Love is in the air, but what is love anyway?
J.C Ryle has a few wise words to say…
“LOVE is rightly called “the Queen of Christian graces.” “The goal of this command,” says Paul, “is love” (1 Timothy 1:5). It is a grace which all people profess to admire. It seems a plain practical thing which everybody can understand. It is none of “those troublesome doctrinal points” about which Christians disagree. Thousands, I suspect, would not be ashamed to tell you that they know nothing about justification, or regeneration, or about the work of Christ, or of the Holy Spirit. But nobody, I believe, would like to say that he knows nothing about love! If men possess nothing else in religion, they always flatter themselves that they possess “love.”
A few plain thoughts about love will be very useful. There are false notions about love which need to be dispelled. There are mistakes about it which require to be rectified. In my admiration of love I yield to none. But I am bold to say that in many minds the whole subject seems completely misunderstood.
I. First, Let me show, “the place the Bible gives to love.”
II. Secondly, let me show, “what the love of the Bible really is.”
III. Thirdly, let me show, “where true love comes from.”
IV. Lastly, let me show, “why love is `the greatest’ of the graces.”
I ask for the sincere attention of my readers to the subject. My heart’s desire and prayer to God is that the growth of love may be promoted in this sin-burdened world. In nothing does the fallen condition of man show itself so strongly as in the scarcity of Christian love. There is little faith on earth, little hope, little knowledge of Divine things. But nothing, after all, is as scarce as real love.
I. Let me show “the place which the Bible gives to love.”
I begin with this point in order to establish the immense practical importance of my subject. I do not forget that there are many Christians in this present day who almost refuse to look at anything practical in Christianity. They can talk of nothing but two or three favorite doctrines. Now I want to remind my readers that the Bible contains much about practice as well as about doctrine, and that one thing to which it attaches great weight is “love.”
I turn to the New Testament, and ask men to observe what it says about love. In all religious inquiries there is nothing like letting the Scripture speak for itself. There is no surer way of finding out truth than the old way of turning to simple Bible texts. Texts were our Lord’s weapons, both in answering Satan, and in arguing with the Jews. Texts are the guides we must never be ashamed to refer to in the present day–What does the Scripture say? What is written? How do you read it?
Let us hear what Paul says to the Corinthians: “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).
Let us hear what Paul says to the Colossians: “And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity” (Colossians 3:14).
Let us hear what Paul says to Timothy: “The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” (1 Timothy 1:5).
Let us hear what Peter says: “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8).
Let us hear what our Lord Jesus Christ Himself says about that love, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.
By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35).
Above all, let us read our Lord’s account of the last judgment, and mark that the lack of love will condemn millions, “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink” (Matthew 25:41-42).
Let us hear what Paul says to the Romans: “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellow man has fulfilled the law” (Romans 13:8).
Let us hear what Paul says to the Ephesians: “Live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 5:2).
Let us hear what John says: “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love” (1 John 5:7-8).
I shall make no comment upon these texts. I think it better to place them before my readers in their naked simplicity, and to let them speak for themselves. If any one is disposed to think the subject of this paper a matter of insignificance, I will only ask him to look at these texts, and to think again. He that would take down “love” from the high and holy place it occupies in the Bible, and treat it as a matter of secondary importance, must settle his account with God’s Word. I certainly shall not waste time in arguing with him.
To my own mind the evidence of these texts appears clear, plain, and incontrovertible. They show the immense importance of love as one of the “things that accompany salvation.” They prove that it has a right to demand the serious attention of all who call themselves Christians, and that those who despise the subject are only exposing their own ignorance of Scripture.”
Tomorrow be sure to come back and read… What the Love of the Bible really is.
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