October 13, 2019 What is Love?

What is Love?

Scripture reading: Ephesians 3:14-19.

This passage refers to love. It tells how very important and foundational the love of God is in order for us to fulfill our destiny and our purpose. That is to say, we must know God’s love for us. It is not enough to simply know it as a fact, loosely held. The knowledge of God’s love for us must capture us. We must be assured of it. If we really see it, it changes everything!

In this message I am going to be speaking about God’s love for us, not our love for Him. The better we know God’s love for us the more naturally will our love for Him blossom and grow.

First, we must know what love is. Because God is abstract, mysterious, invisible, intangible, and unfathomable, we come to know Him only through his revelation. But, he reveals Himself through allegory and comparison to those things with which we are familiar. Otherwise, we could not understand. His love is this way. We come to understand his love by considering human love. We are made in his image. Therefore, our virtuous love will reflect his love. Of course, our love is imperfect and his love is perfect. Our love is weak while his love is strong. Our love is tainted; his love is pure. Nevertheless, when we consider our love we can better understand his love.

In answering the question, “What is love?”, it is good to state what love is not.

[1.] Love is not a feeling. This is the common notion of love in society. However, this is not the biblical, true meaning of love. 

Donna Summer, a popular recording artist from the 70’s and 80’s had a hit called I Feel Love, in 1977. This song reflects this idea. The lyrics are very deep:

Ooh, I'm in love, I'm in love
I'm in love, I'm in love
I'm in love
Ooh, I feel love, I feel love
I feel love, I feel love
I feel love
I feel love
I feel love

That’s about it!

The whole notion of “falling in love” carries with it the idea that love is a feeling that overcomes you, like gravity, and sweeps you away.  One of the great love songs of all time is I Can’t Help Falling in Love by Elvis. It is one of my favorite songs. The melody is quite captivating and the lyrics are moving. Of course, there is an emotional component to love and it can be quite powerful. But love is more than an emotion.

[2.] Also, love is not sex. Physical intimacy between a husband and wife is an expression of love. But it is not love itself. The commonly heard phrase, “making love” in reference to the sexual act is a cheapening of the word. In fact, a sexual act between unmarried persons is not even an expression of love at all. It is a sin and is actually an expression of a lack of respect for the other person and the absence of love.

So, love is not a feeling and love is not sex.

Recently, we spoke about what constitutes faith. According to the Bible, faith is much more than mental assent or simply believing something in the modern sense of the word. We saw that true, saving faith involves the whole soul of a person. A person uses their mind to come to know. Their heart – emotions – is gripped by the reality of what they have come to know. And, they exercise their will to trust in what and Who they have come to know.

True love is like this. In genuine love the whole soul in animated. Our soul consists of our mind, our emotion, and our will. Whenever we are emotionally drawn to a person we may call that affection. If it is strong and it is also the kind of emotional desire that may lead to matrimony we may call that romance. If it is over-the-top and imbalanced we may call it infatuation. But if it is only the emotions that are engaged then it is not love.

Our minds are engaged in a significant way in true love. We perceive qualities in a person that attract us. Those with wisdom will be seeking virtuous qualities. 

Just as with faith, where the most important aspect of our soul - our human will - was engaged, so too it is with love. With regard to saving faith, we exercise our will to trust in the Person and work of Christ. Trust is key in faith, otherwise it is not genuine faith. With regard to genuine love, we exercise our will to seek what is best for the person we love. Seeking the other person’s best interest is the core of what love is.

Good and pure feeling is not absent. If it is absent then we are just a noisy gong or a clanging symbol (I Cor. 13:1). But neither must love from our mind or will be absent.

God the Father loves the elect with His mind, emotion, and will.

that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 1

Our Father has many riches. Through these riches He will  strengthen his children with power through His Spirit in their inner being. Our inner being is our human spirit. God will strengthen you in your spirit! He will strengthen us so that Christ may dwell in our hearts! 

When Christ dwells in our hearts we will be rooted and grounded in love (vs. 17). Here is a question: The love of which Paul writes, does it refer to our love or does it refer to God’s love? Just considering the grammar, even in the original language, you cannot tell. In order to determine whose love he has in mind one must think theologically. What do you think?

It cannot be referring to our love because our love is not consistent. Sometimes we love. Sometimes we don’t. We do not even love God consistently, let alone one another! The love to which Paul refers grounds us. It is like a foundation. If our own love is a foundation then we have a shaky foundation! Paul is writing about God the Father’s love for us. He is saying that if we know the Father’s love for us then we will have the strength to comprehend Christ’s love for us! First, we must be assured of the Father’s love for us. When we have that assurance that the Father loves us then we can come to appreciate Christ’s love for us that goes beyond knowledge…it will take hold of us! Then we will be filled up to all the fullness of God! 

Verse 7 will go on to reveal that His love sent His Son to the cross for us, giving us redemption!

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. 2

God desires that we reflect Him, that we imitate Him. Not imitate Him in an outward way, but reflect His life by His power. If we do this we will love in the same way (but not to the same degree) that He loves. We can love in the way that Christ has loved us! Here is the proof that Christ loves you: he gave his life as a sacrifice for you! His death says, “I love you!” This is marvelous! It is both the love of the Father and the love of the Son that is shown by Christ’s sacrifice!

If you belong to Jesus, you must also see that the very reason that God the Father chose you, even before he created the universe, and not others is because he loved you!

In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 3

Before he made the world (vs. 4) he had you in His mind. Not only did he know you before you were born, but He loved you! This is amazing! He knew all the filthy sins you would commit, but He loved you!

This verse tells us that because He loved you he predestinated you to be his son or daughter! You being part of God’s family is proof that the Father loves you!

In 1951, 16-year-old Liu met 26-year-old Xu Chaoqing and fell in love. She was a widow with four children and in the remote village at that time it was taboo for a man to marry an older woman, let alone a widow.
However, Liu had made up his mind and the whole family moved to a secluded house in the mountains, so as to avoid criticism and discrimination from villagers.
The house was erected with hand-made tiles and bricks. And since they frequently had to climb up and down the mountain to get groceries, Liu started hand-carving steps into the rocky ridges.
In the beginning, life was harsh as hey had nothing, no electricity or even food. They had to eat grass and roots they found in the mountain, and Liu made a kerosene lamp that they used to light up their lives.
Xu felt that she had tied Liu down and repeatedly asked him, ‘Are you regretful? Liu always replied, ‘As long as we are industrious, life will improve.’
In the second year of living in the mountain, Liu began and continued for over 50 years, to hand-carve the steps so that his wife could get down the mountain easily.

He broke many chisels and many hammers, but he persisted because of his great love for her.

Liu’s love for Xu was beautiful and inspiring. As much as he loved her, you must know that, if you belong to Christ, God loves you even more!

Finally, God’s love will give us all things that are good for us! Remember that we saw that it was because of God’s love for us that the Son of God was given up for us. See then, what else this means:

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 4

You see, God’s love sent Jesus to the cross for you, but this also means that He will graciously give you all things that are good for you! The only reason you may not receive something in the present is because the Lord knows that it will not be good for you at this time. Just wait…and see the love of God that prepares you to receive a blessing and then, when the time is right, gives you the blessing!

When we really see the love of God for us then our love for Him will grow, we will see that we are already receiving exactly what love gives, and the fullness of God will fill us up! Do you desire to be filled up with God Himself? Then reject the lies of the devil and embrace the love that God has for you. Let his love flow in you and through you! Let it flow to others. Let it change you. Even this very hour!













1 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Eph 3:16). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
2 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Eph 5:1–2). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
3 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Eph 1:4–5). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
4 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ro 8:31–32). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.