“Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart.”
love one another
Why encourage Christians to love others whom they already love? We find the answer in two different words for love. In the previous phrase, love was reciprocal. Love in this phrase, however, is another word for love. Human fondness and affection (”love of the brethren”) can degenerate into selfishness, so the Holy Spirit introduces a second word for love that confronts selfishness.
The first word for love is human love. When Jesus asked Peter three times (John 21) if he loved Him, Peter answered with “I like you” or “I am fond of you.” The first two times, Jesus used a word for sacrificial love. The third time Jesus used Peter’s word for fondness, “Do you like me, Peter? Are you really fond of me?” That struck Peter to the heart. Peter said, “You know everything. You know I like you. I am fond of you. I am for you.”
That is the idea of the first word for love in this verse. God wants us to like fellow Christians as well as love them. The verb for the like kind of love is found 25 times in the New Testament. Sometimes it is translated as “kiss.” Judas Iscariot kissed the Savior when he betrayed him just before Jesus’ capture.
This word is used of the Father about the Son, “For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself does” (John 5:20). The Father is fond of the Son.
The telegram that Mary and Martha sent to the Savior in John 11:3 contains this word, “Therefore the sisters sent to Him, saying, ‘Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick.’” Jesus, the one you are fond of is sick. Jesus uses this word of Christians in Revelation 3:19, “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten.” God calls upon us to genuinely like fellow Christians. This involves kindness.
The second word for love (agapaw) in this verse is divine love. This love is the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). It’s unilateral. It is a one-way love that can love others even if they do not return the love. This love does not depend on reciprocity. It is a love that calls out of one’s heart supernaturally.
This word for love occurs 137 times in the New Testament. The most famous verse that contains this word is John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” It was not that God was fond of the world that He gave His Son. It was not that God liked the world that He gave His Son to die on the cross. God loved the world unilaterally to such an extent that he sacrificed His Son to die on the cross. God loves on the basis of His character.
John 13:34-35 uses this word as the badge of true Christianity: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” Each of the four times Jesus uses love in these two verses is the word for sacrificial love. If we love each other fervently and sacrificially, it will convince the world that we are indeed His disciples.
If we blend the two kinds of love, then we have the balance of true biblical love.
God wants us to love unilaterally, even if no one reciprocates their love for us.
The thought in these two words for love is that we are to like fellow Christians, be fond of each other, and see that we love each other sacrificially and unilaterally.
God wants us to love with more than a fond love. He wants us to love sacrificially. This is a big order. I have never met a Christian who said, “I believe that I love other Christians too much.” Romans 13:8 says, “Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law.” How can we love those without Christ if we do not love the saints?
God also wants us to love unilaterally. He wants us to love out of character rather than whether someone else expresses love to us. He wants us to love independently of any relationship, any problem, or any situation. The person who loves this way has a great capacity of soul. This is a person of great character.
This is a very tall challenge to me. I cannot say that I have loved my fellow believers too much, either.
I am really intrigued with this concept that the Apostle Peter is driving at. That is, that being “born again” enables us to love others – particularly our fellow believers – deeply, sacrificially and unconditionally.
All I can say is, Lord, forgive me for loving so stingily and conditionally! I am reminded that we need the Holy Spirit’s filling on a continual basis as we depend upon His Word and supernatural power to enable us to love in a way that the world simply cannot reproduce or understand.