NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY
By Dr. Robert R Seyda
FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN
CHAPTER FOUR (Lesson CXVII) 07/21/22
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.
This gives saints delight, says Owen, that the commandments of the Anointed One are not grievous to them. Jacob’s lengthy service was not burdensome to him because of His love for Rachel. No saint’s duties should bring them grief because of their passion for the Anointed One. On the contrary, they do everything with delight and satisfaction. That’s why they yearn for the advantages of walking with God. It gives them joy in doing because there’s no fear in love, but perfect love drives out all anxiety. When their soul undergoes training to be obedient to love, it expels that apprehension that incapacitates the spirit. When love and life work together, there is freedom, liberty, and a big heart. It creates a lot of distance between them and those weak and bandaged souls on the broad way to destruction who do not know what it’s like to be adopted by God as His children.
John Bunyan (1628-1688), author of Pilgrim’s Progress, writes that the God to whom we confess all, we will now more perfectly than ever see that He does love us and freed us from sin’s bondage, even before we confessed and acknowledged Him; and His children will have their soul so full of the ecstacies of life and glory that now they are in, that they will be swallowed up in that measure and manner, that neither dismay, nor guilt, nor confusion can come near them, or touch them. Their Divine Judge is their Savior, their Husband, and Head, who, though He will bring every one of them for all things to judgment, will keep them forever out of condemnation and anything that trend that way. “Perfect love drives out fear,” even while we are here; much more than when we are with our Savior, our Jesus, who transitioned from death to life.
Johann Bengel (1687-1752) says fear recoils from the thought of God and the day of judgment. The conditions of mankind vary. They may have neither despair nor love, dismay without love, dread with love, or love without suspicion. In love — Towards God. Perfect – To this reference made perfect in verse seventeen. Has torment — As being distrustful; imagining and resolving all things to be adverse and hostile to itself; and fleeing from and hating them. The terror of punishment – Distress about God includes punishment – the consciousness of deserving it.
Thomas Pyle (1674-1756) says that we not only may safely believe but depend upon our reward with the utmost assurance, joy, and satisfaction. Therefore, to be hesitant, fearful, and unsure about the certainty of one’s future happiness is a sign either that a person does not have a “grateful apprehension” of the mercy, truth, and God’s agápē, through the Anointed One, or, is not truly conscious of having performed the duties of their calling.
Leonard Howard (1699-1767) states that perfected love will lack nothing, nor will it be discouraged at the prospect of any danger in the service of His beloved Son. To fearful believers, this is a constant “rank and check” and argues that their love for God is fragile and has not yet conquered this uneasy passion. How many Christians, including yourself, are hesitant to advance in their faith because of the uncertainty of failing? This can only mean they depend on themselves to succeed rather than trusting God to help them grow and mature.
James Macknight (1721-1800) believes that the love which the Apostle John calls perfect is love for mankind valued according to God’s will and exercised regularly, as opportunities allow, in the same manner, God exercises His agápē for us. This agápē, though not perfect in its degree or measure, may be called perfect because it proceeds from a correct principle and routinely leads the person in whose heart it lives to do to their neighbor everything they have the power to do.
John Brown of Haddington (1722-1787) says that our love for Him and each other is unaccompanied by anxiety. What fear might that be? Do we have misgivings about failure? Is our angst based on weakness so we cannot offer love to those around us, especially those who have offended us? No. Dismay is associated with punishment. The believer has been fully forgiven of sins. The one who knows the Anointed One in true fellowship lives for Him and does not need to be afraid of future punishment. The person who experiences panic “has not been perfected in love.” In other words, those who are scared of being punished don’t have a complete or mature relationship with their fellow believers. This includes believers who are not growing in the Anointed One. The growing, maturing believer can look forward to the future with joy rather than hesitation.
Brown then says that perfected love is accompanied by a holy relationship-love for Him and His children and being cautious of not offending either one. We know that we have passed from spiritual death to living in the Spirit who is in us. This kind of love leaves out distrust, despair, and total dismay at the thought of meeting Him as though He were an enemy, not a friend. So, the stronger and more assured our love is by His agápē for us, the more effective it will reject feeling like a scared servant terrified of Him. What bothers many Christians is that while they are careful not to offend their heavenly Father, the world goes unpunished for their lack of reverence and law-breaking attitude regarding the morality and ethics of His Word. Don’t worry; you know that your future life will be far different than theirs.
Thomas Scott’s (1747-1821) commentary on Matthew’s Gospel mentions where Jesus said, “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.” Scott also notes that the Apostle Paul calls them “transforming themselves” into the apostles of the Anointed One, as ministers of righteousness. These good words and fair speeches might deceive the hearts of the simple, which is unbelievable. They learned this from the devil, that grand juggler, who can soon transform himself into an angel of light. In his First Epistle, the Apostle John tells us of many petty antichrists, even then gone out, who professing the Anointed One’s name oppose His reality as both Son of God and son of man.
Charles Simeon (1759-1836) (1759-1836) tells us to guard against that kind of confidence founded on vain delusions. There are some who, from impulses, visions, or other delusive imaginations, develop confidence that they will never be questioned. But this is not the confidence of love. Love is jealous of itself and is glad to have its actings scrutinized with the utmost exactness. Love affects the honor of God and is infinitely more anxious that God be glorified than to conceal one’s defects. Getting rid of fear is not at all the object of love but the effect of it. Let the one goal of everyone’s soul be to glorify God; with the growth of love, will peace and joy be multiplied, both in time and eternity.
Gottfried C. F. Lücke (1791-1855) says Christian brotherly love implies perfect keeping of the divine commandments, that is when like the Anointed One’s love, full of confidence on the day of judgment, and conscious of its innocence, approaches God without fear. But, in general, the Apostle John continues in verse eighteen that terror (of God) is incompatible with (true Christian) love. True love and terror exclude each other because love and cheerful confidence are inseparable. For the terror (of God in judgment) is grounded on the consciousness of merited punishment. Still, the terror of punishment annihilates the perfect and cheerful love which is full of confidence.
This proposition, says Lücke, is perfectly understood when we recall that John makes Christian brotherly love identical to loving God and considers the former as a necessary manifestation of the latter so that perfect brotherly love is, at the same time, perfect love to God. Saying that fear has torment does not mean, as some suppose, dismay itself is punished, but there is punishment in uneasiness; worry is combined with the consciousness of punishment.
Albert Barnes (1798-1870) talks about the relationship between love with fear. He says love is not an affection that produces anxiety. There is no anxiousness in our love for a parent, a child, or a friend. When a person has perfect love for God, there would be no fright of anything – for what would they have to dread? They would have no dismay about death, for they would have nothing to dread beyond the grave. It is guilt that makes people apprehensive about what is to come, but those whose sins are pardoned and whose hearts are filled with God’s agápē have nothing to dread in this world or the world to come. The angels in heaven, who have always loved God and one another, have no uneasiness, for they have nothing to dread in the future; the redeemed at rest awaiting the resurrection, being protected from all danger, and filled with God’s agápē, have nothing to dread; and as far as that same love operates on earth, it delivers the soul now from all apprehension of what is to come.
Richard Rothe (1799-1867) notes that when the Apostle John speaks about “fear,” he is not referring to the ordinary emotion of fright, anxiety, despair, dread, horror, or panic. Instead, he is talking about distress over eternal punishment that will come to all who do not accept Jesus as God’s Son and receive Him as their Lord and Savior. That’s why he used the Greek noun Phobos, which includes all these things. Therefore, none of these torments can survive in God’s perfected love. All believers should have another “concern” about God and His Word. It is expressed in the Greek noun eulabeia, which means reverence or veneration. That should be in all our hearts for the One who loved us so much.
 Genesis 29:20
 1 John 4:18
 Cf. Matthew 7:13-14
 Owen, John: On Communion with God, Ch. 10, p. 278
 1 John 4:18
 Bunyan, John: Practical Works, Vol. 1, op. cit., p. 281
 Bengel, Johann: Critical English Testament, op. cit., p. 322
 Pyle, Thomas: Paraphrase, op. cit., p. 398
 In old English, Rank – is slang for something horrible, in bad taste, or smells unpleasant. Check – is understood as a reassessment of whether to go forward.
 Howard, Leonard: The Royal Bible, op. cit., loc. cit
 Macknight, James: Literal Paraphrase, op. cit., p. 95
 Brown, John of Haddington: Self-Interpreting Bible, op. cit., p. 1328
 Matthew 7:15
 2 Corinthians 11:13; 16:18
 1 John 4:1
 Scott, Thomas: Theological Works, op. cit., p. 230
 Simeon, Charles: Hor Homileticæ, op. cit., Discourse 2460, p. 512
 See 1 John 4:21
 Ibid. 3:19-20
 See Matthew 27:46; 2 Maccabees 4:38
 Barnes, Albert: Notes on the N.T., op. cit., p.4869
 See Hebrews 5:7; 12:28
 Rothe, Richard: The Expository Times, op. cit., June 1894, p. 422