Post Series on 1 John 4:7-21:
- If God So Loved Us, We Also Ought to Love One Another (1 John 4:7-12)
- Whoever Abides in Love Abides in God, and God Abides in Him (1 John 4:13-16)
- But Perfect Love Casts Out Fear (1 John 4:17-21)
More than any of us would ever care to admit, we make almost all of our decisions based on fear. A thousand terrifying questions plague our minds, and so we throw ourselves at whatever sliver of security seems to present itself to us. “Will I ever find love?” “Will we have enough money to survive?” “Will this person leave me like everyone else has done?” “What would happen to me if…?”
If we are honest about it, every mistake we have ever made has been an attempt to grasp at some mirage of security outside of Christ.
The only people who seemingly live without fear are children. They boldly ascend or descend stairways when no one is watching. They curiously investigate what might be beyond the opening of power outlets. When I was a child, I am told that I pulled a cord connected to the hot clothes iron above me, and that the iron narrowly missed me when it came crashing down.
But even children panic when mom leaves the room. Chatty, energetic children go into cocoons of shyness when strangers appear. Not even the most innocent among us can fully escape fear.
In 1 John 4:17-21, John addresses this concern with the gospel:
4:17By 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. 18There 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. 19We love because he first loved us. 20If 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. 21And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.
As he had done in 2:28 (“And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from in him shame at his coming”), John points to the day of Christ’s return as a day of judgment to be feared by those who do not abide in him.
But also as he had done in 2:28, John stresses the confidence that believers should have for the day of judgment. Believers have nothing to fear, John writes, “For fear has to do with punishment,” and “as he is so also are we in this world.” For those who are being perfected by the love of Christ, there is now no condemnation, nothing to fear.
John wants us to live not on the basis of fear, but on the basis of a confident kind of love. This is a love that can only arise out of knowing that even your own death cannot rob you of that which you cannot live without. We live for Christ, we die for Christ, and throughout, we abide in Christ! And Christ has overcome the sin, death, and the devil. What more need we fear?
This is why John seems to abruptly change his subject in v. 19: “We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar.” He is still addressing the subject of fear by challenging us to honestly evaluate the evidence of our salvation. Is the fruit of love present in our interactions toward those others for whom Jesus Christ has died? If not, then shouldn’t that suggest to us that we do not know God (1 John 4:8)? If we cannot love someone who bears God’s image, then how can we imagine that we love the origin of that image?
And so beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.