I’m a Bible nerd. I mean, who spends their two free hours while their daughter is at a birthday party looking up the meanings of words from a Bible passage in the original Greek? Who reads and compares said Bible passage in a dozen different versions, when they could be out shopping, or better yet, napping? Who blogs while the Super Bowl is on in the other room?
The Word of God has always fascinated me. Studying it feels like panning for gold. Only it’s ALL gold. It’s just a question of how large the nuggets will be today.
I was mining the depths of 1 John 4:17-18 yesterday and thought I’d share a few of my finds. The New American Standard Version reads like this:
“By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment… There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.”
I’ve been battling fear on a number of different fronts lately. One of the fears I’ve had to face involves needles. I get all clammy just typing the word. To say I’m “needle-phobic” would be an understatement. So when I look up the word “fear” and see the Greek word phobos, I am reassured that God is not at all surprised by my fears and phobias.
His desire, though, is to “cast out” these fears. To cast means “to throw or let go of a thing without caring where it falls.” Vincent’s Word Studies describes it as “turn(ing) out of doors.” This reminded me of recent nights when worry would gain entrance to my mind and needed a firm escort to the door.
There is also an element of “judgment” in our fears. Because I am in Christ, I do have confidence in my standing before a Holy God and no longer fear His judgment. The kind of judgment I still battle, however, is my self-condemnation and blame when I come face to face with my own imperfections and failures. The kind of confidence I lack is in dealing with the trials and struggles of the here-and-now.
So again, there is much relief when I notice that the Greek word for “judgment” is krisis, from which our very own word “crisis” is derived. The confidence God gives is big enough to cover not just the life to come, but the day-to-day challenges of this life as well. We can have a holy boldness when we encounter the inevitable crises on this side of heaven. “He whose sins are pardoned, and whose heart is filled with the love of God, has nothing to dread in this world or the world to come.” (Barnes’ Notes on the Bible, italics mine)
The hinge that our confidence and courage turn upon is this thing called “perfect love.” The Greek word used here for “love” is agape, which refers to God’s unconditional, supernatural love, as opposed to the conditional, more fickle human variety. It’s His love that shows our fears the door. “This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (1 John 4:10)
We know God is perfect and therefore it follows that His love would be perfect. The Greek word for “perfect” is teleioo, which means “accomplished, finished, fulfilled.” This made me think of Jesus’ final words as He hung on the cross: “It is finished!” (John 19:30) And this is where it gets good. I checked, and sure enough, the Greek word for “finished” in John 19:30 is teleo! Eureka!
“Finished” can also be translated “paid.” When Jesus cried, “It is finished!” He was essentially saying, “It is paid in full!” The work was done. The debt was paid. He had led a perfect life, which qualified Him to offer Himself and take the punishment we deserved, in one perfect act of love.
This then is the “perfect love” that casts out our fears, that gives us confidence both in this life and the next. Jesus died to purchase our freedom. He rose to conquer our fears. He lives to give us courage to face any crisis. We can rest in His finished work, secure in His proven love.
And that knowledge is worth its weight in gold.
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