Love Made Perfect

17 Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. 19 We love Him because He first loved us. 20 If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? 21 And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.

– 1 John 4:17-21

“What the World Needs Now” was a hit song written by Jackie DeShannon.

What the world needs now
Is love, sweet love
It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of
What the world needs now
Is love, sweet love
No, not just for some, but for everyone

The world has always needed love and not just during crises like Covid-19. The love of God and the love of one another. The world does not just need man’s cheap imitation of love but the agape love of God. A perfect love. “God is love” and therefore His love is perfect.

This section of 1 John (4:17-21) is really a carry over from 4:7-12. The term “perfected” is used three times in this section. It was used at the end of verse twelve to introduce and link these two sections together. Remember perfect is not flawlessness but completeness. When Christians practice loving one another as God is the source of love and love is His nature and because He manifested His love in sending Christ, then love will have come to its desired end.

Love Made Perfect

Three times in verse seventeen and eighteen John mentions “perfect.” This was the second point John made in verse twelve as another reason for loving one another. Love is made complete or whole when we love others like God loves.

♥ Perfect Love Has Confidence to Face Judgment

John speaks with conviction that “love has been perfected among us” (4:17a). As a result of mature love “we may have boldness in the day of judgment” (4:17b). Because we really know that the Judge we face is love, and has proven His love, abides in us, and we love the brethren, that gives us all the confidence we need to face the throne on Judgment Day. On that day, we will face him as our father not just the Judge. We will come before Him as sons not condemned sinners. The term “boldness” means “confidence to speak up free in public”. John used the same word in 3:21 where Christians can have confidence in God even though the heart condemns or judges them. The first use of the term was in 2:28 where John first mentions boldness in facing judgment.

How is it that Christians can possess such confidence in the day of Judgment? As God is in Heaven right now “so are we in this world” (4:17). Just as we have confidence God knows our hearts, we can have confidence that He knows who we are while still in this world.

♥ Perfect Love Casts Out Fear

Fear has been a consequence of sin since the Garden of Eden when Adam declared he and Eve were hiding from God, because they were afraid (Gen. 3:1f). Now John assures us “there is no fear in love” (4:18a). Why? Because “perfect love casts out fear” (4:18b). Fear and love cannot coexist in the life of the believer. As light dispels darkness, so love exiles fear. Keep in mind the fear under consideration is not the righteous reverential awe all children of God should have for the heavenly Father. Why does love banish fear? “Because fear involves torment” (4:18c). Fear and love are totally incompatible with each other. Love brings the opposite of torment. The only other time the Greek word for “torment” kolasis is used is in reference to “everlasting punishment” in Hell (Matt. 25:46). In the immediate context is the mention of Judgment Day. John has just assured us that perfected love will give us confidence to face Judgment Day. Jesus promised His disciples, “most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life” (John 5:24). The loving work of Christ has removed the fear of death (Heb. 2:14,15; Ps. 23:4) and of Judgment Day. In fact, our relationship with Christ removes all anxieties of day to day life (Matt. 6:31-33)

John reinforces the argument by stating the mutually exclusive relationship between fear and love in the negative statement: “but he who fears has not been made perfect in love” (4:18d). Those Christians who continue in a state of fear have not experienced mature love or completeness of love.

Mankind has many fears or phobias. Those with perfect love will not suffer from krisisphobia which is the fear of judgment. Paul had confidence at the end of his life “there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Tim. 4:8).

 Loving God Perfected in Loving Another

♥ Recognizing God Loved Us First

For the second time John tells us “we love Him because He first loved us” (4:19). Please note that the word “Him” is left out of the original Greek. Therefore, John could be saying “we love [the one another] because God loved us first.” God did not wait around in Heaven for us to stop loving the world and start loving Him again. God’s love for us is the origin and initiation of our love for our brethren. If our love is like His love, we will not wait for the other person to love us first. We will love them first.

♥ Involves Loving the Visible and Invisible

John has no problem pointing out or calling Christians liars. Using the pattern found in chapter one John writes, “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar” (4:20a). “If a man says…” is found in six previous place in this letter (1:6,8,10; 2:4,6,9).

Why is this man a liar? Because “ he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?” (4:20b). Our vertical relationship with each other is connected to our horizontal relationship with God. How can one love the Father and not love His children who are our brothers and sisters. This would be so unnatural. “It is by practicing a real and self-sacrificing love for one another that we learn to love the one who sacrificed himself for us” (Boice 121).

♥ Requires Loving One’s Brother

John comes to the climactic commandment and truth about love: “he who loves God must love his brother also” (4:21b). The first commandment to love God and second commandment to love one another must coexist in the heart of the Christian (Deut. 6:4; Lev. 19:18; Matt. 22:36ff).

– Daniel R. Vess

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