“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 (1 John 4:18).”

If God threatened to punish us for every sin in our lives, then terrorized fear would be an appropriate response. But the Apostle John tells us that perfect love for God casts out fear. How can that be?

The answer lies in understanding the difference between God’s punishment and his discipline.

Punishment is the infliction of penalty for a wrong. For the Christian, the fear of such punishment has passed. How can that be?

On the cross Jesus took the punishment for all our sins past, present, and future. God’s love may still discipline to turn us from sin’s consequences but the penalty for our sin was entirely paid by his Son. That’s why we sing, “Jesus Paid It All.”

Punishment and discipline are not the same thing. Punishment exacts a price; discipline edifies God’s people. For believers, all punishment is past, and all discipline is grace.

As a result, Christian obedience should never be an attempt to placate the “ogre in the sky” who’s just waiting for us to step out of line so he can punish us. The fear of that kind of punishment should be gone for the children of God.

In fact, the apostle John says that we haven’t been “perfected in love,” if such fear rules our hearts. The peace of God is the true blessing of hearts that are ruled by Scripture’s assurance that Jesus’ love has cast our fear of punishment far away!

Prayer: Lord God, please help me to respond to you out of a heart trusting that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Because he took the fear of punishment away, rule my heart with the peace of knowing your enduring and edifying grace.