Monday, 18 May 2020
No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us. 1 John 4:12
John now introduces a key point of theology into his epistle. As much as anything else, it is certainly based on his words of verse 4:7, where he said, “…everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.” How can one know God? The answer is certainly not in having seen Him. In fact, for a person to claim that he has seen God is actually a disqualifying factor. He is to be rejected outright as a liar or a lunatic. This is because, as John says, “No one has seen God at any time.”
In fact, the Greek places God in the emphatic position, and without any preceding article. It says, “God, no one at any time has seen.” Verses from Scripture that appear to contradict this are to be evaluated on their own and in the context of what is occurring. But simply stated, the lack of an article before “God,” signifies that John is writing about the divine Being – the unseen Creator – rather than the Lord, who is the visible manifestation of God.
The Lord manifested Himself to Israel at various times. These were visible appearances of the eternal Christ, who is God. But the divine Being – God – cannot be seen. John’s words are to be taken as explicit and as absolute truth. Simple logic – even apart from Scripture – can easily demonstrate that this must be true.
If something (or someone) can be seen by human eyes, it means that there is matter to be seen. Matter did not exist until God created it. Further – time, space, and matter all came into existence at the same time. They are dependent upon one another, and none can exist without all three being present. Therefore, God – who created time – cannot have matter as a part of His Being. If so, He would not be eternal, nor would He be omnipresent, etc.
Understanding the key First Principles will help a person think clearly on such points. John’s words simply confirm what we can know by thinking logically. However, that leaves open the question, “If no one has seen God at any time, then how can we know God. And, how can we know that someone is of God?” John answers the question clearly by saying, “If we love one another, God abides in us.”
We don’t need to see God to know that He exists. Our minds can figure out that there is a Necessary Being – meaning a Being who cannot “not” exist; He must exist. As we can know this, with all certainty, then He has revealed a way that we can know He abides in us. That is in our love for one another.
As seen in previous verses, this means more than love as humanity loves. It means loving in the way that God does – something impossible without first believing the gospel and being saved. In that conversion, we now have a confirmation that our love is of God and not of the world. This will be confirmed in the verses to come. But for now, John finishes with the words, “and His love has been perfected in us.”
This clause begins the confirmation concerning the “love” John is referring to as being that which stems from God. Anything that man possesses, including love, is limited and imperfect. However, if God’s love is perfected in us, it signifies that this is – in fact – a godly love previously not possessed by us. That love of God is expressed through us because Christ now dwells in us. As Vincent’s Word Studies rightly states, it is, “Not our love to Him, nor His love to us, but the love which is peculiarly His; which answers to His nature.”
This is why the words of John 3:23 cannot be taken as a work in order to be saved. There, John said, “And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment.” It is not a work “for” salvation, but a product of salvation. One cannot possess this love of God unless he is saved. But in the possession of it, it demonstrates that he is – in fact – saved.
Life application: It could be that when you read this chapter and come to this verse, it may seem out of place. But instead, it is actually extremely well positioned.
As noted, the structure of the first clause is specially framed in order to show the very nature of God’s Being – that He is Spirit. This is a concept demonstrated in both the Old and the New Testament, and it brings us to a very important point about people who claim to have “visions” where they have seen God. As stated earlier, they are either liars or delusional. No one has ever seen God – at any time.
Apparently, during John’s time (and which continues until today) people were claiming to have seen God and had received special insights and knowledge from Him. John, however, is denying their claims – such people have left the boundaries of truth and have headed off into unsound areas of boasting.
What John is saying is that because no one has seen God, we can only know that He abides in us by the love we demonstrate. This is the “vision of God” which demonstrates His presence. If we love one another with His perfected love, then He abides in us and His love (the love He demonstrated in His Son Jesus) is our evidence of His presence in our lives. This is the true and clear revelation of God. Don’t be fooled into believing people who have deluded themselves with anything else!
O God, what more could we ask in this life than to see You as demonstrated in true love and faith? When believers are at harmony with one another, and are completely sold out to You, isn’t this a surer testimony of Your presence than any supposed vision? Yes! Because everyone can share in it – not just a select few, but all of Your chosen people! Perfect Your love in us so that we may reveal You to the world. Amen.