“Love – Agape” – 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a


March 30th, 2014
1 Corinthians 13:4-8a
“Love – Agape”

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Bible Memory Verse for the Week: This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.— 1 John 4:10

The question to be answered is . . . What is the love about which Jesus, Paul, and John speak so nobly?

Answer: It is called agape love. And it is the highest form of love that mankind can imagine, witness or even define. It is a love that has at its primary concern the well-being and benefit of the beloved. Agape love is concerned with doing whatever is necessary for the beloved to enjoy the best possible life. It is agape love that is the basis of the marriage covenant and is the foundation of life itself.

The Word for the Day is . . . Agape

Definition of Agape:
The Greek word agape (love) seems to have been virtually a Christian invention—a new word for a new thing (apart from about twenty occurrences in the Greek version of the OT, it is almost non-existent before the NT). Agape draws its meaning directly from the revelation of God in Christ. It is not a form of natural affection, however, intense, but a supernatural fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22). It is a matter of will rather than feeling (for Christians must love even those they dislike—Mt 5:44-48). It is the basic element in Christ-likeness.
Read 1 Corinthians 13 and note what these verses have to say about the primacy (vv. 1-3) and permanence (vv. 8-13) of love; note too the profile of love (vv. 4-7) which they give. (James Packer; Your Father Loves You)

There are NO levels or degrees of AGAPE love. It is either present or it is not. To segment or to designate it to greater or lesser degrees is to either pervert or totally misunderstand AGAPE love.

Love is not a feeling only . . . it is an act of the will.

Love cannot be equated with sacrificial action! It cannot be equated with any action! This is a powerful antidote to the common teaching that love is not what you feel but what you do. The good in this popular teaching is the twofold intention to show (1) that mere warm feelings can never replace actual deeds of love (Jas 2:16, 1 Jn 3:18), and (2) that efforts of love must be made even in the absence of the joy that one might wish were present. But it is careless and inaccurate to support these two truths by saying that love is simply what you do and not what you feel. (John Piper; Desiring God, 101)

The very definition of love in 1 Corinthians refutes this narrow conception of love. For example, Paul says love is not jealous and not easily provoked, and that it rejoices in the truth and hopes all things (13:4-7). All these are feelings! If you feel certain things such as unholy jealousy and irritation, you are not loving. And if you do not feel certain things such as joy in the truth and hope, you are not loving. In other words, YES, love is more than feelings; but NO, love is not less than feelings. (John Piper; Desiring God, 101)

Definition of love that takes God into account and also includes the feelings that should accompany the outward acts of love: Love is the overflow of joy in God which gladly meets the needs of others. (John Piper; Desiring God, 103)

Love is not a noun; it is a verb. What do you do to show love for someone else? When you give a cup of cold water in the name of Christ, regardless of how you feel about that person, the giving is in love. When you reach out to a brother or sister who is in need, no matter how you feel about them, that is love, too. (R.C. Sproul; Doubt and Assurance, 76)

No one likes trials, yet no one can escape them. We can let them ruin our lives, allowing ourselves to become bitter, angry, resentful. Or we can look for the treasure that will let us love and serve our family and others better. Again, the choice is ours. For loving God–like loving one’s spouse and children–is first, last, and always a decision. (Gary Smalley with John Trent, Love is a Decision, 210)

Sacrificial love has transforming power. Genuine love is volitional rather than emotional. The person who truly loves does so because of a decision to love. This person has made a commitment to be loving whether or not the loving feeling is present. It if is, so much the better; but if it isn’t, the commitment to love, the will to love, still stands and is still exercised. Conversely, it is not only possible but necessary for a loving person to avoid acting on feelings of love. I may meet a woman who strongly attracts me, whom I feel like loving, but because it would be destructive to my marriage to have an affair, I will say vocally or in the silence of my heart, “I feel like loving you, but I am not going to.” My feelings of love may be unbounded, but my capacity to be loving is limited. I therefore must choose the person on whom to focus my capacity to love, toward whom to direct my will to love. True love is not a feeling by which we are overwhelmed. It is a committed, thoughtful decision. —Dr. M. Scott Peck.

Why is agape love so important to understand and express?:
I- Because without love we cannot understand God, as agape love is an essential attribute of God’s nature. (Ps 136; Rom 13:8-10; 1 Jn 4:7-21)

God loves us; not because we are loveable but because He is love, not because he needs to receive but because He delights to give. (C. S. Lewis; Letters of C. CS. Lewis, ¶ 1, 231)

God is love. God is love in the NT and God is Love in the OT because God never changes. That means EVERYTHING that God does, is ultimately to be understood as an act of love.
If we look at God’s treatment of Egypt and Pharaoh in the book of Exodus, and we do not see God’s love in those acts, we do not understand God’s motivation.
If we look at the conquest of Joshua and the eradication of the Canaanite peoples and do not see it ultimately as an act of love, it means we do not understand God’s motivation.
If we look at the cross of Christ, and the suffering, anguish, and punishment that He underwent, and do not see it as an act of love, it means we do not understand God’s motivation.
If we cannot understand an act God does and see it as love, then we are either ignorant of the circumstances and God’s motivation or we do not understand what love is. — Pastor Keith

Love is ever the activity of God. — Martin Luther

I could more easily contain Niagara Falls in a tea cup than I can comprehend the wild, uncontainable love of God. (Brennan Manning; The Ragamuffin Gospel, 162)

Theologian Karl Barth, after writing thousands of pages in his Church Dogmatics, arrived at this simple definition of God: “the One who loves.” (Philip Yancey; What’s so Amazing About Grace?, 55)

II- Since we are created in God’s image, yet fallen from that image, we can hope to find neither security nor significance without agape love. (Jn 15:17; 1 Cor 13:1-13; 16:14; Gal 5:6; Heb 12:6)

The Bible says that human beings were made in God’s image. That means, among other things, that we were created to worship and live for God’s glory, not our own. We were made to serve God and others. That means paradoxically that if we try to put our own happiness ahead of obedience to God, we violate our own nature and become, ultimately, miserable. Jesus restates the principle when he says, “Whoever wants to save his life shall lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Mt 16:25). (Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage, 57-58)

Let me suggest at this point it’s because the good life is not about the sum total of what we contribute to the world. It’s about loving. Utilitarianism knows nothing of love. Love is the beginning and the end of the good life, however, and it’s in love that our lives must be centered. (Charles Colson, The Good Life, p. 229)

God created us in His image, personal beings unlike all other creatures and like Him in our unique capacity for relationship. As dependent personal beings, we cannot function fully without close relationships. I understand the Scriptures to teach that relationships offer two elements that are absolutely essential if we are to live as God intended: (1) the security of being truly loved and accepted, and (2) the significance of making a substantial, lasting, positive impact on another person. (Dr. Larry Crabb, The Marriage Builder, 20)

The clear teaching of Scripture is that communication problems inevitably result whenever people pursue self-centered goals. Most of us enter marriage with the foolish but reasonable-sounding belief that we need (not desire or long for, but need) our spouses to respond to us a certain way if we are to be significant and secure. We must become convinced of the sufficiency of Christ to the point where our goals toward our spouses shift from manipulation to ministry. (Dr. Larry Crabb, The Marriage Builder, 66-67)

Because our needs are met in Christ, we are free to regard marriage not as a place to fill our needs, but as a unique opportunity to help another human become more fully aware of God’s love and purpose. Our goal as marriage partners must be to minister to our mates. (Dr. Larry Crabb, The Marriage Builder, 79)

Husbands and wives are to regard marriage as an opportunity to minister in a unique and special way to another human being, to be used of God to bring their spouses into a more satisfying appreciation of their worth as persons who are secure and significant in Jesus Christ. (Dr. Larry Crabb, The Marriage Builder, 55)

III- Our sinfulness prevents us from nurturing agape love. (Mt 24:12; 1 Tm 1:5; 2 Tm 2:22; 3:2-4; 1 Pt 1:22; 1 Jn 2:15; 3:10-11; 5:1-3; 2 Jn 1:5-6)

Love is not love until you recognize how difficult it is to love. And love without that recognition is not love but simply dribble. — Steve Brown

Selfishness is the greatest cause of marital failure. (Tim LaHaye, How to Be Happy Though Married, 104)

Marriage used to be a public institution for the common good, and now it is a private arrangement for the satisfaction of the individuals. Marriage used to be about us, but now it is about me. (Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage, 22)

In its fallen state the human consciousness is a marvelous instrument of self-deception. It is capable of selectively attending to only those motives that preserve our cherished image of ourselves as good and kind and of disowning or at least disguising the ugly, self-centered objectives to which we are really committed. Only the Spirit of God unfolding His truth as revealed in Scripture can cut through our lying hearts to expose our selfish motivation. (Dr. Larry Crabb, The Marriage Builder, 52)

If our views of marriage are too romantic and idealistic, we underestimate the influence of sin on human life. If they are too pessimistic and cynical, we misunderstand marriage’s divine origin. If we somehow manage, as our modern culture has, to do both at once, we are doubly burdened by a distorted vision. Yet the trouble is not within the institution of marriage but within ourselves. (Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage, 40)

Nobody can give anyone else the kind or amount of love they’re starved for. In the end we’re all alike, groping for true love and incapable of fully giving it. What we need is someone to love us who doesn’t need us at all. Someone who loves us radically, unconditionally, vulnerably. Someone who loves us just for our sake. If we received that kind of love, that would so assure us of our value, it would so fill us up, that maybe we could start to give love like that too. Who can give love with no need? Jesus. (Timothy Keller, King’s Cross, 98-99)

What is love?
It is silence—when your words would hurt.
It is patience—when your neighbor’s curt.
It is deafness—when a scandal flows.
It is thoughtfulness—for other’s woes.
It is promptness—when stern duty calls.
It is courage—when misfortune falls.

Vanstone says, In false love your aim is to use the other person to fulfill your happiness. Your love is conditional: You give it only as long as the person is affirming you and meeting your needs. And it’s non-vulnerable: You hold back so that you can cut your losses if necessary. But in true love, your aim is to spend yourself and use yourself for the happiness of the other, because your greatest joy is that person’s joy. Therefore your affection is unconditional: You give it regardless of whether your loved one is meeting your needs. And it’s radically vulnerable: You spend everything, hold nothing back, give it all away. Then Vanstone says, surprisingly, that our real problem is that nobody is actually fully capable of giving true love. We want it desperately, but we can’t give it. He doesn’t say we can’t give any kind of real love at all, but he’s saying that nobody is fully capable of true love. All of our love is somewhat fake. How so? Because we need to be loved like we need air and water. We can’t live without love. That means there’s a certain mercenary quality to our relationships. We look for people whose love would really affirm us. We invest our love only where we know we’ll get a good return. (Timothy Keller, King’s Cross, 98)

What do you mean when you say, “I love you”? Do you mean I love you or do you mean I love what little bit of me that I can detect in you? Which in reality, is not love but arrogance, ego, pride, vanity, and narcissism.

Older views of marriage are considered to be traditional and oppressive, while the newer view of the “Me-Marriage” seems so liberating. And yet it is the newer view that has led to a steep decline in marriage and to an oppressive sense of hopelessness with regard to it. To conduct a Me-Marriage requires two completely well-adjusted, happy individuals, with very little in the way of emotional neediness of their own or character flaws that need a lot of work. The problem is–there is almost no one like that out there to marry! (Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage, 28)

A marriage based not on self-denial but on self-fulfillment will require a low- or no-maintenance partner who meets your needs while making almost no claims on you. Simply put–today people are asking far too much in the marriage partner. (Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage, 30)

If the highest good is personal pleasure, one’s divine duty is to fixate on personal needs and wants. Pop singer Whitney Houston echoed this theme in “The Greatest Love,” which struck a platinum vein in the American sensibility. The greatest love, it turns out, is to be found in the mirror. It seems to matter little that self-centered people tend to be miserable. Once a vice, and even a mortal sin, self-worship is now a cultivated skill. (Robert H. Knight; The Age of Consent, xix)

“I can’t promise you forever,” a Hallmark card says, “But I can promise you today.” It’s the quintessential love card for the 90s: No commitment, just warm feelings…as long as they last. No wonder 60 percent of marriages are failing. Young people are literally training themselves for relationships without commitment. (Charles Colson, A Dangerous Grace, 205)

Monitor your conversation to insure that it is truly loving. Ask yourself after every phrase, “Was what I just said kind?”

IV- Since we are created to be relational, yet have fallen from the ability to foster healthy relationships; agape love, through grace and forgiveness, reinstates us to that ability so we can build up and serve one another. (Gn 2:18-24; Lk 7:47; Jn 13:34-35; Rom 15:1-3; Gal 5:13-14; Eph 4:2, 15-16; Phil 2:1-11; Jas 2:8; Heb 10:24; 1 Pt 4:8; 1 Jn 3:16-18)

Why did God create us and later redeem us at great cost even though he doesn’t need us? He did it because he loves us. His love is perfect love, radically vulnerable love. And when you begin to get it, when you begin to experience it, the fakery and manipulativeness of your own love starts to wash away, and you’ve got the patience and security to reach out and start giving a truer love to other people. (Timothy Keller, King’s Cross, 99-100)

Forgiveness is a prerequisite for love. —Steve Brown

Once I asked this young man why he had not ended this nightmare marriage. His words were as courageous as they were simple. He said, “My wife is a good mother most of the time. My children need her. But more than that they need to know their Savior. How can they know of a Father in heaven who forgives them if their father on earth will not forgive their own mother? How can my wife know the love of God if the spiritual leader in this home will not love her despite her faults?” (Bryan Chapell, Each for the Other, 22)

In order to act as you want to act and not just react to a situation do not excuse your behavior, regardless of what prompts it. Go to God and confess your sin, asking him to give you a gracious spirit. Then confess your unkind words or behavior to your partner so that your conscience can be clear. (Tim LaHaye, How to Be Happy Though Married, 43)

You have not married a perfect person; neither has your partner! Therefore, you will both have to forgive one another for your mistakes, sins, selfishness, and other forms of thoughtless behavior. Never carry a grudge; it is a burden too heavy to bear. (Tim LaHaye, How to Be Happy Though Married, 50)

Your willingness to forgive your partner affects both your personal and family life spiritually. Make it your responsibility to initiate forgiveness. It will help you to achieve a strong spiritual home, which in turn will enrich every other area of your marriage. (Tim LaHaye, How to Be Happy Though Married, 51)

The God of the OT is unique in that he attached himself to a people. For thousands of years, loyal adherents worshiped the god of the hills, the god of the valley, or the god of the sea, but the idea that there was a God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob–a God of people–this was something new! (Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage, 105)

It takes two to argue; if you refuse, that ends the argument. Much family heartache could be avoided if even one of the members would respond to God’s guidance instead of his own selfish desires. This illustration is only one of the many areas in which consistent actions according to God’s principles will open up the way for happy marital adjustments. (Tim LaHaye, How to Be Happy Though Married, 44)

This passage is one of the primary places that the “dance of the Trinity” becomes visible. The Son defers to his Father, taking the subordinate role. The Father accepts the gift, but then exalts the Son to the highest place. Each wishes to please the other; each wishes to exalt the other. Love and honor are given, accepted, and given again. In 1 Cor 11:3, Paul says directly what is implied in Philippians 2–namely, that the relationship of the Father and the son is a pattern for the relationship of husband to wife. (Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage, 198)

In the dance of the Trinity, the greatest is the one who is most self-effacing, most sacrificial, most devoted to the good of the Other. Jesus redefined–or, more truly, defined properly–headship and authority, thus taking the toxicity of it away, at least for those who live by his definition rather than by the world’s understanding. (Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage, 199)

My family once went through the National Gallery of Art, looking at some original Rembrandts, and one of my very tactile children reached out to touch the painting. My wife let loose with a harsh whisper and grabbed our child’s hand before it could even reach the canvas. “This is a Rembrandt!” she hissed under the guard’s glare. “You can’t touch these!”
My wife was created by God himself! How dare I dishonor her? In fact, shouldn’t it even give me pause before I reach out to touch her? She is the Creator’s daughter, after all! (Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage, 63)

We must be cautious about calling Need-love “mere selfishness.” Mere is always a dangerous word. No doubt Need-love, like all our impulses, can be selfishly indulged. A tyrannous and gluttonous demand for affection can be a horrible thing. But in ordinary life no one calls a child selfish because it turns for comfort to its mother; nor an adult who turns to his fellow “for company.” Those, whether children or adults, who do so least are not usually the most selfless. Where Need-love is felt there may be reasons for denying or totally mortifying it; but not to feel it is in general the mark of the cold egoist. Since we do in reality need one another (“it is not good for man to be alone”), then the failure of this need to appear as Need-love in consciousness–in other words, the illusory feeling that it is good for us to be alone–is a bad spiritual symptom; just as lack of appetite is a bad medical symptom because men do really need food. (C. S. Lewis, The Four Loves, 2-3)

Every Christian would agree that a man’s spiritual health is exactly proportional to his love for God. But man’s love for God, from the very nature of the case, must always be very largely, and must often be entirely, a Need-love. This is obvious when we implore forgiveness for our sins or support in our tribulations. But in the long run it is perhaps even more apparent in our growing–for it ought to be growing–awareness that our whole being by its very nature is one vast need; incomplete, preparatory, empty yet cluttered, crying out for Him who can untie things that are now knotted together and tie up things that are still dangling loose. (C. S. Lewis, The Four Loves, 3)

To keep your marriage brimming with love in the loving cup,
Whenever you’re wrong, admit it; Whenever you’re right, shut up. — Ogden Nash

If we do not show love to one another, the world has a right to question whether Christianity is true. — Francis A. Schaeffer

There’s a Spanish story of a father and son who had become estranged. The son ran away, and the father set off to find him. He searched for months to no avail. Finally, in a last desperate effort to find him, the father put an ad in a Madrid newspaper. The ad read: Dear Paco, meet me in front of this newspaper office at noon on Saturday. All is forgiven. I love you. Your Father. On Saturday 800 Pacos showed up, looking for forgiveness and love from their fathers.

Two phrases that go a long way to maintaining a great marriage: I’m sorry. I love you.

The formula for a happy marriage? It’s the same as the one for living in California: When you find a fault, don’t dwell on it. — Jay Trachman

A happy marriage is the union of two forgivers. — Ruth Bell Graham

V- Agape love is the love Christ has for His Bride the Church and should be exemplified in marriage—especially in a man’s love for his wife. (Jn 3:16; 15:12-13; Rom 5:8; 8:35-39; Eph 5:1-2, 21-33; Col 3:19)

If God had the gospel of Jesus’ salvation in mind when he established marriage, then marriage only “works” to the degree that approximates the pattern of God’s self-giving love in Christ. (Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage, 43)

Yes, it is difficult to love your spouse. But if you truly want to love God, look right now at the ring on your left hand, commit yourself to exploring anew what that ring represents, and love passionately, crazily, enduringly the fleshly person who put it there.
It just may be one of the most spiritual things you can do. (Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage, 51)

Jesus redefined all authority as servant-authority. Any exercise of power can only be done in service to the Other, not to please oneself. Jesus is the one who did not come to be served, as the world’s authority figures expect to be, but to serve, to the point of giving his life. (Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage, 200)

For a man, the first place he should check when it comes to building a strong family is a blueprint found in Ephesians 5. In this important chapter, the man is called to be the “head” of his wife–the primary lover–just as Christ is the head of the church and the lover of the church.
Nowhere does it say that a man is to “lord it over” his wife. In fact, Christ specifically commands that “lording it over” another person has no place in a Christian’s relationships. Rather, the Scriptures tell me I am to love my wife as Jesus loves His church.
How did Christ lead in love? By serving, by committing Himself to our best interest, and by doing so regardless of the cost. The greatest among us are simply following a pattern Christ set down–namely serving those He loved and for whom He laid down His life. (Gary Smalley with John Trent, Love is a Decision, 99)

When two Christians who fully understand this stand before the minister all decked out in their wedding finery, they realize they’re not just playing dress-up. What they’re saying is that someday they are going to be standing not before the minister but before the Lord. And they will turn to see each other without spot and blemish. And they hope to hear God say, “Well done, good and faithful servants. Over the years you have lifted one another up to me. You sacrificed for one another. You held one another up with prayer and with thanksgiving. You confronted each other. You rebuked each other. You hugged and you loved each other and continually pushed each other toward me. And now look at you. You’re radiant.” (Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage, 134)

We, the church, submit to Christ in everything, and the parallel of a wife submitting “everything” to her husband is no longer daunting, since we know what kind of behavior the husband has been called on to imitate. To what role must he submit? To that of savior, a servant-leader, who uses his authority and power to express a love that doesn’t even stop at dying for the beloved. (Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage, 201)

Both women and men get to “play the Jesus role” in marriage–Jesus in his sacrificial authority, Jesus in his sacrificial submission. By accepting our gender roles, and operating within them, we are able to demonstrate to the world. Concepts that are so counterintuitive as to be completely unintelligible unless they are lived out by men and women in Christian marriages. (Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage, 201-02)

But some women might chafe under the idea of male headship: “I agree that men and women are profoundly different according to their sex, but why does the man get to lead? If men and women are equal in dignity but different, why is the husband the head?” I think the truest answer is that we simply don’t know. Why was Jesus, the Son, the one who submitted and served (Phil 2:4ff)? Why wasn’t it the Father? We don’t know, but we do know that it was a sign of his greatness, not his weakness. (Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage, 211-12)

Stott says of the wife’s submission, “There is nothing demeaning about this, for her submission is not to be an unthinking obedience to his rule but rather a grateful acceptance of his care,” and he goes on to point out that Barth says that Paul “is thinking of a voluntary, free, joyful and thankful partnership, as the analogy of the relationship of the church to Christ shows.” Stott also holds that the courses of conduct laid down for the two partners are not so very different: “What does it mean to ‘submit’? It is to give oneself up to somebody. What does it mean to ‘love’? It is to give oneself up for somebody, as Christ ‘gave himself up’ for the church.” (Leon Morris; Expository Reflections on the Letter to the Ephesians, 183-84)

If two mature people come together in marriage, their spirit of selflessness will make it very easy for them to adjust. If they are immature and selfish, the early years of their marriage will be filled with “noisy clashes.” (Tim LaHaye, How to Be Happy Though Married, 98-99)

“God loves you just the way you are. God loves you too much to allow you to stay there.” — Buddy Greene

The biblical head of a family selflessly acts on behalf of those God has committed to his care. This description of headship repudiates modern perspectives that make headship a nasty synonym for self-seeking power plays. More important, because the term describes Christ’s agonizing efforts for those he loves, we know that men who use headship as an excuse for passivity in their marriage are wrong. Those husbands who will not expend the effort to do anything responsible in their homes may claim they are exercising the prerogatives of headship, but in reality they are abandoning their biblical responsibilities. (Bryan Chapell, Each for the Other, 27)

God’s Word in the hands of a religious fool can do immense harm. I have seen “couch potatoes” who order their wives and children around like the grand sultan of Morocco–adulterous misogynists with the domestic ethics of “Jabba the Hut” who cow their wives around with Bible verses about submission–insecure men whose wives do not dare go to the grocery without permission, who even tell their wives how to dress. But the fact that evil, disordered men have perverted God’s Word is no reason to throw it out. (Kent Hughes, Ephesians: The Mystery of the Body of Christ, 181-82)

Headship has strings attached. The apostle says that just as the church submits to the headship of Christ, so also wives should submit to the headship of their husbands (Eph 5:22-23). This comparison is important because it limits the authority of a husband’s headship as well as legitimizing it.
Because the husband’s headship is built on the analogy of Christ’s relationship to the church, the right to exercise family authority exists only when the exercise is consistent with Christ’s nature and purposes. (Bryan Chapell, Each for the Other, 32)

A Spirit-filled Christian attains more enjoyment in his marriage because he uses the Holy Spirit’s help to overcome his weaknesses; and thus, he becomes less objectionable to his partner. In addition, the Holy Spirit gives him grace to overlook and joyously live with his partner’s weaknesses. (Tim LaHaye, How to Be Happy Though Married, 19-20)

The Hebrew word for “helper” actually means “completer.” The word is used throughout the OT to talk about God being our “helper,” the One who “completes what is lacking,” or “does for us what we cannot do for ourselves.” (Gary Smalley with John Trent, Love is a Decision, 43)

“Wait a minute,” I can hear some men saying. “This nurturing business sounds like it puts all the responsibility on the man. What about the responsibility of a woman, or even the children, to make the home all it can be?”
Whenever I hear this argument, two things come to mind. First, it is true that a man is called to be the nurturer of his family, not a woman. In fact, the Scriptures never tell a woman to “love” her husband, but a man is specifically commanded to “love” his wife. (Gary Smalley with John Trent, Love is a Decision, 103)

Jesus came as our Savior/Lord–totally surrendering himself to our needs though he had absolute authority (Mt 28:18). Because he who has all authority in heaven and earth came to serve rather than to be served (20:28), we know that sacrifice does not erase authority. Instead, when authority serves the interests of another, it masters the purpose for which God ordained it. (Bryan Chapell, Each for the Other, 36)

Only by his own close relationship with the Savior and by regular exposure to the mind of God in Scripture will a man know what it means to be the head of a home. A husband must submit his own life to God before he should expect the submission of anyone else. The true head of a home bows before God, asking for help in being the man God desires, interceding for the welfare of the family, and petitioning for daily wisdom that will make God’s grace evident in the home. Only when a man has humbled himself in these ways can he stand to give a proper account to God of his headship in the home. (Bryan Chapell, Each for the Other, 36)

As the head of the church, Jesus sacrificed himself so that his people could know their value to God (cf. Mk 10:45; 2 Cor 8:9; Ti 2:14). This redeeming work continues through the way God organizes families. Husbands who reflect Christ’s headship use their authority as he did, seeking for their wives to know and reflect their preciousness to God. (Bryan Chapell, Each for the Other, 41)

When the Bible teaches that men and women fulfill different roles in relation to each other, charging man with a unique leadership role, it bases this differentiation not on temporary cultural norms but on permanent facts of creation. This is seen in 1 Cor 11;3-16 (especially vv. 8-9, 14); Eph 5:21-33 (especially vv. 31-32); and 1 Tm 2:11-14 (especially vv. 13-14). In the Bible, differentiated roles for men and women are never traced back to the fall of man and woman into sin. Rather, the foundation of this differentiation is traced back to the way things were in Eden before sin warped our relationships. Differentiated roles were corrupted, not created, by the fall. They were created by God. (John Piper, What’s the Difference?, 17)

Biblical headship for the husband is the divine calling to take primary responsibility for Christlike, servant-leadership, protection and provision in the home. Biblical submission for the wife is the divine calling to honor and affirm her husband’s leadership and help carry it through according to her gifts. This is the way of joy. For God loves his people and he loves his glory. And therefore when we follow his idea of marriage (sketched in texts like Gn 2:18-24; Prv 5:15-19; 31:10-31; Mk 10:2-12; Eph 5:21-33; Col 3:18-19; and 1 Pt 3:1-7) we are most satisfied and he is most glorified. (John Piper, What’s the Difference?, 47-48)

CONCLUSION/APPLICATION: How do we cultivate agape love in our lives?:
A- Crucify self: For agape love is the antithesis of self. (Rom 6:6; 14:15; 15:1-3; Gal 2:20; Eph 4:20-32; 5:21-33; Col 3:9-10)

Perfect love is a kind of self-abandonment and self-sacrifice. Love requires us to die to ourselves and our own interests for the sake of the one we love. To love a person we must sacrifice ourselves to please him. Because of this high price love demands we become quite upset if love is not returned or the person we love does not pay us any attention. (Henry Scougal and Robert Leighton; God’s Abundant Life, 42)

Whether we are husband or wife, we are not to live for ourselves but for the other. And that is the hardest yet single most important function of being a husband or a wife in marriage. (Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage, 50)

Christianity does not direct us to focus on finding the right person; it calls us to become the right person. (Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage, 236)

You should stop making excuses for selfishness, you should begin to root it out as it’s revealed to you, and you should do so regardless of what your spouse is doing. If two spouses each say, “I’m going to treat my self-centeredness as the main problem in the marriage,” you have the prospect of a truly great marriage. (Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage, 64)

Even in social life, you will never make a good impression on other people until you stop thinking about what sort of impression you are making. Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring two pence how often it has been told before), you will, nine times out of ten, become original without having noticed it. The principle runs through life from top to bottom. Give up yourself, and you will find your real self. Lose your life and you will save it…Nothing that you have not given away will be really yours… (C.S. Lewis; Mere Christianity, 190)

Love is a heart that moves…Love moves away from the self and toward the other. — Dan Allender and Tremper Longman III

A servant puts someone else’s needs ahead of his or her own. That is how all believers should live with each other. And if all believers are to serve each other in this way, how much more intentionally and intensely should husbands and wives have this attitude toward one another? (Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage, 51)

We should rightly object to the binary choice that both traditional and contemporary marriage seem to give us. Is the purpose of marriage to deny your interests for the good of the family, or is it rather to assert your interests for the fulfillment of yourself? The Christian teaching does not offer a choice between fulfillment and sacrifice but rather mutual fulfillment through mutual sacrifice. Jesus gave himself up; he died to himself to save us and make us his. (Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage, 43)

In verses 22-24, Paul says, controversially, that wives should submit to their husbands. Immediately, however, he tells husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church and “gave himself up for her” (25), which is, if anything, a stronger appeal to abandon self-interest than was given to the woman. (Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage, 50)

There is the essence of sin, according to the Bible–living for ourselves, rather than for God and the people around us. This is why Jesus can sum up the entire law–the entire will of God for our lives–in two great commands: to love and live for God rather than ourselves and to love and put the needs of others ahead of our own (Mt 22:37-40). (Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage, 62-63)

It is possible to feel you are “madly in love” with someone, when it is really just an attraction to someone who can meet your needs and address the insecurities and doubts you have about yourself. In that kind of relationship, you will demand and control rather than serve and give. The only way to avoid sacrificing your partner’s joy and freedom on the altar of your need is to turn to the ultimate lover of your soul. (Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage, 77)

This desire to diminish, almost debase, yourself for another, simply to lose yourself in their presence and favor, carries this OT sense of prostrating devotion. (Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage, 85)

How often we have tried somehow to love somebody that we can’t stand! The harder we try to love, the more difficult it becomes. We get super-frustrated and angry at the other person for making love so difficult. All our human efforts to try to love others are bound to fail because the more we put ourselves under a performance principle, the more our failures make us feel guilty and cause us to love less. This is the corollary to the central message of God’s freeing love throughout the discourse of the book of Romans: that all human efforts, all performance principles, will only bring failure and despair. Only when we are set free from the demands of the law can we discover the Hilarity of living in love through faith. (Marva J. Dawn, Truly the Community: Romans 12, 145-45)

Central to our theology, then, is giving up our attempts to love. This does not imply a giving up of self-discipline. Much to the contrary, what I am suggesting demands greater self-discipline. However, we choose discipline freely as a response to God’s love. The Hilarity of God’s immense grace for us makes us want to grow to be more loving and to love without hypocrisy. (Marva J. Dawn, Truly the Community: Romans 12, 146)

Christianity advocates the love of one’s enemies, while nature requires that we hate our enemies since they are obstacles to our individual will to power. Thus Christianity dilutes the vital energy of strong men by subverting their natural biological instincts. These men are emasculated by inserting “God” into the equation. Christianity succeeds in provoking a hatred of the earth and earthly things. (R.C. Sproul, The Consequences of Ideas, 165)

In God’s economy, you never get anything by getting. The way to have something is to give it away. If you want love, for example, don’t look for it–give it. If you want friends, don’t look for friends–be friendly. The same is true of thoughtfulness, consideration and selflessness. If you want your partner to treat you unselfishly, then be mature enough by God’s grace to treat him unselfishly. (Tim LaHaye, How to Be Happy Though Married, 100)

Our greatest failings as parents typically result from our insecurities. I recognize this in myself when I confess what usually upsets me most with my children. What makes me angriest? Too often it is what my children do that embarrasses me or makes me look bad. In such moments I find that I can easily discipline out of my concern for me rather than out of a primary concern for my children’s welfare. (Bryan Chapell, Each for the Other, 134)

B- Look to Jesus. Agape love comes from God. (Rom 5:5; 8:35-39; 2 Cor 5:15; Gal 5:22-23; Eph 3:17-19; Phil 1:9; 1 Thes 3:12; 2 Thes 1:3; 3:5; 1 Jn 4:7-21)

Love begets love. —Shirley Marsh 3-27-13

If God had the gospel of Jesus’ salvation in mind when he established marriage, then marriage only “works” to the degree that approximates the pattern of God’s self-giving love in Christ. (Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage, 42-43)

The fact is, I need God to help me love God. And if I need His help to love Him, a perfect being, I definitely need His help to love other, fault-filled humans. Something mysterious, even supernatural must happen in order for genuine love for God to grow in our hearts. The Holy Spirit has to move in our lives. (Francis Chan, Crazy Love, 104)

I don’t know about you, but I cannot simply muster up more love. I can’t manufacture patience just by gritting my teeth and determining to be more patient. We are not strong or good enough, and it doesn’t work that way. None of us can “do goodness” on our own, much less all the other elements that make up the fruit of the Spirit.
But despite our inability to change ourselves in this way, to simply become more peaceful or joyful, we expend a great deal of effort trying. We focus on what God wants us to do and forget the kind of people He wants us to be.
Instead of mustering up more willpower, let’s focus our energies and time on asking for help from the One who has the power to change us. Let’s take the time to ask God to put the fruit of His Spirit into our lives. And let’s spend time with the One we want to be more like. (Francis Chan, Forgotten God, 148)

By logical syllogism we deduce a very important fact. If a person is not loving, John says, he or she does not know God. How will that individual become more loving, then? Can we grow in love by trying to love more? No, our attempts to love will only end in more frustration and less love. The solution, John implies, is to know God better. This is so simple that we miss it all the time: our means for becoming more loving is to know God better. (Marva J. Dawn, Truly the Community: Romans 12, 146)

A magnificent marriage begins not with knowing one another but with knowing God. — Gary and Betsy Ricucci

I can’t make myself love God, but I can come to know him better. And because God is love, the more I come to know him, the more my love for him will grow. Love is a by-product of knowing. So I can spend this day loving God. And tomorrow I can seek to love him a little more. This is a life “rich toward God.” (John Ortberg, When the Game is Over It All Goes Back in the Box, 30)

You can only love when you know you have been loved. And only then can you love to the degree that you know you have been loved. —Steve Brown

If you find your love beginning to wane then go to your heavenly Father, the author of love, and he will give you a new love for your partner. It is yours for the asking! You may be inclined to ask, “But is it worth it?” Or “What if my partner doesn’t deserve it?” That has nothing to do with it. You should love your partner for the Lord’s sake, but, because of the principle of reaping what you sow, loving will bring you love. If you go to God by faith for his supply of love to give to your partner, then God’s divine law will bring love to you. (Tim LaHaye, How to Be Happy Though Married, 115)

In short, the “secret” is not simply the fact of marriage per se. It is the message that what husbands should do for their wives is what Jesus did to bring us into union with himself. And what was that?
Jesus gave himself up for us. Jesus the Son, though equal with the Father, gave up his glory and took on our human nature (Phil 2:5ff). But further, he willingly went to the cross and paid the penalty for our sins, removing our guilt and condemnation, so that we could be united with him (Rom 6:5) and take on his nature (2 Pt 1:4). He gave up his glory and power and became a servant. He died to his own interests and looked to our needs and interests instead (Rom 15:1-3). Jesus’ sacrificial service to us has brought us into a deep union with him and he with us. And that, Paul says, is the key not only to understanding marriage but to living it. (Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage, 41-42)

Jesus points out the universal principle that a person reaps what he sows; therefore, love (or any other attribute) that is consistently given will be returned to the giver. It follows, then, that a couple who are giving and receiving spiritual attributes will most likely have a delightful and satisfying marriage. (Tim LaHaye, How to Be Happy Though Married, 41)

What you are in the home is what you really are. Your partner soon finds out exactly what you are. If you are not consistent in your relationship to God, you will not have the right spiritual point of view to make proper mental or physical adjustments. (Tim LaHaye, How to Be Happy Though Married, 42)

Until you see you can’t really love you can’t really love. You can only really love when you come to realize you can’t really love. — Tim Keller

All anger, bitterness, and wrath grieve the Holy Spirit (Eph 4:30-32). No man can walk in the Spirit and be mad at his wife (Gal 5:16). (Tim LaHaye, How to Be Happy Though Married, 121)

The love that God requires of a husband for his wife and wife for her husband is admittedly a supernatural love. Self-preservation is the first law of life; therefore, to love someone else as your own body demands a supernatural kind of love. It is just not possible for man to love this way of his own accord. (Tim LaHaye, How to Be Happy Though Married, 112)

C- Remember that agape love is finding joy in satisfying the needs of others. (Rom 12:10; Phil 2:3)

“Love is the overflow of joy in God that meets the needs of others. The overflow is experienced consciously as the pursuit of our joy in the joy of another. We double our delights in God as we expand it in the lives of others. If our ultimate goal were anything less than joy in God, we would be idolaters and would be no eternal help to anyone. Therefore, the pursuit of pleasure is an essential motive for every good deed. And if you aim to abandon the pursuit of full and lasting pleasure, you cannot love people or please God.” (John Piper; Desiring God, 121)

There are too many counterfeit forms of love and too many people who say, “I love you because I need you,” or “I love you because I want you”. Such possessive forms of love are not real. They seek to get something from the other person instead of giving something. When you laugh, you can love, because then you’re loving people because they need you and the joy you can bring to their life. (Robert H. Schuller; Tough Times Never Last, But Tough People Do, 209)

In marriage each partner should pursue his or her own joy in the joy of the other; that is, marriage should be a matrix of Christian hedonism. (John Piper, Brothers, We are NOT Professionals, 250)

Whenever the goal of our behavior is essentially to change the other person–whether the change is good or bad–we are wrong. Unless there is the purpose of communicating love based on an awareness of our spouses’ needs, we qualify as manipulators, not ministers. The key to achieving Soul Oneness is to maintain the fundamental goal of ministry to our partner’s deepest needs and to keep that goal inviolate. (Dr. Larry Crabb, The Marriage Builder, 54)

“The rule for all of us is perfectly simple, Do not waste time bothering whether you “love” your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him. If you injure someone you dislike, you will find yourself disliking him more. If you do him a good turn, you will find yourself disliking him less.” (C. S. Lewis; Mere Christianity, 116)

Home: where each lives for the other, and all live for God. (Bryan Chapell, Each for the Other, 11)

If a man loves a woman for her beauty, does he love her? No; for the small-pox, which destroys her beauty without killing her, causes his love to cease. And if any one loves me for my judgment or my memory, does he really love me? No; for I can lose these qualities without ceasing to be. — Blasie Pascal.

One difficulty with this text lies in its apparent contradiction with verse 9, which asserts that our love should be genuine. How can we be genuine in our ministry to others if we don’t feel like rejoicing or mourning when they are happy or grieving? Our definition of the love in verse 9, however, sets us free from this problem. Remember that we recognized agapē as intelligent love, purposefully directed toward the needs of the other. Thus, when we are trying to minister to others in their present emotions, genuine love will care enough to enter with them into that state of mind and psyche. (Marva J. Dawn, Truly the Community: Romans 12, 232)

“When a Man Loves a Woman”, 2 page article about a love note a man carries around with him that his wife, who died of cancer wrote to him. His friend asked him how you stick by someone through 38 years of marriage, let alone the sickness too? And the husband replied, “You will, if you love her enough, you will.” (Reader’s Digest, 12/94, p. 11)

When someone hurts you, do what comes supernaturally—love him.
When someone rejects you, do what comes supernaturally—love him.
When someone mistreats you, do what comes supernaturally—love him.

Controlling others by demeaning them or by making them question their worth is abhorrent to God and contrary to the goals of the gospel. God sent his Son to the cross to demonstrate to us that we are “dearly loved” (5:1-2) and he commands us to say and do only what will build up one another in the knowledge of his care (4:29-32). (Bryan Chapell, Each for the Other, 46)

Biblical leadership means that a man places his family’s interests above his own. He uses his leadership to put each member of the family in the best position possible to know and experience the care of God. A woman who submits to such headship is not feeding the selfishness of her spouse but rather is supporting the godly nurture of her entire family. In this way neither spouse abdicates biblical responsibilities but rather fulfills the biblical definition of love that “is not self-seeking” (1 Cor 13:5). (Bryan Chapell, Each for the Other, 12)

In the Christian home each person has the mission of lifting the other to know more of God’s care. Greater strength, higher authority, and deeper insight are neither abandoned nor used for the promotion of self, but rather are fully used for the good of the other. (Bryan Chapell, Each for the Other, 15)

Yet when psychologists Cliff Notarius of Catholic University and Howard Markman of the University of Denver studied newlyweds over the first decade of marriage, they found a very subtle but telling difference at the beginning of the relationships. Among couples who would ultimately stay together, 5 out of every 100 comments made about each other were putdowns. Among couples who would later split, 10 of every 100 comments were insults. That gap magnified over the following decade, until couples heading downhill were flinging five times as many cruel and invalidating comments at each other as happy couples. “Hostile putdowns act as cancerous cells that, if unchecked, erode the relationship over time,” says Notarius, who with Markman co-authored the new book We Can Work It Out. “In the end, relentless unremitting negativity takes control and the couple can’t get through a week without major blowups.” (U.S. News & World Report; February 21, 1994, 67)

Love is essentially defined in terms of preoccupation with the other’s needs. The central goal of every interchange between partners must be to minister to the other’s deepest needs for security and significance. I may legitimately desire a particular response from my wife. But if my spouse for whatever reason fails to respond as I wish, then I must honor my goal of ministry through an uncomplaining, nonpressuring acceptance of my disappointing spouse. This acceptance would be motivated by my awareness of her deep needs for love and by my commitment to do all that I can do to touch those needs. (Dr. Larry Crabb, The Marriage Builder, 53)

Worship point: When we consider just how supernatural agape love truly is, and when we see God’s great agape love demonstrated towards us by Christ on the cross, worship will come quite easily.

Spiritual Challenge: Look to Jesus and love.

This error is even worse than a husband who does the right thing for his wife, but for the wrong reason. Picture a husband bringing his wife flowers. Realizing there is no special occasion to celebrate, the wife asks her husband what motivated such a loving action. His answer, “No reason; just to say, ‘I love you.’” As she starts to respond with words of appreciation she is interrupted by her husband. Looking at his watch, he abruptly asks his wife if he can be excused from a commitment he had made to go shopping with her for the day. When she asks, “Why?” his response is, “to allow me to accept an invitation to play golf.”
The wife’s appreciation immediately turns to fury as she realizes that the flowers are not about “I love you” but rather about “I want to play golf.” The very act of giving the flowers becomes repulsive to the wife. So too are the many reasons for a church to exist that are proposed as substitutes for glorifying God and enjoying Him. The church may perhaps be doing the right things yet for the wrong reasons. (Randy Pope, The Prevailing Church, 57)

Agape doesn’t love somebody because they’re worthy.
Agape makes them worthy by the strength and power of its love.
Agape doesn’t love somebody because they’re beautiful.
Agape loves in such a way that it makes them beautiful. (Rob Bell; Sex God, 120)

I challenge those who come to me for marriage counseling this way: “If you do what I tell you to do for an entire month, I can promise you that by the end of the month, you will be in love with your mate. Are you willing to give it a try?” When couples accept my challenge, the results are invariably successful. My prescription for creating love is simple: do ten things each day that you would do if you really were in love. I know that if people do loving things, it will not be long before they experience the feelings that are often identified as being in love. Love is not those feelings. Love is what one wills to do to make the other person happy and fulfilled. Often, we don’t realize that what a person does influences what he feels. (Dr. Anthony Campolo, in Homemade, June, 1988.)

To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully around with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket—safe, dark, motionless, airless—it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is hell. (C.S Lewis, The Four Loves, 169).

Love in response to goodness is not love at all, but reward. You can never really know if you have been loved until you are unlovable. Love is a choice of loving in spite of behavior or circumstances. — Steve Brown

Do for your spouse what God did for you in Jesus, and the rest will follow. (Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage, 43)

Christ:
Agape Personified

 

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