1 John 3:16

In 1 John 3:16 John dives into what love is all about.  But what is love? How we define love is important. If we define love the wrong way, then everyone passes, or no one passes, the love test. To understand the scriptural idea of love, we should begin by understanding the definition of love in the New Testament.  Guzik defines these four different kinds of love like this:

  • Eros was one word for love. It described, as we might guess from the word itself, erotic love. It referred to sexual love.
  • Storge was the second word for love. It referred to family love, the kind of love there is between a parent and child, or between family members in general.
  • Philia is the third word for love. It spoke of a brotherly friendship and affection. It is the love of deep friendship and partnership. Philia love might be described as the highest love that one is capable of without God’s help.
  • Agape is the fourth word for love. It described a love that loves without changing. It is a self-giving love that gives without demanding or expecting re-payment. It is love so great that it can be given to the unlovable or unappealing. It is love that loves even when it is rejected. Agape love gives and loves because it wants to; it does not demand or expect repayment from the love given – it gives because it loves, it does not love in order to receive.

As humans, we often mix up these four kinds of love and the words that define them.  We need to make sure we communicate the correct way about the love we are talking about.  Jesus demonstrated His love as far more than a feeling He had when He went to the cross.  “We know what real love is from Christ’s example in dying for us.” It isn’t the death of Jesus in itself that is the ultimate demonstration of love; it is the death of Jesus together with what it does for us that shows us His extreme love. Spurgeon gave a sermon titled “The Death of Christ for His People” and made three key points about this love:

  • How great must have been our sins.
  • How great must have been His love.
  • How safe the believer is in the love of Christ.

The truth is that without the demonstration of love by Jesus on the Cross, we truly wouldn’t know what agape love really looks like.  The fact that God would sacrifice His own Son on the cross for the wretched souls of sinful humankind is something we would never have been able to comprehend without His expressing it so boldly.  But John takes it further and applies it to us.  Jesus demonstration of agape love for us needs to impact how we learn to love those around us.  It isn’t just something to know, but something we need to do! “And so we also ought to lay down our lives for our Christian brothers.”

Real agape love involves sacrifice – the laying down of our lives for others. Wishing to be more loving won’t do, because it won’t sacrifice where it is necessary. There is a cost to agape love.  Sometimes the cost of love will make us feel like we are dying – but that is what it means to lay down your life. Marshall wrote: “Love means saying ‘No’ to one’s own life so that somebody else may live.” It is the choice of putting the well being of others ahead of our own.  God seldom calls us to love the exact way Jesus did.  But He does call us to lay down our lives one piece at a time, in small but very important ways that put others first.  Loving our brothers means we put their interest above our own.  It’s what God not only expects from us, but commands!

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