Questions From Readers
● What is the “fear” that perfect love throws outside, as stated at 1 John 4:18?—C. A., U.S.A.
The apostle John writes: “There is no fear in love, but perfect love throws fear outside, because fear exercises a restraint. Indeed, he that is under fear has not been made perfect in love.”—1 John 4:18.
The fear in this case is fear that inhibits one’s expressions to God in prayer. The context shows that John is continuing his discussion of having “freeness of speech.” (1 John 4:17) He is not dealing with freeness of speech in preaching the good news but with “freeness of speech toward God.”—1 John 3:19-21; compare Hebrews 10:19-22.
The one in whom God’s love reaches full expression can approach his heavenly Father in confidence, not feeling ‘condemned in his heart’ as if hypocritical or disapproved. He knows he is sincerely trying to observe God’s commandments and hence is doing what pleases his Father. (1 John 3:21, 22) So he is free in expressing himself and making petitions to Jehovah. He does not feel as if he were ‘on probation’ by God, under some restriction as to what he is privileged to say or ask for. (Compare Numbers 12:10-15; Job 40:1-5; Lamentations 3:40-44; 1 Peter 3:7.) No morbid fear inhibits him; he is not conscious of some ‘black mark’ against him.—Compare Hebrews 10:26, 27, 31.
Just as a child does not feel the least bit embarrassed or afraid to ask his loving parents for anything, convinced that they are always interested in his needs and happiness, so the Christians in whom love is fully developed are sure that “no matter what it is that we ask according to his will, he hears us. Further, if we know he hears us respecting whatever we are asking, we know we are to have the things asked since we have asked them of him.”—1 John 5:14, 15.
This perfect love, therefore, does not cast out fear of every kind. It does not eliminate the reverential and filial fear of God, born of deep respect for his position, power and justice. (Ps. 111:9, 10; Heb. 11:7) Nor does it do away with the normal fear that causes one to avoid danger where possible and thus to protect oneself and one’s life, or the fear caused by sudden alarm.—Compare 2 Corinthians 11:32, 33; Job 37:1-5; Habakkuk 3:16, 18.
The proper understanding of 1 John 4:18 is very enriching spiritually. It reveals how grand the relationship is that the Christian can enjoy with his magnificent Creator. It encourages us to speak from the heart in our prayers to God, not being formalistic or mechanical, but openly expressing our feelings, our needs, our concern for others, our hopes and our love for Him.
Nor should one view this being “made perfect in love” as a nearly impossible goal. ‘Perfection’ rarely is meant in the absolute sense; usually it is relative. When Paul wrote the Corinthian Christians, “do not become young children in powers of understanding, . . . yet become full-grown in powers of understanding,” he was not setting a goal beyond the reach of any in the entire congregation. (1 Cor. 14:20) The Greek word (teʹlei·oi) for “full-grown” that he used in this text is the same word (masculine gender) as the word (feminine gender) for “perfect” (te·leiʹa) that John used at 1 John 4:18. So, our being “made perfect in love” means that God’s love in us is not in an underdeveloped, halfway state, but is filling our hearts and moving us to do his will wholeheartedly.
● Hebrews 9:14 says that Christ “through an everlasting spirit offered himself.” What is the “everlasting spirit”?—R. W., U.S.A.
Noting the earlier part of this statement will help us to see this expression in its setting. We read: “For if the blood of goats and of bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who have been defiled sanctifies to the extent of cleanness of the flesh, how much more will the blood of the Christ, who through an everlasting spirit offered himself without blemish to God, cleanse our consciences from dead works that we may render sacred service to the living God?”—Heb. 9:13, 14.
These comments come in the midst of a discussion that contrasts the arrangements that God approved under the old Law covenant, or Mosaic Law, and those that pertained to the new covenant. In the opening part of the chapter the apostle Paul discussed the tabernacle and the animal sacrifices offered there. These things were legal requirements “pertaining to the flesh” and were imposed until the appointed time. (Heb. 9:10) Paul also pointed out that the “holy spirit” made it plain that as long as the tabernacle was standing and its sacrifices were being accepted by God, the way into the holy place of heaven itself was not yet available.—Heb. 9:8, 12.
The way into heaven, then, was through the sacrifice and blood of Jesus, not through animal sacrifices according to legal requirements “pertaining to the flesh.” But how did Jesus’ sacrifice come about? It was by means of the operation of the holy spirit already mentioned.
Earlier in this letter Paul had explained that Jesus did not become a priest “according to the law of a commandment depending upon the flesh,” which would have been the case if he had been of the family of Aaron, of the tribe of Levi. Jesus was of the non-priestly tribe of Judah. Consequently, it was by direct appointment of God that he was selected to be a “priest forever according to the manner of Melchizedek.” (Heb. 7:16, 17) Instead of being anointed with oil, as was Aaron, Jesus was anointed with holy spirit.—Ex. 29:7; Luke 3:21, 22.
Throughout his ministry Jesus proclaimed by his words and his works that he had God’s holy spirit upon him, empowering him and leading him. (Matt. 12:18, 28; Luke 4:14, 18) When the time came, Jesus laid down his life in sacrifice, just as was prophesied beforehand and written down in the Scriptures by means of the spirit—such as dying on a stake, among sinners and without a bone’s being broken. (Deut. 21:22, 23; Gal. 3:13; Isa. 53:12; Ps. 34:20) His sacrifice was thus not in accord with fleshly requirements, but through the operation of and in accord with the spirit. And the Bible says that Christ’s body was offered “once for all time.”—Heb. 10:10, 12.
All the fleshly regulations of the Law were part of a temporary arrangement that would pass away—control by the Law was temporary. In contrast, that with which Jesus was anointed, directed and offered up was permanent—God’s everlasting spirit. It would be used forever to direct those taken into the new covenant. And the offering that was made was not to be only of passing value, for a limited time; it was an everlasting sacrifice. With good reason Paul could contrast the fleshly provisions of the Law, its tabernacle, sacrifices and priesthood, with the everlasting spirit through which Christ offered himself.