Paul wrote, “And now abide faith, hope, and love, these three; and the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13). In the first part of this article, we looked at the importance of faith and hope in scripture, mainly when these two words refer to the Lord Jesus Christ. As followers of Christ, we place all our faith and hope in the finished work He accomplished at the cross and His subsequent resurrection three days later. We believe He died on the cross for our sins, taking upon Himself all the sins of humanity; for by His sacrifice, salvation comes to everyone who believes. “For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Romans 10:10).
Our unwavering faith produces hope, made even stronger by God's word and the Holy Spirit that indwells every “born again” believer. “In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory” (Ephesians 1:13-14).
We were sealed with the Holy Spirit of God as a promise and guarantee of greater things to come. At the cross, we were redeemed from our sins, but we still have a sinful nature despite the Holy Spirit’s indwelling. One day soon, our redemption will be complete at the Rapture of the Church, and sin and death will be eradicated. Our reborn, transformed bodies and minds will not just be sealed with the Holy Spirit but will be wholly filled with His power and knowledge. We will have personal fellowship with God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, angels, and fellow believers from all ages, including family members and friends. Our home will be the New Jerusalem on (or above) the New Earth, and we will explore the New Universe together. As sons of God (Jesus’ purchased possession), this is our inheritance and hope.
But faith and hope cannot exist without love…the love of God. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:16-17). John is referring to humanity as “the world” in these verses.
The ancient Greeks believed there were four different types of love. Eros stems from the Greek word eros, which translates to intimate or romantic love. Philia is defined as brotherly love. Storge is the inherent love, as in love between parents and their children. Agape is sometimes called universal love, charity, or even altruism. Essentially, it’s the love inside us that we give freely to others—regardless of our relationship with them. This article will mainly deal with agape love, God’s love for his creation and created beings.
Here are a few famous quotes regarding love:
“Where there is love, there is life.” (Mahatma Gandhi)
“The greatest happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved; loved for ourselves, or rather, loved despite ourselves.” (Victor Hugo)
“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength while loving someone deeply gives you courage.” (Lao Tzu)
“The only thing we never get enough of is love, and the only thing we never give enough of is love.” (Henry Miller).
“There is only one happiness in this life, to love and to be loved.” (George Sand)
“Love is the whole thing. We are only pieces.” (Rumi)
“Love is like the wind, you can’t see it, but you can feel it.” (Nicholas Sparks)
There are 281 mentions of love, loved, lovely, lover, loveliness, etc., in the Old Testament. Psalm has the most with 45. Song of Solomon is second with 39. David’s psalms were most connected with agape love, while Solomon’s writings in the Song of Solomon were about eros love. “But let all those rejoice who put their trust in You; Let them ever shout for joy, because You defend them; Let those also who love Your name Be joyful in You” (Psalm 5:11). “Oh, love the Lord, all you His saints! For the Lord preserves the faithful and fully repays the proud person” (Psalm 31:23).
David said to magnify the Lord for those who loved their salvation. “Let all those who seek You rejoice and be glad in You; Let such as love Your salvation say continually, “The Lord be magnified!” (Psalm 40:16). He also said the Lord would protect those who love Him. “You who love the Lord hate evil! He preserves the souls of His saints; He delivers them out of the hand of the wicked” (Psalm 97:10). Moses agreed with David when he wrote, “Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him on high because he has known My name” (Psalm 91:14).
Eleven times in Psalm 119, David describes how he loves God’s word (law, precept,
testimonies, commandments, or statutes). Here are a few of them: “My hands also I will lift up to Your commandments, which I love, and I will meditate on Your statutes” (Psalm 119:48). “Your word is very pure; Therefore Your servant loves it” (Psalm 119:140).
In Deuteronomy, Moses told the Hebrews to love their creator. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength” (Deuteronomy 6:5). Jesus would quote this verse to his disciples and the Jews approximately 15 centuries later. Moses also told the people to not only love the Lord but to fear (reverence) Him as well. “And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments of the Lord and His statutes which I command you today for your good?” (Deuteronomy 10:12-13).
I find it interesting that Deuteronomy has nine verses that contain the words “love the Lord” and six more times in the rest of the Old Testament. The New Testament has four verses that contain these three words. As you know, 19 is the biblical number that represents judgment. You are under judgment if you don’t love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul. It’s as simple as that. Solomon said God loves those who love Him. “I love those who love me, And those who seek me diligently will find me” (Proverbs 8:17). An example of philia love is given by Solomon, “A friend loves at all times, And a brother is born for adversity “ (Proverbs 17:17).
Chapter 2 in the Song of Solomon speaks of eros love between a man and his beloved sweetheart. However, many prophecy students see this as a typology of the Rapture. With this in mind, read these seven verses and determine if they are correct. “The voice of my beloved! Behold, he comes Leaping upon the mountains, skipping upon the hills. My beloved is like a gazelle or a young stag. Behold, he stands behind our wall, looking through the windows, gazing through the lattice. My beloved spoke to me: Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away. For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth; the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove Is heard in our land. The fig tree puts forth her green figs, and the vines with the tender grapes give a good smell. Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away! O my dove, in the clefts of the rock, in the secret places of the cliff, let me see your face, let me hear your voice; for your voice is sweet, and your face is lovely” (Song of Solomon 2:8-14).
The New Testament mentions love and its compounds approximately 305 times. The book of John has the most, by far, with 56. Jesus added many new thoughts and sayings the Jews weren’t familiar with. For example, in Matthew 5:43-45, Jesus told his disciples, “you have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust.” Also, in John, Jesus gives a new commandment: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another” (John 13:34).
One time the Pharisees asked Jesus, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said, " You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:36-40). The Jews had heard of the first commandment, but the second one was new to them. Mark and Luke also recorded these exact words of Jesus.
After Jesus explained to Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews, how to be “born again” in the spirit by faith in God’s only begotten Son, He gave one of the most profound truths regarding God’s love towards humanity in the whole Bible. “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so, must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:14-17).
Another great truth and love story is found in John 5. “The Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner. For
the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself does; and He will show Him greater works than these, that you may marvel. For as the Father raises the dead and gives life to them, even so, the Son gives life to whom He will” (John 5:19-21).
After teaching the multitudes about the kingdom of God (known as the beatitudes), Jesus told them about one of the reasons He was sent to them. “Do not think I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled” (Matthew 5:17-18). Jesus told the people to obey His commandments. “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him. If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.” (John 14:21-23).
John 14 contains some of the greatest truths in the Bible that show God’s great love for those who have faith in Jesus and place their hope in Him. The first mention of the Rapture is given in the first few verses. “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, also believe in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may also be. And where I go you know, and the way you know” (John 14:1-4). Thomas said they did not know where he was going and had no way of knowing. Jesus responded with a new truth that had never before been revealed. “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.
After giving the disciples a brief mention of His ‘return,’ Jesus reveals another mystery. ”And I will pray to the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever— 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. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you” (John 14:16-18). The last words of John 14, although ambiguous, seem to me to be prophetic as Jesus tells his disciples, “Arise, let us go from here.”
Here are a few more examples of love in John, the book of love. “He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life” (John 12:25). “By this, all will know that you are My disciples if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).
“Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (John 15:13). Even in 1 John, the one whom Jesus loved spoke of God’s love.
And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.
Another great truth regarding faith and love is given in Romans. “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren” (Romans 8:28-29).
Here are a few more nuggets of scripture in Romans regarding God’s love for us: “But God demonstrates His love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31). “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, or sword? Yet in all these things, we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:35; 37-39).
Paul borrows some scripture from Isaiah regarding the blessed future for those who love Christ. “But as it is written: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him”(1 Corinthians 2:9). I actually like Isaiah’s version as it goes into more detail and appears to be a reference to the Rapture as well. “For since the beginning of the world, men have not heard nor perceived by the ear, nor has the eye seen any God besides You, who acts for the one who waits for Him. You meet him who rejoices and does righteousness, Who remembers You in Your ways” (Isaiah 64:4-5).
There are many other great scriptures in the Bible regarding love. I suggest you do a word search for yourself as it is a great blessing. I will end this study with 1 Corinthians 13, subtitled “The Greatest Gift.” There are nine mentions of the word ‘love’ in this chapter. This is the same amount (nine) of “fruits of the spirit” mentioned in Galatians 5:22-23. It is also the same number of times the words “Blessed are” are mentioned in the Beatitudes of Matthew 5:1-12.
God specifically chose Paul to be the apostle to the Gentiles. He was also selected to reveal the Rapture to the Church. However, I believe he was also selected because of his great intellect and writing skills to bring the word of God to the world. His writing skill is never more on display than in 1 Corinthians 13. In this passage of the New Testament, he gives the ultimate reason why love is greater than anything, even faith and hope.
“Though I speak with the tongues of men and angels but have no love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have no love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have no love, it profits me nothing.
Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect has come, that which is in part will be done away.
When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.
And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:1-13).
Randy Nettles firstname.lastname@example.org