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But God demonstrates his love for us by the fact that Christ died for us while we were still sinners.Romans 5:8
Now that is more than your average love. This kind of love is not a natural human response. This is a kind of love that God demonstrates and then asks us to love like that by the power of His Holy Spirit. How do we describe this kind of love? It is hardly appropriate to apply the normal definitions we have for love to this kind of love.
Remember Bible Gem 128: There are four different Greek words that are translated into our one English word “love”:
- eros, which describes passionate love. We get the word erotic from this Greek word.
- storgeo, which is natural love. It was used for family love. Mostly it was used to denote the love between parents and children.
- phileo, which is brotherly love. One loves something in this way because he finds qualities which appeal to him and create a warm and personal fondness for that object.
- agape. “ This word describes a feeling of benevolence towards another person; it means that no matter what that person does to us we will never allow ourselves to desire anything but his highest good; and we will deliberately go out of our way to be good and kind to him” (William Barclay).
This is a supernatural kind of love. It is unnatural to us in our humanity. Christians are generally taught that ‘agape’ was a new word coined by the early Christians, as they did not want to use any of the existing Greek words for love because of their associations. Rather it’s an archaic word from the Septuagint (Grk trnsl of the OT) usage that was taken and reinvested with new meaning. John and Paul use this “new” word heavily. It is used to describe for us this new-commandment-type love. You have to agree that the kind of love God demonstrates in Christ is like nothing the world has seen before. We are then commanded to demonstrate this kind of love to the world, which will then know we are His followers by the love that we demonstrate.
Are you beginning to understand how much and how uniquely God loves you? Remember back to John 16:27 we are told by John that “the Father himself loves us”. Now Paul tells us just how much. Rest in His love and be assured that the word “agape” had to be coined and reinvested with new meaning just to describe the depth to which God loves you. Now allow me to add another dimension to all of this. Note Paul’s prayer related to love: I pray that you being rooted and grounded in God’s love may have the power to understand how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love is and that you may know that love that passes understanding. Eph 3:16-19
You are rooted and grounded in love. God’s love. That is your starting point because God first loved you, you didn’t start the process. Then Paul says from that point and prays that you may grow into knowing the dimensions of His love for you and from that point, realising that, you might come to know His love; intimately and experientially know it. May that be your experience as you ponder these verses and not only know a new definition of love but actually come to experience it intimately.
God loves to justify sinners, but he will never justify sin.Ian Vail
He loves. He pursues. He persists. And, every so often, a heart starts to soften. Let yours be one of them.Max Lucado