Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Holiness and Love

At first glance these two Christian attributes would not seem to be closely related. In fact, one might be inclined to ask the question, "What does holiness have to do with love?" or vice versa. A proper response would be, "More than you think."

Matthew 22:34-40 gives us some insight into their connection. When asked by a lawyer which is the great commandment in the law, Jesus replied by quoting Deuteronomy 6:5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your mind, and called this the great and foremost commandment, as well it should be. Then He goes on to add something to it, the second greatest commandment. He said this commandment was like the first one and it was, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." which is from Leviticus 19:18, but He did not stop there. He then went on to explain why these two commandments are the two greatest in the Scriptures, because upon them depend the whole Law and the Prophets. The Greek word for depend is kremmanumi, and means to hang or suspend, much like a door hangs or is suspended by its hinge. So as a hinge supports the door and allows it to operate properly, so these two commandments support the Scriptures.

The key concept that binds these two commandments together is love, love of God and love of neighbor. We know that the Decalogue's (Ten Commandments) first four commandments deal with our attitude toward and treatment of God, and the last six deal with our attitude toward and treatment of our neighbor, but the principles put forward here also permeate and undergird the rest of the Scriptures. So, in these commandments we see the essence of loving God and loving our neighbor. Paul gives us additional insight and commentary on these verses in Romans 13:10 where he says, "therefore love is the fulfillment of the law."

In talking to His disciples Christ gives us another commandment concerning love. Listen to John 13:34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another (refering to the brethren), even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. So now we have three commandments concerning our love. One is to love God with all our heart, mind, and soul, two is to love our neighbor as ourself, and three is to love one another (the brethren, fellow Christians) as Christ loved us. In these three commandments we are not only told who to love, but how to love and the extent to which we are to love. We are to love God with all of our being, with the totality of our person, with all that we are. We are to love our neighbor in the same way we love ourself; and therefore treat our neighbor the same way we would we would treat ourselves by giving him the same care and concern we would give ourselves. Finally, we are to love the brethren with the same love as Christ has loved us. We are to walk in love as Christ Jesus loved us and gave Himself up for us, as an offering and a sacrifice to God, for there is no greater love than this, that a man should lay down his life for his friends.

When we are loving God, our neighbor, and each other in this manner then we are fulfilling the Law. The Law is God's standard for righteousness, His measure for holiness. Therefore, when we love as we are supposed to love, we are fulfilling the Law, we are being righteous. So then love is the key to holiness. Understanding this helps us have a more complete understanding of some of Paul's exhortations.

Romans 5:5...the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

I Timothy 1:5 But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart...

I Corinthians 16:14 Let all that you do be done in love.

I Corinthians 14:1 Pursue love....

Ephesians 5:2 and walk in love...

Philippians 1:9 And this I pray that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment.

I Thessalonians 4:9-10 Now as to the love of the brethren.....excel still more.

II Thessalonians 1:3 We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brethern, as is only fitting, because your faith is greatly enlarged, and the love of each one of you toward one another grows ever greater.

II Corinthians 4:14-15 For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.

And it explains this verse.

I Corinthians 13:13 But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.

So if you want to live a holy life, you must love. If you want to grow in holiness, you must grow in love, you must love more and better, you must excel still more in love, you must pursue love, love must control you to the point that all that you do is done in love; and then all that you do will be holy...just like the Holy One who called you.

How do you love like this? Well, of course, the answer is in the Scriptures and starts with Romans 5:5. We will cover that in the next post.