Bible Study Opportunities
Spiritual Love For One Another
By Jon W. Quinn
Two kinds of love figure into unity in the local church and the relationship of brothers and sisters in Christ to one another. One is "friendship love" . This is important and should be nurtured and developed through sharing and caring for one another and recognizing the significance of what we have in common in Christ. We are told to keep growing in this love (2 Peter 1:5-7) and see Christians doing so in the New Testament, in part by practicing hospitality and eating together, being kind to one another and developing feelings of warmth.
The other love is a higher, more spiritual form of love and further strengthens the unity of God's people. (Ephesians 4:15-16). This is agape love. It is God's way, and is the love the Bible so often mentions when speaking of God's love for us.
There are two different Greek words that are often translated into our English word “love” in the Bible. They are “phileo” and “agapao”.
“Phileo" - brotherly, friendship love. (2 Peter 1:5-7). Two attributes to notice in verse 7; "brotherly kindness" and "love". Both of these words (brotherly kindness is one word in the Greek) are sometimes translated simply into our word "love". They might be very similar, but there are differences. "Brotherly kindness” comes from the word “philaldelphia" and "love" is from "agapen".
"Apape" is a spiritual love of the will. It is not a "natural" love, but one which comes from deciding to respond correctly to the teaching and example of God (John 13:35). This love can even cross over natural barriers that would usually incite hatred and bitterness. For example, we can love our enemies, not in the sense of brotherly love, but in this sense of spiritual love (Matthew 5:43-48).
Where Does Love
The source of this love is God! God is the very essence of this love. He perfectly demonstrates what it entails.(1 John 4:16). Those who are born of God continue to love one another. (1 John 4:7). We see the extent of God's love in the giving of His Son (John 3:16; Romans 5:8).
Not only is “agape” love from God the Father, and the Son, but also the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22). So, in discussing the "unity of the Spirit" we must discuss the "fruit of the Spirit." If we do not allow the Holy Spirit to influence us through the gospel to produce the fruit of the Spirit, then we will not maintain the unity of the Spirit! Think: how often would disunity rise up in a church where abundant fruit of the Spirit is evident? (Galatians 5:22-26).
The Nature of Spiritual Love
Spiritual love is demonstrated in the Savior, Jesus Christ. His was an act of selfless, active good will in behalf of the other(s). The cross can be explained in no other way.
We see in Jesus genuine concern for others; a readiness to think and do what is best for them. ("This is my blood which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins") This attitude continues to be so even if their attitude or conduct in unbecoming! (The mockers). This love effects our feelings for others, but unlike "Phileo love" is not governed by feelings.
Paul refers to this way of life as “The more excellent way.” (1 Corinthians 12:30). This love is learned, demonstrated and shown in everyday activities (1 Corinthians 13:4-7). This is greater than all the first century spiritual gifts; they would cease in the church but love was to continue (1 Corinthians 13:8-10; 13).
Christians Must Love One Another
When is it improper to have this kind of love for a brother or sister? When does the time come when God says, "Love no longer!"?
If we have grasped what this love is and what it entails, we know that the answer is, "It never becomes improper to love a brother or sister" (1 John 4:10,11). Again, remember that this means to seek another's best interest. This includes saying things that need to be said, such as Jesus' warning to Peter (Luke 22:31-24). Peter certainly did not enjoy the message, but it was offered in love to help him later. Also, Paul's words of rebuke to Corinth were given in love (2 Corinthians 7:7-11).
The Lord's love for us is completed in us when we love others. The Lord wants us to love others the way He loves us. (1 John 4:12). The Bible tells us about the quality and degree of this love we ought to have for one another; “Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart...” (1 Peter 1:22). To love "from the heart" means love is to be sincere and without pretense. The degree of this love is seen in the word "fervent" which means glowing or burning like a fire burning bright as opposed to a small, sputtering fire.
We must always be ready, even eager to demonstrate our love for one another; quick to give, to forgive, to forbear. To help, to do... (1 John 3:17-18). The word "abound" is also used to describe agape love we ought to have for one another (2 Thessalonians 1:3; 12). Stir it up and keep it burning bright!
The Bible says that the local church is to be "knit together" (Colossians 2:2). This "knitting together" comes from understanding and knowing Jesus as we strive to become like Him. Where unity fails, someone has not learned or understood Christ.
Various qualities that ought to be characteristics of the members of the local church are given. “And so, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.” (Colossians 3:12,13) These characteristics are all important to unity.
But, as important as they are, standing above them all is love. “And beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.” (Colossians 3:14,15).
The truth of the words of Christ is the basis upon which unity is built, but love is the bond that holds us together on His truth. With this, any church can look forward to spiritual health and growth and fruitfulness.
Reprinted From the Bradley Banner Bradley Church of Christ Bradley, Illinois November 26, 2001