Post image for The Epistles of John (Part 42): 1 John 4:18–19

The Epistles of John (Part 42): 1 John 4:18–19

by Stephen Hebert on Wednesday - 15 July 2009

in Biblical Studies, New Testament

This is the 42nd part in an ongoing series on the epistles of John.

English Standard Version Nestle-Aland 27
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. We love because he first loved us. φόβος οὐκ ἔστιν ἐν τῇ ἀγάπῃ ἀλλ᾿ ἡ τελεία ἀγάπη ἔξω βάλλει τὸν φόβον, ὅτι ὁ φόβος κόλασιν ἔχει, ὁ δὲ φοβούμενος οὐ τετελείωται ἐν τῇ ἀγάπῃ. ἡμεῖς ἀγαπῶμεν, ὅτι αὐτὸς πρῶτος ἠγάπησεν ἡμᾶς.

By telling us why we love, 1 John 4:18–19 sets right the nature of the relationship between humans and God. The difficulty, of course, is the word “fear” which has been an important term in Christianity from the get-go, mostly due to the phrase “fear of God.” While it is healthy for us to have a certain type of fear (e.g., a reverence or respect for God’s awesome power), it is not healthy for the believer to live in constant fear.

Paul agrees with this in Romans 8:15:

For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” (ESV)

The type of fear that we are concerned with here, I think, is specifically about judgment — judgment leads to punishment and we have an intense fear of being punished. However, Christians, because they are abiding in God in this mutual admiration, this love, should have no fear. Instead, their love should cast that fear out. We do not live under fear of judgment because Christ’s blood has vindicated us and separated us from our former sin and former selves. In this sense, God’s love cannot be perfected in us if we have fear of punishment. Rather, we should live boldly and confidently knowing that we are abiding in him.

Humans are not meant to abide in God out of fear of judgment or fear of death. Rather, humans abide in God because of his intense love. The relationship is built on mutual admiration!

Finally, the author gives us the precise reason for why we love God: because he loved us first. This is a really simple formula. We are drawn to God because he is drawing us to him. Unfortunately, we work too hard to resist this pull, and to some degree God allows us to resist.

Article Series - The Epistles of John

  1. The Epistles of John (Part 1): 1 John 1:1–4
  2. The Epistles of John (Part 2): 1 John 1:5
  3. The Epistles of John (Part 3): 1 John 1:6–7
  4. The Epistles of John (Part 4): 1 John 1:8–10
  5. The Epistles of John (Part 5): 1 John 2:1
  6. The Epistles of John (Part 6): 1 John 2:2
  7. The Epistles of John (Part 7): 1 John 2:3–6
  8. The Epistles of John (Part 8): 1 John 2:7–8
  9. The Epistles of John (Part 9): 1 John 2:9–11
  10. The Epistles of John (Part 10): 1 John 2:12
  11. The Epistles of John (Part 11): 1 John 2:13
  12. The Epistles of John (Part 12): 1 John 2:14
  13. The Epistles of John (Part 13): 1 John 2:15
  14. The Epistles of John (Part 14): 1 John 2:16
  15. The Epistles of John (Part 15): 1 John 2:17
  16. The Epistles of John (Part 16): 1 John 2:18
  17. The Epistles of John (Part 17): 1 John 2:19
  18. The Epistles of John (Part 18): 1 John 2:20
  19. The Epistles of John (Part 19): 1 John 2:21
  20. The Epistles of John (Part 20): 1 John 2:22
  21. The Epistles of John (Part 21): 1 John 2:23–25
  22. The Epistles of John (Part 22): 1 John 2:26–27
  23. The Epistles of John (Part 23): 1 John 2:28
  24. The Epistles of John (Part 24): 1 John 2:29
  25. The Epistles of John (Part 25): 1 John 3:1–3
  26. The Epistles of John (Part 26): 1 John 3:4–6
  27. The Epistles of John (Part 27): 1 John 3:7–10
  28. The Epistles of John (Part 28): 1 John 3:11–12
  29. The Epistles of John (Part 29): 1 John 3:13
  30. The Epistles of John (Part 30): 1 John 3:14-18
  31. The Epistles of John (Part 31): 1 John 3:19–22
  32. The Epistles of John (Part 32): 1 John 3:23–24
  33. The Epistles of John (Part 33): 1 John 4:1–3
  34. The Epistles of John (Part 34): 1 John 4:4–6
  35. The Epistles of John (Part 35): 1 John 4:7-8
  36. The Epistles of John (Part 36): 1 John 4:9
  37. The Epistles of John (Part 37): 1 John 4:10
  38. The Epistles of John (Part 38): 1 John 4:11-12
  39. The Epistles of John (Part 39): 1 John 4:13–14
  40. The Epistles of John (Part 40): 1 John 4:15
  41. The Epistles of John (Part 41): 1 John 4:16–17
  42. The Epistles of John (Part 42): 1 John 4:18–19
  43. The Epistles of John (Part 43): 1 John 4:20–21
  44. The Epistles of John (Part 44): 1 John 5:1
  45. The Epistles of John (Part 45): 1 John 5:2-3

Previous post:

Next post: