First Corinthians 13--Love is not arrogant
Jul 19, 2017
Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13:4 that “love is not arrogant.”
The word translated “arrogant" is physioo, from which we get our word physical. It is from physis, which means “nature.” Hence, physioo is “natural,” and its primary meaning is “to make natural, to cause a thing to pass into nature.”
A secondary meaning is “to inflate; to puff up,” in the sense of being proud or arrogant, because this is the soul’s “natural” behavior.
So Paul says that love is not natural in human behavior. Realize, of course, that he was speaking of agape, not phileo. Agape is divine love, the highest form of love in the Greek language, while phileo is brotherly love. The third type of love in the Greek is eros, which is more physical, as in physical attraction. The word eros is not found in the Bible, but Paul seems to be referencing it indirectly by contrasting agape with eros, telling us that agape is not physical in nature as is eros.
Hence, agape has a divine origin and comes through one’s spirit, rather than through the soul, which is “natural.” This takes us back to 1 Corinthians 2:12-16, where Paul contrasted the wisdom of men with the wisdom of God. We find now that there are also two types of love, one that originates in fallen nature and another that originates in God. One is of divine origin that comes through one’s spirit, while the other originates in one’s mortal soul.
Such natural love tends to be arrogant, or “puffed up” (KJV), because it has selfish elements to it. For instance, phileo love, or “brotherly love,” is an equal relationship, a 50/50 compromise. Brothers coexist by claiming half of the bedroom or half of the back seat of the car, and they will put up a fuss if the other infringes upon his “right of ownership.” Phileo is rooted in the law, which defines rights. Agape goes beyond the law to extend grace, and its concern is the welfare of the other, not its own welfare.
To claim rights is “natural.” To extend grace is supernatural. It is not always easy to recognize the origin of a person’s love. A fourth type of love (stergo) is a mother’s love for a child, and this most closely resembles agape. Paul uses this word twice in the negative sense (astorgos) when he speaks of those who are “without natural affection” (Romans 1:31 KJV; 2 Timothy 3:3 KJV).
John goes so far as to say in 1 John 4:7, 8,
7 … love [agape] is from God; and everyone who loves is begotten of God and knows God. 8 the one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.
In other words, this supernatural love is possible only when a person is begotten of God. It is the love of one’s inner New Creation Man that has no human father. Our natural man (or soulish man), which was begotten by our earthly father, is incapable of rising to the level of perfect agape love. The New Creation Man within every true believer, whether he identifies with him or not, has the same agape love that Jesus Christ did, for both men have the same heavenly Father.
The main difference is that Christ knew who He was, while most believers have not been taught the principles of Sonship. Hence, most believers try to reform the old man into acting like the new man. They ought to put the old man to death, regardless of how good he seems to be, and to live their lives according to the New Creation Man.
John was the primary apostle of love, and his first letter shows that agape is the foundational characteristic of the New Creation Man. Unfortunately, most people misinterpret John’s words to mean that when we believe in Christ, the old man’s nature is changed either suddenly or over a period of time. No, one can certainly alter the behavior of the old man and make it more loving, but its mortal nature remains unchanged. The solution is to identify with the new man and to receive a new identity (name) that is recognized in the divine court.
This is part 76 of a series titled "Studies in First Corinthians." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones