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Studies on Love (Part II) (PDF) PDF version

Studies on Love (Part II)

In the last issue we saw that love is the product of our walk by the new nature i.e. it is produced as we put on and utilize all the things that the Word of God says that we are and we can do. In that issue we also examined some of what I Corinthians 13 says about love. Today, we will continue with the consideration of some more passages of the Word of God on the same topic, that will help us to appreciate the importance of love better.

1. Love: the new commandment

To start this second part on love, we will go to the gospel of John. What we will read happened in the night of the arrest of Jesus Christ. During that night, Jesus gave many instructions to the disciples and a large portion of the gospel of John is exactly devoted to it (John 13-17). Among the things that Jesus told the disciples that night was also something that he characterised as a new commandment. John 13:34 tells us:

John 13:34
"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another."

The new commandment that Jesus gave was to love one another. The great importance that he gave to this commandment is showed by the fact that he repeated it two more times the same night. John 15:12-17 tells us:

John 15:12-17
"This is my commandment, that you LOVE ONE ANOTHER as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends. You are my friends if you do whatever I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in my name He may give you. These things I command you, that you LOVE ONE ANOTHER"

Jesus Christ commands us to love one another, and in fact to love one another as much as he loved us. But how much he loved us? Ephesians 5:2 tells us:

Ephesians 5:2
"And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us AND [as a result of his love] given himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling aroma."

Jesus Christ loved us so much that he gave his life for us. It is with such kind of love that he also commands us to love one another. "Love one another AS I have loved you", he said. He characterised love for one another as a COMMAND, as something that should necessarily be done. I Peter 1:22 also tells us:

I Peter 1:22
"Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the spirit in sincere love of the brethren, LOVE ONE ANOTHER FERVENTLY WITH A PURE HEART"

Moreover: I Peter 4:8
"And ABOVE ALL THINGS HAVE FERVENT LOVE FOR ONE ANOTHER"

Above all things we are to love one another. And in fact to love one another fervently. So fervently as Jesus loved us.

2. Love: the fulfillment of the law

In John 13:34 we saw that Jesus characterized love for one another as a new commandment. This may have made some of us to wonder why he characterized it as such. Was it because it was commanded for first time? Obviously not for it is contained in the book of Leviticus that was written hundreds of years earlier. Really, Leviticus 19:18 tells us:

Leviticus 19:18
"you shall love your neighbor as yourself"

Literally speaking therefore, the commandment that Jesus gave was not a new commandment. Why therefore he called it new? The simple reason is that though love was a commandment of the law, till then it was not possible to be kept. Really, love being a product of the new nature, it needs the new nature to be produced, and till that day, the new nature was not available. Thus though people were commanded to love one another they could not actually keep this commandment. However, from the day of Pentecost onwards people can freely receive the new nature by confessing with their mouth the Lord Jesus and believing in their heart that God raised him from the dead, and thus they can love. That's why Jesus called love for one another a new commandment. It was not new because it was commanded for first time but because soon (from the day of Pentecost) it would become possible to be kept.

In fact, the commandment to love one another was not the only commandment of the law that it was impossible to be kept, because people lacked the new nature. Romans 8:3 characterise the whole law as "weak through the flesh [the old nature]". The problem with the law was not that it was bad. In contrast, Romans 6:12 tells us that it was "holy and just and good". However, there was no way to be kept and the reason was that the new nature was not available. As Romans 6:4 says: "the law is spiritual" but its subjects were "carnal, under sin". Thus people could not keep the law. However, from the day that the new nature was made available, one can love and by this he automatically fulfills all the law. Indeed, Romans 13:8-10 tells us:

Romans 13:8-10
"Owe no one anything, except to love one another, FOR HE WHO LOVES ANOTHER HAS FULFILLED THE LAW. For the commandments, "You shall not commit adultery," "You shall not murder," You shall not steal," You shall not bear false witness," You shall not covet," and if there is any other commandment are ALL summed up in this saying, namely, "You shall love your neighbour as yourself" Love does not harm to a neighbour; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law."

Also: Galatians 5:13-14
"For you brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity, but through love serve one another. FOR ALL THE LAW IS FULFILLED IN ONE WORD, EVEN IN THIS: "YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOUR AS YOURSELF"

Jesus Christ by his sacrifice, ended the administration of the law, opening at the same time a new administration, the administration of grace. However, many of the things that the law said continue to be valid in the present administration as well. For example, the commandments that we should not steal or commit adultery, or murder, or lie are also commandments of our administration1. Now, according to the above passage to fulfill any commandment of the law, which may also be commandment of our administration, what is needed is nothing else but LOVE. As the passage says: LOVE is the fulfillment of the law and all the commandments are all summed up in the commandment to love one another as ourselves. We do not have to focus our minds on a list of do and don'ts like, "I should not steal, I should not murder, I should not commit adultery, I should not lie etc...." but we love and all these are not going to happen. For when we love we will neither lie, nor steal, nor murder etc. We do not start pointing out the negative (I should not do...) but we love and the negative will be eliminated. As Galatians 5:16 says: "Walk by the spirit [the new nature] and [as a result] you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh [the old nature]". When you walk in love, you walk by the spirit, the new nature, and as a result you will not fulfill the lust of the old nature i.e. you will not steal, murder, commit adultery or do anything else that is a product of this nature.

3. Love: necessary to know God

Another passage that shows us the importance and the necessity of love is I John 4:7-8. There it says:

I John 4:7-8
"Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love"

As the passage says: "he who does not love does not know God". Truly, God gave us the Scripture to know Him since there He reveals Himself. Nevertheless, as it is clear this cannot be done by head knowledge alone. It also needs LOVE. Even if someone has full head knowledge of the Scripture, he will not know God if this knowledge is not accompanied with love. As I Corinthians 13:1-3 tells us:

I Corinthians 13:1-3
"Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have prophecy, and understand [Greek: "know"] all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing."

This passage does not say that prophecy, the great faith, the speaking in tongues etc. are bad or that the speaking in tongues and the other operations of the spirit (see I Corinthians 12:8-10) are not in existence now and should not be done. What the passage says is that if I do all these without love I am nothing. It does not profit. Even if I have rightly divided all the Bible and I am a monster of knowledge, a "concordance", I am nothing if I do not love. Even if I spent all my life and money for God, I am nothing, if I do not love. Even if I have given my body to be burned, i.e. even if I am so much committed to God, I am nothing if I do not love. For if I do not love I am still ignorant of God, who is love. People who know less and love more will know God better than I. As I Corinthians 8:1-3 says:

I Corinthians 8:1-3
"Now concerning things offered to idols: we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but loves edifies. And if anyone thinks that he knows anything, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, this one is known by Him."

The knowledge is not bad. However, when it is not accompanied with love, it will not result to a knowledge of God but rather to a puffing up. Moreover, the same passage in combination with I John 4:20-21 makes clear that the argument goes also the other way round i.e. if we do not love one another not only we will not know God but also we will not be known by Him.

I Corinthians 8:3
"if anyone loves God, this one is known by Him"

I John 4:20-21
"If someone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from him: that he who loves God must love his brother also"

We cannot say that we love God when we do not love one another. In other words, love for one another is a prerequisite to love God. Since now love towards God is a prerequisite to be known by Him and since it first requires love for one another we can easily conclude that love for one another is a prerequisite to be known by God. Therefore, what does it take both to know and to be known by God? The answer is LOVE.

4. Love: not by words

We saw previously that Jesus Christ loved us, and he showed it by giving himself for us. From this it is evident that love takes action, giving. You may give the Word, you may give encouragement, part of your time, money etc. but the thing is that love is ready to give and to really support when it is needed. I John 3:16-17 tells us:

I John 3:16-17
"By this we know love, because he laid down his life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has this world's goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his bowels of compassion from him, how does the love of God abide in him?"

Jesus showed His love for us BY GIVING his life for us. We know by this that he loves us. Similarly we should also love one another and show our love by the corresponding acts when it is needed. For really for what love we could speak if we see a fellow member of the body, a brother or sister in Christ, to be in need and we are indifferent, when we know that we can help? Obviously this does not constitute love. Love is not a theoretic concept but something that has to be manifested in acts. As I John 3:18 says:

I John 3:18
"My little children, let us not love in word or in a tongue, but in deed and in truth."

Our love is not to be in words but in deed and in truth. It is not to be in theory but in practice. It is not to be like in James 2:15-16:

James 2:15-16
"If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, "Depart in peace, be warmed and filled," but you do not give to them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?"

It is so easy to love in words, to know all the "theory" about love. To say "God bless you." No it is not bad. But it has to be accompanied by the necessary actions when it is needed. As Galatians 5:13 tells us we ought to SERVE one another through love. We are not to be indifferent to one another, and run away when a fellow member of the body needs our support.

Having said all these, some people may ask, how can we know whether someone genuinely needs our support, and how can we know whether someone whose needs we do not know exactly or at all, needs us? The answer is through God's spirit. God has put His spirit in us, so that He can tell us what to do, if to do, when to do, how to do. As Philippians 2:13 says:

Philippians 2:13
"for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure"

God has put His spirit in us and works through it. We have therefore to listen to the promptings of God's spirit and to leave it to work in us. Love does not mean I do whatever comes in my head, because I may esteem it as beneficial. What love means is that I am ready, available, to do through love whatever the spirit of God in me prompts me to do, for whoever he prompts me. Thus, I do not give to the whoever comes in my way and asks money, for he may not actually need it. Instead I give to that man or for that purpose that God tells me. God knows who has a genuine need and who has not. He knows who needs support and who does not. He knows how to utilise our love with the best way for His interests.

5. Love: it should be honest

Though from the previous part and generally from the discussion that we have done by now it should already be clear that love cannot be but only honest, based on a genuine interest and concern for the fellow members of the body, let's also go to Romans 12:9 to see it better. There we read:

Romans 12:9
"Let love be without hypocrisy"

The phrase "without hypocrisy" is one word in the Greek: the adjective "anupokritos" that is composed of the word "an" a prefix that gives to a word a negative meaning, and the noun "hupokrisia" from which the English derive the word "hypocrisy". "hypocrisia" means to pretend to have a quality that you do not actually have or to be something that you are not. For example, II Corinthians 11:13-15 tells us that Satan "TRANSFORMS himself into an angel of light" and his servants "TRANSFORM themselves into the ministers of righteousness". This transformation of Satan and his servants to something that they are not is called hypocrisy2.

Returning now to Romans 12:9, it asks us to not pretend that we love having probably in mind something else, but to honestly love. Only honest love is real love. The same is also said in I Peter 1:22

I Peter 1:22
"Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the spirit in SINCERE [anupokritos] LOVE of the brethren, love one another fervently WITH A PURE HEART"

Our love is to come from a pure heart, to be sincere and true. To be not in word but in truth and in deed. To be fervent.

May therefore we grow in our love towards one another and in our appreciation that we all belong to one and the same body, the body of Christ, and to one and the same family, the family of God and we are brothers to each other. May we put love above everything else for love "is the bond of perfection" (Collosians 3:14). May, we overlook the weaknesses that each one of us has and love one another out of a pure heart, honestly and without hypocrisy.

 

Anastasios Kioulachoglou

 

 



Footnotes

1. See for example Galatians 5:19-23 Colossians 3:5-14 and Ephesians 4:17-32.

2. A classical cast of people who Jesus characterized as hypocrites were the scribes and the Pharisees. See Matthew 23:13, 14, 15, 23, 25, 27, 29.