Daily Reformation, 1 John 4:7-21
From the Reformer
When he commands mutual love, he does not mean that we discharge this duty when we love our friends, because they love us; but as he addresses in common the faithful, he could not have spoken otherwise than that they were to exercise mutual love. He confirms this sentence by a reason often adduced before, even because no one can prove himself to be the son of God, except he loves his neighbors, and because the true knowledge of God necessarily produces love in us.
He also sets in opposition to this, according to his usual manner, the contrary clause, that there is no knowledge of God where there is no love. And he takes as granted a general principle or truth, that God is love, that is, that his nature is to love men. I know that many reason more refinedly, and that the ancients especially have perverted this passage in order to prove the divinity of the Spirit. But the meaning of the Apostle is simply this—that as God is the fountain of love, this effect flows from him, and is diffused wherever the knowledge of him comes, as he had at the beginning called him light, because there is nothing dark in him, but on the contrary he illuminates all things by his own brightness. Here then he does not speak of the essence of God, but only shews what he is found to be by us.
But two things in the Apostle’s words ought to be noticed—that the true knowledge of God is that which regenerates and renews us, so that we become new creatures; and that hence it cannot be but that it must conform us to the image of God. Away, then, with that foolish gloss respecting unformed faith. For when any one separates faith from love, it is the same as though he attempted to take away heat from the sun.
—John Calvin, Commentaries on the Catholic Epistles
Pulling It Together
The sister could not believe that he had truly become a Christian, that he had a life-changing conversion that meant Christ’s Spirit had come to dwell in his heart. The man had been abusive to women and she feared his confession was meant to endear him to a young sister in the fellowship. If Christ now dwelt in him, he would soon prove wrong her fearful suspicion. There would be real love as evidence, the love of God, that sacrificial brand of love that a man cannot manufacture. By this love one could know if he was a child of God.
© Mark E. Ryman, Daily Reformation: Devotions with the Reformers