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1 John 4:18 - Love and Fear
"There is no fear in love... fear has to do with punishment."
1 John 4:18 is a verse that describes a situation in which "love" and "fear" do not go together. False teachers often use this verse to support their claims that "fear of God" is wrong. Yet is this what the passage says? By no means! These false teachers ignore the clear testimony of both Old and New Testaments, which affirm that the "fear of God" it as a necessary part of one's relationship to the Creator.
When referring to this verse, we need to find out how love and fear are defined in the context, for the context determines the nature of these two concepts. When we do this, we discover that it has nothing to do with "fear of God"! Instead, it's emphasis is on showing us the relationship between the presence of God’s love in his people, and the confidence they will be able to have when the day of judgment comes. It tells us that God’s people do not have to fear the punishment that will come to others on the Day of Judgment (v. 17).
In the surrounding context, we read about the inseparable relationship between love for God and love for God's people - one's "brother" (and "sister"). Anyone who has love for God and "brother" has a legitimate reason to not fear the Day of Judgment - because the love that is in them has its origin (source) in God. Its very presence demonstrates that they live in God and God lives in them (v. 16). Therefore, they can approach the Day of Judgment with confidence, with nothing to fear.
The book of 1 John defines this love for God and "brother," and warns us about false believers, who deceive themselves, and who really don't have this love in them.
It is impossible for a person to have genuine love for God if he does not have genuine love for his Christian "brothers." Those who hate their "brothers," yet claim to love God, are liars (v. 20). (God says so, even if they aren't willing to admit it.) Such people have not been "perfected" (v. 17) by the love that comes from God, and which flows from God's people into the lives of others. Since God's love not in them, they ought to fear the Day of Judgment, because it is going to be a devastating experience. They will not survive that day.
They will also experience a "fear of God" that is totally different from the type of "fear" that God's people have.
Dennis Hinks © 2008
1 John 4:18 quoted from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved. (www.zondervanbibles.com)