I would like to quote a passage of Scripture that deals specifically with “perfect love” and then I will offer a short explanation on what perfect love is along with some comments on the passage. Let’s read 1st John 4:17-19 from the New King James Version: “Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but PERFECT LOVE casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. We love Him because He first loved us.”

Some translations begin this passage with the words, “Herein is our love made perfect.” There is a real problem with that rendering for it implies that our (i.e. believers in Christ) love can be perfect. William MacDonald corrects that thinking with these words, “It is not our love that is made perfect, but God’s love is made perfect with us.” God alone has PERFECT LOVE! In fact, His very nature is one of PERFECT LOVE as we see in verse 8 of this chapter, “He who does not love does not know God , GOD IS LOVE.”

What is PERFECT LOVE? The word “perfect” in verse 18 is the Greek word TELIOS and it simply means, “complete.” If we are honest, we would admit that our love is NOT complete; we often fail to love God as we should and we certainly fail to love each other as we are commanded to do. In other words, our love falls short. But God’s love is PERFECTLY COMPLETE! It never fails!! And His perfect love has been manifested to us, as we see in verses 9-10, “In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loves us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” It is in the Person of Jesus Christ, God’s eternal Son, that we see PERFECT LOVE on display. It is a love that is not dependent on the objects of His love (for John said, “not that we loved God”). It is a love that issues from God own perfect Divine Nature. It is a love that has provided salvation for lost and guilty man. It is a love that has never nor ever will fail; it is PERFECT (complete) LOVE.

Now I will offer a few comments on verses 17-19. When a believer sees God’s perfect love in the Person and Work of Christ on Calvary’s cross, it gives him/her “boldness in the day of judgment.” We know that God’s love has settled the great sin question on the cross when His Son was “made sin for us” (see John 3:16 and 2nd Corinthians 5:21). Thus we know that our sins have all been judged and that we will never come into judgment. Jesus declared this in John 5:24, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and DOES NOT COME INTO JUDGMENT, but has passed out of death into life” (NASB). Thus, we will have “boldness in the day of judgment.” Some people think we are being proud and presumptuous by saying we know we will never be judged, but in truth we are simply taking God at His word and trusting in His PERFECT LOVE that provided salvation for us. A believer who has this boldness is at “perfect rest” in God’s “perfect love,” and it means that God’s “love has been perfected in us.” It has removed any sense of fear concerning the coming day of judgment.  It has “completed” its work in us. If the believer is fearful when he/she thinks of the coming day of judgment, it means that God’s love hasn’t been perfected in them yet. The passage ends with “We love Him because He first loved us.” As we said before, our love is NOT perfect, but we do have love (for God, for fellow-believers, and for lost sinners too) because “He first loved us.” Because His love was manifested on the cross we have received God’s very nature of love (see 1st John 3:9-14; 4:7).

I would close by encouraging you to meditate upon John 3:16; 13:1; 15:9-13; Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 5:2, 25. As we meditate on God’s PERFECT LOVE, His “love will be perfected in us.”  (346.3)  (DO)