The MOST important word to define is "LOVE". Every weekday, I will be adding to this post focused on defining LOVE.
"And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that he had answered them well, asked him, Which is the first commandment of all? And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment, And the second is like, namely this, Thous shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these." (Mark 12:28-31)
"But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you," (Luke 6:27)
"And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him." (I John 4:16)
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." (John 3:16)
"By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another." (John 13:35)
"This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you." (John 15:12)
"Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13)
"But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:" (Ephesians 4:15)
"Love worketh no ill to his neighbor: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law." (Romans 13:10)
In the King James Bible, sometimes the Greek word "agape" is translated as "love" and sometimes it is translated as "charity". Some of the most famous "love" passages use the word "charity" in the King James Version.
"And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not, charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up," (I Corinthians 13:3-4)
"And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue, knowledge; And to knowledge, temperance; and to temperance, patience; and to patience, godliness; And to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, charity." (I Peter 1:5-7)
"And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins." (I Peter 4:8)
"Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned:" (I Timothy 1:5)
Love is the concept that is the ultimate EFFECT of EVERYTHING the law and Jesus was teaching us. PROOF that we are followers of God is our LOVE.
LOVE is intertwined with EVERY concept in the worldview.
Too many people ACTUALLY use the definition of love to define other words like "grace" or "mercy". This causes them NOT to have a definition for LOVE.
Tomorrow we will address the claim that LOVE can't actually be defined and we will realize what these people are ACTUALLY preaching when they make that claim.
For today, take a moment to reread the passages above and determine a definition that would fit EVERY passage.
More importantly, decide if it would be RIGHT and JUST of God to make LOVE the ultimate EFFECT of following God AND not have it be able to be defined...that is, not have us be able to do it intentionally.
The problem with defining LOVE doesn't occur until you ask someone to give you a specific definition. Until that point, EVERYONE thinks they know the definition of LOVE. However, once a person tries to put it into WORDS, they realize they have a problem...they find out they are contradictory.
There are two general excuses people give for not defining LOVE. The first excuse is that there are several different kinds of LOVE in the Bible, so no ONE definition would work. The other excuse is that LOVE is unable to be defined because no one has done it.
We've already seen in the "Importance of WORDS" post, the second excuse is the ultimate example of egotism. Basically, the person is saying, "Since I can't define it, it must not be able to be defined because if I can't do it, no one can."
Today, let's look at the first excuse more closely...
In the New Testament, there are 10 Greek words that were translated into the King James Bible as LOVE. I will go over these with their Strong's Concordance reference number.
2309 thelo or ethelo means "to determine or choose"
The ONLY occurrence of this word is in Mark 12:38 when Jesus speaks about beware of the scribes which LOVE to go in long clothing...
Seven of the Greek words are very closely related:
5360 philadelphia means "brotherly love"
This word occurs four times and comes from 5361
5361 philadelphos means "fond of brethren"
This word occurs once, but we can see it has essentially the same meaning as 5360
5362 philandros means "fond of man"
This word occurs once.
5363 philanthropia means "fondness of mankind"
This word occurs once.
5365 philarguria means "love of money"
This word occurs once in an often quoted verse (I Timothy 6:10)
5368 phileo means "to be a friend to"
This word occurs eight times.
5388 philoteknos means "fond of one's children"
This word occurs once.
Notice, all of these words apply to a fondness for a specific thing or person. These last seven words look roughly the same in Greek. None of the passages quoted at the beginning of this post used these Greek words. ALL of the passages that we are focusing on come from two words:
26 agape means "love" and comes from...
25 agapao means "to love (in a social or moral sense)"
These words are essentially the same. "Agapao" has a specific definition and "Agape" is the more abstract version of the same word...like it is one rung higher on the Ladder of Abstraction.
When it comes to the word "charity", the Greek word is "agape" EVERY TIME. The word "charity" occurs 26 times in the King James Bible...all of them in the New Testament...all of them from "agape".
So, sometimes, "agape" is translated LOVE and sometimes it is translated CHARITY. However, "agapao" is ALWAYS translated as LOVE.
While there are several Greek words that can be translated into our language as LOVE, there are ONLY two words that apply to the words LOVE and CHARITY in the critical verses we are focusing on (as well as other key verses that will be referenced later) and they have the same meaning.
Before we determine the meaning, let's look at what people are REALLY saying when they say we can't define LOVE...
In the I Corinthians 13 passage, it says without love we cannot be profitable...we cannot create...we cannot repair...we cannot live. In John 3:16 it says BECAUSE of God's love, we can have eternal life.
It is of the UTMOST importance that we understand LOVE so that we can intentionally have life and help others have life. People who discourage us from understanding this ultimate source of profitability are PREVENTING repair and life. They are ACTUALLY preaching DEATH...
Be careful when you tell people that words CAN'T be defined!
God used words to create, instruct us,...
Tomorrow we will look into I Corinthians 13...
THE EFFECTS OF LOVE
The first answer people give to define LOVE is I Corinthians 13. Here are the first eight verses with the word CHARITY capitalized:
"Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not CHARITY, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal."
"And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not CHARITY I am nothing."
"And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not CHARITY, it profiteth me nothing."
"CHARITY suffereth long, and is kind; CHARITY envieth not, CHARITY vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,"
"Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;"
"Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;"
"Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things."
"CHARITY never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away."
This is ACTUALLY a list of the EFFECTS of LOVE. There are 16...and 9 of them are NOT effects of LOVE!
1. NOT evieth
2. NOT vaunteth
3. NOT puffed up
4. NOT behave itself unseemly
5. NOT seeketh her own
6. NOT easily provoked
7. NOT thinketh evil
8. NOT rejoiceth in iniquity
9. NOT faileth
There are 7 EFFECTS of LOVE:
10. Suffereth long
12. Rejoiceth in truth
13. Beareth all things
14. Believeth all things
15. Hopeth all things
16. Endureth all things
Look at this list again and imagine getting this type of answer to "What is a corvette?"
"It doesn't have wings, it doesn't have a fireplace, it does have four tires, it doesn't have training wheels, etc."
Again, causality says the cause and effect are one. So Paul's list of effects are important, however, to say Paul gives the CAUSE of LOVE would be inaccurate. Whatever the definition (CAUSE) of LOVE is, it HAS to result in this list. One of my first tests of someone's definition of LOVE is to see if it RESULTS in ALL of Paul's list.
Actually, Jesus gives the definition of LOVE...
DEFINITION OF LOVE
"But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you. And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloke forbid not to take thy coat also. Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again. And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise. For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them. And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do the same. And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again."
"But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again: and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil." (Luke 6:27-35)
The definition of LOVE is blatantly stated in the last section: give AND don't look to that person to give back!
This definition is from the mouth of JESUS!
Go back over the beginning of the passage and see that not only is this the definition consistently cited throughout the passage, but there is a REASON for LOVE! (John Piper and other sovereignty people ACTUALLY preach that the REASON God loves is BECAUSE God loves. I've heard these preachers immediately admit this is circular reasoning...and then say it is because LOVE is circular. Just so we all know, circular reasoning is PROOF the concept is unsound...don't be fooled.)
In fact, there are two more key conclusions to be drawn immediately:
1. LOVE is NOT an emotion! (John Piper calls LOVE an emotion, but the quickest way to refute this is with "LOVE your enemy". No one is requiring you to FEEL GOOD about your enemies. In fact, you will hear preachers/teachers tell you why it is okay for THEM NOT to feel good about someone.) THIS is probably the hardest concept to get used to when it comes to defining LOVE. Most people want to believe LOVE is an emotion and they tend to have a hard time relating to Jesus' definition because there isn't an emotional component to it.
2. LOVE is UNCONDITIONAL by definition. There is NO SUCH thing as "conditional love". What would that look like? The second half of LOVE requires NO EXPECTATIONS! Whenever someone speaks of unconditional love, I immediately want to ask the question: As opposed to conditional love? People who speak of unconditional love as separate from "other" love clearly have a contradictory definition of LOVE.
LOVE has TWO PARTS:
1. ACTION - It is the giving of a value.
2. ATTITUDE - It is the lack of expectation.
How does LOVE work? It depends on justice. Justice says that everything will equal out EXACTLY. Justice says you CAN'T give AND NOT get the value back.
It is possible to give a value AND try to get it back. You could lend to someone and then keep reminding them they have to pay you back until they eventually pay you back. Justice DOESN'T get involved in this situation, because you are equalling out YOUR OWN justice. This is NOT LOVE. Jesus says the same thing in the first section of the Luke 6 passage. Jesus says to give BECAUSE you are expecting to get back is NOT LOVE.
Notice, you can give and expect a return from the person. This is NOT a sin! BUT this is NOT LOVE.
However, if you give and don't expect to get back the value from the person to whom you gave, you are doing the same thing as forgiveness...you are stating your will you are NOT going to seek your own justice. THEN God can make sure you get your value back through justice.
We will see over the next three weeks how this definition explains EVERY LOVE passage in the Bible. For instance, giving AND not expecting a return would be the CAUSE to all 16 effects that Paul listed in I Corinthians 13. Notice also that passage begins with Paul listing examples of GIVING but saying it is NOT profitable if he DOESN'T do it with LOVE...if he doesn't do the second HALF of LOVE which is not expecting a return.
Again, LOVE is ONE concept that has TWO HALVES. John Piper and other teachers don't seem to understand the concept of two HALVES making up ONE concept...they see it as two separate concepts.
Question: What is another concept that COULD describe the giving of a value and not expecting the person to whom you give to give back? CHARITY!
It appears that where "CHARITY" could replace LOVE, it was done in the King James Bible. When it could NOT replace LOVE it was because of GRAMMAR.
For instance, "CHARITY your neighbor" isn't grammatically correct, yet it fits EXACTLY what Jesus said to do in the passage from Luke!
Finally, notice that LOVE is quantitative. The AMOUNT of LOVE can be calculated by determining: 1)HOW MUCH value was given AND 2)HOW MUCH of that value the giver EXPECTS to get back.
LOVE IS QUANTITATIVE
One of the characteristics of LOVE that is hard for some people to realize is that LOVE is quantitative. It can be measured...there can be more...there can be less...you can intentionally have more...you can intentionally have less. Here are a list of LOVE and CHARITY verses with the quantitative words in capitals...
"And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand ALL mysteries, and ALL knowledge; and though I have ALL faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am NOTHING. And though I bestow ALL my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it PROFITETH me NOTHING." (I Corinthians 13:2-3)
"GREATER love hath no man THAN this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13)
"So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me MORE THAN these?" (John 21:15)
"Now as touching things offered unto idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffeth up, but charity EDIFIETH." (I Corinthians 8:1)
"From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the MEASURE of every part, maketh INCREASE of the body unto the EDIFYING of itself in love." (Ephesians 4:16)
"And this I pray, that your love may ABOUND yet MORE and MORE in knowledge and in ALL judgment;" (Philippians 1:9)
"And the Lord make you to INCREASE and ABOUND in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you:" (I Thessalonians 3:12)
"And I will very gladly spend and be spent for you; though the MORE ABUNDANTLY I love you, the LESS I be loved." (II Corinthians 12:15)
The equation is expressed perfectly by Paul...the more I give to you, the less I get. There are A LOT of mind blowing implications from Jesus' definition of LOVE that go COMPLETELY OPPOSITE what people ACTUALLY think, do, and desire.
REMEMBER, the Greek definition spoke of love in a "social and moral sense".
Next week, we will look at all of these implications which include: understanding the quantity verses quoted above, "truth in love", LOVE being ULTIMATE right/good, the non-contradictory definition of HATE, and the introduction for the discussion on the meaning of "I love you".