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First John: 1 John 4:13-First Interpretative Problem Lesson # 173

First John   •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  59:49
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First John: 1 John 4:13-First Interpretative Problem

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1 John 4:13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. (ESV)
By this” is composed of the following: (1) (ἐν), “By” (2) dative neuter singular form of the demonstrative pronoun houtos (οὗτος), “this.”
1 John 4:13 contains an interpretative problem which revolves around the prepositional phrase en toutō (Ἐν τούτῳ), “by this.”
I interpret the demonstrative pronoun houtos as anaphoric which means that it is pointing back to John’s teaching in 1 John 4:12.
Specifically, it is pointing back to the second assertion in this verse.
If you recall, 1 John 4:12 contains three assertions.
The first states that absolutely no one at any time has observed God the Father.
The second teaches that if the child of God does divinely love their fellow-child of God, then God the Father is living in fellowship with them.
The third presents the result of the second and asserts that God’s attribute of love is accomplishing its purpose.
This means that God the Father accomplishes His purpose for revealing His attribute of love through the sacrifice of His Son on the cross if the believer obeys the command to love one another.
This interpretation is indicated by John’s teaching in 1 John 4:9-10.
Therefore, I interpret the prepositional phrase en toutō (Ἐν τούτῳ) in relation to the first and second assertions in 1 John 4:13 as teaching that obeying the command to love one another is the means by which the believer can confirm they are living in fellowship with the Father and the Father with them.
The third identifies the Holy Spirit as the ultimate source and means by which this confirmation takes place.
By obeying the command to love one another, they are able to confirm they are living in fellowship with the Father and vice versa and specifically, they are able to receive this confirmation by obeying the Spirit who issued this command and was given to them at the moment of their justification.
The command to love one another originates from the Father and was communicated to the child of God through Jesus Christ by the Spirit.
Thus, when the child of God obeys this command, they are obeying the Holy Spirit who reproduces God’s attribute of love in them.
The Spirit confirms with the believer that they are experiencing fellowship with the Father and vice versa because through this obedience, the Spirit is reproducing the character of Christ in their life, i.e. the fruit of the Spirit (cf. Gal. 5:22-23).
Through, their obedience to His command to love one another, He also provides the believer the omnipotence required to manifest God’s attribute of love.
The believer’s obedience to the Father’s Spirit inspired command to love one another is the result exercising faith in this command (cf. Heb. 11:8), and which faith appropriates for them the omnipotence of the Holy Spirit (cf. Matt. 21:21-22).
The Spirit confirms with the believer that they are experiencing fellowship with the Father and the Father with them through the fulfillment of their prayer requests, which they offered up to the Father.
He also confirms with them that they are experiencing fellowship with the Father and the Father with them by enabling them to experience a peace which is beyond human comprehension (cf. Phil. 4:6-7).
The Spirit is able to confirm the obedient believer is experiencing fellowship with the Father and vice versa because He inspired this command to love one another, which originates with the Father.
In other words, the Spirit communicates this command to the believer through John’s apostolic teaching which is inspired by the Holy Spirit and originates from the Father and was communicated to them by the Son through the Spirit.
Therefore, in 1 John 4:13, this prepositional phrase en toutō (Ἐν τούτῳ), “by means of this” indicates the means by which the recipients of First John and John can confirm for themselves that they are living in fellowship with God and the Father is living in fellowship with them.
Consequently, this prepositional phrase and the second assertion here in 1 John 4:13 is making explicit what is stated in the second assertion in 1 John 4:12.
Namely, it teaches that practicing God’s attribute of love in relation to one’s fellow-believer is the means by which the believer can confirm that the Father is living in fellowship with them.
The demonstrative pronoun houtos is interpreted by some expositors as being kataphoric and is thus pointing to the two ὅτι (hoti) clauses which follow it.
The first is interpreted by them as an indirect discourse clause related to γινώσκομεν (ginōskomen) and giving the content of what believers know: “that we abide in him and he in us.”
They interpret the second ὅτι clause as epexegetical which means that it is explaining how believers can confirm that they reside in God and God remains in them: “that he has given us of his Spirit.”
I agree with their interpretation of the second ὅτι clause.
Therefore, this interpretation would teach that the believer knows that they are living in fellowship in the Father and vice versa by means of the ministry of the Spirit who He gave to them at their justification.
In other words, it teaches that the Spirit is the means by which the believer can know or confirm that they are living in fellowship with the Father and vice versa.
This interpretation would therefore have 1 John 4:13 echoing 1 John 3:24, which asserts that the one who at any time does conscientiously obey the Father’s commands is living in fellowship with Him.
Correspondingly, the Father is living in fellowship with him.
Simultaneously, by means of obedience to this command, the child of God can at any time confirm that the Father is living in fellowship with them and specifically, by means of His Spirit whom He has bestowed upon each one of us as a gift they can confirm this.
Theologically, this is an accurate statement.
In fact, this is what the epexegetical clause is teaching here in 1 John 4:13.
However, I believe that this kataphoric interpretation en toutō (Ἐν τούτῳ), “by means of this” totally and completely ignores the immediate preceding context.
Specifically, it ignores 1 John 4:7-12 which emphasizes the critical importance of obeying the command to love one another and thus manifesting God’s attribute of love in relation to one’s fellow child of God or in other words, the kataphoric interpretation would leave no connection to 1 John 4:7-13.
This would be inconsistent with the tenor and heart of First John which is that obedience to the command to love one another is the means by which the believer can experience fellowship with the Triune God.
As we noted in previous studies in First John, the chiastic structure of this epistle marks 1 John 3:11-18 as the heart of the epistle, which speaks of the critical importance of loving one another.
Furthermore, 1 John 4:14-19 speaks again of the Father manifesting His love by sending His Son to be the Savior of the world (verse 14) and it also emphasizes that one must trust in Jesus Christ as Savior in order to experience fellowship with the Father and vice versa (verse 15).
It also speaks of the child of God accepting by faith the Father’s love for them (verse 16) and it also asserts that God is love and that whoever practices divine love lives in fellowship with God and vice versa (verse 16).
This pericope also maintains that by living in fellowship with God through the practice of His love, God’s attribute of love accomplishes its purpose for being manifested through the sacrifice of His Son (verse 17).
Consequently, the child of God who practices love will have confidence at the Bema Seat (verse 17).
1 John 4:14-19 also asserts that there is no fear when practicing divine love since it casts out fear of rebuke at the Bema Seat (verse 18).
Lastly, it teaches that the child of God can practice this divine love because God first exercised His love for their benefit (verse 19).
Therefore, both the immediate preceding context and verses 14-19 which follow this prepositional phrase en toutō (Ἐν τούτῳ), “by means of this” in 1 John 4:13 would indicate that the command to love one another is in the forefront of John’s mind.
In other words, 1 John 4:7-12 and 1 John 4:14-19 also would indicate and strongly suggest that this prepositional phrase in 1 John 4:13 is speaking of the command to love one another and specifically obedience to it.
Also, as we pointed out earlier the anaphoric interpretation of houtos would indicate that the second assertion in 1 John 4:13 makes explicit the second one which appears in 1 John 4:12.
Furthermore, this interpretation like the kataphoric interpretation would also have 1 John 4:13 echoing 1 John 3:24 since both teach obedience to the Spirit command to love one another is the means by which the believer can confirm they are living in fellowship with the Father and vice versa.
Therefore, the anaphoric interpretation of this prepositional phrase en toutō (Ἐν τούτῳ), “by means of this” is preferred by myself for three reasons.
First, it takes into consideration the immediate preceding context, namely 1 John 4:7-12.
Secondly, it takes into consideration the immediate context to follow, namely 1 John 4:14-19 and thirdly, the kataphoric interpretation ignores the thrust of John’s argument in these verses.
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