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Sun, May 23, 1999

50 - Defining Biblical Love

Galatians 5:14 by Robert Dean
Series:Galatians (1998)
Duration:1 hr 0 mins 14 secs

Defining Biblical Love
Galatians 5:14

 

Galatians 5:14 NASB "For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the {statement,} 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.'"

 

When we come to this particular verse it starts off with a reminder, expressed here in the clause that starts off in the Greek with the word gar [gar]. Whenever we see this word we immediately know that we are getting an explanation of something that precedes. What exactly is the apostle Paul explaining? He has just made a rather harsh, sarcastic statement in verse 12: "I wish that those who are troubling you would even mutilate themselves." Paul is very strong in his rejection of the teaching of these people; it is not helpful at all. Our society today brings to these questions like love and care a whole series of assumptions and presuppositions. If defines love in terms of emotion and sentimentality. The result of psychology in the last 100 years has been to change our focus from the objective external to the subjective internal, and what we focus more and more on is what is going on inside of a person, getting in touch with our emotions, letting our emotions out, expressing our emotions, and all of this kind of subjectivity which just emphasizes a lot of instability. Emotions are inherently unstable and they shift with the circumstances so that when things are going well we respond one way but as soon as things change we react the other way.

 

When we read something like this we can be absolutely appalled at the apostle Paul, but the problem is we don't understand love. We define it in terms of emotion and sentimentality, in terms of Hollywood movie concepts of romantic love, but we don't stop and listen to the Word of God teach us and tell us what love is really all about. There are so many things that the Scriptures teach about love and it runs counter to everything in our sin nature. But what we see here is Paul's great love for the Galatians because he is insistent that they operate on the truth and not upon a lie. That, of course, presupposes an absolute view of truth. Paul realizes that the lie of the Judaizers not only will not save them, and thus if they are not believers in the Galatian congregation, then their soul is in danger of eternal condemnation. What can be more loving than to want to discipline and remove and be harsh against those who were teaching something that leads people to eternal condemnation. So the object of Paul's love is those in the congregation and their need for truth, and anyone who comes along to confuse, distort, distract and deceive on the basis of false doctrine is dangerous and life-threatening. Paul recognizes the fact that the Galatians are being deceived and not only is their eternal destiny perhaps in danger in terms of the lake of fire or heaven but the quality of their life in terms of their spiritual life because the Judaizers were teaching a legalistic method of spiritual life based upon morality and upon the external observance of the Mosaic law. He recognizes that if you have absolutes then anything that distracts from those absolutes leads to a dangerous and life-threatening scenario, both in time and in eternity. Thus the true love is exhibited by disciplining and castigating those who are teaching the lie.

 

From this we see that love must be based on absolute values which in turn must be based on absolute virtue. There is no absolute virtue in the human realm and human experience because every human being is tainted by sin and the sin nature, so the only place that we have absolute virtue is in the character and essence of God because God is absolute righteousness, and that is the source of all virtue for love to have any value. If love is going to have value in any human relationship and not be subservient to the shifting winds of circumstances then love must be based on an absolute virtue that is grounded in the character of God. 

 

Mankind lacks absolute virtue and in order for him to have any kind of enduring love he must have an absolute foundation for that love. So we learn from this that true love is going to begin with personal love for God the Father. For there to be any true love with any virtue and any significance, with absolute virtue at its core, then it must begin with personal love for God the Father. Personal love for God the Father is generated from doctrine. You cannot love someone you do not know. Love is a result of knowledge. True love for God begins by learning doctrine, it doesn't just happen. From this we learn that only when God is the model and the motive for love can we fulfill the mandate to love other believers. Because of Paul's person al love for God the Father and because of his orientation to doctrine and love for the truth he is able to exhibit impersonal love towards the Galatian believers and toward the Judaizers, and in the process he castigates and reproves the Judaizers, and warns the Galatians not to fall into their false legalistic teachings.

 

The doctrine of personal love for God the Father

 

1.  Personal love for God the Father is one of the ten stress-busters that we have been studying that God has provided for handling the outside pressure of adversity. Adversity and testing are the two realms of testing that we face in the spiritual life.

2.  These stress-busters are related to our development in the spiritual life. They are a fortress that God has provided to strengthen our soul and to defend our soul against the outside pressure of adversity.

3.  The love triplex develops simultaneously. If we advance in personal love for God the Father it has its impact in our ability to exhibit impersonal love an unconditional love for all mankind and to focus on Jesus Christ in occupation with Christ.

4.  When Jesus summarized the entire law He did it in terms of love. Matthew 22:35-37 NASB "One of them, a lawyer, asked Him {a question,} testing Him, 'Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?' And He said to him, 'YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.'" This is a quote from Deuteronomy 6:5. The principle here is that we have to make God the highest priority in our life. This happens dynamically as we learn to recover fellowship through confession of sin, and we have the filling of the Holy Spirit and through the faith-rest drill and grace orientation. Through the faith-rest drill we learn the promises of God, the provisions of God, and begin to mix things with the promises of God. We apply those in the midst of testing and adversity, and under grace orientation we begin to learn all that God has freely provided us—that we don't have to earn it or deserve it, we don't have to gain God's blessing or barter with God for His blessing. Grace orientation means that God has given us everything at the moment of salvation. Our responsibility is to begin aligning our thinking with Bible doctrine—doctrinal orientation. As we align ourselves with doctrinal orientation under the filling of God the Holy Spirit, and we begin by using the faith-rest drill and begin to appreciate God's grace, we begin to grow and advance spiritually. It takes time. As we do this we begin to learn about God, about what he has done for us, and we begin to develop appreciation for who God is and what he has done. Jesus went on to say: Matthew 22:39 NASB "The second is like it, 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.'" The word there for neighbor is the word plesion [plhsion] which is a word which means anyone who comes into your sphere of life. [40] "On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets."

5.  How do we love the Lord? How do we measure our love for God the Father? The Bible's criterion: Deuteronomy 11:1 NASB "You shall therefore love the LORD your God, and always keep His charge, His statutes, His ordinances, and His commandments." The love for the Lord is related there to obedience to divine mandates. [13] "It shall come about, if you listen obediently to my commandments which I am commanding you today, to love the LORD your God and to serve Him with all your heart and all your soul." Again, it is related to priorities, obedience, mandates, and to serving God. [22] "For if you are careful to keep all this commandment which I am commanding you to do, to love the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and hold fast to Him"—exclusivity, passion, intensity for God is part of loving the Lord and obedience to His mandates. This includes rejecting false doctrine, which implies that you know doctrine well enough to be able to spot and reject false doctrine. That means we have to spend much time in Bible class learning what the Bible teaches so that we can spot the errors. Deuteronomy 13:3 NASB "you shall not listen to the words of that [false] prophet or that dreamer of dreams; for the LORD your God is testing you to find out if you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul." Deuteronomy 19:9 NASB "if you carefully observe all this commandment which I command you today, to love the LORD your God, and to walk in His ways always…" [30:6] "Moreover the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, so that you may live… [16] in that I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in His ways and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His judgments, that you may live and multiply, and that the LORD your God may bless you in the land where you are entering to possess it." Joshua 23:11 NASB "So take diligent heed to yourselves to love the LORD your God." Psalm 31:23 NASB "O love the LORD, all you His godly ones! The LORD preserves the faithful And fully recompenses the proud [arrogant (divine discipline)] doer." So we see here that loving the Lord is exemplified by the degree of obedience in a person's life to the mandates and protocols of Scripture. On the other hand those who are arrogant and are not applying the Word are going to be recipients of divine discipline. This is why grace orientation, which includes humility and teachability (orientation to the authority of God) is foundational and precedes personal love for God the Father. You cannot love God the Father unless you have a certain level of humility and teachability which comes from grace orientation. When we get into the New Testament Jesus reaffirms these same principles. He relates obedience to love. John 14:15 NASB "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments…. [21] He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him." If we want to know if we have personal love for God the Father it is reflected in our degree of application of doctrine—making doctrine the highest priority of our life and then applying it.

6.  The point that Jesus is making in reiterating the Old Testament passage is that the highest priority for the believer is personal love for God the Father. It is derived first by learning doctrine and is at its essence an activity of the cognitive function of the mentality of the soul that works itself out in terms of obedience to divine mandates.

7.  Relationship with God takes priority over relationship with men. Relationship with God affects our relationship with others. We do not adjust our relationship with people first so that we can think that because we get along well with others we have a good relationship with God. The Bible does not say that fellowship is social interaction with other believers. In fact, when we do have fellowship, spoken of in terms of human fellowship, the center point of that social interaction is doctrine and Christ. So that what we are doing right now (studying in Bible class) is the height of the biblical concept of Christian fellowship—we are studying the Word of God and are focused on that. Acts 2:42 NASB "They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer." This was their priority, it was continuous. Everything in their lives was controlled by this priority. The first thing listed is doctrine" "the apostles' teaching." "… and to fellowship"—there are only two things listed in this verse: doctrine and fellowship. The breaking of bread, which is a reference to the Lord's table, and prayer is a phrase that is appositional to fellowship. It means that the focus of the thrust of the appositional phrase is to explain something. So fellowship is defined in terms of a) the Lord's table, and b) prayer. Fellowship in this passage is talking about fellowship with God. They continually devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship with God as expressed through the Lord's table and prayer. This was the priority of their life—learning doctrine and fellowship with God, not fellowship with man. So relationship with God comes first and that has its effect on relationship with people. The issue is first and foremost our relationship with God. Get that straight and then other relationships will begin to fall in line.

8.  Personal love for God is the motivation and provides the only virtue and integrity for unconditional love to function. Personal love for God motivates impersonal love for all mankind.

9.  Matthew 22:39 NASB "The second is like it, 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.'" That is the passage that we have in Galatians 5:14 NASB "For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the {statement,} "YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF." This is a quote from Leviticus 19:18 and is one of the most quoted Old Testament passages in the New Testament: Matthew 19:19; 22:39; Mark 12:31; Luke 10:27; Romans 13:9; Galatians 5:14; James 2:8. James renames this "the royal law," which is the unique title in the New Testament. He calls it the royal law because it is exemplified by our Lord Jesus Christ who is the King of kings and Lord of lords, and He exemplified it in His incarnation and His crucifixion when He went to the cross to die as the substitute for our sins. That exemplified love for an enemy. Secondly, it is called the royal law because it is the unique calling card for a member of the royal family of God. John 13:34, 35 NASB "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."