QUESTION: I read in 1 John 4:18 that there is no fear in love. If we do fear we are not made perfect in love. There are times that I do fear. What does this mean?
ANSWER: In answering this question we need to go back a few verses to understand the context. In verses 16-19 we read, “And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. Herein [hath love with us been perfected,] that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as He is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. We love Him, because He first loved us.” In the understanding of these verses it is important to notice that the reference in the margin of the King James version more accurately translates verse 17 as follows: “Herein has love with us been perfected.” Other translations agree with this also. It is not a question of our love being perfected, but God’s love being perfected with us. Our love at very best is not perfect.
If we know the Lord Jesus Christ as our personal Saviour then we have known and believed the love that God has to us. We have by faith looked back at the cross and have seen the great love of God in giving His Son to die for our sins. We stand in awe of the greatness of His love that caused Him to deliver up His own Son to bear our sins in His own body on the cross. We have to agree that His love has been perfected with us. “He [God] ... spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all” (Romans 8:32).
Because of God’s love having been perfected with us we have boldness regarding the day of the coming judgment of the wicked. Why? Because we know that we will never be judged for our sins. Christ took our place and was judged for our sins. He is now risen and is beyond all the judgment. We now have boldness in the day of judgment because as He is, so are we in this world. We are accepted in the Beloved! This truth casts out all fear from our hearts. Someone has put this wonderful truth in a verse of poetry that is beautifully expressed this way:
“No judgment now for me, I sing because I’m free.
Jesus died for my sins on Calvary’s cruel tree!
The Judge’s voice I hear, bidding me never fear.
Judgment I have borne for thee,
And you go free!”
The fear that has torment is the kind of fear that does not by faith see that Christ bore the judgment for all the sins of those who trust in Him as Lord and Saviour. “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: so Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for Him shall He appear the second time without sin unto salvation” (Hebrews 9:27,28).
The other kind of fear that we are so well acquainted with is the fear of what shall come tomorrow. Whether it is our health, our finances, our children, our country, or something else, the Lord has a fear not for every different fear. We are sometimes worried about tomorrow and what it may bring. How good to hear Him say, “For I the LORD thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee” (Isaiah 41:13).
—John D. McNeil