1 John 4:17
In this way, love has been perfected among us, so that we may have confidence on the day of judgment; for in this world we are just like Him.
Sermons
Boldness in the Day of JudgmentBp. Wm. Alexander.1 John 4:17
Christ's Poverty in Relation to Our Selfishness and LuxuryD. Trinder, M. A.1 John 4:17
Perfect LoveP. B. Power, M. A.1 John 4:17
The Perfection of LoveJ. Morgan, D. D.1 John 4:17
The Servant as His LordA. Maclaren, D. D.1 John 4:17
The Triumph of Christ-Like LoveHomilist1 John 4:17
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.







Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of Judgment
I. "HEREIN IS OUR LOVE MADE PERFECT." Love is like every other grace in the Christian bosom, susceptible of various degrees of intensity. It is our duty to aim at perfection in all things, and eminently in love. Our happiness is bound up in our attainment of it. Just as we advance in this grace we secure our growing peace and prosperity.

II. A BLESSED EFFECT OF EVIDENCE OF SUCH LOVE. "That we may have boldness in the day of judgment." What are we to understand by the day of judgment? We are certainly not to exclude from our thoughts days of trial, such as may come upon us in the course of life, or at death. Nor can we doubt that the perfection of love would greatly contribute to our boldness at such times. But the mind of the apostle is manifestly directed to the final judgment. In that dread hour they who have cultivated the grace of love shall be enabled to meet it with boldness. How so? This boldness cannot be said to arise out of love as the reason or ground of it. Were it so viewed, its deficiencies would fill us with terror and cover us with confusion. Neither our love nor any other grace can be pleaded for our acceptance at the bar of God. Yet there is an important sense in which boldness in the day of judgment is dependent on the cultivation of love. As love is cultivated, the evidence of our union with Christ is manifested.

III. HOW MAY LOVE BE SO EXERCISED AND ADVANCED AS TO LEAD US INTO THIS HOLY AND HAPPY BOLDNESS? "Because as He is, so are we in this world." It is by studying conformity to Christ our love is strengthened, and the evidence of our union with Him is made clear.

IV. THE ARGUMENT BY WHICH THE APOSTLE CONFIRMS AND ILLUSTRATES HIS VIEWS (ver. 18).

1. The nature of love — "There is no fear in love."

2. More strongly the same view is presented in the operation of love — "perfect love casteth out fear."

3. This view is farther confirmed by the very nature of fear. "Fear hath torment." We avoid the person whom we fear.

4. Finally, the operation of fear is to destroy love. "He that feareth is not made perfect in love." How powerful, then, is this argument for the cultivation of love. Would we be happy in God now, and would we meet Him at last with joy? Then let us love Him.

(J. Morgan, D. D.)

1. Love is capable of many degrees; it is the same principle in its commencement as in its termination, the difference being not in the quality, but in the amount; and this must be ever borne in mind in our dealing with inquiring and awakened souls. The weak and just commencing child of God should not be cast down and believe that because he is imperfect in love he therefore has no love. In estimating of the condition of men's minds with regard to the degree of love which they possess, we take many things into account. There are some upon whom the consciousness of Christ's sacrifice comes with such tremendous power that they are melted and subdued at once, and withal attracted to the One who displayed such wondrous love toward them. There are others who have attained this consciousness by slow degrees, and so gradually become acquainted with their Lord that from the very gentleness of the way in which they have been led on, they themselves realise more the simple fact that they love than that they are made to love. There are some who have naturally unloving hearts to be changed, and some who have loving hearts to be consecrated; and the processes of God's actings are so different, and hearts are so varied in their constitution that we can scarce expect to find any two exactly alike. Be encouraged, but be not satisfied, ye who find some love within yourselves; pray and strive for an increase.

2. Love, then, may exist in different degrees; it is further capable of high attainment. Can anyone amongst us produce a reason why he should not be enabled to love as much as Peter, Paul, or John? Can anyone show us anything so supremely bad in his own natural disposition, or so supremely good in that of these apostles, that it is a moral impossibility that he can ever do as they did? or can any prove that the actings of the Spirit are more limited in our case than they were in theirs, and that assistances were given to them which by God's decrees are withheld from us? There lies before you a glorious course, if only you will run upon it; a magnificent possession, if only you will lay hold of it; an exquisite state, if only you will enter on it. Allow yourselves to be carried on by the Spirit.

3. Thus we see that love may be of different degrees, and also that it is capable of high attainment; we would observe further that it is able to produce a great result. The songs of poets, the tales of real life, the stern records of history, are all full of the triumphs of love; and fallen though we be, love has won more victories than all else beside. When love is true, it is impregnable by assault, it is irresistible in attack, it is indestructible by time; it is not spent by its efforts, it is not wearied out by its vigils; firm in its grasp, yet tender in its touch, that which it lays hold of escapes not from it, that which it caresses is not injured by it. Love is a watcher and love is a warrior — love is a servant and love is a king. True love in things spiritual as well as in things temporal is omnipotent; he who loves most will believe most, and in his faith and love will win the highest goal.

(P. B. Power, M. A.)

Homilist.
I. THE DESCRIPTION OF SPIRITUAL ATTAINMENT. "Herein is our love made perfect." None can doubt that being as the Son of God is in this world is the only possible perfection, and the only ground of "boldness in the day of judgment." The text shows — First. An attainment of affection to God. God wins our hearts by His love; we then love Him more and more. Secondly. An attainment of complete affection to God. In this asserted perfection of our love there is clearly a recognition of the supremacy of our affection.

II. THE ADDUCED EVIDENCE OF THAT ATTAINMENT. "Because," etc. This clause seems to belong both to our being made perfect in love and our having boldness in the day of judgment. First. The meekness of Christ is reproduced in His followers. Secondly. The endurance of Christ characterises Christians. "Who endureth such contradiction of sinners against Himself." Thirdly. The truth witnessing of Christ is seen in His disciples. "I am the truth."

III. THE DIVINE DESIGN IN OUR EVIDENCED ATTAINMENT IN CHRIST-LIKE LOVE. "That we may have boldness," etc. First: This is not an evil boldness, or a boldness in evil (Ecclesiastes 8:1). It is not —

(1)the boldness of ignorance;

(2)the boldness of self-sufficiency;

(3)the boldness of iniquity;

(4)the boldness of presumption.Secondly. This is a holy boldness (Hebrews 10:19). It is —

(1)The boldness of fearlessness. "Perfect love casteth out fear."

(2)The boldness of approving conscience. "It is God that justifieth." St. Paul was bold in chains, because the Divine Judge approved him.

(3)The boldness of perfect sympathy and unity with the Judge. "He that confesseth Me," etc.

(Homilist.)

I. Examine THE GENERAL CONCEPTION OF "THE DAY OF THE JUDGMENT," as given in the New Testament. But against one somewhat widely spread way of blotting the day of judgment from the calendar of the future — so far as believers are concerned — we should be on our guard. Some good men think themselves entitled to reason thus: "I am a Christian. I shall be an assessor in the judgment. For me there is therefore no judgment day." The only appeal to Scripture which such persons make, with any show of plausibility, is contained in an exposition of our Lord's teaching in John 5:21, 29. But clearly there are three resurrection scenes which may be discriminated in those words. The first is spiritual, a present awakening of dead souls, in those with whom the Son of Man is brought into contact in His earthly ministry. The second is a department of the same spiritual resurrection. The Son of God, with that mysterious gift of life in Himself, has within Him a perpetual spring of rejuvenescence for a faded and dying world. A renewal of hearts is in process during all the days of time, a passage for soul after soul out of death into life. The third scene is the general resurrection and general judgment. The first was the resurrection of comparatively few; the second of many; the third of all.

1. General history points to a general judgment. If there is no such judgment to come, then there is no one definite moral purpose in human society. Progress would be a melancholy word, deceptive appearance, a stream that has no issue, a road that leads nowhere.

2. If there is to be no day of the general judgment, then the million prophecies of conscience will be belied, and our nature prove to be mendacious to its very roots.

II. THE REMOVAL OF THAT TERROR WHICH ACCOMPANIES THE CONCEPTION OF THE DAY OF JUDGMENT, and of the sole means of that emancipation which St. John recognises. For terror there is in every point of the repeated descriptions of Scripture — in the surroundings, in the summons, in the tribunal, in the trial, in one of the two sentences. "Boldness!" It is the splendid word which denotes the citizen's right of free speech, the masculine privilege of courageous liberty. It is the tender word which expresses the child's unhesitating confidence, in "saying all out" to the parent. The ground of the boldness is conformity to Christ. Because "as He is," with that vivid idealising sense, frequent in St. John when he uses it of our Lord — "as He is," delineated in the fourth Gospel, seen by "the eye of the heart" with constant reverence in the soul, with adoring wonder in heaven, perfectly true, pure, and righteous — "even so" (not, of course, with any equality in degree to that consummate idea, but with a likeness ever growing, an aspiration ever advancing) — "so are we in this world," purifying ourselves as He is pure.

(Bp. Wm. Alexander.)

Because as He is, so are we in this world
It is too common to fix our thoughts almost exclusively on the Redeemer's death, and to leave out of sight the nature and tenor of the life preceding. St. John gives us a corrective of this view. He says that in those who will not be afraid to meet Christ when He appears on His judgment throne, the spirit, character, and habit that belong to Jesus now in glory, as they belonged to Him when on earth, shall be in them. The outward manner of His life, the kind of circumstance which clothed Him here cannot, of course, be reproduced, but the way in which He behaved under those circumstances, the disposition with which He met them, must mark everyone of His disciples — "as He is, so are we in this world." Now, Christ's earthly life was distinctly one of poverty. House or property of His own He had none. Now, if our Lord's poverty encourage the poor and the poor family to struggle against the lowering influence of their lot, to keep themselves respectable and orderly, consider with what earnest pleadings it seems to address all richer folk, especially in an age like our own. Society is fastidious and extravagant. Entertainments are reckoned, not by the pleasure which they are calculated to give, but by their variety and costliness. Turn upon these aspects of our modern civilisation the light of Jesus' life in that noble endurance of poverty, that abiding sense of the real value of life, which consisteth not in the abundance of the goods which a man possesseth, that unswerving devotion to His Father's will which constituted His very meat. His example may yet prove our safety, if we will follow it.

(D. Trinder, M. A.)

The connection of my text is quite as striking as its substance. John has been dwelling upon his favourite thought that to abide in love is abiding in God, and God in us. And then he goes on to say that "Herein" — that is, in such mutual abiding in love — "is love made perfect with us."

I. A CHRISTIAN IS CHRIST'S LIVING LIKENESS. It is the Christ as He is, and not only — true as that is — the Christ as He was, who is the original of which Christian men are copies. Is there anything, then, within the glory to which I, in my poor, struggling, imperfect life here on earth, can feel that my character is being shaped? Surely there is. I have no doubt that, in the words of my text, the apostle is remembering the solemn words of our Lord's high priestly prayer, "I in Thee, and Thou in Me, that they also may be in us." Or, to put the whole thing into plainer words, it is the religious and the moral aspects of Christ's being, and not any one particular detail thereof. And these, as they live and reign on the throne, just as truly as these, as they suffered and wept upon earth, it is these to which it is our destiny to be conformed. We are like Him, if we are His, in this, that we are joined to God, that we hold fellowship with Him, that our lives are all permeated with the Divine. And thus "we," even here, "bear the image of the heavenly, as we have borne the images of the earthly." But, then, I have another point that I desire to refer to. I have put an emphasis upon the "is" instead of the "was," as it applies to Jesus Christ. I would further put an emphasis upon the "are," as it applies to us — "so are we." John is not exhorting, he is affirming. He is not saying what Christian men ought to strive to be, but he is saying what all Christian men, by virtue of their Christian character, are. Or, to put it into other words, likeness to the Master is certain. It is inevitably involved in the relation which a Christian man bears to the Lord. My text suggests that to us by its addition, "So are we, in this world." The "world" — or to use the modern phraseology, "the environment" — conditions the resemblance. As far as it is possible for a thing encompassed with dust and ashes to resemble the radiant sun in the heavens, so far is the resemblance carried here. Now, you Christian people, does that plain statement touch you anywhere? "So are we." Well! you would be quite easy if John had said, "So may we be; so should we be; so shall we be." But what about the "so are we"? What a ghastly contradiction the lives of multitudes of professing Christians are to that plain statement! The world has for the illustrations of the gospel the lives of us Christian people. In the Book there are principles and facts, and readers should be able to turn the page and see all pictured in us. That is what you have got to do in this world. "As the Father sent Me, even so I send you." "As He is, so are we in this world." It may be our antagonist, but it is our sphere, and its presence is necessary to evoke our characters. Christ has entrusted His reputation, His honour, to us.

II. SUCH LIKENESS TO JESUS CHRIST IS THE ONLY THING THAT WILL ENABLE A MAN TO LIFT UP HIS HEAD IN THE DAY OF JUDGMENT. "We have boldness," says John, because "as He is, so are we." Now, that is a very strong statement of a truth that popular evangelical theology has far too much obscured. People talk about being, at the last, accepted in the beloved. It is true! But do not let us forget the other side, that the question put to every man will be, not what you believe, but what did you do, and what are you? And I want to lay that upon your hearts, because many of us are too apt to forget it, that whilst unquestionably the beginning of the salvation, and the condition of forgiveness here, and of acceptance hereafter, is laid in trust in Jesus Christ, that trust is sure to work out a character which is in conformity with His requirements and moulded after the likeness of Himself. The judgment of God is according to the truth, and what a man is determines where a man shall be, and what he shall receive through all eternity.

III. THE PROCESS BY WHICH THIS LIKENESS IS SECURED. Our love is made perfect by dwelling in God, and God in us; in order that we may be thus conformed to Christ's likeness, and so have boldness in that great day. To be like Jesus Christ, what is needed is that we love Him, and that we keep in touch with Him. But remember such abiding is no idle waiting, no passive confidence. It is full of energy, full of suppression, when necessary, of what is contrary to your truest self; and full of strenuous cultivation of that which is in accord with the will of the Father. Lie in the light, and you will become light. Abide in Christ, and you will get like Christ.

(A. Maclaren, D. D.)

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