Unseen and Seen (1 Jno. 4:12-21)
“No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and His love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent His Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as He is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.”
Observe in this passage first, what is unseen and what is seen. “No one has ever seen God,” but John says “we have seen and testify that the Father has sent His Son to be the Savior of the world.” We’ve all heard people say, “I won’t believe it unless I can see it.” (By the way, if that claim were consistently applied – nobody today would believe that Abraham Lincoln existed, or anyone else before you opened your eyes!)
John emphasizes the value of testimony. Though we have not seen God, the testimony given by the apostles was accompanied by such powerful signs and evidence, we are justified in believing that there is a God and more to the point here: He sent His Son to be the Savior.
Believing that and acting in response to the Savior, we can know the Father’s love, exhibit that love in our lives and know that God abides in us. We haven’t seen God, but “we have come to know” Him, His love and to accept our obligation to love.
“…for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him: who loves God must also love his brother.”