We cannot be right with God unless we are also right with men. Make peace quickly; do not let the sun go down on your wrath (Ephesians 4:26). Hatred is sin, and sin separates us from God.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sixth Commandment (Part One) (1997)
John presents these verses as a challenge, a test, to his readers. There are many who say they “love God” or “I have fellowship with God” or “I know God,” and John is saying, "Prove it by loving your brother." The proof that love is real is the action that it produces. It will always help the other person in the long run.
If a person really loves God, he will honor his parents, he will not commit murder, nor will he fornicate, commit adultery, lie, steal, or covet. In other words, he will keep God's Commandments. If a person is really becoming close to God, he will not do any of these things—and not their spiritual counterparts either.
This verse, then, offers a permanently valid test to see whether our religion is the true one or not. Do we love God? Do we love one another? The proof that we love God is that we love our brother with agape love, for that kind of love must have an outlet, or it will not be reciprocated back to God.
The feelings associated with agape love arise as a result of our fellowship with God through experiencing life's events with Him as a dominating influence on our thinking.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Love's Emotional Dimension
What concerns God is whether a person is actually and practically following Him with his mind, actions, words, time and energy. This proves to Him whether one sincerely loves the truth or merely sees his religion as an intellectual profession or social occasion.
Our deceitful mind can find multitudes of ways, reasons and excuses to avoid confronting the real issue of life—overcoming, allowing God to form and shape us into His image. Knowing this very well, Satan works to involve the intellectually inclined among us in pursuits that, though they may involve religion and are stimulating and challenging, have little or nothing to do with overcoming. The issue, however, becomes so "big" that God's focus is lost under the ever-growing mounds of research.
He distracts others through conspiracy theories. Though these things may be occurring at least to some extent, and though people reason they are "watching world news," it is not preparing for God's Kingdom. It becomes so "big" in their minds that they are nearly consumed by it—it is all they can talk about!
Jesus said what is in the heart comes out the mouth. Where is there room for God in the heart when this other pursuit is crowding Him out? Are these people in danger of being swept away by the flood? I have noticed that people involved in this gradually become very suspicious and cynical of others, especially those with some authority. Satan subtly destroys the fabric of trust that any institution—be it a relationship, family, church or nation—must have to function.
The Day of the Lord is not yet upon us, but we are in the headwaters of the flood that is swiftly approaching. The flood of deception is a precursor of more physically persuasive tactics designed to deceive the whole world into accepting the lie. But for now, Satan is surely concentrating primarily on God's called-out ones.
God is permitting a sifting to take place. Paul uses the word "delusion" in II Thessalonians 2:11, indicating a "wandering out of the way." Does that not happen to people who are confused and have lost direction and motivation? They wander. They drift. They get tossed about in the winds and currents. But the love of the truth will keep a person clear-minded, focused on the right areas of life and motivated to overcome. And this will lead God to save them.
We need to examine honestly what receives our time and attention. We need to evaluate truthfully what is the focus of our lives. This will reveal whether we love the truth or merely profess to. Those who only profess to love it will be the ones sifted by the flood now swirling around us.
Jesus cried out in John 7:37, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink." Brethren, this is our salvation. He says He is the way, the truth and the life. Now is the time to dig deeply into His Word to make that foundation sure. And let's truly live and build upon what we find there!
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Flood Is Upon Us!
Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing 1 John 4:20: