The Connection of God's Love.
John 4:15, 16.
1 John 4:15 Whoever confesses (actually, aorist)  that Jesus is the Son of God, God remains in him and he in God. (Lenski)
This is crucial in the sinner's gaining access to the Love of God. The argument of the Universalist has been that since God is a God of Love He certainly will not send sinners to hell. In fact, if we were to lift 1 John 2:2 out of the context of the whole of God's Word, that might appear to be the case. But such is not the case. God requires a response to the wooing of His Holy Spirit as He makes the gospel clear to the sinner - that response is found here in the this passage - "confesses" (gk = 3p, aor, subj, active of homologeo). It means to agree by confession with God's Word that Jesus is the Son of God. This ties in with 4:2 where Christ's true humanity is agreed to. Confession is not the parroting or mental assenting to the true mystical nature of Jesus Christ but a response of agreement to God's Word by the sinner as a result of the convicting ministry of the Holy Spirit. These two facts come together in one statement of Jesus' true unique God-Man nature.
Confession of this fact comes only from the regenerated mind that has been instructed by the Holy Spirit. This is an after-the-fact confession of one who has already believed and serves to identify him as a true believer. Acts 16:31 states the salvific key as does John 3:18. When Jesus asked His disciples if they, too, would leave Him after the great defection of John 6:66, Peter "confessed" to Jesus that He only had the words of Eternal Life. Peter went on in verses 67, 68 to "confess" that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God, the Living one. This shows that Peter already had believed in Jesus Christ as Savior - this was not Peter's saving experience - it was his confession experience, as was his confession in Mat 16:16. The fact is that the instant a sinner believes in Jesus as Savior he also has confessed that He is the Son of God come in the flesh as the God-Man. Could he articulate that fact the instant he is saved? Probably not, but with the teaching ministry of the Holy Spirit confession of Christ very soon becomes as "natural" as a baby drinking milk.
I can remember standing before the dishpan listening to Jack Wyrtzen preaching right at me, asking the question that if I were to die that night would I be sure that I was going to heaven - not hell. I couldn't honestly answer that question in the affirmative! Right there I bowed my head and accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Savior - I knew what that meant - who Jesus was - Jack had seen to that - that I knew. It was a matter of belief in the heart. Next Sunday I was eager to profess my belief by presenting myself at the altar in front of the church - I couldn't wait to confess my belief in Jesus Christ as my personal Savior. Could I articulate it - not really - but the whole congregation knew that I believed in the Savior that the pastor (and Jack) had preached.
Romans 10:9, 10 is a portion of scripture that might be confusing to the new believer. It appears here that the only way to be saved is to confess the Lord Jesus Christ with the mouth and believe in the heart that He is raised from the dead. However, if one reads on he discovers that the salvific key ( verse 11, 13) is not changed from the rest of God's Word. John and Paul agree. True salvation requires that the recipient accept Jesus for Who He is - as God, the Son who became incarnate, who shed His blood for the sins of the world by dying on the cross, who was raised from the dead and is now seated at the right hand of the Father. No Gnostic or cult-believer will ever confess that within his heart or to the world. What this passage does teach is that it is a natural outgrowth of belief that confession regarding the true nature of Jesus Christ is made.
The connection of God's Love (1 John 4:15 cont.). The next phrase has been accompanied with some confusion - not helped by the majority of the translations that we have at our disposal (NIV, NAS, KJV etc). The phrase to which I refer is: "Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God." (1 John 4:15, KJV). The word used in the original for "dwell" is not dwell but abide or remain [gk = 3p, ind, act of meno]. The confusion of the translators is further compounded by their rendition of the Greek en the word for "in" in our KJV text. Lenski has the correct translation: "...God remains in him and he in God." Literally John is saying "...God remains in connection with him and he in connection with God." Another good way of reading this phrase would be "God remains in the sphere of him and he in the sphere of God." This is one of those times where some knowledge of the original helps. However, with many words of explanation we can make it through this phrase with the English language. John is not referring to God indwelling the believer and the believer indwelling God - although the indwelling of the Trinity in the believer is certainly taught in John 14:23.
The reciprocal abiding or remaining that is taught in our text (1 John 4:15) is taught also in John 15:4. From the representation of the vine we gain insight to both texts that to abide refers to a vital connection to Jesus Christ in relationship and His vital connection to us in relationship as believers - quite a different concept than a reciprocal indwelling of Jesus Christ and the believer. In John 15:9, 10 this abiding refers to the Love of God - 1 John 4:16 refers to the same abiding. What, then, is this abiding that we have in reciprocity with the Lord? It is the result of the indwelling ministry of the Holy Spirit and the reciprocal fellowship that comes from this wonderful relationship. This is that fellowship to which John refers in ch 1:3-6. This is the connection of God's Love. If we have believed in Jesus Christ as Savior, we do confess that He is come in the flesh and is the Son of God - we enjoy an intimate connection of Love that no one including the believer, himself can ever sever.
1 John 4:16 And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. (KJV).
"...we have known and believed the love that God hath to us..." The message of the Gnostics and so many other heretical religions is that through some sort of self-realization of some discovery of good in oneself, one can gain salvation. The message of the cross is that we are sinners in desperate need of a Savior. John testified that when Jesus Christ came into their lives they knew God's Love - they recognized It and they trusted in It. They threw their lot in with God's Love when they received Jesus Christ into their lives. That was what Jesus was to them - a visible personification of God's Love. All disciples of Christ are to become visible personifications of God's Love. Many times this is how God intends believers to experience His Love especially in times of need - not just from communion with Him, but with the fellowshipping with other brothers (and sisters) in Christ. In fact, this may explain in some small way one of the reasons for suffering in the lives of some believers. Suffering may come so that other believer and Christ, Himself may personify God's Love in the eyes of the believer who is suffering.
"God is love..." The intrinsic character of God is that of Love - just as it is Light and Truth. These absolute attributes of God are His alone. He alone can Love man even though man hates God. Just so, only God has His moral attributes intrinsically. If any member of God's creation possesses any of these attributes it is because God has communicated them to these creatures. So to the extent that God infuses His Love into the life of the believer through the ministry and power of the Holy Spirit - to that extent the believer is living in connection with the Love of God. Loving as God Loves is a supernatural experience.
God's attributes are summarized in two categories, absolute and relative. While this is not a lesson on systematic theology, I think it is important that we understand a very important point that the theologians have made down through the centuries. For the sake of this lesson let me first of all briefly define His Relative Attributes this way - these attributes are those which man can understand, at least in part, because they are related to such things in our experience as time, space, creation and because we are moral beings - they are transitive and communicable. A short list of these attributes would be; His Eternity (His attribute as related to time), His Immensity (His attribute as related to space), His Omnipresence, Omniscience, Omnipotence, His Veracity and Faithfulness, Mercy and Goodness, Justice and Righteousness, His Sovereignty. These attributes have reference to the human experience and can, at least in part, be communicated and understood by the regenerated mind - remember, I said "in part."
His Absolute Attributes, on the other hand have no reference to the human experience. A short list of these attributes are that: God is, God is spirit, God is life, God is infinite, God is immutable, God is the truth, God is holy, God is love. Again, this is a short list. It is very important to understand that man has no frame of reference in understanding God's absolute attributes, especially when it comes to His absolute attribute of Love. It is very tempting for us to try to relate God's Love to human experience which will always lead to error and a very compromised viewpoint. The fact is that our "experience" and God's nature regarding His Absolute Attributes have nothing in common. The very best man can do is what Paul and John have done, and that is to relate the evidence or product of God's Love so that believers can use these "lists" as a guide for their Christian experience. I think it is important for us to note that abiding in God's Love is far more the issue than theologically defining It. John made this point clear in this passage:
1 John 3:18 My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth. (KJV).
I've said this before and I'll say it again for strong emphasis - the "one liner" definitions really do not help the Christian experience. While I have no problem with saying that God's Love is unconditional or that it is sacrificial. My fear is that we might use limited definitions such as these to somehow satisfy our debt / obligation to love one another and God and thus become smug and satisfied that we are adequate while applying them to our daily experience. My friends, the unsaved are capable of most of the activities that many Christian call "unconditional" or "sacrificial." While not a common experience, the altruistic bent in many of the unsaved motivate them to do much above the call of duty. A case in point is the sacrifice that the soldier makes in defending his country and when required, in saving his fellow soldier under combat conditions - there is no higher example of the human sacrificial bent toward his fellow. While a grand example to follow - it still does not define God's Love.
The key to understanding "abiding in the Love of God" is that God will not allow us to substitute our limited mortal love for His Love. This is a fundamental truth:
Isaiah 42:8 I am the LORD: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images. (KJV).
God's glory consist of His attributes - He will never allow man to substitute his mortal qualities for God's glory - His attributes. To do so would be ascribing the attributes of man to God - that is idolatry (1 John 5:21). He and He alone must be the progenitor of His attributes - He and He alone will receive man's praise - no substitution please!
Let us apply the issue of God's Love. Of God's Love, John insisted:
Beloved, let us be loving one another because this love is from God. And everyone loving has been born from God and knows God; the one not loving did not know God because God is love. (1 Jn 4:7, Lenski)
There is no other source of God's Love but God, Himself. "...this love is from God..." The Greek = e agape ek tou theou estin - literally, "this Love is out from the God" The original has this phrase as ablative of source along with the preposition ek = out from. That is, God's Love springs only from Him and Him alone. This truth is so fundamental that John uses this as a "litmus test" for the genuine conversion experience. There is no other way for a man to demonstrate the Love of God except that God, Himself be the progenitor. This is the way of God's absolute attributes. As we see in our passage of Isaiah, He will not give His glory to another! The Love of God springs only from the ministry of the indwelling Holy Spirit - Rom 5:5. The instant we try to apply our own humanistic, rationalistic definition to God's Love, we step outside of the ministry of the Holy Spirit and are operating under fleshly impulses not His.
1 Aorist Subjunctive = "Whoever may confess..."
2 Rom 8:35-39
3 John 1:12
4 2 Cor 1:3-5. Although Paul did not articulate the role of God's Love in this comforting, it is certainly implied. Although not eloquently expressed as John did, Paul certainly lived this personification of God's Love though his actions toward this fellow workers and those whom he ministered to.
5 Isaiah 55:8. "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways saith the LORD.