A Proper Understanding of Love

The Apostle Paul tells the Church at Philippi, “It is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God” (1:9-11).

Love has fallen on hard times.  I speak not of the music and entertainment industries which have long equated love with sex; we are accustomed to that.  I speak of the way love has been more subtly perverted by the world’s gospel.  This pagan gospel is quite simply that love is personal and therefore under the control of persons.  It concerns the way they feel about each other, and being a completely subjective experience, is not subject to the judgement of anyone else.  Thus, love is a feeling.  It comes and goes and takes various shapes and sizes; it is quite amorphous, and its definition is subject only to those “in love.”  Love, any love, regardless of its expression between persons is regarded thus as “true love,” for it is “true” for them.  So, not only is love perverted but truth as well and so must be dragged down the same slough of relativity which encompasses this pagan and false understanding of “love.”

Though I do not deny that love is celebrated between persons and encompasses emotions, I deny that such is the definition of love.  Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments,” indicating that love is obedience (John 14:15).  And though it is popular among devotees of pop culture to picture Jesus as an itinerant hippy playing the mandolin and leading rounds of kumbaya with his disciples at campfires, he could actually be quite stern: “Go and sin no more,” “Sell all you have and give to the poor,” and his first sermon, “Repent! For the Kingdom of heaven is at hand.”  I have failed to find a single, “Smile, God unconditionally loves you,” anywhere.

But returning to where I started above with Paul and his beloved Philippians, Paul prays that their love may abound with knowledge and discernment.  Did you hear that?  Knowledge and discernment, not feelings and passions.  In the Scriptures, love is INFORMED; it is not a shapeless, formless, “whatever I want to do which is meaningful to me and whomever I choose to be with.”  Because our hearts are “deceitful above all things, and desperately sick” (Jeremiah 17:9), we require the word which tells us what love is, which is obedience to the heavenly word in the Scriptures which in turn leads to greater knowledge of that sure and true way to godliness and purity.  In sum, the gospel of Jesus Christ knows nothing of an uninformed, or rather ill-informed, love which I get to fill with my own meaning leading to self-fulfillment; love’s goal is not my personal satisfaction but godliness through knowledge of his word and obedience thereunto.

Author: The Reformed Baptist

My name is Stephen Taylor, ordained Baptist minister of eighteen years pastoral experience with a Ph.D. in Historical Theology from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. Better than that, I am married to a godly woman, Karla, who has been very patient with me since 1989. I have two daughters, both of whom I homeschooled for extended periods of time, who became godly young women, and who ran off and married godly young men, all of which is very proper. The oldest daughter has even seen fit to bless me with a grandson and a granddaughter, and my youngest daughter with a grandson, all three of whom are bundles of exceeding joy. As you can see, I am quite blessed. This website is dedicated to helping people grow in the wisdom and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ through the gift of writing that the Lord has given to me. It is specifically about helping His people grow in godliness, the theme you see repeated above. I write devotions with this aim and hope that they might be of some help to God’s people. Full disclosure: I am of a Reformed bent, meaning that my understanding of Scripture is primarily informed by the Reformers and their successors of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. However, as a student of church history and theology, I strive to remain true to that teaching handed down once for all unto the saints through every age of the Church. I like to think of myself as a “catholic” Christian, as the Reformers thought of themselves. At any rate, feel free to read, pray, and contact me if you wish, or correct me if need be. As you can see, I tend to follow the church year. Of course, I make no special claims about these devotions. I know very well that others have written better and plumbed the depths of God’s word with greater insight. But if my musings help someone draw closer to the Lord, well then, I have my reward. Blessings to you and may the God and Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ speak to you that word which He knows you especially need to hear. Grace & peace, Stephen Taylor

Leave a Reply