VERSE:: “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.” — 1 John 4:18
INSPIRATION:: The fearlessness of love--how “perfect love” casts out fear. Love is no weak thing, no mere sentiment. It is the harvest of all human emotions. It makes heroes as its natural work. The love of God is declared in this text to be the victorious antagonist of that fear of sin which has torment in it. In general we can see, I think, without difficulty, how the two, love and fear, do exclude one another. Fear is entirely based on a consideration of some possible personal evil consequence coming down upon me from that clear sky above me. Love is based upon the forgetfulness of self altogether.
The very essence of love is, that it looks away from itself, and to another. Fill the heart with love, and there is an end to the dominion of fear!
1. But, more specifically, the love of God entering into a man’s heart destroys all fear of Him of which we have been speaking. All the attributes of God come to be on our side. He that loves has the whole Godhead for him. “We love Him, because He first loved us.” There is no foundation for my love to God except only the old one, “God loves me.” There is no way of building on that foundation except only the old one, We believe and are sure that Thou art the Christ, the Saviour of the world! The love which casts out fear is not a vague emotion setting towards an unknown God; nor is it the result of a man’s willing that he will put away from himself his hatred and his indifference, and will set himself in a new position towards God and His mercy; but it rises in the heart as a consequence of knowing and believing the love which God hath to us. Hence, again, it is the conqueror of fear. Whatever betide, nothing can separate us from the love of God. We are bound to Him by that everlasting loving kindness with which He has drawn us. There is lifted off the heart the whole burden of “fearful looking for of judgment,” the whole burden arising from the dark thought, God is mighty, God must be righteous, God may strike!--because we know “He hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows.”
2. The love of God casts out all other fear! Every affection makes him who cherishes it, in some degree, braver than he would have been without it. It is not degrading to this subject to remind you of what we see away far down in the scale of living beings. Look at that strange maternal instinct that in the lowest animals--out of weakness makes them strong, and causes them to forget all terror of the most terrible at the bidding of the mighty and conquering affection. Look at the same thing on the higher level of our own human life. It is not self-reliance that makes the hero. It is having the heart filled with passionate enthusiasm born of love for some person or for something. Love is gentle, but it is omnipotent, victor over all. And when we rise to the highest form of it, namely, the love which is fixed upon God--oh! how that should, and if it be right, will, strengthen and brace, and make every man in whom it dwells, frank, fearless, careless of personal consequences! Cowardice and anxiety, perplexity about life, trembling about the future, the bowed head and the burdened heart--these are not the “fruits of the Spirit.” “Perfect love casteth out fear,” sets our faces as flints, if need be, before human opposition, lifts us up above being at the mercy of events and circumstances, rises coping with and mastering the fear of death, soars on lofty wing high above the darkness of the grave, and, as the apostle in the context tells us, is made perfect herein, that we have the boldness in the day of judgment.
Love, which destroys fear, heightens reverence, and deepens self-distrust.
1. A man who is trembling about personal consequences has no eye to appreciate the thing of which he is afraid. There is no reverence where there is desperate fear. He that is trembling lest the lightning should strike him, has no heart to feel the grandeur and to be moved by the solemn awfulness of the storm above his head. And a man to whom the whole thought, or the predominant thought, when God rises before him, is, How awful will be the incidence of His perfections on my head! does not and durst not think about them, and reverence Him. Perfect love takes out of the heart all that bitter sense of possible evil coming on me and leaves me at liberty, with thankful, humble heart, and clear eye, to look into the centre of the brightness and see there the light of His infinite mercy.
2. Love destroys fear, and perfects self-distrust. “Work out your own salvation,” is the apostle’s teaching, “with fear and trembling.” If you call Him “Father” (the name that breathes from the loving heart), “pass the time of your sojourning here in fear.” What sort of fear? The fear that is timid about self, because it is, and in order that it may be, confident of God; fear which means, I know I shall fall, unless Thou hold me up, and which then changes, by quick transition, into, I shall not fall, for the Lord is able to make me stand. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
ATTRIBUTES OF PERFECT LOVE::
A) Its properties.
1. Supreme. Love to God cannot exist as a subordinate principle.
2. Pure. Before love can reign sole monarch in the soul, the “old man” must be destroyed.
3. Entire. It will not only admit of no rival, allowing neither the allurements of the world nor the charms of the creature to alienate it from the object that has engrossed it; but it admits of no comparison.
4. Constant. It is not a spark emitted from the blaze of worldly prosperity and fanned by the softness of worldly pleasure, but a flame enkindled by the Sun of Righteousness, and like the fire on the altar it never goes out
5. 5. Practical.
6. Progressive. For though perfect, it does not preclude the possibility of increase or enlargement.
B) Its operation--“casteth out fear.” A soul-tormenting fear and a fear-expelling love
I. A soul-tormenting fear.
a. This slavish fear is co extensive with the unregenerate race. A slavish fear of—
b. This slavish fear is ever associated with mental suffering. It makes the present miserable by its horrid forebodings of the future.
II. A fear-expelling love.
1. A consciousness that God loves us.
2. A settled confidence in God’s fatherly regard for us.
3. The influential dwelling of God within us.
4. The extinction by God of all selfishness within us.
III Summation: This subject
1. Supplies the test of true religion.
2. Indicates the criterion of true preaching.
3. Shows the philosophy of the gospel. (D. Thomas, D. D.)2.
How does it do this?
Faith is perfected by love. Distrust is the offspring of suspicion, and want of confidence is want of love. Where there is perfect love there is true tranquillity, the sweetest harmony: all is peace--perfect, perpetual, eternal peace. (Samuel Dunn.)
CONCLUSION:: The apostle John here presents one after another "all but impossible levels of Christian attainment"; (1) the love of all people with a self-sacrificing love like that of Christ; (2) the living of a life free from every sin; (3) confidence in the hour of the final judgment when people are pleading for the rocks and the mountains to fall upon them; and (4) the banishment of all fear; and notice that last phrase made perfect in love. Is this anything less than the total God-like perfection enjoined by Jesus Christ in Matthew 5:48? Indeed, it is the same thing, exhibited, even as it was by the author of James, as God's basic requirement of all who would be saved! Impossible for people? Certainly, except in the manner revealed in Christ. To those who are "in Christ" and who abide in him, loving him, following him, obeying him to the fullest extent of human ability - to all such persons shall be given and certified the very blessings in view here; and thus "in Christ" they may attain the unattainable!
GOD BLESS YOU.