Jesus and Peter – Two Kinds of Love

Jesus & PeterIs all love felt by humans the same as the love of God? The Greeks had five different words that were translated “love.” They are:

Eros – This is an animal level of love from where we get the word erotic.

Philantropia – human kindness from where we get the word philanthropy.

Storge – means “affection” in ancient and modern Greek. It is natural affection, like that felt by parents for offspring.

Phileo –  brotherly love, simular to storge.

Agapao – used in the New Testament to describe God’s affections toward mankind.

W. E. Vines Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words states:

<A-1,Verb,25,agapao>

and the corresponding noun agape (B, No. 1 below) present “the characteristic word of Christianity, and since the Spirit of revelation has used it to express ideas previously unknown, inquiry into its use, whether in Greek literature or in the Septuagint, throws but little light upon its distinctive meaning in the NT. Cp., however, Lev_19:18; Deu_6:5.

“Agape and agapao are used in the NT (a) to describe the attitude of God toward His Son, Joh_17:26; the human race, generally, Joh_3:16; Rom_5:8; and to such as believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, particularly, Joh_14:21; (b) to convey His will to His children concerning their attitude one toward another, Joh_13:34, and toward all men, 1Th_3:12; 1Co_16:14; 2Pe_1:7; (c) to express the essential nature of God, 1Jo_4:8.

“Love can be known only from the actions it prompts. God’s love is seen in the gift of His Son, 1Jo_4:9-10. But obviously this is not the love of complacency, or affection, that is, it was not drawn out by any excellency in its objects, Rom_5:8. It was an exercise of the Divine will in deliberate choice, made without assignable cause save that which lies in the nature of God Himself, Cp. Deu_7:7-8.

“Love had its perfect expression among men in the Lord Jesus Christ, 2Co_5:14; Eph_2:4; Eph_3:19; Eph_5:2; Christian love is the fruit of His Spirit in the Christian, Gal_5:22.

“Christian love has God for its primary object, and expresses itself first of all in implicit obedience to His commandments, Joh_14:15, Joh_14:21, Joh_14:23; Joh_15:10; 1Jo_2:5; 1Jo_5:3; 2Jo_1:6. Self-will, that is, self-pleasing, is the negation of love to God.

“Christian love, whether exercised toward the brethren, or toward men generally, is not an impulse from the feelings, it does not always run with the natural inclinations, nor does it spend itself only upon those for whom some affinity is discovered. Love seeks the welfare of all, Rom_15:2, and works no ill to any, 13:8-10; love seeks opportunity to do good to ‘all men, and especially toward them that are of the household of the faith,’ Gal_6:10. See further 1 Cor. 13 and Col_3:12-14.” * [* From Notes on Thessalonians, by Hogg and Vine, p. 105.]

In respect of agapao as used of God, it expresses the deep and constant “love” and interest of a perfect Being towards entirely unworthy objects, producing and fostering a reverential “love” in them towards the Giver, and a practical “love” towards those who are partakers of the same, and a desire to help others to seek the Giver. See BELOVED.

Phileo and Agapeo are used often in the New Testament and it is these two that I hope to make a distinction about and maybe clear up some confusion as to what God desires in His saints. Here is something that George Davis and I wrote on this subject.

There is an exchange between Jesus and His disciple Peter that is very telling if we take the time to consider how it applies to us as His disciples. Jesus was very demanding with Peter. He would not let him get by with just a half answer. Have you ever had the Lord ask you the same thing three times? Believe me, it gets your attention when He does and you should also be grieved as Peter was.

So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love [agapao] Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love [phileo] You.” He said to him, “Feed My lambs.”

He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love [agapao] Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love [phileo] You.” He said to him, “Tend My sheep.”

He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love [phileo] Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love [phileo] You.” Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep.

“Most assuredly, I say to you, when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish.”

This He spoke, signifying by what death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, “Follow Me.” (John 21:15-19, NKJV).

Jesus agapao(ed) Peter, but Peter could only phileo Jesus. Agapao was not there in his heart. I think it did come later, though, after he was filled with the Spirit at Pentecost. It is as if Jesus was asking Peter three times, “Do you agapao love me, Peter? I agapao you! Are you willing to deny all of your self-interests and love Me more than these… your boat, your nets, even this great catch you just received? Peter, phileo love is not enough to be a true shepherd of My sheep. You said you would never deny me, but I am asking you to deny yourself! You must tend My sheep with agapao love as I have love you. Your life is no longer your own. You can no longer dress yourself in what you like and step out and strut your stuff in the power of your old nature. You must be so bound by My love that you cannot help but lay down your life for my flock and love them like I do. Brotherly love is not enough. It will fail you in this work. You must agapao Me and my flock and become a slave of them all, not seeking ever again your own self interests. You must die, Peter. Your old man will not make the grade in what I am binding you to and where I am leading you.”

Yes, Simon did eventually lay down his life for his friend Jesus. Tradition has it that when he was older he was indeed bound and taken where he had formerly been unable to go. Tradition has it that after years of embracing the cross in his heart, it came to pass on that faithful day in Rome that Peter hung upside down on a literal cross for the love of his friend Jesus, asking to be crucified downward because he reasoned that he was not worthy to die in the same manner as had his Lord and Friend. So it is with the utmost respect that we now call him Peter. What devotion! What greater love is there than this? Was Peter a stone? Undoubtedly! Was He the Rock? No! But he looked an awful lot like Him. We see in that name Peter the process by which God aligns lively stones to the Cornerstone. Jesus builds His church with such stones.

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God Is Love… But Is Love, God?

Zoo Fellowship“What the world needs now is love, sweet love. That is one thing that there is just too little of…” went the words to a sixties hit song. I know I can use all the love I can get. But what is the nature of real love? So many in the world offer their love today in order to get something back. There are many an unwed mother who can attest to that. None of us want to be used, when all we want is to be loved.

Apostle Paul wrote about the nature of REAL love, the love of God in 1 Corinthians 13 and many of us can recited it by heart. It is often even read at weddings. Here he is talking about love unfeigned and without hypocrisy… unselfish love that only God can give. God so loved the world that He GAVE. That is what love does, it gives and gives and gives even when it gets nothing in return.

But what did God’s love give to the world? He sent His love in the form of His only Son, knowing full well that most of the world’s population would not receive Him or His love. We who are humans are such a sad lot and without Christ we are only waxing worse in our selfish and hateful ways. The good news is that if we will but yield to the love of God in His Son, we can be changed. We can be given a NEW heart that is filled with His love as well and be found to be instruments of that love to the world through Christ who lives within us.

But is love, God? Is love to be something separate from God and to become a god in His place? I think you know the answer. Yet, many well meaning people so elevate love that you hardly hear about the instrument of His love for the world, Jesus Christ. You cannot have real love without abiding IN the Son of God. In the economy of God, apart from Him we can do nothing. Our love without Christ in us is nothing and at best self seeking.

T. Austin-Sparks in his book, “The Great Transition from One Humanity to Another” wrote,

… here we come back again to the place of the Holy Spirit in the Letters to the Corinthians, especially the First Letter. As we look through the letter, what is the full, ultimate, supreme function of the Holy Spirit?—“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, …though I give all my goods to the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not love, I have nothing.” The supreme work of the Holy Spirit is the Character of Jesus Christ, not love as a thing. You can put on love as a thing. You can put that on, and it can be a pretension, a way of behaving and speaking. Beloved, people can come and put their hand on your shoulder and be treacherous behind your back by pointing out your faults to someone else. It must be “unfeigned love” the apostle says. “Unfeigned, unhypocritical, love of the brethren”: it is the Spirit of Jesus Christ.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. (Joh 3:16-17 KJ2000)

“Lord Jesus, open our hearts completely to you and your love. Amen”

Where Is the Love?

Archie BunkerIt seems that most of us have had less than perfect fathers and as a result dysfunctional families that gave us our definition of what words like father, brother, sister, mother and family mean.
In 1970 after spending the first 25 years of my life in churches and with an alcoholic father in a dysfunctional family, I had still not seen a group of people that really loved one another… one that functioned in the love of God for its members. Then God heard my heart’s cry. He put me in touch with some young Jesus people and the gospel for them was all about the love of Jesus and they lived it. I soon could not live without being around them and I became a member of their family and ministry.

I didn’t know that that kind of love was possible and that Jesus had anything like that for me! After all, I never saw it working in the churches, neither Protestant or Catholic and in my mind that reflected directly on God whom they represented. You filed in on Sunday, got lectured by the “father figure” and then were shown the door. You were “loved” as long as you didn’t ask any hard questions or make any waves. It fit my “family” expectations.

All that said, I have been thinking a lot along this line, lately. If the saints of God can’t show what it means to be ONE in Christ and love one another as the family of God, whose fault is it that people cannot feel the love of God? Is it the fault of the broken and unloved in this world and the church? Are we not Christ’s body here on earth? Are we not His face and hands who live to manifest His heart for this sick world?

Just before He was crucified Jesus prayed,

“And the glory which you gave me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and you in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and THAT THE WORLD MAY KNOW THAT YOU HAVE SENT ME, AND HAVE LOVED THEM, AS YOU HAVE LOVED ME.” (Joh 17:22-23 KJ2000).

What will we say as members of His body if we neglect so great a salvation?

“Dear children, how brief are these moments before I must go away and leave you… So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” (Joh 13:33-35 NLT)

If the body of Christ is functioning as it should people will know that they are loved by Him.

From our Fig Tree to The Vine

Nathanial_undr_fig_tree

Philip found Nathanael, and said unto him, We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph. And Nathanael said unto him, Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? Philip said unto him, Come and see. Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and said of him, Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile! Nathanael said unto him, Where do you know me? Jesus answered and said unto him, Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you. Nathanael answered and said unto him, Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel. Jesus answered and said unto him, Because I said unto you, I saw you under the fig tree, do you believe? You shall see greater things than these. And he said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Hereafter you shall see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man. (John 1:45-51)

The story of the calling of Nathanael as a disciple by Jesus is filled with meaning if you are familiar with the story of Jacob. Nathanael was told by his friend Philip that Jesus was from Nazareth, and was the son of Joseph and was believed to be the promised Messiah. Nathanael was not impressed, and being familiar with the law and prophets, he knew the Messiah was to come out of Bethlehem, not Nazareth. Thus he replied to Philip, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” Philip answered Nathanael’s objection by saying, “Come and see.”

We know from the words of Jesus that the fig tree is a symbol of Israel (see Luke 13:5-9 and Mark 11:13-21).  Like the Jewish leaders who ruled over the temple, Nathanael was blind in his knowledge of the law and the prophets. Tradition had narrowed their understanding of what was recorded concerning the words of God. Nathanael was “under the Fig Tree,” the traditions of the teachers of the law and could not receive Jesus as Messiah because He was from Galilee, although He was born in Bethlehem and fulfilled the very prophecy they used to reject Him (see Matthew 2:1-6, Micah 5:2 and John 7:42). Because of the persecution of Harod the king that came upon Bethlehem, Jesus’ parents moved Him to Nazareth where He grew up from His infancy as a carpenters son.

Israel was the name that God gave Jacob after he was broken by twenty years of trials under his father-in-law Laban. While returning to his homeland, he had a divine encounter with God which finished the breaking process at the river Jabbok. God blessed him as only God could. He touched him in his thigh and made him a cripple the rest of his life. Jacob–a Hebrew name meaning a supplanter— had been a conniver and a cheat all his life, but after this encounter with God he was so weakened that he was a changed man who put his trust in God and no longer in himself. God renamed him Israel, in Hebrew meaning “a prince with God.” Oh, that we who name Christ would all receive such a touch from God.

From then on, God identified Himself as “the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” But as time went on, their descendants lost their divine connection with Him and they broke the covenant He made with them through Abraham and Moses as His own special people (see Jer. 11:10 and Lev. 15-17). Israel became blind to the promises of God and the meaning of the scriptures that pointed to His Son.  These scriptures were given so they would recognize Him when He came, but they were blinded by their own self-righteousness and threatened by the authority of the Father that abode in His Son. To Jesus called these Jewish leaders blind guides. To them He said, “You search the scriptures and in them you think you will find life. It is they that speak of me, but you will not come to me that you might have life.” His final words to them were, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you that kill the prophets, and stone them which are sent unto you, how often would I have gathered your children together, even as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings, and you would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. For I say unto you, you shall not see me again, till you shall say, Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” (Mat 23:37-39)

How many of us who spend our lives studying the Bible, blindly sit under the fig tree of tradition instead of having eyes that can see Jesus for who He really is? God’s call to us is the same as it was to Nathanael, “Come and see.” How many of us settle for the “light” of Bible teachers who are blind guides instead of a divine encounter with Jesus who makes blind eyes see?

And Jesus said, For judgment I am come into this world, that they who see not might see; and that they who see might be made blind. And some of the Pharisees who were with him heard these words, and said unto him, Are we blind also? Jesus said unto them, If you were blind, you should have no sin: but now you say, We see; therefore your sin remains. (John 9:39-41)

Christ has had to spend many years in my life un-teaching me. He has had to strip me of the traditions of men about the Bible and Jesus that I sat under so He could open my eyes to see the truth that is only found IN Him. The problem is that we go at learning scriptures like we do about every other curriculum of learning… a compilation of teachings about things instead of a love letter from God pointing only to Jesus. We learn about eschatology, hermeneutics, oratory, sacramentalism, the rapture, church government, how to do church, etc. instead of learning Christ.

The scribes (the Bible scholars of that day) and Pharisees (the law keepers and enforcers) were filled with guile. Jesus called them a “brood of vipers” and said they were of their father the devil, who was a liar and a murder from the beginning. But Jesus saw Nathanael as an Israelite in whom there was no guile. In effect Jesus was saying to him, “Before Philip called you, you were under the fig tree, but now you are called to Me, Nathanael.”  To this Nathanael answered, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.” What a response to a simple statement that Jesus made to him–a statement that exposed everything about Nathanael in a moment. The Jews all knew that Messiah was to come and be the new King of Israel, but how many knew that He was the Son of God? When Peter got this same revelation, Jesus told him it came from the Father. Upon his first encounter with the living Christ, Nathanael received divine revelation.  He saw the Life of the Father in the Son and received divine Light. Of Jesus John said, “In Him was life and the life was the light of men.”

Because I said unto you, I saw you under the fig tree, do you believe? You shall see greater things than these. And he said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Hereafter you shall see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man. (Joh 1:50-51)

Here again Jesus refers to Jacob (Israel) and his divine encounter with the living Christ. Jacob had a dream of the angels ascending and descending a ladder into the heavens and called that place Bethel, the house of God. Jesus is that ladder that extends from the earth to heaven. He is the one Mediator between God and man. Angels are only messengers. In fact the Greek word angelos is often translated “messenger” in the New Testament. A mediator is one who carries messages from and to two conflicting parties. God’s messengers, the prophets and priests in the Old Covenant ascended and descended with the words of God for man and from man to God. They saw an open heaven. Nathanael was told by Jesus that he would see an open heaven and that Jesus would be that ladder on whom the messages of God would come.

Nevertheless when it [Israel] shall turn to the Lord, the vail shall be taken away. Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord [is], there [is] liberty. But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, [even] as by the Spirit of the Lord. (2Co 3:16-18)

The blessing of the New Covenant is that as we truly turn to the Lord we may all with open face behold the Lord. There is no longer a privileged few who can behold Him. All who believe are given the unction of the Holy Spirit by which we can communicate with and learn from God (see 1 John 2:26-27). Jesus promised before he was crucified that He would not leave us alone after He died, but would come to us again in the form of the Holy Spirit. He added that this same Spirit would lead us into all truth. We who have been given the Spirit of Christ when we first believed in and into Him, all have the Spirit of Christ and revelation abiding in us. Is it ours to do with whatever we will? No. It is only ours as we abide in Christ and it is He who directs the Spirit in us to do as He wills. We just abide in Jesus and He brings forth the fruit of the Spirit and revelation according to His will. Of Jesus the prophet said, “I have come to do thy will, oh Lord.” If we abide in Christ our wills are crucified with Him and we are given the Spirit to do HIS will alone.

And Judah and Israel dwelt safely, every man under his vine and under his fig tree, from Dan even to Beer-sheba, all the days of Solomon. (1Ki 4:25)

The healthy fig tree and grape vine were signs of safety and prosperity in the Old Testament. And when they turned from God the opposite was true.

For a nation has come up upon my land, strong, and without number, whose teeth are the teeth of a lion, and he has the fangs of a lioness. He has laid my vine waste, and splintered my fig tree: he has stripped it bare, and cast it away; its branches are made white. Lament like a virgin girded with sackcloth for the husband of her youth. The grain offering and the drink offering is cut off from the house of the LORD; the priests, the LORD’S ministers, mourn. (Joe 1:6-9)

Jesus taught His disciples that He is the True Vine and that we who believe are its branches and that as we abide IN Him we would produce good fruit (see John 15). Israel, the fig tree, was splintered and stripped bare and cast away because they rejected Jesus as their Messiah. They refused to come to Him that they might have life. Will we who go by the name of Christ, “Christians,” suffer the same fate? Jesus said, “When the Son of Man returns, shall he find faith on the earth?” We must abide IN Him, not just read about Him in the Bible and talk about Him at church. Our whole life must be HIS life. Our light must be HIS light. Every branch of the Vine that does not have its whole life flowing to and through it from the Vine will wither and be cast out into the fire. Jesus said, “Apart from me you can do nothing.” Apart from Him we can know no Light and have no Life. For too long the church has tried to live by its own light and life. What makes us think that our fig tree won’t fall under the same judgment that the fig tree of Israel did? A severe warning is given to us all in the following story about Jesus and a fig tree.

And seeing a fig tree afar off  having leaves, he came, if perhaps he might find anything thereon: and when he came to it, he found nothing but leaves; for the time of figs was not yet. And Jesus answered and said unto it, No man eat fruit of you hereafter forever. And his disciples heard it… And in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots. And Peter calling to remembrance said unto him, Teacher, behold, the fig tree which you cursed is withered away. And Jesus answering said unto them, Have faith in God. (Mar 11:13-22)

Today we put our faith in unending church programs generated by men which we hope God will bless, various teachings of  men and even our own “righteousness.” But where and what is the fruit that He longs for? Jesus said, “Every plant that my Father has not planted will be rooted up.” When it comes to our fruit, the only fruit He promised that the Father wants to see is that fruit that comes from abiding in His Son, Jesus the Vine.

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can you, except you abide in me. (Joh 15:4)

Come unto me, all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and you shall find rest unto your souls.  (Mat 11:28-29)