What is genuine love? Part 2
Jan 30, 2014
Luke continues with Jesus’ “sermon,” describing to us the love of God. Luke 6:35 says,
35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing [apelpizo, “no hope,” in medical language, having an incurable disease] in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind [chrestos] to ungrateful [acharistos] and evil men.
Jesus says that “the Most High” leads by example. The fact that we are to love our enemies is based upon the fact that God does the same. “He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men.”
Jesus says to expect nothing in return when you lend. When you set your hopes on getting back what you lent, it causes worry or even fear that your expectations may not be met. 1 John 4:18 says, “the one who fears is not perfected in love.” God Himself has no fear, for He knows the end from the beginning and therefore knows the outcome of every story and of history itself. His “outrageous love” is not practical or realistic to the carnal mind. Yet we know that all that He does manifests His character.
God does not have a dual character, one side loving and the other side judging. All of His judgments issue forth from His love, for “God is love” (1 John 4:8). This is why His judgments are corrective in nature. His judgments are “kind to ungrateful and evil men.” This is the love of God, as expressed in the life of Christ and in all who are Christ-like.
Jesus used the word chrestos to say that God is “kind” and acharistos to describe ungrateful men. The similarity of chrestos to the title Christos, or “Christ,” in this Greek play on words is unmistakable. It is likely that Jesus spoke in Aramaic and that Luke translated His words into Greek. Hence, we may attribute this play on words to Luke’s inspired mastery of Greek language and of Hebrew thought patterns. To be acharistos is to have no charis, “grace, gift of grace, thanks.” In other words, to be acharistos is to be “un-Christ-like.”
Matthew’s account words this instruction a little differently in Matthew 5:48,
48 Therefore you are to be perfect [teleios], as your heavenly Father is perfect.
The Greek word teleios means “brought to its end, finished, complete, mature.” Perfect love, then, is first devoid of fear and is the goal, for it is who God is and it was revealed and displayed in the life of Christ as the great divine example.
The Apostle Paul also describes the love of God in Romans 5:7, 8,
7 For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
This is how God shows kindness to “ungrateful and evil men.” He did not wait until they deserved such kindness. He took the initiative, even to the point of being willing to die for the ungodly. This is the example that shows us “perfect love.” It is our own goal in life, for this level of love will characterize all of us when we are truly Christ-like. Such love is seldom seen and hardly taught by religion.
Even Christian religion largely fails to understand the love of God, for they have attributed a dual personality to God. On the one hand, they acknowledge that God is love, but they juxtapose His love side with His holiness side. His holiness, they say, demands that God torture sinners forever if they do not accept the love of God.
In other words, God’s holiness limits the full expression of the love of God. Such “holiness” teaching does not balance the love of God, but actually limits it. Paul, however, goes on in Romans 5 to show the results of God’s perfect love, saying in Romans 5:18, 19,
18 So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men. 19 For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous.
This compares Adam’s act of sin to Christ’s act of righteousness. Even as Adam’s sin brought mortality (death) to all men, so also did Christ’s righteous act bring life to all men. Adam’s sinful act brought consequences to the entire creation “not willingly” (Romans 8:20) but by the Judge decreeing His own will in the divine court. So also did Christ’s righteous act result in a court decree declaring the law fully satisfied.
This result could not be achieved through the Old Covenant, by which men vowed to express their love for God by their obedience in order to obtain God’s blessing (salvation). Rather, it was achieved through the New Covenant, by which God Himself bound Himself by an oath to turn the hearts of all men, whether they were present or not in Deuteronomy 29:10-15. This prophesied of the New Covenant, for it was based fully upon God’s desire and ability to fulfill His oath.
The New Covenant, then, is the full demonstration of the love of God, as He shows His kindness to “ungrateful and evil men.” He did not wait for men to accept Him or for men to become perfected. Christ “died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6) as a first step in fulfilling His vow to bring them to perfection.
Therefore also, His judgments, based upon His holiness, are not from a separate part of His personality or character, but rather issue from His love itself. His judgments are designed to correct men through discipline, rather than to reject all who reject His love. His judgments prove His intent to fulfill His New Covenant oath. Because men are incapable of coming to God except as a response to His drawing, God has vowed to draw all men to Himself. John 12:32, 33 says,
32 “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.” 33 But He was saying this to indicate the kind of death by which He was to die.
Hence, if Jesus were to die on the cross as the Mediator of the New Covenant, He will succeed in drawing all men to Himself. His death and resurrection not only made the salvation of all men possible, it made it inevitable. 1 Timothy 4:10 thus says,
10 For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers.
The “special” salvation afforded to the believers is that they are brought to perfection first. There is more than one resurrection, as Revelation 20 indicates. Believers receive their reward much earlier than unbelievers. Nonetheless, in the end, the great law of Jubilee will apply to all those who have been sentenced by the law to pay their debt incurred by sin.
The fact of salvation was established by God’s oath, first to Abraham, then to Moses, David, the prophets, and finally by the righteous act of Jesus Christ which ratified and sealed God’s oath by His blood. The timing of salvation, however, as it works out in practical history, is another matter. First we note that each individual lives in his or her own generation. Secondly, not all are given opportunity to hear of Christ and the New Covenant during their life time. But most important, God’s vow, coupled with His holiness, demands that He should fulfill His oath.
To fulfill that oath requires God to overcome all resistance that is inherent in mortal men. The Old Covenant proved that men were incapable of doing this by the power of their own will, even though they made a solemn vow to do so (Exodus 19:8). The Old Covenant was meant to fail, in order that God might demonstrate His ability as a contrast to man’s inability.
God would never have taken such an oath, had it not been for His love. It is His love that motivated Him to take steps to save all that was lost through Adam’s sin. It is His holiness that drives Him to fulfill that oath, even if it means bringing judgment to correct the sinners.
Divine Judgment is not an admission of failure, but a means to success.
His love will be satisfied, because He has the ability to raise the dead and reveal Himself to all men at the Great White Throne, where every knee will bow and every tongue will confess Him as Lord to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:10, 11). In the great chapter on the sovereignty of God, Isaiah 45:23-25, God’s oath says,
23 I have sworn by Myself, the word has gone forth from My mouth in righteousness and will not turn back, that to Me every knee will bow, every tongue will swear allegiance. 24 They will say of Me, “Only in the Lord are righteousness and strength.” Men will come to Him, and all who were angry at Him shall be put to shame. 25 In the Lord all the offspring of Israel will be justified and will glory.
At the Great White Throne, when all men see His glory, they will all “swear allegiance” to Him, acknowledging the truth that “Only in the Lord are righteousness and strength.” This is not talking about the believers, but “all who were angry at Him.” These are the ones who will become believers. In the judgment of God’s “fiery law” (Deuteronomy 33:2, KJV), these will be placed under the authority of the believers, who will train them in the ways of God and the paths of righteousness, even as we read in Isaiah 26:9, “when the earth experiences Thy judgments, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness.”
Divine judgment, then, is a means to an end. Its goal is to teach righteousness and to make corrections where necessary. Divine judgment ensures the ultimate success of divine love.
This is part 2 of a mini-series titled "What is Genuine Love?." To view all parts, click the link below.
This is part 25 of a series titled "Studies in the Book of Luke." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones