Fear is something everyone has experienced, and in times of uncertainty, our fear can grow. Like a grease fire in the kitchen, it can quickly feel like our fear is out of our control.

We want to live by faith and not fear, but what can we do when our fear feels out of control?

Read what the Apostle John says in 1 John 4:17-18.

“By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.”

Fear, Love, And Judgment

In these verses, John explores the relationship between fear, love, and judgment. The relationship between fear and judgment is obvious. Judgment is a fearful thing. The idea of standing before an almighty, holy God, who demands sinless perfection, should produce fear in us. When we think of judgment, we think of things like death, the wrath of God, guilt, and hell, things we fear the most.

But there is good news. John says that there is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. How can love cast out fear? Ultimately, love is made manifest in the gospel, and the gospel casts out all fear of judgment.

Read what John wrote just a few verses earlier about the love of God being expressed through the sending of his Son, Jesus.

“In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:9-10).

In other words, God revealed His love for us by sending His son, Jesus Christ, to die for our sins. Christ was the propitiation for our sins. This means He satisfied the debt of our guilt. He appeased the wrath of God by standing in our place as the perfect sacrifice. Therefore, we do not have to fear judgment, death, wrath, or hell.

The context of this letter shapes the meaning. John was a pastor, and he wrote this letter to give his people assurance. He is writing about how they (and we) can know if they have eternal life. He is saying here that if we abide in God’s love, loving God and loving each other, then we can know that our faith is genuine. If our faith is genuine, then we can know that God will grant us forgiveness from our sins and eternal life with Him. No more fear of judgment.

So, perfect love drives out the fear of judgment, but what about other kinds of fear? Does love cast out other fears, as well? Does the gospel help us to put other fears to death?

The Gospel Drives Out Fear 

Consider your fears, and how the gospel drives them away:

  • The gospel removes the fear of death. Jesus conquered death and promises His followers eternal life.

  • The gospel removes the fear of punishment. Jesus stood in our place and received the punishment we deserved.

  • The gospel removes the fear of shame. Jesus experienced shame and humiliation so that we could be exalted and sit with Him in the seat of honor.

  • The gospel removes the fear of rejection. Jesus was rejected, so we would be eternally accepted.

  • The gospel removes the fear of separation from God. Jesus was separated so that God would never leave us nor forsake us.

  • The gospel removes the fear of losing our most prized possessions. Jesus lost everything so that we would have an eternal, unfading inheritance that is kept forever in heaven for us.

What Should We Do?

How do we apply these things? What do we need to do to extinguish the flames of fear in our lives? We need to be perfected in love. We need to abide in the love of God, and God’s love needs to abide in us.

We don’t always do this perfectly, which is why those of us who know the truth of the gospel still experience fear. Our understanding and application of the gospel is not yet perfected. John says two things will happen when love is perfected in us. One, we will have no fear. Two, we will love each other because God has loved us. Our understanding and application of the gospel has a direct link to our experience of fear. As our understanding and application grows, our fear will decrease. If we find ourselves overwhelmed by fear or not loving our brothers and sisters, it means we are lacking understanding or failing to apply the gospel in some area of our lives.

So, one important way for us to combat fear is to grow in our understanding of God’s love revealed in the gospel. If we want to grow in our understanding, we must meditate on the love of God.

3 Things To Meditate On

  1. Remember the perfect life of Jesus and the favor it brings us.

    • “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

    • His righteousness has become our righteousness. Meditate on the favor we have as we relate to God clothed in the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ.

  1. Remember the death of Jesus in our place and the forgiveness and healing it purchased for us.

    • “But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:5-6).

    • Meditate on the forgiveness of your sins made possible by the suffering and death of Jesus Christ on the cross.

  1. Remember the resurrection of Jesus and the promise of hope it brings.

    • Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:3-5).

    • Think about the inheritance that the resurrection guarantees, and how it far outweighs any treasures you have or can lose in this world.

Meditate on these great truths, and ask God to give you a deeper understanding. Abide in the love of God, and let his love abide in you. When you feel fear rising up like a flame in your heart, douse it with the truth of God’s love for you.