World Wide Study Bible
a Bible passage
18 Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.
18. Let us not love in word There is a concession in this first clause; for we cannot love in tongue only; but as many falsely pretend this, the Apostle concedes, according to what is often done, the name of the thing to their dissimulation, though, in the second clause, he reproves their vanity, when he denies that there is reality except in the deed. For thus ought the words to be explained, — Let us not profess by the tongue that we love, but prove it by the deed; for this is the only true way of shewing love.
Beza and others regard “only,” or “merely,” as understood in the first clause, according to a mode of speaking which often occurs in Scripture, as “Labor not,” etc., (John 6:27.)
“My dear children, let us love, not only by word, or with the tongue, but by work and in truth.”
That is, let us not love only by making in words fair promises, or by expressing sympathy with the tongue, but by giving effect to our sympathy by works, and by making our word true, by fulfilling it. Here we find the same arrangement as in many other instances; the “word” has its correspondence in “truth;” and “tongue in “work.”
It is justly observed by Macknight, that “the Apostle cannot be supposed to forbid our using affectionate speeches to our brethren in distress But he forbiddeth us to content ourselves with these.” — Ed