There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love, (4:18).
Let’s imagine what these believers were up against. Actually, it doesn’t take a lot of imagination. For while we may not be inundated with the false teaching of Gnosticism, Western Christianity is certainly being besieged by false teachings of its own; and it’s not a far stretch from the false teaching of John’s day that led to self-absorbed lifestyles.
Today, many teach that if we have the right kind of faith or enough faith, then every want we have should be met. Faith is equated to getting, and often the getting involves wealth or material possessions. Both these false teachings place the emphasis on the physical and lead to self-indulgent obsessions that leave little room or concern for the needs of others.
So what is John’s advice for these believers? How are they to stand strong against the false teachers?
John encourages skepticism and testing. Don’t believe everything you hear and test every teaching against God’s ultimate Truth revealed in the Incarnate Christ.
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; 3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God… (4:1-3).
And from there, as they say, the proof is in the pudding. But it can be scary going against the tide of popular opinion. And the promise of overcoming life is given for every believer who confesses that Jesus has come in the flesh and is from God.
You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world, (4:4).
John encourages every believer with God’s Truth: because He is in us, we will overcome the enemy. And the barometer that He is in fact in us is His Perfect Love. His Perfect Love moved Him to give His Son as the Propitiation for Our Sins. And as John wrote, when we know His Perfect Love, we will be moved to Love as He Loves.
We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren, (1 John 3:16).
The false teachings dangled before the believers promised instant gratification; but that is a far cry from overcoming life. And as John pointed out, believers who get trapped in that lifestyle will be plagued by guilt. But those who pursue obedience and Love will have the unassailable confidence of their salvation.
We will know by this that we are of the truth, and will assure our heart before Him 20 in whatever our heart condemns us; for God is greater than our heart and knows all things. 21 Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; (1 John 3:19-21).
This confidence will be proven by His Spirit Who abides in us and Perfects His Love in us.
No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us. 13 By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit, (4:12-13).
From Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance:
Perfect (noun): 5046. τέλειος téleios; fem. teleía, neut. téleion, adj. from télos (5056), goal, purpose. Finished, that which has reached its end, term, limit; hence, complete, full, wanting in nothing.
Perfect(ed) (verb): 5048. τελειόω teleióō; contracted teleiṓ, fut. teleiṓsō, from téleios (5046), complete, mature. To complete, make perfect by reaching the intended goal… to bring to a full end, completion, reaching the intended goal, to finish a work…
Because God’s Love is Perfect, complete, full, and wanting in nothing, He is able to Perfect His Love in us and bring it to its intended goal as He finishes His work in us.
Consider His Perfect Love
- His Perfect Love Sent His Only Begotten Son to be the Propitiation for Our Sins
- By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins, (4:9-10).
- His Perfect Love Gives Us Confidence in the Day of Judgment
- By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. (4:17).
- His Perfect Love Casts Out Fear
- There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love, (4:18).
- His Perfect Love Empowers Us to Love
- We love, because He first loved us, (4:19).
- His Perfect Love Commands Us to Love Our Brother
- And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also, (4:21).
How do we respond to His Perfect Love?
John told us exactly how we are to respond.
And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also, (4:21).
Loving our brother is evidence that the One Who is greater than he that is in the world is in us. And John again calls us to test the spirits; and this time our own.
If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen, (4:20).
Testing implies an understanding of the facts. And perhaps the truest facts of Love are provided in this chapter.
Love as a noun: God is love (4:16). His Love is Perfect because He is Love
Love as a verb: He first loved us (4:19). He Perfects us by His Love because He first loved us.
We know His Perfect Love because He is Love. And we are enabled to Love others because He first Perfectly Loved us.
Twenty-seven times in these twenty-one verses, some form of the word, love, is penned. And the bottom line is this: when we know Him Who Is Love and when we have been Loved first by Him Who Is Love, there can only be one response, share His Perfect Love with others.
Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another, (4:11).
Oh, He so Loved us! He Perfectly Loved us; He completely reached His intended goal and finished His work through the sacrificial giving of His Son, Who is complete, full and wanting of nothing, as the Propitiation for Our Sins.
By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins, (4:9-10).
And because He is the Propitiation for Our Sins, we are set free from the fear of His wrath. And He has promised to Perfect us in His Perfect Love that we would live in confidence until the day He comes again.
By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love, (4:17-18).
Oh, that we would Love Him above all else until that day. Let us live by faith in Him Who is in us, that we would be empowered to overcome false teachings that lead us to desire getting things more than Loving Him. Oh, let us live in such an all-consuming gratitude for His Perfect Love that our only possible response would be obedience to His command, that we would Love one another just as He has Loved us, with His Perfect Love.
“This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends,” (John 15:12-13).