4:12 No one has seen God at any time. 1 If we love one another, God resides 2 in us, and his love is perfected in us. 3
1 John 4:18Context
4:18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. 4 The 5 one who fears punishment 6 has not been perfected in love.
2 tn The phrase “God resides in us” (ὁ θεὸς ἐν ἡμῖν μένει, Jo qeo" en Jhmin menei) in 4:12 is a reference to the permanent relationship which God has with the believer. Here it refers specifically to God’s indwelling of the believer in the person of the Holy Spirit, as indicated by 4:13b. Since it refers to state and not to change of status it is here translated “resides” (see 2:6).
3 tn The phrase “his [God’s] love is perfected (τετελειωμένη ἐστίν, teteleiwmenh estin) in us” in 4:12 is difficult. First it is necessary to decide whether αὐτοῦ (autou), which refers to God, is (1) subjective (God’s love for us) or (2) objective (our love for God). It is clear that a subjective genitive, stressing God’s love for us, is in view here, because the immediate context, 4:11a, has believers as the objects of God’s love (ὁ θεὸς ἠγάπησεν ἡμᾶς, Jo qeo" hgaphsen Jhma"). The entire phrase ἡ ἀγάπη αὐτοῦ ἐν ἡμῖν τετελειωμένη ἐστίν (Jh agaph autou en Jhmin teteleiwmenh estin) then refers to what happens when believers love one another (note the protasis of the conditional sentence in 4:12, ἐάν ἀγαπῶμεν ἀλλήλους [ean agapwmen allhlou"]). The love that comes from God, the love that he has for us, reaches perfection in our love for others, which is what God wants and what believers are commanded to do (see 3:23b).
4 sn The entire phrase fear has to do with punishment may be understood in two slightly different ways: (1) “fear has its own punishment” or (2) “fear has to do with [includes] punishment.” These are not far apart, however, and the real key to understanding the expression lies in the meaning of the word “punishment” (κόλασις, kolasis). While it may refer to torture or torment (BDAG 555 s.v. 1) there are numerous Koine references involving eternal punishment (2 Macc 4:38; T. Reu. 5:5; T. Gad 7:5) and this is also the use in the only other NT reference, Matt 25:46. In the present context, where the author has mentioned having confidence in the day of judgment (4:17), it seems virtually certain that eternal punishment (or fear of it) is what is meant here. The (only) alternative to perfected love, which results in confidence at the day of judgment, is fear, which has to do with the punishment one is afraid of receiving at the judgment. As 4:18b states, “the one who fears [punishment] has not been perfected in love.” It is often assumed by interpreters that the opposite to perfected love (which casts out fear) is imperfect love (which still has fear and therefore no assurance). This is possible, but it is not likely, because the author nowhere mentions ‘imperfect’ love, and for him the opposite of ‘perfected’ love appears to be not imperfect love but hate (cf. 4:20). In other words, in the antithetical (‘either/or’) categories in which the author presents his arguments, one is either a genuine believer, who becomes ‘perfected’ in love as he resides in love and in a mutually indwelling relationship with God (cf. 4:16b), or one is not a genuine believer at all, but one who (like the opponents) hates his brother, is a liar, and does not know God at all. This individual should well fear judgment and eternal punishment because in the author’s view that is precisely where such a person is headed.
5 tn Grk “punishment, and the person who fears.”
6 tn “Punishment” is not repeated in the Greek text at this point but is implied.