THE PRFECTION OF LOVE
The first Word recorded in the New Testament about love is in Matthew 5:44. If you read this in the King James Version—or any other version translated from the Received Text of the Greek New Testament—you will note that this passage also has in it the first Word in the New Testament about blessing someone, the first Word about doing good to someone, and, as well, the first Word about praying for someone.
Years ago when I was invited to become an instructor in a Bible Institute, one of the first subjects I was asked to take on was “Biblical Hermeneutics.” (her-me-neu’-tics). I was embarrassed to say that I had never heard of that word. There was no such course offered in the denominational institutions from which I had graduated. I found that it means the study of Biblical “interpretation.” Well, let me tell you, it was a delightful course to teach. Of course, I had things to learn as I was teaching, but that was a good thing.
We discovered one of the most important principles of Biblical interpretation was The Principle of First Reference. This puts forth the conviction that the first biblical reference to any subject sets the tone for what follows regarding that subject. This is significant for us, particularly as we move toward the time of anti-Christ’s final assaults.
The first Word about love in the New Testament is that it is to be demonstrated toward one’s enemies. This was not a Jewish concept. Even Samuel, as good a man as he was, instructed Saul to remember what Amalek had done to Israel and to see to it that they be rewarded for their evil action. He said to him, Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have...—I Samuel 15:3.
But even though the wars of the Old Covenant were bloody, there was purpose in them. In Canaan the wars were against a people so wicked that their sin had reached its full. Some wars were in order that the Holy Seed might be preserved. Every force of anti-Christ opposed His arrival.
When Jesus, that promised Seed, appeared (Galatians 4:4), He brought a new concept of facing our enemies. He taught His disciples how they would live in His Kingdom. See this that He taught:
How much more powerful are these weapons of war than the arms that spill blood and take lives! Oh, that we who are beginning to know Christ’s Kingdom might know this today!
John gives us something more that Jesus said about this matter of love.
The above word commandment is from the Greek entolé’, meaning an order, or an injunction, as handed down by an emperor, or a military leader. By no means was it a mere suggestion that Jesus gave. It was a mandate of His Father’s Kingdom. There is something else to know about this order from Jesus. It was a new commandment. As we have explained before, there are two significant words in the New Testament that mean “new.” One is the Greek néos, meaning something new much like something that has already existed. The other is kaínos, meaning something new of an entirely new order, or of a new kind. The word that Jesus is recorded using in John 13:34 is kaínos. It was a new kind of commandment that He was giving to His disciples. It was a kind of order never before given by a leader to men under his charge.
Then, there is something else to note in the record of this injunction handed down by Jesus to His disciples. It was His use of the word agápe (a-GAH-peh). In many Christian circles this word has become rather commonly used. But, its use is among fellow believers and loved ones. Jesus handed down an order that this kind of love is to be extended to one’s enemies. This was a new order about a new kind of love.
There was another word meaning “love” that was common in the culture in the time of Jesus, but it does not occur one time in the New Testament. This was the word éros. It was the highest realm of love a person might attain in the widespread Gentile culture of that time. To give some idea as to its true meaning, we might observe that it is the root from which our present-day word erotic comes. It means the love of one’s self and was associated with sensual or sexual love. It was so high an order of love among the Greeks that one of the main god’s they worshiped was named Eros.
The word agápe was of nearly the opposite meaning. It is translated charity in the King James interpretation of I Corinthians 13, “The Love Chapter.” Charity is not a bad understanding of its meaning. Agápe means the kind of love that gives whether or not it ever receives anything in return. It might well be interpreted to mean “selflessness.”
It is the word Paul used in Ephesians 5:25 when he said, Husbands, LOVE your wives... Is not this an indication that the love of a man toward his wife is meant to be higher than the sensual love defined by the word éros?
The Apostle John gained a good hold on what the kind of love defined by agápe was all about. In the same Epistle in which he spoke of the last time and told of the antichrist coming—I John 2:18—he made use of agápe and the words related to it fifty-one times. Jesus told of this same end-time season in Matthew 24. In verse 12 He said this: And because iniquity shall abound, the love (agápe) of many shall wax cold. This means when lawlessness reaches its most intense degree, agápe love of many will go out like a flickering flame. But, in that same time, this love will reach its perfection in those who have discovered that their life is in Christ. Then we will discover the strength of that new commandment from Jesus.
The seventeen verses of I John 4:4 through 4:21 contain agápe, its Verb agapáo, plus agapetos’, meaning “loved one,” a total of more than thirty times. Along with I Corinthians 13, it is one of the most “love intensive” passages in the whole New Testament.
As we observe the passage from I John in the Original, there are some rather marvelous, and helpful, insights that open to us.
It was John who introduced to us that Jesus was the Word, that is, the lógos, made flesh Who dwelt among us. When Jesus came, the world met God in the flesh. In Jesus the world gained its opportunity to know true Love. Even in rejecting that Love, it remained in the world to be known by whosoever of us would open ourselves to it.
As we get to know the eternal Word, we move closer to the Love that became manifest when …the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us (John 1:14). John told of handling the Word. See this opening passage of I John: That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life—I John 1:1.
John was so close to Him that he said he …handled the Word of life. Though we can’t lay our head on His bosom like John did, we can handle the Word. It remains as the lógos. For us, handling the Word will mean feeling after it, grasping it, laying hold on it, believing it, living out of its resources while confessing it is true. And, I might add, we handle it as we delve into its depth by studying, as best we can, the Original.
Paul gave some amazing insight regarding the effective energy of God’s Word in I Thessalonians 2:13. He spoke of the Word (the lógos) of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe. The two words effectually worketh come from the Greek energéo, which means, “to be operative as a force of energy.” So, whatever a Word from God is expressing, when it is handled by a believer, it can become operative in that believer as a force of energy.
Handling a Word pertaining to God’s Love brings one into so close a proximity with the energy of that love that the “handler” can become a conduit of it, releasing it to flow unto others. It has been well suggested that reading I Corinthians 13—the love chapter—everyday for a month will leave a profound effect on one.
With the Principle of First Reference in mind, let us proceed with handling the Word pertaining to Love in I John 4:7-21. To begin, I make some simple suggestions. First, get this passage from I John, simply but completely, into your heart and mind. In doing this, it would be good to put into practice a principle some of us learned years ago from Bill Gothard. Find the passage in the version of the Bible with which you are most comfortable and memorize it. Then, personalize it to make it your own. Then, holding it firmly in your mind, meditate upon it through succeeding days, allowing its thoughts and ideas to find their way into your everyday living. Then, for your praying, make use of the substance of what you have gained from the Word. As an aid in this, you might make use of the three words we borrow from Gothard, and add a fourth of our own. They are Memorization, Personalization, Meditation and then Supplication. We have added the fourth one to fit in with our Discipline of Intercession.
As we proceed with handling the Word in this article, we make use of the King James Version of the Scripture. We will add some understanding that comes to us by studying the Word in the Greek.
When we are loving with the Love that comes from God, we are privileged to spend our days knowing God.
In the above verse, twice we find the phrase of God. Both times these come from the Greek ék tou theou. The Preposition ék takes our attention. It means “from out of.” It emphasizes the source from which the agape kind of Love has come. It issues forth from God. John, then goes on to declare in verse 8—He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is Love. The agápe kind of Love is the substance of what God is. It is His nature. If we don’t have Who He is energizing us, then we don’t, in actual fact, know Him. His being is Love, the kind of Love that Jesus introduced to His disciples. If we fail in receiving His Love, then we will fail in knowing God.
Verse 9 brings us onward to discover the most obvious manifestation of the Love that God is. It came in His Son. In this was manifested the Love of God toward us. The words toward us are literally “in the midst of us.” We had no capacity to know the Love of God unless it could become known in our midst in a Man, that is, in a Being made like us, fashioned like us, living with challenges like us. So, because of the impossible barrier that prevented us from knowing the Love that God is, He sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.
Now, let us go on with I John 4:10. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. With this, John emphasizes that this real kind of Love by no means begins with us. It originated in God and became manifest toward us in His Son.
There was a hindering factor, however, between God, and us that must be removed if we could know Him with no barrier between us. That barrier was sin. Thus, in the most marvelous of all the divine strokes of Love, God made Him Who knew no sin to be sin for us (II Corinthians 5:21). John made it clear, over and again, that God did this because of His Love. Remember John 3:16.
Let us look one more time at I John 4:10 to discover the meaning of propitiation. We stretch it out a little. “Herein is the Love, the real agápe kind of Love. It’s not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be a sacrifice of atonement to remove all guilt so there would be nothing between us and Him.” Propitiation is from the Greek hilasmos’. This relates to the mercy seat, the cover for the Arc of the Covenant within the Holy of Holies. It was into this place that the High Priest went once a year with the blood of the sacrifice to sprinkle on the mercy seat and thus, remove the guilt of sin from Israel for the year. But Jesus became our great High Priest and offered His Own blood (Hebrews 9:11,12). Through Him our sins are propitiated forever, not just for one year.
This act of love, and our reception of it, brings a responsibility—and as well, a possibility—upon us. We see this in I John 1:11. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought (we are indebted) also to love one another.
Let’s go on with I John 4:12. No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and His Love is perfected in us. Of all the amazement in God’s Love, it must, indeed, reach the utmost of its amazement here. His love reaches its perfection in us. The way God becomes known in the world is in us. The way He will be known in the latter days of evil will be in us.
It will not be through spectacular miracles. It will not be through the building of a great temple nor through winning mighty wars. It will just simply be in us that His love, His life, His righteousness, His Kingdom will be known. Love will find its perfection in us.
Going to verse 16, we see: And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is Love; and he that dwelleth in Love dwelleth in God, and God in him. I cannot comment on this. It is too great. Let us just see it, believe it and let it become known in us. Let us just take it into our spirits and allow the Holy Spirit to make it known in us—and through us.
Verse 17—Herein is our love (Love with us) made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as He is, so are we in this world. 18—There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. 19—We love him, because he first loved us. 20—If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? 21—And this commandment have we from Him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.
Visit Us at http://www.maschil.com
© Berean Gospel Fellowship. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Permission to reprint in part or in whole is usually granted.