A New Commandment
A New Way of Living, A New Response to Life
AS WE GO ON in Ephesians 3 to learn more from Paul about prayer and supplication, we come to the matter of love. This is too deep a matter to write about in any adequate manner. Its roots run so deep it’s difficult to dig under them and get a meaningful thing to say. Those roots reach into the very heart of God and give life to the plants of His vineyard that we are. While His love is so profound none of us can ever fully discover it, still it can be known by the simplest babe or meanest person on earth.
Matters like love, that can’t be discovered fully, become matters for prayer. We need the help of God Himself to know the measure of the love to which His Word points us. Paul in his Ephesian Epistle helps us here. In the following passage, which is both powerful and provocative, Paul leads us to pray about the dimensions in love. In this, he made use of a word the Lord Jesus had introduced. This is agápe, a word practically unknown outside the New Testament because it named a kind of love unknown before Jesus brought it with Him from the Father. Using this word, He directed us to a new way of living and responding in the world. Paul helps us see when we embrace what it describes, it leads to all the fullness of God.
That He would grant in verse 16 means "that He would give it to you." Paul said, "I’m asking this of God for you, that ye may be able to comprehend...the love of Christ." What a loaded string of words!
They help express what we’re learning to request in prayer. That ye may be able is from a word that is in itself strong, but Paul has strengthened it even more, on two accounts. He added a prefix to intensify its meaning. Then, he stated it in a way that means the ability is to arise for the strength of a final conquest. The word is exischúsete. Buried in it is one of the "power" words of the Resurrection, ischúo. It means to have strength of muscle, in this case, spiritual muscle. I think the ability for which Paul is leading us to pray might never have arisen were it not that it was released for us when the Lord Jesus was raised from the dead. Because of His resurrection, we can have the spiritual strength to comprehend His love.
Figuratively, comprehend, from katalambáno, means to understand, but its literal meaning is much more expressive. It means to come upon by surprise, to overtake and seize. This reminds me of these brief words from The Song of Solomon, love is strong as death—8:6. This love of Christ must be overtaken. It is strong. It must be conquered with the demand that it come into our life, if we are to know its operation in us.
And here we are, learning to pray this for others.
The love for which Paul is reaching in his praying has a breadth to it. It’s so broad it can embrace anyone anywhere. It has a length. It’s so long we can never get to the end of it. It has a depth to it. It’s so deep no one can descend to a depth where it does not itself reach deeper. It has a height to it. It’s so high no one can escape its boundary, or scale its walls, or get outside its circle.
PAUL WENT ON to say in Ephesians 3, "I’m praying you can know the love manifested in Christ, but which passeth knowledge." We can know (become aware of) this love, and yet, it is unknowable because whatever we know of it in one day, there is more to be discovered in the next. Our days, even as they fade into eternity, will run out before that love can run out and ever we can discover it all. Passeth is from huperbállo, a word Paul was particularly fond of. It means to exceed, or go beyond anything that can be measured. In Eph 1:19 he used it to speak of His mighty power which cannot be measured. In 2:7 He spoke of the riches of His grace which cannot be measured. And here, in 3:19 he used it to speak of the knowledge of God’s love which can never be fully grasped or known. We can know this much, however: whatever love it has taken for Him to receive us, there is an immeasurable amount still waiting for us.
Paul wanted the people for whom he was praying to be rooted and grounded in this love. Rooted is from the Perfect Passive Participle form of the Verb rizóo. It means to be strengthened with roots so as to be firmly fixed. This means a process of growth has taken place. Roots are for strength and for drawing sustenance from the medium in which they are planted. Our roots are to be planted in love. These roots are to grow on the people about whom Paul said, ...ye are God’s husbandry, His field of cultivation, His farm—I Cor 3:9. He has planted us in love and is cultivating us to grow up in it.
Grounded is the same word Jesus used in Mt 7:25 to tell of the house founded upon a rock and that withstood rain, floods and wind. Grounded, as is founded, is from a word formed in the same way as rooted. It means a process has taken place to render one firm and unwavering on a strong foundation. The rock on which our foundation rests is that same love in which our roots are planted to grow.
WHEN THE LORD Jesus introduced this new kind of love, He spoke of a new commandment. See this statement from Him. It, too, is provocative, but powerful. A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another—John 13:34. He was introducing something unknown in the religious world, or in the secular world, for that matter. He called it a new commandment. New is from the Greek kainé, which means "new of a different kind." Commandment is from entolé, "an order, or a commission" from a king, or a military leader. Thus, Jesus was giving a new kind of order to His followers, a military order, if you please, an order of government. It went beyond what was found in the Law of Moses. It was foreign to the heathen. But, it would become the chief mark of His followers. He said, By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples... John 13:35.
His new commandment—it was not a mere suggestion from Him—was that His followers love one another. And, if we wonder how far the love of this commission was to go, we see it clearly. The injunction was that we love one another as He loved us. Because of the Principle of First Reference, we should see the first recorded thing in the New Testament Jesus said about this love. It’s in that lesson of His we call The Sermon on the Mount.
In His first reference to love, Jesus said we are to love our enemies. An enemy is anyone who moves as an adversary to us. It is anyone who brings discord into our life or alienates himself. With this love, and as the outworking of it, we are to bless them that curse us. To bless means to speak a good thing to, or in behalf of, someone. This is the nature of love, so it becomes the natural response of the person in whom the Jesus-kind of love is at work. Continuing, with His first reference to benevolence, the Lord said we are to do good to those who hate us. This means we are to act kindly toward those who regard us with ill will. The less they esteem us, the more we esteem them. If this becomes difficult, we remember it is the nature of His love to do good. Then, take note of the first reference the Lord made to praying. He said we are to pray for those who despitefully use us and who persecute us. This means our prayers are to embrace those who insult us and who harass us. These are not prayers of judgment or that invoke evil upon people who have brought evil into our lives. The kind of praying to which the Lord is directing us is the outworking of the love He introduced. It will extend even to those who persecute us. This means those who pursue us with evil intent. Jesus was saying, "Retaliate by loving them."
There’s no weapon so powerful.
THE ANCIENT GREEKS, in whose language the New Testament took its earliest expression, had another word for "love" besides agápe. This was éros, a word never to be found in the New Testament.
Eros was so important the Greeks exalted it to the point of deity. For them it became a demon-god that drew its adherents into a kind of drunkenness that became the force and goal of their religion. It promoted the gratification of self and the fulfillment of personal desire. The ancients sang hymns to the god of this love, called him Eros and exalted him to the point of a cosmic power to be desired and sought after by all. Ancient Greek philosophers like Aristotle and Plato extolled the virtues of éros and set it as the highest achievement for which man might reach in his quest for meaning and satisfaction.
The adoration of this ancient god of love continues. His kind of love has spread worldwide as mankind seeks its own end and pushes down all who stand in its path.
While the concept of love presented in the meaning of éros carries with it the idea of gathering unto one’s self, what Jesus brought in agápe was near to the opposite. It was the giving of one’s self. Eros seeks in others the fulfillment of its own desires; agápe is the giving of one’s self to meet the needs of others. In I Corinthians 13, known by some as "the love chapter," the traditional King James Version translates this word as charity, which is a giving without the expectation of a return. I think this is not a bad translation, although nowhere else in the New Testament is it translated thus.
Both the Apostles Paul and John explored some of the depths of agápe love. They could never search it all, but they do point us onward in it. They show us how it can reach into all the fiber of our lives and become the primary motivation in all our actions.
In the five brief chapters of I John, agápe and the Verb associated with it, agapáo, "to love," occur a total of 46 times. I John 4:7 says, Love is of God. This means it has its origin in Him, emanates from Him and cannot be fully known apart from Him. Since this is a quality that only comes from God Himself, we cannot expect to produce it apart from Him.
John 4:16 John said God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. There is no experiencing of God so great as that of experiencing His love and allowing His love to move through us to touch others.
JESUS SAID all the Law is embraced in two commandments that have to do with love.
The love to which Jesus is directing us, and which He is releasing for us and in us, flows in two directions. We, as both recipients and givers, stand in between the two. Our love to God is to be without reservation, with all our heart (the part in us that feels and responds), with all our soul (the part in us that defines our personality and decides who we are, what we are, and how we act and react), with all our mind (the part in us that thinks, learns, knows, decides, and understands), and with all our strength, (the part in us that rises up, breaks down opposition, withstands enmity and accomplishes feats). Our love for God permeates all of this. There will be no part of life left untouched by our love for Him.
In this state of absolute love for God, we are called to love our neighbour. If all our love is extended toward God, how then is there love left for another? It must be that He releases His love to move through us.
And who is my neighbour?—Luke 10:29.
Jesus told the Parable of the Good Samaritan to answer this. By neighbour, He did not mean the person who lives nearby and is friendly and sharing. We see clearly in Luke 10:30-37 He meant whoever we might come upon who has a need. This person will find in us the love of God expressed.
How compelling is His love that is to find its release through us!
THE KIND OF LOVE Jesus introduced and Paul leads us to pray about comes very close to being selflessness, the total giving of one’s self. But it is not a defeated kind of giving, in which, perhaps, a wife gives herself in total subjection to her husband because there is no other way to live in harmony with him. She gives up her mind, her will, her emotions, her rights as a woman because the man she has chosen demands it. This kind of love tends to hold with it a fear and bondage, and often a deep resentment that stifles the real person. It bears little resemblance to the love that emanates from God. That’s the reason this love, the only true self-giving, must be born in us of God. His Spirit will produce it in us when we want it, for this love acts in accord with our will. If we truly want this love, then its acquisition becomes possible.
The love the Apostle John says is of God—that is, it emanates from Him—(1 John 4:7) will heal a marriage, mend a broken relationship, end a war, or bring a person to completion in knowing God. It can only come when we empty ourselves before God and ask to receive that work of His Spirit that releases us to love as He loves.
The end of Paul’s prayer was that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God. This has always provoked me. One might think God’s fulness would have to do with power, and light, and holiness, and, perhaps, great judgment. Or, we might think it has to do with doctrinal understanding. But, God’s fullness has to do with love. It is when we know this love that we become an expression in the earth of Who He is.
PAUL’S PRAYER touches upon four dimensions of love. He wants us to lay hold on the breadth, and length, and depth, and height of it.
While meditating here, I saw there are four channels in which the agápe kind of love will flow. This is the real "channeling" to which we are to open ourselves, not the foolish and very dangerous occult practice of opening ourselves to demonic spirits that will bring us to new heights of so-called spiritual connection.
The four channels of love are sequential. Love cannot flow in the second, or third, or fourth until it has flowed in the first. The first is that channel through which love flows to us from God. The second is the channel that moves about inside us to release in us a pure love for ourselves. The third is the channel that takes this love from us to others. The fourth is the channel through which love flows to us from other people.
I wondered why there was not a fifth channel, one in which love might flow from us to God. He showed me. Our love for Him flows in the same channel as our love for others. See Mt 25:40.
If we refuse the love that is ready to come to us from God, then we can never know what real love is. Many of us don’t consciously refuse His love; we just feel we are unworthy of it. We carry with us the weighty idea that His love must be earned and deserved. This carries over into all of life and often goes back to one’s childhood where we learn to think that all love is conditional. "If I’m good enough, I can be rewarded. If I’m not good, I can only expect to suffer for wrong that I do." The fact is no one of us is good enough to deserve God’s love. It only comes unconditionally. Well—there is one condition: we must open up to it.
That’s why we’re learning to pray, that hearts will be softened to open up to this love.
It is when we have opened ourselves to God’s love that another channel is opened inside us. It is the channel in which love flows for ourselves. If I am to love my neighbor as I love myself, then I must first love myself. If a husband is to love his wife even as himself (Eph 5:33) he must first love himself. Is this a selfish and demanding love? No. Remember, the word for that kind of love never occurs in the New Testament. The kind of love that is to flow first in the channels of a husband’s life is the love that Jesus introduced. It’s amazing! When a husband—or, for that matter, a wife—has opened himself to this love that comes from God, he ceases to be the demanding person that requires of others that his needs be met. He finds his inner needs wonderfully met in God and is then free to meet the needs of his wife and others around him with a pure and life-giving expression of selfless love.
If we haven’t these first two channels of love open, then anything that comes from us becomes less an expression of agápe and more an expression of éros. It loses its healing power and finally will wear us out and make us bitter when others around us become aware that we are always sullen and demanding, never satisfied with what others give or do. The opening of ourselves to the love of God, receiving it as He gives it unconditionally, will heal us internally. It becomes the secret for the restoration of a failed marriage, the healing of a broken communion, and the breaking down of all kinds of prison walls.
It was at this point that my own life discovered an amazing liberation and I was finally set free to love others, and to love the Lord. For some reason—I won’t try to go into it—I had come to think that Ed Corley was my enemy. I did not love him, or like him, but I was stuck with him. He was who I was. In some kind of a twisted religious quirk, I thought I was to hate him. If I despised him enough, it might make him go away so I could be the person God wanted me to be.
All this time I would sing "Oh How I Love Jesus" and say and do many wonderful spiritual things, but there was a great lack. I was always angry with those around me. The closer people were to me, the more I was angry with them. They wanted to love me, but found it difficult. You see, the channels in which love was to flow in my life were clogged. My liberation came when finally I could say, "Thank You Lord for Ed Corley. He is who you gave me to be. He is Your gift to me. I am now ready to love him enough to let Your love come into my life."
There is an amazing thing about this love as it comes upon us from our Heavenly Father. It energizes that thing in us called faith....
Now, go onto the Prayer Starter for this month on
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