The Missing Ingredients
Article by guest writer Ted J Saunders, Renton, Washington, USA
Could love and mercy be essential ingredients together in God’s plan of grace? If we never did anything wrong in our lives then there would be no need for God’s grace. I believe it is God’s ability to forgive us and love us in spite of all our wrongdoings in his sight that is his greatest most wonderful quality and that surely inspires total loyalty to Him. Think about it. If you had the power to hand out eternal life, would you not want everyone to have the kind of love which builds, helps and preserves instead of destroys? Would you preserve judgmental qualities of anger, hate and destructiveness in an eternally living person who would oppose you and those you love?
Love is a quality that has come to my attention through the hard experience of many life lessons as I reflect back. I have come to believe if a child learns SELF-less love of others through the example of their parents or someone very close to them, they too will have it in their behavior when they grow up. My experiences indicate there appears to be a living law that the way we treat others around us is generally the way we will be treated back. Remember the Golden Rule to “do unto others as you would have others do unto you” as described in Matthew 7:12? It was taught to me as a small child in a Methodist church but I have found it is not just for little children! Luke 6:31 says the same thing in different words and the very next few subsequent verses that follow show we should be actively merciful and show love to people outside of our churches too, even to our enemies!
What treatment do wives crave the most from their husbands? I believe it is appreciative caring love that is commonly missing in marriages! Numerous times ministers have told husbands they “must love their wives” (Ephesians 5:25) but the obvious widespread fruits of dysfunctional, damaged and even destroyed marriages (even among ministers) indicate a widespread failure to successfully practice the advice. Are we not all guilty of “do as I say but not what I do” teachings?
Mother Teresa set a wonderful selfless example of caring and giving to the poor and needy of the world in every way she could with no evident thought for her self. The firemen who lost their own lives running up the stairs into the World Trade center towers to save other lives before the collapses on September 11, 2001 showed the love of John 15:12-13. “This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” One witness who escaped said on the news that he did not see any fear in the faces of the public servants as they ran up while everyone else was running down. Surely, people cannot do such brave deeds without making up their own minds in advance in a spirit of total love for others.
Many religious families have seriously misapplied Proverbs 3:11-12, 22:6 and other verses to the point where it degenerated into attempts to beat godly qualities into them. The fruits of over-correction of children have frequently been manifested as rebellion, which should have been recognized much earlier in various danger signs. An adult parent can forcibly control the outward behavior of a rebellious child but fail to win his/her heart. Then when the child eventually reaches an opportunity to become independent from the parents the real attitude emerges into the open with little or no change. There may be severe emotional damage from overly harsh discipline that must be coped with for the remainder of the child’s natural life as an adult. There is obviously something much more to successful child rearing. As some say, “The Spirit doesn’t push, it leads”.
“For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” (Romans 8:14).
Jesus spoke of not pushing little children away (Matthew 19:13-15). Of course we parents all imperfectly tried to completely love our children and wanted only the best for them. Nearly every parent develops a love for their children they never would have learned if they had not raised any children. This shows that caring love grows through experience and practice. Love does not spring into existence fully formed. Greater love often appears to grow out of the most painful experiences.
Agape and Phileo/Philia
In order to better understand what the New Testament is saying about love it is helpful to recognize that the word love has different meanings in different settings of the English language. It is easy to unintentionally apply wrong meanings when reading scriptures if we fail to understand the Greek language had specific words for different kinds of love. The New Testament uses agapao/agape and phileo/philia. The first form of each is a verb and the second is a noun. The Greek word eros used for sexual kinds of love is not found in the New Testament.
A Greek Lexicon says the Greek spelling for agapao is agapaw which is pronounced ag‑ap-ah'-o. It is translated ‘love’ 135 times and ‘beloved’ seven for a total of 142 occurrences in the King James Version of the Bible. The Lexicon says when it refers to persons it can mean to welcome, to entertain, to be fond of or to love dearly. The same Lexicon says the Greek spelling for agape is agaph which is pronounced ag-ah'-pay. It is translated ‘love’ 86 times, ‘charity’ 27 times, ‘dear’ once, ‘charitably’ once, and ‘feast of charity’ once for a total of 116 occurrences in the King James Version. The Lexicon says it can mean brotherly love, affection, good will, love, benevolence or love feasts.
Writers who have studied how agapao/agape is used in the New Testament have suggested various definitions. Some say it is a self-giving love that “involves a consuming passion for the well being of others”. This kind of love is the primary focus of this paper. It is the opposite of human tendencies to love in a self-centered manner. It has been said that Agapao/agape is rarely used in Greek literature.
The word phileo/philia is used less commonly in the New Testament. Some writers describe it as a brotherly or friendship love, which involves an emotional bonding.
The Two Great Commandments
In Matthew 22:39 Jesus says the second great commandment is “Thou shalt love (agapao) thy neighbor as thyself.” Of course the first great commandment is (v 37) to “love (agapao) the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.” I have heard plenty of sermons and teachings that we should worship and love God. My experiences are that while the first great commandment receives lots of attention in churches everywhere, the second great commandment is widely neglected.
Many different religions claim they worship the same God but actually treat those who belong to a different religion with contemptuous hate. How many sermons on love of one another can you remember from your past? The biggest breakdown is obviously in failure to follow the second great commandment. Strife and war would surely go away if everyone learned to faithfully follow the second great commandment. Such practice by everyone would lead to millennial settings of the future such as described in the Old Testament. Most church sermons and literature I remember have been practically empty of the love one another ingredient to the point where it is effectively missing. On the other hand most teach worship and love of God (His first Great Commandment). Please don’t get me wrong. I too believe we must all worship our Supreme Creator with all our hearts, minds and all our being in every way we are able to forever and ever, Amen.
Love of one another follows behind our total devotion to God Almighty. I believe that ideas on ways and means to practice the second great commandment need to occupy perhaps a third or more of our church agendas instead of less than one percent. Successful inspirational practice of the second great commandment within local congregations could result in outsiders noticing and eagerly wanting to join. This could cause personal growth and membership growth to be natural instead of forced through personal sacrifices or even faked. Some say we must live and practice “love” in our lives instead of just preaching it. I agree but how can we expect people to start living lives of love if there has been failure to teach or preach it? Just because we should live something does not eliminate the need to teach it and be living examples of it. Our own bitter experiences have shown that love does not just naturally grow in the human heart all by itself.
Much of the Old Testament is a chronicle of the failure of the Israelites to live according to God’s will which would have resulted in his pouring out abundant physical blessings upon them.
“For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord.” (Hebrews 8:8-9).
The new covenant made possible by the blood of Jesus and the coming of the Holy Spirit as described in Hebrews 9 in contrast, bears spiritual blessing promises of salvation to eternal life.
The New Testament is full of examples and mention of the second great commandment subject (Matthew 22:36-40).
A significant observation in the above set of verses is that the Greek word used in telling us to love (agapao) our neighbor is the very same as the word used in telling us to love (agapao) God! They are not identified here as different kinds of love.
Love and the Ten Commandments (Matthew 19:16-19)
Jesus talked about what must be done to have eternal life. Notice Jesus specifically identifies five (5 thru 9) of the ten commandments given in Exodus 20:3-17 and then summarizes them as “love (agapao) thy neighbour as thyself” just like Matthew 22:39 where such love is called the second great commandment.
The book of Romans contains a set of verses that parallels the above ones with a certain difference (Romans 13:8-10).
Notice love (agapao) is used in the passage above starts out on the subject of “love (agapao) one another”. Then it specifically identifies five (6 thru 10) of the ten commandments from Exodus 20:3-17 and enfolds them in verse 9 into “Thou shalt love (agapao) thy neighbour as thyself” very much like Matthew 22:39 where such love (agapao) is called the second great commandment. Verse 10 goes on to say, “love (agape) is the fulfilling of the law” which is suggested in Matthew 22:40. Also notice the Matthew 19 identification of commandments 5 thru 9 overlaps the identification in Romans 13 of commandments 6 thru 10, which shows all six of the commandments 5 thru 10 are in the same category of the second great commandment of love (agapao) one another.
It does not take a brilliantly powerful PhD type of intellectual to take one more step and recognize the first four of the 10 commandments fit the first great commandment category of Matthew 22:37 “Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love (agapao) the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.” How could it be possible to love God in such a way without an accompanying quality of obedience, which is implicitly implied in the ten commandments of Exodus 20?
Jesus also specifically magnified certain of the 10 commandments during his lifetime on the earth as seen in the following example:
“For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven. Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill (commandment 6); and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.” (Matthew 5:20-22).
The Law and Sin
Many religions do not use any clear definition of what sin is. Some dogmatically define sin as breaking the law, which in turn is defined as breaking the magnified Ten Commandments.
“Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.” (1 John 3:4).
The Bible talks of sin before the ten commandments were given to the Israelites:
“Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” (Romans 5:12-14).
“For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.” (Romans 5:19).
The Bible does not say Adam had the ten commandments but Adam was told by God not to eat of the fruit of a certain tree. This suggests a larger definition of sin would be any act of disobedience against God's words or his known will.
Life in Jesus with help from the Spirit frees us from sin and death. “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8:1-2).
Some religions focus their teachings on us dwelling in Jesus and just getting to know and love him because of what he did for us. There is more to it than that. Christ also dwells in us. (Colossians 1:27).
Jesus said he plans to give the future kingdom reward to sheep who treat strangers with merciful love because Jesus considers such treatment the same as being done to him. This shows Jesus could be dwelling in a very needy stranger without our knowing it. It is obviously risky to assume only those in our own particular church organization has Jesus in them. Although Matthew 25:31-40 does not specifically use the word love, the discussion has the hallmarks of love.
Notice what happens to the goats on the left hand. They lost their salvation! This clearly shows that a willingness to give merciful love to strangers is essential for salvation. So love really is extremely important even towards strangers! (Matthew 25:41-46).
Jesus says we must abide in Jesus and he in us so we would bear fruit that glorifies the Father just like a vine and branches abide in each other to bear fruit. Then Jesus says He and the Father would love (agapao) those who keep their commandments. (John 15:4-10).
Jesus prayed that those who believe on him would be one with each other just like he and the Father are. Jesus prayed that he would be in us as the Father is in him so that we would be made perfect and the world would know the Father loves Jesus and us. (John 17:20-23).
The above discussion shows that active love is associated with a complete unity between the Father, Jesus and his believers. The world should be able to see love and unity among the people of God. Disunity and inability to get along with one another within a church does not show the world it is of God. Unity needs to arise out of God’s Spirit in us, belief in Jesus and love of each other. Detailed prescriptive enforced control of Christian behavior or worship by church leaders is not evident in the New Testament Bible. Selfish attempts to control others have been a common source of strife and wars in the history of mankind. Control of our own Christian behavior needs to come from within each of us as Jesus and the Father dwell within us while the Holy Spirit writes God’s law in our hearts.
Christians should not need detailed instructions on how to love others but it could surely be a great help to us all to be given lots of ideas and suggestions on a regular basis in sermons. The rest of our education in agape love needs to come from examples shining from each of us. An environment of disagreeing arguments surely must dim the light of love. Real Christians need to be able to accept disagreements without striving to prove each other wrong. Where does the Bible say we must all think exactly the same thoughts? If we believe the other person to be thinking wrongly then why not leave it up to God to make the necessary corrections in his own time. Only God can say for sure who is right or wrong and it might even be ourselves who are wrong without our realizing it. Believing Jesus and keeping God’s commandments to love God and love one another with the help of God’s Holy Spirit is the only possible way to real unity and peace. (1 John 3:22-24).
Our life in Christ allows him to make us into a new creation that will walk in good works. The forgiveness of our sins through the blood of Jesus so we can have salvation is a quick and clean justification in God’s sight. However we are still in the world and our personalities do not change instantaneously. Jesus commands us to love one another, which does not come naturally. Obviously the creation of the new creature in us in the hands of Christ Jesus is a gradual process of growth in us as we become more skilled and learned in ways to walk in love for God and one another. There is an infinite number of ways to show agape love so it has to be an art form that can become extremely beautiful to the eye of the beholder and to the recipient. Please see 2 Corinthians 5:17, Philemon 1:6, Ephesians 2:10.
Yet, we are told those living in Jesus will have persecution:
“Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” (2 Timothy 3:12).
“Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ.” (1 Peter 3:16).
When we suffer in Christ’s name we are told to rejoice and glorify God (1 Peter 4:12-14).
Our Quest for Salvation
Many verses refer to qualities such as faith, love, grace, and salvation as being in Jesus to which we must hold strongly in order to obtain salvation.
“Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love (agape) which is in Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 1:13) See also 2 Timothy 2:1, 10.
The “holy scriptures” Paul knew from childhood that could make us wise to salvation through faith in Christ had to have been from the Old Testament because he grew up in the Jewish way of that time and the New Testament was not yet written. (2 Timothy 3:15).
Many scriptures say that Jesus dwells in us through faith and the Holy Spirit. Some examples are Ephesians 3:17, Romans 8:8-10.
If we are washed from sin once a year then what is happening the rest of the year concerning our Christian struggles against sin? “And above all things have fervent charity (agape) among yourselves: for charity (agape) shall cover the multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8).
Some physical education teachers say that getting kids actively involved in wholesome activities tends to keep them out of trouble because it gives their minds and bodies something good to do and reduces the time available for trouble. It also tires them out so they may rest more. Perhaps this same principle holds true for being actively involved in activities of love (agape) towards others. It gives us less time to sin and thereby covers or prevents those sins that otherwise might have happened.
Another possibility is that an act of agape towards other people may impress them favorably in a way that causes them to respond in kind with agape when they might have otherwise been inclined to sin or be angry in some way. This could prevent or cover some sin the other person might have done.
Last but not least, Christian acts of agape love towards other people could influence some towards converting to new lives in Christ and result in them shunning many of the sins they may have otherwise continued in for the remainder of their lives. In a multiplying way, the new converts guided by God’s Holy Spirit may in turn become living examples of powerful agape love that become a triggering influence on additional lives that convert to Christianity.
How the Holy Spirit Helps Us
Some religions take a very hard line on sin, which sounds almost like we will no longer sin if we really have God’s Holy Spirit actively dwelling within us.
Some people use the New International Version to say that the Holy Spirit "controls" the converted "new" person it dwells in. There are at least two references (Rom 8:14 and Gal 5:18) that say the Spirit "leads" us among other things but I have not found any KJV or Greek words that say it controls us. Galatians 5 does talk about walking in the Spirit and describes the fruit of the Spirit. If it really controlled us then we would not sin any more. We all know it simply is not true that converted Christians no longer sin. Jesus said that just a wrong thought such as an angry one breaks the sixth Commandment (Matthew 5:21-22). Yes, Jesus paid for our sins and we believe his blood washes our sins away every year when we observe the Passover (or in the case of many Christian religions, monthly communion).
The Holy Spirit leads or guides us away from sin towards love, which fulfills the law. Jesus says if we love him we will keep his commandments and he will ask the Father to give his Spirit to dwell in us forever. We would thereafter all be in each other. (John 14:15-21, noting v20).
Love Fulfills the Law
An additional item of interest is the Romans 13:10 statement “Love (agape) worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love (agape) is the fulfilling (pleroma) of the law” together with Matthew 22:40 “On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” shows commandments of Exodus are still actively in force in the New Testament and the “fulfilling” cannot mean they have been done away.
A Greek Lexicon says the Greek spelling for pleroma is plhrwma which is from pleroo (see below). It is translated ‘fulness’ 13 times, ‘full’ once, ‘fulfilling’ once, ‘which is put in to fill it up’ once, ‘piece that filled it up’ once for a total of 17 occurrences in the King James Version of the Bible. The Lexicon says it can mean that which is (has been) filled, that which fills or with which a thing is filled, fulness, abundance, a fulfilling or keeping.
A verse used by some to claim the law has been fulfilled and done away is:
“Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil (pleroo).” (Matthew 5:17).
The Greek Lexicon says pleroo can mean, to make full, to fill up, to fill to the full, to render full, to complete, to fulfil, or to cause God's will (as made known in the law) to be obeyed as it should be, and God's promises (given through the prophets) to receive fulfillment.
The fact that fulfil (pleroo) used in Matthew 5:17 gives foundational meaning to fulfilling (pleroma) in Romans 13:10 (see above) which describes a living continuously active ongoing love (agape) has to mean the law is not done away because love (agape) is not done away. If the law is really done away with then how can Christians be continuously fulfilling it?
Many people think of the Ten Commandments as a list of “don’ts”. However the fourth and fifth ones are actually stated as direct “do” commands: (Exodus 20:8-9,12).
An example of the so-called “negative” commandments is “Thou shalt not kill.” (Ex 20:13).
Consider what is the opposite of murder. Obviously an opposite would be to give or to save a life. Would not saving a life or an in-between act of healing or helping to make a life better be an active kind of love that Jesus taught and set examples for us? (Mark 3:4-5).
It surely does not require years of highly specialized university religious training to recognize that the so-called “negative” commandments actually compliment the “do” commandments in explaining how God wants us to love him and to love each other. Love is surely active applications of the Ten Commandments in our daily lives and not just neutrally refraining on a list of commanded “shalt not’s”.
Notice God promised he was going to write his law into our hearts as a new covenant:
“But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.” (Jeremiah 31:33).
See also Ezekiel 36:26-27 where God said he would put a” spirit” in us that would cause us to actively “walk in” and “do” what he says we should. That our heart would be changed to fleshly instead of stony suggests to me that God’s people would become compassionate.
The above Old Testament promises are confirmed in the New Testament. Notice in Hebrews the new covenant is to be both put into our minds and written in our hearts with the help of God’s Holy Spirit. This supports the concept that we can intellectually understand love in our minds but we will not be fully able to walk in the ways of love in our lives until it is in our hearts. (Hebrews 8:10-13).
The new covenant law God speaks of can be none other than love (agape) as summarized in the two great commandments, each of which in turn summarize magnified versions of the ten commandments. Notice God said in the Old Testament times he would put his laws into people’s minds and hearts in the future. What could be more important in the minds and hearts of mankind than love (agape)? Could it be faith? Could it be hope? No. I Corinthians 13:13 says charity (agape) is greater than either one.
Jesus said those who love (agapao) him are keeping his commandments. (John 14:21-24).
“And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love (agapao) one another, as he gave us commandment.” (1 John 3:23 KJV).
Jesus said we are to do the will of his Father, which in places is described as being the same as his own will. (Matthew 7:21-23).
It is evident that the will of both Jesus and God the Father is summarized in the two Great Commandments. They in turn are a summary of the Ten Commandments and are the law that was and is to be placed in the hearts and minds of mankind as agape love.
Mercy and the Sabbath
The fourth commandment is the only one of the 10 commandments repeatedly attacked by many “Christian” religions as being an awfully heavy burden that should be abolished. Notice that mercy is a quality mentioned in Hebrews 8:12 in association with the new covenant law to be placed in human minds and hearts. When the disciples were accused of unlawful behavior on the Sabbath day for plucking corn because they were hungry (Matthew 12:1-6), “Jesus replied: But if ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless.” (Matthew 12:7). This comes from Hosea and indicates Sabbath keeping should be kept with mercy, which is associated with agape love instead of the judgmental harshness some tend to apply: “For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.” (Hosea 6:6).
Consider: “But when Jesus heard that, he said unto them, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick. But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Matthew 9:12-13).
Some of the healings by Jesus mentioned in the New Testament were done on a Sabbath and show a strong quality of mercy. An example is found in Mark 3:1-5. Jesus quoted from the Old Testament to show part of his work would be to perform merciful acts of healing and set the oppressed “at liberty”. (Luke 4:16-21).
The healing and freeing of the oppressed is also supported by Isaiah 42:6-7.
The living examples of Jesus suggest an important part of observing the Sabbath is an active practice of love for one another. The works of mercy Jesus performed for men on the Sabbath supported his message of love of one another and salvation made possible through his shed blood.
Really active living practices of love for one another (always secondary to love of God of course) could make the boredom many (especially children) have experienced on the Sabbath vanish. The Jews have developed some traditions that involve the whole family such as lighting candles and singing a lovely song as the Sabbath draws on. They have given women and children parts to play in a family setting of the Passover time “Seder” meal such as singing, reciting a part of the story or hiding a piece of matzos. Having an active part in a service can do wonders for getting rid of boredom. For some high day occasions the Jews have prepared special delicious food and treats fondly remembered and looked forward to by many.
I am sure many uplifting ways of helping children enjoy the Sabbath could be invented if we made lots of effort to apply some imagination. What could be wrong with parents taking generous amounts of time on the Sabbath to get down and play what the children want in ways that set examples of compassionate caring for them and for others? Little children have a hunger for being praised and being made to feel good for what they do rather than punished for failing to be physically quiet. Most children and teens have not had the patience or interest to listen to the minister talking on for hours about adult stuff. Jesus said we adults need to become like little children and not the other way around!
“And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3).
Grown ups can learn from little children too. Church members without children need to develop attitudes of working to understand of the needs of the little children and become mercifully tolerant of innocent disruptions instead of irritated into judgmental thinking that the children still have a lot to learn. Each disruption can be a challenging opportunity for all of us to become understanding of the needs of others and try to think of ways to help out. By making positive agape efforts, we can replace dread of the Sabbath with wonderful inspirational behavior leading towards utopian styles of happiness and joy. Of course no one is perfect but that must not stop us from striving to develop in directions of positive good works.
Before leaving the subject of the Sabbath, please notice a statement made by Jesus concerning the same corn plucking incident previously mentioned in Matthew 12: “And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27).
This suggests there is value for mankind in keeping the Sabbath. How about mental and physical rest? How about activities that help us draw closer to God and better understand his will for us? Certainly but not the least, Sabbaths are an excellent time to practice agape love for one another. Many of us don’t have much time or energy to devote to such things because we work for a living on the other six days of the week and spend most of our spare time on family necessities, commute trips, hobbies and recreation.
It appears that the real burden many have experienced on the Sabbath was from the man made unmercifully harsh judgmental rules, which were imposed by zealous individuals who failed to understand and apply God’s intended mercy and agape love.
Jesus Our Passover for Our Salvation
The Passover lambs were killed to place their blood on the doorposts and then eaten so the LORD would not kill the firstborn of the children of Israel the night (Exodus 12:3-30) he freed the Israelites to come out of Egypt. This foreshadowed the future sacrifice of Jesus for our salvation.
“And the passover, a feast of the Jews, was nigh. When Jesus then lifted up his eyes, and saw a great company come unto him, he saith unto Philip, Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat?” (John 6:4-5).
“Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us.” (1 Corinthians 5:7).
During the Passover Jesus explained his body and blood would make it possible for us to receive salvation to live forever (John 6:53-58) and that he is the real shepherd who cares for us. He said his sheep would recognize him and without fail he would give them eternal life (John 10:27-28).
The All Time Greatest Act of Love
The life of Jesus given for mankind was the supreme example of love that would be set for mankind.
“For God so loved (agapao) the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16). See also John 13:31-35.
Notice again. In verse 34 the Greek word used for the love (agapao) God and Jesus had for mankind is the very same word for love (agapao) he expects us to have for each other! Not only did Jesus command mankind to love (agapao) one another as in the last six of the 10 commandments, he set a magnifying example of laying down his own life in agape love for us.
Love is the Greatest
The all time most famous love discussion of the Bible is in the thirteenth chapter of the book of 1 Corinthians 13:1-13.
Is it more important than agape love to be powerfully persuasive speakers? No. Is it more important than agape love to know how soon the end time tribulation will come upon the world? No. Is it more important than agape love to understand the greatest mysteries of the ages? No. Is it more important than agape love to have faith that will result in amazing miracles? No. Is it more important than agape love to give away all our worldly possessions to the poor and even our bodies to be tortured to death? No.
Is agape love patiently tolerant? Yes! Is agape love kind? Yes! Is agape love jealous of the good fortune of others? No. Does agape love arrogantly put others down? No. Does agape love behave selfishly? No. Does agape love try to impose its own will on others? No. Does agape love seek to support the legitimate will of others even if it is different? Yes! Is agape love easily angered? No. Does agape love think evil thoughts of others? No. Is agape love happy when others suffer? No. Does agape love have joy in truth? Yes! Does agape love endure hardship and suffering while hoping and believing good will happen? Yes!
Does agape love ever fail? No. Will foretold future events fail to happen? Yes. Will great speeches and sermons be forgotten? Yes. Will great stores of knowledge be forgotten? Yes. Will the human existence of those with agape love be replaced by God’s gift of immortal life in the future? Yes! Is agape love greater than faith and hope? Yes!
Remember the word (agape) translated, as charity repeatedly in the passage above is itself translated as love 86 times elsewhere in the KJV. Especially notice that verse 13 above concludes charity (agape) is even greater than faith or hope. A description of the fruits of the spirit in Galatians includes essentially the same qualities mentioned in 1 Corinthians: But the fruit of the Spirit is love (agape), joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23).
Love No Matter What Others Say or Do
God obviously has created us all different and logically enjoys a world full of differences everywhere. This quality of great variety is self evident in the gloriously wide range of God’s created animals, birds, trees, plants insects, rocks, minerals, atomic matter, stars and galaxies which we are still endlessly discovering. Perhaps our discoveries will continue to extend into eternity after God gives eternal life to all his beloved ones. The widespread diversity in our world strongly hints at God’s great tolerance and suggests he also enjoys endless varieties of behaviors that can coexist peacefully and not clash with each other. When someone does something they have grown in their experiences over time to enjoy but we dislike it because of the way we have grown up and lived then how do we react? Is it something we automatically lash out against? If the deed does not violate God’s way of love then we could look upon it as a challenging opportunity to develop patience, kindness and expand our understanding beyond our own limited experiences. A person with an attitude of agape love will take great care to try to understand where the other person is really coming from before responding negatively.
Don’t forget, Jesus also told us to love our enemies and do good to those who hate us along with praying for them.
“Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love (agapao) thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love (agapao) your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;” (Matthew 5:43-44).
It should be far easier for us to just get along with those who are different from us or who hold different opinions! After all, how can any imperfect human be sure he or she is absolutely right and all others are wrong? If you were right then you would have to forgive that person who argued with you, before God will forgive you of your sins (Matthew 6:14-15). What if it turns out in the end that God shows where you were actually wrong about what you were bickering so bitterly over? You would then be in the humbling position of needing to be forgiven. Why can’t people talk about religious differences with dignity and respect for each other? If you or I listen really carefully, we might discover some new insights or understanding we never had any idea existed! Only God can perfectly know everything. Surely getting along with others is an aspect of agape love.
Agapao Love is Associated with Labors of Mercy
Can we love (agapao) brethren by doing nothing? Is love some kind of magical quality that just flows automatically without effort back and forth between God and us or between individuals? If so, then why would Jesus and the disciples repeatedly command us to love (agapao) one another, even those we are close to?
“Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren (philadelphia), see that ye love (agapao) one another with a pure heart fervently.” (1 Peter 1:22).
A Greek Lexicon says the Greek spelling for philadelphia is filadelfia which is pronounced fil-ad-el-fee'-ah. It is translated ‘brotherly love’ three times, ‘brotherly kindness’, twice, and ‘love of the brethren’ once for a total of six times in the King James Version. The Lexicon says it means the love, which Christians cherish for each other as brethren.
We are told that love involves having compassion on others and doing something for them if needed and it is within our power. This active kind of love is more than just sympathizing talks with a person. Surely active love goes beyond praying for God to do something for them if we have the means and ability ourselves to do something. (1 John 3:16-18).
On the subject of loving one’s neighbor Jesus told a story of a Samaritan who went to extensive and expensive effort to treat a stranger with mercy. (Luke 10:27-37).
The Fruit of Love
Jesus says we are to abide in him like branches on a vine so we can bear much fruit. Remember agape love is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). This indicates we are not abiding in Jesus with his words in us if we do not produce the fruit of agape love. He says if we do not produce a lot of fruit then we will be burned! Then Jesus continues on to say keeping his commandments as he keeps his Father’s commandments is abiding in his agape love. (John 15:5-10).
If a work consistently produces a lot of bitter fruits and little or no love over a long period of time then it highly likely that work is not actually of God. How can any church that grossly neglects the subject of agape love be a true church of God even if it has and keeps a lot of knowledge of other truth? (1 Corinthians 13:2).
At the same time, a church with bitter fruits may contain sheep that are deceived. Such sheep desperately need help from Jesus the good shepherd (John 10:11). Only God knows the state of each of our hearts for sure so we must not judge any individuals in a church even if the fruits of the church are not good. We must treat all individuals with agape love.
There are some who like to stress “grace alone” and imply nothing else in the Bible matters. However the two words “grace alone” are not found together in the King James New Testament. Grace is mentioned as helping us believe.
“And when he was disposed to pass into Achaia, the brethren wrote, exhorting the disciples to receive him: who, when he was come, helped them much which had believed through grace.” (Acts 18:27).
God’s grace not only brings us salvation but also teaches us to live godly lives in the present. “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world.” (Titus 2:11-12).
Although the grace of Jesus mercifully justifies us by washing us clean from sin so we can have eternal life, we are told to be careful to keep doing “good works”. (Titus 3:4-8).
A Greek Lexicon says the Greek spelling for philanthropia translated as love in verse 4 above is filanyrwpia which is pronounced fil-an-thro-pee'-ah. It is translated ‘kindness’ once and ‘love toward man’ once, for a total of two times in the King James Version. The Lexicon says it means love of mankind or benevolence.
The grace (of Christ) makes it possible for us to be saved through faith, which is a gift of God. It is plain we are not saved through any works, however we are told God expects us to walk in good works. While our salvation is a gift from God we are still expected to bear much fruit or we will be burned (John 15:5-10). The fruits of agape love are undeniably “good works”. It cannot be said that abiding in Christ and consequently bearing the fruits of agape love is any attempt to “earn salvation by works”. (Ephesians 2:5-10).
Paul talks about people who attempt to be “justified by the law” instead of grace.
“Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.” (Galatians 5:4).
Notice the verse does not say the law is “not good”. The verse does condemn the wrong use of the law. Clearly, keeping “the law” does not justify our salvation. Our salvation is a gift through the grace of God. At the same time we are expected to bear much fruit of agape love, which results from God’s Spirit working in us. This strongly suggests those not producing the fruits of agape love do not have God’s Spirit in them. If someone wrongly attempts “justify” themselves and “earn” salvation by keeping the commandments that does not mean the commandments are worthless garbage. The wrong use of something good does not change it to “no good”.
“Jesus said the Spirit would be given to those that believe on him after he was glorified.” (John 7:37-39).
The “rivers of living waters” flowing out of us appears to be the Spirit working to satisfy our thirst for the love and salvation of God. Jesus also said the Spirit would guide us into all truth. It is of interest to note that Jesus said this on a festival high day! Why would Jesus bother to time such an important statement on an annual holy day if such days are no longer to be a significant matter as some claim?
“Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.” (John 16:13).
No one can rightfully claim that Spirit guided efforts to keep the commandments of Jesus to Love God and love one another, which in turn summarize the agape love of the Ten Commandments, destroys the “gospel of salvation” by grace.
I feel this discussion just skims the surface on the subject of love and mercy, as it is so huge that even though books have already been written on it, even more important books remain yet to be written. (Malachi 4:5-6).
These last verses in the Old Testament sound like a prophecy of future “love” in action to me! What else but actively merciful agape love can turn hearts of individuals towards each other?
1 John 4:7-21 clearly says God is love (agape) and confirms many of the things written in this paper. The passage also says “there is no fear in love, that perfect love casts out fear and he that fears is not made perfect in love.” See also 1 John 5:1-3.
John 13:34-35 tells us Christianity is the love we have all the time. It will show in our every day actions no matter what they are. According to I Corinthians 13:2 We could do all the very same things without love and be nothing which then would not be like God.
I hope this discussion helps a few people like it has helped me. My own changes of attitude have been painstakingly slow and laborious but hope has been growing in my heart. Some say we can change behaviors but we are in constant danger of reversions to old behaviors until our attitudes are fully changed with the help of God’s Holy Spirit.
With growing Agape,
Renton, Washington USA
May 19, 2002
The King James verses and Lexicon quotes in this paper are from the “Online Bible” a computer program produced by Timnahserah Inc. of Winterbourne, Ontario, Canada.
This paper is intended to be an expression of my own study findings and personal experiences. In addition to the King James Version of the Bible, I have studied numerous writings of others on the subject of love. It can be used as a study guide if you wish. I do not claim to be perfect. I do not claim it to be absolutely free of all errors nor an authoritative expression of the only truths of God. There are many ways of looking at the same thing. If you were to look at the front of a truck at the same time as I look at the back of that same truck, it surely would look different to me and to you while it still remains the same object. You are encouraged to study God’s word with the help of his Spirit to prove to your own full satisfaction if my statements are true or not. If not then I trust God will show me the corrected truths in his own time or that God will provide some people able to persuasively show me my errors with merciful agape love free of any strife. What you choose to believe is a personal matter between you and God only. You are free to share this with others if and when you feel it can help them too. After all, truth belongs to God and not to any human. May we all look eagerly forward to God’s promises of eternal salvation and quickly approaching millennial time and beyond of inspiring wonderful treatments of agape love.