NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY
By Dr. Robert R Seyda
FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN
CHAPTER FOUR (Lesson CXV) 07/19/22
4:18 Where God’s love is, there is no fear because God’s perfect love takes it away. On the contrary, it is His punishment that makes a person afraid.
On the human level, only total acceptance of another person will remove the anxiety of rejection. For example, in marriage, a love relationship free of apprehension is one where there is a total embrace commitment of one’s mate. Complete forgiveness is also necessary for a transparent relationship. God desires that His children have confidence in His love. He does not want them to dread Him. Despair paralyzes our fellowship with God. God loves us with everlasting love, an unconditional love. Nothing constrains or cancels His love so we can feel confident in our union with Him.
Therefore, perfected love in the believer is a love that resides in God’s agápē, in mutual friendship with the Lord. Love rejects dismay in its sphere of influence. Being scared is at variance with and contrary to God’s agápē. Worry has its payback. Uneasiness is an unsettling passion that tortures itself. Love drives out this terror. When God’s agápē develops in us, it expels panic caused by God’s immediate exclusion or retribution. Unloving Christians experience self-induced misery because they know they must face sinful tendencies at the Judgment Seat of the Anointed One. The believer who loves other Christians has no apprehension about meeting the Lord.
The Greek concept of “torment” is literally to cut short, punish, and correct. Unfortunately, the translation “torment” (KJV) is too intense for the Greek noun kolasis. The misgivings here are from the believer’s life being at variance with God’s love and thus subject to corrective discipline. The one habitually characterized by submissive cowardice is the opposite of the one applying God’s love to their life so that they become mature in owning God’s love. The mere absence of distress proves nothing. Some people operate in bold defiance, hopeless ignorance, presumptuous unbelief, and inexcusable indifference. This is not agápē which displaces misgivings.
So, we can say there is no doubt that people have a phobia about judgment. They are afraid to render account to God. A person that grows into the maturity of God’s agápē banishes being alarmed from their life. Anxiety paralyzed Adam in Genesis. Apprehension is the soul’s first penalty. It is the thing we suffer first when we step out of line with the Lord. It is the awareness that we are not in unity with the Lord. The principle that love removes unnecessary concern is true on the human level. Children who are assured of their parents’ love learn not to dread them. A wife who knows her husband loves her is not afraid of him. Love banishes any misgivings. When you know God loves you, you are no longer afraid of God, the future, death, eternity, or judgment. However, there is uncertainty if you do not know God’s agápē.
We must recognize that suspicious doubt comes from our hearts, not God. Conviction is the watchman of our soul that warns us that we are in dangerous territory. It alerts us that our soul is not right with God. Love gives no warning signal to our soul because we know we are in fellowship with the Lord. Distress imprisons us in anxiety and worry. It limits our lives. Apprehension immobilizes some people. They will not fly in a plane because of uneasiness. Others will not venture into new business due to anxiety. Despair keeps them from living for God as well. They do not enter into abundant living because Satan imprisoned their soul in hopeless dismay. Remember, FEAR is: False Evidence Appearing Real.
The love that builds confidence also gets rid of doubts. God’s love is friendly toward the believer because of the Anointed One. The believer’s love should be agreeable toward fellow Christians because of their family relationship to the Anointed One. Other Christians are worthy of being loved because of the Anointed One. If a person dreads the thought of judgment day, their life is not guided by God’s perfected agápē that expresses itself in concrete action. In other words, they have no basis for assurance concerning their welfare when facing the Anointed One’s Judgment Seat. “Love” here also has the additional thought of “acceptance.”
So, again, dread is a feeling of anxiety caused by imagined danger. Horror can paralyze believers, making them incapable of doing God’s will. We conquer suspicion when we remember that God loves us. That is the way people act who do not know the future. They don’t want to learn the outcome. They would rather remain in the dark. Uneasiness is a real thing, often based on unreal issues.
Therefore, Love that accomplishes its purpose expels distress. It releases us from the fearfulness of bondage. It frees us to engage others. Hate is not necessarily the opposite of love. Faintheartedness can be the opposite of love. Love gives, but fright keeps. Love moves toward others, but alarm moves away. Anxiety is afraid of loss. Love is concerned with giving. Love does not tremble in dismay. Love does not live a defensive life, always avoiding and never risking. On the contrary, love always reaches out to others.
A formerly enslaved Greek who became a Christian under the Apostle Paul’s ministry named Hermas (circa 50-150 AD) reflects on what the Apostle John says here in verse eighteen about having reverence for God and not fearing the devil. To respect the Lord means not doing the devil’s bidding. For there are two kinds of respect: If you do not wish to do that which is evil, have respect for the Lord, and you will not do it; but, again, if you want to do that which is good, reverence the Lord, and you will do it. That’s because respect for the Lord is strong, great, and glorious. Reverence the Lord, and you will live for Him, and as many as respect and keep His commandments will live for God. Why did Solomon say that those who keep His commandments will live for God? Although all creation revers the Lord, creation does not keep His commandments. Only those who respect the Lord and keep His commandments have God’s life, but there is no life in those who do not keep His commandments.
Clement of Alexandria (150-216) comments on the Apostle John’s statement that perfect love drives away all fear by saying; thus, their love is perfected. So, this agápē of which John speaks is not human, but divine love is known as agápē. You cannot develop it, nor buy it, or earn it. It is God’s gift to all who believe in His Son Jesus and are born again. This agápē cannot be misused because it does not function under such circumstances. But it can be abused when left untouched in a believer’s heart.
Tertullian (155-220 AD) uses the scorpion as a metaphor for heresy, and the cure for its sting is the Anointed One’s Gospel. So, says Tertullian, if they try to shame you for the name of the Anointed One, you should be happy; because glory and the Spirit of God rest on you: if only none of you suffer as a murderer, thief, evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters; yet, as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but glorify God because of it. John urges us to lay down our lives even for our brethren, affirming that there is no fear in love: For perfect love drives out dread, since doubt has consequences; and they who are afraid are not perfecting their love. What suspicion would it be better to understand than that which gives rise to denial? What love does to be perfect, but that which puts terror to flight and gives the courage to confess? What penalty will God appoint as the punishment for such uneasiness? Only that those who deny Him will pay by their soul’s everlasting torment in hell?
Tertullian also tells us that the teaching of the apostles was indeed in everything according to the mind of God: they forgot and omitted nothing of the Gospel. Therefore, we are told to shine as sons of light and not hide as sons of darkness. We are commanded to stand steadfast, and certainly not to act an opposite part by fleeing; and to be assured, not acting like a fugitive or oppose the Gospel. He points out weapons, too, which persons who intend to run away would not require. And among these, he notes the shield, that we may be able to extinguish the devil’s fiery darts when doubtless we resist him and sustain his assaults in their utmost force. Accordingly, John also teaches that we must lay down our lives for the brethren; much more, then, we must do it for the Lord. This cannot be fulfilled by those who flee. Finally, mindful of his Revelation, in which he heard the doom of the fearful (and so) speaking from personal knowledge, he warns us that we must put away all apprehension. “There is no fear,” says he, “in love, but perfect love drives out distress.” Worry has torment – the fiery lake, no doubt. Anguish will keep a believer from perfecting – namely, God’s agápē. Who will flee out of panic of persecution? Only those who have not loved.
Furthermore, we find that historian Eusebius of Caesarea (260-339 AD) speaks of Phileas, the first bishop of Thmuis, a town in Lower Egypt, distinguished for his service to his country, his eminence in philosophical studies, and his proficiency in foreign literature and science. He tells us further that, along with another person of considerable importance named Philoromus, a noble Christian, a colonel, and the emperor’s treasurer-general in Alexandria, had his tribunal in Thmuis, where he sat everyday hearing and judging cases. But after his arrest, he too was brought to trial for his faith; he withstood the threats and insults of the judge. All the pleas of relatives and friends to compromise his Christian belief failed, and he was condemned to lose his head. Jerome also, in the passage already referred to, names him a true philosopher and, at the same time, a godly martyr; and states that on assuming the position of a bishop over his native district, he wrote an exquisite book in praise of the martyrs.
 Ephesians 4:31-32
 Genesis 3:9-10
 1 John 4:17
 Ibid. 4:16, 19
 See Joshua 1:9; Psalm 23:4; 27:1; 46:1-3; John 14:27; 2 Timothy 1:7
 Romans 16:14
 Ecclesiastes 12:13
 Shepherd of Hermas, Commandment Seven
 Clement of Alexandria, Fragments of Clemens Alexandrinus, Trans. William Wilson, The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 2, Comments on the First Epistle of John, p. 1165
 1 Peter 4:12
 1 John 3:16
 Ibid. 4:18
 Tertullian: Scorpiace (Antidote for the Scorpion’s Sting), Ch. 12
 1 Thessalonians 5:5
 1 Corinthians 15:58
 Ephesians 6:16
 1 John 3:16
 Ibid. 4:18
 Tertullian: De Fuga in Persecutone, (Flight into Persecution), Translated by Sydney Thelwall, ⁋ 9