John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” NKJV
1 Corinthians 13:13 – “And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” NKJV
The most prolific word used for love in the New Testament is Agape which describes “love at its ultimate.” However, there are three other Greek words for love and of the four only three are used in the New Testament.
- ERAN (Eros) – A word that describes the passion and the impulses that go along with it. It focuses on the physical and sensual and it might be surprising to note that this word is not used in the New Testament. This can be sinful as in lust but is also the natural type of love that occurs between a man and a woman within the confines of marriage.
- STERGEIN – I would venture to say that many have never heard of this type of love but it refers to “natural affection” and is used to describe the love of parents for children or children for parents. It is found in the New Testament twice with the prefix “a”, denoting the lack of natural affection. [Romans 1:31 and 2 Timothy 3:3].
- PHILEIN (Phileo) – The word means ‘fondness, affection, or liking.’ It is used to describe the love between friends and is NEVER used to describe the love we are to have for God. It is used 45 times in the New Testament. It is not a passionate love like that between a husband and wife. When Jesus asked whether Peter loved Him was “agapao” but Peter, possibly being caught off guard said, “Yes Lord, you know that I love you.” [John 21:15]. The word Peter used was “phileo” or brother love. At that point, Peter apparently didn’t get it.
- AGAPAN (Agape) – This is ultimate love or love. It is not based on emotion but a conscious decision to act for the welfare of the object of that love. It is used 320 times in one form or another in the New Testament. It is not human in origin and is received then given back and is always associated with the love of God.
Love, the song says, “Is a many a splendored thing” and without it, there is always DISUNITY in lives, homes, and churches. I believe that the “love problem” or problem from the lack of love we identify as DISUNITY is one of the greatest threats to churches in today’s world. Conversely, UNITY is one of the most needed qualities any person, family, or church can have and I am convinced that UNITY can only be achieved through LOVE, but I am not talking about EROS.
Paul tells his listeners in Ephesians 4:15-16, we are to “Speak the truth in love.” He makes it clear that as that transpires, “they will, in all things, grow up into Him who is the head, Jesus.” He identifies that in that relationship and condition, “the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes the growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.” If you dissect and digest that you will find enough meat to feast on for years and it will change your life.
Over and over the New Testament writers exhorted believers to engage in specific activities that would enable the Body of Christ to function effectively and grow spiritually. Often, we find a unique word to describe this mutual and reciprocal process – ALLELON, “one another”. It is used 58 times in the New Testament including the Gospels and the apostle Paul uses it 40 times. Although some of the concepts are repeated from letter to letter, but when all of the ONE ANOTHER exhortations are studied and grouped according to their specific meanings they can be reduced to approximately twelve significant actions that Christians are to take toward “one another” to help build the Body of Christ.
I do not have time to detail them in this devotional but will say that the greatest is LOVE! Paul described this as a more excellent way in 1 Corinthians 12:31 and 13:13. The exhortation to “love one another” is found in his writings more than all the rest. Of the 48 references what we are to do to “one another” as fellow believers 11times we are told to “love one another”. If you incorporate Christ’s direct commands to “love one another” from John’s gospel the number climbs to sixteen. It is without question, LOVE is the most important issue for the believer in the New Testament. To love fellow believers is a basic injunction and is an evidence of spiritual life and salvation. Yet, amazingly believers are often deficient in exhibiting “love to one another” for one reason or another.
We will pause here and pick up next time in considering this matter. God bless you richly as you walk in His light and love.