I Cor. 13:4-8 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.
Christian love is Christ’s Commandment for all of HIS children. Jesus said, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). John, inspired by the Holy Spirit, once wrote, “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death” (1 John 3:14). And “by this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:2-3).
A Pharisaic lawyer once asked our Lord, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:36-40) .
According to Matthew’s Gospel, the very essence of the Law and the Prophets is to love God and to love others. And we see this term “the Law and the Prophets” used in one other place in Matthew’s Gospel. It’s in this passage that we find the Biblical definition for love: “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12)
In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus elaborates on this “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” principle. He says, “Give to everyone who asks of you. And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back. And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise. But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive back, what credit is that to you? For even sinners lend to sinners to receive as much back. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil. Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.” (Luke 6:30-36)
When the King James translators came upon the Greek word agape (God’s Love), in addition to using the English word “love” to transliterate it, they often chose the English word “charity.” This was meant to reinforce the idea that agape is a selfless, giving love. God’s Love is unselfish and unconditional. Now we know what is meant by Christian love. Love is a holy disposition given to us when we are born again by God. It is the love of God shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. True spiritual love is characterized by meekness and gentleness, yet it is vastly superior to the courtesies and kindnesses of the flesh.
We must be careful not to confuse human sentimentality, carnal pleasantries, human amiability and affability with true spiritual love. God commands love first to Him and then to others. It is not the indulgent, self-seeking love which is in us by nature. If we indulgently allow our children to grow up with little or, no Scriptural discipline, Proverbs plainly says we do not love them, regardless of the human sentimentality and affection we may feel for them. Love is not a sentimental pampering of one another with a loose indifference as to our walk and obedience before the Lord. Glossing over one another’s faults to ingratiate ourselves in their esteem is not spiritual love.
The true nature of Christian love is a righteous principle which seeks the highest good of others. It is a powerful desire to promote their welfare. The exercise of love is to be in strict conformity to the revealed will of God. We must love in the truth. Love among the brethren is far more than an agreeable society where views are the same. It is loving them for what we see of Christ in them, loving them for Christ’s sake. The Lord Jesus Himself is our example. He was not only thoughtful, gentle, self-sacrificing and patient, but He also corrected His mother, used a whip in the Temple, Severely scolded His doubting disciples, and denounced hypocrites. True spiritual love is above all faithful to God and uncompromising towards all that is evil. We cannot declare, ‘Peace and Safety’ when in reality there is spiritual decay and ruin!
True spiritual love is very difficult to exercise because it is not our natural love. By nature we would rather love sentimentally and engender good feelings. Also many times true spiritual love is not received in love, but is hated as the Pharisees hated it. We must pray that God will fill us with His love and enable us to exercise it without dissimulation toward all.
The word love can mean many different things in the English language. It can refer to a mother’s love for her child, love of country, romantic love, friendship, or God’s love towards mankind. The Greek language has different words for different types of love. The original manuscripts of the New Testament of the Bible were written in the Greek language so we will take a look at the actual words used in the original manuscripts. We will explore the following Greek words:
Agape is defined as the love that God has for his Son and toward mankind.
John 3:16 “For God so loved (agape) the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Notice the first part of this verse, “God so loved (agape)… He gave”. Agape love gives, agape love is the deep and constant love of a perfect being (God) towards an unworthy object (mankind).
Ephesians 2:4 – 5 “But because of his great love (agape) for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved.” Romans 5:8 “But God demonstrates his own love (agape) for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” We were unworthy objects, we were sinners.
Agape love is love that only comes from God.
God showed his love (agape) among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. Agape love gives unselfishly and takes action in a visible way. As sinners, we deserved the death that Jesus took upon himself on the cross. We were unworthy of the love that God demonstrated toward us when he allowed his only Son to die on the cross for us. Agape love is why Jesus died on the cross for our sins in such a visible and humiliating way before all creation. Agape love truly does take action in a visible and if necessary humiliating way. Agape love is God doing what is best for mankind and not necessarily what man desires. Agape love is not drawn out by excellency in its objects. It is an exercise of the divine will in deliberate choice, made without assignable cause.
In contrast, Phileo is defined as to be a friend to, indicating feelings, warm affection. As we study love we will begin to understand that Phileo is the love that can come easily because of like interests, commonalities. Sometimes we meet people who we naturally like. They are easy to get along with, you may share the same ideas, and they’re likable and enjoyable to be around so you feel comfortable and have good feelings being around them. Many times you develop a warm affection toward them and enjoy their company. Some want to say that God has only agape love but we know that is not true.
Take a look at the following verses:
John 3:35 “The Father loves (agape) the Son and has placed everything in his hands, Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s
wrath remains on him.”
John 5:20 “For the Father loves (Phileo) the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, to your amazement he will show him even greater things than these.”
In John chapter 21, both words are used but each word retains it’s distinctive and essential character. Before we study John 21, let’s review the events that lead up to this chapter. Peter is one of the twelve disciples, a fisherman by trade, who follows Jesus during three years of ministry. Near the end of Jesus life, just before Jesus is crucified, the last 24 hours go something like follows:
The Passover meal or last supper is observed by Jesus and the twelve disciples
During the meal Jesus says that He will be betrayed by one of the twelve disciples
Peter is quick to say in Mark 14:29 “Even if all fall away, I will not.”
Luke 22:33 & 34 records Peter saying: But he replied, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.” Jesus answered, “I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me.”
They leave the upper room and go to the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus asks a few disciples to keep watch and pray, Peter is one of them. Jesus return’s to find them sleeping as recorded in Mark 14:37 & 38 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Simon,” he said to Peter, “are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour? Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” Recorded in Mark 14:39, Jesus comes back a second time to find his disciples sleeping again. And again as recorded in Mark 14:41, Jesus returns a third time and asks “Are you still sleeping and resting?”
Judas arrives on the scene and the soldiers start to arrest Jesus. In John 18:10 “Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear.” Jesus rebukes him as recorded in John 18:11 – Jesus commanded Peter,”Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?”
Next we find Peter following at a distance as Jesus is lead away. Mathew 26:58 – But Peter followed him at a distance, right up to the courtyard of the high priest. He entered and sat down with the guards to see the outcome.
Read closely the following verses recorded in Mathew 26:69 thru 75 – Now Peter was sitting out in the courtyard, and a servant girl came to him. “You also were with Jesus of Galilee,” she said. But he denied it before them all. “I don’t know what you’re talking about, “he said. Then he went out to the gateway, where another girl saw him and said to the people there, “This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth.” He denied it again, with an oath: “I don’t know the man!” After a little while, those standing there went up to Peter and said, “Surely your are one of them, for your accent gives you away.” Then he began to call down curses on himself and he swore to them, I don’t know the man!” Immediately a rooster crowed. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: “Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” And he (Peter) went outside and wept bitterly.
Jesus dies on the cross. Peter and the other disciples are scared and hiding out. What had they witnessed the last three years? All the miracles, the feeding of the five thousand, the man with leprosy who was healed, the blind man whose sight was restored and on and on we could go, not to mention all the teachings and parables by Jesus himself. He’s dead now, where do they go, and what do they do? Jesus remains in the tomb on the Sabbath. No one could go to the tomb on that day. The next morning, Mary Magdalene goes to the tomb but it is empty. She runs and tells the disciples, Peter and John run ahead of the other disciples – they see the linen wrappings but no Jesus. They go to their homes. Jesus appears to Peter on the road to Emmaus. Jesus appears to the disciples and tells them to go to Galilee and wait for him. They go there and wait. Peter grows weary – says I’m going fishing (John 21:3 – “I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.) Peter had gone back to what he had done before meeting Jesus and the other disciples followed. The next morning Jesus stood on the shore and called out to them “Friends, haven’t you any fish?”
The disciples answered “No”. Jesus tells them “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” Miraculously, they caught an abundance of fish. John who is in the boat with Peter realizes that it is Jesus and says to Peter “It is the Lord!” Peter is so happy that he jumps in the water and swims to the shore. There Jesus had fish cooking on burning coals and invited them saying “Come and have breakfast.” When they had finished breakfast, the following dialogue took place and is recorded in John 21:15 thru 17 – When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord, “he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said “Take care of my sheep.” The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.” Loving one another (agape love) is one of the greatest outward expressions of our devotion to God. Jesus demonstrated agape love towards Peter even though Peter had failed so many times as evidenced in the verses listed above. Jesus was entrusting to Peter to be a leader in the Church when he said to Peter “Feed my sheep.”
A Pharisee asked Jesus “Which is the greatest commandment?” Let’s look at Mathew 22:37 thru 40 – Jesus replied “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it. Love your neighbor as yourself. All the law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Loving one another with an agape type love shows our love for God and to God. John 14:15 – “If you love (agape) me, you will obey what I command.” John 15:12 – “My command is this: Love (agape) each other as I have loved (agape) you.”
I John 4:20 -21 – If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.
In contrast, when we love one another with an agape type love, the Spirit of God can work through us in the lives of other people that need to see the love of Jesus.