Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Agape’s meanings need to be expanded (PART II)

In Part I of this 2-part series, we have looked at the major love words of the OT (Hebrew language) and NT (Greek); we have looked at how the charitable, sacrificial, selfless and even unconditional attributes were more imputed into the Greek love word, “agape”, from gleaning from the Bible; and lastly we realized that the (further revealing) of the God’s kinda of love, was NOT just that we might know of God’s love as being agape, but it was to exhort us to also agape God, and to agape our neighbors.  We have NOT dwell into the missing ingredient that need to added into agape; the main purpose of this exposition; which I will do now, here.


In this part, we will deal with the missing element that is necessary to be included into the Greek love word, agape, in order to say it truly represents God’s kinda of love.

By far, agape is the most extensive love word used in the NT.  Below I will give a few more text, showing its use (in additional to those already found in Part I); then I will also mention a thing or two, for the other remaining two Greek love words found directly in the NT.  After all of that, I go into the missing element.

A few more examples of occurrences of agape in NT
Love of money – agape! Luke 16:13 - “No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.”

Jesus washing of disciples’ feet – Jesus’ love for his disciples – John 13:1-5
1 It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love.

2 The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus. 3 Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4 so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5 After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

Jesus’ definition of love – If you love me, you will obey what I command (John 14:15).  Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.” (John 14:21).

Jesus said the Father and I will come to him and make our home with him – John 14:23 - Jesus replied, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.

A little bit more on phileo
Phileo as a love word is found in v17 of John 21:15-17.  In variation as Philadelphia (G5360) {root word being friend} – “brotherly love”, it is found in a number of verses (eg Romans 12:10).  In my own words, phileo is firstly love (non-eros) between friends, but is extended in use to apply to any fraternity, comradeship, brotherhood, or any association with common goals, including the body of Christ (Storge which we will NOT elaborate, on the other hand, is love word used on natural blood relation, like mother and child).  As Christians, when we are friends of Christ, we are friends with one another, and so, Philadelphia or brotherly love is expected of us (almost without saying!).

John 21:15-17 -
15 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon son of John, do you truly love {agape} me more than these?" "Yes, Lord," he said, "you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Feed my lambs."16 Again Jesus said, "Simon son of John, do you truly love {agape} me?" He answered, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Take care of my sheep."17 The third time he said to him, "Simon son of John, do you love {phileo} me?" Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, "Do you love me?" He said, "Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Feed my sheep.

You will notice that the Lord used agape for the 1st 2 times He asked if Peter loved Him; but for the 3rd time, He switched to using phileo!  I will NOT expound this text here; maybe in separate article, another time, as my exposition on the switch, may vary from others.

A further mention of thelo
Thelo can be seen used on Mark 12:38 (KJV) – “And he said unto them in his doctrine, Beware of the scribes, which love to go in long clothing, and love salutations in the marketplaces,”  Some other translations (like NIV) left out the word, “love”.

Now, the missing ingredient in the love word, agape
I bring us back to the short-form Lexicon of the 2 Hebrew love words we have seen in Part I of this series:

`ahab (H157) – either love or like, and for love, it is broken down to:
human love for another, includes family, and sexual;
human appetite for objects such as food, drink, sleep, wisdom;
human love for or to God;
act of being a friend: lover (participle), friend (participle);
God's love toward man: to individual men, to people Israel, to righteousness;
lovely (participle), loveable (participle);
friends, lovers (fig. of adulterers).

Dowd (H1730) – beloved, love, uncle:
loved one, beloved, uncle, love (pl. abstract)

Some people include checed (H2617) as a love word in Hebrew, because some translations have rendered it as love.  It has the main meaning as loving-kindness from one of a higher position – God, or from man to man, and so, typically it is used as God’s “love” for men, but NOT the other way round of men, for God.  To me, grace is perhaps the appropriate word to use.

I have indicated in Part I that it is NOT easy to match up the 2 or 3 Hebrew love words with the Greek love words.  Now that we know the most extensively used words of love for OT and NT are these: `ahab and agape, respectively, it leaves us to see if there is any significant meaning in the Hebrew love word of `ahab that is missing in the Greek word, agape.

I submit to you the significant meaning missing from the agape word is in the underlined portion of the Lexicon I have given above, for `ahab:

That God’s love for men is love unto (or to) righteousness; and men were to love God back, they have to love Him righteously.  The key word here is righteousness.  God cannot love you and I anyhow; ultimately, He can only love us unto righteousness.  In the same way, the only way to love the holy and righteous God in an acceptable manner is to love with same kind of love, righteous love. 

From here, we can understand why the Lord gave us the definition of loving Him or God, as He had given in John 14:15 & 21a.  This is in essence what Jesus said in the verses – He who love Me, obeys my commands; and the one who obeys my commands is the one who loves Me.  Righteousness is in His commands, and so, by obeying His commands, we are embracing His righteousness, and in so doing, is loving Him, righteously.

John 14:15 – If you love (agape or agapaō) me, you will obey what I command.
John 14:21 - Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves (agape) me. He who loves (agape) me will be loved (agape) by my Father, and I too will love (agape) him and show myself to him."

In fact, in the remaining part of v21, Jesus added that such person who agape the Lord, he will (continue to) be loved by the Father, and the Lord, too will (continue to) love him, and show Himself (the Lord Himself) to him, the person.

Why this righteousness element is missing from agape?
Why is it (this righteousness element) missing, or missed out in the Greek word, agape?  The ancient Greek language was of course from the Greek people, although in those times of writing, it was the scholarship language of even the Jews, meaning the authors themselves, not Greek, but they wrote in Greek. 

I submit to you, this is the reason: The Greek (people)’s ancient cultural and historical religious beliefs background had not that idea (love unto righteousness) comprised in love words.  In other words, it was one of the occasions of, “it was NOT the word to use, but the best (Greek) word to use”, when the non-Greek authors were writing in Greek. 

Did I just say that the authors of Biblical texts were wrong or made fatal mistakes?  No, rather it was, and as was and is often the cases, God just use what is there (even the weak and the ordinary), and in this context, the scholarship language of that time of the authors.

We have, in Part I, looked at how “unconditional” got weaved into agape, although I would refrain from saying agape love is unconditional love (although Jesus’ sacrifice was unconditional); more, to me, it is a charitable,  sacrificial and selfless love. Now, if “unconditional” could be imputed into agape, I don’t see why “unto righteousness” should NOT be imputed into agape.

Because there was no teaching on it - agape love as having the connotation of “loving unto righteousness”, despite such a connotation was in the {older} Hebrew word of love (in OT), `ahab, no “loving unto righteousness” was imputed into/listed with that Greek word, agape. 

The overall counsel of the Word, indeed points to the love of God for men, ultimately has to be a love for men unto righteousness.  I repeat, ultimately, God cannot love you and I, in any other manner, because He is holy and righteous.
Expound it please, this love unto righteousness
Because the lack of preachers expounding love from the NT, as having it as primarily got to be unto righteousness, I find myself, in writing or teaching, keep referencing the OT word, `ahab, as love unto righteousness.  It is vital that believers be taught this fundamental truth that God’s love is firstly love unto righteousness, and the only way we can love Him back acceptably is also to love Him, righteously.  The latter is particularly needing to be stressed in view of the care-less attitude of believers of today, in handling their relationship with God.

It is NOT plucked from the air!
Just in case, people think I pluck this whole thing out of the air, I will give you the “pillars of love” found in both the OT and NT, and you can see for yourself if I am justified to build a case for the need to impute “love unto righteousness” as embodied in the Hebrew love word,`ahab, into the Greek love word, agape, before I end this series.

The love pillars:

OT:   Deu 6:5 - Love (`ahab) the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.

Lev 19:18 - " 'Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love (`ahab) your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.

NT:   Mark 12:30 - Love (agape/agapao) the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.

         Mark 12:31 - The second is this: 'Love (agape/agapao) your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these."

God’s kinda of love is firstly love unto righteousness, and then it is charitable, sacrificial, selfless, and to a good extent unconditional.  What do we call this love? `ahab + agape? Or just agape, with love unto righteousness incorporated!

Anthony Chia, high.expressions – Lord, I know I must always be conscious that I am only an agent of yours, through whom you reveal of yourself, your ways and your truths; it is NOT I am smart or anything like that.  There is no copyright possible (for men) for that concerning your Word; NOT only all copyrights belong to you, your desire is that freely I receive, freely I give.  Amen.

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