The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on 1 John 4:19-5:4.

Posted by Dim Bulb on January 3, 2016

Note: to help provide context I have included Fr. MacEvilly’s summaries of chapters 4 and 5. The notes then follow. Text in purple indicates his paraphrasing of the scripture he is commenting on.

SUMMARY OF 1 JOHN 4~ In this chapter, the Apostle cautions the faithful against embracing, too readily, any doctrine proposed to them, or against attaching themselves, without due consideration, to every teacher that may pretend to a divine inspiration; because, many false teachers even in his day, went forth to deceive the people (verse 1). He gives a special mark for distinguishing true doctrine or true teachers from the false, derived from the doctrine of Christ’s Incarnation (2, 3).

He attributes the stability of the faithful, and their resistance to the false teachers, to the grace and power of God dwelling in them (4). He next accounts why these false teachers have followers in the world, on the ground, that they please the world in their preaching (5). He assigns a general note, accommodated to all times, for distinguishing true and false teachers, viz., their rejecting or receiving the doctrine of the Church, and submitting to the authority of her chief Pastors (6).

The Apostle resumes the subject of brotherly love, from which he digressed (3:2, 3), and while exhorting them to love one another, shows the advantages of loving our neighbour (7), and the evils of not loving him; and how incompatible the hatred of our brother is with the love of God (8). He extols the charity of God for us, on account of the great sacrifice it involved (9), and on account of its utter gratuitousness, being wholly unmerited on our part (10); from this he draws a conclusion containing an exhortation to us, after the example of the great love of God for us (11). He says that, although no one ever saw God; and hence, no one could either love him as he deserves, or make him a return of love; still, God dwells in us intimately, if we love our brethren (12). God has given another proof of his love, and of his abiding in us, in the spiritual gifts bestowed on the Church (13).

From the testimony of the senses, he demonstrates the certainty of God having sent his Son to redeem us: this point, and the necessity of believing it, he dwells on particularly, owing to its great importance (14, 15). The Apostle again refers to the great charity of God in sending his Son to redeem us, and asserts that God is himself the increated charity, from which all created charity flows (16). He shows the effect of charity, viz., to give us confidence in the day of judgment (17). He shows how this charity excludes all servile or perplexing fear (18).

He next exhorts us to love God, and assigns the reason of this (19), and proves that no one can love God and hate his neighbour—first, because the thing is impossible (20); and, secondly, because the man who hates his neighbour, violates God’s precepts, and, therefore, cannot love God (21).

SUMMARY OD 1 JOHN 5~ In this chapter, the Apostle continues his exhortation to brotherly love; he considers our brethren as sons of God, and under this respect, he exhorts us to love them, since our love of the Father involves the love of his sons (verse 1). He gives a mark for knowing that we love our neighbour, viz., if we love God himself and observe his commandments (2). The surest test of our loving God himself is to keep his commandments, and this duty is not too grievous to the sons of God, aided by his actual graces (3). He shows that His commandments are not grievous to the sons of God, since, every description of persons born of Him have conquered the world, and thus observed his precepts, and the instrumental cause of this victory is faith (4), viz., the faith in Christ, as God and man (5).

The Apostle next proves Christ to be Saviour of the world, of whom the Prophets predicted, that he would redeem mankind by water and blood,—and the Holy Ghost also, on divers occasions, testified that he was true God and true man (6). He next adduces three undoubted witnesses in heaven (7), and three witnesses on earth, to prove the Divinity and Humanity of Jesus Christ (8). He contrasts the superior excellence of the Divine testimony with the testimony of men, which is considered, in some cases, as final and decisive (9).

He tacitly exhorts and stimulates them to persevere in the faith of Christ, by pointing out the advantage of this faith, and the spiritual and eternal ruin which its rejection entails on us (10). One of the fruits of this true faith is, eternal life (11, 12). Another result of this faith is, a firm confidence of obtaining from God the objects of our lawful petitions (14, 15).

He takes occasion, from the mention of the confidence with which all true Christians should approach the throne of God, to recommend the exercise of charity in behalf of their sinning brethren. He tells them to pray confidently for such persons; for, in certain cases, their prayers will be attended to. He does not hold out the same encouragement in case our brethren may fall into sins of a certain description which he callssins unto death” (16). He points out the blessings exclusively enjoyed by the children of God—they are preserved from sin and the tyranny of the devil, and they only are thus favoured (18, 19). He shows the source of these blessings—Christ our Saviour (20). He cautions them against idol worship (21).

1 Jn 4:19 Let us therefore love God: because God first hath loved us.

Let us, then, love God, since he first loved us, even when we were his enemies, having sent his Son to redeem us.

“Let us, therefore, love God.” The Greek has not “therefore,” nor “God,” it runs thus: “let us love him, because he first loved us.” The Alexandrian MS. supports the Vulgate. According to our reading, the Apostle now addresses to us the same exhortation to love God, which, in verse 11, he addresses to us, regarding the love of our neighbour, grounded on the same reason, viz., the pure and gratuitous love of God for us, manifested, in a special manner, in the Incarnation of his Son—“Because he first loved us,” which shows the inseparable connexion that exists between the love of God and of our neighbour The Greek for, “let us love,” αγαπῶμεν, may be also rendered, we love.

1 Jn 4:20 If any man say: I love God, and hateth his brother; he is a liar. For he that loveth not his brother whom he seeth, how can he love God whom he seeth not?

The best proof that we love God, is the love of our neighbour. If any person say, or even think in his mind, that he has the prescribed love for God, and at the same time hate his brother and exclude him from his affection; such a man is a liar and grossly deceives himself; for, he that loveth not the visible image of God, viz., his brother, whom he sees—whose wants he knows—with whom he shares the same common nature—on whom he depends for mutual aid and assistance—how can he love God whom he seeth not, who lies far beyond the reach of the senses? The thing is impossible.

In this verse, the Apostle points out the test which God requires of our love for himself, and he shows by an argument, a minore ad majus, that no one can love God and hate his brother.

“If any man say, I love God, and hateth his brother,” if he say it, either in word, or conceive it in his mind, such a man “is a liar,” he both says and conceives what is perfectly untrue; he imagines two things to co-exist, which are perfectly incompatible, “for he that loveth not his brother whom he sees,” (the Apostle puts loving not—when and where it is a matter of duty to manifest our love for our neighbour—and hating him, on the same footing), if a man cannot love the visible image of God, viz., “his brother whom he sees,” whom the knowledge of his wants, together with a sense of mutual dependence, as well as the participation of the same common nature, should induce him to love and relieve in his necessities; if, in one word, he cannot comply with the more easy, and to him, the more natural branch of the precept of charity, how can he discharge the more difficult, in loving “God whom he sees not,” who is placed far beyond the reach of the senses? And, although the supernatural love of our neighbour be not more easy than the love of God, since it is on account of God we love our neighbour, and hence, the supernatural love of him involves the love of God; still, as natural affection would appear to precede in the mind the love of charity, the man who has not natural affection proves that he is wholly indisposed for the love of charity.

1 Jn 4:21 And this commandment we have from God, that he who loveth God love also his brother.

Moreover, no one can love God and violate his commandments; now, it is a commandment of God, that we should love our brother. Hence, no one can hate his brother and love God.

Another reason why a man cannot love God and hate his neighbour, is that the best proof we can give of our love of God is, the observance of his commandments. “If you love me,” says our blessed Lord, “keep my commandments.” Now, it is one of God’s commandments, that we should love our brethren, as we love ourselves. The man, therefore, who hates his brother, or does not love him as he ought, that is to say, “in deed and truth,” or relieve him in his necessities, such a man violates the commandments; and, therefore, cannot love God.

1 Jn 5:1.Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ, is born of God. And every one that loveth him who begot, loveth him also who is born of him.

Every one who believes that Jesus is the long expected Messiah promised by the prophets, is spiritually born of God by sanctifying grace, and every one who loves the Father, loves also his Son, whether natural or adopted.

The Apostle here inculcates brotherly love, on the ground, that our brethren are sons of God, but this does not exclude from our love such of them as are not sons of God; for, these are to be loved so as to be made sons of God and true brethren in Christ. “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ,” that is, the long-expected Messiah, and of course reduces this faith to practice; “is born of God,” has received of him the new spiritual birth through sanctifying grace which imparts to him a new essence, and makes him “partaker of the divine nature,” (2 Peter, 1). Under the faith that “Jesus is the Christ,” is most probably contained the belief in all the other points of revealed doctrine; and the truths of Christ’s divine mission is prominently put forward, because called in question by the heretics of the day. “Is born of God;” this being an affirmative proposition, of course, only implies, that he is such, all other conditions being observed; “and every one that loveth him who begot,” that is, the Father, “loveth him also who is born of him,” viz., the Son, be he natural or adopted. Some persons restrict the words, “him who is born of him,” to Christ, the natural Son of God. It is better, however, to give it a general signification of an adage or maxim, in use among men, referring to fathers and sons generally.

1 Jn 5:2 In this we know that we love the children of God: when we love God and keep his commandments.

And by this we can know that we love the children of God, viz., by our loving God himself and observing his commandments.

The Apostle, in this verse, applies to a particular case, viz., as regards the children of God, the adage employed in a general sense, as regarding all fathers and sons in the preceding. In the foregoing part of this Epistle, he gave it as a sign and argument of our loving God, if we loved our neighbour. Now, by an argument, e converso, he shows, that if we love God, we love our neighbour, the love of both being inseparable; for, the motive of both is the very same, as has been shown (4:12). It may often happen, that the love of God may be better known at one time, and the love of our neighbour at another, according to the nature of our immediate occupation; according as we may be engaged in acts immediately affecting the divine honour, or, in relieving human misery. “And keep his commandments;” this he adds to the words, “we love God,” lest any person should deceive himself by imagining that he can love God, without fulfilling his precepts.

1 Jn 5:3 For this is the charity of God: That we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not heavy.

And the surest test we can have that we love God is, the observance of his commandments, and these commandments, whether viewed in contrast with the heavy yoke of the ceremonial law of the Jews, or considered in themselves, are not onerous to the sons of God, aided by actual grace.

The best proof we can afford that we love God is to keep his commandments; for, whosoever sincerely loves God, will, influenced by that love, observe all his other precepts. And lest any one should be disheartened by the test of God’s love required by the Apostle, he says, “his commandments are not heavy,” which words are understood by some, in a relative sense, as compared with the heavy yoke of the Ceremonial Law of the Jews, “which neither they nor their fathers could bear,” and was abrogated by Christ; the precepts of the New Law are not heavy. Or, although many precepts in the New Law be repugnant to the feelings of corrupt nature (v.g.)—taking up our cross, renouncing ourselves, losing our lives, &c.; still, they are rendered light by God’s grace, and the stimulating examples of Christ and his saints. Moreover, it is likely, as appears from the entire context, that the Apostle refers to such as are sons of God, and in sanctifying grace, and love him; and to such, persons nothing is “heavy,” or burdensome. Hence, St. Paul calls all present tribulations, as compared with eternal bliss, “light and momentary” (2 Cor. 4:17). If the commandments of God are not “heavy,” none of them, therefore, is impossible, as has been taught by Jansenius.

1 Jn 5:4 For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world. And this is the victory which overcameth the world: Our faith.

For, every description of persons, spiritually born of God, be they young or old, male or female, Jew or Gentile, have overcome the world, and renounced all its false maxims—to such, therefore, the commandments of God are not heavy—and the instrumental cause by which this victory over the world is obtained, is our faith.

“For whatsoever is born of God.” “Whatsoever,” that is, every description of persons born of God—and this favours the interpretation of the preceding verse, which understands it of all the sons of God—“overcometh the world,” with all its temptations, seductive maxims, and ruling principles, “the concupiscence of the flesh,” &c. (2:16). To such, therefore, the commandments of God are not heavy. He next points out the source of victory, viz., “our faith,” since faith alone is the foundation of all those graces which enable us to overcome the world; it alone obtains for us those necessary graces; without it no one can ever have the means necessary for overcoming the world.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: