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True Christian Love

John OwenMany good things may be demonstrated in our lives without the presence of God’s love. We may be patient without love, pardon without love, and show kindness without love to no benefit, if we are not animated by true Christian love. John Owen explains why this is so:

And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. (Colossians 3:14 ESV)

First, the love I am speaking of is the second great duty that was brought to light by the gospel. There is nothing like it in the world, except what proceeds from the gospel. The world does not have it and doesn’t know what it is. Discord, strife, wrath, and hatred entered by sin. When mankind fell from loving God and from being a special recipient of His love, mankind simultaneously fell into all sorts of hatred, conflict, and discord among one another. The love of God was originally, in the state of innocence, the bond of perfection. When that was broke, all of creation fell into disorder and chaos. In particular, all mankind fell into the state described by the Apostle Paul in Titus 3:3, ‘We were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another.’

There is a carnal and natural love still in the world that is based on natural relations. We find this sort of love even among the most debased and brutish. There is also a type of love that arises from a common interest in particular sins and pleasures – from people who partake in the same behaviors or who seek to bind themselves together to advance some political end. All the love of the world may be understood as stemming from one or more of these motives and purposes. None of these are in any way the love that proceeds from the gospel. This is why genuine gospel love has the ability to amaze and attract unbelievers. They should be astonished by the new and different type of love that believers display toward one another. Indeed, one of the first sayings of heathens that observed Christians together was ‘See how they love one another’ For them to see people of different sorts – different races, different personalities, different classes, different financial brackets – all knit together in love was astonishing to them. It was astonishing because of its unique nature.

This love is the means of communion between all the members of the body of Christ, just as faith is the instrument of their communion with the head of the body, Jesus Christ. It is for this reason that the Apostle Paul joins faith and love together so many times in his writings as the entire means of the communion and fruitfulness of the mystical body of Christ. In one place he so orders his words to show the inseparable nature of these two things. ‘I hear of your love and of the faith which you have toward the Lord Jesus and toward all the saints’ (Philemon 5). We are to express both faith and love to Jesus Christ. But it is obvious that the saints are not the objects of our faith. The apostle places them together here to show how inseparable these two things are and to prove that they always go together. Where the one is, the other will be. And where one is not, the other is not.

Love is therefore the life, and soul, and fuel for all the duties that are performed among believers toward one another. Whatever duties you perform toward other believers – no matter how useful or how great – if they are not aroused and animated by this type of love, they are of no value to your communion with Christ or to the edification of the church. (“Gospel Charity”)

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2 Responses

  1. Don’t you think it can be put more succinctly? If we walk in the Spirit and cooperate with Him in our love-acts, then we will not be doing them in our own strength we will be fruitful!

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  2. Reblogged this on My Delight and My Counsellors.

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