This diagram (image courtesy of J. Whidden) beautifully represents how we are united with the Triune God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Jesus the Son took on flesh and became a man, still fully God but now also fully human and His Spirit has become united with our spirits. We have been perfected (completed) in unity!
Bill and Steve are discussing the possibility of love.
“I thought I was in love three times,” Bill says.
“Thought?” Steve asks. “What do you mean?”
“Three years ago, I cared very deeply for a woman who wanted nothing to do with me,” Bill says.
“Wasn’t that love?” Steve asks.
“No, that was obsession,” Bill explains. “Then two years ago, I cared very deeply for an attractive woman who didn’t understand me.”
“Wasn’t that love?” asks Steve.
“No, that was lust,” Bill replies. “And just last year, I met a woman while I was on a cruise. She was gorgeous, intelligent, a great conversationalist and had a super sense of humour. Everywhere I followed her on that ship, I would get a very strange sensation in the pit of my stomach.”
“Well, wasn’t that love,” asks Steve.
“No. That was motion sickness!” Bill replies.
What is love?
From the joke above we can see that Bill knows what love isn’t! “What is love” was the most searched phrase on Google in 2012, according to the company. And in 2014 it was #3 in the top 10 of most searched phrases, beaten by “what is Ebola?” and “what is ALS?”!
Let’s look at a few answers people have given when asked the question “What is love?”
“Biologically, love is a powerful neurological condition like hunger or thirst, only more permanent. We talk about love being blind or unconditional, in the sense that we have no control over it. But then, that is not so surprising since love is basically chemistry.” A theoretical physicist
“Love is a passionate commitment” A philosopher
“Love drives all great stories” A romantic novelist“
All good and evil are part of Love.” A friend on Facebook
So what does the bible say?
If we really want the answer to “what is love?” we need to ask the One who is Love!
John 3:16 says
16“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.
John 3:16 is one of the most famous verses in the bible: God loved humanity so much that He gave His only Son, Jesus that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life!
I am a whoever and you are a whoever so that includes us all!
You know that God loved the world, but does He really love you? I mean really, really love you? Well I want you to know you are loved. Really, really loved by your Father in heaven and His Son Jesus Christ!
Let’s look a little deeper into what the bible says about love.
1 John 4:8 and 1 John 4:16 both say “God is love”. And actually in a way the romantic novelist was quite right in saying: “Love drives all great stories” because the greatest love story of all, and it’s a true story is found in the pages of the bible: it tells the story of God sending His Beloved Son Jesus out of His glorious home in heaven to a dark and fallen world to rescue the pinnacle of His creation, the objects of His great love- you and me! Jesus left His glory behind and became a man to save us and not only to save us but to make us the beloved children of His Father in heaven!
On top of that, He loves us so much that He has united Himself with us and given us an abundant life!
So as the New Testament (NT)- that’s the part of the bible written after Jesus’ birth- was written in Ancient Greek it’s interesting for us to know that Ancient Greek has 4 different words that we translate “love”.
•Agapé love. This is a decision-based love. It is sacrificial, preferring another’s needs over your own. It’s a supernatural, spiritual love.
•Philéō love. This is an experience-based love. It’s the love that exists between close friends, it’s strong affection. It’s a natural, soul to soul love.
•Storgē love. This is family love; the love that exists between parents and children and siblings. It’s a natural, soul to soul love.
•Eros. This is romantic love. It’s a love of the physical, which includes sexual love. It’s a natural, physical, passionate love.
I want to stress that all of these types of love come from God Himself. He is the author of love in all it’s forms, even the eros type of love, which He designed to be expressed within marriage between a man and a woman. In Matthew 19:4-6 Jesus is being questioned about divorce and He says quoting Genesis 1:27 and Genesis 2:24:
4“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ 5and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? 6So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”
Husband and wife become one flesh through sexual union so Eros love is definitely created by God, but the word eros isn’t mentioned in the NT because at the time the NT was written, sexual immorality was so rampant, (pretty much like today or even worse actually), that the NT writers chose not to use that word at all. By the way, in case you’re wondering, marriage requires all four types of love!
The other three types of love, agapé love, philéō love and storgē love are mentioned in the New Testament. But by far the most common, as describing God’s love, is agapé love.The overriding theme of the bible is God’s sacrificial agapé love for us- that He preferred us to Himself; Jesus chose to give His life for us and because He did, we have life and intimate relationship with Him. The noun “agape” meaning “love” and the verb “agapaó” meaning “to love” are mentioned 259 times in the bible and the adjective “agapétos”, meaning “beloved” is mentioned 61 times- about 9 times “beloved” is used to refer to Jesus as God’s “beloved Son” but the rest of the time, it refers to us- WE ARE GOD’S BELOVED!!
In contrast the adjective philos and the verb philéō are mentioned 54 times in the NT.
Storge, the family love, is mentioned once in Romans 12:10 as a compound word in combination with philos: philostorgos which means “devoted love, devotion”.
Romans 12:10 says
10 Be devoted (philostorgos) to one another in brotherly love (philadelphia, phil=love, adelphia=brothers); give preference to one another in honour;
The apostle Paul is exhorting the Christians in Rome to devotedly love one another with the affection of brothers and sisters, because as children of our Heavenly Father, we ARE brothers and sisters in Christ and so we have this family affection. And it’s true that believers in Christ of all backgrounds have a natural affection for one another because we are all one family in Christ (Galatians 3:28)!
So going back to God’s kind of love- and as I said, all love is God’s kind of love- God wants us to know that first and foremost He loves us with the strongest, most intense love of all: agapé love.
This is what it says about God’s kind of love in Romans 5:5-8
God’s agapé love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. 6You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. 8But God demonstrates his own (ἀγάπην agapēn) love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
And in 1 John 4:9-10
9This is how God showed his (agape) love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10This is love (agapé): not that we loved (ἠγαπήκαμεν (ēgapēkamen) God, but that he loved (ἠγάπησεν (ēgapēsen) us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
So we need to remember God does not love us because we deserve it, He loves us because HE IS LOVE and it’s not about how much WE love God, but about how much HE loves us!
So what does God’s love mean for us?
WE LOVE GOD BECAUSE HE LOVED US FIRST. WE CAN LOVE OTHERS BECAUSE HE LOVED US FIRST
1 John 4:19
We love (ἀγαπῶμεν agapōmen) because He first loved (ἠγάπησεν ēgapēsen) us.
But I tell you, love (ἀγαπᾶτε agapate) your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.
Jesus said “agape” your enemies not “phileo” them! You cannot have a strong friendship love with an enemy, but you can choose to show them sacrificial love, preferring their needs to your own.
WE CAN HAVE PEACE IN THE MIDST OF STORMS BECAUSE WE TRUST IN HIS LOVE FOR US
We can trust God’s (agapé) love for us:
1 John 4:16
We have come to know and rely on (trust in) the (ἀγάπην agapēn) love that God has for us. God is love (ἀγάπη agapē), and the person who abides in love (ἀγάπη agapē), abides in God, and God abides in him.
Abide is the greek word menó: to stay, abide, remain, wait; He wants you to stay in His love, to live with an AWARENESS of His love. Often that means reminding yourself of the cross and what Jesus endured on your behalf.
The more you abide in Him the steadier you will be in every storm of life.
WE CAN ASK HIM TO SUPPLY ALL OUR NEEDS BECAUSE HE GRACIOUSLY GIVES US ALL THINGS (ALL THINGS MEANS ALL THINGS: HEALING, PROVISION, JOBS, FAMILY BLESSING) AND WE CAN CONQUER ANYTHING BECAUSE OF HIS LOVE FOR US!
In fact Romans 8 says that we are super conquerors through Jesus who loved us!
So let’s read Romans 8:
31What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things? 33Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35Who shall separate us from the love (ἀγάπης agapēs) of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36As it is written:
“For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” (quoting Psalm 44:22)
37No, in all these things we are more than conquerors (super conquerors) through him who loved (ἀγαπήσαντος agapēsantos) us. 38For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,39neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love (ἀγάπης agapēs) of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
WE BECOME HIS CHILDREN BECAUSE OF HIS LOVE FOR US
And do you know why nothing can separate you from His love? Because the moment you believed in His Son Jesus, you were born again as a child of God.
John 1:11-13 speaking about Jesus says this:
11He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
WE BECOME perfected in unity with the Father AND Son BECAUSE OF HIS LOVE.
Jesus Himself prayed for those who believed in Him, (i.e. us) that they would be perfected in unity with the Father in Heaven and with Jesus Himself and His prayer was recorded for us in:
…for those also who believe in Me through their word;21that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me. 22“The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; 23I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved (ἠγάπησας ēgapēsas) them, even as You have loved (ἠγάπησας ēgapēsas) Me.
Father, Son and Holy Spirit: Jesus the Son took on flesh and became a man, still fully God but now also fully human and His Spirit has become united with our spirits. We have been perfected (completed) in unity!
Being filled with the fullness of God is not about what you do, but about knowing how much God loves you.
Paul says in Ephesians 3 that we have been rooted and founded (established) in (agapé) love:
17. And I pray that you, being rooted and established (founded) in love (ἀγάπη agapē), 18may have power (may be fully able), together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp (to comprehend) how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19and to know this love (ἀγάπην agapēn) that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God
Discernment and fruit come from abounding in knowledge and understanding of how much God loves you Philippians 1:9-11
9And this is my prayer: that your love (ἀγάπη agapē) may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight,10so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ,11filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.
So what’s our response to this great (agapé) love?
1Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are His beloved (ἀγαπητὰ agapēta) children. 2Live a life filled with love (ἀγάπη agapē), following the example of Christ. He loved (ἠγάπησεν (ēgapēsen) us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.
But God also has deep philéō affection for you because you have philéō affection for His Son and have believed in Him.
No, the Father himself loves (φιλεῖ philei) you because you have loved (πεφιλήκατε pephilēkate) me and have believed that I came from God.
I want to conclude with a story Jesus told about a Father and His two sons. In this story the Father represents our Heavenly Father and the sons represent us. We will focus on the Father and the younger son.
11Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.
13“Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.
17“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20So he got up and went to his father.
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
21“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
22“But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.
Let’s pay particular attention to verse 20:
20So he got up and went to his father.
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
The father had been looking out for his wayward son, longing for him to come back home which is why he saw him while he was still a long way off. Our Heavenly Father is always looking out for us and sees us when we are still a long way from home.
The father was filled with compassion. The greek word which has been translated as compassion in this passage is splagchnizomai: to be moved in the inward parts, i.e. the heart, lungs, liver, and kidneys. i.e. a strong emotion from the depths of your heart. And the father RAN to him which at Jesus’ time was very undignified for an older man, but the father didn’t care about his reputation; he put his arms round him and he kissed him.
The word for kiss in the New Testament is kataphileó: to kiss fervently. This is a compound word with the roots katá, “down,” which intensifies philéō, “to have affection, to kiss”– kiss down, i.e. “kiss passionately and fervently“. As soon as the son made an attempt to come home, before he’d even begun to say he was sorry, his father couldn’t help but run to him, embrace him and kiss him fervently!!
That is exactly how your heavenly father feels about you! As soon as you turn towards Him, He has compassion on you, from the depth of his heart, He longs to embrace you and fervently kiss you because your Heavenly Father ALSO has strong philéō love for you!!
HE IS YOUR FRIEND AS WELL AS YOUR FATHER
Jesus said in:
I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.
So how do we apply all this?
1. Be intentional about believing He loves us! Choose to believe it!
2. Remind, read, feed! Remind yourselves of His love, read His word, read these verses mentioned above, let them feed you.
3. Fix your eyes on Jesus and don’t give up! Keep going by remembering what He’s done for you!
1Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
4. Be thankful
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.
5. Feed on Jesus’ broken body and shed blood- take communion
53Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. 55For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. 56Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. 57Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. 58This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”
26While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.”
27Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. 28This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.
Now close your eyes and just spend some time in the presence of the Father, imagining Him kissing you fervently because He really does love you!