Living in God’s Love

KEY VERSE: “This is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that ye should love one another.” —I John 3:11

SELECTED SCRIPTURE: I John 3:1-5, 9-18

THE EPISTLES OF John were most likely written in the Greek language, as was all of the New Testament. The word ‘love’, which is the principal thought in this lesson’s Key Verse, has been translated from the Greek word ‘agape’. In the Greek, two words are found that have been translated into the English word ‘love’: ‘phileo’ and ‘agape’.

Phileo love is a love of emotion, and is associated with a love of family, being given out of a sense of duty, it is of a lesser value. Brotherly love is a translation of the Greek word, ‘philadelphia’, having a ‘phileo’ root. Agape love, which is a love based on principle, is of a higher form, and has a great deal more value. It expresses the standard toward which all Christians should strive. This is the kind of love expressed by the Apostle John in the Key Verse.

The Apostle Peter uses both of these Bible words in a single verse in one of his epistles, therefore making the distinction between them. He says: “Now that, through your obedience to the truth, you have prepared your souls by purification for sincere brotherly love [phileo root], you must love [agape] one another heartily and fervently.”—I Pet. 1:22, Weymouth Translation

There is a natural love that is possessed essentially by all mankind. Although it is an honorable quality of character, it may manifest itself, to some extent, by selfish tendencies. Those who seek to know God and to be led by his Spirit should endeavor to have their love deepened, enriched, and enlarged. As the Christian strives to grow in the graces of the Holy Spirit, and to be more like God, the characteristics of phileo love lose much of their selfish tendencies, becoming more and more agape love—more intense and generous. This is a good mark of growth in the Lord’s people. Agape love is identified by a self-sacrificing spirit, founded upon the principles of truth and righteousness. This kind of love is possessed by the Heavenly Father and our Lord Jesus, and must be the Christian’s ultimate goal.

Evidence of increased agape love in the child of God indicates that there has been progress in the thoughts and intentions of the heart. This is in full accord with the general testimony of the Scriptures which admonish that we are to grow in grace, knowledge, and love. This is the standard set forth for the Lord’s people, and all should make every effort to reach that standard of perfect agape love.

Speaking of the remarkable relationship and blessing awaiting those who give diligence to their Christian walk, the Apostle John says: “Behold, what manner of love [agape], the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God. … Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that when he shall appear, we shall be like him: for we shall see him as he is.” (I John 3:1,2) God’s love for his people is of the highest quality—agape—and those who respond to his providence enjoy the relationship as ‘sons of God’.

The faithful sons of God will share with our Lord in the promised spiritual kingdom, to assist in the teaching and uplifting of the world of mankind. At that time everyone will be given an opportunity to love God and their neighbor.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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