We give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
praying always for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus
and the love which you have for all the saints; because of the
hope laid up for you in heaven...
As we saw in the previous post this section of Scripture talks about the object of the Colossians faith—Christ Jesus, the direction of their love—toward all the saints, and the place of their hope—which is in heaven. We see the purpose for Paul writing this epistle in 4:12 and 2:1-3, and it is so that the Colossians would stand fully assured in their faith. When working with someone to build up their confidence, their assurance, you start with commending them on what they are already doing well or right. We see Paul doing just that in these verses as he commends the Colossians on the exercise of their faith, love, and hope. In the last post we looked at the object of their faith, Christ Jesus, so today I want to talk about the direction of their love, which is toward all the saints; and as it was for the church at Colossae, it should be for the church today.
So as we consider the direction of their love and therefore the direction of our love in the church today we want to look at 4 things:
1. What is this love they have?
2. Where does this love originate?
3. Why is this love directed towards the saints?
4. How is this love manifested?
What is this love they have?
Well, the Greek word for love used here is agape. It is one of the four words the Greeks used for love. These four words for love are storge, eros, phileo, and agape. Storge means natural affection, like you would have for a pet, or the natural affection a parent has for their child. It is not used in the NT, except twice in its negative sense in Romans 1:31 and II Timothy 3:3 to describe how far man falls without God. Eros, is a passionate, sensual, physical love. It is a love based on infatuation and sensual attraction. It is often used to describe romantic love. This is the kind of love we see portrayed in movies, television programs, romance novels, and sung about in our music. Interestingly, it is never used in the Scriptures. Then there is phileo, brotherly love. Phileo is a warm and tender affection. It can be deep and intense. It is used to describe the love for those near and dear to one’s heart. It is a love that cherishes. It is a love that is reciprocal in nature and a love that is shared. It is used throughout the NT. Finally, there is agape, the predominant word used for love in the NT. Agape is a love of the will and the mind. It is a love of choice and commitment. It is not devoid of emotion, but overrules and overrides emotion. It acts in spite of how one feels. It is a selfless love, an unselfish love, a sacrificial love. It is not motivated by the self, but by others. It loves even if the person who is the object of the love is undeserving, unworthy, and unloving in return. It puts what is best for the other person first and foremost. It is a love that compels one to action. In the NT it is used to describe the love of God, the love of Christ, and how we are to love. This type of love was thought unattainable by the Greeks and is only used in secular Greek writings two or three times. So what we see in the Scriptures in not “being in love” but the act of loving.
Where does this love originate?
As you can see the Greeks were right in thinking this type of love (agape) was unattainable, from a human perspective. The heights this love operates in are unassailable for us mere mortals. So where do we go to find this love, where are the headwaters of this love? Let's look at I John 4:7-8 and 16. As we see in these verses, God is love, and the word used for love here is agape. Note that it does not say that God has love, or that God is a loving being, but that God is love. By saying that God is love John is saying that love is intrinsic to who God is, it is part of His nature and is inseparable from who He is; and, therefore, inseparable from His actions. It is as much a part of Him as your eye color is of you. This love that is part and parcel of who God is, is agape. God is agape. This love of the will, of choice and commitment, this love that compels to action, this love that is selfless, unselfish, and sacrificial, this love that loves despite the unloveliness of the object loved, that loves despite its unworthiness, and that loves in spite of its hatefulness in return. This is a love that comes from a predetermined state of mind that exists because it is part of core of God's being, this is the love that God is. This is the love that is described in I Corinthians 13 as patient, kind, never jealous, never bragging, is never arrogant, never acts unbecomingly, is never self seeking, is not provoked, never takes into account a wrong suffered, it bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things, and it never fails.
This is the love that we are to direct toward all the saints, so how do we get this love? Let’s look again at
I John 4:7. We are to love (agape) one another, for love (agape) is from God and everyone who loves (agape) is born of God and knows God. So we see that agape is from God and only those that are born of God (born again) and know God have this kind of love. So this love, this agape, is not something that an unregenerate person, an unsaved person, or someone whom the Bible calls the natural man possesses. This love (agape) is unique to the believer. Now let’s look at Romans 5:5. Here we see that the love of God (not just any love, but God’s love, agape) has been poured out within our heart through His Holy Spirit who was given to us. Poured out is in the perfect tense here, which means that it is a completed event with continuing results or effects. So we see that God has given us His love, His agape, in our heart through His Holy Spirit who indwells us; and we received this love, all of this love, the minute the Holy Spirit came and took up residence in our heart, and this love never goes away. Now look at Ephesians 3:17. This verse tells us that we are rooted and grounded in this love, this agape. What a beautiful picture these words paint of our secure position in and reservoir of, the love, the agape of God. We are fixed into and draw from the infinite love (agape) of God. This is where this love we are to have for all the saints originates and how we have come to possess it.
Next post we will look at why this love is directed at the saints, and how it is manifested.