The Spirit of Fear
1 John 4:18
There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear: because fear has torment. He that fears is not made perfect in love.

(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.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.

WEB: There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear has punishment. He who fears is not made perfect in love.

The Place of Fear in the Gospel
Top of Page
Top of Page