By Stan Brown
I John 4:18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.
Fear and love are completely incompatible as John says There is no fear in love. The first half of this verse looks at it from a positive perspective while the second half looks at it from the other side of the coin. Let’s first look at this verse in context. The previous verse has spoken about two things; (1)love is perfected with us, (2)that we may have confidence in the day of judgment. The kind of love that occurs when God abides in us and we in Him is a love that casts out fear. The context is one that speaks of our relationship with God as it speaks of boldness in His presence at the day of judgment. It is natural to approach such an occasion with fear but John assures us that perfect love casts out fear. This perfect love is a love that has been cultivated and matured over time as we walk with Him. Remember the last phrase of the previous verse that describes this perfect love. John has written the words as He is, so also are we in this world. Remember that perfected love does not mean we are sinless but rather that we take advantage of the cleansing blood of Christ as we confess our sins and enter His presence with boldness. This is a magnificent promise that as we live in a world that is full of fear, we can enter the safety of His presence apart from fear.
(This next part is the “grain of salt” part which means that I am sharing thoughts that might be taken with a grain of salt. “Grain of salt” starts here. I think about how often the Bible speaks about the fear of God. We usually mitigate that some by defining it as awe rather than terror but nevertheless standing in the presence of the Holy God is one that naturally engenders fear. I just wonder if John is picking up on that concept a little and is saying that we can enter that presence apart from fear because we understand His love and bask in it. Although the awe remains there is no fear in His presence because of perfected or completed love. That ends the “grain of salt” part.)
John also looks at this from the negative perspective as he writes fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. Fear is directly related to shrinking back at His coming and the day of judgment. We are frightened by the judgment we rightly deserve and are not thinking about the cleansing blood. John simply says if we are scared spitless at the prospect of entering His presence it means we are consumed by the fear that finds no harmony with the perfect love of God.
OK, so John tells us that we are able to enter God’s presence apart from fear which is a really big deal but what about the fear we have daily as we move about in a world ruled by Satan. We fear for ourselves, but often feel greater fear for the ones we love amid concern that they will be adversely affected by it. On a personal basis, the Psalmist has written The LORD is for me; I will not fear; What can man do to me? (Psa. 118:6). Paul has written, For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!( Rom. 8:15)” John will soon say This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us(1John 5:14).
God does not want us to be fearful in His presence so He perfects His love in us. God does not want us to be beset by fear in the world so He offers us a refuge from that fear, indeed the refuge available in His awesome presence. Praise His Holy Name!!!!