Most of John’s commands and expectations about love have been about loving one another. But there is a change of focus in 4:13 – 18 which is easy to miss because we have been so overwhelmed by the repeated ‘love one another’. Perhaps John realized that his stress on loving one another could be unsettling. Here in these verses, as he has done previously after teaching about the critical evidence of true faith, he gives us great assurance to allay our uneasiness.

John refers to three related certainties:

‘We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit’ – verse 13. This parallels Paul’s teaching that the Spirit testifies to our spirit that we are children of God (Romans 8:15, 16; Galatians 4:6). And that the Spirit is a deposit, guaranteeing our final redemption (2Corinthians 1:22; 5:5; Ephesians 1:13, 14).

‘We have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Saviour of the world’ – verse 14. We are saved by the Son, not by anything we do, not even by our loving one another. If we forget this, if we think that it is our loving one another that saves us, or keeps us saved, then we have lost touch with the Gospel. We have merely substituted one form of bondage for another. So John reminds us: the Father sent the Son to save us, and that is the most important thing about love (as he has said in verse 10).

‘’If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God’ – verse 15.

In these three certainties, John has reminded us of:

The three persons of the Trinity involved in our salvation – Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Three central truths of the Christian faith: the identity of Jesus Christ, the saving work of Jesus Christ, and the presence of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

Although John has been saying over and over that if we don’t love one another our claim to know Jesus Christ is false, he does not mean that we are saved by loving one another. We do not rely on our own love for others either to gain our salvation or to maintain our salvation.

On the basis of the truths mentioned above, John says ‘and so we know and rely on the love God has for us’. It is God’s love that is important. It is his love that we know by knowing the Son and by knowing that God loved us so much that he sent his Son to redeem us. It is his love that saves us. It is his love that we rely on. Not ours.

No matter how much love we have for our fellow-believers, it is not that love we rely on. We have utter confidence in the presence of God, not because we love others, but because we know and rely on his love.

John then tells us that ‘whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him’ – 4:16.

These words, at first glance, sound like another command to love one another. But, in their context in verses 13 – 18, they are not referring to our loving others, but rather to we ourselves living in the reality of God’s love. John’s question to us here is not ‘Are you loving your fellow-Christian?’ but ‘Are you living each moment in the wonder and the joy and the peace and the assurance of God’s love for you?

Jesus Christ is the Son of God, who loved us and gave himself up for us: we know that, and we rely on that. We live our lives confident of that grand reality.

God, in his love, sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins: we know that, and we rely on that. We live our lives confident of that grand reality.

God, in his love, lives in us by his Spirit. We know that, and we rely on that. We live our lives confident of that grand reality.

To live in the reality of God’s love, is to live every moment with unshakeable confidence in the very presence of God, utterly at peace in the presence of God.

Without fear of God’s rejection. Without fear of God’s judgement. Without fear of God’s wrath.

© Rosemary Bardsley 2022