(Undated, but likely 1926-7)
1 John 2:5 “Hereby know we.” 1 John 4:12, “His love is perfected in us.” 1 John 4:17, “Our love made perfect.” The first thing to be considered in regard to these 3 passages is of whose love do these verses treat. Are they speaking of God’s love for His people, or for their love to & for Him? Now in the 12th verse it seems very clear that it is speaking of God’s love to His children. “If we love one another God dwelleth is us & His love is perfected in us.”
On the other hand, when we come to verse 17 it seems equally clear that it is the child’s love for His parent that is spoken of. There have been numbers of commentators, & among them some good men who have taken the view that each of these 3 passages speak of our love to God, & therefore have claimed that perfection in the flesh is possible, these passages speaking of a love that has been perfected.
Some think that these passages refer to the Christian’s love in the future when our love will be perfected, when we get to Heaven. But in each of these 3 verses the present tense is used, not future. His love (v.12) is perfected, not shall be. More emphatic still, as a matter of fact it is “has been” perfected. Something which has already been done. If it is God’s love for us that is in view, in what sense can God’s love ever be perfected? Was it ever imperfect? The first thing we need to do in studying any passage of Scripture is to pay careful attention to where in which book the difficult verses are found. Each of these expressions “Love being made perfect” are all found in this one epistle of John. The character of the epistle in which they occur ought to supply us with the key. Thatswhich is prominent & dominant all through the epistle is the wondrous love of the Father toward His children. Who are the objects of that love?
Not unfallen Angels, but fallen vile sinners deserving His holy wrath. That love of it’s own free impulse undertook to sweep away these barriers. Barriers that must have seemed to anything but infinite wisdom, eternal & insurmountable. Who amongst us can begin to estimate what it meant to satisfy the demands of Divine Justice of the Righteous One before sin could be cancelled? I want to emphasise this, it was love Divine that overcame these obstacles, that found a way to remove them, not at the expense of Justice, but to the glorifying of that Justice. We were in [a] far country away from God, & the sending of God’s Son into this world’s shame, of it was was not sufficient, so what do we read in the next verse? “Herein is Love.” In other words, what John’s Epistle is about is this:
God singled out guilty, fallen, vile sinners to be His children, that could only be accomplished by Divine Love, removing the sin which came between. Therefore in view of the language that is used, it must be God’s love that is here spoken of & not our love to God. “Whoso keepth His Word.” I am well aware some will regard this as a dangerous statement. Obedience is primarily a matter of the heart. God desireth trust in the inward parts. Man looketh at the outward appearance, God looketh at the heart. Every true child of God here on earth keeps God’s word in His heart. Is there a single commandment in all Scripture you are anxious to break? “Whoso keepeth His word.”
Not that obedience of the heart should be the only thing, there ought to be the obedience of the outward act. There is in measure, but only in measure, but the obedience of the heart is unrestricted, unlimited. The fact that you have a heart that is renewed & a heart that is God given, it is the very nature of that heart to love the things of God; therefore the renewed heart’s keep keeps God’s Word. That ought not to be the end, it ought to be manifested outwardly in the actions. “Whoseo keepeth His Word, in Him (not by him) verily is the love of God perfected.”
The heart is in view here, that which God looks at, God sees in my heart this morning something you cannot see & something I cannot see. God can see there a deep, genuine, longing & lasting desire to please Him. You remember what Peter said in John 21, after Peter had denied the Lord thrice. “Lord thou knowest all things.” Why did he say that?
My actions have denied Thee, but Thou, with Tine omnicient eye can see something which my actions have denied. My brethren could not see because I denied Thee, but Tou canst. It would make me wretched if that verse had said by instead of in. A question arises, How can the love of God be perfected in me, was it ever imperfect? No good looking in the dictionary fo the meaning of God’s Word. John 19:36 “For these things were done, that the Scripture should be fulfilled,” [The] Greek word for fulfilled in that place is the same word as is used for “made perfect” in 1 John 2:5. It means this, the love of God has now reached it’s designed end, the purpose or design in view is now attained. God loved you & me before the foundation of the world, & when He bore our sins away by the sacrifice of Himself that was only a means to an end.
The end that God had in view was that we should have hearts like Himself, His own nature, that which loved holiness, that which delighted in righteousness, that which kept His Word, & it is the love of God that had communicated that heart, & now such a heart has been given in that one, the end of God’s love has been fulfilled, the end in view has been attained. James 2:21-22, “Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, & by works was faith made perfect?” That doesn’t mean that there was any defect in his faith; doesn’t mean Abraham’s faith was incapable of becoming stronger, or by works was Abraham’s faith made perfect. It means that by works his faith now reached it’s appointed end, the end in view, that that faith may result in works to His glory, may be manifested, that it may fulfill itself. God gives us faith with some end in view.
1 John 4:12 “No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, & His love is perfected in us.” If we love one another, His love is perfected, it is has reached the goal in view, it is fulfilled, it’s mission carried out, that for which it was given. God has imparted love to us, God has created a new heart in us, for what purpose? That we should love one another. Verse 17 “Herein is our love made perfect,” — marginal rendering is “Herein is love with us made perfect,” God’s love in us & to us, not our love to Him that is in view. The great end God has in view in all His dealings with us is to give us hearts that are at home in His presence, hearts that are satisfied with Him, hearts from which all fear and terror have been removed, that we should act as children in the love of presence of their Heavenly Parent. Herein:- in this way is God’s love or love with us made perfect. How? That we may have boldnss in the day of Judgment (v.17). That means in view of what God’s love has already done for us, in view of God’s having sent His Son into the world, & also in view of making Him the propitation for our sins, in view of that we have boldness in the Day of Judgment.
If it were our love to God that was in view here, when we contemplated the Day of Judgement, every last one of us would cry “Enter not into Judgement with Thy servant.” etc., When we view Christ at the right hand of God for us, our Representative, our Surety, our Advocate, then we have boldness even in the Day of Judgement. (v17) “….become as He is, so are we in this world.” Not shall we –. In other words, God’s love has already reached it’s designed end.
Even now He beholds us accepted in all the perfections of His Son. As He is so are we. His standing is ours, His perfections are ours. God looks at us now in the face of His annointed. No fear in love. If I am still fearful, I am slighting God’s love, I am questioning the sufficiency of God’s love, I am doubting the value of God’s love. (v18) “Perfect love casteth out fear.” Go back to v.16 “And we have known & believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.”
Let me try & make that simpl. Supposing at the present time your lot was cast in a foreign country where many wild beasts were prowling about day & night, how you would long for, & how deeply appreciate a dwelling place in which you would be secure. Now dear friends what marvel it is that God has provided a dwelling place for His people from all their enemies, & yet that we dwell so little in it. Look at the 16th v. again. “We have known & believed the love that God hath to us.” There’s a whole lot of difference between visitng a house once in a whole, & dwelling there.
Have you made God’s love your dwelling place? Do you realise that there isn’t one particle of wrath in that heart for you, that there’s nothing but a tender, unquenchable, unchangable affection for you, & that love regulates all His dealings. Song of Solomons 3:9-10 “King Solomon made himself a chariot of the wood of Lebanon.” (V9) In margin instead of chariot, it says “bed”. King Solomon made himself a “bed of the wood of Lebanon” etc., You all know of whom King Solomon speaks:-
The Son of David, & it is beautiful to notice here in this symbolic description. Wood of Lebanon (Cedar) in Scripture speaks of durability, SSilver is the emblem of Redemption, Gold speaks of Divine Glory, Purple of Royalty; the Lord’s people being Kings & Priests unto God. When you get to the midst, there all figures drop. Nothing could symbolise love. He drops the figure & speaks of the thing itself. What is a bed for? To rest upon, & lie down on when we are weary.
Now beloved Christian friends, in the midst of wearing trials of life & buffetings. of the world, the Flesh & the Devil that come upon you, do you turn to rest & find your repose & satisfaction in the Love of God. Do you dwell in God’s Love? If not — Why not?
Arthur W. Pink