Unlike infinity, love in scripture and life comes at us on overload. Defining it and understanding it are both heavily loaded with two different communication streams: what is “love’s” denotation and what is “love’s” connotation. When you look in the dictionary for meanings, what you find is a little hazy. Let’s simplify: denotation is literal meaning, and connotation is sensual (suggested) meanings often attached to a meaning. The connotations we attach to a word, in this case “love” often complicate our understanding of its use and application. In this, Ryrie gives us an example under the heading of heresy.
In it he explains the heresy: “The heresy of universalism grows out of an unbalanced concept of the attributes of God. It teaches that since God is love He will ultimately save all people. But God’s perfection of love does not operate apart from His other perfections including holiness and justice. Therefore, love cannot overpower holiness and save those who reject Christ and die in their sins. Furthermore, universalism in reality does not have a proper definition of love since it sees only the affection aspect of love and not the correcting aspect. Finally, universalism contradicts direct statements of Scripture (see Mark 9:45-48).”
What the heresy of heresy of universalism does is “mess with” the denotation of “love” and injects some ideas that are not supported by scripture. Universalism also mixes suggested (connotations) meanings based upon physical emotion with their meaning of “love.” This mixing alters the true meaning of love and adds to it suggestions that are contrary to God’s Word. This mixing offers improper interpretations of what love means and it creates false creeds for those who believe in the heresy of universalism. When we use the word “love” we must be sure to use it correctly. In our next post, we will dig deeper into the scripture’s use of “love” and how to define it.
02/05/18 PM Post:
Ryrie under the Scripture heading states the following: “The Bible directly states that “God is love” (1 John 4:8).” In Greek, this scripture is precise. However, in English, its meaning is less clear. Let me explain: The Greek uses three different words for “love.” One is the most often used and understood in English and that is Eros. This Greek word is the erotic kind of love (sex) between a man and a woman. A second Greek word also translates into English as “love” is that of Philo as we know in the name Philadelphia (city of brotherly love). Its use is in the sense of fond of or tending to in the sense of loving one’s brother or sister. Neither Philo or Eros includes the sense of God-like love. This English word love” can cause us much confusion if we do not understand the God-like love that is inherent in the Greek word Agape. This word is used in Greek to mean God-like love, but in English its meaning is also rolled into the English word “love.” When reading scripture, be sure to understand the context in which “love” is used. If unsure, check the Greek word to see if it is a form of Agape which tells us that God-like love is intended. Sometimes a commentary is helpful in understanding the meaning in which it is used. Now we move on to Ryrie’s example.
In 1 John 4:8 the complete verse (KJV) reads: He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. Note in its use here, that it is tied to “he that loveth not” which points us to the idea that –he– the subject of the verse does not love God or have God-like love because this one does not know God and if he did, he would know or have the love that God has. Indeed, the phrase “God is love” is in the verse, but it does not stand alone. (Reread Ryrie’s comment and explanation) God is “agape” love that is He is the source of pure love that we as humans cannot fully comprehend. This love is so great that God the Father sacrificed His only Son for sinful mankind to have salvation. That kind of love is far beyond the human mind to comprehend, much less understand. This difference in the meanings of “love” as we understand the English word is something we need to read, read again, and put some time into to completely understand the context in which it is used. Misunderstanding the context can lead us astray and is probably the reason that universalism is heresy. God’s Agape love should put every believer on his knees and thank the Lord Jesus Christ for His sacrificial love.
How do we apply this “love” that God has for us and we should have for Him? First we should respond to Him in obedience (by reading His Word and following through with its instruction). Secondly, we should let it overflow from our life into others. There are many ways, but let me point two in particular: be that witness to the lost around us by living and speaking of our love for God and Jesus. Also, we should fellowship in brotherly love with other believers in our church and community. As a matter of fact, Jesus’ teaching commands us to do this. With the Holy Spirit that is within us we should be able to show God-like love to the lost as well as fellow believers.
Under his application note, Ryrie makes a comment that we don’t often think about. “Since all the attributes are possessed by each Person of the Trinity, there must be some loving interaction (inconceivable to humans, to be sure) within the Trinity. God who is love allows Himself to love sinful people. That is grace (Eph 2:4-8).” God give us grace, why then is it so hard sometimes for us to show grace to others? A strong prayer life goes a long way in this area. We should give grace because God has so freely given us grace when we don’t deserve it.
Under point b. Ryrie tells us “That love of God has been poured out into the believer’s heart (Rom. 5:5).” We are remiss if we do not pour out His love onto others, especially those who are lost. Do understand that doing this means we must fight our carnal flesh and overcome it to do the right thing. We should do constant battle with our carnal self to keep it in submission. That is called growing in grace.
As a believer, scripture tells us over and over again that trials will come and partly because God loves us and wants us to become as Christ-like as possible. That means we are to be humble and submissive according to the teaching that Jesus gave to His disciples. Part of God’s love for us is to be corrected and taught the right way to think and do things as a child of God.
Ryrie in his application comments gives us the following thought. His point c. under his application comment states “in trials God shows His love toward His children (Heb. 12:6)” This passage in Hebrews 12:6 (KJV) says “for whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son (and daughter) whom he receiveth.” If God did not do this how could we ever learn what He knows is the right way to do things? To be chastened and scourged is not pleasant to think about, but when you consider the carnal nature within us, how do we ever be motivated to change if He does not do this? Our carnal (sin) nature is very strong and many times makes it difficult to learn how to be humble and submissive.
God loves us enough that He wants us to be motivated to change, to turn from, that which is displeasing to God. Therefore, we must at times be subjected to such correcting and trials that help us look for and change into the obedient and submissive servant that He wants us to be. Another passage that reinforces this action from God is found in Revelation. In chapter three, verse 19, we this admonition: As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. When we are out of God’s will, it is very displeasing to Him and we should be in obedience to what He wants us to do.
We see in Jesus teaching to His disciples, in John 15:10 Jesus says “If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.” To be disobedient is to displease both Jesus and God the Father. We should want to be corrected if we are doing something that displeases both. Again, in 1 John 2:15 it says “love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” Therefore, do not be in the world and out of God’s love. What disobedience is worth not having God’s love? If we love both Jesus and God the Father, we will be willing to experience trials and correction in order to please them both.
For the Jew, the focal point for all that he does is wrapped up in these words from Deuteronomy 6:5 and thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. These words of the Shema are how we are to love God but seldom do we live up to this standard of love for God given to us in the Old Testament. But this admonition is not just for the Old Testament Israelite, for Jesus also said it in the New Testament. In Luke 10:27 (KJV), we see these words written: and he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself. God is serious about how we are to love him.
Seldom can any believer truly live up to this kind of love that God wants from us. Because of this, there is another type of love —grace— that God shows us his children that is extremely important but seldom really appreciated or understood. Ryrie gives us this definition “Grace is the unmerited favor of God shown to man primarily in the person and work of Jesus Christ.” We cannot live up to the Shema of the Old Testament or the New Testament teaching of Jesus, so this “grace” or unmerited favor that God gives us is vitally important to any believer. We cannot take it lightly nor can we belittle this grace that God gives us. It is because of grace that God accepts us and blesses us when we don’t deserve it. We should daily thank God for this unmerited favor that he gives us in our short-comings.
Under his applications heading, Ryrie gives us some related words. “Closely related to love are goodness, mercy, long-suffering, and grace.” In our post yesterday, we looked at grace. Today, perhaps we should look at mercy. The Hebrew word most often used and translated is “Hesed.”
The second definition for mercy given by the Merriam-Webster on line dictionary is in two parts: a: a blessing that is an act of divine favor or compassion, and an example is “may God have mercy on us.” Part b: a fortunate circumstance, and the example used is “it was a mercy they found her before she froze.” For our look at mercy, only a: is appropriate. Mercy for us is “an act of divine favor or compassion” for if God did not show His creation mercy, all would be destroyed as “unholy.” In the 01/19/18 post discussion about holiness, we used the following Ryrie quote: “A proper view of the holiness of God should make the believer sensitive to his own sin (Isa. 6:3 & 5; Luke 5:8). Proper conduct can be tested by the simple question, is it holy? This is the believer’s standard. While he does not always measure up to it, he must never compromise it.” God gives us mercy when we sin against His Holiness.
God has compassion for us in our weakness even as believers. Many times in our weak faith or ignorance of God’s commands, we violate His loving kindness and/or abuse it by our carnal acts of rebellion and disobedience. God has every right to punish or send us to the grave for such unholy acts. But because He shows us mercy, we do not receive what we rightly deserve. When we continuously ignore God’s gentle urgings, we test His mercy and patience. Some of us wonder, why am I always in these bad times and painful circumstances? At these times, ask yourself am I violating God’s word and ignoring His directions? Don’t keep testing God, because His mercy may have limitations.
Before we leave the subject of love, we must address one teaching of Jesus’ that to most of us seems irrational and most difficult to do. What is the teaching? Love your enemy.
Jesus was teaching the multitude on the mountain (commonly known as the sermon on the mount, MT 5) giving them all the things to do and practice to be pleasing to God. He gives them a list of things that they should do and a mindset with which one should have to live the kind of life that righteous, holy, and is pleasing to our Heavenly Father. From verse 1 thru verse 42 his words seem reasonable enough and then in verse 43 to 48 He lays down this “Love your enemy” theme. His teaching here is totally opposite of what these people had been taught for decades and more. From the 10 commandments He opens up the full meaning of “love your neighbor.” He takes it full spectrum to include the fact that we should love our enemies.
This concept extended “love your neighbor” far beyond what the Scribes and Pharisees were teaching. But Jesus was not the only one who taught this concept. The Apostle Paul teaches a similar thing in Romans 12:20 (KJV) when he said: Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Most of us can see the practical side of loving our neighbor, but loving your enemy in the same way? That we cannot do in our own strength. This is God-like love which we can only do when the Holy Spirit gives us the power to do so. That kind of love comes only through prayer and obedience to our Lord Jesus Christ.