Summary: In this passage, the simplest & yet most profound statement of all is "God is love." That sounds beautiful, but what does it mean? We use the word "love" a lot, & I’m afraid that our use of it can be rather confusing. (Powerpoints available - #118)

MELVIN M. NEWLAND, MINISTER

RIDGE CHAPEL, KANSAS, OK

(The Powerpoints used with this message are available for free. Just email me at mnewland@sstelco.com and request PP#118.)

Some of the greatest words of love in Scripture are found in 1 John 4:7 10. Listen as I read them to you.

“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.

“This is how God showed His love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him.

“This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (1 John 4:7 10)

A. In this passage, the simplest & yet most profound statement of all is, "God is love." That sounds beautiful, but what does it mean? We use the word "love" a lot, & I’m afraid that our use of it can be rather confusing.

ILL. For instance, I do not hesitate to tell you that I love my wife. We have been married for more than 55 years. She has been my companion, my encourager, my counselor, faithful & loving throughout all those years, & I tell you unashamedly that I love my wife.

I also love Flint Ridge. I love it because of its quiet location. I love it because of its forested lots & hills. But most of all, I love it because of the church & the people here.

But even though I used the same word "love" to describe my feelings toward my wife & toward Flint Ridge, I trust you realize that I don’t love them in quite the same way.

B. Our English language is limited. We use this one word “love” as a catch all for many different feelings. We love ideas & beauty, we love countries & hometowns, we love our pets, we love colors & flavors, songs & poems & books. "I love my wife. I love cherry pie. I love a sunny day. I love my home."

Since we use the same word to express all those different emotions, we depend a lot upon the people who hear us to put our words through the filter of under-standing, & then to arrive at the correct conclusion.

When I say, "I love my wife," I trust you to take those words & reach the conclusion that "He loves his wife the way that a man ought to love his wife."

When I tell you that I love Flint Ridge, I trust you to understand that I am not weird, & therefore I don’t love a place in the same way that I love my wife. I trust you to put those words through the filter & reach the conclusion that I love a place in the way that a man ought to love a place.

C. To confuse things further, the word "love" is also used in many different expressions. Love is something that we “fall into.” Love puts stars into our eyes, & causes our hearts to go pitter pat. "Love makes the world go ’round."

D. We may even get confused when it comes to the subject of Christian love.

The Bible tells us that "God is love," & that I am to "love the Lord, my God with all my heart." It tells me to love myself, to love my neighbor, & even to love my enemies.

SUM. So what is love, really? Much of our confusion is because of the limitations of our language. Most of you realize that the New Testament was written originally in Greek & not in English. And it helps to know that.

Many of you have also heard of the 3 different Greek words that are most often translated into the one English word, "love" "eros, phileo, & agape."

We realize that they express different kinds of love but, at the same time, we generally translate all 3 of them into one English word "love," because we don’t have any other single words that would translate them better.

PROP. Now for a few minutes this morning let’s look at those 3 words to help us understand a bit better what God is saying when He tells us to “love one another.”

I. EROS

A. The first word, "eros," is not used in the New Testament, but its meaning is referred to many times in both Old & New Testaments. "Eros" means physical attraction, sexual love. And when that is mentioned in church, there are two common reactions. Some react nervously. Others are even shocked a bit about the subject being discussed in a holy environment.

You see, our problem is that Christian people have not always given Biblical definitions to Biblical things. We need to realize that "eros," erotic love, is a gift from a God with a clean heart & pure hands. He gives it to us & says, "It is good." God gives erotic love as a special gift to us.

B. Now, of course, it has limitations. Anything that intimate must always have limitations.

So the Bible clearly teaches that erotic love is to be shared only by two people, husband & wife, people who are married to each other, who have promised each other that "for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness & in health," they will keep on loving each other until one of them dies.

When they make that kind of commitment, then as God’s special gift, they are given the privileges of erotic, physical love.

C. As beautiful, as pure & holy as it is, erotic love has its weakness because, by nature, erotic love is selfish. Erotic love depends upon emotions & feelings. Erotic love is always looking for something that will satisfy its own desires.

SUM. So if erotic love stands alone, then all of its imperfections come to the surface. But in its original state, as a gift from God, it is beautiful, a perfect gift that God has given to us.

II. PHILEO

A. Then there is the word "phileo." It means "brotherliness,” “companionship," & “friendship.” It includes the idea of a "boy meets girl" type of relationship.

ILL. Those of you who are old enough can remember the good old Norman Rockwall days when we’d go into the drugstore & order a large soda with two straws. Then we’d sit together, each with our own straw in the same soda, gazing into each other’s eyes, sharing the sweetness of those moments together.

Try to imagine that scene this morning. Boy & girl sitting together in the booth, sipping out of the same soda, looking into each other’s eyes. He says to her, "I like you." And she responds, "I like you, too." He says, "I like you more than I said." And she responds, "I like you more than I said, too."

He says, "I love you." And she says, "What?" He says, "Nothing." She says, "Oh, no. Go ahead & say it again." "Well, all right," he says, "But don’t laugh. I love you." "I love you, too," she responds.

Finally there comes the day when he asks, "Will you marry me?" "Yes," she answers. And they are married & live happily ever after - for six weeks.

At the end of six weeks he looks up from behind the morning newspaper & says, "I’m tired of burnt toast." She says, "You ought to be in Sudan. People are starving to death in Sudan. There are some there who would love to have a piece of burnt toast."

He says, "From some of the meals I’ve been having lately, maybe I would be better off in Sudan." She says, "If you love Sudan so much, why don’t you move there?" He says, "I think I will," & he walks out the door & slams it.

Oh, it may even take 10 or 11 weeks to get to that point, but too often some such thing happens. The reason, you see, is not because there is no love in their marriage. There is love there.

B. There is erotic love & there is "phileo" love, but "phileo" love is too often a temporary type of love. It is a love that says, "I will love you as long as you love me." Or, "I will love you as long as the waves are smooth. I will love you as long as things are going all right in my life. I will love you as long as I am getting what I want out of the relationship."

But that is not the depth that is needed in marriage. "Phileo" love, too, is a gift from God, a beautiful gift, but by itself it is never enough.

III. AGAPE

A. The third word is "agape," & "agape" is the word that is used in 1 John 4, where it says that “Love comes from God” & that "God is love" (God is agape). It is a love that is different from the other two because it is totally unselfish.

It is a love that is more concerned about making the object of love feel loved, than it is in making the lover feel loved. The lover is willing to sacrifice, to make any sacrifice necessary just to make the object of love feel loved.

That is what God did. When He looked down at the human predicament, He didn’t consider how comfortable it was in heaven. He didn’t consider His own situation, but He willingly sacrificed Himself & came to earth & lived with us. He breathed our air & experienced our life.

It is the kind of love that reaches down & picks up clay & anoints blind eyes & causes them to see. It is the kind of love that stands beside the grave of a loved one & weeps with mourners. It is the kind of love that blesses children.

It is the kind of love that does not regard itself, but unselfishly goes to the cross & sheds its blood, & gives its life so that there might be hope for those of us who are hopeless without it. That is "agape" love.

B. If God had loved us with eroticism, or if God had loved us with "phileo" He would have packed His bags the first time He was rejected. He would have gone back to heaven & said, "I’ve had all of this that I want."

He would never have endured & persevered & gone to the cross. Instead, He would have said, "I won’t take any more of this. I’ll go back where I am appreciated & respected."

But because it was an "agape" love He was more concerned about the object of love, about us, than He was about Himself. And that is how it must be in marriage or in friendships or anything else.

"Do I love my wife with an erotic love?" I surely do. But you see, "agape" love becomes an umbrella over erotic love, & that makes sexual abuse or unfaithfulness impossible. It is impossible, because the "agape" love of our relationship is more concerned about the other person than about self.

With “agape” love, eroticism is not out looking for new frontiers to satisfy itself. It is satisfied in being satisfying, & it gives itself unselfishly to the object of its love.

C. "Do I love my wife with a "phileo" love?" Absolutely! But because that is overshadowed with the umbrella of "agape" love, it says to her, "If things aren’t going well for us, if we don’t agree about everything, I am not going to turn around & walk off. I’m not going to leave you stranded here."

My "phileo" love is overshadowed by "agape" love which says, "I am going to stick this out. We’ll wrestle it together. We’ll hurt together. We’ll solve our problems together. We will not allow something else to destroy the love that we have for each other." That is the only way marriage can survive.

So when the Bible says that "God is agape love" it means that God doesn’t love us with just a surface type of love, but He loves us with an all sacrificing love. He gives Himself completely to express His love.

IV. LOVE EXPRESSED

A. Do you want to see “agape” love in action? Then look at 1 Corinthians 13, the "Love Chapter" of the Bible. Those beautiful, familiar words are practical words, too. Because what Paul is saying is, "This is how agape love acts, this is how it behaves."

In vs. 4, he says, "Love is patient." That means that I don’t get into a hurry with you if you don’t do things the way I would like for you to do them. I’ll wait. I’ll wait for things to change. I’ll wait for those edges to be knocked off, & I hope that you’ll wait for me in return.

He says that "Love is kind." I wouldn’t say anything unkind to you because you are the object of my love, & the important part of my love for you is to make sure that you feel loved. Therefore, I couldn’t be unkind.

“It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.” I won’t envy you. I won’t boast about myself. I won’t become proud, because I am more concerned about you than I am about myself.

"It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs." (1 Corinthians 13:5) I won’t crowd before you in line &, if we get to the door at the same time, I’ll open it graciously & let you go before me. I am “not self seeking.”

Nor will I be “easily angered.” I won’t throw temper tantrums any more. I will tear up my “spite lists” & throw them away because I will no longer keep any “record of wrongs” that others have done to me.

“Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts,…” (1 Corinthians 13:6-7) Love has to trust. I open myself to you. Here I am, vulnerable. You can hurt me. But I trust you not to do that, because I love you, & because you love me.

“Love always hopes, & it always perseveres.” And God’s love for us is exactly like that.

But probably the best known & most treasured verse in this great “Love Chapter” is the last verse which tells us “And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13 NKJV)

Each of these is vital & precious to us as Christians, so why is “love” called the greatest? May I suggest that faith & hope are internal qualities & traits in our lives, but that love, agape love, reaches out beyond self & touches the lives of those around us, even as Jesus came to give Himself for us.

In 1 John 4:19 the apostle John cries out, "We love because He first loved us."

Do you love Him? Then accept Him publicly as your Savior & your Lord as we stand & sing.