1 John 4:17, 18
Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world.
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.
Parallel VersesKJV: Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world.