“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.” (1 John 4:18, NKJV)
Context is crucial to understanding the Scriptures correctly. Today’s passage is a notable illustration of the point. John is discussing the perfecting of love in the Christian’s life so that he or she has “boldness in the day of judgment” instead of fear, which “involves torment.” Where there is mature love, there is no fear of the judgment. But, what is the mature love that “casts out fear?” John tells us in 1 John 5:2-3: “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” (1 John 5:2–3). The love that has boldness rather than fear in the day of judgment is one that is willingly obedient to God’s commands. Only when love includes willing obedience of God’s commandments is it the “perfect love” that “casts out fear.”
Praise the Lord! Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who delights greatly in His commandments. (Psalm 112:1, NKJV)
This psalm calls on us to give celebratory adulation of thanks to Jehovah. It reveals the result of such praise, while explaining who actually praises the Lord, and why. The blessing of His favor is the outcome of giving God the praise He is due. The source of acceptable praise comes from a heart that fears the Lord. This person obtains His good favor. Cries of hallelujah (“praise Jehovah” or “praise the Lord”) must combine with genuine reverence for them to be regarded by the Lord and responded to favorably by Him. Nor do we have to wonder who it is that fears the Lord, for it is spelled out here. Fearing God is tantamount to delighting completely in His commandments. We fear God by desiring, cherishing and following His commands. And so, by taking pleasure in His commands, we wholeheartedly praise His name. At this thanksgiving season (and every day), may we delight in the Lord’s commands, rejoice in His good blessings, and thankfully praise His name.
12 And further, my son, be admonished by these. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is wearisome to the flesh. 13 Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all. (Ecclesiastes 12:12–13, NKJV)
As you see from the above notation, this is the 1200th Sword Tip. Seeing that number reminded me of today’s passage. People will always write books. And, people will continue to read and study them. Yet, making intellectual pursuit the goal of one’s life “is grasping for the wind,” as Solomon explained in Ecclesiastes 1:17-18. God’s word, the Bible, is complete; it will not be added to by God, and it cannot be improved upon by human wisdom (2 Timothy 3:16-17; Jude 3; Revelation 22:18-19). Bible study is essential. But, Bible study is not an end in itself. Reading and knowing God’s word is vanity, unless we “fear God and keep His commandments” (verse 13). That is the purpose of life. The Bible teaches us why to fear God and how to obey Him. This is why we read, learn and study the Bible – so that we may live reverently, obey God completely, and thereby, fulfill our God-given purpose. By God’s good grace, may that ever be the purpose that drives our lives (2 Peter 3:17-18).
19 And they asked them, saying, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” 20 His parents answered them and said, “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; 21 but by what means he now sees we do not know, or who opened his eyes we do not know. He is of age; ask him. He will speak for himself.” 22 His parents said these things because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had agreed already that if anyone confessed that He was Christ, he would be put out of the synagogue. 23 Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.” (John 9:19–23, NKJV)
Jesus had healed a man who was blind from birth. His parents knew who healed him, but fear kept them from confessing Jesus to the Jewish leaders. This is a clear example of what Jesus taught about being ashamed of Him: “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels” (Mk. 8:38). Being silenced by intimidation is the cowardice that results in the second death (Rev. 21:8). Never be ashamed of Jesus and His words, regardless of what other threaten to do to you. This is the teaching of Jesus.
5 Great is our Lord, and mighty in power; His understanding is infinite. 6 The Lord lifts up the humble; He casts the wicked down to the ground… 10 He does not delight in the strength of the horse; He takes no pleasure in the legs of a man. 11 The Lord takes pleasure in those who fear Him, in those who hope in His mercy.” (Psalm 147:5–6, 10–11, NKJV)
God’s power and wisdom is unbounded. He does not act as we humans. What He values and exalts is very different from the estimations given by men. He raises up and magnifies the humble of heart, while He crushes wickedness under the strength of His mighty hand. Unlike men, who put confidence in the strength of their military might and prowess, our Lord delights in those who reverence Him and trust His mercy as their salvation in time of trouble. Let us never doubt the robust power and unlimited understanding of the Lord God to provide for and protect those who humbly serve Him and faithfully trust His mercy.
Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. (2 Corinthians 7:1, NKJV)
The blessed promises that God will receive us as His children and be a Father to us move us with expectant faith to “cleanse ourselves” of every defilement that sin has introduced into our minds and our bodies. The fruit of repentance is the ceasing of the sins we previously committed. Christians do not continue living in sin; we deliberately, sometimes painstakingly, refuse to continue in sin. This process of eliminating sin enables us to mature in making holy choices in life, because we hold God in reverence and seek to always do what pleases Him. We must devote ourselves to purity of heart and life because of the great promises of familial fellowship God gives us through His Son, Jesus Christ.
4 And I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. 5 But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him! (Luke 12:4–5, NKJV)
Fear is a powerful emotion. It stirs adrenaline, often evoking a fight or flight reaction. But, fear can be misplaced. We can fear the wrong things for the wrong reasons. Jesus calls our attention to this fact. He commands us to rule over our fear of men, their threats and their retaliations because of our faith. We fail to function with eternity in view when we fear men instead of God. The power of men is limited to this physical world, but, God dwells in eternity. Therefore, we ought to fear displeasing Him, since He has power over both temporal and eternal life. The punishment of hell is real, and reserved for those who fear men more than fearing God and obeying Him. Believe the words of Jesus. With all reverence, fear God more than men. Follow God instead of men (Acts 5:29).