What Does it Mean that 'Perfect Love Casts out Fear' from 1 John 4:18?

You may have heard that "perfect love casts out fear." Where does this come from? What does it mean for our lives as Christians?

Rebecca Gordon
What Does it Mean that 'Perfect Love Casts out Fear' from 1 John 4:18?

The apostle John tells us that God’s love is a perfect love that casts out all fear. But what does this verse mean? Here’s a deeper look at this beloved Scripture verse and the meaning of the passage.

Perfect Love Casts Out Fear from 1 John 4:18

"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." - 1 John 4:18 ESV

“This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world, we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”

What Does Perfect Love Mean?

In James 1:4 it states, “Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

The word “perfect”, (teleia), in Strong's Greek 5046 is from telos; complete; neuter completeness. In Vincent Word Studies, he states, “Not perfected, as 1 John 4:17 but perfect as the result of having been perfected.”  We will not be perfect because of sin, but God chose us because of His perfect love.

God understands that we don’t have to strive for perfection because of grace. How wonderful it is to have a heavenly Father that loves us so much that He will not give up on us. His love is unfailing, (Psalm 36:5-7), and therefore it always perseveres us. His love pursues us (1 Cor. 13:7), and never grows tired of our imperfections and flaws.

Why Do We Fear?

In 2 Timothy 1:7, it states, “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” We have been given control over our thoughts and fears.

But Satan is the one who invites us into fear. For example, In Genesis 3 it talks about how the serpent (Satan), deceives Eve into eating the fruit off the tree of good and evil. As soon as she and her husband Adam ate the fruit, they saw that they were naked. They quickly began to sew fig leaves together because of the shame of being naked. And when they heard God walking in the garden, they hid (Genesis 3:10).

How many times does Satan convince you to fear in your life? We fear because we forget that God made us with His love. His loves drives, pushes, and casts away all of our tormenting thoughts and fears. Jesus felt all of the fears we deal with now, and an example is pointed out in Matthew 26: 36-39:

“Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”

Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

Jesus began to be sorrowful. He was in a state of distress and depressed because He knew what was about to happen. His death for our life. But Jesus knew that God's love for Him is beyond any fear that tries to come in. So, if we can comprehend this, then we can trust in our hearts that God will not leave nor forsake us in our fear (Deuteronomy 31:6).

The Holy Spirit and Perfect Love

Romans 8:14-17 tells us  “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.”

If we are being led by the Spirit of God, then fear should not overtake you. We are adopted when we accept Jesus Christ into our lives. But if we are being led by the spirit of fear, then we are being influenced and overwhelmed by fear alone.

Call to God and He will answer (Psalm 107:6). Live in God's love and let His love rule and be sovereign over your life so that fear will forever be cast away.


Rebecca Gordon has a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a heart for the nations. She has a wonderful boyfriend named Joseph and a sweet dog named Lucky. She has lived in the Atlanta metro area all her life. She loves photography and plans to use that in her ministry one day. She also loves sweet tea and laying by the pool in the summer. Her focus now is becoming the writer that God has created her to be. Connect with Rebecca on Instagram: @beck242 or on her website Free and Healed.

Photo Credit: ©GettyImages


Originally published September 16, 2019.