Perfect Love


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” (1 John 4:18).

1 John 4:17–18

 

Yesterday we saw that as we abide in love, we can be sure we abide in God (1 John 4:16). As we receive God’s love, as we love Him in return, and as we love one another we gain assurance of our faith in His promises. In today’s passage, John reminds us of one very important experiential reality that flows from abiding in love.

 

Verse 17 begins, “by this is love perfected with us.” This refers to verse 16 and simply reminds us that God’s love reaches its full effect in us as we dwell in His love by loving Him, enjoying His love for us, and loving others. This happens in our sanctification as we submit to the Spirit’s daily guidance and renewal (Gal. 5:16).

 

As a result of this love perfected in us over time, we gain “confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world” (1 John 4:17). As God’s love reaches its full effect in our lives we become increasingly like Christ, and like He was, we are in, but not of, the world. Though we will not be perfectly like Him before we die, our union with Jesus means His love will indeed be perfected in us over time (Rom. 8:29–30). As we see ourselves become more like Christ we will gain confidence that we will be vindicated on the day of judgment — just as He was in His resurrection.

 

First John 4:18 tells us we can be confident because perfect love casts out the fear of punishment. Apart from Christ, we have reason to fear the judgment seat of God, but when we are in Him, we have nothing to fear, for He has borne our punishment, and in turn we are seen by God as clothed with His righteousness (2 Cor.5:21).

 

The love that casts out such fear is perfect love. In asserting this, John is not teaching we will have such perfect love before death, for sin will be present with us throughout our lives (1:8–9). We will not abide in love perfectly until our glorification. Nevertheless, the end of the ages has already come upon us (1 Cor. 10:11); therefore, we already have a taste of this love and are empowered to strive toward it by the work of the Spirit. As we submit to Him, we are gradually perfected in love and grow more confident that in Christ we need not fear judgment.

 

Coram Deo

In commenting on this verse, John Calvin writes, “though fear is not wholly shaken off, yet when we flee to God as to a quiet harbor, safe and free from all danger of shipwreck and of tempests, fear is really expelled for it gives way to faith.” If you are a believer yet fear punishment, you must not flee from the Lord but run to Him in repentance. Endeavor to perfect your love by turning from sin and turning toward Him so that you might be cleansed.

 

Passages for Further Study

1 Chron. 28:20
Pss. 23; 27
2 Tim. 1:6–7
Heb. 10:19–39

 

 

 

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Secure in the Love of God


For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Romans 8:38–39

 

Knowledge of God’s creation and sovereign providence, question and answer 28 of the Heidelberg Catechism tell us, enables us to be patient in adversity and thank the Lord in all things (Job 1:20–21; 1 Thess. 5:18). But there are more benefits to knowing God’s sovereignty, namely, assurance of salvation and confidence that we will persevere in a state of grace until the end of our lives.

 

The Heidelberg Catechism looks to Romans 8:38–39 as a proof text for the benefits of assurance and confidence. It is easy to see why the authors of the catechism chose this passage when we consider Paul’s words in their immediate context. Following his discussion of the believer’s war against remaining sin in Romans 7, the Apostle directs us in Romans 8 to the work of Christ and our justification by faith alone to assure us of our reconciliation to the Father and to give us hope for sanctification (growth in holiness) (vv. 1–16). This faith is sovereignly worked in us by the Holy Spirit and rooted in our Creator’s sovereign predestination of His people, a predestination that also includes our glorification, the consummation of our redemption in the life to come (vv. 2, 15, 29–30). Romans 9 stresses God’s sovereignty in salvation, His right to show mercy and effect the redemption of His elect. The placement of today’s passage between the aforementioned sections of Romans shows the essential link between the Lord’s sovereign providence and the assurance that God cannot stop loving His people. Once our Father decides to set His special, salvific love on us, nothing can separate us from that love (8:38–39).

 

This special love is “in Christ Jesus our Lord” (v. 39), which gives us further confidence that God’s people are forever secure in His love. The Father and the Son are united in their purpose to save the elect. God the Father has loved us in Christ Jesus His Son, and He has given us to the Son. Therefore, to let anything or anyone separate us from His Son would diminish the love He has for His Son. After all, those whom the Father has gifted to His Son cannot be taken from the Son, for the perfectly loving Father would never take back His gift to His Son (John 3:35; 10:27–30). John Calvin comments, “If, then, we are through [Christ] united to God, we may be assured of the immutable and unfailing kindness of God toward us.”

 

Coram Deo

When Paul says nothing can separate us from God’s love, he means that even we cannot snatch ourselves from His hand. If we have true faith, we will maintain that faith until the end. Times of doubt may arise, and it is even possible to fall into grievous sin. Yet if we belong to Christ today, we will belong to Him forever. This should encourage us to draw near to the Lord even when we feel far from Him. If we come humbly, He will not reject us.

 

Passages for Further Study

 

Jeremiah 15:21; 31:3b
Hebrews 7:23–25
James 4:8a
1 John 5:11–12

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