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. We love because he first loved us.(1 John 4:18-19 ESV)
I fear God. I fear judgment and punishment.
I know I shouldn’t fear in this way because Jesus has fully redeemed my life from the judgment due for my sin, but as I am increasingly acquainted with both God’s holiness and my sinfulness redemption becomes an ever greater astonishment. God is absolutely holy, totally pure, eternally unblemished.
I am weak and sinful.
In my natural, naked state I cannot stand in God’s presence for I am corrupt.
There was a time when a man and a woman stood before God naked and unashamed. A perfect man and a perfect woman enjoying unhindered communion with God.
But then… sin.
After that they were afraid to be seen naked by God, they tried to cover themselves, attempted to hide from God. Futile and stupid efforts, just like my own evasiveness and deceit when shamed by my sin.
We cannot evade God, He knows our nakedness, our shame. An animal was slaughtered to clothe Adam and Eve, God’s Son was slaughtered to clothe me — in righteousness.
This is how I can have no fear. He perfectly loved me and died to clothe me in His own righteousness. In these garments, with no fear of punishment, I can come before God.
This exhortation and promise that perfect love casts out fear applies to all people. John wrote this to a Christian church, clearly applying it to Christians. It also applies to non-Christians in that they also can come to Christ and, trusting in Him, be freed from fear of punishment. Conversely, all who do not love Jesus should fear punishment because this is what awaits all who sin apart from Christ.