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…and to brotherly kindness, love – 2 Peter 1:7

22 Sep

This love is “agape love,” which might be called the highest love. It is also the capstone of all the virtues the Christian should pursue.

Michael Green shows its uniqueness: “In friendship (philia) the partners seek mutual solace; in sexual love (eros) mutual satisfaction. In both cases these feelings are aroused because of what the loved one is. With agape it is the reverse. God’s agape is evoked not by what we are, but by what he is. It has its origin in the agent, not in the object … This agape might be defined as a deliberate desire for the highest good of the one loved, which shows itself in sacrificial action for that person’s good.

That is what God did for us (Jn. 3:16). That is what he wants us to do (1 Jn. 3:16). That is what he is prepared to achieve in us (Rom. 5:5). Thus the Spirit of the God who is love is freely given to us, in order to reproduce in us that same quality.”[1]

While “Phileo love” is directed toward fellow-believers, “Agape love” is universal in scope. It is a love which applies both to believers and to unbelievers:

“ And may the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love for one another, and for all men, just as we also [do] for you” (1 Thessalonians 3:12).

The meaning of love. — Storge: family love; the love of parents for children, children for parents, brothers and sisters for each other. Eros: sensual love. It means a love that is egocentric, “wanting to have,” seeking union with the object of its desire. The value that evokes it is found in the thing loved. Philia: friendship; love given to all kinds of human beings, shown in such terms as philadelphia, brotherly love. Agape: a spontaneous impulse of the heart to desire that which is good for the one loved, and it will be at my cost. There are no prerequisistes, no conditions, no requirements.

What these words mean to marriage. Storge: “my family is important to me. I want my family to be important to you. I recognize that your family is important to you. Your family will also be important to me.” Eros: “I am physically attracted to you.” Philia: “Í like you. I enjoy being with you, going places with you, experiencing things with you.” Agage: “I will be good to you. I will treat you with patience and kindness, with courtesy, consideration, and deep concern. That is an unconditional promise. I will always, under all circumstances, treat you that way.”

Agape is self-giving love, gift love, the love that goes on loving even when the other becomes unloveable. Agape love is not just something that happens to you; it is something you make happen.  Love is a personal act of commitment. Christ’s love (and hence the pattern for our love) is a gift love. Christ’s love for us is a sacrificial love. Christ’s love is unconditional. Christ’s love is an eternal love.

Agape is unconditional — That means: There are no conditions necessary. You don’t have to earn my love. You don’t have to deserve my love. You don’t have to measure up to any standard to get me to love you. You don’t have to work for my love. You don’t even have to appreciate my love.

Agape is not a feeling. It is an act of the will. Agape is a commitment to act in the best interest of another without any conditions on his/her part, except his/her need. Love is an unconditional commitment to an imperfect person.

Agape is the love that gives full recognition to all men as the common offspring of God. God created all men in his image. This means we must even love our enemies (Matt. 5:43-45). This is the love God had for man which made the cross possible (John 3:16). Love is the logical and natural, the crown of the Christian graces, because it reflects the very nature of God who is “love” (1 John 4:8). Love is the bond of perfection (Col. 3:14).

Married Love.  You have said to another, “I will,” and with those words you have declared your voluntary assent and turned a crucial point in their lives. You know full well all the doubts and suspicions with which a life-long partnership between two persons is faced. It is you as a married couple who must bear the whole responsibility for the success of your married life, with all the happiness it will bring. It is not your love which sustains the marriage, from now on the marriage sustains your love.

“I will give to you a love that is patient…a love that is kind, a love that endures. I will pledge to you a love that is not jealous or possessive, a love that is not proud or selfish, a love that is not rude or inconsiderate.

“My love for you will not insist in its own way, will not be irritable or resentful, will not keep account of wrongs or failures. I will rejoice when good prevails.

“Our love will know no limit to its endurance, no end to its trust, no fading of its hope. It will outlast everything. Our love will stand when all else has fallen. Our life together will have three great qualities: faith, hope and love. But the greatest is love.”  — Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

Marriage was designed by God to provide companionship. “…not good to be alone” the key to a great marriage is delightful companionship. Long-term, delightful companionship is at its best in an intimate friendship!

How Love Acts (1 Cor. 13:4-7). (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)  “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. {5} It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. {6} Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. {7} It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

Agape love is not prompted by what the other person is or does, but by a love rooted in what God is. It is the love of God which flows through us.

 We love, because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).

Paul speaks of this love as the greatest of the Christian virtues (1 Corinthians 13:13). As we love others we manifest the perfections of God to men: “You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR, and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you 45 in order that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on [the] evil and [the] good, and sends rain on [the] righteous and [the] unrighteous. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax-gatherers do the same? 47 And if you greet your brothers only, what do you do more [than others]? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:43-48).

This 2 Peter passage makes several contributions to the Christian. First, it shows that the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man are not incompatible. We need not choose one in place of the other. The sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man are interdependent truths.

Man cannot contribute to his salvation. Though the sacrificial work of Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary, God did for us what we could not do for ourselves. All we must do is receive it by faith through baptism for remission for sins, and even this occurs by divine grace. But once we have come to faith in Christ, we are to diligently strive after godly character—for God has provided the means for “life and godliness.” We strive in our Christian walk because He has given us the means.

The sovereignty of God should never be an excuse for passivity or inactivity; rather, His sovereignty is the basis for disciplined living. The Christian life is not: “Let go, and let God;” it is “Trust God, and get going!”

Our text also contributes lessons on discipleship for the Christian. Salvation is the first step of discipleship. We must first believe in the gospel and trust in Jesus Christ for salvation. Having done so, we must then forsake our former manner of life and former manner of thinking and engage ourselves in the pursuit of holiness.

We are not merely saved to be rescued from the torment of hell and enter into the blessings of heaven. We have been saved to “proclaim the excellencies of Him who called us out of the darkness and into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9). We have been saved to become partakers of His divine nature (2 Peter 1:4) and, by so doing, bring glory to Him.

We must be careful that our presentation of the gospel does not minimize what salvation is all about. Jesus never did (Matthew 5:1-16; Luke 9:57-62), and neither did Paul (Acts 14:22; 24:25; 2 Timothy 3:12). While men and women are saved so they may enter into God’s blessings, they are saved primarily to bring glory to God by manifesting His excellencies to men and to celestial powers (Ephesians 1:1-12; 3:10).

How interesting that Peter speaks of love as the end product of the Christian’s striving and not the source of it. Many wait to “feel” love and then act upon it. Peter tells the Christian he or she has already received faith, and they are to act on it so the outcome is love. For Peter, love is a result and not merely a cause. It seems to me we must say from the Scriptures as a whole that love is both a cause and an effect. Peter would have us strive to obtain love by obediently pursuing the characteristics of the divine nature.

Our text provides the means for Christian growth and also the means for how stumbling can be prevented. I wish the Christian community would wake up and see how we have exchanged Peter’s inspired list for another list, a list provided not under inspiration but from the warped thinking of unbelievers. According to a distressing number of believers, the key to understanding success in the Christian life, as well as failure, is “self-esteem.” Poor self-esteem is the source of failure; good self-esteem is the basis of success. Not according to Peter. Who, then, will you believe?

This leads to one of the most significant contributions of our text. In Galatians 5, Paul lists the “fruit of the Spirit” (verses 22-23), the qualities God produces through the work of the Holy Spirit. The key to manifesting the “fruit of the Spirit” is to “walk in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16).

Peter has a list of qualities which includes some in Paul’s list in Galatians 5. But Peter does not emphasize the work of the Spirit, as true and as essential as the Spirit’s work is. What does Peter emphasize as the basis for Christian growth? Peter emphasizes the Word of God. He speaks of our salvation and our sanctification as the result of knowing God through His revealed Word. This is the thrust of his entire first chapter. In chapters 2 and 3, Peter shows how false teachers seek to undermine the Word and turn saints from the truths of Scripture. How quickly, how easily we are turned from the truths God has revealed in His Word to the alleged “truths” of men, who appeal not to the spirit but to the flesh. Let us recognize that the knowledge of God not only saves us but sanctifies us. This does not happen independently of the Spirit, but through the Spirit, as He illuminates the Word of God in our hearts.

Our text also tells us that Christian growth is neither automatic nor is maturity merely a function of time. I fear many Christians have a “civil service” mentality concerning their Christian growth. They seem to think that time alone results in growth and maturity. This is not the case:

“Concerning him we have much to say, and [it is] hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. 12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. 13 For everyone who partakes [only] of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil (Hebrews 5:11-14).

Christian growth does take time, but growth occurs as believers diligently and obediently seek to grow, in the power of the Holy Spirit and through the provision of the Scriptures. The writer to the Hebrews rebukes his readers for failing to grow. Growth results from the application of biblical truth to daily living. Growth occurs when we employ the resources God has supplied through His Word.

Failing to grow does not mean that we simply grow stagnant, never moving beyond where we are in our spiritual life. No; failure to grow means we move backwards. According to Peter, failure in striving toward Christian growth and maturity sets us up for a fall. That which we once possessed we can lose. This happened to the church at Ephesus, who lost their first love (Revelation 2:4). If we do not use what we have, we lose it:

“And He was saying to them, “Take care what you listen to. By your standard of measure it shall be measured to you; and more shall be given you besides. 25 For whoever has, to him shall [more] be given; and whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him” (Mark 4:24-25).

 
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Posted by on September 22, 2022 in Christian graces

 

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