God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother. – 1 John 4:16–21
What John means when he writes “as He is so also are we in this world” seems to have baffled many commentators. There are actually numerous ambiguities in this passage because John so frequently leaves the subjects and objects unexpressed. I haven’t resolved all of these ambiguities for myself, so I’m not going to resolve them all for you either. But I am going to offer you my best judgment. Most evangelical commentaries identify the pronoun “He” as referring to Christ. The NIV has actually replaced the pronoun “He” with the name Jesus. The majority of evangelical commentaries, after they have identified the pronoun “He” with Christ, then they shift the tense with the resulting thought being: “As Christ was so also are we in this world.” Then they talk about how we, imperfectly to be sure, reflect Christ into the world by the way we love the brethren.
Personally, I think that we ought to take John’s use of the present tense more seriously. John writes “As He is” not “As He was.” Furthermore, the nearest antecedent – that is the nearest person for the pronoun to refer back to – isn’t Christ – it is God. “Whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” So, instead of saying something complicated, I think that John is saying something simple: When we abide in love towards our brothers and sisters in Christ, we are revealing our family resemblance. Like Father, like son. Or, Like Father, like daughter, as the case may be. Do you see why this gives us confidence for the day of judgment? What do sons and daughters expect to hear from their dad when they come home at the end of the day? If they have been acting like chips off the old block – living in a way that manifests their good father’s character into the neighborhood – they expect to hear: “Welcome home!” How much more is this true with respect to our perfect Father who is in heaven? As we increasingly become – not in our being but in our character – like our Father in heaven, the greater confidence we will have that when we take our final breath we will hear: “Well done thou good and faithful servant, enter in to your reward.”
MEMORY WORK – Shorter Catechism Q/A 2
Q. 2. What rule hath God given to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him?
A. The Word of God, which is contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him.