1 John 4:17.
There are few things in the divine record of deeper significance to the child of God than the statement that "as He is" (the Lord Jesus Christ in glory), "so are we in this world." On referring to it you will find that the Spirit of God gives this as the reason, and the only reason, for our having boldness in the day of judgment. Every soul then that has, or seeks to have, this assured confidence in view of that impending day, will necessarily receive with interest any unfolding from God's word of that concerning which the apostle speaks. Be it observed, then, that the Holy Ghost refers to a positive and absolute standing in the sight of God, not to a practical condition; and, further, that it is a present, everyday standing before Him of believers while in the world. It is true that the apostle does speak in the same verse of what is future, the day of judgment, and of the suited attitude of our souls in relation to it - boldness, of which more presently.
But now let us observe that there are two absolute things before us here. 1. The positive perfection of divine love toward us - thrice blessed source of all our blessing - love with us is made PERFECT. Here is the primary and incomparable fact meeting us in all its priceless value for the deep and constant joy of our hearts, that God has not given us merely an earnest of His love, an instalment however handsome, but He has perfected His love toward us. The Spirit of God knew full well the tendency of souls to subjective truth, which, all right in its subordinate place, is never right when made paramount. He therefore puts the objective before us in its divine precedence. What is then the objective thing here? Note it well, dear reader, for your soul's supreme solace. (1) Divine love, (2) Occupied with you, (3) Made perfect towards you. In the next verse (condescending to our weakness) He comes down to the level of what is purely subjective. Love begets love, and accordingly our love, that which His love has evolved, is here touched on. But does the love which is perfect in Him who is divine produce perfection of love in us who are human? Alas! no. Notice then three uses of the word "perfect." (1) His love towards us is perfect, (2) His love is perfect in itself (see verses 17, 18, where in each case the love is in divine connection), (3) There is a change. It is not said, however, that our love is not perfect (true enough, and hopelessly true), but that if we have fear we are not perfected in love; that is, in His. This, however, if true, is not hopelessly so; for our normal state is, that we are perfected in His love. Love and fear are incompatible, being essentially contrary in character. So long as both dwell in the heart there is distress of spirit or torment; for contending forces strive for mastery. The apostle seeks to strengthen our souls in the one that the other may be expelled. In other words, the Spirit of God educates our souls into so perfect a sense of the divine love that fear shall lose its place, being cast out.
2. The other absolute thing in verse 17 is, that as Christ is, so are we in this world. The former was an absolute fact; viz., that love has its aspect towards us in its infinite, divine perfection. God is love, and His love to us-ward is absolutely and essentially perfect. Love us less than He does He will not, and more than He does He could not. Nor is this love merely a quality, or even the essence of His nature only, but an active principle. Accordingly we have next an absolute result. The blood of Christ, the cross of Christ, the work of Christ, speak of it as you will, has its results here focussed in their relation to the believer. Do we think of ourselves naturally? Born in sin, conceived in iniquity, by nature lost! Or as living in sins, practising evil? Every soul guilty before God! Or even as believers, as to our practical state? "If we say that we have no sin we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." And "in many things we offend all." But, oh, the wondrous character of divine love! God, looking upon the face of our shield and His anointed, the glorified Man at the right hand of His throne, who is over all God blessed for ever, Spite of all He has ever seen or now sees in us, and the tremendous disparity between Him and ourselves, so effectually have sin and guilt, death and judgment, been for the believer judiciously disposed of once for all, that He says, "As HE IS, so are we in this world."
3. Having looked at the result of divine love, we may notice further that the effect of His love in the present becomes the cause of our boldness in the future. For we read, "That we may have boldness in the day of judgment, because as He is, so are we in this world." Who would have the temerity to count upon boldness in the day of judgment because of his practical state now? But when it is seen that our positive standing before God, that eternal favour in which we are in Christ, is such that God makes no difference between the Son and the many sons, but declares that while down here in this world we are before Him as Christ in glory, though not a particle of that glory be yet ours, what solid comfort, what established peace have we who have believed, even in view of that tremendous day! This word "boldness" is met with in two other places in the epistles, but uniformly as the effect of God's activity in His love toward us, and not as a result of any attainment of ours. In the first of these (Eph. 11, 12) it is "according to the eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord: in whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of Him." In the other (Heb. 10:19, 20) it is the direct effect of the blood of Christ. "Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus," etc. Thus (1) His eternal purpose in Christ Jesus when He first brought me to Himself gave me boldness through faith in coming to Him, which was an entirely changed standing. (2) The efficacy of the blood, the new and living way opened, and the presence of God's high Priest, afforded to my soul the boldness of a worshipper in entering through the rent veil into the holiest of all, which is nothing short of the very place where He dwells, an entirely new place. (3) If my standing answers as to acceptance, to what Christ is before God, and His very place is mine now by faith, surely we may not refuse the sequence of this in God's eternity - boldness even yet again in the day of judgment; for "he that feareth is not made perfect in love."
May the grace that has set us in such cloudless, divine favour deepen in our souls so full and happy a sense of it that, His love with us being made perfect, we also may be made perfect in it. W. R.
Satisfied with Thee.
Satisfied with Thee, Lord Jesus,
I am blest;
Peace which passeth understanding,
On Thy breast:
No more doubting,
No more trembling,
Oh, what rest!
Occupied with me, Lord Jesus,
In Thy grace;
All Thy ways and thoughts about me,
Deeper stories Of the glories
Of Thy grace.
Taken up with Thee, Lord Jesus,
I would be;
Finding joy and satisfaction,
All in Thee:
Thou the nearest,
And the dearest,
Listening for Thy shout, Lord Jesus,*
In the air;
When Thy saints shall rise with joy, to
Meet Thee there,
Oh, what gladness!
No more sadness,
Sin, nor care!
Longing for the Bride, Lord Jesus,
Of Thy heart;
To be with Thee in the glory, Where Thou art.
Love so groundless,
Grace so boundless,
Wins my heart.
When Thy blood-bought church, Lord Jesus,
When each soul is safely landed
At Thy feet;
What a story,
In the glory
Oh, to praise Thee there, Lord Jesus,
Oh, to grieve and wander from Thee,
Earth's sad story
Closed in glory,
On yon shore!
Then Thy Church will be, Lord Jesus,
Of Thy richest grace and kindness,
In that day:
O'er earth's way."
*It would seem from John 5 that the shout is for the dead, and not for the living. ED.