LOVE. This, above all things, distinguishes Christianity. It constitutes the great divide that sets Christianity apart from the world and the religions of this world. It is not just some warm, wishy-washy, and impulsive fuzzy feeling (amounting specifically to nothing). (This may distinguish human love at times). In its New Testament meaning, it is a profound word that has definite body (with legs to walk upon) and purpose. Hence,  in its execution and fulfillment,  it is expressed in the most meaningful of ways. And the word we are talking about is agapé.

Can Love Be Commanded?
        WE HEAR people say that love can’t be commanded. Is this true? Can love be commanded? The answer is yes. The answer is no. It is just according to what kind of love you are talking about.       In the New Testament we find two words for love, agapao and phileo (both verbs). Agapao becomes a noun in the well-known word, AGAPÉ. On the other hand, we find no noun for phileo love (interestingly, noun spin offs are seen in words translated “friend” and “kiss”). Agapao (AGAPÉ) love involves the intellect and the will; it involves purpose, esteem and respect; it involves choice. However, phileo love is the love of natural inclination; it is instinctive; it is the love of emotion. It is spontaneous, involuntary; it just happens. We might say that one puts the emphasis on devotion, whereas in the other, emotion prevails.
      Therefore, agapao love (involving the intellect and the will) can be commanded, and it is commanded (as in the great commandment, loving our enemies, and elsewhere throughout the New Testament). But phileo love, in its basic inherent meaning, is not commanded (except indirectly). It is more of a natural and spontaneous response; it just happens. We are to love (agapao) our enemies, but it is hard to be emotional about it (phileo). We can have high esteem (agapao) for them (in the sense of respecting God’s image in them and wishing them well) and not even like (phileo) them (it would be hard to be emotional about it).     
    Can love be commanded? Yes and no. These are our conclusions from a word study.—

      The Greek word agapé (love) seems to have been virtually a Christian invention  -- a new word for a new thing (apart from about twenty occurrences in the Greek version of the Old Testament, it is almost non-existent before the New Testament). Agapé draws its meaning directly from the revelation of God in Christ. It is not a form of natural affection, however, intense, but a supernatural fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). It is a matter of will rather than feeling (for Christians must love even those they dislike—Matthew 5:44-48). It is the basic element in Christ-likeness.

      “Read 1 Corinthians 13 and note what these verses have to say about the primacy (vv. 1-3) and permanence (vv. 8-13) of love; note too the profile of love (vv. 4-7) which they give.” (a well-worded quotation from one James Packer)
    In 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a, we find how this love should find expression through us, both passively and actively: “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.” (NKJV)
      In this article, for our lesson, we would like to selectively pick out some Scriptures and look into a few of the many ways that love can find expression through us. We can examine this from the viewpoint of how God expresses His love toward us. Then we can highlight it from our personal perspective. Keep 1 Corinthians 13 in mind as we notice various Scriptures.

I. “For God so loved the world, that
gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever
believeth in him should not perish, But have
everlasting life” (John 3:16).

“For God So Loved

the World That He Gave”

    “For God so loved the world, that He gave…” Yes, He gave. Highlight these all-important words. They represent the great characterizing expression of love, emanating from God Himself. Romans 5:8 reads, “But God commendeth [demonstrated] His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” This same thought is emphasized in 1 John 4:9-11, with the admonition, “Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought to love one another.” In what God has done we have the ultimate example of giving and the ultimate expression of love which we are to emulate.

"Christ Also Hath Loved Us,
and Hath Given Himself for Us"

      God gave “His only begotten Son” (John 3:16). While God the Father was giving, the Son was giving. The apostle Paul spoke of “the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). Toward the end of his ministry, Jesus instructed his disciples, “This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:12-13). And from this statement of love later comes Paul’s admonition in Ephesians 5:1 and 2, “Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children: And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us…” (These Ephesian verses sort of sum it up, including God the Father and the Son, Christ, in this exhortation on love).

Our “Work and Labour of Love”

      Love is the embodiment of genuine care and concern that is unselfishly expressed in giving and in other selfless kindred acts. It is active. Paul, indirectly illustrates this giving love, when he wrote, dealing with the problems in the church at Corinth, “And I will very gladly spend and be spent for you: though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved” (2 Corinthians 12:15). However, in connection with their benevolent giving he sees evidence of love, which he calls “proof of your [their] love” (2 Corinthians 8:24). Then, more generically, when  writing  earlier  to  the  new Christians at Thessalonica, he thanked God for them, and said that he was always “remembering without ceasing your [their] work of faith, and labour of love…” (1 Thessalonians 1:3). Likewise, the writer of the Hebrews epistle speaks along this same line when he tries to encourage his readers by saying, “For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister” (Hebrews 6:10).

Love “in Deed and in Truth”

      A very expressive and impressive section of Scripture is found in 1 John 3:16-18. It reads, “Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoso hath this world’s goods, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him [has no pity], how dwelleth the love of God in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.” Here is echoed the words of Jesus as we noticed in John 15:12-13. Here we see, even as James said that faith without works is dead (James 2:15-18), love without works is likewise dead. Love is not just something we talk about; it is not just something we “feel,” it is something that we do out of unselfish concern.

“No Murderer,” “Lay Down

Our Lives,” Sustain Life

      And this Scripture in 1 John 3:16-18 is further accented when we read the verses right before it (verses 14 and 15). “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death. Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.” John goes on to say, as we noticed, “we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (not hate them and in our hearts be guilty of murder). One way of doing this, just the opposite of murder, is in helping them sustain their lives. We see their need and give unto them of “this world’s goods.” To the one who is not properly clothed and “destitute of daily food,” we do more than say, “Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled,” not giving them that which is “needful to the body” (James 2:15-16). We do more than say, “I am sorry for you.” We help. We give of our means and of ourselves.

We Can Give Without Loving,
But We Cannot Love Without Giving

      But we always need to remember 1 Corinthians 13:3, “And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity [love], it profiteth me nothing.” “For the gift without the giver is bare” (Lowell) and is meaningless religiously. What we do must be a genuine extension of what’s in the heart. We can give without loving, but we cannot love without giving. When genuine love is in the heart, giving is the extended expression of it being real.

  II. “If you love me, keep my commandments”
(John 14:15). “For this is the love of God, that
 we keep His commandments: and
 commandments are not grievous
(burdensome)” (1 John 5:3).

 “If You Love Me…”

     The Lord said to His disciples, “If you love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). Many, many years later the apostle John would write in his Second Epistle to the “elect lady” that he was not writing a new commandment to her, “but that which we had from the beginning, that we love one another: And this is love, that we walk after his commandments. This is the commandment, That, as ye have heard from the beginning, ye should walk in it” (2 John, verses 5 and 6).

Love Prompts Obedience

      Genuine love prompts obedience. There are different legitimate motives that move us to obedience, but love is the most basic and compelling. In our initial relationship to God, the “goodness of God” leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4). Then, as John said, “We love him, because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). And this love is continually made evident by our responding in obedience. “Lord, what will you have me do?” According to Christ, our love finds fulfillment and expression in keeping His commandments. This does not detract from our personal relationship to Him, but strikingly makes it obvious.

  The Old Testament
and the New Testament

      This unambiguous truth is nothing new in the Bible. Many times we leave out the concept of love when we talk about the Old Testament, but love definitely is there (although encased in a legal context). In listing the Ten Commandments, God said that He was showing “mercy unto thousands of them that love me and keep my command- ments” (Deuteronomy 5:10). This matter of loving Him and keeping His commandments is stated time and time again (Deuteronomy 7:9; 11:1; 30:16, 20; etc.). Then in His two-pronged answer to the question about the great commandment in the Law, the Lord Jesus summed it up by relating it to love (Matthew 22:36-40). (And, we might add for purposes of clarity, in comparison with the Old Testament Law, the New Testament is not a legal system per se; it is “the faith.” Commands are more informally stated, as we think in terms of the “obedience to the faith,” Romans 1:5, not in terms of a set of rules—but commands are commands, and are not any less important, and in the keeping of these commandments love prevails as a definite expression of love).

What Are the Commandments?

   Yes, the Lord Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” Many of His commandments were spoken during His ministry. After His resurrection, He gave the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20). It ended by saying, “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you…” The Lord had said that when the Holy Spirit came, whom he would send, He would guide the apostles into all truth involving the New Testament (John 14:26). Consequently, the apostle Paul would say later that the things he was writing were “the commandments of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 14:37). They were as if the Lord was speaking directly. The commandments of the Lord involve the whole spectrum of the New Testament. Our love for the Lord, if it is real, will move us to search out what the Lord has said and put it into practice.

Love Begins and Ends in

Keeping the Lord’s Commandments

      Keeping the commandments of the Lord begins in love and ends in love (the command to love, itself, being the most prominent commandment that prompts us to obey all other commandments). Love gets us on the way to obeying the Lord’s commands, as we walk in love (Ephesians 5:1-2; 2 John, verses 5 and 6). Then in obedience to the commands we perfect this love. John said that “whoso keepeth his Word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him” (1 John 2:5). Interestingly, that which got us started in obeying the Lord’s commands is the goal we are reaching for in obeying His commands. Paul asserted, “Now the end [goal] of the commandment is charity [love] out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned” (1 Timothy 1:5). How amazing! Truly, keeping the Lord’s commandments is a genuine expression of love for Him. We want to please Him.


II. Love “rejoiceth not in iniquity, but

  rejoiceth in the truth” (1 Corinthians 13:6).


Rejoiced In and Appreciated

      Under this point, the consideration of an expression of love that we are now looking at involves truth. We see evidence and expression of this love by rejoicing in the truth, with a negative backside (which we will also notice shortly). We are to “receive” the love of the truth that we might be saved (2 Thessalonians 2:10), and having received it, we are to rejoice in it with appreciation and thanksgiving (Romans 1:18-22), or we will lose it. When men do not love the truth, and accordingly do not manifest meaningful expressions of it, Paul says, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables” (2 Timothy 4:3-4). (Lust is the illicit parallel and opposite of love).

“What Is Truth?”

      In responding to Jesus, Pilate asked, “What is truth?” (John 18:38). And we ask, from the New Testament perspective, “What is truth?” For one thing, when we talk about loving the truth, we are talking about God who cannot lie (Titus 1:2). We are talking about Christ, who said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). We are talking about the Holy Spirit, who is called “the Spirit of truth” (John 16:13; 1 John 5:6), and His revelation to us. In other words, we are talking about the Word of God, of which Jesus prayed to the Father, “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy Word is truth” (John 17:17). All of these great truths, including salvation and the way that we are to live, are embodied in the Scriptures (and from our Christian perspective, in the New Testament, 2 Peter 1:12). In these great truths we rejoice.

The Positive and Negative Backside

      As we implied, there is a negative and a positive side in the expression of love for the truth. Love “rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth.” Taking it a step further, in talking about Christ, Hebrews 1:9 says, “Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.” Really, the Bible teaches that if we have an intense love for what is right, we will hate the wrong. The flip side of the coin of love is hate (in a wholesome sense). The Psalmist wrote, “I love thy commandments above gold; yea, above fine gold. Therefore I esteem all thy precepts concerning all things to be right; and I hate every false way” (Psalms 119:127-128). In the New Testament, John that great apostle of love hated the “deeds” and “doctrine of the Nicolaitanes” (Revelation 2:6, 15). Yes, the apostle Paul instructs us in Romans 12:9, “Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good.” It is that simple. This is how our love for truth is expressed.

A Word of Warning

      Perhaps a word of warning is in order, as we give a little more attention to a Scripture that we have already mentioned. There is not much respect or love for truth in the realm of religion today. “Believe whatever you like; it doesn’t matter.” The Scripture we are talking about is found in 2 Thessalonians chapter 2. It is very sobering. Here a falling away from the true church is prophesied with the eventual coming of the man of sin. With the coming of this apostasy, Paul asserts, “Because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (2 Thessalonians 2:10b-12). Note. If we do not love the truth, we set ourselves up for the devil (who is the father of the lie—John 8:44), apostasy and delusion. May our love for the truth never wane! Let us unwaveringly hold to it—love, value and appreciate it!

IV. “As many as I love, I rebuke

and chasten: be zealous therefore,
and repent” (Revelation 3:19).
An Expression of Love

      Some would hesitate to think of rebuke as an expression of love. But that is what our Lord said, “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten.” Hebrews 12:5-6, which is a quotation from Proverbs 3:11-12, reads, “My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.” This is an extended concept of a father correcting his children. Proverbs 13:24 further reads, “He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes [promptly].” Love does not want an errant person or child to continue in a way that is not for their well-being (a way that may even mean their destruction or eternal damnation). To not take action, as Proverbs said, is equivalent to hating them. Sometimes rebuke is just what is needed to get a person’s attention, to shake them up a little, and to turn them around. Love will not stand idly by.

Expressed in Love

Rebuke, in more places than one, is enjoined in the New Testament (Luke 17:3; 2 Timothy 4:2; Titus 1:13; 2:15; etc.). But for rebuke to be an expression of love, it must be an expression of love, i.e., expressed in love. Along with love, other important ingredients are humility and meekness. Galatians 6:1 admonishes us, “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such a one in the spirit of meekness: considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.” (There is no room for self-righteousness. But different kinds of rebuke are appropriate under different kinds of circumstances involving different kinds of people). Consider Matthew 7:1-5. Add longsuffering, as we exercise humility and meekness (2 Timothy 4:2). With this combination, people will be more disposed to receive what we have to say as being an expression of love.
“Provoke Not Your Children”

To these thoughts, which included reference to human fathers, and, to their rebuke and love, we add the following. Here, too, for the rebuke to be an expression of love it should be expressed in love. The apostle Paul instructs, “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).
“Rebuke and Chasten”

Paul did not hesitate to rebuke and take corrective measures when this was needed in the churches (Read 1 and 2 Corinthians). Fathers and families should not hesitate to do this (Eli didn’t do this in the Old Testament—1 Samuel 3:11-14). Remember, the Lord said, “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent” (Revelation 3:19).
Concluding Statement

      This concludes our article on “Expressions of Love.” There is so much that could be and should be said, but we have been somewhat selective in highlighting the truths we have tried to bring out. Christianity is the ultimate expression of love. Consequently, every facet of a Christian’s life should be permeated with love. Let us live accordingly, ever keeping these wonderful truths before us, as we spread the gospel of Christ. Amen.