“A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.” (Eze. 36:26)
In Matthew chapter five verses 43 through 48 Jesus says,
“Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.” (Matt. 5:43)
“But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;” (Matt. 5:44)
“That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matt. 5:45)
“For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?” (Matt. 5:46)
“And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?” (Matt. 5:47)
“Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” (Matt. 5:48)
Verse 43 is one example of what Jesus called the “vain traditions” of the Pharisees.
They had taken two unrelated Scriptures out of the Old Testament and had put them together to form a tradition.
Leviticus chapter 19 and verse18 says,
“Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD.” (Lev. 19:18)
The unrelated verse which they combined to the verse in Leviticus and formed the proverb “Love thy neighbor and hate thine enemy” is found in Deuteronomy chapter 23 and verse six.
“Thou shalt not seek their peace nor their prosperity all thy days forever.” (Deut. 23:6)
The Pharisees’ great desire was to appear righteous before men but they had no concern as to how they appeared before God, so they would take Scriptures out of context to vindicate their positions.
Over time these “vindications” became traditions which they lived and taught by. Jesus said that in doing so they made the Word of God of “none effect”.
“Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye.” (Mark 7:13)
Another example of this can be found in Matthew chapter 15 verses four through six.
“For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death. But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; And honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition.” (Matt. 15:4-6)
The Pharisees had created a tradition that promoted retaliation or hate against their enemies. Retaliation is nothing but fear. It is the attitude of “I have to stop them before they hurt me.” It is an attitude of fear.
However, Jesus said to “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven.”
He went on to say, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”
The Bible says in First John chapter four and verse 18,
“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.” (1John 4:18)
Charity or love is the doorway to perfection, and the “perfect love” that the Scripture is talking about in First John chapter four and verse 18 is the love that many people call the “agape” kind of love.
This is the “God kind of love” which loves someone even when they may be against us. This is what God did when He sent Jesus. This is what God did when He loved us before we loved Him.
“We love him, because he first loved us.” (1John 4:19)
Colossians chapter three and verses 12 through 14 says,
“Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering;”
“Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.”
“And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.” (Col. 3:12-14)
As Jesus said in Matthew,
“Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”
The Bible says that charity is the “joint tie” or bond of perfectness. The Greek words that are translated “perfect” in Matthew 5:48 and “perfectness” in Colossians 3:14 are the words that mean “complete” or “completeness”.
It is only through charity, or “agape” love, by which we can achieve completeness, or full maturity, in Christ.
There are 3 different Greek words which are translated “love” in the New Testament.
The first type of love the Bible talks about is the Greek word “philio”. This love is the type of love that an individual has with his or her spouse or children. This is a familial love or love for family.
The next Greek word translated “love” in the Bible is “agapao”. This is a moral type of love. This is a general type of love or love for all mankind. This is the type of love that creates a willingness to give. It doesn’t mean that you have given but it means that you have a willingness to give.
This is the love that God had when he “so loved (agapao) the world.”
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)
He loved the world with “agapao” love but then He did something about it.
God’s general love for all mankind was transformed into perfect personal love when He gave His only begotten Son Jesus Christ.
This is “agape” love.
It is created by and is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. It is manifested in us when we walk in the Spirit and do the works of God, when we give.
This is perfect love.
The Bible says we are to put on charity. (Col. 3:14)
So many times people pray, “Lord give me agape love. Give me charity.”
God has already given us the love, the willingness, the desire to give, when he gave us a new heart. When we add works birthed out of that love then it is a fruit of the Spirit for all to enjoy.
Faith without works is dead. Love without doing is not charity.
God gave his Son because He loved, and when He did it His love became agape love.
First Corinthians chapter 13 verses four through seven is the definition that the Word of God gives us for charity.
As we read these verses of Scripture we should substitute our name in place of the word “charity” and let it be a gauge to see if we truly are walking in agape love.
“Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.” (1Cor. 13:4-7)
When we substitute our name in the place of the word charity, is it a true statement? By the time we come to the end of the verses, we can truthfully answer as to whether we walk in charity or not. This is an inward look at our own heart as we come face-to-face with ourselves.
If we have answered truthfully after taking this little test, we can each admit that we all have a lot of work to do in our own lives concerning agape love.
(TO BE CONTINUED)