The Fruit of Trust in God's Love
By Fred O. Blakely
"And we know and have believed the love which God hath in us. God is love; and he that abideth in love abideth in God, and God abideth in him. Herein is love made perfect with us, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, even so are we in this world. There is no fear in love: but perfect love casteth out fear, because fear hath punishment; and he that feareth is not made perfect in love" (I Jn. 4:16-18, ASV).
The evidence and fruit of love by the children of God, as here set forth by John, are immeasurably precious. Certainly they are to be earnestly desired and diligently sought by all who in truth call on the Father. Particular note should be made of the kind of love of which the Apostle speaks, however. It is not merely the gushing affection and sentimentality that so often parades itself as the paragon of godliness. Valid testimony of filial relationship to the Most Holy and effectual banishment of the cringing fear of Him obviously have a more substantial basis than that.
Traced to its ultimate source, the fruit of the Spirit clearly stems from the individual's firm and implicit reliance upon God, not from self-determination or self-will. That is to say, it is rooted in the Divine mercy and grace, and is actually nothing more than the issue of those qualities from within the believer, who has received them from Above. Hence, one cannot evince his or her status as a child of the heavenly King by just starting to "love" people and be kind to, and considerate of, them. Neither can such ones banish their inherent fear of death and the eternal judgment by such tactics. These blessings are not the result of loving the brethren. Contrariwise, love of the saints and deliverance from fear themselves take the nature of results of something that lies beneath them. And that something is one's utter dependence upon the God of all grace, as He is revealed and set forth in the holy Scriptures.
The Basis for our Dependence. "And we know and have believed the love which God hath in us." There, there is secret of all that fortifies the heart and flows out of the life of the saint. It is whole-hearted faith in God and unhesitating dependence on the representation of Himself which He has given. "Herein was the love of God manifested in us," the Apostle has previously declared, "that God hath sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him" (vv. 9-10). Again, "we have beheld and bear witness that the Father hath sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world" (v. 14). And, again, "And the witness is this, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in His Son" (ch. 5:10-12, ASV). "The Apostle gives us here a startlingly beautiful succession of truths concerning love--divine love--revealed in Christ, and laying hold of men."
The revised rendering, "which God hath in us," rather than "toward us," as in the A.V. (v. 16), is to be especially noted. The believer who is pressing on unto perfection in the Son (Heb. 6:1-3) has gone much further than to know the love of God to him, as that love was historically manifested in the gift of Jesus. His awareness of that love began with the belief of the record of its objective display, but it certainly did not end there. Through the Spirit which indwells him, he knows this love in himself, as "a reviving, cheering, glowing, inspiring, life-giving power." It is in him as the living water of which Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman, "springing up into everlasting life" (Jn. 4:14). Of a truth, as Paul remarked, the love of God has been "shed abroad" in his heart by "the Holy Spirit which is given unto us" (Rom. 5:5; cf. Tit. 3:5). "He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself" (Jn. 5:10). "The Spirit Itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God" (Rom. 8:16). So has the believer received Him who is the Life, Christ Himself now dwelling in his heart by faith (Eph. 3:17).
John's order of thought here, it seems, may be expressed somewhat as follows: "Divine love is-- 1. A manifestation among us (v. 9). 2. An impartation to us (Rom. 5:5). 3. A reciprocal love, as ours has been called forth thereby (v. 19). 4. A transforming love, causing us to love as God loves (v. 12). 5. A self-consummating love, fulfilling its own ends in and through us, causing its outworking to be perfected in us, as its newly opened channel, through which it is flowing on to the boundless ocean of everlasting life and glory."
The Reciprocal Indwelling. The Apostle goes on in our basic text to assert the mutual and reciprocal indwelling of God and the believer. "He that abideth," or "dwelleth," in the love of God, he declares, "abideth in God, and God abideth in him" (v. 16). In verse 15, he has set forth the same situation with reference to confession of the faith, though in reverse order. "Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God abideth in him, and he in God." Other Scriptures which represent such mutuality of fellowship include Jn. 6:56; 14:23; Rom. 8:9; II Cor. 13:5; Gal. 2:20; Eph. 2:18, 22; Col. 1:27; Rev. 3:20). Thus "he that dwells in sacred love has the love of God "shed abroad' upon his heart, has the impress of God upon his spirit, the Spirit of God sanctifying and sealing him, lives in meditation, views, and tastes of the divine love, and will ere long go to dwell with God for ever."
"In some passages, the Dweller in the heart is spoken of as Christ, sometimes as the Spirit, sometimes as the Father with the Son, sometimes as God by the Spirit. In all cases, the meaning is that there is a divine Life and Energy within the person, quickening, inspiring, and controlling him--a new directing and strengthening Force, leading on to all holy action, to patient endurance, to final victory. Man moves not upward and heavenward by a self-elicited force, but soars thither by a divine power imparted and sustained from Above."
He who abides, or dwells, in the love of God and of the brethren is said to abide in God, "for God is love." Here is truly a heavenly state. The soul is at home in God, and continually resides there. "God is not only a new life in him, but a new home for him, in which he abides, and from which he cannot be dislodged. His wanderings are over. He has a settled rest, an everlasting home. It is the Father's house, in the Father's heart--the heart of boundless love. He is now seated in "the heavenly places in Christ Jesus' (Eph. 2:6). Happy, happy home! It is heaven. It will never break up. No foe can invade it. Sin shall not mar it. Death cannot disturb it. Oh, to have found a home like this!" It is to be observed that the two indwellings compliment each other. "God dwelling in the soul ensures the soul continuously dwelling in its true home; and the soul, being always at home, has entire repose--it is full of God--leaving all its force free for happy, holy worship and service of God."
John's connection of the two indwellings with confession of faith and abiding in divine love is at once remarkable and deeply significant. The reciprocal abiding, he declares, is realized by him who lives and moves in God's love and also by him who openly and continuously avows to the doctrine of Christ. Actually, the two practices--confessing and abiding--are concurrent, and are not to be contemplated in dissociation.
That Jesus is the Son of God and the Savior of the world, and so the Revealer of God's love, is the message addressed to faith (I Jn. 4:14). "The Christian revelation is--what should endear it to us--the revelation of divine love. The articles of our revealed faith are but so many articles relating to divine love. The history of the Lord Christ is the history of God's love to us. All His transactions in and with His Son were but testifications of His love, and means to advance us to the love of God."
Faith receives Christ upon the basis of God's revelation and with Him the love and salvation which He reveals. "Confession constantly rings out the faith, and by so doing vastly increases faith's realizing power. This, through the energy of the Holy Spirit (I Cor. 12:3), makes the love of God in Christ so real to the faithful confessor, that he actually dwells in love, and so reaches the state specified as "dwelling in love' (v. 16). Thus the two conditions differ only as the terminus a quo from the terminus a quem [or, the point of commencement from that of completion]. Confession is the former; dwelling in love is the latter. This is verified by the order of the phrases, being in the one case, "God dwelleth in him, and he in God'; and in the other, "dwelleth in God, and God in him.'"
The Boldness before God. The ultimate outcome of such reliance upon, and fellowship with, God in the era of grace has its setting in the world to come, says the Apostle. "Herein is love made perfect with us, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, even so are we in this world. There is no fear in love: but perfect love casteth out fear." The firstfruits of this reliant boldness before God is experienced by the believer while yet in the flesh. Through faith and trust in the record which God has given of Himself and His Son, he comes "boldly unto the throne of grace," entering without fear "into the holiest by the blood of Jesus" (Heb. 4:14-16; 10:19-22). At the great judgment seat of Christ, before which "we must all appear" (II Cor. 5:10), he will but continue in "this grace" wherein he now stands, relying wholly upon His acceptance with God "in the Beloved" (Rom. 5:5-11; Eph. 1:6).
The unspeakable glory of this deliverance from fear of "judgment to come" needs to be emphasized, that we may the more appreciate the greatness of our salvation in Christ (Acts 24:25). "What countless fears agitate the hearts of those who are not in sympathy with God! Some men are dreading poverty; others, painful and lingering illness; others, death; others, judgment; others, God Himself. Such fears agitate and distress souls; they have torment. Perfect love will expel each and all these tormentors.
It clothes our life and its experiences in new aspects, by enabling us to regard them in a different spirit. This love is of God; it proceeds from and returns to Him. It cannot dread Him and His appointments in relation to us. In this way it banishes from the heart the dread of death and of the judgment. Since God is what He is--'Love' (v. 16) and "Light' (ch. 1:5)--we can do no other than trust Him. Hence, even now we look forward with confidence to the Day of Judgment. Perfect love not only expels servile fear, but inspires victorious trust in God." "The confidence which we shall have "in that day,' and which we have even now by anticipation of it, is the perfection of our love grounded on the consideration which follows, "Because as He is, even so are we in this world.'"
The final fruitage of our abiding in the divine love, like the "good wine" which the Lord made at the wedding feast (Jn. 2:10), is the best. "It will give us peace and satisfaction of spirit in the day when it will be most needed, or when it will be the greatest pleasure and blessing imaginable. There must be a day of universal judgment. Happy (are) they who shall have holy fiducial boldness before the Judge at that day, who shall be able to lift up their heads and look Him in the face, knowing He is their Friend and Advocate!
Happy (are) they who have holy boldness and assurance in the prospect of that day, who look nd wait for it, and for the Judge's appearance! So do, and so may do, the lovers of God. Their love to God assures them of God's love to them (I Jn. 4:19), and consequently of the friendship of the Son of God. As God is good and loving, and faithful to His promises, so we can easily be persuaded of His love, and the happy fruits of His love, when we can say, Thou that knowest all things knowest that we love Thee (Jn. 21:17). "And hope maketh not ashamed.' Our hope, conceived by the consideration of God's love, will not disappoint us, "because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given to us.'"
"The fear which is inconsistent with perfect love is the fear of the slave dreading the lash, or the culprit dreading the verdict. But if the love of God is within us, sweetly subduing us with its tenderness, and if through that love sin is pardoned and destroyed, why, there is not lash to dread, there is not adverse verdict to fear (Jn. 5:24, ASV); for in such a case, to see the Judge upon the throne will be to look upon the face of an infinite Vindicator and Friend, in whose love we have lived here, and the enjoyment of whose love is the highest heaven for ever! And so far as the judgment will bear on others, the man of love will be more than content with the decisions of the Son of God and Son of man, and will desire nothing more than that the entire race should be dealt with by Christ as He sees fit. Evidently, if this be not our state of mind, there must be a deficiency in love in exactly the same degree as there is any restless fear."
Our expectancy of boldness in the day of judgment is also rooted in our present conformity to Christ, John declares. "Because as He is, even so are we in this world" (v. 17). In what sense is this to be taken? Primarily, of course, we are judicially reckoned by God to be so, in that we are joined to Christ--one Spirit with Him, "members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones" (I Cor. 6:17; Eph. 5:30). In addition, we are experientially identified with our Lord. We have God as our Father, as does He, "for which cause He is not ashamed" to recognize us as brethren (Heb. 2:11-13). We are also "separate from sinners" and the world, and "alive unto God, as He is (Rom. 6:11; Heb. 7:26). We have been raised up, as was Christ, and been made to "sit with Him in the heavenly places" (Eph. 2:6). Hence, as He was "received up into glory" (I Tim. 3:16), so have we also been (Eph. 1:6; Heb. 10:19-22).
In our reconciliation to the objectives of the Father in the Son, and the work which He is executing through Him, we are also Christ-like. "We are looking forward to the day of judgment as the consummation of our hope, and the Redeemer is working in the world with a view to that day as the consummation of His mediatorial reign (I Cor. 15:24-28; Heb. 10:12-13). "This world' (I Jn. 4:17; cf. Gal. 1:4), as distinguished from "the world,' emphasizes the idea of transitoriness. Just so, Christ, in His redeeming work, and we in our believing hope, are working with the same goal in view-- "the day of judgment.' This world is but a passing phase of things. This is the day in which our Lord Jesus is carrying on His saving work in the world, and His educating process in the church; and all with a view to "the great day.' Believers, too, are only in the preliminary period of their training, and hence they, too, believe and hope and love with a view to "that day.' As their Lord is, so are they in this passing world, looking to and preparing for what lies above and beyond it." Hence such passages of Scripture as these: Mt. 25; Mk. 13:35-37; Lk. 12:35-40; 21:34-36; Rom. 14:9-12; I Cor. 4:5; II Cor. 5:10; Phil. 1:6, 10; Col. 1:28-29; I Th. 5:23; II Tim. 1:12.
Conclusion. Since the fruit of trustfully abiding in God's love is so precious, the work of the believer clearly is cut out for him. It is, as the Savior requested, to "continue in My love" (Jn. 15:9-10). Or, as expressed by Jude, to "keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life" (Jude 21). Or, by Paul to Timothy, "That good thing which was committed unto thee keep by the Holy Spirit which dwelleth in us" (II Tim. 1:14).
As the embattled saint wages the warfare of abiding in God and permitting God to abide in him, the assurances of Scripture encourage and sustain his heart. "The anointing which ye have received of Him abideth in you," wrote John earlier in his first epistle, "and ye need not that any man teach you; but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is true, and is no lie, and as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in Him" (I Jn. 2:27). In his second letter, the Apostle voiced like assurance. The "elect lady," to whom it is addressed, he loved "for the truth's sake," he said. Which truth, he continued, "abideth in us, and shall be with us for ever" (II Jn. 1-2).
With full confidence in God, let us therefore determine to heed the apostolic exhortation: "And now, little children, abide in Him; that, when He shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before Him at His coming" (I Jn. 2:28). So shall we claim the beatitude of our Lord, proclaimed from Heaven: "Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame" (Rev. 16:15).