2 Peter 1:7b
I have chosen the old King James term "charity" because it is the only translation that I know of that makes a clear distinction for the Greek agapé. Even in the current KJV it is more often translated "love."
I will be dealing only with "love" which is from agapé. The English terms have been used so loosely that they are associated with "lust, passion, affection," etc. I want to look at "love" or "charity" as Jesus and the apostles did. The noun is sometimes referred to as "a purely Biblical term," but its verb form was widely used and highly appreciated both by philosophers and the man on the street. It is defined: "to love, have preference for, to wish well, to regard the welfare of..." "to prize, take pleasure in... to be unwilling to abandon."
When asked "Which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" (Matt. 22:36-40), Jesus said, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart...soul...mind, this is the first and greatest, and the second is like it, thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets." To the true student of the Bible, this statement gives new meaning to the Old Testament scriptures. Not only were they all given because God loved those people (He "wished them well" and "regarded their welfare."), He took "pleasure" in their "pleasure and well-being. (See Rom. 13:8-13)
The Jews must have been shocked to hear Jesus say "Love your enemies... bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, pray for them who despitefully use you and persecute you (misuse and abuse)." God loves his enemies "not willing that any should perish, but that all men should come to repentance." (Matt.5:43-48; 2 Peter 3:9) We are warned of friendship with them; but must desire their well being. Is love really necessary to salvation?
Let's take a look at 1 Cor. 13:1-3. "Though I (the Apostle Paul) speak with the tongue of men and of angels, ...and...I have the gift of prophecy and understand all mysteries, and knowledge, and THOUGH I HAVE ALL (the) FAITH...I am nothing...and though I bestow ALL my goods to feed the poor, and I give all my body to be burned, and have NOT charity, it profits me nothing." Note the structure of this statement. In English or Greek, it is accumulative: add them up. The speaking + prophecy + understanding (scholarship), + knowledge + FAITH + benevolence + self-sacrifice, without love, they "profit me nothing," though I exercise them to the ultimate degree. No wonder he concludes "...faith, hope and love, but the greatest of these is love."
If you have not added an abundance of love to your FAITH, it is of no "profit" to you. Of course, your speaking and scholarship, generosity and self-sacrifice may profit others. ALL of us have "profited" from many who will not receive any benefit from their labors and self-sacrifice.
How do we know if we have this kind of love for men and for God?
Of course, we understand that God's "well-being" is established eternally, and nothing we can do or say can affect it. However, our "love" for God moves us to seek to give him all the pleasure we are capable of. "Whatsoever we ask we receive of Him because we keep his commandments and do those things that are pleasing in HIS sight." (1 John 3:22) "This is the love of God that we keep his commandments." (1 John 5:3) "If ye love me ye will keep my commandments." (John 14:15-24) v.21- "He that hath my commands and keeps them, he it is that loves me." v.23- "If a man loves me he will keep my words." v.24- "He that does not love me does not keep my words." It is more than "commandment-keeping;" we must seek to please him by doing his "sayings." They are expressions of his will.
John teaches us that we cannot love God without loving our brother. (1 John 3:13-20; 4:6-5:3) Nor can we love the brethren if we do not love God and keep his commandments.
Paul teaches us what love is and how it works. 1 Cor. 13:4-7: It suffers long and is kind, does not envy, is not self-promoting or self-centered, doesn't misbehave, is not easily provoked, does not consider doing evil, has no joy in lawlessness, but rejoices in truth; bears all, believes all things. If this is not the kind of person you are, it is the kind you must become. ADD charity. Charity never fails: not in your home, on your job, or as a nation, but it must be genuine and constant. "In Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith that works through love." (Gal. 5:6 NKJV) "Whoever has this world's goods, and sees his brother have needs and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?" (1 John 3:17) "This is the love of God, that we keep his commandments." (1 John 5:3) The "righteous" of Matthew 25:31-46 were evidently not seeking any personal benefit from ministering to the needs of others, they "cared" for them, they "loved" them. They did what they could to assure their "pleasure and well-being." (See v.28) The greatest gift of "love" is salvation for the soul. "If any man does not love the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be accursed (anathema: condemned without hope of redemption)."
Some Final Thoughts
Peter emphasizes the necessity of adding each of the seven attributes of verses 5-7 to our faith in verses 8-12: (8) "If these things be in you and abound (abundantly, plentifully) you shall be neither barren nor unfruitful." (9) ".he that lacks in these things is myopic [lit.] (and cannot see afar off) and has forgotten that he was purged from his old sins." (10) ".give diligence to make you calling and election sure, for if ye do these things you shall never fall: (11) "For so an entrance shall be ministered to you ABUNDANTLY into the EVERLASTING KINGDOM." (12) "Wherefore I will not neglect to put you always in remembrance of these things."
It is the responsibility of every teacher of the gospel, to see that all "believers" "always" "remember" the urgency of their need to do these things. They ARE NOT optional. (v.12) Any believer who is not supplying his faith abundantly with these things is in danger of losing his soul!
Editor's note: The preceding expository article comes from "Bible Insight" edited by Carey Dillinger and is a part of a series by him and other writers. Carey contacted me several weeks ago and suggested that we might be interested in publishing these articles. The series is quite good and Lord willing, Expository Files will be using these articles in future issues. Carey and the other writers have given their permission.
By Roy Whitworth
From Expository Files 7.12; December 2000