This kind of life makes our love perfect, or complete.  As we have stressed at many points in our consideration of this epistle, John is not urging us towards a phantasm of sinless perfection.  He has already exposed and condemned that concept as a pernicious heresy back in the first chapter.  But there is a perfection, after the manner of completeness and maturity, which ought to show itself in the development of a Christian’s character.  And he in whom these things are being worked, may have boldness as he confronts the day of judgment.  He need not fear that he will be condemned with the wicked, because Christ has in love to his soul redeemed him from the damnation of hell.  Moreover, Christ, by His omnipotent Spirit, has communicated to him His very own love, which he in turn manifests to others.  With all these marks of salvation, why need this believer fear that God will turn against him at the judgment and cast him away?  Such a thing can never be.  If we are as Christ was in this world, then we have more than ample evidence that Christ is ours and we are His, and that as a consequence we can never be condemned and damned.  The prospect of that great and terrible Day of Judgment need not be a frightening specter for the believer who lives in the love of God.  This type of fear is inconsistent with a perfect, mature love, which casts out fear.

Here, of course, John is not despising that fear of God which is the beginning of wisdom.  All humanity, believers included, are commanded to serve the Lord with reverence and godly fear.  Even the Christian ought to have, not only an awe-inspired reverence for God, but also a certain dread of offending Him by our sin.  But when we are walking in love, we are mortifying sin, and are fully able to come to God as our Father, confessing all the faults and failures we find in ourselves, and receiving the tender caresses and assurances of divine love from Him.  We do not dwell under the tormenting fear that God will cast us away in the end.  This type of torment is reserved for those who believe that they can be saved, and then sin away their grace and be lost.  Such a man, if he be a believer at all, well deserves to live in torment, lest he happen to commit a mortal sin and die before being restored to a state of grace.  But if we are made perfect in the love of God, by trusting wholeheartedly in that love which God has granted to us in the person and work of Jesus Christ, and by walking in that love of which Christ is the great example, we have no cause whatsoever to live in fear and torment.  We have, when we walk in these things, every reason for perfect assurance that God is our God, and that He will never suffer us to be moved.  Being thus perfected in love, tormenting fear is cast out, and we grow up into a perfect man in Christ Jesus.

Our love for God is not born out of our keen natural perception, nor is it the virtue which enables God to love us.  No, God loved us when we were unlovable.  He loved us from all eternity, in spite of the fact He knew we would be sinners of the vilest stripe.  And then in time He revealed that love to us in the work of Jesus Christ, applied to our hearts by the internal working of the Holy Spirit.  This is the only reason why we ever came to love God.  Apart from this love which He had for us long before the world began, we should have remained in darkness and under condemnation.  Our love towards God is a response to His love towards us.  More than that, the very love which we have is a gift of God’s love; for except God had worked in us to will and to do of His good pleasure, we could never have loved Him as He commands.  This principle, “We love Him because He first loved us,” is one which will guard us from pride in any degree, and remind us every hour that everything we are and have we owe to the love of our gracious God.

Advertisements