Walking In Love
By Bishop Francis Wale Oke
President, Sword of the Spirit Ministries, Ibadan, Nigeria
Foundation Scripture: Romans 5:1-5
Sunday 29th June 2014
Our foundation scripture in Romans 5 highlights the importance of walking in the love of God. Verse 5 reads: ‘Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us’.
The Greek translation for ‘the love of God’ in this passage is ‘agape’. Let me point out that God’s love can only be experienced by the power of the Holy Spirit; we cannot walk in God’s love in our own strength. God’s love supersedes all forms of human sentiments, emotions or affection. I pray that you will experience the power of God’s love in your heart, today in Jesus name.
Again, let me reiterate that agape is not lust, fondness or affection. We can describe affection as the love a person has for a spouse, or the love of a parent for a child, but this does not in any way compare with God’s love. Agape is also not ‘Charity’, a very common word here in the West, actually picked up from the bible. Charity has now been watered down merely to evade tax. It must be stated that charity is an old English word for ‘Agape’.
Renowned Bible scholar, Professor W.E Vine defines agape as an ‘exercise of the divine will in deliberate choice made without any assignable reason except that which lies in the nature of God, Himself’. As a Christian, you can exercise divine will, because of the Holy Spirit dwelling within you. Besides, notice that this definition mentioned deliberate choice, involving your will. ‘Without any assignable reason’ refers to loving without any underlying motive; no intention of receiving anything in return. It is simply the nature of God. 1 John 4:8 reads: ‘Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.’ Professor Vine further describes God’s love as His attitude towards His Son, the human race and to those who believe in Christ Jesus, as Lord.
Agape is an attitude and the essential nature of God, and as such, Christian love has God as its primary object and expresses itself first in implicit obedience to His commandment. Agape is also the believers’ attitude to one another. While speaking yesterday, I gave a simple illustration to distinguish between your neighbour and your Christian brother/sister. Our neighbours include those who live far and near, and have not yet acknowledged Christ as Lord and Saviour. Our fellow Christian brothers and sisters are members of the body of Christ. We are commanded by Christ to love our neighbours as we love ourselves, but to love our Christian brothers and sisters as Christ loves the church.
Let me reiterate my illustration: if for instance, you have a loaf of bread left that you intended to eat because you are hungry, but then a neighbour arrives, hungry and in desperate need of food? As Jesus commanded, you share the bread with your neighbour, equally. However, if your Christian brother or sister is hungry, then you are to hand over the loaf of bread to them and trust God to provide for your need. This is what Christ demonstrated when He gave his life for us.
Agape was not in existence, until Jesus arrived in the world. Remember that God’s love can only be expressed by God’s nature and by the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit within us. When God demonstrated His love toward us, we were sinners, yet He sent His son to die for us (Romans 5:8). And this is how 1 John 4:11 exhort us to reciprocate this love: ‘Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other’ (NLT).
Here is an excerpt from a book I read some years ago, written by E.W Kenyon: “For years, I was confused about this love fact. One day, I discovered it in one of Canon Farrar’s book. There are two Greek words that define love or charity: One of them is ‘Agape’. It is not found in classical Greek, before the days of Christ”. That struck me when reading this book. Reading further: “He makes this observation that it is evident that the word ‘agape’ was coined in the realm of divine revelation (by Christ). True…Several other old translations of the scriptures which were translated 280 years before Christ, none had the word ‘agape’. The translations 200 to 500 years after Christ however included the word ‘agape’.” However, can I submit to you that Jesus did not coin ‘agape’; he actually brought it to our world.
Prior to Jesus arrival on earth, the patriarchs and the prophets had God’s spirit upon them. In other words, they were anointed for their various assignments, but none of them had the indwelling power of the Spirit in them, as such they did not witness or experience ‘agape’ love. Not until Jesus arrived, did the Spirit begin indwelling us. Jesus made reference to this in John 14:17 when addressing his disciples: ‘the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.’ This promise of Christ was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost. With the presence of God’s spirit in the Apostles, they were empowered to love other believers as Christ loved them.
In the Old Testament, the rule that existed was ‘an eye for an eye’, and ‘a tooth for a tooth’. It was easy to unleash God’s wrath on a disobedient or wayward person. Remember the story of Elisha and the young lads in 2 Kings 2:23-25, who were judged by God for mocking His servant, or the episode of the fire of heaven that consumed the king’s emissaries in 2 Kings 1:10. This rule had changed during Christ’s era, such that when Christ’s disciples tried to call down fire from heaven in Luke 9:51-56, he rebuked them. Jesus won the world over by demonstrating ‘agape’; he was unmoved by the world’s criticisms, rejection and crucifixion. He did not fight back, or react to the world’s hostility. As a result, the world is now at Christ’s feet, without firing an arrow.
Let me share with you some hallmarks of ‘Agape’ :
1. Forgiveness: 1 Peter 4:8 reads ‘Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins’ (NLT). Agape does not keep a record of sin, but forgives. This is why it is possible for our prayers to be granted by God. Unforgiveness bars the answers to our prayers. Hence, Jesus encouraged us to forgive; this is how it is rendered in Mark 11:25 “But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too” (NLT). God’s love is imperative in the church, as there may be occasions when we hurt one another, but if we walk in love, then we can forgive just as God as forgiven us. I am reminded of one of Jesus’s story of two servants in Matthew 18:23-35; one of the servants owed his Master a huge sum of money and was pardoned by the Master, but this same servant could not forgive his fellow servant who owed him a few pennies, but sent his fellow servant to prison. His master later heard about this, and reversed his decision, sending this unforgiving servant to prison till he could pay back his debt. Jesus rounded up this story by saying: “That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters from your heart” (NLT).
2. Giving: The church must exhibit this characteristic of love – giving to God, His people, towards the advancement of His Kingdom, to our underprivileged neighbours and God’s servants, gladly, joyfully and sacrificially.
3. Serving: Galatians 5:13 reads: “For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love” (NLT). We must serve motivated by love, as this is the only way to get God’s attention. In 1 Corinthians 3:12-15, Apostle Paul writing to the church in Corinth, explained that our work (or service to God) will be tested by God’s fire, and only our work that passes God’s test that will be rewarded. Further on, when Paul was writing to the Corinthian church, he wrote: ‘For the love of Christ compels us…’ (2 Corinthians 5:14). The foundation of New Wine Church, as built by Dr Tayo Adeyemi was built in love. And this is the way we should all serve.
4. Sacrifice: When you are motivated by love, you find it easy to go the extra mile without thinking too much about it.
I want to encourage you, to open your heart to a fresh fire of the love of God, to forgive freely, to give unreservedly, to serve faithfully and sacrifice wholeheartedly. In this season of enlargement, we can only experience all of God’s blessings for us if we are motivated by love.
I pray that the Lord will envelope you with His love so that these hallmarks of ‘Agape’ – forgiveness, giving, serving and sacrifice will be evident individually and corporately in New Wine Church in Jesus name (Amen).
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