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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

1 John 4:20

 

 

If someone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.

Adam Clarke Commentary

If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother - This, as well as many other parts of this epistle, seems levelled against the Jews, who pretended much love to God while they hated the Gentiles; and even some of them who were brought into the Christian Church brought this leaven with them. It required a miracle to redeem St. Peter's mind from the influence of this principle. See Acts 10.

Whom he hath seen - We may have our love excited towards our brother,

  1. By a consideration of his excellences or amiable qualities.
  • By a view of his miseries and distresses.
  • The first will excite a love of complacency and delight; the second, a love of compassion and pity.

    Whom he hath not seen? - If he love not his brother, it is a proof that the love of God is not in him; and if he have not the love of God, he cannot love God, for God can be loved only through the influence of his own love. See on 1 John 4:19; (note). The man who hates his fellow does not love God. He who does not love God has not the love of God in him, and he who has not the love of God in him can neither love God nor man.


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    Bibliography
    Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on 1 John 4:20". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/1-john-4.html. 1832.

    Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

    If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother - His Christian brother; or, in a larger sense, any man. The sense is, that no man, whatever may be his professions and pretensions, can have any true love to God, unless he loves his brethren.

    He is a liar - Compare the notes at 1 John 1:6. It is not necessary, in order to a proper interpretation of this passage, to suppose that he “intentionally” deceives. The sense is, that this must be a false profession.

    For he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen … - It is more reasonable to expect that we should love one whom we have seen and known personally, than that we should love one whom we have not seen. The apostle is arguing from human nature as it is, and everyone feels that we are more likely to love one with whom we are familiar than one who is a stranger. If a professed Christian, therefore, does not love one who bears the divine image, whom he sees and knows, how can he love that God whose image he bears, whom he has not seen? Compare the notes at 1 John 3:17.


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    Bibliography
    Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on 1 John 4:20". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/1-john-4.html. 1870.

    Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible

    If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, cannot love God whom he hath not seen.

    If people have any proper knowledge at all of God, they cannot fail, at the same time, to be aware of God-like qualities manifested in all human life, even in the unregenerated; for all people were made in God's image, irrespective of the eroding and defacing influence of sin. Failure to see this, with its consequent inclination to love people, is proof that the one so blind knows nothing of God and therefore does not love God. Loving God in some abstract sense is not the kind of love the apostle enjoined; and such a truth has many corollaries. In all times, people have found it easier to love mankind "away over there" in some foreign situation, than to love neighbors close to home. This truth reveals that if we do not love the man on our doorstep, we do not love any man who is unknown to us in any personal sense; and the same thing is true with loving God. The true test is found in the way we respond to people whom we know and with whom we associate, and whom, in many cases, we see every day.

    In this verse, it is clear why John so boldly introduced the proposition in 1 John 4:12 that, "No man hath seen God at any time." He was leading up to the argument here.

    In struggling to understand and walk in the light of a verse like this, many will encounter problems. One wrote to F. F. Bruce the following question:

    I have a difficulty; it is not easy to love some of our brothers and sisters ... their inconsistencies which we cannot help seeing ... It seems much easier to love God, knowing how much He has done for us.[48]

    Who has not encountered the same difficulty? Bruce's answer pointed out: (1) that love in the sense intended here is not sentimentality, or feeling, but a conscious recognition of our necessity to do all that is consistent with the true welfare of others, also (2) this attitude does not come automatically, but that it is developed and grows in hearts attuned to God's will. (3) It is also aided by the Christian's realization that he himself has "inconsistencies" and much worse; and that he has been forgiven; and that we who have lost such an intolerable burden of guilt in the love of Christ can best show our appreciation of so great a boon by forgiving and loving others.

    <MONO> If what one is contradicts what one says, he is a liar.

    One who claims to know God and walks in darkness is a liar.

    One who "knows God" but denies the Son of God is a liar.

    One who pretends to love God and hates his brother is a liar.MONO>

    The last three of the above statements are really phases of the first proposition stated; and Stott called these "the three black lies of 1John, in the aggregate contradicting the (1) moral; (2) doctrinal; and (3) social basics of Christianity."[49]

    [48] F. F. Bruce, Answers to Questions (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1972), p. 133.

    [49] John R. W. Stott, op. cit., p. 170.


    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 4:20". "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

    If a man say I love God, and hateth his brother,.... Than which profession nothing can be more contradictory, not black and white, or hot and cold in the same degree:

    he is a liar; it is not truth he speaks, it is a contradiction, and a thing impossible:

    for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen; his person, which might have drawn out his affection to him; and something valuable and worthy in him, which might have commanded respect; or his wants and distresses, which should have moved his pity and compassion:

    how can he love God whom he hath not seen? it cannot be thought he should; the thing is not reasonable to suppose; it is not possible he should; See Gill on 1 John 4:12.


    Copyright Statement
    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 4:20". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/1-john-4.html. 1999.

    Geneva Study Bible

    15 If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: 16 for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?

    (15) As he showed that the love of our neighbour cannot be separate from the love with which God loves us because this last gives rise to the other: so he denies that the other kind of love with which we love God, can be separate from the love of our neighbour: of which it follows, that they who say they worship God, and yet do not regard their neighbours lie shamelessly.

    (16) The first reason taken from comparison: why we cannot hate our neighbour and love God, that is, because he that cannot love his brother whom he sees, how can he love God whom he cannot see?


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    Bibliography
    Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on 1 John 4:20". "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

    loveth not … brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen — It is easier for us, influenced as we are here by sense, to direct love towards one within the range of our senses than towards One unseen, appreciable only by faith. “Nature is prior to grace; and we by nature love things seen, before we love things unseen” [Estius]. The eyes are our leaders in love. “Seeing is an incentive to love” [Oecumenius]. If we do not love the brethren, the visible representatives of God, how can we love God, the invisible One, whose children they are? The true ideal of man, lost in Adam, is realized in Christ, in whom God is revealed as He is, and man as he ought to be. Thus, by faith in Christ, we learn to love both the true God, and the true man, and so to love the brethren as bearing His image.

    hath seen — and continually sees.


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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 4:20". "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

    If a man say (εαν τις ειπηιean tis eipēi). Condition of third class with εανean and second aorist active subjunctive. Suppose one say. Cf. 1 John 1:6.

    I love God (Αγαπω τον τεονAgapō ton theon). Quoting an imaginary disputant as in 1 John 2:4.

    And hateth (και μισειkai misei). Continuation of the same condition with εανean and the present active subjunctive, “and keep on hating.” See 1 John 2:9; 1 John 3:15 for use of μισεωmiseō (hate) with αδελποςadelphos (brother). A liar (πσευστηςpseustēs). Blunt and to the point as in 1 John 1:10; 1 John 2:4.

    That loveth not (ο μη αγαπωνho mē agapōn). “The one who does not keep on loving” (present active negative articular participle).

    Hath seen (εωρακενheōraken). Perfect active indicative of οραωhoraō the form in John 1:18 used of seeing God.

    Cannot love (ου δυναται αγαπαινou dunatai agapāin). “Is not able to go on loving,” with which compare 1 John 2:9, ου δυναται αμαρτανεινou dunatai hamartanein (is not able to go on sinning). The best MSS. do not have πωςpōs (how) here.


    Copyright Statement
    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 4:20". "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

    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.

    How

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


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    Bibliography
    Vincent, Marvin R. DD. "Commentary on 1 John 4:20". "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

    If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?

    Whom he hath seen — Who is daily presented to his senses, to raise his esteem, and move his kindness or compassion toward him.


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    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 4:20". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/wen/1-john-4.html. 1765.

    Abbott's Illustrated New Testament

    Hateth, does not love.


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    Bibliography
    Abbott, John S. C. & Abbott, Jacob. "Commentary on 1 John 4:20". "Abbott's Illustrated New Testament". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/ain/1-john-4.html. 1878.

    Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

    But this love cannot exist, except it generates brotherly love. Hence he says, that they are liars who boast that they love God, when they hate their brethren.

    But the reason he subjoins seems not sufficiently valid, for it is a comparison between the less and the greater: If, he says, we love not our brethren whom we see, much less can we love God who is invisible. Now there are obviously two exceptions; for the love which God has to us is from faith and does not flow from sight, as we find in 1 Peter 1:8; and secondly, far different is the love of God from the love of men; for while God leads his people to love him through his infinite goodness, men are often worthy of hatred. To this I answer, that the Apostle takes here as granted what ought no doubt to appear evident to us, that God offers himself to us in those men who bear his image, and that he requires the duties, which he does not want himself, to be performed to them, according to Psalms 16:2, where we read,

    “My goodness reaches not to thee, O Lord;
    towards the saints who are on the earth is my love.”

    And surely the participation of the same nature, the need of so many things, and mutual intercourse, must allure us to mutual love, except; we are harder than iron. But John meant another thing: he meant to shew how fallacious is the boast of every one who says that he loves God, and yet loves not God’s image which is before his eyes.


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    Bibliography
    Calvin, John. "Commentary on 1 John 4:20". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/1-john-4.html. 1840-57.

    James Nisbet's Church Pulpit Commentary

    LOVE TO MEN

    ‘He that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God Whom he hath not seen?’

    1 John 4:20

    We cannot love Him Whom we do not realise, and to realise the great invisible Influence in which we live and move and have our being, to realise the Person Who is watching over and directing us and directing all this complicated scheme of things, is harder and harder to do. And the world comes close around us and absorbs us. If that is our difficulty we may take the verse which we have read, and we may say that it teaches us that there is a training in the love of God.

    I. Love of man is a training for the love of God; for, though it is hard to realise the Invisible, we have the visible. We have men; we have the love of men, which is natural to us, and easy for us in a sense. And I think that is what the Apostle means us to take as a training for the love of God—the love of our brother whom we have seen; this familiar friend, who is with us at every turn of our life, with whom we are continually thrown in contact. And in our natural life in the world this familiar friend is the means which is to train and draw out this great faculty in us—the love of our friend and of our brother-man. We are to train and exercise ourselves in the love of God by this means. And that simple, natural human affection which we feel for our brother—that is the very same faculty as that which is required for the love of God. We must not think of this love as something extraordinary, some fresh and unknown faculty which is to be given to us. No doubt all love is of God, is a gift: but all love is alike, the same affection. It is really in its essence the going out of ourselves and loving another and living for another. And whether that other be a fellow-man, or whether it be God Himself, still the impulse is the same—the putting aside of all selfish impulses, and living in and for God or men. That is love. So the love of man is, as I said, a training for the love of God, because it is the same faculty that is needed for both. And in our weakness, when we cannot rise to the love of God, let us remember that we have our Lord’s own warrant that whatsoever ‘we do unto the least of these His brethren we do unto Him.’ And when we love our brethren, it is the first step to the love of God. We cannot pass it over; we cannot rise to the love of God unless we love ‘our brethren whom we have seen.’

    II. But there is a caution required.—This lesson on which I have been laying stress is too congenial to our aims, if anything. We are inclined to rest in the love of man, as if that were all our duty. We are apt to think that it is all comprised in loving man, and we forget that it is intended to lead us on to the love of God: that it is training. Our age is nothing if not philanthropic. Universal love is its ideal; its test of religions is, ‘Does it teach the love of man?’ Its test of a man’s own life is as to whether he has shown himself beneficent, benevolent, kindly, loving; and the danger in all that is lest we should forget that to which we are intended to rise—the love of God. And I think that the cause of the danger is this, that our love of man is not perfect, our love of man is limited to one side of man’s nature; for if we are to learn the love of God through the love of man, we must love that which is God-like in man. If we are to love the invisible eternal God, and to learn it by our love for our brethren, we must love the invisible and eternal in our brethren—that which is godly, that in which he was created in the image of God.

    III. What is the case in our own affections?

    (a) Take that general affection of philanthropy.

    (b) Take friendship which links men together.

    (c) Take the case of our children—is our love concerned only with their worldly welfare?

    In all these respects we must have regard to God-like characteristics.

    —Bishop A. T. Lyttelton.


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    Bibliography
    Nisbet, James. "Commentary on 1 John 4:20". Church Pulpit Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/cpc/1-john-4.html. 1876.

    John Trapp Complete Commentary

    20 If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?

    Ver. 20. If a man say, I love God] If he did so, he would hardly say so in a vaunting way howsoever. "Charity vaunteth not itself; is not puffed up," 1 Corinthians 13:4. Christ loves secret service, Song of Solomon 2:14. They that bear him greatest love make least show thereof before others. Master Bartlet Green, when he had been beaten and scourged with rods by Bishop Bonner, and he greatly rejoiced in the same (saith Master Fox), yet his shamefaced modesty was such that he would never express any mention thereof (lest he should seem to glory too much in himself), save that only he opened the same to one Mr Cotton of the Temple (a friend of his) a little before he suffered martyrdom. (Acts and Mon. 1684.) Vasa quae magis continent, minus sonant. (Seneca.) But empty casks sound loudest: and baser metals ring shrillest.

    Whom he hath seen] Sight usually maketh love. Juvenal greatly wondereth at one, Qui nunquam visae flagrabat amore puellae, who loved a party whom he had never seen.

    How can he love God] That is, saith Dr Rainolds, He that cannot endure to look on that little glimpse and ray of holiness which is in his brother, in one of the same infirmities and corruptions with himself, will much less be able to abide the light of the Sun of righteousness, and the most orient, spotless, and vast holiness that is in him.


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    Bibliography
    Trapp, John. "Commentary on 1 John 4:20". 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 4:20. For he that loveth not his brother, &c.— By brother is all along to be understood a real Christian; and if Christian professors are what their religion obliges them to be, that is, more holy than other men, we ought in reason to love them with a greater degree of affection than others. It is intimated, ch. 1 John 5:1 that every one who loveth God, will of course love all Christians, who are his children, and resemble him. Here we are taught, that he who loveth not Christians, who are the visible image of God, cannot possibly love the invisible God, whose image they are: and that if any man pretends to love God, without loving all Christians, who are his image, he is a liar, and imposes upon himself as well as endeavours to impose upon other men. To this purpose Grotius quotes the following passage out of Philo: "It is impossible that the invisible God should be worshipped in a right manner, by those who behave wickedly towards such as are seen by them and are their neighbours." It is likely that the false prophets and their disciples boasted that though they did not love all Christians, yet they loved God; and that was the principal thing. St. John knew the men and their conversation, and therefore sharply reproved them for such an idle pretence. If it be our duty to love our Christian brethren, whom we see, and with whom we daily converse; and if love and beneficence to them be the way to manifest that we love God; what shall we say to those, who retire from the world, and shut themselves up in monasteries, abbeys, nunneries, cells, or deserts, to shun the conversation of men, and avoid the sight of their Christian brethren; and that, undera pretence of more than ordinary love to God? Or what can be thought of those, who spend their lives in mere contemplation, without being useful to the community, andto the Christian brethren? Who, while they pretend to the warmest love of God, do not behave with that strict justice, truth, and benevolence towards men, which might be wished and expected? Or, who contend so fiercely for the faith, (or rather for their own opinion,) as to lay aside the spirit of meekness and love, and to forget that of faith, hope, and charity, those three great Christian virtues?—The greatest of these is not faith, but lov

    Inferences.—What a certain test have private Christians, as well as others, in the word of God, to distinguish between those who broach errors concerning the divine person and saving offices of Christ, under pretence of their having the Spirit of God; and those who, under his guidance and influence, preach the truth as it is in Jesus, and cordially own, and bravely profess that he is the only-begotten Son of God, and has really appeared in human nature as the Saviour of lost sinners among both Jews and Gentiles! All pretenders to the Spirit are not of God, nor are to be believed and followed; and they that are born of God, need not be stumbled at them, since there ever have been such in the world; and true believers may see through them and their delusions, and withstand and overcome them; because God, who dwells in them by his Spirit, is infinitely greater, wiser, and stronger than the devil, who works and prevails by his antichristian emissaries upon carnal men. And what wonder is it, that people of a worldly spirit should adhere to those who are like themselves, and accommodate their schemes and discourses to their corrupt taste? But the servants of God speak from, and for him, according to his mind and will; and therefore are suitably regarded by those, and those only, who are well affected in their hearts towards him.—How astonishing is the free love of God towards such sinful creatures as we are, that he (as his inspired servants testify,) has sent his beloved Son into the world to be the propitiation for our sins, that we might live in all blessedness and glory for ever with him! This is a high demonstration indeed, that God is Love; and we must be utter strangers to his amiable excellencies, if we do not love him: not that we are or can be beforehand with him in loving; for we love him, because he first loved us, and because we are brought under its influence and manifestation, to know and believe it. This melts our hearts and gains over our affections to him, and to his children for his sake. And what a sure token is this of our being born of God, and of his dwelling by his Spirit in us, and of our union and communion with him! But how vain and preposterous is it, for any to pretend that they have a true and hearty love to that God whom they never saw, if they have enmity in their souls against those in whom his image is visible, and whom they often see and converse with! This is giving the lie to their own profession, and to the declarations of God in his word, who has commanded that he who loves him, should love his brother also. And when perfect love to God and one another is genuine and abounding, how divinely sweet are its workings! It banishes all slavish tormenting fear of him and of his wrath, which is utterly inconsistent with the most affectionate complacential love to him, and to his children as such. But having this evidence of our interest in his love, with what satisfaction may we hope to appear before him with humble boldness in the day of judgment, as those who are accepted of him through his Son.

    REFLECTIONS.—1st, The apostle,

    1. Warns them against seducing teachers. Beloved, believe not every spirit, nor credit rashly each pretender to inspiration; but try the spirits, by the infallible oracles of truth, whether they are of God, and speak agreeably to his revealed will: because many false prophets are gone out into the world, and we need be on our guard, proving all things, and holding fast that which is good.

    2. He gives them a certain rule to direct their judgment in this matter. Hereby know ye the Spirit of God, and those who are influenced by it: every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, or that confesseth Jesus Christ who is come in the flesh, receiving him in his divine person and mediatorial character and offices, as the true Messiah, from whom alone life and salvation are to be expected, he is of God, and speaks according to his mind and will. And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, but denies his divine glory, his real incarnation, and mediatorial undertaking, is not of God, but is under the spirit of Satan and delusion: and this is that spirit of antichrist, which is enmity against Christ and his gospel, whereof ye have heard that it should come, and even now already is it in the world, the mystery of iniquity having already begun to work, and woe to those over whom it prevails!

    2nd, To encourage them against the fears of being drawn aside by seducers, the apostle,

    1. Assures them, that, while they keep God on their side, they are safe. Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them hitherto, and, if faithful, shall be still superior to all their arts: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world; and he will preserve his faithful people from the power of evil.

    2. He describes these seducers. They are of the world: whatever pretences they make, they are wholly engrossed and influenced by the riches, honours, and pleasures of this life: therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them, greedily drinking in a doctrine so suited to their carnal hearts.

    3. He shews the different character of God's true ministers and people. We are of God, appointed by him, and owned of him, having his glory singly in view, and walking under the guidance and influences of his word and Spirit: he that knoweth God, heareth us, and receives our testimony as divine; he that is not of God, not enlightened by him, nor born of him, heareth not us, disregarding our doctrine, and counting it foolishness. Hereby know we the Spirit of truth, and the spirit of error. Note; They who reject the warnings of God's ministers speaking according to his holy word, evidently shew themselves to be under the Spirit of error.

    3rdly, The apostle returns to recommend the exercise of fervent love, as the genuine evidence of a right spirit. Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God, his genuine offspring, and his brightest image; and every one that loveth, is born of God, and knoweth God; he evidences hereby his experimental acquaintance with God, and shews himself a child of his family of love. He that loveth not, knoweth not God, whatever he may pretend; for God is Love, and the true knowledge of him has ever a transforming efficacy to change us into his image. In this was manifested the love of God towards us, and shone forth with the most distinguished lustre, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, to become incarnate, to live and die for us, that we might live through him, redeemed from the sentence of death, quickened to newness of life, and through his infinite merit, entitled to immortal bliss and glory. Herein is love, surpassing strange! not that we loved God! no; just the reverse; we were sinners, ungodly, enemies; but even when we had every thing which could render us the objects of his loathing, even then, that he might magnify the wonders of his grace, he loved us, and gave the most astonishing demonstration of it, when he sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins, with his own blood making atonement for us, and now purging the faithful from all their iniquities through this amazing sacrifice, and by his own divine Spirit. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another: who can possibly offend us so highly as we have offended God? yet he forgives and pardons abundantly; yea, he spared not his own Son, but freely gave him up for us all: what then can we withhold from our brethren, when we have such an example before us? Surely, if we belong to him, we shall be like him, and prove it by this spirit of love. No man indeed hath seen God at any time, for he is a Spirit invisible and incorporeal. But if we love one another, God dwelleth in us, by his Spirit manifesting his presence in our hearts; and his love is perfected in us, our love towards him is entire, unreserved, and unmixed with any idolatry. Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit, whereby we become one with him, united to him in faith and love, and experiencing the most gracious manifestations of his presence with our souls. Thou God of life and love, give me more abundantly of this blessed Spirit!

    4thly, We have,

    1. The apostolic testimony. And we have seen and do testify, that the Father sent the Son, in his infinite grace and love, to be the Saviour of the world, of both Jews and Gentiles, even of all that will accept of his grace, without exception, and placing all mankind within the reach of eternal glory, if they will faithfully submit to the operations of his Spirit.

    2. The true evangelical confession. Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, owning him as the divine and true Messiah, and making open profession of his faith in the face of every danger, God dwelleth in him, and he in God, being happily joined to God, and living continually within the veil.

    3. The experience of all true Christians. And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us, the astonishing manifestation of which, in sending his Son, leaves us no room to doubt of his transcendent and infinite grace and love. God is Love, pure, perfect Love, and he that dwelleth in love, dwelleth in God, and God in him; there subsists a most holy union between them.

    5thly, The apostle proceeds to set forth the blessed effects of Christian love. Herein is our love made perfect, entire, unreserved, and unmixed with any alloy, notwithstanding our many acknowledged infirmities, and deviations from the perfect law of innocence, (all of which have an absolute need of the Blood of the Atonement)—our love, I say, is made perfect by our union of heart to God, and ardent love to the brethren; and, where this is the case, then,

    1. We may have boldness in the day of judgment, and confidently appear before the throne of Jesus, most assured of a glorious and distinguished acceptance: because, as he is, so are we in this world; and he cannot but receive into the bosom of his love those who so fully bear his own bright image.

    2. We are delivered from all slavish fear. There is no fear in love, nothing distressing, terrifying, and servile; but perfect love casteth out fear, this entire, unreserved, and pure love of God silences all fearful apprehensions: because fear hath torment; and where it prevails, must proportionably make the soul unhappy: he that feareth with a fear that is accompanied with any anxiety, doubt, or wavering, is not made perfect in love, has not known him, nor loved him who is from the beginning, according to the full privileges of our high dispensation, as a father in God. We love him because he first loved us; his love, shed abroad in the heart, must kindle ours; and the view of those amazing manifestations of it which he has made, should every day add fuel to the sacred fire, and raise the flame of holy affections still higher and higher, till at last we are wholly assimilated to his image in the full consummation of holiness, happiness, and love, in everlasting glory.

    3. Love to God necessarily includes love to the brethren. If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar; his uncharitableness proves the hypocrisy of his pretensions: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen with his bodily eyes, and whose distresses, which should excite compassion, he has beheld; or the divine image in him, which should engage his regards; how can he love God, whom he hath not seen? how absurd is the supposition! And this commandment have we from him, that he who loveth God, love his brother also, and prove thereby the unfeigned sincerity of his professions.


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    Bibliography
    Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on 1 John 4:20". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/1-john-4.html. 1801-1803.

    Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament

    Our apostle in these words prevents an objection. Some might be ready to say, "Who is it that doth not love God? is there any that live who doth not love him?" The apostle replies, That whosoever says he loves God, and yet hateth his brother, is plainly a liar; for it is impossible truly to love God, and not to do what God commands: and if we do not exercise love to our brethren, whom we daily see and converse with, how can it be imagined that we love God, whom we never saw?

    Learn hence, first, That as God is infinitely above us, so he needeth not our love, but it is wonderful condescension in God to give us leave to love him, and to suffer himself to be embraced by those arms which have embraced sin and lust before him.

    Learn, 2. That though God needs not us, or our love, yet we need him, and stand in need of one another, and for that reason must and ought to love each other.

    Learn, 3. That if we love not God's visible image, it is certain we never loved the invisible God; if when we have our Christian brethren in our daily view, and the objects of our senses are their miseries and wants, and yet we shut up the bowels of compassion from them, can we, or dare we, pretend at the same time to love God whom we have not seen, and who is only present to our minds by raised expectations; as the sight of our brother is a strong inducement to love him, so the not loving him at sight, is a strong argument that we love not God himself; For he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?


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    Burkitt, William. "Commentary on 1 John 4:20". Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/wbc/1-john-4.html. 1700-1703.

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

    1 John 4:20. This verse divides itself into two parts, the second part confirming the thought of the first.

    ἐάν τις εἴπῃ] The same form of thought as in chap. 1 John 1:6 ff.

    ὅτι ἀγαπῶ τὸν θεόν] ὅτι is used, as frequently, at the commencement of the direct oration.

    καὶ τὸν ἀδελφὸν αὑτοῦ μισῇ] With μισῇ corresponds the subsequent μὴ ἀγαπῶν, comp. chap. 1 John 3:14-15. Spener: “not only with actual hatred towards him, but even not loving him in perfect truth.” To hate is the positive expression for “not to love” (so also Braune).

    ψεύστης ἐστίν] see chap. 1 John 1:6. The truth that he who hates (or, does not love) his brother, also does not love God, the apostle confirms by the contrast between ὃν ἑώρακε and ὃν οὐχ ἑώρακεν, in which the visibility of the brother is contrasted with the invisibility of God. The perfect indicates the permanent state; comp. 1 John 4:12, Gospel of John 1:18. Lücke: ἑωρακέναι = “to have before one’s eyes;” a Lapide: “vidit et assidue videt.” Socinus incorrectly lays a certain emphasis on the preterite when he says: quandoquidem satis est ad amorem per cognitionem alicujus erga illum excitandum, quod quis ipsum aliquando viderit; nee necesse est, ut etiam nunc illum videat. The premiss for the conclusion of the apostle is, that the visible—as the object directly presented to the sight—is more easily loved than the invisible. Even the natural man turns with love to the visible,(285) whereas love to God, as the Unseen, requires an elevation of the heart of which only the saved are capable. Hence brotherly love is the easier, love to God is the more difficult. In him who rejects the former, the latter has certainly no place. The truth that love to God is the condition of Christian brotherly love, is not in contradiction with this; for that love, as the glorification of natural love, has its necessary basis in the natural inclination which we have to our visible brother, who is like us. It is therefore unnecessary to attach any importance to elements which the apostle here leaves quite untouched, as is the case with Calvin (with whom Sander, Ebrard, etc., agree) when he says: Apostolus hic pro confesso sumit, Deum se nobis in hominibus offerre, qui insculptam gerunt ejus imaginem; Joannes nil aliud voluit, quam fallacem esse jactantiam, si quis Deum se amare dicat, et ejus imaginem, quae ante oculos est, negligat;(286) and with de Wette in his interpretation: “the brother is the visible empiric object of love; whereas God, the ideal invisible object, can really be loved only in him.” By the interrogative: πῶς δύναται ἀγαπᾷν (comp. chap. 1 John 3:17), and by placing the object τὸν θεόν first, the expression gains in vivacity and point.

    πῶς δύναται must not be taken: “how can he attain to that?” but: “how can we suppose that he loves?” (Baumgarten-Crusius). Bengel: sermo modalis: impossibile est, ut talis sit amans Dei, in praesenti.


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    Meyer, Heinrich. "Commentary on 1 John 4:20". 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 4:20. ὅν ἑώρακε, whom he hath seen) In this life we are held enthralled by the external senses.— πῶς δύναται, how can he) A modal expression [See Append. on MODALIS SERMO): It is impossible that such a man should love God, in the present.


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    Bengel, Johann Albrecht. "Commentary on 1 John 4:20". 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 greater difficulty here is implied, through our present dependence upon sense, of loving the invisible God, than men that we daily see and converse familiarly with. Hence, considering the comprehensiveness of these two things, the love of God, and of our brother, that they are the roots of all that duty we owe to God and man, the fulfilling of the whole law, Matthew 22:37-39, he lets us see the falsehood and absurdity of their pretence to eminent piety and sanctity, who neglect the duties of the second table.


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    Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on 1 John 4:20". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/1-john-4.html. 1685.

    Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges

    20. ἐάν τις εἴπῃ. We return to the form of statement which was so common at the beginning of the Epistle (1 John 1:6; 1 John 1:8; 1 John 1:10). The case here contemplated is one form of the man that feareth not. His freedom from fear is caused, however, not by the perfection of love, but by presumption. He is either morally blind or a conscious hypocrite. Comp. 1 John 2:4; 1 John 2:9.

    ὁ γὰρ μὴ ἀγαπῶν. As we have seen already (1 John 3:14-15), S. John treats not loving as equivalent to hating. For μή see on 1 John 2:4; 1 John 3:10; 1 John 3:14.

    ὃν ἑώρακεν. S. John does not say ‘whom he can see’, but ‘whom he has continually before his eyes’. The perfect tense, as so often, expresses a permanent state continuing from the past. His brother has been and remains in sight, God has been and remains out of sight. ‘Out of sight, out of mind’ is a saying which holds good in morals and religion as well as in society. And if a man fails in duties which are ever before his eyes and are easy, how can we credit him with performing duties which require an effort to bear in mind and are difficult? And in this case the seen would necessarily suggest the unseen: for the brother on earth implies the Father in heaven. If therefore even the seen is not loved, what must we infer as to the unseen? The seen brother and unseen God are put in striking juxtaposition in the Greek; ‘He that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, the God whom he hath not seen cannot love’. But in English this would be misunderstood.

    οὐ δύναται. It is a moral impossibility: comp. 1 John 3:9; John 3:3; John 3:5; John 3:27; John 5:19; John 5:30; John 7:7; John 7:34; John 8:21; John 8:43; John 12:39; John 14:17. The reading πῶς δύναται is perhaps a reminiscence of 1 John 3:17 or John 3:4; John 3:9; John 5:44; John 6:52; John 9:16. See critical notes.


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    "Commentary on 1 John 4:20". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/cgt/1-john-4.html. 1896.

    Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary

    20.] The connexion is most close: and the error great of those who, as e. g. Erdmann, have made a new section begin here. This ἀγάπη is universal, necessarily manifested in both of the two great departments of its exercise. Love, living and working in the heart as a principle, will fix first upon objects at hand and seen: those objects being natural objects for it to fix on. How then can a man love God, the highest object of love, who is removed from his sight, and at the same time refuse to love his brother, bearing the mark of a child of God, before his eyes from day to day? Put in a brief form, the argument, as connected with the last verse, is this: His love has begotten us anew in love: in this us are included our brethren; objects of our daily sight: if therefore we do not love them, we do not love Him. If any say (aor. “have said;” i. e. at any time: the saying once, rather than the habit, is the hypothesis) I love God, and hate (pres. of habit) his brother, he is a liar: for (here again the argument is enthymematic, and we must supply from our common sense ἐφελκυστικὸν γὰρ ὅρασις πρὸς ἀγάπην, Œc.: “oculi sunt in amore duces,” &c.) he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen (perf.: and continues to feel the influence of that sight. We do not say “I have seen him” of the dead, but of the living only), cannot love God whom he hath not seen (St. John does not say that there is no love without sight; nor that we love all we see better than any thing we do not see: his argument rests on a deeper and truer position: viz. on that assumed in the word ἀδελφόν, which carries with it the consideration that he of whom it is said is begotten of God. Both ὁ ἀδελφός and ὁ θεός are used within the limits of the Christian life, of which that is true, which is unfolded ch. 1 John 5:1, that this ἀδελφός as begotten of God is a necessary object of love to one that loves Him that begat him. Here, a lower step of the same argument is taken; but without this great truth, lying beneath the word ἀδελφός, it would carry no conviction with it).


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    Alford, Henry. "Commentary on 1 John 4:20". Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/hac/1-john-4.html. 1863-1878.

    Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

    20. And this love is circumfused around us, encompassing our brother.

    Hath seen… hath not seen—We can love those we have not seen—our invisible benefactors. The Americans love Washington. But it is a higher effort, depending on faith and not sight, to love a person of past history. But as said on 1 John 4:12, we know the unseen God as love only through the blessed atmosphere of love encompassing our seen brethren with ourselves. Without love to the seen, he is a liar who claims to love the unseen God.


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    Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on 1 John 4:20". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/1-john-4.html. 1874-1909.

    Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible

    ‘If a man say, I love God, and hates his brother, he is a liar, for he who loves not his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.’

    The result is that we will love all who are true brothers in Christ, those who are of and speak forth the truth. For they share the love that we enjoy, and they too are in His love. And they minister to us of Christ, as we should minister to them. Must they not then be within our love, which He has produced within us? It would be an impossible contradiction to be filled with God’s love and not to love those whom God loves. Thus if a man says, ‘I love God’, but hates his brother he is a liar. That is, he does not love God. This is the test of antichrist and of false teaching. They do not love the brethren because the brethren expose their false teaching for what it is, and refuse to countenance their fantasies.

    Those who are our brothers in Christ are in fact what we actually see of God. His work is at work within them as it is in us. His work is being accomplished through them. Each member has his part to play, and without each member we are not whole. If we then do not love them, (purpose well towards them and seek their good and rejoice in the truth we share with them), then we do not love the unseen God Who dwells within them, nor are we aware of the purpose to which He has called us.


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    Pett, Peter. "Commentary on 1 John 4:20". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/1-john-4.html. 2013.

    Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

    A claim to love God is a poor substitute for genuine love of the brethren. 1 John 4:19 left open the possibility of such a claim. John therefore clarified that a claim to love God is not a true demonstration of love. In John"s hyperbolic parlance, failing to love is to hate. Love for the unseen God will find expression in love for our brethren whom we can see. It is easier to love someone we can see than it is to love someone we cannot see.


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    Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on 1 John 4:20". "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 4:20. If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar. All the words here point, as we have seen before, to an utterly spurious Christianity, which knows nothing of the revelation of the unseen God in His Son: the first phrase and the last are used only of such false religion, the ‘hating’ of chap. 1 John 2:9 became ‘not loving’ in chap. 1 John 3:10; they are united as synonymous in this passage alone.

    For he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, cannot love God whom he hath not seen. There are two condensed arguments here. First, recalling 1 John 4:10, that the invisible God perfects His love in us by the Spirit through our brotherly love, it is simply a strong repetition: the invisible Fountain of love abides in us, and has its perfect operation in our love to its visible objects, embracing all our fellow-regenerate (chap. 1 John 5:1). But we have always noted that St. John’s repetitions include something more, and here something is added which the former passage did not contain; that is, the inverted argument from the easier demonstration of love to objects before our eyes. Some copies read, ‘How can he?’ which would be only a more vivid form of the argument: not ‘how or in what way can he love the unseen save as He is represented by visible objects?’ for it is the glory of religion that God can be loved in Himself; but ‘it may be merely inferred that he who, supposed to be regenerate, loves not the first and most obvious claimants of his charity, cannot be a lover of the supreme source of all love.’ He proves himself to be unre-generate. The more general truth that practical charity is in no case absolutely dependent upon seeing its object is not involved here, nor must the apostle’s simple apostrophe be embarrassed by the consideration of it.


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    Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on 1 John 4:20". "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 4:20. Lest the vagueness of the objectless ἀγαπῶμεν encourage false security, St. John reiterates the old test: Love for the invisible Father is manifested in love for the brother by our side, the image of the Father. Cf. Whittier:—

    “Not thine the bigot’s partial plea,

    Nor thine the zealot’s ban;

    Thou well canst spare a love of thee

    Which ends in hate of man”.

    ψεύστης, see note on 1 John 1:6.


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    Nicol, W. Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on 1 John 4:20". The Expositor's Greek Testament. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/egt/1-john-4.html. 1897-1910.

    George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

    He that loveth not his brother, whom he seeth, how can he love God, whom he seeth not? By this is signified, that it is more easy and natural to love the things that we see, and that enter by the senses. Pretend not then to love the invisible God, whose perfections are hidden from you in this life, unless you love your brother whom you see. But he adds another reason to prove that no man can love God unless he love his brother; because saith he, (ver. 21.) this is God's express command, that he who loveth God love also his brother: so that a man cannot love God unless he also love his neighbour. (Witham)


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    Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on 1 John 4:20". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/1-john-4.html. 1859.

    E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

    a man = any one. App-123.

    seen. App-133.


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    Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on 1 John 4:20". "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

    If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? Loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? It is easier for us, influenced as we are by sense, to love one within the range of our sense, than One unseen, appreciable only by faith. 'Nature is prior to grace: we by, nature love things seen before things unseen' (Estius). The eyes are our leaders in love. 'Seeing is its incentive' (OEcumenius). If we do not love the brethren, God's visible representatives, how can we love the invisible One, whose children they are? Man's true ideal (as made in God's image), lost in Adam, is realized in Christ, in whom God is revealed as He is, and man as he ought to be. Until Christ came we had lost the knowledge of MAN as well as of GOD. Thus, by faith in Christ, we learn to love both the true God and the true man: so to love the brethren as bearing His image. "Hath seen:" and continually sees.


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    Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on 1 John 4:20". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/1-john-4.html. 1871-8.

    The Bible Study New Testament

    But hates his brother. "Hating his brother shows he was a liar when he said, ‘I love God!'" Some thought it proper to show their love for God by hating and persecuting all who did not share their views in religious matters. See note on James 3:9. We limit our love for God, by our love for our brother!!!


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    Ice, Rhoderick D. "Commentary on 1 John 4:20". "The Bible Study New Testament". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/ice/1-john-4.html. College Press, Joplin, MO. 1974.

    Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

    If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?
    a man
    2:4; 3:17
    not
    12

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    Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on 1 John 4:20". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/1-john-4.html.

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

    John has previously made this same charge, but he adds a logical reason for it here, It certainly is as easy to love a brother who is with us and whose fellowship we can enjoy, as it is to love God whom we cannot see now and must love on the basis of faith.


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    Zerr, E.M. "Commentary on 1 John 4:20". 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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