Saturday, 23 May 2020
Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world. 1 John 4:17
John now begins a new verse with, “Love has been perfected among us in this:” The question is, “Is he speaking about what he just said, or about what he will say.” The two possibilities would be –
1) God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him. It is in this that love has been perfected among us.
2) Love has been perfected among us in the fact that we may have boldness in the day of judgment.
The NKJV assumes the second option and places a colon after the first clause, indicating that it is so. However, this is incorrect. First, if it were not the first option, love would be a work required for salvation. Such an error in thinking could be assumed from 1 John 3:23, which seemingly makes both belief and love a part of being right with God. This also could be inferred from 1 John 4:8.
However, as was revealed in the commentaries there and subsequently, the love spoken of there is a result of salvation. Secondly, “boldness in the day of salvation” is not a perfection of love. Rather, it is a result of it. To say otherwise is to put the cart of boldness before the horse of perfected love. But to stand boldly before God on the day of judgment without being in Christ is an emblem of arrogance and pride, not of the boldness that comes through confidence in the Redeemer’s work. The thought is reflected in the letter to the Hebrews –
“Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:14-16
Even in our weaknesses and failings, we can be confident through Christ. But to come to God without His perfections is presumptuous and worthy of condemnation.
Understanding that John was saying of those who abide in love abide in God, and God in them, he now says, “Love has been perfected among us in this.” First, there is an article before “love.” It says, “The love has been perfected among us.”
Next, the word translated as “perfected” is teleioó. It is in the perfect tense, indicating that it is done and fully accomplished. However, John’s intent here is not that of absolute perfection in love, but rather a state of complete love or full development of our love. The word signifies “to consummate, reaching the end-stage, i.e. working through the entire process (stages) to reach the final phase (conclusion)” (HELPS Word Studies).
In coming to Christ, man’s love is brought to full development. Before coming to Christ, even if we loved, God could not accept that love because it was not rightly developed. However, in understanding God’s love in Christ, and coming to Him with that understanding, our love has become fully developed. Essentially, God can say, “You have seen the highest expression of love and have accepted it as such.”
We can see that it is not saying that the absolute perfection of love is evident because John says, “that we may have boldness in the Day of Judgment.” The fact that we will face a judgment (see 1 Corinthians 3:11-15 & 2 Corinthians 5:9-11) implies completion, not perfection. If we (including our love) were perfected when we came to God through Christ, there would be no need of further judgment.
In understanding this, meaning that our love is perfected in Christ, John says that we now know “that we may have boldness in the day of judgment.” There is an article before “judgment,” indicating a set day of judgment for believers, not an ongoing judgment as if we are being judged from day to day. Rather, we are living our lives, doing things according to how we feel concerning that day of judgment (the day of THE judgment), and we will receive our rewards and losses at that time.
Despite being the day of the judgment – and as Paul notes the terror of the Lord in the two references from 1 and 2 Corinthians above – John tells us that, at least in the aspect of perfected love , we may have boldness when we come before Him. The reason this is so is “because as He is, so are we in this world.”
John’s words are in the present tense. It is reminiscent of his other words, such as in 1 John 3:7, saying, “He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous.” John notes that what is foundational in making us like Him is found in this perfected, fully developed love. Again, it is this which makes it possible for us to abide in God and God to abide in us. The love is not a requirement for salvation, but is rather a result of it.
In now possessing this love, we can have boldness – without fear – in the knowledge that we will meet Him for judgment. The meeting is certain, but it is to be one which will be handled perfectly, and the souls of those who have come to Him will not be condemned, even if they are a bit toasty after the judgment is over.
Life application: Our love is complete, or fully developed, in that we can be certain that on the day we stand before Christ Jesus, He will look upon us in favor and not condemnation – all because of our proclamation of faith in Him. Paul explains that we are free from condemnation in the book of Romans –
“There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” Romans 8:1
Though we have fully developed love because of our faith in Jesus, we still fall short in our daily walk and in our Christian life. The greater our deeds during this walk of faith, the greater our rewards when we face the Judgment Seat of Christ.
So, let us endeavor to live for Him as best we can. Let us contemplate the Lord throughout our days. Let us meditate on His word as we come in and as we go out. Let us praise God with every marvel our eyes behold. And let us pursue a right and holy life – to the glory of God, and for the benefit of our walk with Him.
Just as God is love, we are now included in that perfect love of God when we belong to Him. Our love is complete in the work of God through His Son, Jesus. Let us act as if it is so.
O God! What a bargain You have set before us – call on Jesus and receive eternal life! And added in with this is the complete and full love of God, promises of rewards, and freedom from any possibility of condemnation. What a supremely glorious Creator You are! All hail You Lord God Almighty! Amen.