Love and Fear- 1 John 4:16-19

In our previous post, we examined John’s explanation and description of agape, of love for those who do not love us. We have seen that agape comes only from God and is not in us unless Christ is in us. We have also seen that God is agape, and since we are created to be in His image, it is intended for us to agape, this is in fact the primary evidence of whether or not we are in Christ, and it is primarily as we agape that the world will see God through us. Having examined John’s explanation of what agape is and where it comes from, we will now turn to John’s explanation of how we can live in it, which is found in verses 16-19. John begins by reminding us of God’s agape for us, that we have come to know experientially that God loves us, and have come to trust in (rely on) His agape for us. God is agape, and we are to abide in His love for us, we are to trust Him to look out for our best interests, to care for us. Knowing that He cares for us and will do what is best for us then sets us free to agape others. We know that God will take care of us, and we can then take our eyes off ourselves and focus on living in agape for others. As we do so, God’s love “is made complete among us” (verse 17). The Greek word made complete here is teleioo, His love has a purpose, which John is about to explain to us. The purpose of His agape for us is stated in verse 17, it is “so that” we may confidently rest in His love for us, for it is only as we are secure in His agape for us that we will be able to agape others. Or, as John puts it, that “we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like Him”, in this world we live in agape for others because we are secure in His agape for us. Having told us how we can live in agape, John then shows us the primary reason why we may fail to live in agape, and the primary reason we fail to agape is fear (verse 18). The Greek word fear here is phobos, which may be defined as the anticipation of harm. We fear things because we believe they may harm us, it is fear that keeps us from loving. So what is it that causes us to fear? It comes from a lack of confidence in God’s agape for us. God is sovereign, and He loves us, He always seeks our best interest. Because of this, we know that God will never harm us, so we can live without the anticipation of harm (fear) which keeps us from living in agape. The purpose of God’s love here is to drive out fear, for it is fear which keeps us from loving, and it is only as we abide securely in His love for us that we will be free from the fear which keeps us from loving others. God’s goal for all believers is that we would love as Jesus loved, for it is when we live in agape that the world will see God through us, just as we have seen God through Jesus. So why is it that fear keeps us from agape? The reason is that agape, by its nature, makes the one who loves vulnerable. When we love someone, we open ourselves up to be hurt by them. It is fear of this vulnerability, fear of giving others the potential to hurt us, that keeps us from agape. So how do we overcome this fear and not allow it to keep us from agape? John provides the answer in verse 19 by telling us that “We love because He first loved us”. God made Himself vulnerable by loving us, in loving us He has given us the potential to hurt Him, but it is this willingness to be vulnerable, to love us, that sent Jesus to the cross to die for our sins. So John tells us here that when we find we are failing to live in agape because we fear that the one we love may harm us, we are to look to the cross, to remember how God let others harm Him to look out for our best interests, and it is in remembering this that we are able to overcome the fear which keeps us from living in agape.

No Comments Christianity  //  Conformed to the Image of Christ  //  Growing In Grace  //  Transformation

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