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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

1 John 4:12

 

 

No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us.

Adam Clarke Commentary

No man hath seen God at any time - The very words, with the change of ἑωρακε for τεθεαται, of this apostle in his gospel, John 1:18. We may feel him, though we cannot see him; and if we love one another he dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us - it has then its full accomplishment, having moulded us according to its own nature.


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Bibliography
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on 1 John 4:12". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/1-john-4.html. 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

No man hath seen God at any time - See the notes at John 1:18, where the same declaration occurs. The statement seems to be made here in order to introduce a remark to show in what way we may know that we have any true knowledge of God. The idea is, “He has never indeed been seen by mortal eyes. We are not, then, to expect to become acquainted with what he is in that way. But there is a method by which we may be assured that we have a true knowledge of him, and that is, by evidence that we love another, and by the presence of his Spirit in our hearts. We cannot become acquainted with him by sight, but we may by love.”

If we love one another, God dwelleth in us - Though we cannot see him, yet there is a way by which we may be assured that he is near us, and that he even dwells in us. That way is by the exercise of love. Compare the notes at John 14:23-24.

And his love is perfected in us - Is carried out to completion. That is, our love for each other is the proper exponent of love to him reigning in our hearts. The idea here is not that we are absolutely perfect, or even that our love is perfect, whatever may be true on those points, but that this love to others is the proper carrying out of our love toward him; that is, without this our love to him would not have accomplished what it was adapted and designed to do. Unless it produced this effect, it would be defective or incomplete. Compare 1 John 4:17. The general sense is this: “We claim to have the love of God in our hearts, or that we are influenced and controlled by love. But however high and exalted that may seem to be as exercised toward God, it would be defective; it would not exert a fair influence over us, unless it led us to love our Christian brethren. It would be like the love which we might profess to have for a father, if it did not lead us to love our brothers and sisters. True love will diffuse itself over all who come within its range, and will thus become complete and entire.” This passage, therefore, cannot be adduced to demonstrate the doctrine of sinless perfection, or to prove that Christians are ever absolutely perfect in this life. It proves only that love to God is not complete, or fully developed, unless it leads those who profess to have it to love each other. See the notes at Job 1:1. On the meaning of the Greek word here used, ( τελειόω teleioōsee the notes at Philemon 3:12. Compare the notes at Hebrews 2:10.


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Bibliography
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on 1 John 4:12". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/1-john-4.html. 1870.

The Biblical Illustrator

1 John 4:12

No man hath seen God at any time.
If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and His love is perfected in us

The nearness of God

There is a saying of Hazlitt’s, bold, and at first seeming to be wondrous true, “In the days of Jacob there was a ladder between heaven and earth; but now the heavens have gone further off, and have become astronomical.” This may be taken as illustrating the belief of a large number of people who imagine that somehow or other the earth in its youth was better off and nearer God than it possibly can be, with the larger, fuller, and more accurate scientific knowledge that it has now; a fancy that the heavens have gone further away because of our knowledge of them. But no wise man would wish to go back from the effect of the scientific analysis, or undo those results of it which are the glory of the age. Because by a flash of lightning I can speak to the other side of the world--because I live in a generation in which men gain the strength of giants, and can move mountains--am I further from God? I think not. Man’s nearness to God, or distance from Him, arises from no scientific knowledge, or from the want of it. Man grows near to God by the likeness of his own soul. Still, you may say, that the revelation of God’s power made by science has removed the sense of His immediate presence. Then science has done a good work. Such a sense of nearness, brought about by a want of knowledge and a mean apprehension of God’s power, might belong to idiots, and is certainly unneeded by mankind. God is to us a greater Being than the ancients ever knew. Though we may fancy that the heavens or whatever other material place men may have thought He dwelt in have grown distant, His Spirit has grown near. It is the glory of earthly love to clasp, to hold, to have in near communion, to see, to hear, to touch. If we were speaking of mere humanities, we might, with Hazlit, lament the time when earth was so near to heaven. But when we come to speak of Him whom no man hath seen at any time, we go to the spirituality of things--we measure no longer by earthly measure. If the God you long to know is the God of the Spirit who comes to the hearts of all who seek for Him in spirit and in truth, who, in every motion of desire and love, lives in the soul, who stirs men to penitence, draws them from His own sweet influence--if this is the God you seek and long to know, your God is always near you. So long as men can hold to this spiritual perception of God, science has done no mischief; and whilst it has increased man’s knowledge has increased, too, his belief in his nearness to God; has shown Him that his knowledge of nature has altered no canon of the eternal laws; has cast no shade on any brightness of human mercy or human love; has made no change in any way in the glorious relationships between the human soul and God, by which man alone can rise to the height of his own marvellous capacities, and which alone is his belief, his pride, his hope. A religion, such as you and I profess--a religion which teaches that God’s dear Son came down from heaven to earth, and took upon Him the form of man; and which teaches, further, that in the Spirit God is still as near as when in the person of His Son He walked in Nazareth, dignifies alike the earth and man--makes man more lovable, the earth more glorious--and the presence of God to such as care to know it, an eternal reality. (G. Dawson, M. A.)


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Bibliography
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "1 John 4:12". The Biblical Illustrator. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/tbi/1-john-4.html. 1905-1909. New York.

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible

No man hath beheld God at any time: if we love one another, God abideth in us, and his love is perfected in us:

No man hath seen God at any time ... Blaney was probably correct in seeing this as a warning to Christians against "trying to know God in any other way than the one he is describing."[35] Some have sought, outside of Christianity, to know more about God, hoping for a clearer perception; but this apostolic warning declares all such attempts to be futile. However, "John is not here discounting the visions of God reported in the Old Testament, but meaning that those visions were partial and incomplete. It is in Christ that we see God (John 14:9)."[36]

If we love one another ... Love of the brethren is the primary meaning of this. The humanistic philosophy that reads this "love of all mankind" is an inadequate conception. "Our love toward God is perfected and brought to maturity by the exercise of love towards our brethren in him (Christ)."[37]

The warning in this verse to the effect that the revelation of God is available to people only in Christ is widely needed. All such things as astrology, spiritism, witchcraft and Satanism are basically ways of finding a so-called "reality" apart from Biblical revelation. This apostolic injunction states unequivocally that there is nothing out there which might enlighten or bless people. The true revelation has already been given through people who is "the way, the truth, and the life." Despite this basic truth, the spectacle of a high ranking ecclesiastic losing his life in a desert while trying to communicate with spirits, only recently, was spread on the pages of the newspapers.

God abideth in us ... Why make excursions into deserts or dark rooms, or explore the mysteries of esoteric cults, or plunge into the abyss through drugs or alcohol? when all the while God himself will take up residence in the very soul of one who will through loving open up room for Him who is love.

[35] Harvey J. S. Blaney, op. cit., p. 391.

[36] Leon Morris, op. cit., p. 1268.

[37] A. Plummer, op. cit., p. 104.


Copyright Statement
James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

Bibliography
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on 1 John 4:12". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/1-john-4.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

No man hath seen God at any time,.... The same is said by the Evangelist John, John 1:18; but here it is observed with a different view, and upon another account; there it signifies that no man has seen and looked into the counsels and designs of God, and been able to make a discovery and declaration of his mind and will, his love and grace, and which is there ascribed to the Son of God; see Gill on John 1:18; but here the sense is, that whereas God is invisible in his nature, and incomprehensible in his being and perfections, so that there is no coming to him, and seeing of him, and conversing with him in a familiar way, and so not of loving him as he is in himself, and ought to be loved, as one friend sees, converses with, and loves another, and finds his love increased by sight and conversation; then we ought to love the saints and people of God, who are visible, may be seen, come at, and conversed with, see 1 John 4:20; for this clause stands among the arguments and reasons for brotherly love:

if we love one another God dwelleth in us; not as he does in his Son, by union of nature; nor as in heaven, by the displays of his glory; nor as in the whole world, by his omnipresence and power; but by his Spirit, and the communications of his love, and by his gracious presence and communion, which he indulges the saints with; for such who love one another, as they appear to have the Spirit of God, of which that grace is a fruit, so they are by the Spirit built up a fit habitation for God, and by which Spirit he dwells in them; and such may expect the presence of God, for they who live in peace, the God of love and peace shall be with them:

and his love is perfected in us; not that love of God, with which he loves his people; for that admits of no degrees, and is not more or less in itself, or in his heart; but is always invariably and unchangeably the same, and is full, complete, and perfect in his own breast, as it was from all eternity; and does not pass by degrees, or gradually rise from a love of benevolence to a love of complacency and delight, or increase as our love does to him and to one another, on which it has no dependence: nor is this love perfected in the saints in this life; that is to say, they have not perfect knowledge and enjoyment of it; nor have they all the effects of it bestowed upon them, and applied unto them; the perfection of it, in this sense, will be in heaven: but the love with which God is loved is here designed; and it is called his, because he is both the object and the author of it; and this is no effect as to degrees; yea, sometimes, instead of abounding and increasing, it goes back, it is left, and waxes cold; and it will not have its completion till the saints come to heaven, and then it will be in its full perfection and glory, when faith and hope shall be no more: but the sense is, that this grace of love is sincere and hearty, and without dissimulation; it is unfeigned love; and it is in deed and in truth, and not in word and in tongue only; and this appears to be so, by the love which is shown to the brethren, the children of God; so that love to God in the saints is perfected by love to the brethren, just in such sense as faith is made perfect by works, James 2:22, that is, is made to appear to be genuine, right, and true.


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The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rightes Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855

Bibliography
Gill, John. "Commentary on 1 John 4:12". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/1-john-4.html. 1999.

Geneva Study Bible

10 No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is g perfected in us.

(10) A third reason: Because God is invisible, therefore by this effect of his Spirit, that is, by charity, he is understood to be not out of us, but united with us and in us, in whom he is so effectually working.

(g) Is surely in us indeed, and in truth.


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Bibliography
Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on 1 John 4:12". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/gsb/1-john-4.html. 1599-1645.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

God, whom no man hath seen at any time, hath appointed His children as the visible recipients of our outward kindness which flows from love to Himself, “whom not having seen, we love,” compare Notes, see on 1 John 4:11, see on 1 John 4:19, 1 John 4:20. Thus 1 John 4:12 explains why, instead (in 1 John 4:11) of saying, “If God so loved us, we ought also to love God,” he said, “We ought also to love one another.

If we love one another, God dwelleth in us — for God is love; and it must have been from Him dwelling in us that we drew the real love we bear to the brethren (1 John 4:8, 1 John 4:16). John discusses this in 1 John 4:13-16.

his love — rather, “the love of Him,” that is, “to Him” (1 John 2:5), evinced by our love to His representatives, our brethren.

is perfected in us — John discusses this in 1 John 4:17-19. Compare 1 John 2:5, “is perfected,” that is, attains its proper maturity.


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These files are a derivative of an electronic edition prepared from text scanned by Woodside Bible Fellowship.
This expanded edition of the Jameison-Faussett-Brown Commentary is in the public domain and may be freely used and distributed.

Bibliography
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on 1 John 4:12". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jfb/1-john-4.html. 1871-8.

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

No one hath beheld God at any time (τεον ουδεις πωποτε τετεαταιtheon oudeis pōpote tetheātai). Perfect middle indicative of τεαομαιtheaomai (John 1:14). Almost the very words of John 1:18 τεον ουδεις πωποτε εωρακενtheon oudeis pōpote heōraken (instead of τετεαταιtetheātai).

If we love one another (εαν αγαπωμεν αλληλουςean agapōmen allēlous). Third-class condition with εανean and the present active subjunctive, “if we keep on loving one another.”

God abideth in us (ο τεος εν ημιν μενειho theos en hēmin menei). Else we cannot go on loving one another.

His love (η αγαπη αυτουhē agapē autou). More than merely subjective or objective (1 John 2:5; 1 John 4:9). “Mutual love is a sign of the indwelling of God in men” (Brooke).

Is perfected (τετελειωμενη εστινteteleiōmenē estin). Periphrastic (see usual form τετελειωταιteteleiōtai in 1 John 2:5; 1 John 4:17) perfect passive indicative of τελειοωteleioō (cf. 1 John 1:4). See 1 John 4:18 for “perfect love.”


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The Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament. Copyright Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman Press (Southern Baptist Sunday School Board)

Bibliography
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on 1 John 4:12". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/rwp/1-john-4.html. Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.

Vincent's Word Studies

God

Beginning the sentence emphatically, and without the article: God as God. “God hath no man ever yet seen.” Compare John 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.


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Bibliography
Vincent, Marvin R. DD. "Commentary on 1 John 4:12". "Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/vnt/1-john-4.html. Charles Schribner's Sons. New York, USA. 1887.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.

If we love one another, God abideth in us — This is treated of, 1 John 4:13-16.

And his love is perfected — Has its full effect.

In us — This is treated of, 1 John 4:17-19.


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.

Bibliography
Wesley, John. "Commentary on 1 John 4:12". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/wen/1-john-4.html. 1765.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

12No man hath seen God The same words are found in John 1:18 of John’s Gospel; but John the Baptist had not there exactly the same thing in view, for he meant only that God could not be otherwise known, but as he has revealed himself in Christ. The Apostle here extends the same truth farther, that the power of God is comprehended by us by faith and love, so as to know that we are his children and that he dwells in us.

He speaks, however, first of love, when he says, that God dwells in us, if we love one another; for perfected, or really proved to be, in us is then his love; as though he had said, that God shews himself as present, when by his Spirit he forms our hearts so that they entertain brotherly love. For the same purpose he repeats what he had already said, that we know by the Spirit whom he has given us that he dwells in us; for it is a confirmation of the former sentence, because love is the effect or fruit of the Spirit.

The sum, then, of what is said is, that since love is from the Spirit of God, we cannot truly and with a sincere heart love the brethren, except the Spirit puts forth his power. In this way he testifies that he dwells in us. But God by his Spirit dwells in us; then, by love we prove that we have God abiding in us. On the other hand, whosoever boasts that he has God and loves not the brethren, his falsehood is proved by this one thing, because he separates God from himself.

When he says, and his love is perfected, the conjunction is to be taken as a causative, for, or, because And love here may be explained in two ways, either that which God shews to us, or that which he implants in us. That God has given his Spirit to us, or given us of his Spirit, means the same thing; for we know that the Spirit in a measure is given to each individual.


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Bibliography
Calvin, John. "Commentary on 1 John 4:12". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/1-john-4.html. 1840-57.

Scofield's Reference Notes

perfected

(See Scofield "Matthew 5:48").


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These files are considered public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available in the Online Bible Software Library.

Bibliography
Scofield, C. I. "Scofield Reference Notes on 1 John 4:12". "Scofield Reference Notes (1917 Edition)". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/srn/1-john-4.html. 1917.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

12 No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.

Ver. 12. No man hath seen God] If we read that any hath seen him, we must understand it, that indeed they did see Mercavah, velo harocheb, the chariot in which God rode, but not the rider in it, as that Rabbi speaketh. (Rab. Maim. More Nevochim, iii. 7.)

His love is perfected in us] i.e. Either actively; our love is demonstrated in the excellency of it. Or else passively; the love that God beareth to us is abundantly declared perfect, in that he worketh such a gracious inclination in us. And in this latter sense understand the apostle, 1 John 4:17, touching love made perfect.


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Bibliography
Trapp, John. "Commentary on 1 John 4:12". John Trapp Complete Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/1-john-4.html. 1865-1868.

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

1 John 4:12. No man hath seen God, &c.— "God himself is an invisible Spirit, whom no man hath seen nor can see with his bodily eyes. But as he is the great Fountain of benevolence, if we love one another with cordiality and entire sincerity, it appears that God dwelleth in us, and that his love is perfected in us; for this is the best proof we can give of our love to him, and of the prevalence of his grace in our hearts, transforming us into his image."


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Bibliography
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on 1 John 4:12". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/1-john-4.html. 1801-1803.

Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament

1 John 4:12. The blessing of brotherly love is perfect fellowship with God.

θεὸν οὐδεὶς πώποτε τεθέαται] comp. 1 John 4:20 and Gospel of John 1:18. In opposition to Rickli’s view, that these words were spoken in polemic reference to the false teachers who pretended to see God, i.e. to know Him fully, Lücke rightly asserts that in that case the apostle would have more definitely expressed the polemic element; τεθέαται does not here at all denote spiritual seeing or knowledge (Hornejus, Neander, Sander, Erdmann), but seeing in the strict sense of the word (de Wette, Düsterdieck, Braune). John, however, does not here emphasize this invisibility of God (in which He is infinitely exalted above man; comp. 1 Timothy 6:16) in order to suggest that we can reciprocate the love of God, not directly, but only through love to our visible brethren (Lücke, Ebrard; similarly Hornejus, Lange, etc.), but in order thereby to emphasize still more the following: θεὸς ἐν ἡμῖν μένει κ. τ. λ. as the Scholiast in Matthiae indicates by paraphrasing: ἀόρατος θεὸς καὶ ἀνέφικτος διὰ τῆς εἰς ἀλλήλους ἀγάπης ἐν ἡμῖν μένει; a Lapide correctly interprets: licet eum non videamus, tamen, si proximum diligamus, ipse invisibilis erit nobis praesentissimus (so also de Wette, Düsterdieck, Erdmann, Myrberg, Braune). The πώποτε which is added shows that τεθέαται is regarded as the simple perfect, and does not “include past and present” (Lücke); nevertheless with the thought: “no one has seen God at any time,” the further thought: “no one can see Him,” is tacitly combined. That the apostle had in view the passage Exodus 33:20 (Sander), is the more improbable, as both thought and expression are different. In reference to the appearances of God which the O. T. in Genesis 12:7; Genesis 17:1, and elsewhere, relates, Spener rightly remarks: “All such was not the seeing of the Divine Being Himself, but of an assumed form in which His being manifested itself.”

ἐὰν ἀγαπῶμεν ἀλλήλους, θεὸς ἐν ἡμῖν μένει] In these words the blessing of brotherly love is stated: With brotherly love fellowship with God is associated, because, indeed, love is of God. The explanation of several commentators: “if we love one another, then it may thereby be known that God is in us,” weakens the thought of the apostle.(267) God’s dwelling in us is certainly not meant to be represented here as a result or fruit of our love to one another (as Frommann, p. 109, interprets); and just as little is it the converse relation; but it is the inseparable co-dependence of the two elements, which mutually condition each other (so also Braune).

καὶ ἀγάπη αὐτοῦ τετελειω΄ένη ἐστὶν ἐν ἡ΄ῖν] ἀγάπη αὐτοῦ is not here “the love which God has to us” (Calovius, Spener, Russmeyer, Sander, Erdmann, etc.), for the idea τετελειω΄ένη ἐστίν does not agree with this, comp. 1 John 4:18, but the love which the believer has; αὐτοῦ may, however, be either the objective genitive (so most commentators) or the subjective genitive; but in the latter case we must not interpret, with Socinus: “ea dilectio, quam ipse Deus nobis praescripsit,” nor, as Calvin thinks probable: “caritas, quam Deus nobis inspirat,” but “the love which is inherent in God” (which is His nature and ἐξ αὐτοῦ); this, however, considered as dwelling in believers ( ἐν ἡ΄ῖν) as the soul of their life (so also Brückner and Braune). This explanation, in which no object which would restrict the general idea of love has to be supplied (comp. 1 John 4:7-8; 1 John 4:16; 1 John 4:18), deserves the preference, because the specific love to God is first mentioned in 1 John 4:19. Quite unjustifiably Ebrard asserts that ἀγ. αὐτοῦ denotes “the mutual loving relationship between God and us; comp. 1 John 2:5.”


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Bibliography
Meyer, Heinrich. "Commentary on 1 John 4:12". Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/hmc/1-john-4.html. 1832.

Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament

1 John 4:12. θεὸς, God) otherwise invisible. Comp. 1 John 4:20.— ἐν ἡμῖν μένει, dwelleth in us) This is treated of in 1 John 4:13-16.— τετελειωμένη ἐστὶν, is perfected) accomplishes all things, which follow upon the expiation of sins. This is treated of, 1 John 4:17-19.


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Bibliography
Bengel, Johann Albrecht. "Commentary on 1 John 4:12". Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jab/1-john-4.html. 1897.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

The essence of God is to our eyes invisible, incomprehensible to our minds; but by yielding ourselves to the power of his love, so as to be transformed by it, and habituated to the exercise of mutual love, we come to know him by the most pleasant and most apprehensible effects, experiencing his indwelling, vital, operative presence and influences, whereby he is daily perfecting this his own likeness and image in us. This is the most desirable way of knowing God, when, though we cannot behold him at a distance, we may feelingly apprehend him nigh us, and in us.


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Bibliography
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on 1 John 4:12". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/1-john-4.html. 1685.

Justin Edwards' Family Bible New Testament

Is perfected; by producing in us its proper fruits, and is thus shown to be genuine, complete.


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Bibliography
Edwards, Justin. "Commentary on 1 John 4:12". "Family Bible New Testament". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/fam/1-john-4.html. American Tract Society. 1851.

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges

12. Θεὸν οὐδεὶς πώποτε τεθέαται. As R.V., No man hath beheld God at any time, to mark the shade of difference between this and Θεὸν οὐδεὶς ἑώρακεν πώποτε (John 1:18). Here gazing and contemplation are implied; there not. Each word suits its own context. The order here is striking: God no man ever yet hath beheld. In both cases Θεόν stands first with great emphasis and without the article. Dr Westcott tabulates a number of instances and draws the following conclusion from them: “In Θεός the general conception of divinity is prominent, and in ὁ Θεός that of the One Being in personal relation to others”. This distinction holds good with great precision in the present passage. Comp. ὃν εἶδεν οὐδεὶς ἀνθρώπων οὐδὲ ἰδεῖν δύναται (1 Timothy 6:16).

Once more (see on 1 John 4:7) the connecting lines of thought are not on the surface, and cannot be affirmed with certainty. What follows seems to give the clue to what otherwise looks like an abrupt transition. ‘I say we must love one another, for by so doing we have proof of the presence of the invisible God. No amount of contemplation ever yet enabled any one to detect God’s presence. Let us love one another, and then we may be sure that He is not only with us but in us, and not merely is, but abides’. For μένει see on 1 John 2:24 : He is not a momentary visitant but a permanent friend and guest.

ἡ ἀγάπη αὐτοῦ. The love of Him. ‘His love to us’ can hardly be meant: in what sense would our loving one another perfect that? Moreover, as already noticed, ‘the love of God’ in this Epistle commonly means man’s love to Him, not His to man (1 John 2:5, 1 John 3:17, 1 John 5:3). ‘His love’ might possibly mean the love which characterizes Him, or the love which He has implanted in us; but the other is simpler. Our love to God is developed and perfected by our loving one another. We practise and strengthen our love of the Unseen by shewing love to the seen. See on 1 John 2:5.

τετελειωμένη ἐν ἡμῖν ἐστίν. In a perfected form is in us: ‘is perfected in us’ hardly does justice to the Greek. Τελειοῦσθαι is frequent in Hebrews (Hebrews 5:9; Hebrews 7:28; Hebrews 11:40; Hebrews 12:23) and in this Epistle (1 John 2:5; 1 John 4:17-18).


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Bibliography
"Commentary on 1 John 4:12". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/cgt/1-john-4.html. 1896.

Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary

12.] God hath no one ever beheld (what is the connexion of these words, so suddenly and startlingly introduced? It is evident that 1 John 4:12 is connected with 1 John 4:11, by the words ἐὰν ἀγαπῶμεν ἀλλήλους, taking up again ὀφείλομεν ἀλλήλους ἀγαπᾷν. But it is also evident that it is connected with 1 John 4:13 by the ἐν ἡμῖν μένει, κ. τ. λ. And it is further plain, that these words, θεὸν οὐδεὶς πώποτε τεθέαται, must have some close reference to ἀλλήλους ἀγαπᾷν, seeing that they stand between those words in 1 John 4:11, and the resumption of them in 1 John 4:12. It would appear by this, that the idea of connecting them with ἡμεῖς τεθεάμεθα, 1 John 4:14, in the sense, “but we have truly beheld,” &c., as Carpzov., is a mistake. Œc. (and similarly Thl. and Aretius) takes it as if some objector were introduced,— ἀκόλουθον δʼ ἦν εἰπεῖν τινα, καὶ πόθεν τοῦτο λέγεις περὶ πραγμάτων ἀθεάτων καὶ ἀνεφίκτων, καὶ διαβεβαιοῖς ἡμᾶς οἷς μήπω τις ἔγνωκε; and that the Apostle, συντρέχων τοῖς οὕτω λέγουσι φησὶ καὶ αὐτὸς ὅτι θεὸν μὲν οὐδεὶς ἑώρακε πώποτε, σύμφημι καὶ αὐτός. ἀλλʼ ἐκ τῆς εἰς ἀλλήλους ἀγάπης φησὶ γινώσκομεν ὅτι ὁ θεὸς ἐν ἡμῖν ἐστι. But of this objection there is not the slightest trace in the text: and had the Apostle intended to adduce such an one, he would, as Düsterd. well observes, have replied to it not from the effect of our love to one another, but from the facts of the mission and ministry of the Son of God. Of the remaining Commentators, there are two great divisions. The first consists of those who take the axiom as referring forward to ὁ θεὸς ἐν ἡμῖν μένει: i. e. our inner communion of life with God whom we have not seen must be realized and will be realized, by love towards one another: so the Scholl., I.,— ὁ ἀόρατος θεὸς κ. ἀνέφικτος διὰ τῆς εἰς ἀλλήλους ἀλάπης ἐν ἡμῖν μένει, and II.,— τοῦτο οὖν κατορθώσει, φησίν, ἡ ἀγάπη, τὸ ἔνοικον ἡμῖν γενέσθαι θεόν, ὃν οὐδεὶς πώποτε τεθέαται. And so Hunnius, Seb.-Schmidt, Spener, Joach. Lange, Socinus, Grot., Rosenm., Baumg.-Crus., Rickli, Neander, De Wette, Sander, Düsterd., Huther, al. Düsterd. quotes Rickli’s representation of this view as the best: “To behold God,—to perceive Him immediately and according to His infinite divine essence, is given to no man here: we cannot apprehend God: but then in the highest and the best manner do we perceive Him inwardly, as His true children, if we love one another, for then God abideth in us.” And all this is most true. But I would submit that although it might explain 1 John 4:12 and what follows, it does not explain the place of 1 John 4:12 in the context at all. How comes the Apostle thus suddenly to introduce this axiom and what follows it? Clearly, 1 John 4:11; 1 John 4:14 are connected: the same strain of argument is going on, and it is most improbable that a thought thus foreign to that argument would be introduced into the midst of it. Obviously, this is a great defect in this interpretation. Let us turn to the other, and see whether we have it supplied. It takes the words as saying this: “We cannot immediately return to the invisible God the love which He has shewn to us: for no man has ever seen Him: i. e. He is not to be seen by any. But if we love our brethren, whom we do see, God abides in us, we are His children, objects of His love, and so, by love to our brethren, love to God is perfected in us.” (Lücke.) And thus or nearly thus, Corn.-a-lap., Mayer, Schlichting, Episcopius, Bengel, Whitby, G. Lange, Jachmann.

Now this interpretation, as above given, has the merit of being linked to what went before, by our inability to return God’s love: but I must feel that Düsterd.’s objection to it is fatal: it gives a sense wholly alien from St. John’s habit of thought, in alleging that we cannot return God’s love, and further alien in giving as a reason for this inability, that He is invisible. It would be a most unjustifiable use of 1 John 4:20, to convert it thus and make it say that we cannot love God whom we have not seen.

Thus it appears that each view has something to recommend it, each something to discommend it. Is there no third way to be found? In examining 1 John 4:11, we find an unexpected substitution, εἰ οὕτως ὁ θεὸς ἠγάπησεν ἡμᾶς, καὶ ἡμεῖς ὀφείλομεν (not τὸν θεόν, but) ἀλλήλους ἀγαπᾷν. Why so? Here, 1 John 4:20 will guide us to an answer, if rightly used. Not, because we cannot love God whom we have not seen: but because the exponents of God whom we have not seen are our brethren whom we do see. And the Apostle, in substituting ἀλλήλους, does not for a moment drop or set aside the higher τὸν θεόν, but in fact leads up to it by putting its lower and visible objects before us. And then 1 John 4:12 comes in as an explanation, an apology as it were, for this substitution, in the following manner: ἀλλήλους ἀλαπᾷν, I say: for the love to God, which is our ὀφειλή, is love towards one whom we have never seen, and cannot exist in us (as 1 John 4:20) unless by and with its lower degrees as manifested towards our brethren whom we have seen. By our love to them are we to know, how far we have love to Him: if that be present, He dwelleth in us, and ἡ ἀγάπη αὐτοῦ τετελειωμένη ἐστὶν ἐν ἡμῖν. And thus (see below) the way is prepared for 1 John 4:15-16, which take up and bring to a conclusion the reasoning): if we love one another, God abideth in us (for the reason already stated in 1 John 4:8, and restated in immediate connexion with this very matter in 1 John 4:16, that God is Love, and every one that loveth is born of God, knows God, abides in God and God in him), and (simply the copula: not as Calvin, “copulam accipit causalis particulæ loco”) the love of Him (i. e. ἡ ἀγάπη αὐτοῦ, as in ch. 1 John 2:5, where we had the same expression, our love to Him, not, as Beza, Bengel, Sander, al., His love to us. This is evident not merely from ch. 1 John 2:5, but from the context here: see it explained above, and remember that it is our love to God which is here the subject, as evinced by our love to our brethren. This is further shewn by the recurrence of the same expression in 1 John 4:17, ἐν τούτῳ τετελείωται ἡ ἀγάπη μεθʼ ἡμῶν, and 1 John 4:18, ὁ φοβούμενος οὐ τετελείωται ἐν τῇ ἀγάπῃ. And so the majority of Commentators. Calvin proposes as a possible alternative, “caritas, quam nobis inspirat.” Socinus renders “dilectio quam ipse Deus nobis præscripsit.” But both these are forced, and agree neither with usage nor with the context) is perfected (see note ch. 1 John 2:5. Here, as there, it signifies, has reached its full maturity: the ἀγαπᾷν ἀλλήλους being the token and measure of it. The form τετελειωμένη ἐστίν, like all resolved forms of verbal tenses, brings out more strongly the peculiar temporal force of the verb substantive united with the import of the participle as a predicate. Hence in this case, the present sense always contained in the perfect, predominates, and there is more reason than ever for rendering “is,” not “hath been”) in us (on the view above maintained of ἡ ἀγάπη αὐτοῦ, ἐν ἡμῖν keeps its primary and obvious sense, “in us,” “within us,” as in ch. 1 John 2:5).


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Bibliography
Alford, Henry. "Commentary on 1 John 4:12". Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/hac/1-john-4.html. 1863-1878.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

12. No man hath seen God—Neither with bodily nor mental eye. And so we can know him as he is, love, only in the light of that circumfused love wherewith we love one another and him, to which we attain through the divine Propitiator, who has reconciled and unified us all in love, and through whom God has given us his Spirit, affirming him to be love. If we love one another with divine love, our incapacity to ocularly see God is remedied in this luminiferous ether of love.


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Bibliography
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on 1 John 4:12". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/1-john-4.html. 1874-1909.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

No one has seen God in His pure essence without some kind of filter (cf. John 1:18). Instances in which the biblical writers said that people saw God were theophanies, manifestations of God in human or angelic form (e.g, Genesis 18:1-22; Exodus 33:18-23; et al.). [Note: See Baker"s Dictionary of Theology, s.v. "Theophany," by Wick Broomall.] Whenever we love one another we make it possible for God to "abide" in close fellowship with us. Furthermore God"s love reaches a fullness and depth in us that is possible only when we love one another. It attains its full flower ( 1 John 4:19).

There are three stages of God"s love in1John. These stages are love manifested to the world ( 1 John 4:9), love given to the family of God ( 1 John 3:1), and love perfected in a smaller group within this family (i.e, those who abide in God, 1 John 4:12). The love of God does not reach perfection until it finds objects of love beyond itself. When it does, God, whom no one has seen, will be visible in this manifestation of love.

"God"s love for us is perfected only when it is reproduced in us or (as it may mean) "among us" in the Christian fellowship." [Note: Stott, p164. Cf. Westcott, p152.]

The same phenomenon occurs in human families. When a child says or does something just like one of his or her parents, we see the parent in the child"s behavior (cf. 1 John 3:9).

"The love of God displayed in His people is the strongest apologetic that God has in the world." [Note: Bruce, p109.]


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Bibliography
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on 1 John 4:12". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/1-john-4.html. 2012.

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament

1 John 4:12. This verse contains three clauses, which are severally dilated on, though in a rather different order, in the seven verses which follow: the invisibility of God as the object of love; His invisible indwelling nevertheless; and the perfect operation of His love in our hearts as the representative of His invisible self.


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Bibliography
Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on 1 John 4:12". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/scn/1-john-4.html. 1879-90.

The Expositor's Greek Testament

1 John 4:12. “God—no one hath ever yet beheld Him”. By and by “we shall see Him even as He is” (1 John 3:2), but even now, if we love, we are no strangers to Him: He abides and works in us. τετελειωμένη, “carried to its end”; see note on 1 John 2:5.


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Bibliography
Nicol, W. Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on 1 John 4:12". The Expositor's Greek Testament. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/egt/1-john-4.html. 1897-1910.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

No man hath seen God at any time. No mortal man hath seen God and the perfections of his divine Majesty in such a manner as the blessed in heaven, but we have powerful motives to love and serve him, and to love our neighbour for his sake. (Witham)


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Bibliography
Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on 1 John 4:12". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/1-john-4.html. 1859.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

No man = No one. Greek. oudeis.

seen = beheld. App-133.

dwelleth. Greek. meno. See p. 1511.

perfected = made perfect. App-125.


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Bibliography
Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on 1 John 4:12". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/bul/1-john-4.html. 1909-1922.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us. God, whom no man hath seen at any time, appoints His children the visible recipients of our outward kindness, flowing from love to Himself, 'whom not having seen, we love' (1 Peter 1:8 : cf. note, 1 John 4:11; 1 John 4:19-20). Thus, 1 John 4:12 explains why, instead (in 1 John 4:11) of saying, 'If God so loved us, we ought also to love God,' he said, "We ought also to love one another."

If we love one another, God dwelleth in us - for God is love. It must have been from Him dwelling in us that we drew the love we bear to the brethren (1 John 4:8; 1 John 4:16 : discussed, 1 John 4:13-16).

His love - rather, 'love of (i:e., to) Him,' evinced by love to His representatives, our brethren.

Is perfected in us. (Discussed, 1 John 4:17-19.) Compare 1 John 2:5, "Is perfected;" i:e., attains its maturity.


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Bibliography
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on 1 John 4:12". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/1-john-4.html. 1871-8.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.
seen
20; Genesis 32:30; Exodus 33:20; Numbers 12:8; John 1:18; 1 Timothy 1:17; 6:16; Hebrews 11:27
love one
6; 3:24
and his
17,18; 2:5; 1 Corinthians 13:13

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Bibliography
Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on 1 John 4:12". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/1-john-4.html.

The Bible Study New Testament

No one has ever seen God. John 1:18. "Some may claim to have seen God in a vision or to have heard Him speak to them. But in fact, no one has ever seen God! But Jesus, the Song of Solomon, has told us about Him. The only actual proof that God lives in us (Ephesians 2:22), or that his love is made perfect in us (1 John 2:5), is that we love one another!"


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Bibliography
Ice, Rhoderick D. "Commentary on 1 John 4:12". "The Bible Study New Testament". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/ice/1-john-4.html. College Press, Joplin, MO. 1974.

E.M. Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament

No man hath seen God literally, but we may exhibit evidences of spiritual knowledge of Him by having love for the brethren. If we do so it will cause God to cl-well in us or in our midst spiritually. His love is perfected or made complete in us when we follow His example of loving the children of God.


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Bibliography
Zerr, E.M. "Commentary on 1 John 4:12". E.M. Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/znt/1-john-4.html. 1952.

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