Lately, I have been exclusively in the Apostle John’s writings, in my personal readings, my blog writing, and my time with my wife.
John reiterates one theme, over and over again in my opinion, and that is that we are to love one another, to love like Jesus, to love.
It is refreshing to be reminded of the core mission of believers.
Love like Jesus.
He never Fails
Love is the goal of all of Christian life. Love that is displayed in the life of Jesus. The life and death of Jesus. This love is described in 1 Corinthians 13. Let’s consider
Love never ends.
It has been years since a brother once instructed me to replace the term “love” with “Jesus” to get a better understanding of who He is.
Jesus never ends.
The summary statement of all statements. Paul comes up with one statement that caps off his most amazing teaching on the description of love.
Love never ends.
The ESV translated this as “Love never fails”.
Is this “never failing” due to the nature of the love, or the effort of the one exercising true love. If it is of effort, we may be concerned. Let’s consider.
During our study, we have looked at all the description of the term love, but have yet to consider the term “love” itself. As you may expect, when Paul used the term “love” throughout this passage, he used the Greek term agapao.
If there is one Greek word Christians know, this may the be one that is most familiar. There actually are 5 terms the Greeks used to define different types of love. Not all of them may be found in the New Testament, yet it is good to consider each for comparison.
Epithumia — Legitimate physical desire
(disordered form: lust)
This term is not found in the New Testament.
Erōs — Romantic love or sexual love
(disordered form: leads to illicit relationships, treating others as gods and sole sources of our personal needs)
This term is not found in the New Testament but the concept of sexual intimacy and physical love surely is. (1 Corinthians 7:5, 8, 9 and Hebrews 13:4)
Storgē — Affection or belonging, as shared by family members
(disordered form: disdain or ungratefulness; taking for granted)
This Greek term is found, with prefixes and suffixes only, within the New Testament 3 times, but alas only once is there a positive command to hear. The other two instances speak of the darkness of our hearts.
Romans 1:31 ESV – 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.
2 Timothy 3:3 ESV – 3 heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good,
Paul writes of believers to love (philostorgos) one another. Notice the double word found in this instance of the storge root word. We will consider philo in our next Greek term. The NASB brings out the flavor of this compound word by translating as “be devoted”.
Romans 12:10 ESV – 10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.
Philia — Friendship and companionship, a love of openness that is occupied with common interests and activities
(disordered form: manipulative relationships, one-upmanship, cliques)
This Greek term is abundant in the New Testament as a portion of a compound word, describing everything from love of money (philargyria) to lover of God (philotheos). As you can see, the moral temperature of this term is influenced by it’s associations!
Agapē — A willful choice to put another’s interests above one’s own; an unselfish, giving (even to the point of sacrifice), and unconditional love
(with God as its source, it is never disordered; elevates and correctly orders the other four loves, making them human-divine loves that fulfill God’s original intentions)
Not so with agape love. I read a book decades ago that defined agape in a way that has not left me. The definition above captures much of the message, yet this book spoke of the love being solely from within the giver, not dependent on the recipient. The willful choice from within the Giver, based on the character of the Giver, in my mind describes the God we worship.
This is the love that is to be produced in our lives. Do we love based on what we get out of it? Not agape folks! Do we love to be seen by others as good Christians. Again, no agape folks.
With this definition of Christian love, is this “never failing” due to the nature of the love, or the effort of the one exercising true love. My friends, the nature of the love of God is from His character, His nature is of love.
The nature of God is defined within the words of the New Testament with the following descriptions
John 3:33 …God is true.
John 4:24 God is spirit…
Romans 3:30, Galatians 3:20, James 2:19 God is one….
1 Corinthians 1:9, 2 Corinthians 1:18 …God is faithful
1 Corinthians 1:25 … God is wiser
1 Corinthians 10:13 …God is faithful
1 Corinthians 14:33 …For God is ..a God .. of peace.
Hebrews 12:29 …God is a consuming fire.
1 John 1:5 …God is light.
1 John 4:16 …God is love.
With this final description in 1 John 4:16 of the nature and character of God, we find that the love that never fails is not based on the continued effort of the Giver but on the eternal character of the Giver. He is the eternal One, and His nature is love.
Paul concludes his treatise on the eternality of love, and by application for us, teaches us that true biblical love will not fail. This love offered based on the character of the Giver.
God is love.
But the question continues – do we accept and experience this love? The offer of this love is of a free gift of eternal life in the Lord Jesus Christ. Believing the gospel, with resultant admission of our sin and bending our knee to His will, gives us entry into the eternal life offered through His Son.
Jesus replacing Love
So is my brother’s suggestion of replacing the term love with Jesus accurate and helpful?
Jesus never fails
This is the character of the Eternal One. Give Him the praise and worship desrving of One so gracious.
In conclusion, this passage on the character of love has alerted me to two overarching themes
- Love is “other’s” based
- This is so obvious, yet each of the terms we have discussed in the previous posts relates to our relationships with others. To be sure, there are benefits to our lives, but they are not the focus of the discussion. The focus is that of sacrificing our desires for the sake of others, for unity in the body, for the sake of those we don’t naturally like. Need I go on?
- Love is not time dependent
- This last post, which of course is freshest in my mind, is the capstone of all other descriptions of love. Love never fails. If you are in a relationship, and it is failing, check your “love meter”. How are you exercising each of the previously defined characteristics of love given to us in the Word?
- Understand it takes “two to tango” so I am not intending to lay unattainable goals for our lives that are out of our control, yet many relationships may fail due to our lack of love.
Consider who the Lord Jesus is, and His exhibition of true love throughout His life. Such a lofty, seemingly impossible goal is laid before us. Yet the goal is in front of us, and the Spirit of God is available. Past failings and losses should not keep us from a fresh decision to understand His life, and follow after Him.
We began with my speaking of being in the writings of the Apostle John, and I would like to close with a story I heard of the Apostle Johns finals days. Whether this is a true story or simply a personification of the apostles core message, I will leave with the reader.
During the service, the elders carried a frail old man to the middle of the assembly, usually reserved for those who would teach of the Scriptures. Many famous and powerful men had spoken to this group, including Paul, Barnabus, Silas and Timothy. You see it was the assembly at Ephesus, and as the elders carried the man to the teaching area, the saints recognized him as the apostle. So old and frail, with his every effort being full of labor. The scars of old life were evident on this saint, yet the believers recognized him, for he was the one loved of the Messiah, the apostle John. As he opened his mouth, many expected a theological teaching experience that would find no parallels. His teaching began and concluded with the simple statement.
“Love one another”
That is it. The entire message. He simply let the message make its way into the saint’s hearts.
My brothers, no other message is more important in these days than to love one another.
Thank you so much for coming to visit. As we come to a close on this series, I would like to let you know that I have enjoyed this topic immensely. Many of the individual posts have personally challenged me, revealing failings and loss in my own life. Nevertheless, His Word is encouraging. In seeing my failings, I also see a goal to aim for a bit clearer. We all need to understand the goal if we are to stretch forth to it!
I do hope you have found a challenge and encouragement within these words.
I look forward to comments and discussion. May the Lord give you an understanding heart and a willing spirit to consider the Bible and all it’s wealth.
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Thanks again for coming to visit. I hope you found something of interest in this post and would appreciate a comment, to begin a discussion.