1 John 4:18
There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear involves punishment. The one who fears has not been perfected in love.
A Soul-Tormenting Fear and a Fear-Expelling LoveD. Thomas, D. D.1 John 4:18
FearDean Alford.1 John 4:18
Fear and LoveW. Bright, D. D.1 John 4:18
Fear has Many Eyes. Fear Hath PunishmentCambridge Bible for Schools1 John 4:18
Love and FearA. Maclaren, D. D.1 John 4:18
Love and FearJ. M. Gibbon.1 John 4:18
Love and FearA. Maclaren, D. D.1 John 4:18
Perfect LoveSamuel Dunn.1 John 4:18
Perfect LoveG. D. Watson.1 John 4:18
The Place of Fear in the GospelDean Vaughan.1 John 4:18
The Spirit of FearJames Freeman Clarke.1 John 4:18
Threefold Recommendation of the Duty of Loving One AnotherR. Finlayson 1 John 4:7-21
The Victory of Love Over FearW. Jones 1 John 4:17, 18

Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment, etc. Our text authorizes the following observations.

I. THAT A GREAT DAY OF JUDGMENT AWAITS US IN THE FUTURE. St. John speaks of the day of judgment." The evidence for the coming of such a day is various and strong.

1. The administration of moral government in this world requires it. In this present state the distribution of good and evil, of prosperity and adversity, among men is not in harmony with their respective characters. We find St. Paul in prison, and Nero on the throne; the infamous Jeffreys on the bench, the sainted Baxter at the bar. This aspect of the Divine government occasioned sore perplexity to Asaph (Psalm 73:2-14), and from that perplexity he obtained deliverance by the recollection of the truth that a time of judgment and retribution awaits our race in the future (Psalm 73:16-20).

2. Conscience anticipates the coming of such a day. The "dread of something after death" has been felt by most men at some time or other. The voice within testifies to the solemn truth that after death cometh judgment.

3. The Bible declares the coming of such a day. (See Ecclesiastes 11:9; Ecclesiastes 12:14; Matthew 12:36; Matthew 25:31-46; Acts 17:31; Romans 2:16; Romans 14:10, 12; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Jude 1:14, 15; Revelation 20:11-13.)

II. THAT THE SOLEMN TRANSACTIONS OF THAT DAY ARE FITTED TO AWAKEN HUMAN FEARS. Very clearly is this implied in the text. The awakened conscience cries, "Enter not into judgment with thy servant; for before thee no man living is righteous." Two things in connection with the day of judgment are likely to lead to fear.

1. The consciousness of our sins. No human being can stand before the great tribunal and plead "Not guilty." In relation to man we may be guiltless; that is possible. But in relation to the holy God and his perfect Law, we have each sinned, and brought ourselves into condemnation, and merited punishment. Hence the prospect of the day of judgment may well awaken our fear.

2. The omniscience and holiness of the Judge. He knows our every sin. Even our sinful thoughts and feelings are manifest unto him. He has set our iniquities before him, our secret sins in the light of his countenance (Psalm 90:8). And he cannot excuse any sin. Sin is the abominable thing which he hates (Jeremiah 44:4). He is "of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look on iniquity" (Habakkuk 1:13). Who, then, can stand before him in that day?

III. PERFECT LOVE WILL BANISH SUCH FEARS AND INSPIRE HOLY CONFIDENCE. "Herein is love made perfect with us, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment," etc. "Love" here is not merely our love to God, or our love to our neighbour, but the principle of love, or, as Ebrard expresses it, "the love which subsists between God and us; thus that simple relation of love of which the apostle had spoken in verse 12, and just now again in verse 16." And its being perfected cannot mean that it is so fully developed as to be incapable of further increase or improvement. In that sense love will never be altogether "made perfect with us." One meaning of "to be made perfect" is "to attain its end." And one of the designs of God is that love should inspire us with holy boldness in the day of judgment. "The confidence," says Afford, "which we shall have in that day, and which we have even now by anticipation of that day, is the perfection of our love; grounded on the consideration which follows;" viz. "Because as he is, even so are we in this world."

1. Perfect love expels servile fear. There is a reverent fear which increases as our love increases. "O fear the Lord, ye his saints," etc. (Psalm 34:9); "Ye that fear the Lord, trust in the Lord," etc. (Psalm 115:11, 13). But servile fear, the fear which hath torment, is incompatible with holy love. "There is no fear in love: but perfect love casteth out fear," etc. What countless fears agitate the hearts of those who are not in sympathy with God! Some men are dreading secular poverty; others, painful and lingering illness; others, death; others, judgment; others, God himself. Such fears agitate and distress souls; they have torment. Perfect love will expel each and all of these tormentors. It clothes our life and its experiences in new aspects, by enabling us to regard them in a different spirit. This love is of God; it proceeds from him and returns to him, and it cannot dread him or his appointments in relation to us. In this way it banishes from the heart the dread of death and of the judgment.

2. Perfect love inspires holy confidence. It will impart "boldness in the day of judgment." Holy love is a most courageous thing. "Love is strong as death.... Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it." Since this relation of love subsists between God and us, and since God is what he is, viz. "love" (verse 16) and "light" (1 John 1:5), we can do no other than trust him, and even now look forward with confidence to the day of judgment, Perfect love not only expels servile fear, but inspires victorious trust in God.

IV. THE CONFIDENCE WHICH PERFECT LOVE INSPIRES IS WELL-GROUNDED. "Because as he is, even so are we in this world." "God is love; and he that abideth in love abideth in God, and God abideth in him;" and in a measure he is like unto God. Moreover, love is a transforming principle and power; and they who abide in love are ever growing into more complete likeness to God in Christ; and for this reason they may be well assured that in the day of judgment they will be accepted of him. If we are in this relation of holy love, we have communion with our Lord and Saviour, he dwells in us, we dwell in him, and we may rejoice in the assurance that, because we morally resemble him, he will not condemn us in that day. - W.J.

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment
Some readers of the Bible, some preachers of the gospel, have thought that fear was a dangerous, was even a forbidden principle, under the dispensation of the fulness of times. This is a hasty inference. Our Lord says, "Fear Him which, after He hath killed, hath power to cast into hell." St. Paul says, "Work out their own salvation with fear and trembling"; and St. Peter commends a "chaste conversation coupled with fear"; and even St. John, who speaks of "perfect love casting out fear," yet uses this, in the Revelation, as a description of the faithful — "them that fear Thy name." Fear has a place in the gospel, may we but find it. Indeed it is an old remark, that every natural principle of our mind has an object assigned to it — is not to be crushed, only to be redirected. Fear is not the whole of religion. Some Christian people have made it so, and suffered greatly in consequence. But in these cases we may hope that there is a blessed surprise of love in store for souls which here lived too much in the darkness of mistrust and self-suspicion. As they emerge out of that thick gloom which we call life into a world where there is neither puzzle of intellect, nor oppression of the world, nor assault of the devil, they learn, as in a moment, how much better God was to them than they felt or saw. How shall it be with another class — with those who have banished fear altogether from their religion, not by that perfecting of love which St. John speaks of, but by a refusal to read anything in their gospel but that which was instantly bright, indiscriminately alluring? If now we try to grapple closely with the very question itself, What is the place of fear in the gospel? we must begin by guarding ourselves against one great confusion. The object of fear may be either a thing or a person.

1. We fear a thing which, being possible, is also undesirable or dreadful. Our own Prayer Book, commenting in the catechism upon the Lord's Prayer, bids us call three things evil:

(1)Sin and wickedness;

(2)Our ghostly enemy;

(3)Everlasting death.

2. There is a fear also of persons. In some respects nearly allied to the other — as where we dread the arrival of a judge who is to try us, and whose sentence must certainly bring after it imprisonment or execution. There it is scarcely the person — it is simply the instrument of the thing — which is really the object of the fear. The fear of God as a Person is essentially of a higher order. To feel that there is One above me, to whom I am accountable, if it be but as my Judge, there is something elevating in the very conception. But this, if it stop here, is the religion of fallen nature; it is scarcely the religion even of law — for the law itself gave many glimpses of a Divine heart that could feel and a Divine grace that could comfort. This mere dread, though it is a higher thing than indifference, is no part of the gospel. From this kind of fear the convinced man, if he yields himself to Christ's teaching, will pass on into a higher. And it is in reference to this step that there is the greatest need of Christian guidance. We do not speak of a spirit of bondage, making a man crouch before God as his stern taskmaster. Not of a life of toilsome, unloving labour, which hopes in the end to make God its debtor. There is no trace of gospel fear in all this. But that humble, filial reverence, which never forgets or slights the distance between the Creator and the creature which exercises itself day by day "to have always a conscience void of offence both toward God and toward man" — this is a Christian grace: if there be yet one higher, it must be sought, not in the abandonment, but in the strengthening of this. When a man has lived for long years in the pursuit of God — when he has brought his life by daily self-discipline into a condition of habitual watchfulness — then, as the fear of falling away becomes less predominant, there takes its place, by little and little, that absolute oneness of will with the will of God, of which it has been boldly yet beautifully written that then, then at length, self-indulgence itself may become a virtue. In that man fear has indeed been cast out, not by carelessness, but by love; in him, at last, as God's free gift to a life of godly reverence, "in him verily is the love of God perfected."

(Dean Vaughan.)

I. The apostle here contemplates A UNIVERSAL DOMINION OF FEAR, wherever there is not the presence of active love. Of course, he is speaking about the emotions which men cherish with regard to God. All men everywhere have some more or less faint or clear conviction of the existence of a God. All men everywhere have some more or less active or torpid working of conscience. Blend together these two things, and take into account that the fact of sin necessarily brings about much ignorance of the true character of Him whom the consciousness of sin arrays in awful attributes of holiness and justice; and there follows inevitably, universally, though not always with equal strength and prominence, this feeling towards God, I knew Thee that thou wert austere, and I was afraid. The truth of this representation of the universal dominion of fear is not made in the least degree doubtful by the fact that the ordinary condition of men is not one of active dread of God. There is nothing more striking than that strange power that a man has of refusing to think of a subject because he knows that to think of it would be torture and terror. Heathenism is, to a large extent, the offspring of fear. All thoughts of sacrifice as propitiating an offended God come from that dark and coiling fear which lurks in the heart. And it affects so called Christianity too. There are plenty of people who call themselves Christians whose whole religion consists in deprecating the wrath of God, whom they dimly think of as angry with them, and who, their consciences tell them, might well be so! Sometimes, again, this same fear takes the understanding into its pay, and appears as enlightened disbelief in God and immortality. The brain is often bribed by the conscience, and the wish becomes the father of the thought. Sometimes it takes the shape of vehement efforts to get rid of unwelcome thought by fierce plunging into business, or into wild riot.

II. 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 some thing. 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.


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.)

Love is pure; love is kind and tender; love is bold and confident. There is no fear in perfect love. Much of the would be unbelief of the day springs from terror. No doubt there is real honest unbelief — a failing to believe — inability to find truth. These deserve our tenderest pity. You should pity and pray for those out in the godless, hopeless gloom, as you pity and pray for the sailors at sea when the wind howls round your house, and you hear the loud boom of the storm driven waves on the shore. Much of the feverishness with which men plunge into business, and whirl in the eddies of pleasure, arises from their dread of God. But, worse still, many so called religious people never get beyond this state of dread. They only know God as the Terrible One. James Mill taught his son John Stuart to think of God as "the Almighty Author of Hell," and to hate the idea of Him therefore. Of all that the New Testament says of God, James Mill chose to seize only on that. He said nothing of heaven, nor of God's efforts to keep men from hell. And many people follow his example; they seem to know nothing of God's love; they spend their lives deprecating God's wrath. Now, if you live in this state, your religion is of the poorest, lowest possible description. Fear paralyses all the powers of the soul, and must be got rid of before progress can take place. The bird newly caught is afraid of everything and everybody — of the hand that feeds and caresses it: and you get no song while that fear lasts. A fresh boy in school, on the first day, is afraid of everything, and while that fear lasts he learns nothing. He cannot read or write, he can neither draw nor reckon, till the fear is gone. Now so has it ever been with men. As long as men dreaded nature they made no progress in knowledge or power. As long as men throughout the length and breadth of Europe believed that God the Father, and even Christ the Saviour, were so awful and implacable to men, that Mary, the gentle Virgin, must intercede with them for the sinful and the needy, so long could the priests make them believe whatever they chose to tell them, and make them do whatever they pleased to bid them. For fear is credulous. Everything startles it. Now those times, though called the ages of faith, were very barren of religion. Fear demoralised men. There was no joy in religion and no love. Now what is true of others is true of us. If you dread God, then you do not love Him — you cannot. In time, you are bound to hate what you dread. This fear must be got rid of. it is the work of perfect love to cast it out of the soul. "Perfect love casteth out fear." You must not be afraid to accept the broad statement that "God is love."

(J. M. Gibbon.)

(with 2 Timothy 1:7; Romans 8:15; John 14:27): — I have brought together several passages to show that the spirit of the gospel is not a spirit of fear, and that Jesus came to deliver us from all fear. There are some objections to be first considered. If life is full of danger and evil, ought we not to be afraid? it may be asked. And if the Bible Contains passages which teach us not to fear, does it not contain other passages which teach that we ought to fear? (Matthew 10:28; Philippians 2:12; 1 Peter 1:17; Proverbs 3:7). How are these facts and statements to be reconciled with the assertion that it is the duty of Christians not to fear? First, we may say that a distinction can be taken between fear as a subordinate motive and fear as a ruling motive of human action. Fear as the ruling motive of conduct is degrading, because it is essentially selfish. But fear, when controlled by reason, subordinate to hope, joined with courage, becomes caution, watchfulness, modesty. The Christian fears, but is never governed by his fears. But, again, how much we need to fear and ought to fear depends upon the progress of our inward life and Christian experience. The work of Christ is to deliver us from all excessive fear, and to leave in its place calmness and sober watchfulness and a profound peace. But this work is not done suddenly; it is a progressive work. And how this is let us now consider. First, consider fear of sin and of its consequences. The main purpose of Christianity is to save us from sin, and thereby to save us from its consequences, which are moral and spiritual death. And it saves us, not by inspiring fear, but by inspiring faith and courage. It assures us that "sin shall not have dominion" over us. The law of God shows us what our duty is, but gives us no power to do it. The purer and higher the standard, the less ability we feel to reach it. And discouragement is moral death. What we need is the spirit of adoption, whereby we may cry, "Abba, Father!" Then there will be no more fear, neither fear of man nor fear of God, nor fear of sin, nor fear of death, nor fear of what follows death. But in order to be freed from fear, it is not enough to be told not to fear. In the midst of a battle tell the coward not to be afraid; in the midst of a thunderstorm tell the person who shrinks from the vivid flash arid the astounding peal that he need not fear. What good will it do? The source of fear is within, and that must be removed. So preach as much as we may the mercy of God, I tell you that men will still fear, will fear death, will fear hell, as long as unreconciled, unrepented sin is in their hearts. To cure our souls of fear, to fill them with hope and trust, there is but one way, and that is to look our sins in the face, to look God's law in the face, to see the eternal connection between right and good, death and evil; and then, when we have had an experience of duty, of responsibility, of sin, of danger, we are ready to enter into the deeper experience of pardon, of hope, of entire, present joyous salvation. Thus delivered from the fear of sin by the power of the gospel, we are also delivered from the fear of God. This statement also requires some consideration. There is a fear of God which is always right, and which we shall always need to cherish. Heathenism is a religion of fear; Judaism is the religion of conscience; Christianity is the religion of grateful affection. Where God is regarded essentially as an Almighty Ruler, the chief duty of man is implicit, unquestioning obedience. Where God is regarded chiefly as a judge, the principal duty of man is righteous conduct. Where He is regarded as a father, the chief duty of man is childlike trust and love. So that there is a gradual progress in the conception which men have had of the Deity. Beginning with power, they ascend to justice, and terminate in love. And when perfect love is attained, it casts out all fear.

(James Freeman Clarke.)


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. Practical.

6. Progressive. For though perfect, it does not preclude the possibility of increase or enlargement.

II. ITS OPERATION — "casteth out fear."

1. What kind of fear?(1) Not —

(a)A reverential fear of God.

(b)A cautionary fear of the holiness, justice, and power of God.

(c)Natural fear, which is necessary to the preservation of life.(2) But —

(a)Servile fear.

(b)Fear of meeting the necessaries of life.

(c)The fear of man, which bringeth a snare.

(d)The fear of the last enemy.

(e)The fear of the judgment.

(f)The fear of hell.

2. How does it do this?

(1)By removing sin.

(2)By transforming us into God's image.

(3)By perfecting all the other graces of Christianity.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.)

John has been speaking of boldness, and that naturally suggests its opposite — fear. He has been saying that perfect love produces courage in the day of judgment, because it produces likeness to Christ, who is the judge. In my text he explains and enlarges that statement. For there is another way in which love produces boldness, and that is by its casting out fear. These two are mutually exclusive.

I. THE EMPIRE OF FEAR. Fear is a shrinking apprehension of evil as befalling us, from the person or thing which we dread. God is righteous; God righteously administers His universe. God enters into relations of approval or disapproval with His responsible creature. Therefore there lies, dormant for the most part, but present in every heart, and active in the measure in which that heart is informed as to itself, the slumbering cold dread that between it and God things are not as they ought to be. I believe, for my part, that such a dumb, dim consciousness of discord attaches to all men, though it is often smothered, often ignored, and often denied. But there it is; the snake hybernates, but it is coiled in the heart all the same, and warmth will awake it. Arising from that discomforting consciousness of discord there come, likewise, other forms and objects of dread. For if I am out of harmony with Him, what will be my fate in the midst of a universe administered by Him, and in which all are His servants? Whilst all things serve the soul that serves Him, all are embattled against the man that is against, or not for, God and His will. Then there rises up another object of dread, which, in like manner, derives all its power to terrify and to hurt from the fact of our discordance with God, and that is, the "shadow feared of man," that stands shrouded by the path, and waits for each of us. God; God's universe; God's messenger, Death — these are facts with which we stand in relation, and if our relations with Him are out of gear, then He and all of these are legitimate objects of dread to us. But now there is something else that casts out fear than perfect love, and that is — perfect levity. For it is the explanation of the fact that so many of us know nothing about what I am talking about, and fancy that I am exaggerating or putting forward false views.

II. That brings me to the second point — viz., THE MISSION OF FEAR. John uses a rare word in my text when he says, "fear hath torment." "Torment" does not convey the whole idea of the word. It means suffering, but suffering for a purpose; suffering which is correction; suffering which is disciplinary; suffering which is intended to lead to something beyond itself. Fear, the apprehension of personal evil, has the same function in the moral world as pain has in the physical, It is a symptom of disease, and is intended to bid us look for the remedy and the Physician. What is an alarm bell for, but to rouse the sleepers and to hurry them to the refuge! And so this wholesome, manly dread of the certain issue of discord with God is meant to do for us what the angels did for Lot — lay a mercifully violent hand on the shoulder of the sleeper, and shake him into aroused wakefulness, and hasten him out of Sodom. The intention of fear is to lead to that which shall annihilate it, and take away its cause. There is nothing more ridiculous, nothing more likely to betray a man, than the indulgence in an idle fear which does nothing to prevent its own fulfilment. Horses in a burning stable are so paralysed by dread that they cannot stir, and get burnt to death. I fear; then what do I do? Nothing! And that is true about hosts of us. What ought I to do? Let the dread direct me to its source — my own sinfulness. Let the discovery of my own sinfulness direct me to its remedy — the righteousness and the Cross of Jesus Christ. He, and He alone, can deal with the disturbing element in my relation to God. So my fear should proclaim to me the merciful "name that is above every name," and drive me as well as draw me to Christ, the Conqueror of sin and the Antagonist of all dread. I think we shall scarcely understand the religion of love unless we recognise that dread is a legitimate part of an unforgiven man's attitude towards God. My fear should be to me like the misshapen guide that may lead me to the fortress where I shall be safe. Oh! do not tamper with the wholesome sense of dread. Do not let it lie, generally sleeping, and now and then awaking in your hearts and bringing about nothing.

III. Lastly, THE EXPULSION OF FEAR. My text points out the natural antagonism and mutual exclusiveness of these two emotions. If I go to Jesus Christ as a sinful man, and get His love bestowed upon me, then, as the next verse to my text says, my love springs in response to His to me, and in the measure in which that love rises in my heart will it frustrate its antagonistic dread. As I said, you cannot love and fear the same person, unless the love is of a very rudimentary and imperfect character. But just as when you pour pure water into a bladder, the poisonous gases that it may have contained will be driven out before it, so when love comes in dread goes out. But remember that it is "perfect love" which "casts out fear." Inconsistent as the two emotions are in themselves, in practice, they may be united by reason of the imperfection of the nobler. And in the Christian life they are united with terrible frequency. There are many professing Christian people who live all their days with a burden of shivering dread upon their shoulders and an icy cold fear in their hearts, just because they have not got close enough to Jesus Christ, and kept their hearts with sufficient steadfastness under the quickening influences of His love, to have shaken off their dread as a sick man's distempered fancies. A little love has not mass enough in it to drive out thick, clustering fears. See that you resort only to the sane, sound way of getting rid of the wholesome, rational dread of which I have been speaking.

(A. Maclaren, D. D.)


1. This slavish fear is co extensive with the unregenerate race. A slavish fear of —





2. 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. This includes —

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.Conclusion: 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.)

The words of St. John as to fear and love would probably startle us if they were less familiar. What they say is, in effect, that "fear" and "love" are, as such, in antagonism; that in proportion as "love" gains strength, it tends to oust "fear"; that to be, in a religious sense, under the influence of "fear," is to be in an imperfect condition with regard to "love." And yet Scripture assigns to fear a considerable place in the apparatus, so to speak, of religious motives and forces (Luke 12:5; 2 Corinthians 5:10, 11; Philippians 2:12, 13; 1 Peter 1:17). In such passages the underlying purport is obvious: "Do this, avoid that, or it will be the worse for you: obey, on peril of the consequences of disobedience." How, then, will the text stand when confronted with a line of address at once so authoritative, so luminous, and so stern? The answer is, that our Lord and St. Peter and St. Paul are urging men to fear the penal consequence of sin, considered in their whole length and breadth, and concentrated into that one supremely terrible, consequence — perpetual exclusion from the presence of God; whereas St. John is looking at "fear" of penal suffering considered in itself — the dread of hell, pure and simple. This is the fear which, he says, "hath torment," or rather "punishment"; it carries punishment in its bosom. It regards God not as the all holy and all-good Father, who has every right to filial obedience, but as an irresistible Power, not to be trifled with or escaped from, who can and will inflict tremendous penalties on those who venture to defy His authority. Fear of punishment, either as imminent or as distant, is not a false or bad principle of action in its own place and for its own time. It is appropriate for the earlier stage of spiritual training; it marks a stage in the moral progress through which the Supreme Educator, Divinely equitable and patient, conducts His children by slow steps, in consideration of hearts not fully softened and consciences not thoroughly enlightened, which, as yet, are unfit for a high religious standard. Is not this "fear" worth something? Bishop Andrewes, alluding to it, observes that it is "as the base court to the temple," and adds that a man must do his duty "for fear of punishment, if he cannot get himself to do it for love of righteousness." As St. says, this is not the fear that "is clean" — it arises not out of love of God, but out of the terror of suffering; yet it may make the whole difference to a person's moral future whether, at a particular critical time, he has it, or has it not. If he has it, he resists the temptation, he does not commit the sin; and that is to gain much. The perilous hour is got through safely; the conscience escapes a defilement and a burden; the ground so far, is clear for the further operations of grace. And these will, by degrees, absorb the fear of punishment, simply as such — into what? Into such a love for God as excludes all fear whatsoever? No, rather into a fear which is so absolutely compatible with love that it may even be said to grow out of love, to be contained in love's very heart. For what is the love here intended, but a closer and closer adhesion to the will of God as the supreme good, an ever growing desire to please Him and to be right with Him, because He is what He is to us? But as long as we live, failure is possible; there must be the possibility of ultimate failure, even on the part of the gray-haired saint, as Bunyan in his "dream" saw that "there was a way to hell from the gates of heaven as well as from the city of destruction"; as, before now, men have fallen from God at their very "lust hour." And that possibility involves a fear which dwells not on the mere pain of future punishment, but on that which is the essential and misery of hell — the forfeiture of the life giving love of God. This fear may be called filial, and not servile; for in proportion as a child loves heartily a good parent, the more solicitous will he be not to grieve, displease, disappoint that parent by an exhibition of thankless perversity.

(W. Bright, D. D.)

Cambridge Bible for Schools.
(R.V.): — This is true in two ways —

(1)Fear involves the idea of punishment;

(2)fear is a foretaste of punishment.

(Cambridge Bible for Schools.)

by anticipating punishment has it even now.

(Dean Alford.)

Love is like honey, but perfect love is like the honey with all the comb and wax strained out. Love is like fire, but pure love is like the same fire free from all smoke and soot. Love is like water, but unmixed love is like the same water freed from all earthy matter. Love is like light, but simple and perfect love is like the same light freed from all cloud, and fog, and smoke.

(G. D. Watson.)

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