"Herein is love made perfect with us, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, even so are we in this world" (1 John 4:17).

The context of 1 John 4:7-21 teaches us about the source, nature, and working of love as it pertains to our lives in relationship to God and one another. May we soberly consider this most sublime subject in our study of this text.

HEREIN IS LOVE MANIFESTED (vs. 7-10). All that we know about love, we learn from God: "...for God is love" (8). The love of God has been demonstrated on our behalf through the giving of His Son for the sins of the world: "he loved us... and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins" (10). When mankind was unlovable, steeped in the mire of sin and helpless to save ourselves, God "commendeth his own love toward us, in that, while we were sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). Through the giving of His life on the cross, Jesus became the only means whereby God’s justice against the sinner could be appeased, and a plan revealed whereby man could be made righteous before the Creator (Romans 3:21-26). It is a righteousness of God "apart from the law" (Romans 3:21), because the blood from animal sacrifices, commanded under Moses’ law, could not propitiate for man’s sins (Hebrews 10:1-4). Also, man’s righteousness before God cannot be procured by his ability to perform works of merit. Regarding such works, Paul said, "Now to him that worketh, the reward is not reckoned as of grace, but as of debt" (Romans 4:4); that is, man cannot so "work" as to live absolutely flawless without sin (Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:9). If such perfection were possible, man could earn his salvation and make God a debtor, demanding He pay what is owed us. Such a concept makes void God’s grace and explains why man could not be saved by the law of Moses (Galatians 2:16; 5:4). No one will get to heaven without the grace of God (Ephesians 2:8-9).

HEREIN IS LOVE MADE PRACTICAL (11-16). Love is not something that one merely professes verbally or displays with bumper-stickers and jewelry. Earlier, John taught, "My little children, let us not love in word, neither with the tongue; but in deed and truth" (3:18). Having seen above that there are works of merit that do not save, let the reader not mistakenly conclude that all works the Bible speaks of are of non-effect in our salvation. After stating the inefficiency of meritorious works to save (Ephesians 2:9), Paul speaks of "good works" which do save: "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God afore prepared that we should walk in them" (Eph. 2:10). These are works of obedience, when man responds in faith to the instruction of God’s word; without such works, we cannot please God (James 2:14-26; Heb. 5:8-9). What connection is there between good works and love? Paul describes the Christian’s life as, "faith working through love" (Galatians 5:6).

John teaches us how love is made practical in one’s life: "...if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another" (vs. 11). Jesus teaches that our love for one another exhibits to the world that we are truly his disciples (John 13:34-35). Such display of love is based on a knowledge of and abiding in that divine testimony of truth revealed through Jesus’ apostles. That which the apostles "have seen and testify" of concerning the Savior (vs. 14), faithful Christians "have known and believed" (16). John further states, "By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome" (5:2-3). This "abiding" love through obedience to God’s word is said to provide for God’s humble servant a number of things:
1) it constitutes the basis for our fellowship with God (1:1-4),
2) it gives us the confidence of our salvation (1:6-2:4),
3) it demands holiness before God and separation from the world (2:15-17),
4)it provides the vitality of our hope (3:2-3),
5) it makes us to comprehend the reality, nature and power of sin (3:4-12),
6) and it guards and maintains purity of doctrine by putting to the test what we are taught to insure it is truth (4:1).

HEREIN IS LOVE PERFECTED (17-21). In the course of spiritual maturity, love progresses to "perfection" (fulness) in the life of God’s people that anticipates the coming day of judgment with "boldness" (17). This doesn’t suggest arrogance, but rather a "blessed assurance" that we are, "kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time" (1 Peter 1:5). God equips the faithful to "stand" in the strength which God provides (Ephesians 6:10ff.), having "the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen" (Hebrews 11:1). Such "perfect love" has no fear of condemnation, for it seeks a harmony of self with truth (cf. Romans 8:16). It casts out the fear of condemnation by a full surrender and dependence on God’s righteousness to forgive us and guide us as we "walk in the light" (1:7-9). Consequently, our relationships with others are enriched because we cannot claim to love God and unlovingly treat our brethren. We will love one another, as God has loved us (4:20-21). With this love we will march toward eternity.

By Dan Richardson

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