There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love– 1 John 4:18
Meaning of 1 John 4:18
The meaning of the verse, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love” is that where there is love, there is no place for distress. John believes that fear is the antithesis of love and that someone who is fearful has not attained the love commanded or expected by God. Furthermore, John claims that someone who is a true believer will never fear. However, if they do, he says their ability to love others has not attained the fullness of love. Hence, when one experiences God’s perfect love, their fears and anxiety will vanish, and they also learn to love others perfectly.
Interpretations of 1 John 4:18
The verse of 1 John 4:18 is a commonly quoted verse in churches and Christian homes. The verse is often a topic of discussion when God’s love is the subject. However, the verse is often interpreted in several ways. Here are some examples.
Interpretation #1 God’s love is selfish
The interpretation of the verse, “He that feareth is not made perfect in love” is that God’s love is selfish, and when a believer is fearful, he or she is not loved by God. The reader believes that God is selfish because He wants people to love him unconditionally in order to bless them and love them. Hence, when someone lives in fear, they do not receive God’s promises mentioned in the Bible. The reader also believes that God has a quality of jealousy. As there are other verses in the Bible that He is a jealous God and is possessive about His children. Hence, He bribes His children through various promises in the Bible to get their love and adoration. Progressive churches preach that God believes that offering blessings will keep Christians from going away from him. So, the reader feels that God wants Christians to love Him without asking questions and doubting Him.
Interpretation #2 God despises people who fear
The meaning of the verse, “because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love” is that God dislikes cowards and weak people. In this version, the reader feels that God is demanding His believers to be constantly strong and brave believers to be loved. Additionally, God doesn’t think or feel that anyone who fears truly loves Him and hence has no place for such believers in the church or heaven. Similarly, churches also teach that the kingdom of God does not welcome anyone who fears problems, calamities, or punishment, as the verse states. So, he or she understands that the promises in the Bible is applicable to only those God loves, i.e., the ones who are brave and courageous.
Interpretation #3 Strong people do not fear
The interpretation of the verse, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment” is that a strong person does not fear anything. The reader believes that only a strong person can love unconditionally. He or she practices the perfect love mentioned by the author in order to be closer to God as well as display strength in challenging situations. God’s kingdom needs people who face problems without any worry or fear. Such believers do not worry about the future. They rest their worries in God because they truly love God and also know that God truly loves them. Thus, avoid anxiety or fear in their lives.
Interpretation #4 Christians must love one another
The meaning of the verse, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear” is that every Christian should love the other person and all of God’s creation. The Bible has repeated verses about love and how Christians should have love toward each other. It also teaches that God is the biggest example of love as He had sent His Son, Jesus, to bring humans closer to Him, as per John 3:16. Hence, every believer should follow the verse as a commandment. Churches also teach that any Christian who holds anger, resentment, and hatred towards the other does not obey God and is not a Christian by the standards of The Bible.
Interpretation #5 God’s love drives out any fear
The interpretation of the verse, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love” is that God’s love is overwhelmingly powerful and is capable of casting out every kind of fear. Here, the reader understands that the ‘fear’ mentioned implies impending judgment in the afterlife and judgment as well as loving God. When one experiences God’s love in their lives and shares it with others, they do not fear. The reader believes that the punishment awaiting the unbelievers in the future does not concern the believer. Additionally, God’s love gives confidence and security to the believer. The reader understands that fear is linked to punishment, and the believer is forgiven for his or her sins if they live a righteous life. Hence, the love of God for His people drives out every fear.
Historical background of 1 John 4:18
The letter of 1 John is believed to have been written by John the Apostle, who also wrote the Gospel of John in the New Testament. The epistle was possibly written in Ephesus between 95 and 110 AD. The book talks about false teachings and controversies caused by them. The book of John has three chapters in total, and the first one contains five chapters. The fourth chapter talks about God’s love and false prophets. The eighteenth chapter, in particular, talks about how fear should not have a place in a believer’s life, as God’s love has the ability to overwhelm every fear one can have.
Literary Devices of 1 John 4:18
The verse of 1 John 4:18 is a statement given by Apostle John and is a well-known verse among Christians. The verse consists of notable literary devices. Here are a few examples.
Theme – The major themes of 1 John 4:18 are God’s love and confidence.
Consonance – The verse has a few consonant sounds in quick repetitions. For example, the sound of /t/ in “but perfect love casteth out fear”; the sound of /r/ and /t/ in ‘because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love’.
Assonance – The verse 1 John 4:18 also has a few vowel sounds in successive repetitions. For example, the sound of /i/ in ‘There is no fear in love’; the sound of /uh/ in ‘but perfect love casteth out fear’.
Anaphora – The words ‘love’ and ‘fear’ are repeated in verse 1 John 4:18 to emphasize the relation between both feelings as well as the negative effects of fear.