1 John 4:17-21 - Confidence for the day of judgment
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By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgement because as he is, so also are we in this world. 1 John 4:17.
One of our students was a prince and grew up in the royal palace. The royal family were leaders of their religion and ensured that Luka* was taught how to practice it devotedly. As he was growing up, Luka made friends with a Christian child at school. One day, when he was visiting his friend’s home, he saw a Bible lying on a table. While his friend was outside, Luka flipped the Bible open and read the first verse he saw. It was John 14:6 “Jesus said, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life: no one comes to the Father except through me’”. He quickly shut the Bible and went out to play, but he never forgot the words he had read. In later life, when he was at university, his father died. This made Luka think about the day of judgment and life after death. He became very fearful that he would be condemned on judgment day. This fear paralysed him so much that he sought out the Christian students and asked them how he could have confidence to meet God. They explained that Jesus died on the cross to save us so that we can stand before God in Christ on judgment day. Luka then remembered the verse he had read as a child and believed in Jesus as the way to the Father and the only one who could give him confidence for the day of judgment. *name changed.
Luka was paralysed by his fear of condemnation and judgment. In this section, we learn of the confidence the believer has in Christ to stand before God on the day of judgment.
In v.17, John points back to the abiding love that he has described in 1 John 4:16. He shows that the love of God that is present in the believer through the Holy Spirit (1 John 4:13) will be “perfected” (or fulfilled) in the future on the day of judgment. This is the day on which Jesus will return and the whole world will stand before the judgment seat of God (Rom 14:10).
The love of the Father, expressed in the sending of the Son to be the Saviour of the world (1 John 4:14), is the basis for the confidence of believers. This is because the atoning death of Christ has provided full forgiveness and restoration into fellowship with the Triune God (1 John 1:3).
Believers have been made like Jesus in all his sinless purity, “as he is, so also are we in this world” (v.17). Calvin explains, “John says that the faithful do not fear when mention is made to them of the last judgment but … they go to God’s tribunal confidently and cheerfully, because they feel assured of his paternal love” (p. 245).
Therefore, John can assert that there is “no fear in love” because believers can be confident that God’s “perfect” love for them in Christ will achieve its goal and they will not be condemned (v.18). Conversely, those who still fear condemnation show that they do not have the love of God in them.
This perfect love is the gift of God, who loved us first (v.19). True believers will show that they have received it by loving one another, just as he has commanded (v. 21-22). Indeed, John shows that it is impossible to love the unseen God without loving others who we have seen (v.21).
Let us stop to reflect today on the perfect love of God that gives us confidence to face the day of judgement without fear and give him thanks and praise.
For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; for it is written, ‘As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God’. Rom 14: 10-11.
Our heavenly Father, we thank and praise you this day for your perfect love in the Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that we might be restored to fellowship with you. Thank you that our sins have been forgiven so that we can have confidence before you on the day of judgment. Take away our fear, we pray, and give us joyful and thankful hearts.
For the sake of Jesus Christ, our Saviour,
Pray with us today's prayer request:
In June, we prayed about the atrocities being carried out in Boga, DR Congo, and the role of the Anglican churches in showing practical love. Bishop William Bahemuka has recently made a trip to the area. Thank God for financial gifts, for medical support, for United Nations security support, and for the beginning of soul healing. He writes: 'the situation is becoming relatively calm in Boga'.
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