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Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
January 23, 2011
Christian Virtues, Pt. 3: The Love of the Elect
Radical. An interesting word. It is from a Latin term that actually means root and refers to the foundation or source of something. The term has come to mean favoring fundamental or extreme change and so has been used to describe those who want to change current social order for some alternative. So what is the most radical thing you can think of? The hippies of the 1960’s and 70’s advocated for a fundamental change in American society and in some ways they were successful. American society is very different from what it was back then. However, I don’t think there is actually anything that radical in people trying to find greater freedom to practice their sin. That has been a quest throughout human history. The only problem is that when sinful practices dominate too much,the society collapses and a new order is ushered in that establishes restrictions again so that the society can survive.
The most radical thing I can think of is the fundamental change that occurs to a person that turns from their sin and self-righteousness to be redeemed,regenerated, and reconciled by God’s grace through faith in the person and atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ. We have seen Paul describe this radical change in several ways in our study of Colossians. In Colossians 1:13 he describes it as being delivered from the domain of darkness and being transferred to the kingdom of His beloved Son. The believer has a radical change of kingdoms.(See: The Prayer for the Colossians, Pt. 2 ) In Colossians 1:21-22 he describes it as being reconciled to God through Jesus’ bodily death to become holy, blameless and beyond reproach though we had been formerly alienated, hostile in mind and engaged in evil deeds. A Christian has a radical change in attitude and behavior. (See: The Preeminence of Jesus Over the Church) In Colossians 2:13 Paul says we were dead in our transgressions but He made those who have faith in Him alive together with Him. (See: The Superiority of Walking in Christ) Paul describes it in a similar way in Colossians 3:1-3. What the Christian had been previously, the old man, has died and he has been raised up with Christ as a new man. Can there be a more radical change than that? The Christian is radically changed in nature. The old man is dead and the new man has come.
Over the last five sermons we have been examining the consequences of this radical change. Since the old man, the person we used to be, is dead, we are to lay aside that corpse and not drag it around any longer. We are to cease living according to the desires of the flesh, lusts of the mind and boastful pride. We are to put to death things such as immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire and greed as well as anger, wrath, malice, slander and abusive speech. We are to no longer walk in the ways, speech and motivations that used to control and characterize us (Colossians 3:5-9).
Since we who are believers have been radically changed and are now new creations in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17), we are to walk in a manner worthy of our Lord (Colossians 3:10). Our identity is now in Christ so that we set aside our former selfishness and prejudices and freely embrace as brothers and sisters all others who belong to Jesus regardless of ethnic or cultural heritages,socioeconomic levels or former religious backgrounds (Colossians 3:11). It is God that has chosen us and made us holy and His beloved (Colossians 3:12 – (See: The Character of the Elect), and so we pursue transformation by the renewing of our minds. We desire our positional righteousness to be seen in practical righteous living (Romans 12:2). We immerse ourselves in Christian virtues so that others may easily identify us as those who belong to Christ. In contrast to the way we used to think and live, we put on the virtues of compassion, kindness, humility gentleness, patience, forbearance and forgiveness (See: Christian Virtues, Pt. 2 – Living on a Higher Plane).
This morning we will continue in our study of the virtues that are to characterize the life of a Christian as a result of the radical change that occurred at regeneration when we were saved from our sins by the Lord Jesus Christ. Please follow along as I read Colossians 3:12-17 again this morning to set the context.
3:12 (NASB) “And so, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. 14 And beyond all these things [put on] love, which is the perfect bond of unity. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms [and] hymns [and] spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do in word or deed, [do] all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.”
Christian Love – Colossians 3:14
This morning we are going to be examining Verse 14 which reads, “And beyond all these things [put on] love, which is the perfect bond of unity.”
Putting on Love. Most study Bibles will indicate by either italics,parentheses, or brackets that the verb in this verse, “put on,” has been added by the translators so that the sentence will make sense in English. This a form of an ellipsis in which the word implied, but omitted, is found in the near context. In this case, the verb implied is from the previous main verb found in verse 12. We are to put on love in the same sense we put on the other virtues. We are to be immersed in it so that we become identified by it much like putting on a sports uniform will identify both the sport we are playing and the team that we are on. The virtues that characterize us will identify us as disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Superiority of Love. This love we are to put on is “beyond” or “above” all these things.” It is the supreme virtue upon which all the other virtues depend. As we have seen in our previous studies, the virtues listed in verses 12 and 13 are of far greater significance in the life of a Christian than a non-Christian. Unbelievers can be compassionate to those who are suffering,kind to those they like, humble before those they consider superior, gentle when it advances their own agenda, patient and forbearing with those they love, and forgiving when it is to their advantage. Christians have to go beyond all of that and be compassionate, kind, humble, gentle, patient forbearing and forgiving toward all men including those that hate them and persecute them. That cannot be possible unless they are undergirded by love.
Paul states here in Colossians 3:14 that love is “the perfect bond of unity” or “the bond of perfection.” The word translated “bond”
(suvndesmo”/ sundesmos) was used in Colossians 2:19 for the “ligaments” or “sinews” that hold the body together. The word is also used as a philosophical term describing that which overcomes plurality by producing unity. Love binds together the virtues to produce completeness or perfection.
Galatians 5:22-23 lists out the characteristics of the fruit of the Spirit. The list begins with love and a strong case can be made that the remaining nouns – joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control – are all descriptive qualities of love. Paul makes the case in 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 that even using the gifts of the Spirit are exercises in futility unless they are motivated by love. Even obedience to the Lord is a characteristic that arises out of love for the Lord according to John 14:15. Jesus said that the whole Law and Prophets were dependent on two commandments,both of which are centered in love – “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind,” “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-39). James called this love the “royal law” (James 2:8), and Paul said in Romans 13:10, “Love does no wrong to a neighbor; love therefore is the fulfillment of [the] law.” Love is then “beyond” or “above” the other virtues for they are the expressions of love.
The Nature of Love. What love is Paul talking about here? The English word “love” has a multitude of meanings depending on who uses it and the context in which it is used. You can love a feeling, an experience, something you see,something you eat, an inanimate object, a pet or a person. That is you can say I love happiness, winning a race, watching the clouds, apple pie ala mode, my house, my dog, my child and my wife – and the meaning of love in every usage is at least slightly different (at least I hope you love your wife differently than you do your dog – if not, well, I guess I will see you in marriage counseling). Love is a word that some people understand very well by experience and others have only the report that others have told about it. Some have an abundance of it and share it freely, while others have little and keep it to themselves.
Often love is associated with romance, and the feelings that go with that which has been variously described. One person said love was “hearing bells ring, feeling butterflies in the stomach and acting as though bees were in your bonnet.” Another quipped, “love doesn’t really make the world go round,it just makes people so dizzy it looks that way.” Another defined it as “something that makes a fellow feel funny and act foolish,” while another said, “love is something different from delirium, but it is hard to tell the difference.” Many people have quipped that love is blind, one fellow added that it is deaf and dumb too. The Greek word for this kind of love is eros, the love of passion that can properly exist between a married couple.
Someone who saw through the feelings of romance wrote, “Love makes a man think almost as much of a woman as he thinks of himself.” Somebody else recognized the same truth and wrote, “A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself” and then added, “If dogs can think,how can we account for their love for man?” But love is much broader than a rush of feelings of romance.
Love is the glue that holds families and friendships together. It is the sunlight that kills the germs of jealousy and hate. It oils the gears of a household to keep it running smoothly. It covers a multitude of sins. It affects all our actions. “You can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving.” The Greek words for the love between family members is storge and the love between friends is phileo. These are great words of love, but they are not the greatest.
The Greek word used for God’s love for us is agaph / agapÃª and it is very different from the other types of love. This love is cognitive and sacrificial. It is not an emotional response or even a feeling of affection. Emotions may follow it, but they do not lead or direct this kind of love. It is a love extended by choice irrespective of the loveliness or attraction of the one loved. God loved us while we were yet sinners (Romans 5:8). It desires the best for the one loved and will sacrifice itself to achieve what is best. God demonstrated His love for us in Jesus’ death as the substitute payment for our sin. This love is unearned, but it can be spurned, as proven by the many that have clearly heard and understood the gospel of Jesus Christ, yet still reject it in favor of some alternative they think is better.
I agree with the fellow that said that love is the fairest of the flowers in God’s garden. I also agree with the fellow that said, “One of the tragedies of American life is that love is being defined by those who have experienced so little of it.” The Christian is not to be like that for agaph / agapÃª, this word that defines God’s sacrificial love for man, is the word used here in Colossians 3:14 for this Christian virtue. In addition, the word is used with the article so that it is “the love” referring to something specific. What specific love could this be referring to?
Those that accept God’s love respond in love to Him and seek to fulfill His command to love Him with all their heart, soul, mind and strength and to love their neighbors as themselves (Matthew 22). That is not easy, for as someone said, “to love the world is not a chore, the problem is the miserable guy next door!” Yet, as Jesus said in Matthew 5, it is in loving even our enemies that we show that we are sons of God the Father. It is His love flowing through us. In addition, and more to the point in this passage, is that it is our love for one another that demonstrates that we are indeed followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. This love demonstrates that we have indeed been raised up with Christ. Jesus said in John 13:34-35, “A new commandment I give to you,that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
This is an incredible statement. Some have wondered how this could be “new” since God had already commanded His followers to “love their neighbors as themselves” (Leviticus 19:18; Matthew 22:39). But this was new, for the standard would no longer be a person’s own innate selfishness. It would no longer be to love others as yourself, but rather love others according to the example of Jesus Himself. Christians are to love one another in the same way Jesus loved us. This demonstration of love would in turn proclaim to everyone around them that they are true followers of Jesus Christ. Without it, their claim would be suspect.
What was Jesus’ example of love? It was far beyond the kind of love that humans normally show one another. Jesus’ love was different in breadth, depth,and length.
Breadth – In Matthew 5:46 Jesus describes the normal love of humans. 46 “For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax-gatherers do the same? 47 “And if you greet your brothers only, what do you do more [than others]? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? People love the people that love them. They are friendly to the people that are friendly to them. We all know the reality of this, for all of us must admit that given our preferences, we would rather be with people that we know like us.
Jesus’ love was greater in breadth. He loved even those that hated Him. “For Christ also died for sins once for all, [the] just for [the] unjust, in order that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit (1 Peter 3:18). The just died for the unjust. The apostle John said, “We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us” (1 John 3:16). The love of God is not based in there being something in us that is attractive to Him or something that we can give Him.
Jesus did not become a man, live a sinless life and then willingly die in our place because we loved God or were even friendly towards Him. Man loves himself and is in rebellion against God. We do not give Him the honor that He is due and we disobey His commands. Even now, any love a person has for God is in response for what God has done first. We love, because He first loved us (1 John 4:9). Jesus came to seek and save that which was lost (Luke 19:10), and He spent so much time with them that He was called the friend of tax-gatherers and sinners (Luke 7:34).
Jesus’ love is greater in breadth because it extends to the unlovely, the downtrodden, the weak, the despised (1 Corinthians 1:26-28), and yes, even to His enemies. Even while on the cross, Jesus asked the Father to forgive those who were crucifying Him because they did not know what they were doing (Luke 23:34).
Jesus wants us to have the same breadth in our love. Jesus said in Matthew 5:44 “But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you 45 in order that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”
This example has been followed by countless Christians, so you are not exempt from it because you think it is too hard. It is too hard for you, but it is not too hard for God to do it through you. Consider the thousands of missionaries that have given their lives for the people they were striving to reach with the gospel. I think specifically of those whose family members were martyred, yet they went back with the gospel to those who did the murdering. I mentioned a case in point on this last week. Elizabeth Elliot responded to the death of her husband and Rachel Saint to the death of her brother by moving to live among the Auca Indians. Their children played with the children of those that had killed their father or uncle. That testimony of love eventually played a role in those who had committed the murders so that they became believers and eventually church leaders. Years later they were the same ones that baptized the son and daughter of Nate Saint, one of the men they killed. That is the scope of love we are to have.
The Depth of Love. The depth of Jesus’ love is also greater. Humans are innately selfish which leads to a shallow commitment. It is common for us to set aside or even discard relationships when we are no longer getting what we want out of them. Friendships are nearly as disposable as grocery sacks. You keep them as long as you can get something out of them, but once they are empty,you throw them away. We look out for ourselves and not for the other person.
This selfish mindset is at the heart of the large percentage of couples that live together instead of getting married. There is a fear about saying, “I do.” What if it is for worse instead of better, or sickness instead of health, or poorer instead of richer? And for many that do get married, divorce is in the back of their mind as their option out if it becomes too much work. Then there are those that stay married for whatever reasons, but the love died long ago.
That is not how the Lord wants our marriages or our love for our Christian brothers and sisters to be. God commands the husband to love the wife “as Christ loved the church.” This points us back again to the depth of Jesus’ love. Just as Jesus sacrificed Himself in order to sanctify and cleanse the church so that it would be holy and blameless, so the husband is to seek out the best interest of his wife and sacrifice himself for her that she will become holy and blameless. How deep should that sacrifice go? To the same depth as Jesus’sacrifice.
It is one thing to tolerate other people. It is another to actually care for them. It is still another to sacrifice yourself for them. The depth of Jesus’love is seen in His sacrifice of Himself on our behalf. As I have previously pointed out from Philippians 2, Jesus set aside His glory in heaven in order to become a man and take the form of a bond-servant. That is a huge sacrifice in itself, but His sacrifice went deeper. Jesus then willingly sacrificed His life and died as the sin sacrifice in our place. Jesus Himself said, “greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). Jesus’ love was for the benefit of others and He freely gave of Himself. Jesus’ example of superior love is the example and the standard of love for all Christians.
Again, the example of countless martyrs, many of whom died in trying to bring the gospel to others or protect them is the reminder that these commands can be followed. We humans can follow Jesus’ example. What is the depth of your love?
The Length of Love. Jesus love is also superior in length. Human love varies greatly in how long it will last. Tragically, in our society, committed love is under severe attack by selfishness. How many relationships have you had that ended because it was just too frustrating to deal with the other person, or vica versa? People could get on Jesus’ nerves at time. He lamented to His disciples about how long He would have to “suffer” with an unbelieving and perverted generation (Luke 9:41). He also lamented about the disciples being of “little faith” (Matthew 8:26) and their slowness of heart (Luke 24:25). Yet, He continued to love them to the end (John 13:1). Even after Jesus’ physical departure, He has kept His promise to “never leave them or forsake them” (Hebrews 13:5) through the ministry of the Holy Spirit (John 14:16; 16:7).
His ability to love and keep loving is based in His commitment to do so. We are to be just as committed to one another. Hebrews 10:24-25 calls on us to “consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging [one another]; and all the more, as you see the day drawing near.” That takes commitment. It is wonderful that each of you are here this morning, but what about those that are not here? What about the times you don’t come just because you don’t feel like it or there is something you would rather do? True love takes a commitment that often requires you to do things you don’t care to do for the benefit of others.
I have often thought that the reason the Lord allows us to have children is so that we will learn to love. Consider it. What does an infant do for you? They eat, cry and give you dirty diapers and spit up. We are going to spend an incredible amount of time and money in raising them while knowing that there will be quite a few heartaches along the way. So why do parents love their children? Because there is a commitment to the welfare of that child. Good parents will sacrifice and do without for themselves in order to provide for the needs of their children. Many are the stories of parents sacrificing of themselves for their children to the point of their own life.
That should be the type of love we have for one another as Christians. It is not about what we get out of it. It is about what we give to others. How can and will the Lord use you in someone else’s life? In the process of loving others we find fulfillment and receive love ourselves. Beloved, never let a relationship end because of your lack of love. If it ends, let it because the other person refuses to receive your love. That was the example Jesus gave even in His love for Judas. At the Last Supper Jesus gave Judas the place of honor and a final warning. The relationship that Christians are to have with one another is one of a love that follows the example of Jesus. It gives of itself sacrificially.
This commitment of love means that we will also learn how to put up with each other. While some Christians are more mature than others, no believer will arrive at perfection this side of heaven and so we must be patient with one another. We learn to put up with one another’s idiosyncracies for love covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8). And when there is sin that needs to be dealt with, we speak the truth in love, bearing one another’s burden in helping them out of their sin (Galatians 6:1-4). As I pointed out last week, the Christian is not just patient, but also forbearing. This virtue adds to patience the element of holding up against a thing and so to endure. There can be great weight placed upon you, yet you will not bend to it. The range of the Christian’s forbearance extends from enduring the ignorance and foolishness of others (Matthew 17:17) to persecution and affliction (2 Thessalonians 1:4).
We even go beyond being patient and forbearing by also being forgiving as I pointed out last week. We have been forgiven much by the Lord, so we can in turn also forgive others. We want to be right with others and will do all that we can to live in peace with them so far as it depends on us. We never give up on someone who continues to work at following Christ, and we will even extend ourselves to those that refuse to live in peace with us. We do not give up even then for we keep the door open for them to come back and will work at it again if they will repent.
How are you doing at loving others? Where do you lack? What do you need to do to change things? Perhaps there is someone you need to get things right with so that you can love in this manner. Today is the day to do it, don’t put it off any longer. Let us love one another as our Lord has loved us and in that way bring about the perfect bond of unity with all the other virtues being lovingly put into practice.
Sermon Notes – 1/23/2011
Christian Virtues,Part 3: The Love of the Elect – Colossians 3:14
Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help.Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children – Do one or more of the following: 1) Write down all the verses mentioned in the sermon and look them up later. 2) Count how many times “love” is used. Discuss with your parents how you can love others including those you don’t like.
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others. What are some of the radical changes that occur when a person becomes a Christian? What does it mean to “put on” love? How is the love a Christian is to demonstrate superior to that of non-Christians? What is the relationship of love to the other virtues in Colossians 3? What is the relationship of love to each of the following: the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) the usage of the gifts of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 13)? Obedience to the Lord (John 14:15)? The commandments of God (Matthew 22:37-39; James 2:8)? What are some of the various meanings of the English word “love”? What is the Greek word for God’s love? What word is used in Colossians 3:14? Describe the nature of this kind of love? In what sense is the “new commandment” of John 13:34-35 new? Humans normally love those that love them – what is the breadth of Jesus’ love? To whom does His love extend? How can Christians follow that example? Human love often has a shallow commitment – explain the sacrifices Jesus made in His love for man? Human love is often found to be limited in how long it lasts – what are some of the descriptions of the length Jesus’ love? How does love enable you to respond properly to the failures of others? How are you doing at loving others? Where do you lack? What do you need to do to change things? When will you make those changes?
Introduction & Review
____________ – fundamental or extreme change
The radical change in a Christian: Change of ________,attitude and behavior, made _____from the dead
The “old man” is ______, so cease living according to the desires of the flesh, lusts of the mind and pride
Walk in a manner _____________ of the Lord & identifying with Him – which removes prejudices
As the elect of God, we put on the Christian ___________ to reflect righteous in daily life
Christian Love – Colossians 1:14
Putting on Love – verb supplied from verse 12. We put on love like a garment & it ______________ us
The Superiority of Love – it is “beyond” or “above” the other ______________
The virtues of a Christian are to extend to ________ people, not just those they like
Love is the “perfect bond of unity” – it holds the virtues together to produce ______________
Love is the first of the fruits of the Spirit – Galatians 5:22-23
Without the love, the ___________ of the Spirit are exercises in futility – 1 Corinthians 13:1-3
Love is the __________________ for obedience to the Lord – John 14:15
The Nature of Love
The English word “love” has a wide ______________ of meanings.
The Greeks had several words to describe different types of love – Eros: Marital love.
Storge: Family love Phileo: Love between _____________
God’s love for us is agaph / agapÃª– a cognitive and _______________ love of choice
“The Love” This is agaph / agapÃª love comes in response to __________ love
This love for one another demonstrates we are _______________ of Jesus – John 13:34-35
This is a “new” commandment to love because ______________ example becomes the standard for it
The Breadth of Love
Matthew 5:46 – People normally love those who love them,their ___________
Jesus’ love _____________ to the unlovely, the downtrodden, the weak, the despised – 1 Cor. 1:26-28
Christians are to have the same _____________ of love – Matthew 5:44-45
The Depth of Love
Humans are innately _____________ resulting in shallow commitment and disposable friends
Believers are to have the same __________ of love
The Length of Love
Human love varies greatly in how ______________ it will last
We are to be as committed as ______________ to one another – Hebrews 10:24-25
True love takes a ___________that often requires you to do things you like to do for the benefit of others
Good ____________ sacrificially love their children
Never let a relationship end because of your ________of love – let it be their refusal to receive your love
Love requires we deal __________ with the faults and failures of others – patient, forbearing, _________
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