NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY
By Dr. Robert R Seyda
FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN
CHAPTER FOUR (Lesson CXXII) 07/29/22
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.
Judith M. Lieu (1951) states that based on what the Apostle John says here, in this short section is hidden an unasked question: How does God’s agápē relate to God’s judgment? The issue is widely discussed in Jewish and Christian circles, often regarding God’s mercy and justice. But does one imperil the other? It appears that John’s horizon of concern is almost entirely restricted to the community of those who confess and who have responded to God. It is particularly so because the dual framework of past and future prophesies does not deal with any painful sensitivity to the failings and inadequacies of those who belong to God. Despair and the prospect of an adverse outcome in judgment, says Lieu, belong to the realm of death and darkness that they have left behind. John would not use fear to persuade his readers into complete obedience or commitment. They must be convinced that their task is not to achieve the fulfillment of love on their own but to allow it to be enacted on and in them.
As we have seen in the comments of others, they take a different viewpoint. Believers will not stand in the judgment of the unrighteous but will only be judged according to their works out of love in the name of the Anointed One. So, will Christians still be judged? Yes, all Christians will be judged. Every believer is subject to a three-fold judgment which covers their past, present, and future life:
As a SINNER: this judgment is PAST – John 5:24
As a SON: this judgment is PRESENT – 1 Corinthians 11:28,31,32
AS a STEWARD: this judgment is FUTURE – Romans 14:1
The question is, what is your attitude toward sin? A Christian abhors sin and refuses to stay a sinner. “Dear children, don’t let anyone lead you the wrong way. The Anointed One always did what was right. So, to be good like the Anointed One, you must do what is right. The devil has been sinning since the beginning. Anyone who continues to sin belongs to the devil. The Son of God came for this: to destroy the devil’s work.”
Ben Witherington III (1951) believed that verses seventeen and eighteen should be treated together because they deal with one basic idea: in contrasting apprehension and love, we see how love triumphs over any uneasiness over judgment. More specifically, God’s loving presence in Christians gives them relief from fear in the face of judgment. The mutual abiding love referred to in verse sixteen leads to love’s indwelling in the devoted servant and the community, leading to the dread of judgment being driven out of the Anointed One’s followers. This amounts to perfecting or completing God’s mission of love. The Greek verb teleioō is expressed as perfect passive, “having been perfected.” It may also be rendered as “has reached its goal” or “has come to completion.” It is better to translate “was brought to completion/fulfillment” or “was able to reach its goal in case someone might ask, was God’s love imperfect before it came into the lives of humans?”
Bruce G. Schuchard (1958) says that the love of which the Apostle John speaks dispels fear because it has been “brought to completion” in Jesus, for Jesus is both its source and life-transforming, life-informing, and life-defining example. It is confidence in the transformed believer who courageously loves on account of the promises of the One who loved us first. Thus, the believer exhibits a future “complete” love that is possible only because the Anointed One is the one who gives it and, sharing it, alters the life of the beloved for time and eternity. In turn, the beloved is enlivened and empowered, defined, directed, and assured by Him, who was first to love. He has no misgivings in loving us, so why should we be afraid to love Him? Eternal punishment is for the wicked, not the redeemed.
Marianne Meye Thompson (1964) says that the aged Apostle John further underscores the point when he writes, “in this world, we are like Him.” Here is an analogy between the children of God and the Son of God fellowshipping with the Father. As the Son has free access to and confidence with God, the believer has courage with God. And since boldness and cowardice are opposites of each other, John writes that in love – the hallmark of our relationship to God and Jesus’ relationship to God – there is only confidence: not uncertainty. And so, John writes, there is no panic in agápē. But perfect love drives out horror. As the context shows, [fear means the terror of punishment by God when judgment comes.
Peter Pett (1966) says that the one who is safe in God’s agápē cannot be afraid, for there is no alarm in agápē. To be within God’s agápē in the Anointed One is to be free from angst. Agápē removes all anxiety, especially faultless love, which can only signify God’s agápē reaches its pinnacle in us. The one with God’s agápē completed in them will not be apprehensive. Only those who are to be punished need to be concerned. The prospect of punishment carries despair, and the love of those afraid is not mature. This may suggest that those who dread punishment are the false teachers whose end is destruction. They have cause to be frightened because their end is inevitable. But some are dismayed because they cannot trust. They are afraid of punishment when what they should be doing is being assured in love. They need to dwell more in His presence and absorb His agápē, especially as it is revealed through the cross.
Duncan Heaster (1967) reports that psychologists suggest that something within the human psyche needs to fear and wants to be afraid. Just look at the massive success of horror stories, movies, images, and Stephen King novels and how the media realizes that their global audience laps up distress and sensationalism about terror. One common thread throughout all the pagan forerunners of the “Satanic persona” idea is that the pagan concepts are all involved in generating nightmares and intimidation.
True Christianity, says the Apostle John, aims to “expel” such forbidding through its revelation of the ultimate love of God. Unfortunately, so many control systems have played upon unwarranted concern over the devil – to bring children into subdued obedience, flocks into submission to pastors, etc. It’s time to realize that this is not how the true God works. “For fear has torment,” reads the KJV in verse eighteen, and this is precisely what proper understanding of the cross of the Anointed One saves us from. God isn’t a psychological manipulator; He doesn’t coax us into submission through trepidation. And yet it could be said that humanity is increasingly addicted to anxiety. People may mock being scared of the Loch Ness monster, werewolves, and funny sounds at night. But they still buy in ample time to uneasiness over a personal Devil. There’s something in us that wants to be afraid of something; that just loves the popular idea of a personal Satan. This is why it’s hard to budge this mentality.
Karen H. Jobes (1968) makes a note that if God’s love for us is most clearly expressed in the atoning death of Jesus to cleanse us from our sins and free us from the fear of God’s judgment, then there is nothing left for us to be scared of once we have fully comprehended God’s agápē for us.
David Legge (1969) says that if you’re in fellowship with God, you love those He loves. The doctrinal test is the apostolic message, which is the Anointed One. Hence, the social difficulty in loving our fellow believers. The Apostle John then speaks of the future manifestation of this love of God, which is why we should love one another. John stated that if God’s love is made perfect in us, we can be without uneasiness on the day when God judges the world. We will be without an alarm because we are like Jesus in this world. Where God’s love is, there is no despair because God’s perfect love takes away suspicion. It is His punishment that makes a person afraid. So, His love is not made perfect in anyone with such dismay.
Legge goes on to say that this love brings peace into our hearts, peace straight from God – so that not you’re serving God fearful of being judged or punished in the future, but that you’re serving God out of love! We love Him because He first loved us – we’re not serving God to stay out of hell; His atonement keeps us out of hell. We do and love Him because He took that punishment away! That is the moral test that our righteousness will be displayed not out of the dread of punishment but out of love for Jesus because He loved first.
David Guzik (1984) states that we may know the greatness of Jesus’ salvation now, but will we be sure of it on Judgment Day? To have such confidence shows the greatness of God’s work in us. We might be satisfied to survive the day of judgment merely, but God wants to fill our lives with His love and His truth that we have assurance in the day of judgment to testify of our love for Him and others. The Bible says that one day, all of humanity will gather before God’s Great White Throne and face judgment.
Jesus warned us we would answer for all the wild things we’ve said. This will happen on the day of judgment. Your words will be used to judge you. What you have said will show whether you are right or whether you are guilty. But our Lord was not through. He also said that when He comes again with His Father’s glory and with His angels, He will reward everyone for what they have done for Him. And John, in his revelation, tells us that he saw those who had died, great and small, standing before the throne. Some books were opened. And another book was opened – the Book of Life. The people were judged by their actions written in the books. Then the sea gave up the dead who were in it. Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them. All these people were judged by what they had done.
So, says Guzik, this day is coming! The day of judgment is as fixed in God’s eternal timetable as any other day in history. Some may think they will go there and judge God. They will tell Him; I’ve got a few questions for You. But that is nonsense. The only way to have boldness on the day of judgment is to receive, and walk in, the transforming love of God today.
 Lieu, Judith: The New Testament Commentary, op. cit., p. 195
 1 John 3:7-8
 See 1 John 2:28
 1 John 4:12
 Ben Witherington III. Letters and Homilies for Hellenized Christians: op. cit., loc. cit., (Kindle Locations 7257-7263)
 Schuchard, Bruce G., Concordia Commentary, op. cit., p. 489
 Cf. John 17:21-23
 1 John 2:1, 28; 3:19-22; 4:18; 5:14
 Thompson, Marianne M., The IVP New Testament Commentary, op. cit., p. 127
 Ibid. 4:12
 Pett, Peter: Commentary on the Bible, op. cit., PDF, loc. cit.
 Heaster, Duncan: New European Commentary, op. cit., 1 John, p. 36
 Jobes, Karen H., 1, 2, and 3 John (Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, Book 18), p. 205
 Legge, David: 1,2,3, John, Preach the Word, op. cit., “Christian Love: Its Source and Sign,” Part 13
 Matthew 12:36-37
 Ibid. 16:27
 Guzik, David: Enduring Word, op. cit., loc. cit.