One of the most corrupted terms in the English language is the word “love.” It is perhaps the most misused and misunderstood word in the English language today.
And why should we not expect that?
After all, it is, in its purest, original, unadulterated form, the word which sums up the perfect character of the great God, Father of all mankind. It is the word which sums up the relationship of God’s begotten children to their supreme God Father, and it is the word which describes the loyal remnant of God’s people in this end time!
So, should we not then expect that of all terms in the English language—the language which God has chosen as the prime means of communicating His gospel and His final warning message to this world—that this word which describes the character of the God Father, the relationship of His begotten children with Him, and depicts the very nature of His loyal, elect remnant, would be so drastically altered in meaning, twisted and perverted beyond all recognition by a great satanic being? That same supremely evil being whose all-consuming desire has been to take over God’s throne, destroy His Family and neuter the influence of His true Church?
We need to understand this subject, for if we don’t grasp the true, inspired, scriptural meaning of this term love, we cannot fully understand the very nature of God, or how we should relate to our God. Nor can we recognize His true remnant Church, or how we should relate to each other as fellow brethren and friends of Jesus Christ! (John 15:14).
What is love? Scripturally, we need to analyze the term love as it relates to the three areas of prime concern in God’s Word.
The Nature of God
The core, central message of the gospel is that we, God’s servants, God’s spiritually begotten children, can become very God—on an equal plane—a spiritual plane with the very Godhead. This Godhead, at present, comprises an all-wise, all-loving Father who changes not, and a firstborn God, Jesus Christ, firstborn Son of many brethren. “For I am the Lord, I change not” (Malachi 3:6). “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and for ever” (Hebrews 13:8). “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren” (Romans 8:29).
So, as servants of God, you and I are admonished to live a way of life that will lead to us taking on the mind of Christ (Philippians 2:5). And this mind is constant, unchangeable, cast in the same immutable mold as the mind of His Father. It is fixed in its perfection, constant, unchangeable through all eternity!
What, then, is this mind of God? What does this very mind, character and nature of our great God Father comprise?
“He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him” (1 John 4:8, 16).
God is love! He defines love by His very being, by the very fact of His existence—for He literally is love—the eternal, living, unchangeable, definitive reality of love personified in its fullest meaning!
Satan desires to confuse, and make things complex and difficult or impossible for the human mind to understand. Look at the condition of the Church that he has claimed as his very own synagogue (Revelation 3:9). Can you understand their teaching on the nature of God? Their understanding is darkened, and they have groped around such terms as “hypostasis” to cloud the very simple, straightforward nature and character of the Godhead.
“He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love” (1 John 4:8). God is love! The term used in 1 John 4, translated as “love” comes from the Greek agape. God is agape! “Agape … is moral or spiritual love. This is the love God expresses toward humanity. It is the divine, spiritual love, supplied by God’s Holy Spirit. The natural or unconverted man does not have this love! But God longs to fill him with it—if he will surrender and believe!” (The Missing Dimension in Sex)
Mr. Armstrong continues to further explain the process by which God the Father shows His love toward mankind.
“God is love. Consider how God expresses love toward us who are humans. Yes, even those who are hostile, and rebellious toward God: ‘God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life’ (John 3:16).
“Jesus Christ is God—one of the divine Persons who compose the God Family. Notice how Christ manifested love: ‘God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us…when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son’ (Romans 5:8, 10).
“How did Jesus Christ express His love for the Church? The scripture has been quoted above—He gave Himself for it!” (ibid).
Now, how does the Father continue that process of showing, daily, to us, His Church, His divine, perfect agape love, as we live each day of our lives?
“But he answered and said unto him that told him, Who is my mother? and who are my brethren? And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother” (Matthew 12:48-50).
It is extended from the God Father through the Son, Jesus Christ, our Head, through the Church, mother of us all, to us the brethren! It is family love! Family agape! This is God’s very nature in action in our lives. God IS a Family! God the Father, Jesus Christ the Son, firstborn of many brethren, with the firstfruit sons of the Father being conceived within the womb of the mother Church!
How did the Son show that love, godly agape love, to mankind? “Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:6-8). Just as God is busy building His Family, conceiving sons to become godly king-priests in His Family at the God-plane level forever; so, as He works with us, He expresses His love to us through His Son, Jesus Christ, firstborn of many brethren. Just as He thought it not robbery to be equal with God, so we, the Father’s begotten children, think it not robbery to be equal with Christ, in that we look upon ourselves knowing that we are Christ’s brothers! We are at the Jesus Christ level in terms of His brotherly affection for us.
Read Mark’s account: “There came then his brethren and his mother, and, standing without, sent unto him, calling him. And the multitude sat about him, and they said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren without seek for thee. And he answered them, saying, Who is my mother, or my brethren? And he looked round about on them which sat about him, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and mother” (Mark 3:31-35). There is the living example of the nature of our unchangeable God as expressed through His loving Son to His spiritually-begotten brethren.
Just how is that agape love maintained in the Family of God—what is its literal means of expression—how does the God Family love in the agape sense of true godly family love? “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous” (1 John 5:3).
The means of expressing godly agape love is by adherence to His absolute law—His Ten Commandments of love! They define His love and are the means of its constant expression through us—if we obey them! You see why Satan would seek to foist off to this whole world, and now even to the masses of our brethren in the outer court of God’s temple, the great lie that the law of God, His very means of expressing His agape love, was nailed to a cross and done away with at the death of Jesus Christ?!
“Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil” (Matthew 5:17).
The word “fulfil” is translated from the Greek term plerou, meaning, “to make full, to cause to abound, to put into effect, to magnify, to make complete in every particular.” Far from doing away with the very law of love that defines the nature of God, Jesus Christ came to show how it should be fulfilled—at the spirit level! Look at the following example.
“Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you …. Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (verses 43-44, 48).
Notice Mr. Armstrong’s comment on this verse. “Now consider two extremes: 1) Love toward your neighbor farthest from any natural affection—a recognized enemy. Here is Jesus’s teaching of fulfilling the law toward him: ‘Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for [not against] them which despitefully use you, and persecute you …’ (Matthew 5:44). Does the natural, unconverted man have that kind of love? The world doesn’t consider that teaching of Jesus very practical—because the world is empty of that kind of love” (ibid).
The world, this Satan-ruled society, is our enemy. “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God” (James 4:4).
Those who once were of us, but who now have left Jesus Christ and strayed or even fled from the inner court of God’s temple, can become the enemies of God’s true remnant Church. They can turn into persecutors of the Church! Here, Jesus Christ defines just what should be our attitude to them. Can we, in truth, say that our attitude to our enemies conforms to the admonition of Christ to love them? It is only possible by the power of God’s Holy Spirit which magnifies God’s law of love in our minds and gives it expression through our Spirit-inspired actions.
The Nature of Brotherly Love in the Church
Now! Having defined the nature of God’s love and its primary means of expression to man, we need to look at the nature of the love that we, God’s servants, fellow brethren with Christ, should have for each other!
After centering on Christ’s teachings concerning our feelings and motivations toward our enemies, Mr. Armstrong then moves on to highlight Christ’s instructions to us, toward those for whom we should have a special love.
“Many scriptures put emphasis on a special love for [brethren in the Church]. Here again, a love is required which is totally absent in unregenerate man. But, in that case, they are not brethren in Christ unless both are in Christ—have received God’s Holy Spirit! Otherwise they are none of His! (Romans 8:9)” (ibid).
The special nature of this love is emphasized in Scripture by the frequency that both Christ and the apostles taught on it and the extent of the detail they gave in teaching how to express love to each other.
Our pastor general, Gerald Flurry, has often said that Satan would like to rip this little Church of God to shreds—literally tear us apart! If he can destroy the last vestige of the Philadelphia era of God’s Church, he succeeds in destroying the last remaining link between the death of the end-time Elijah, Herbert Armstrong, and Jesus Christ’s return. Then, the great global curse God speaks of in the closing verses of the Old Testament have a chance of being fulfilled. “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse [Hebrew: ‘utter destruction’]” (Malachi 4:5-6).
Satan knows this! He is hell-bent in the literal sense of the word on annihilating the Philadelphia Church of God! But it will not, must not, happen! We have the guarantee of the continuation of the Church through the expression of God’s agape love in us, toward each other, if we would only exercise it more!
“Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love” (1 John 4:7-8). “He that loveth,” Greek agapeo—the inspired Greek literally means to welcome, to entertain, to be fond of, to love dearly. “Beloved” means “esteemed, dear, favorite, worthy of love.” This is how a true brother of Christ will look upon and consider God’s people, His sheep, God’s begotten sons.
“Let us love one another”—literally, let us welcome, entertain, be fond of, love dearly one another—“for agape is of God.” It’s His very nature. “And every one that loves”—welcomes, entertains, is fond of, loves dearly—“is begotten of God.” It takes God’s Holy Spirit, to the extent that we ask God for more of that Holy Spirit daily, to qualify for more of it daily through growing and maturing in the mind and character of Christ—to that same extent we are able to demonstrate this agapeo to each other!
In verse 7, the phrase “knows God” implies the closest of relationships—absolute union of mind and spirit with the God Father through that absolute union of mind and spirit with the Son, our elder brother!
In verse 8: “He that agapeos not”—has no such unity or union with God—is not at one with God, therefore cannot be in fellowship with the God Family.
“Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous” (1 John 5:1-3).
So we come the full circle. God expresses His agape love to us through His law, which He personifies through His Son, our elder brother. We, in turn, prove our love to God by our love to each other. We prove our love to each other by having our primary love to our great God Father—all through allowing Jesus Christ to keep God’s law of love, His commandments, in, by, and through us!
Do you see and really grasp the beauty of the perfect unity of love that binds us together as the God Family under God’s family government, all underpinned by God’s supreme law of love? “O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee: but I have known thee, and these have known that thou hast sent me. And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them” (John 17:25-26).
Colossians 3 shows us this love in action! “Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord” (Colossians 3:13-16).
Proof God Loves You
Are you in pain right now? Are you sick and suffering, perhaps physically blind or deaf? Do you grieve the loss of a loved one? Have you lost a job? Do you find it hard to get work? are you presently experiencing marriage or family difficulties? Are you broke? Do you wonder where your next meal will come from, or where you’ll lay your head next week? Has your car just broken down and it’s going to cost you a small fortune to fix? Are you suffering some other trial that you don’t want to even mention to anybody? Where is God and God’s love in all this?
“As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent” (Revelation 3:19). The word love here is taken from the Greek phileo. Those for whom God has philio love, He rebukes to force their growth into the mind of Christ (Philippians 2:5). This is His love expressed through adhering to His law! (1 John 5:3; Revelation 3:19).
The Greek phileo comes from the root word philos.Thayer’s defines philos as “friendly, a companion, a friend; literally one of the bridegroom’s friends—dear to God—peculiarly favored with His intimacy.” Abraham was one of the bridegroom’s friends! “And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God” (James 2:23).
We, too, are to be Jesus Christ’s, the Bridegroom’s, friends (John 3:29). “Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you” (John 15:14-15).
But have a close look at yet another scripture. “A man that hath friends must show himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24). “Sticks” Hebrew dabeq: “cleave, join, clinging, adhering”! This is the type of friend Jesus Christ is to us. How are we to reflect His example?
“From whom the whole body fitly joined together [sticking together] and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love” (Ephesians 4:16). “Joined” in the Greek is sunarmologeo: “joined closely together—glued.” That’s the degree of perfection that God’s Church has to reach in order to be prepared to meet its Maker!
“But if ye be without chastisement [Greek: ‘corrective instruction’], whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons” (Hebrews 12:8). God has sped up the Work since January this year. As He speeds up the Work, He speeds up the measuring of the inner court. Are you submitting to this measuring?
“Rebuke” as mentioned in Revelation 3:19 comes from the Greek word elegcho which means “reprove, rebuke, convince, tell ones faults, by conviction to bring to the light, to expose, find fault and correct! Chasten—punish! To call to account and show one his fault!” This word “rebuke,” in the fullness of its meaning, strongly implies a measuring process. It strongly implies corrective training by a loving Father (see Strong’s 3811).
Mr. Flurry said in the mid-1990s: “We’ve got to speed up the measuring of the inner court!” God is speeding up the measuring of His precious remnant!
So we see the process. “God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten son,” then He had predestined a firstfruits of His Holy Spirit, for whom He has this special love as the affianced Bride of His Son.
“Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified” (Romans 8:30). Then as He converts us and brings us to repentance from sin (the breaking of His law of love that is the very essence of His character), He shows His love to us by loving rebuke and correction! Far from separating us from God, this correction is designed, if we will only submit to it, to bind us even more closely to God!
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (verses 35-39).
As we submit to that correction, we take on the mind of Christ, and God is able to put more of His love in us. As we gain in that love, we extend it to our fellows and so we grow in oneness and unity with our loving Father, and we grow in loving union with our elder brother and “friend of friends,” Jesus Christ, and that love then extends on through each of us for us to share with each and every one of us. The end result of God’s loving rebuke in us produces this wonderful, unsurpassing unity of mind and spirit! That’s God’s love in action! That’s its end result in Christ’s Bride—absolute unity! It’s all predicated on this way of love, bound up in fulfilling God’s commandments—and the proof that the love of God is being expressed by God to us, strange as it may seem to the average carnal mind, is God’s loving rebuke, His constant loving, all-wise correction!
God’s ministers in the inner court see the increasing intensity of the pressure of test and trial on God’s precious remnant, as God, in demonstration of His love to us, rebukes and corrects us.
Are we submitting to this measuring or resisting it? God allows us the choice! We are free moral agents! “For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth” (Hebrews 12:6). This is the proof of God’s love to you—His love of you! “If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons” (verses 7-8). There’s the choice! Either we “cop it on the chin,” “cop it sweet”—we take it, this loving rebuke of a loving Father, gladly, and accept God’s reproof and rebuke, and wake up and change and repent—or God simply counts us illegitimate! Not of His Family! To be an heir to God’s promises, we have to be of legitimate conception and birth in spiritual terms—royal birth!
“A bastard shall not enter into the congregation of the Lord; even to his tenth generation shall he not enter into the congregation of the Lord” (Deuteronomy 23:2). Israel was but a physical type of God’s family government—no spiritual illegitimate—none who reject God’s loving rebuke now will enter His holy congregation! His Family!
Are you welcoming God’s correction, God’s loving rebuke? We of all people must suffer that correction willingly right here and now, for we are named Philadelphia! Of philos—friends of the Bridegroom!
Why? “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten.” We have all been rebuked by God and are being corrected of our Laodicean ways. We have accepted that rebuke and fled back to our loving elder brother Jesus Christ!
Do we still hear His loving rebuke and respond to it? Expect trial, expect heavy tribulation in this inner court, expect and welcome God’s loving rebuke. It’s His means of expressing His agape love to you!
Do you want more of God’s character of love in you? Do you want to love your brethren more? Do you want God to express His love to you more and more each day? Then study His end-time admonition to the Church, comprehend it, yield to it, grow in God’s eternal unchangeable perfect love! And remember, “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent!”
The Philadelphia News, June 1997