1 John 4:17 Commentary

To go directly to that verse

Click chart to enlarge
Charts from Jensen's Survey of the NT - used by permission
Another Overview Chart - 1 John - Charles Swindoll
Conditions of
Cautions of
Meaning of 
1 Jn 1:1-2:27
Manifestations of
1 Jn 2:28-5:21
Abiding in
God's Light
Abiding in 
God's Love
Written in Ephesus
circa 90 AD
From Talk Thru the Bible

1 John 4:17 By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world:

Greek - en touto teteleiotai (3SRPI) e agape meth hemon hina parrhesian echomen (1PPAS) en te hemera tes kriseos hoti kathos ekeinos estin (3SPAI) kai hemeis esmen (3PPAI) en to kosmo touto .

Amplified - In this [union and communion with Him] love is brought to completion and attains perfection with us, that we may have confidence for the day of judgment [with assurance and boldness to face Him], because as He is, so are we in this world.

NLT - And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world.

Smalley - This is how love is completed among us: when we can have confidence on the judgment day; since in this world we are even as he is.

Wuest - In this has been brought to completion the aforementioned love with us, which love exists in its completed state, in order that we may be having unreservedness of speech at the day of judgment, because just as that One is, also, as for us, we are in this world.

  • Perfected: 1Jn 4:12 2:5 Jas 2:22
  • we may: 1Jn 2:28 3:19-21 Jas 2:13
  • the day: Mt 10:15 11:22,24 12:36 2Pe 2:9 3:7
  • as: 1Jn 3:3 Mt 10:25 John 15:20 Ro 8:29 Heb 12:2,3 1Pe 3:16-18 1Pe 4:1-3,13,14
  • 1 John 4 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries


Steven Cole - Of all of the important matters in life, none is more vital than the one that John mentions in 1Jn 4:17—having confidence in the day of judgment. But we need to make sure that our confidence is based on biblical reasons, not on false hope. Polls show that at least 60 percent of Americans believe in hell, but only four percent think there’s a good chance that they will go there. Since we’re talking about eternity in the lake of fire, you need to be sure of where you stand! Since John tells us how to have confidence on that coming day, we all should pay close attention… John knows that in the matter of loving others, it’s easy to be hypocrites. It’s easy to sing, “Oh, how I love Jesus,” while at the same time our homes are a battle zone. We put on our spiritual masks at church, but in our hearts we harbor bitterness toward a fellow Christian who has wronged us. So John once more hits this vital matter of practical love for one another. John is saying, Love that comes from God gives us confidence in the Day of Judgment and must be expressed in love for others in obedience to God’s commandment. By linking love to confidence in the Day of Judgment, John shows how important it is that we learn practically to love one another. (1 John 4:17-21 Facing the Judgment with Confidence)

Candlish - THE leading idea here is “boldness in the day of judgment" not boldness prospectively when the day comes, but present boldness in the view of it now. It is much the same thing as we have in a previous section of the epistle (1Jn 3:19–21-note), our assuring our hearts before God; our having confidence toward God. This boldness is connected with the perfecting of love… Love then, or the love before indicated, is perfected with us; and the perfecting of this love with us is bound up with our having boldness in the day of judgment. The bond or connecting link is our oneness with Christ; our being in this world as he is now. (1 John 4:17-19 The Boldness of Perfected Love)

Martyn Lloyd-Jones - Let me sum it up in this way: Not to be concerned about loving the brethren, not to be concerned as to whether I am dwelling in love or not, is to misunderstand the whole purpose of my salvation, and therefore it is to flout God’s love. If this is not the greatest concern of my life, then I am a mere beginner in the Christian life. At the beginning, of course, we have a very great concern about forgiveness; we are very concerned about certain particular sins which may have been evident in our lives before our conversion. But we must not stop at that. The hallmark of the saints is their great, increasing concern about the element of love in their lives. They no longer think in terms of action, but in terms of their likeness to God. That is their first ambition—‘as He is, so must I be in this world of time’; ‘herein is love made perfect with us.’. (Life in Christ Studies in 1 John)

By this - By what? To what does this refer? As noted above, the Amplified Bible can serve at times like a "mini-commentary," in this case interpreting the "by this" as by our covenant relationship, our "union and communion" with God.

Steven Cole expands this idea noting that "John’s flow of thought here takes some effort to follow. “By this” (1Jn 4:17) refers back to the last half of 1Jn 4:16, “God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” By abiding in God and His love, “love is perfected with us.” The result of this perfected love is that we will have confidence in the day of judgment. The basis for this confidence is our conformity to the character of Jesus Christ. Then, in 1Jn 4:18-note, John gives the negative side of things: If we fear the day of judgment, it is evidence that we have not loved others as God intends. His love is not perfected in us." Lest we become proud in thinking that we can love others on our own, John goes on to show (1Jn 4:19-note) that God is the source of all love. Lest we fall into the hypocrisy of saying that we love God, when in fact we do not practice love for one another, John shows (1Jn 4:20-note) that the test of whether we truly love God is our love for one another. He concludes (1Jn 4:21-note) by showing that such love, the love that gives us confidence on the day of judgment, is not just a nice suggestion. Rather, it is God’s commandment." (Ibid)

Vincent on to what by this refers - To what does this refer? Two explanations are given. (1) To the following that we may have boldness. So Huther, who argues thus on the ground that 1Jn 4:18 shows that the drift of the writer’s thought is toward the fearlessness of love. According to this, therefore, love has its fulfilment in freeing us from fear, and inspiring us with boldness even in view of the final judgment. (2) To what precedes, viz., our dwelling in God and He in us. So Westcott: “The fellowship of God with man and of man with God, carries with it the consummation of love.” I prefer the latter (2), principally on the ground that in such phrases as by this, on this account, therefore, the pronoun usually refers to something preceding, though more fully developed in what follows. See Jn 5:16, 18; 6:65; 8:47; 10:17; 12:18; 16:15.

Stott summarizes this last section (1Jn 4:17-21) - In 1Jn 4:12 John declared that if we love each other, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. In 1Jn 4:13–16 he has enlarged on the divine indwelling; in 1Jn 4:17–21 he reverts to the theme of complete love, although now he is concerned with the completion not of God’s love in us but of our love for God. John is not suggesting that any Christian’s love could in this life be flawlessly perfect, but rather developed and mature, set fixedly upon God. He describes two marks of such ‘perfect love’, namely confidence before God and love of our brothers and sisters. (The Letters of John - Tyndale New Testament Commentary)

Love is perfected - He is not saying it becomes without flaw, but that it manifests a maturation, a reaching of the intended god.

Steven Cole gives a Scriptural illustration of the meaning of perfected - A helpful reference is James 2:22-note: “You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected.” James means that works complete faith or bring faith to its intended goal. So when John talks about God’s love being perfected in us, he means that His love has reached its intended goal in us. “Perfect” love is not just nice thoughts or words, but action (1John 3:17-18-note). John Piper (Perfect Love Casts Out Fear) paraphrases the first clause of 1Jn 4:17, “In this, that is, in your love for each other, God’s love is put into action and so reaches its appointed goal. It does not remain at the imperfect stage of mere talk, but reaches the stage of action.” So John is saying that when we see God’s love flowing through us to others in practical good deeds, it is one basis for confidence in the day of judgment. In this regard, he is saying essentially the same thing as he said in 1Jn 3:14 (note), “We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren.” The presence of God’s love in your life, not just in words, but in deeds, is evidence that His life is in you and that you are in Him. This is also what John meant in 1Jn 4:12-note, “if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected [has reached its goal] in us.” This does not mean that you always love everyone perfectly, without any shortcomings. No one does that! Rather, it means that the direction of your life is growth in love, and not just humanly explainable love, but rather, God’s love, which may be defined as, “a self-sacrificing, caring commitment that shows itself in seeking the highest good of the one loved.” This implies that you are involved in close relationships with other believers, where you are committed to work through misunderstandings and hurt feelings. I often talk with people who are struggling in their Christian walk. I discover that they do not know any other believers well enough to meet regularly to help them work through their problems. To love one another, we must get to know one another and also be committed to work through difficulties in our relationships. When you see that kind of love in-creasing in your life, it gives you confidence in the day of judgment. (Ibid) (Bolding and links added)

Piper - What is perfected love? "In this is love perfected with us." What does "this" refer to? The words just before it say, "God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. In this is love perfected with us." So I would take the "this" to refer to our abiding in love or abiding in God and God's abiding in us—when you abide in love, love is perfected in you. God's Abiding in Us and Our Abiding in Love What this means you can see from the connection in 1 Jn 4:12. The same two ideas are both here: God's abiding in us and love being perfected in us. "No man has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us." In other words perfected love refers to God's love in us coming to completion or coming into action as we love each other. "If we love one another … his love is perfected in us." So "perfected love" is the love of God expressing itself in our love to each other. Not Flawless Perfection - It is very important that we understand this, because it is different from what most people think of when they hear the word "perfected." Most people, when they say something has been perfected, mean that it was changed from a state of flawed imperfection into a state of flawless perfection. But the Greek word that John uses (teleioo) does not usually mean that in the New Testament. In the New Testament the word generally means finished, or completed, or accomplished. When something, like a trip or an assignment, attains its goal, it is said to be "perfected." (1 John 4:17-19: Perfect Love Casts Out Fear)

Is perfected (5048)(teleioo related to teleios from telos = an end, a purpose, an aim, a goal, consummate soundness, idea of being whole) means to accomplish or bring to an end or to the intended goal (telos). It means to be complete, mature, fully developed, full grown, wanting nothing necessary to completeness. Teleioo does not mean simply to terminate something but to carry it out to the full finish which is picked up in the translation "perfected". Teleioo signifies the attainment of consummate soundness and includes the idea of being made whole. Interestingly the Gnostics used teleios of one fully initiated into their mysteries and that may have been why Paul used teleios in this epistle. Teleioo is in the perfect tense signifying the continuing effect of this perfection.

Wuest adds that perfected in the perfect tense means “has been made perfect or complete, and exists in its finished results.” This represents a past fact in the saint’s life and a present reality." 

Love… with us - Wuest says "This is not primarily God’s love for us or our love for Him, but the love which God is in His nature, produced in our hearts by the Holy Spirit."

Vincent on the phrase with us - The A. V. construes meth humon, with us, with love, making with us equivalent to our. In that case it might mean either the love which is between Christians, or the love which is between God and Christians. The Revised construes with us with the verb: love is made perfect with us. The latter is preferable. I do not think it would be easy to point out a parallel in the New Testament to the expression love that is with us = our love. The true idea is that love is perfected in fellowship. The love of God is perfected with us, in communion with us, through our abiding in Him and He in us. “Love is not simply perfected in man, but in fulfilling this issue God works with man” (Westcott). Compare 2Jn 1:3, “grace shall be with us” (true reading); and Acts 15:4, “what things God had done with them.” See also Mt. 1:23; 1Cor. 16:24; Gal. 6:18. Meta, with, is used constantly in the NT of ethical relations. See Mt. 20:2; 2:3; Lk 23:12; Acts 7:9; Ro 12:15; 1Jn 1:6.

So that (hina) is a term of purpose or result. Always pause to ponder this important conjunction, asking at least "What is the purpose?" or "What is the result?"

Spurgeon - If we can be to the world, in our poor feeble measure, what God is to it, —fountains of love, dispensaries of goodness, — then we need not be afraid of the verdict even of the great day of judgment.

Henry Alford - the confidence which we shall have in that day, and which we have even, now by anticipation of that day, is the perfection of our love;

Spurgeon on we may have confidence - That is a wonderful expression, “boldness in the day of judgment.” According to some, the saints will not be in the day of judgment. Then, what is the use of “boldness in the day of judgment”? As I read my Bible, we shall all be there, and we shall all give an account unto God. I shall be glad to be there, to be judged for the deeds done in my body; not that I hope to be saved by them, but because I shall have a perfect answer to all accusations on account of my sin. “Who is he that condemns? It is Christ that died, yea, rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.” (Ro 8:34-note) If I am a believer in Christ, —Happy Christian men, who can say that? If you live among men as Christ lived among men, if you are a Saviour to them in your measure, if you love them, if you try to exhibit the lovely traits of character that were in Christ, happy are you.

Bold shall I stand in that grand day,
For who aught to my charge shall lay?
While through thy blood absolved I am
From sin’s tremendous curse and shame.”
Because as he is, so are we in this world.

Confidence (boldness) (3954)(parrhesia from pás = all + rhesis = speech) is literally all speech which conveys the idea of freedom to speak The basic idea that attitude of openness that stems from freedom and lack of fear ("shaking" fear in contrast to godly, reverential fear which is always appropriate). Greeks used parrhesia of those with the right to speak openly in the assembly. Speaking with plainness, openness and confidence (Acts 2:29). Speaking publicly or in the open (Jn 7:13, 11:54, 18:20) and then something done in public (Jn 7:26, Col 2:15-note)

Wuest - The saint who in the future Rapture of the Church will approach the Judgment Seat of Christ with boldness (parrhesia - freedom of speech). (This) is the saint who in his earthly life has had the love that God is in His nature brought to its full capacity of operation by the Holy Spirit in his life. That fullness of love results in a life devoted entirely to the Lord Jesus. The word speaks of unreservedness of speech, a free and fearless confidence, with nothing to hide or be ashamed of. In that kind of life, the saint has nothing of which to be ashamed at the Judgment of his works. That kind of life is a Christ-like life, and that makes the saint as he dwells in the midst of a world of sinful people, like Christ. And the Lord Jesus will not at the Judgment Seat of Christ condemn those who while they lived on earth, were like Him. 

John used parrhesia earlier in 1 John 2:28-note writing "Now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming." As Wuest says "parrhesia in this context "speaks of the heart attitude of a saint who lives so close to the Lord Jesus that there is nothing between him and his Lord when He comes, nothing of known sin in his life when the Rapture occurs. This is the kind of saint that keeps a daily check-up on himself as to sin in his life. He maintains a constant yieldedness to and dependence upon the Holy Spirit to show him sin in his life and give him the grace to judge it and put it out."

John's other uses of parrhesia in 1John…

1 John 3:21-note Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God;

1 John 5:14-note This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.

The day of judgment - Vincent comments that this literally reads "the day of the judgment. The exact phrase occurs here only. Day of judgment, without the articles, is found Mt. 10:15; 11:22, 24; 12:36; 2Pe 2:9; 3:7. The day is called the great day of their wrath (Rev 6:17); the day of wrath and of revelation of the righteous judgment of God (Ro 2:5); the day of visitation (1Pet. 2:12); the last day (John 6:39, 40, 44, 54); that day (Mt. 7:22; Luke 6:23; 10:12). The judgment is found Mt. 12:41, 42; Luke 10:14; 11:31, 32.

Cole writes "There will be a day of judgment and it is essential to have biblically based confidence as you face that day. From beginning to end, the Bible is clear that there is a coming day of judgment. Jesus spoke often about the judgment to come (e.g., Mt. 7:21-23-note; Mt 11:21-24; 25:31-46). The apostle Paul, preaching to the philosophers in Athens, declared (Acts 17:31) that God “has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.” When he talked with the Roman governor Felix, Paul discussed “righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come” (Acts 24:25). Death, which is common to the human race, is a judgment for our sin, but it is not the final judgment. Hebrews 9:27-note declares, “And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment….” Hebrews goes on to describe it (Heb 10:27-note) as “a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries.” The Revelation calls this “the second death, the lake of fire” (Rev. 20:14-note). You can debate about whether the fire is literal or figurative, but either way, you don’t want to experience it for all eternity! You want to have a biblically based confidence as you face that certain day. One basis for confidence in the day of judgment is when we see God’s love flowing through us to others." (Ibid) (Bolding added)

Because (hoti) is a term of explanation. Stop and ask "What is John explaining?" As Vincent says he is explaining that "Likeness to Christ is the ground of boldness."

As He is - Not that we will ever be absolutely as Christ is, but as much as we can be as human beings born of and daily sanctified by His Spirit.

Henry Alford on as He is in the world - this is the reason or ground of our confidence: that we, as we now are in the world, are like Christ: and in the background lies the thought, He will not, in that day, condemn those who are like Himself. (1 John 4 Commentary)

Steven Cole - God’s love through us to others gives confidence in the day of judgment because it shows that we are like Jesus. John adds (1Jn 4:17b), “because as He is, so also are we in this world.” Commentators offer several different interpretations of that phrase, but in the context it seems to mean, as B. F. Westcott states (1 John Commentary), “The ground of boldness is present likeness to Christ.” John Piper explains (Perfect Love Casts Out Fear), The assumption is that at the judgment day God won’t condemn people who are like his Son. Living a life of active love shows that we have the Spirit of Jesus (cp 1Jn 4:13). It shows we belong to the family of God. And that gives us confidence before God. You can’t live at odds with the character of Jesus and then expect to have any confidence when you stand before his Father at the final judgment. Note that John does not say, “so should we be,” but rather, “so are we in this world.” Each of us needs to ask, ´Am I at all like Jesus? Does my life display any resemblance to the love of Jesus in this world? Would others, especially those who live with me, say that they see the love of Christ in my daily behavior? As I said, such love will not ever be an exact representation of Christ’s love, even in the most godly of saints. Love is a fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-note), and fruit always takes time and nurture to grow. But, if there’s no evidence that the fruit is growing, we need to examine the root to find out if the whole tree is bad. As Jesus said (Mt. 12:33), “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit.” If you are not growing in love, you need to ask, “Am I truly born of God?” (Ibid) (Bolding and links added)

Piper - To sum up 1Jn 4:17, we can paraphrase it like this: When you love each other with love that is more than just talk, when the love of God reaches its practical goal of action in your life, you will experience a deep and unshakable confidence before God. Much talk of love with few deeds of love destroys assurance. We've all experienced this from time to time. Our conscience condemns us because we think of deeds of love and don't do them. But if we put our money where our mouth is, or put our time where our tongue is, then we will have a deep sense of the reality of our own faith and will feel confident for the day of judgment, because then we are acting the way Jesus acted. (1 John 4:17-19: Perfect Love Casts Out Fear)

Wiersbe - What God is determines what we ought to be. “As He is, so are we in this world” (1 John 4:17). The fact that Christians love one another is evidence of their fellowship with God and their sonship from God, and it is also evidence that they know God. Their experience with God is not simply a once-for-all crisis; it is a daily experience of getting to know Him better and better. True theology (the study of God) is not a dry, impractical course in doctrine—it is an exciting day-by-day experience that makes us Christlike!… Positionally, we are right now “as He is.” We are so closely identified with Christ, as members of His body, that our position in this world is like His exalted position in heaven. This means that the Father deals with us as He deals with His own beloved Son. How, then, can we ever be afraid? (Bible Exposition Commentary)

He is (esmen) is present tense which signifies as Christ is continually (forever). As Vincent says "The essence of our being as He is lies in perfected love; and Christ is eternally love."


In the world - John mentions world three times in this section on love (1Jn 4:7-21) - "God has sent His only begotten Son into the world that we might live through Him" (1Jn 4:9-note), "the Father as sent the Son to be the Savior of the world." (1Jn 4:14-note), "As He is, so also are we in this world." (1Jn 4:17-note) God clearly demonstrates His love for the world in these passages, sending His Son as Savior, giving us His Son's life and leaving us on earth so that others might see Him in us (1Jn 4:17)!

Vincent on in the world - This present economy, physical and moral.

Guy King discusses our position In this world (1Jn 4:17). The world is an alien country - so that, in the LORD's Prayer, he says, "They are not of the world", (John 17:16). Yet He has said, "I pray not that Thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that Thou shouldest keep them from the evil". In moments of depression, we might wish that immediately upon our New Birth we were granted the administration of our Supernaturalisation Papers and were there and then transported to our now native country up yonder. But what adventure for GOD we should then miss; what possible honors in the fight for Him we should fail to achieve! So we are left here, and may exercise in our residence so great an influence for good, and for GOD. One day, in an electric moment of time, all the believers will be taken out of the world - those who have died, and those who are alive at the moment, all suddenly transformed and transported, to "ever be with the LORD", 1Th 4:16-17-note. A queer situation will then arise on the earth the moment after it has happened, that differentiating as between believers and unbelievers, living and working closely together, "one shall be taken, and the other left", Luke 17:34-36. Meanwhile, it is to be remembered that the world is a field of infection - "that Thou shouldest keep them from the evil". For our safeguard we must continually be on guard, for the virulent germs of evil thinking, evil speaking, and evil doing are forever poisoning the spiritual atmosphere, and we shall succumb, unless we allow ourselves to be "kept" immune by the deodorizing effects of the HOLY SPIRIT, and by the disinfecting power of the Holy Scriptures. We are told that the best defense is attack; and so it is made clear to us that we are to exercise a positive influence wherever we are - even as the Saviour taught, as we have said earlier, that we are to be as "salt" to prevent corruption, as "light" to bring cheer and guidance, and as a hill-top "city" to give clear testimony to Him. Here we are, then, living in this difficult environment - living to serve Him, and to help others. There is still another New Testament figure of the Christian in an alien country which is, again, full of significance - "we are ambassadors for CHRIST", 2Cor 5:20-note. Earthly monarchs have their ambassadors in other lands, to represent them at the foreign court - standing for the dignities and rights of their Sovereign, keeping their Government in touch with anything affecting the interests of their Country, speaking in the Name of their Ruler, and with all his Power behind them. All that lies within the ambassadorial figure that Paul here employs, to indicate still another aspect of our responsibility as representing our Sovereign LORD to those among whom we live "in this world". That leads on to the further thought that the world is a great audience - before which we are engaged to enact a special performance. In 1Cor 4:9 we read that "we are made a spectacle (Gk = theatron = a place in which games and dramatic spectacles are exhibited) unto the world", where the original word for "spectacle" is the word from which our "theater "comes. We are as a theater with the world looking on. Our representation of Him is a History, if it is a true likeness; a Comedy, if we burlesque the great part we are meant to play; a Tragedy, if we sadly misrepresent Him to the audience, Turn now to our passage and note its expression of this idea. We read that "as He is, so are we in this world" (1Jn 4:17). Not, you observe, as He was, but is even now in His Divine omnipresence, though to the world-audience unseen - the role is, that they shall see JESUS in us. How searching are the simple words of the chorus, "Can others see JESUS in me?" Well can they? Are we, by His grace, acting the part well. I believe that actors on the ordinary stage are successful in so far as they faithfully study their part. All right then - "consider Him", Hebrews 12:3, and act accordingly. There is another verse in our passage, along the same lines - "No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us … " (1Jn 4:12). The first sentence seems to hang in mid-air, having no connection with what comes before, or after. But upon reflection it seems to me that the argument is after the same pattern as in verse 17 - GOD is not seen in Himself; but, if we display the spirit of love, people can see Him in us. Does not this thought place upon us a tremendous responsibility to see that, as we considered in our sixth study, the portrait is clearly recognized, and, as here, that the performance is true to life. Here, then, we learn something of the calls and claims resting upon the members of the Fellowship, on account of their social position, as residing "in this world." (1John 4:7-21 The Position of the Fellowship)

Let Others See Jesus in You

While passing thro' this world of sin
And others your life shall view
Be clean and pure without and within
Let others see Jesus in you.

Your life's a book before their eyes,
They're reading it thro' and thro'
Say does it point them to they skies
Do others see Jesus in you?

Then live for Christ both day and night,

Be faithful, be brave and true
And lead the lost to life and Christ,

Let others see Jesus in you.

Let others see Jesus in you.
Let others see Jesus in you.
Keep telling the story, be faithful and true.
Let others see Jesus in you.

"By this all men will know that you are My disciples,
if you have love for one another."

John 13:35