and of man with God, carries with it the consummation of love." I prefer the latter, principally on the ground that in such phrases as ἐν τούτῳ in this, διὰ τοῦτο on this account, therefore, the pronoun usually refers to something preceding, though more fully developed in what follows. See Joh 5:16, Joh 5:18; Joh 6:65; Joh 8:47; Joh 10:17; Joh 12:18; Joh 16:15.

Our love (ἡ ἀγάπη μεθ' ἡμῶν)

The A.V. construes μεθ' ἡμῶν with us, with love, making with us equivalent to our. In that case it might mean either the love which is between Christians, or the love which is between God and Christians. The Rev. construes with us with the verb: love is made perfect with us. The latter is preferable. I do not think it would be easy to point out a parallel in the New Testament to the expression ἀγάπη μεθ' love that with us = our love. The true idea is that love is perfected in fellowship. The love of God is perfected with us, in communion with us, through our abiding in Him and He in us. "Love is not simply perfected in man, but in fulfilling this issue God works with man" (Westcott). Compare Jo2 1:3, "grace shall be with us" (true reading); and Act 25:4, "what things God had done with them." See also Mat 1:23; Co1 16:24; Gal 6:18. Μετά with, is used constantly in the New Testament of ethical relations. See Mat 20:2; Mat 2:3; Luk 23:12; Act 7:9; Rom 12:15; Jo1 1:6.

Boldness (παῤῥησίαν)

See on Jo1 2:28.

The day of judgment (τῇ ἡμέρᾳ τῆς κρίσεως)

Lit., the day of judgment. The exact phrase occurs here only. Ἡμέρᾳ κρίσεως day of judgment, without the articles, is found Mat 10:15; Mat 11:22, Mat 11:24; Mat 12:36; Pe2 2:9; Pe2 3:7. The day is called the great day of their wrath (Rev 6:17); the day of wrath and of revelation of the righteous judgement of God (Rom 2:5); the day of visitation (Pe1 2:12); the last day (Joh 6:39, Joh 6:40, Joh 6:44, Joh 6:54); that day (Mat 7:22; Luk 6:23; Luk 10:12). The judgment is found Mat 12:41, Mat 12:42; Luk 10:14; Luk 11:31, Luk 11:32.


Likeness to Christ is the ground of boldness.

As (καθὼς)

Not absolutely, but according to our measure, as men in this world.

He is

The present tense is very significant. Compare Jo1 3:7, "is righteous even as He is righteous." The essence of out being as He is lies in perfected love; and Christ is eternally love. "He that abideth in love abideth in God and God in him." Compare Jo1 3:2.

In this world

This present economy, physical and moral. The phrase limits the conception of likeness.

1 John 4:18

jo1 4:18

There is no fear in love (φόβος οὐκ ἔστιν ἐν τῇ ἀγάπῃ)

Lit., fear is not. It has no existence. The fear is that spoken of in Pe1 1:17; Heb 12:28; godly fear; filial reverence; not slavish fear, as Rom 8:15. In love, lit., the love, that perfected love of which John has been speaking.

Perfect (τελεία)

Not perfected, as Jo1 4:17 but perfect as the result of having been perfected. Compare Heb 5:14; Jam 1:4; Jam 3:2.

Casteth out (ἔξω βάλλει)

A strong expression: turneth out of doors. Fear is cast out of the sphere of the fellowship of love. See the phrase in Joh 6:37; Joh 9:34, Joh 9:35; Joh 12:31; Joh 15:6.

Hath torment (κόλασιν ἔχει)

Torment is a faulty translation. The word means punishment, penalty. It occurs in the New Testament only here and Mat 25:46. The kindred verb, κολάζομαι to punish, is found Act 4:21; Pe2 2:9. Note the present tense, hath. The punishment is present. Fear by anticipating punishment has it even now. The phrase hath punishment (see on Joh 16:22) indicates that the punishment is inherent in the fear. Fear carries its own punishment. Augustine, commenting on the expulsion of fear by love, says: "As in sewing, we see the thread passed through by the needle. The needle is first pushed in, but the thread cannot be introduced until the needle is brought out. So fear first occupies the mind, but does not remain permanently, because it entered for the purpose of introducing love." The words because fear hath punishment are parenthetical.

He that feareth

The A.V. omits and (δὲ), which is important as closely connecting this clause with there is no fear in love, etc. That is an abstract statement; this is personal; two modes of stating the same truth. Rev. "and he that feareth."

Is not made perfect

"Men's condition is varied; without fear and love; with fear without love; with fear and love; without fear with love" (Bengel).

1 John 4:19

jo1 4:19

We love Him (ἡμεῖς ἀγαπῶμεν αὐτὸν)

The best texts omit Him. Some render let us love, as Jo1 4:7. The statement is general, relating to the entire operation of the principle of love. All human love is preceded and generated by the love of God.

1 John 4:20

jo1 4:20

He that loveth not his brother, etc.

Note the striking inversion of the clauses: He that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, God whom he hath not seen cannot love.


The best tests omit, and give the direct statement cannot love. So Rev.

1 John 4:21

jo1 4:21

That (ἵνα)

Not defining the contents of the commandment, but expressing intent. Compare Joh 13:34, and see on Joh 15:13.

His brother

"To the persecutor Saul, Christ said, 'Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me? I have ascended into heaven, yet still I lie upon earth. Here I sit at the right hand of the Father; there I still hunger, thirst, and am a stranger'" (Augustine).

Next: 1 John Chapter 5