When the angels announced the birth of Jesus Christ, our Saviour, their message to the shepherds, and to us, was:

‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy ... on earth peace to men on whom his favour rests’ – Luke 2:10, 14.

This message of the removal of fear, and of peace and joy coming from Christ the Lord is reaffirmed throughout the New Testament:

Matthew 11:28 – ‘Come to me ... and I will give you rest ... you will find rest for your souls.’

John 14:27 – ‘Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you ... Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.’

Romans 5:1 – Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.’

Romans 8:1 – ‘Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus ...’

Ephesians 2:18 – ‘Through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.’

2Timothy 1:12 – ‘I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.’

Hebrews 4:16 – ‘Let us approach the throne of grace with confidence ...’

Hebrews 10:19 – ‘... since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith ...’

John has assured us early in his first letter: ‘we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins’ (2:1, 2).

Now John tells us in 4:18, because God in his love for us sent Jesus to be our Saviour:

We, living in and with the reality of this love, knowing and relying on this love, stand in the presence of God, the righteous Judge, with confidence and without fear.

This is the culmination, the consummation, the accomplishment of his purpose, the intended outcome of his love. This peace in his presence, this reconciliation, is what God’s love had in mind for us when he sent his Son into the world.

The fear John is talking about is fear of the judgement day, and fear of present and future punishment. Sadly, there are many Christians, who have genuine belief in Jesus Christ, and are therefore saved, but who live without the confidence and peace that John speaks about in verse 17 & 18. They still have fear of punishment. They still have fear of judgement. This fear of God’s judgement is most likely the result of an inadequate understanding of what God accomplished in and through the death of his Son. This inadequate understanding of Christ’s death could be the result of inadequate teaching; it could be because of legalistic perceptions and expectations within the Christian community.

Whatever the cause, their fear of punishment/judgement means that, although they belong to Christ, although they are indwelt by the Spirit, although they are infinitely loved and accepted by God, they do not live with the joy, peace and freedom that is God’s goal for them. His love has not yet been perfected in them – it has not yet accomplished in them the peace that is God’s purpose. From God’s perspective, as he sees them in Christ, he knows that there is no punishment left for them; his Son has borne it all. But from their perspective, because they do not understand how completely they are saved, they still fear God’s judgement, both present and future.

This is perhaps one of the saddest things – that a person can be truly born again, fully saved by the death of God’s Son, loved by God, lived in by God, yet still fearful of rejection and condemnation by God. Loving the Lord Jesus, serving the Lord Jesus, but never really knowing how greatly they are loved.

And here we need all ask ourselves some questions:

Have I listened to the voice of God saying ‘Do not be afraid ...’?

Have I embraced Jesus’ promise to all who come to him – ‘I will give you rest’?

Am I living in the reality of his words – ‘My peace I give you’?

Do I really believe Paul’s affirmation – ‘we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ’?

Do I live confidently in God’s presence, fully assured of his unconditional acceptance?

Or am I, by my lack of peace with God, despising and diminishing both the Saviour and his cross? Am I, by my fear of God’s judgement, living as though Jesus Christ did not bear all my sins, all my guilt, all my punishment, in his body on the cross?

© Rosemary Bardsley 2022