THE BIBLICAL MEANING OF LOVE
1 JOHN 4:7-10
by Cooper Abrams
Introduction: The primary meaning of the word "love" in Scripture is a "purposeful commitment to sacrificial action for another." In the Bible it is a fact that loving God is equated with obeying His Word. The two are inseparable.
In our day, most define love as some type of feeling. We "fall in love," or two people meet and it is "love at first sight." But the world's love is a selfish matter. If you are attractive to me, be nice to me, meet my needs and love me I in return will "love" you. The world's love is based on getting something from some else. The world does not give love where is does not benefit themselves. If you do not please me then I have no love for you. Thus for the world love must be earned by making someone else feel good.
Powerful emotions may accompany love, but it is the commitment of the will that holds true biblical love steadfast and unchanging. Emotions may change, but a commitment to love in a biblical manner endures and is the hallmark of a disciple of Christ. Sadly, the opposite is also true.
Emotions will vary, but a commitment which has its basis in biblical love will not be affected by the whelm of emotion or of one's circumstances.
Our example of true love is shown in God's love for the sinner. Romans 5:8 says ". . .commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." The lost sinner living in rebellion and sin is still loved by the Lord. He loved us enough to die for us and pay our sin debt while we were sinning against Him. This shows that true biblical love is a matter of will....not of emotion. God choose to love us and His love was not based on our meriting it in any way.
1 John 4:8 tells us that ". . . God is love."
The Apostle Paul's discourse in 1 Corinthians 13:1-8, addresses the true righteousness of those who profess Jesus Christ.
"Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth. . . " (1 Cor. 13:4-8a)
God is telling us that "charity" which is true biblical "love" does not fail. Relationships based on emotion fail, but those based on the tenants of true biblical love NEVER fail.
Let us define love so we will know what it is truly. When we used the word love it will brings different meanings to different people. Our King James Bibles often translate the word "agape" as "charity." I recently heard a pastor in his message made the statement with a critical tone, "I never understood why the King James translators us "charity" instead of just "love." Let me explain why. The Bible expresses three different kinds of love.
1. "Agapao" This word is a verb used to describe God's divine love. The noun is "apape." Example is John 3:16, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." (John 3:16) This is the action of totally being committed to the well being of others without regard for their worthiness even unto death. That love was demonstrated by Jesus when He suffered and died for our sins. We, as Christians, are show that unselfish love to others.
2. "Phileo" This word translated "love" refers to fervent love for another person. Jesus when challenging Peter in John 21:15-17 asked do you agape me more than the other disciples. Peter replied, "Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love (phileo) thee" This was his response four times to Jesus' questions. Peter never used the word "agapeo" in response to Jesus' questions.
3. "Eros" This is a noun and refers to sexual love.
The King James translators used the English word "charity" because one cannot mistake the kind of love being mentioned. Note the definition of the word "charity" which shows the wisdom of the translators. Apapeo love is charity.
In our text verse John gives a straight forward test of true conversion. He begins by saying, "Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God."
In verse 10 God tells us that those that live in unrighteousness are noted also in that they do not love their brother.
Verse 11, refers to the text of this message when Jesus said the second greatest commandment was to love one's neighbor as themselves.
In verse 12 is uses Cain as an example. Cain killed his brother because his on works were evil and his brother's works righteous. Cain had no love for his brother, and the basis of his hatred for his brother was that his brother did right and it incited him to murder.
In verse 13, John offers comfort to the true child of God who are the object of scorn, ridicule and the unloving abuses. He in verse 14, offers assurance to those who are hurting under the unloving attacks of the worldly.
"We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death." This verse plainly states the change that occurs when a person receives Christ. Because the Spirit of God is in them...they are able to without condition love others. This is evidence of true salvation when a person's love for others becomes unselfish.
Verse 16, states the greatest manifestation of the love the world can know....that Christ laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren." He concludes with Verse 18.
Today many churches promote a "feel good" religion. It is meant to appeal to emotions. This has had the effect of turning people on to emotion and feeling instead of true spiritual biblical love and commitment. Many today are motivated by emotion rather than being motivated by a commitment to the Lord.
The Bible says we are to grow by the knowledge of the Word of God, not by religious experiences or feelings. Never in any of the Epistles does the New Testament tell us to seek emotional experiences and be guided by feelings. This is an important truth that is being ignored.
The reason so many are in false doctrine and weak in faith and service to God, and are immature... is because they do not honestly know what the Bible teaches about Biblical love and commitment to Christ or they know and refuse to life in love as the Lord instructs. Their relationship with the Lord is based on how they feel rather than on the promises of God's Word. The same is true in their relationships in their marriages, with their children, family and friends. They evaluate their relationship based on the selfish idea that others should make them feel good and if they do not they are not loved or have the right to withhold love towards others. ILLUS: When I first came to Tremonton, Utah I met a woman who was offended because I would not allow contemporary So-Called Christian Music in our church. She told me in glowing terms how she listened to a Christian Rock Station and the song so helped her get through the day. My friend....think for a moment about what she was saying? She got through the day by hearing a commercial singer, repeating phrases over and over to a strong rhythmic beat and that this helped her spiritually. By the way...the Buddhists, Oriental mystics and many other pagan religious do the same thing. The use music with a strong rhythmic beat to whip the people often into a frenzy.
This message is not about music and certainly music has a part our lives. God gave us music and mentions it numerous times in His word, but He limits the type of music we listen too.
"Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord." (Colossians 3:16)
Please note both verses use the adjective, "spiritual" which limits the kind of music God is saying He approves. In fact lost people also find great pleasure in listening to hard ungodly rock music that has the same beat and rhythm. But my friend....does God tell us to be comforted and get through the day by being emotionally charged up or are we to live moment by moment following and trusting in the principles of God's word?
People can actually become "music junkies" having to have music playing all day. However, the true healing comfort to get us through life's trials can only come from God and through His word speaks to us spiritual in the small quiet voice in our souls.
God says, Psalms 27:1 "The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?"
Read with me 2 Corinthians 4:8-21. What a wonderful passage this is. Did you notice what verse 13 says, "We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed." Our faith, our hope, our love is based in ONE thing...the Word of God.
This is a long introduction, but let us now look then at the Meaning of Biblical Love:
I. ALL OF GODS'S DIRECTIVES FOR LIVING ARE BASED ON LOVING GOD AND LOVING OTHERS IN A BIBLICAL MANNER.
A. Jesus said, "And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.' This is the first commandment." (Mark 12:30)
B. Jesus' second commandment:
"And the second, like it, is this: `You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these." (Mark 12:31)
C. Note that Jesus said this was a commandment. A Christian will never truly love their neighbor until they first learn to love God. Love is a part of the natural result of loving God is you love your neighbor. When God saves us we are indwelled by the Holy Spirit who gives us the new nature of God which can now truly unselfishly love.
1. Biblical love is defined by God in His Grace. Grace is "unmerited favor."
2. It is further defined in the word "agape" that is translated in to the English word "love." The word expresses the highest form of love which is the love of God for mankind. This love is one that is freely given because one wills to give it. It is not based on any merit of the individual.
3. True biblical love can only be known by the actions that it prompts. It is not the love of complacency or affection, that is not drawn out by any excellency in it objects (Vines. p382).
ILLUS: If you ask most any church member or profession Christian if they loved the Lord, they would say....certainly! Yet, the faithfulness and obedience of the individual to the Lord shows if their love for God truly exists or is simply rhetoric.
4. Perfect love is seen the Lord Jesus Christ. In the Garden of Gethsemane Christ agonized over what he would be enduring within hours as He suffered for the sins of all the world. Yet, he said "Not my will, but thine be done." Only a pure love could suffer for the world, fully knowing that most of the world would reject Christ's sacrifice for them. Love produces action...and if love is present it will be seen.
5. True love will produce sacrifice for the one who is loved. That is why today, some many live uncommitted lives. They are hot one minute and ice cold the next. True biblical love produces stability in one's life.
ILLUS: I was talking with a good friend who pastors a church in North Carolina. As we ended the conversation he said, "Brother Cooper would you pray with me about my church." He then said he had been at the church for almost twenty years. The church was doing well financially and in attendance ..but he said we are the epitome of the Laodicean church. His church was neither hot or cold....basically was only existing doing little or nothing for the Lord. Folks there is a lack of biblical love in that church. Their faith in that church which resulted in losing their biblical love, commitment and the attitude of sacrificial living for Christ.
6. Love is not the kind of motivation that is whipped up in an emotional message by articulate preacher. Yes, many churches live from week to week getting having to be pumped up by emotional messages each week. That kind of preaching never lasts much past the door of the church. It does not build faith in God in the people. By the time folks get home its over and its back to apathy and being complacent.
It may be fun to sing catchy choruses, to wave one's arms around in the air and sway to the beat of the music and be charged up emotionally....but that does not produce any lasting spiritual benefit in the life of the participant. It does not produce faith or love of God. When the trial of life comes, and they surely will come upon us all, emotions do not bring comfort. You may turn on you cassette player and listen for a while to anthemic music (a religious chant), and have your spirits emotionally lifted, but the problem of dealing with it is not solved.
My friend, when the burdens of life weight you down until you feel like you are being crushed alive.....what brings true help and peace is God's word that promises to His children never to leave to you, never to forsake you. What brings true help is knowing...absolutely... that you are in God's hands and that He loves you more than you could ever know. Music, in charged up emotional church service , or listen to at other times, will not give you the strength you need in a time of peril....but God's word will. And dear friends, the preacher who leads such services is not your friend or the friend of God....is leading you astray and God will surely judge him for it. Can God use music to be a comfort to us? The answer is yes it can, but it will be a soothing music based upon God's word the Scriptures, and will direct you to God's word and His promises.
The week following after resigning one by one many of them came to our home apologizing and expressing their deep regret over what had happened. One retired school teacher told me she have learned more the Lord under my ministry than she ever had before. Another man in the church wanted to confront those who voted against us, but I would not allow that. Another man, said he felt betrayed by those in the church because they had agreed on the matter before the meeting, but in the meeting, because one outspoken wealthy couple opposed it, most of them backed down. Another man several years later, who was highly respected by the congregation, told me later how he appreciated my love of God and His word and unlike later pastors I was always there for people. I think in time they realized their mistake and even today those that are still in the church show they love us. (This was over twenty years ago)
It turned out to be a good experience though because I had never really been tested like that before. God used this to test our church members and also our commitment to Him. It was a refiner's fire to see if our love of God and the people we served real. I thank God for the experience although it almost destroyed me .... but God upheld us, showed us His love and we came out of the experience more committed to the Lord. Our love is not based in how people treat us, or appreciate what we do....it is based in God's word, His promises, and calling to His preacher and that preacher's dear wife. Honestly it took me over a year to get over this, but Carolyn and I today love those people...all of them, even those who still dislike us and who have not changed one bit. Only God could do that in a person's life....only God's love that is shed abroad in our hearts....could cause us to love people who do not love us and so abused us. I think I understand Joseph's statement to his brother has treated him so badly, "But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive. Now therefore fear ye not: I will nourish you, and your little ones. And he comforted them, and spake kindly unto them." (Genesis 50:20-21)
7. A true love for God, based on His immeasurable love for us...will keep you going when life is black as pitch and trouble is on every side. True biblical love will not be a roller coaster ride....it will keep you confidently moving ever forward...steadily for the Lord.
II. LOVE IS GIVING, NOT GETTING, WITH GOD'S LOVE BEING THE BASIS AND THE EXAMPLE FOR THE EXPRESSION OF LOVE AMONG FELLOW CHRISTIANS. (John 3:16)
A. God showed His love and gave His only begotten Son. (John 3:16)
B. The Lord Jesus Christ loves you and gave Himself for you.
"Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father" (Gal. 1:3-4)
Do you understand when it was that Christ died for you? Romans 5:8 says, "But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." Yes, when we were in rebellion against Him
C. The Lord Jesus Christ gave Himself as a ransom on your behalf.
"Who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time" (1 Tim. 2:6)
D. The Lord Jesus Christ, in demonstrating His love, served others even though He is the Master. READ: John 13:3-17
III. LOVE HAS SPECIFIC CHARACTERISTICS DEMONSTRATED BY GODLY DEEDS (thoughts, words, and actions). The test of Biblical love is to do the following, especially when you don't feel like it.
"For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect." (Matthew 5:46-48)
In 1 Cor. 13:1-7, is called the love discourse. It is a comparison of love verses the selfishness of seeking "gifts." Many miss the context of this passage. Paul was addressing the selfishness of the Corinthians in their seeking to obtain gifts of the Spirit that would draw attention to themselves. These misguided individuals were seeking to be "seen" rather than to serve God. Paul was saying their seeking gifts from God was not motivated by love of God or of love of others. By the way dear friend, nothing is changed in that area....it is still going on today in spite of Paul's strong three chapter explanation of the matter.
A. LOVE IS PATIENT. V4 (Long suffering) Even when you feel like forcefully expressing yourself. Love bears pain or trails without complaint, shows forbearance under provocation or strain, and is steadfast despite opposition, difficulty, or adversity.
B. LOVE IS KIND. V4 Even when you want to retaliate physically or tear down another with your words. Love is sympathetic, considerate, gentle and agreeable.
C. LOVE IS NOT JEALOUS. V4 (envieth not) Especially when you are aware that others are being noticed more than you. Love does not participate in rivalry, is not hostile toward one believed to enjoy an advantage, and is not suspicious. Love works for the welfare and good of the other.
D. LOVE DOES NOT BRAG. V4 (vaunteth not itself) Even when you want to tell the world about your accomplishments. Love does not flaunt itself boastfully and does not engage in self-glorification. Instead, love lifts and builds up others.
E. LOVE IS NOT ARROGANT. V4 (is not puffed up) Even when you think you are right and others are wrong. Love does not assert itself or become overbearing in dealing with others.
F. LOVE IS DOES NOT ACT UNBECOMINGLY. V5 (Does not behave seemly) Even when being boastful, rude or overbearing will get you attention and allow you to get your own way. Love conforms to what is right, fitting and appropriate to the situation in order to honor the Lord.
G. LOVE DOES NOT SEEK ITS OWN. V5 Biblical love is not selfish and self seeking. True Love does not try to fulfill its own desires, does not ask for its own way, and does not try to acquire gain for itself. Love, is an act of the will which seeks to serve and not be served.
H. LOVE IS NOT PROVOKED. V5 Even when others attempt to provoke you or you are tempted to strike out at something or someone. Love is not aroused or incited to outbursts of anger. Love continues faithfully and gently to train others in righteousness, even when they fail.
I. LOVE DOES NOT TAKE INTO ACCOUNT A WRONG SUFFERED. V5 (thinketh no evil) Even when everyone seems to be against you or when people openly attack you. Love does not hold a grudge against someone. Love forgives, chooses not to bring up past wrongs in accusation or retaliation, does not return evil for evil, and does not indulge in self pity. Love covers a multitude of sins.
J. LOVE DOES NOT REJOICE IN UNRIGHTEOUSNESS. V6 (rejoiceth not in iniquity) Even when it seems like a misfortune was exactly what another person deserved. Love mourns over sin, its effects and the pain which results from living in a fallen world. Love seeks to reconcile others with the Lord.
K. LOVE REJOICES WITH THE TRUTH. V6 Even when it is easier and more profitable materially to lie. Love is joyful when truth is known, even when it may lead to adverse circumstances, reviling and persecution.
L. LOVE BEARS ALL THINGS. V7 Even when disappointments seem overwhelming. Love is tolerant, endures with others who are difficult to understand or deal with, and has an eternal perspective in difficulties. Love remembers that God develops spiritual maturity through difficult circumstances.
M. LOVE BELIEVES ALL THINGS. V7 Even when other's actions are ambiguous and you feel like not trusting anyone. Love accepts trustfully, does not judge people's motives, and believes others until facts prove otherwise. Even when facts prove that the other person is untrustworthy, love seeks to help restore the other to trustworthiness.
N. LOVE HOPES ALL THINGS. V7 Even when nothing appears to be going right. Love expects fulfillment of God's plan and anticipates the best for the other person. Love confidently entrusts others to the Lord to do His sovereign and perfect will in their lives.
O. LOVE ENDURES ALL THINGS. V7 This is one of the hardest to practice. Especially when you think you just can't endure the people or circumstances in your life. Love remains steadfast under suffering or hardship without yielding and returns good while undergoing trials.
P. LOVE NEVER FAILS. V8 Even when you feel overwhelmed and the situation seems hopeless. Love will not crumble under pressure or difficulties. Love remains selflessly faithful even to the point of death.
IV. LOVE CHARACTERIZES THE LIFE OF A DISCIPLE OF CHRIST.
Jesus in instructing his disciples made this in the form of a commandment.
"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. "By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." (John 13:34-35)
V. BIBLICAL LOVE IS AN ACT OF THE WILL..NOT OF EMOTION.
A. God willed to love us. "But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."
1. The word "commended" is the Greek word "sunisthmi" (soon-is'-tay-mee) . It means "to place together" or "to introduce one to another."
2. While we were in sin and in rebellion against God, (that is what sin is)....He by His own love...placed us together. He made the provision for our sins that we might have by faith forgiveness, from the One we sinned against.
3. How can we even begin to fathom the depth and space of God's love for us!!
B. Can we then reflect that love towards others? Can we live on this high and lofty plain. YES....YES...YES WE CAN...IF WE WILL TO DO SO!!
1. Biblical love of the Lord and for those around us is a matter of one's will.....of having the will to love others because Christ loved us.
2. Biblical love will motivate you serve others....no matter what the circumstances, it will sail you through discouragements, and dark times that every believer will go through.
3. Yet, it is not automatic...it is some we are to "put on." Paul in Romans 13:8, said to "owe no man anything but to love one another." In verse 10, God tells us "Love worketh no ill to his neighbor: therefore love is the fulfilling of the Law."
In Verse 12, he continues "The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the amour of light."
What is the "amour of light?" It is love...true biblical love that puts the heart in us to live for Christ and serve Him.
Ephesians 4:24, says, "And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness." Putting something on is an act of one's will...not of emotion.
C. You see love is based in truth. "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." John 3:16.
1. This is the truth to all who will by faith received Christ Jesus as their Savior.
2. Love then is based on truth...not emotion.
D. What is the practical application of this truth?
1. Because God save you...you get up on Sunday morning, Sunday evening, Wednesday night and go to the place the church meets to worship God and study together. God commanded it (Heb. 10:25), therefore you obey the Lord.
2. Because God loved you and saved you from Hell, you put everything of the world second....and Jesus Christ first in all things (Col. 1:18)
3. Because God loved you and forgave you sins...you seek to win your neighbor, friend, co-worker, and the stranger to the Lord.
4. Because God loved you...you in thanksgiving tithe and give your offerings that the work of the Lord might be done.
5. Because God loved you...you love and seek to serve your brethren in the church...You overlook their short comings and frailty. You do not criticized them and seek God's best for them.
6. Because God loved you first.. and suffered and died for you...you willing will sacrifice you all for Him.
1. TO THE LOST: REALIZE THAT THE ULTIMATE DISPLAY AND EXAMPLE OF LOVE IS GOD'S GRACE. HE LOVED AND DIED FOR YOU. WILL YOU REJECT YOUR SAVIORS LOVE YOU...OR RUN TO HIM FOR FORGIVENESS.
2. FOR THE SAVED: MAKE THAT COMMITMENT: I WILL LOVE, I WILL DO WHAT GOD WANTS ME.
Folks it is that simple! What will you do? Is it to be the status-quo. What will be your attitude when you walk from the building? Have you let the Word of God change you....or are you content to live as a Laodicean...not hot...not cold....not anything of value to the Lord and as Jesus said...be spewed from his mouth.
I challenge you, dear friend....put on the amour of light....and let the light of God's love shine through you.
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