6 For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6–8, NKJV)
We “love” everything from ham sandwiches, ice cream, and chocolate, to cars, sports teams, friends, and family. The English language does not do a very good job of differentiating the meanings and usages of the word love. People generally use “love” to describe a strong affection, attraction, warm attachment, enthusiasm, or devotion. But these meanings do not begin to approach the biblical meaning and practice of love (agape). “God is love,” and He has shown us what love really is by giving His Son to die for us unloving, unlovable, “ungodly” sinners (see 1 John 4:8-10). God’s love is active goodwill toward us (“demonstrates”). It is unselfish in its scope (“toward us”), and sacrificial in its depth (“Christ died for us”). God’s love toward us is the pattern Jesus teaches us to follow in loving God, our neighbors, our brethren, and our enemies (Matt. 22:37-39; 1 John 4:7, 11; Matt. 5:44-45). And, since Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments,” to love Jesus we must demonstrate active goodwill toward Him by obeying Him unselfishly and sacrificially (John 14:15). When we love as God has loved us, we know the love of Christ and are filled with all the fullness of God (Eph. 3:17-19).
“that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children,” (Titus 2:4, NKJV)
Today is February 14 – Valentine’s Day – a day to fondly and affectionately acknowledge the person you love. Today’s verse calls attention to the work of older women to admonish (“to make of sound mind, to discipline or correct: -teach to be sober,” Strong’s Dictionary) young women to “love” their husbands. Interestingly, “love” in this verse is not agape (active goodwill), it is a variation of phileo (warm affection). So then, God’s word says young wives must discipline themselves to be affectionate toward their husbands. Without a doubt (and to their shame), some husbands make this a difficult task! A loving husband helps his wife develop the affectionate quality of love by living with her “with understanding” and giving her the honor she is due (1 Peter 3:7). Still, today’s verse reminds a wife of her responsibility. When it is easy (like on Valentine’s Day) and when it is difficult, the godly wife does not withhold warmhearted affection from her husband. A husband’s understanding and a wife’s affection help secure and strengthen marriage – every day of the year.
9 But concerning brotherly love you have no need that I should write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another; 10 and indeed you do so toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia. But we urge you, brethren, that you increase more and more; (1 Thessalonians 4:9–10, NKJV)
The apostle uses two words for love in this passage; philadelphia (brotherly love) and agape (love). We are to have both warm affection and the abiding welfare of our brethren in our hearts and in our lives. There is always room for improving our brotherly love. God teaches us to love one another, and so we must earnestly strive not to take each other for granted. Brotherly love holds its brethren in high regard and responds with kind consideration toward them. Such love is not confined to our own circle of saints, for instance, just the local church to which we belong. The Thessalonian Christians’ love included the saints in the surrounding area. Furthermore, there is no limit to love. While Paul commended them for loving their brethren, he urged them to increase their love abundantly. The warm affection of brotherly love (philadelphia) must be coupled with the love (agape) that selflessly attends to others before itself. Agape is an exercise of the will, and so are commanded to “love (agapao) the brotherhood” (1 Peter 2:17). Let us strive to mature in love (agape) and in the warm affection of brotherly love (philadelphia).
Let all that you do be done with love. (1 Corinthians 16:14, NKJV)
Love is known by the actions it prompts. Just as love prompted God to send His Son into the world to save us, the motive of love must undergird everything we do as followers of Jesus (1 John 4:9-10). Obeying God’s commands in faith is a full expression of loving God: “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3). We should not discount obedience to God and love for God – they are bound together. God commands us to love our neighbor as ourselves (Mark 12:31). This elevates the value of others above oneself, so that we treat them with virtuous attitudes and actions. The things we do have no spiritual benefit without the motive of love (1 Corinthians 13:1-3). William Barclay called agape (love), “unconquerable benevolence, undefeatable goodwill.” Love must drive everything we do. Love keeps our hearts right with God, and it keeps us living in the truth of God.