“ 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.” ~ 1 John 4:18
Explanation of the Text: In verse 17, John writes that love is perfected in us and through that we can have confidence before our God. With that same thought in mind, he continues on to write that love that has not been perfected is seen through one’s fear. Fear stands in stark contrast to the confidence that believers should have. The two are unable to coexist with one another.
Remember the type of fear we are talking about though. This is not general fear that we encounter in our lives, but instead is fear about condemnation from God. “Fear is not merely the dread of future punishment; it is itself punishment for the one who is possessed by it” (1).
Examination & Application of the Text: Because of the connection to verse 17, the application of this text must be where our love for God stands. We know where it stands by whether or not it is displayed in our lives. Because of the evidence of this love that is being perfected through us, there is no need to fear the future judgment. We live in confidence because of who we are in Christ. As Ian Hamilton writes, “Being perfected in love means being assured, not so much about our love for God as about his love for us” (2).
Questions to Consider:
- What is the relationship between fear and confidence?
- If you were standing before Christ at this moment, would you be overwhelmed with fear or confidence?
- How do you replace any fear you have with confidence . . . which means how do you love more or better?
(1) Donald W. Burdick, The Epistles of John, Everyman’s Bible Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1970), 80.
(2) Ian Hamilton, Let’s Study the Letters of John (Carlisle: Banner of Truth Trust, 2008), 67.