Since faith in Christ works love to God, and love to God must kindle love to the brethren, the apostle here confirms the prime article of the Christian faith as the foundation of such love. Here,
I. He proclaims the fundamental article of the Christian religion, which is so representative of the love of God: And we have seen, and do testify, that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world, 1 John 4:14. We here see, 1. The Lord Jesus’s relation to God; he is Son to the Father, such a Son as no one else is, and so as to be God with the Father. 2. His relation and office towards us—the Saviour of the world; he saves us by his death, example, intercession, Spirit, and power against the enemies of our salvation. 3. The ground on which he became so—by the mission of him: The Father sent the Son, he decreed and willed his coming hither, in and with the consent of the Son. 4. The apostle’s assurance of this—he and his brethren had seen it; they had seen the Son of God in his human nature, in his holy converse and works, in his transfiguration on the mount, and in his death, resurrection from the dead, and royal ascent to heaven; they had so seen him as to be satisfied that he was the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. 5. The apostle’s attestation of this, in pursuance of such evidence: “We have seen and do testify. The weight of this truth obliges us to testify it; the salvation of the world lies upon it. The evidence of the truth warrants us to testify it; our eyes, and ears, and hands, have been witnesses of it.” Thereupon,
II. The apostle states the excellency, or the excellent privilege attending the due acknowledgment of this truth: Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God, 1 John 4:15. This confession seems to include faith in the heart as the foundation of it, acknowledgment with the mouth to the glory of God and Christ, and profession in the life and conduct, in opposition to the flatteries or frowns of the world. Thus no man says that Jesus is the Lord but by the Holy Ghost, by the external attestation and internal operation of the Holy Ghost, 1 Cor. 12:3. And so he who thus confesses Christ, and God in him, is enriched with or possessed by the Spirit of God, and has a complacential knowledge of God and much holy enjoyment of him. Then,
III. The apostle applies this in order to the excitation of holy love. God’s love is thus seen and exerted in Christ Jesus; and thus have we known and believed the love that God hath to us, 1 John 4:16. The Christian revelation is, what should endear it to us, the revelation of the divine love; the articles of our revealed faith are but so many articles relating to the divine love. The history of the Lord Christ is the history of God’s love to us; all his transactions in and with his Son were but testifications of his love to us, and means to advance us to the love of God: God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, 2 Cor. 5:19. Hence we may learn,
1. That God is love (1 John 4:16); he is essential boundless love; he has incomparable incomprehensible love for us of this world, which he has demonstrated in the mission and mediation of his beloved Son. It is the great objection and prejudice against the Christian revelation that the love of God should be so strange and unaccountable as to give his own eternal Son for us; it is the prejudice of many against the eternity and the deity of the Son that so great a person should be given for us. It is, I confess, mysterious and unsearchable; but there are unsearchable riches in Christ. It is a pity that the vastness of the divine love should be made a prejudice against the revelation and the belief of it. But what will not God do when he designs to demonstrate the height of any perfection of his? When he would show somewhat of his power and wisdom, he makes such a world as this; when he would show more of his grandeur and glory, he makes heaven for the ministering spirits that are before the throne. What will he not do then when he designs to demonstrate his love, and to demonstrate his highest love, or that he himself is love, or that love is one of the most bright, dear, transcendent, operative excellencies of his unbounded nature; and to demonstrate this not only to us, but to the angelic world, and to the principalities and powers above, and this not for our surprise for a while, but for the admiration, and praise, and adoration, and felicity, of our most exalted powers to all eternity? What will not God then do? Surely then it will look more agreeable to the design, and grandeur, and pregnancy of his love (if I may so call it) to give an eternal Son for us, than to make a Son on purpose for our relief. In such a dispensation as that of giving a natural, essential, eternal Son for us and to us, he will commend his love to us indeed; and what will not the God of love do when he designs to commend his love, and to commend it in the view of heaven, and earth, and hell, and when he will commend himself and recommend himself to us, and to our highest conviction, and also affection, as love itself? And what if it should appear at last (which I shall only offer to the consideration of the judicious) that the divine love, and particularly God’s love in Christ, should be the foundation of the glories of heaven, in the present enjoyment of those ministering spirits that comported with it, and of the salvation of this world, and of the torments of hell? This last will seem most strange. But what if therein it should appear not only that God is love to himself, in vindicating his own law, and government, and love, and glory, but that the damned ones are made so, or are so punished, (1.) Because they despised the love of God already manifested and exhibited. (2.) Because they refused to be beloved in what was further proposed and promised. (3.) Because they made themselves unmeet to be the objects of divine complacency and delight? If the conscience of the damned should accuse them of these things, and especially of rejecting the highest instance of divine love, and if the far greatest part of the intelligent creation should be everlastingly blessed through the highest instance of the divine love, then may it well be inscribed upon the whole creation of God, God is love.
2. That hereupon he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him, 1 John 4:16. There is great communion between the God of love and the loving soul; that is, him who loves the creation of God, according to its different relation to God, and reception from him and interest in him. He that dwells in sacred love has the love God shed abroad upon his heart, has the impress of God upon his spirit, the Spirit of God sanctifying and sealing him, lives in the meditation, views, and tastes of the divine love, and will ere long go to dwell with God for ever.