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?

Contributing Writer
Updated Feb 21, 2024
What Does it Mean that 'Perfect Love Casts out Fear' from 1 John 4:18?

The apostle John tells us in 1 John 4:18 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: Table of Contents

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 Casts Out Fear’ 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.

What is God’s Perfect Love?

God's perfect love is a profound and all-encompassing love that emanates from the very nature of God. It is a love that transcends human comprehension and surpasses any earthly manifestation of love. In essence, God's perfect love is unconditional, selfless, and eternal. It is a love that seeks the ultimate well-being of the beloved, demonstrating mercy, grace, and compassion.

The concept of God's perfect love is beautifully articulated in 1 John 4:16, which declares, "So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and anyone who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in them." This verse emphasizes the inseparable connection between God and love, portraying love as an integral aspect of God's nature. 

John 3:16 underscores the sacrificial nature of God's perfect love: "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." Here, God's love is manifested through the redemptive act of sending Jesus Christ for the salvation of humanity. 

"For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:38-39)

Scripture makes clear the incomparable strength and persistence of God's love, assuring believers that nothing can separate them from the unyielding love of God. His love endures forever.

What Are the Main Causes of 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).

What Does the Bible Say About Overcoming Fear?

The Bible offers a comprehensive framework for overcoming fear, emphasizing the divine gifts of power, love, and a sound mind, the comforting presence of God in times of darkness, and the wisdom of focusing on the present while entrusting the future to God. These teachings provide a solid foundation for navigating life's uncertainties with faith, courage, and the assurance that they are not alone in their journey.

One of the most iconic passages addressing fear is found in Psalm 23:4, where the psalmist declares, "Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me." This imagery of God's presence and guidance in the face of adversity instills confidence and reassurance that we should trust in the Lord amid challenging circumstances. 

Isaiah 41:10 reinforces these same themes by proclaiming, "Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." Here, God's promise of strength and support serves as a source of courage for those grappling with fear.

The teachings of Jesus also provide profound insights into overcoming fear. In Matthew 6:34, Jesus advises, "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." This wisdom encourages us to focus on the present moment, trusting in God's providence and relinquishing anxiety about an uncertain future. 

Philippians 4:6-7 also instructs us saying, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." This passage highlights the transformative power of prayer and gratitude in dispelling fear and fostering God's peace.

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 must 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.

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