“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.”
50 Nicodemus (he who came to Jesus by night, being one of them) said to them, 51 “Does our law judge a man before it hears him and knows what he is doing?” (John 7:50–51, NKJV)
Appearances can be deceiving. One part of judging righteous judgment is getting all the facts before rendering said judgment (John 7:24). This includes hearing testimony from the one being judged. The Jewish leaders in John 7 had already made up their minds about Jesus. When Nicodemus challenged them to hear from Jesus and verify His actions before condemning him, they reacted with calloused mockery: “Are you also from Galilee?” (John 7:52). Righteous judgment is anchored in truth, no appearances. It rests upon verifiable evidence, not assumptions. When we are called upon to render judgment, may we do so with justice, not self-justification; and with love, not malice.
But if you do not do so, then take note, you have sinned against the Lord; and be sure your sin will find you out. (Numbers 32:23, NKJV)
The tribes of Israel, which on the east side of the Jordan River, were commanded by God to help their brethren subdue the land of the Canaanites before settling their own territory (Num. 32:20-22). Failure to obey the Lord’s will would mean they had “sinned against the Lord.” Omitting God’s will from our lives is sin against God (James 4:17). Furthermore, we cannot hide our sins from God. We are accountable to Him for every one of our sins. We may hide our sins from others, but we will answer for every one of them to Almighty God. Everything is open to His eyes (Hebrews 4:13). This becomes an incentive for us to “lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us” so that we may “run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1).
25 See that you do not refuse Him who speaks. For if they did not escape who refused Him who spoke on earth, much more shall we not escape if we turn away from Him who speaks from heaven, 26 whose voice then shook the earth; but now He has promised, saying, “Yet once more I shake not only the earth, but also heaven.” (Hebrews 12:25–26, NKJV)
There are terrible consequences for rejecting the word of God. The ground shook when God spoke the Ten Commandments to Israel from Mt. Sinai (Exodus 19:18). Yet, Israel rejected God’s word, and made a golden calf to worship in direct violation of His commandments (Exodus 20:1-6; 32:1-7). About 3,000 men died that day as punishment for their sin (Exodus 32:28, 34-35). There is an unmistakable lesson for us from this event. We will not escape punishment if we reject God’s word that He has spoken to us from heaven “in His Son,” by the New Testament Scriptures (Hebrews 1:2; 2 Timothy 3:16-17). The Day of Judgment will remove heaven and earth. Only His kingdom will survive His awesome judgment (Hebrews 12:26-28). The words and wisdom of men will never prepare you to escape divine wrath against sin. But, the gospel of Jesus Christ will; it is God’s power to save you (Romans 1:16). Believe God’s word and obey the Lord Jesus, to “have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:28-29).
1 Gather yourselves together, yes, gather together, O undesirable nation, 2 Before the decree is issued, or the day passes like chaff, before the Lord’s fierce anger comes upon you, before the day of the Lord’s anger comes upon you! 3 Seek the Lord, all you meek of the earth, who have upheld His justice. Seek righteousness, seek humility. It may be that you will be hidden in the day of the Lord’s anger. (Zephaniah 2:1–3, NKJV)
The great day of the Lord’s judgment was about to descend upon “undesirable” (shameless) Judah. Before it did, God’s prophet Zephaniah called on people to repent and return to humble righteousness. God’s fierce anger would be unleashed against the nation that had turned its back on Him. Babylon executed God’s punishment, but those who would “seek the Lord” found shelter from the storm of divine wrath. God decides when He will bring down a nation for its stubborn sins (Jeremiah 18:7-11). Now is the time for men and women to seek the Lord and find shelter for their souls. Judgment is coming, not merely upon nations, but upon the whole world (2 Peter 3:10-12). The mercy and salvation of God in Christ Jesus protects those who live by faith, doing His will (2 Peter 3:13-15).
18 You shall appoint judges and officers in all your gates, which the Lord your God gives you, according to your tribes, and they shall judge the people with just judgment. 19 You shall not pervert justice; you shall not show partiality, nor take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and twists the words of the righteous. 20 You shall follow what is altogether just, that you may live and inherit the land which the Lord your God is giving you. (Deuteronomy 16:18–20)
Our elected representatives are presently considering a nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court. A righteous nation seeks to appoint judges who will judge among the people with “just judgment” (v. 18). Such justice requires impartiality – a judge who will not be bribed or swayed by the outward circumstances of either the plaintiff (seeking judicial relief) or the defendant. Poverty and wealth hold no preferential sway over the righteous judge. If it does, then injustice will prevail. Israel was told, “You shall do no injustice in judgment. You shall not be partial to the poor, nor honor the person of the mighty. In righteousness you shall judge your neighbor” (Lev. 19:15). Impartiality is required if justice under the law is to prevail. The judgments of God’s law are “true and righteous altogether” (Psa. 19:9). Therefore, let us use them to “judge with righteous judgment,” without the bias of circumstance or the prejudice by emotion (Jno. 7:24).
10 But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. 11 For it is written: “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall confess to God.” 12 So then each of us shall give account of himself to God. (Romans 14:10–12, NKJV)
Nobody will escape standing before “the judgment seat of Christ.” Therefore, it is essential we do not condemn (judge) or despise (show contempt for) one another over things that are indifferent to God (see the context of Romans 14:1-6). In this context, the apostle urges us to stop the critical condemnation of each other’s personal liberties precisely because we will each give account of ourselves to God (Rom. 14:12-13). Paul is not advancing unity in moral and doctrinal diversity (the false notion that we can agree to disagree over revealed truth with Christ’s approval, Jno. 17:17, 20-21; 1 Cor. 1:10; Eph. 4:3-6). The Lord does not grant us liberty to sin with His approval! When it comes to God-given liberties, we are not to bind our personal conscience upon others. Knowing we are accountable to God ought to persuade us to respect each other’s liberties, rather than demanding others live by our conscience concerning matters that are indifferent to God (Rom. 14:3-5). One who binds his conscience on others has made himself superior to his brethren. He has forgotten his own accountability to God. He will not escape the judgment of God.