LOVE AS EXPRESSED THROUGH THE SPIRIT AND SOUL AND BODY.
By F. M. Perry, November 22, 1993.
Let us take some particular avenues of use or purpose that God has for us, His Christian children, and investigate them, letting the Bible knowledge of spirit and soul and body help us understand, if it will. The particular subjects we want to investigate are subjects expressed by the English word "love."
Let us start by remembering that Jesus said, "A new commandment I give to you, that you also love one another.” (John 13:34 NASV). And Jesus also said, "I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matt. 5:44). Jesus said He wants us to love, even our enemies. We try to use our will power to love our enemies and we find it hard, if not impossible to do. In fact, we find it difficult to even understand that kind of love within the reasoning power of our intellect. Can a Scriptural knowledge of the functions of our spirit, soul, and body help us to understand love and how to carry out Jesus' command to love? Let's go on.
As we look into the New Testament we find several different words in the Greek, all translated into the English word love or affection. We are not surprised because we know that the English word "love" has many different meanings in English. The Greeks just had different words to go with the different meanings. So when we come across the word "love" in our English New Testament we can, if necessary, check the Biblical Greek dictionary and get an idea of the shade of meaning in that particular Scripture. We might discover the shade of meaning of the English word "love" from a careful examination of the context. But, to my mind it helps to confirm the meaning by looking up the exact meaning of the Greek word.
In the commands of Christ which we read above, that we love one another, and that we love our enemies, the Greek verb AGAPAO is used. The noun form of that word is AGAPE. That noun form AGAPE is used in 1 John 4:7 where John said "love is from God," and in 1 John 4:8 where John said, "God is love." Then the verb form AGAPAO appears again in the same context, 1 John 4:10, where John said, "He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation tor our sins." Since the same Greek root word is used in all these scriptures we know that the same kind of love is meant. We are to love each other and, even our enemies, with the same kind of love that God has for us, the same kind of love which is an attribute of God, and the kind of love which is from God."- God is love " and " God is Spirit." We should not be surprised if we find that this kind of love is related to the spirit.
In Gal. 5:13 Paul said, "You were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love (AGAPE) serve one another. We learn from this Scripture that AGAPE love, with which we should serve one another, is not a fleshly type of love. In this Scripture, AGAPE love is contrasted with anything that might be termed an "opportunity for the flesh." AGAPE love does not start with the body.
As we go on down in the 5th chapter of Galatians we see that Paul was writing about our "walk" as spiritual people. In Gal. 5:16 he said, "walk by the Spirit." In verse 22 he said that a "fruit of the Spirit is love (AGAPE)." This love which is from God, and with which we serve one another, is a "fruit of the Spirit" and is not an emotion of the soul or of the flesh!
So now we have a direct application of what we have learned about the function of our spirit. God wants to direct our lives and actions for His own use. He does that through our spirits. He sends His own Holy Spirit to dwell in our spirits. Through the union of our spirit with His Holy Spirit, He is ready to give us many precious spiritual gifts. You see, the "fruits of the Spirit" are gifts to us. It is only these fruits, these gifts that come from God that can perform any useful service for God.
The attributes of our soul, under the direction of our own soul, have been tainted, are not perfect, and, therefore, are not useful to God.
But we are commanded to love with the kind of love that is described by AGAPE. This love does not originate in us, in mankind. It is an attribute of God that we do not have until God gives it to us. It is then one of the spiritual gifts. And Paul said that in 1 Corinthians chapter 13. AGAPE love is a spiritual gift and, Paul said, the greatest of all spiritual gifts.
Knowing now that God wants us to subdue the lusts and the passions of the body, and that He wants us to lose our soul-life in order to gain spiritual life, yet knowing that He wants us to love, our practical course is plain. This love is a spiritual gift. We can not and must not strive with our own soul power to generate this love, for the human soul does not have any store of this love to draw from. From the depths of our own soul’s attributes we can but find a cheap substitute and that won’t do. We must not repeat the sin of Adam, or of the sin of Cain, and insist on selfishly exercising our own soul’s attributes, but we must pray and wait patiently for the spiritual gift to be implanted, or wait patiently for the spiritual fruit to come forth. And then we must pray and allow the Lord to exercise it. In Galatians 5:16 Paul gave the only really practical thing that we can do to exercise love, or any other spiritual gift. Paul said, “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.”
We must not let our soul, influenced by the flesh, seize the initiative. We must lose our soul-life and live by the leadership of the Spirit. And the very first fruit that will be exhibited in that kind of life, Paul said in Gal. 5:22, is love (AGAPE), the unique love that comes only from God. Then will follow other God given, Spirit exercised fruits also, such as "joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control." When the Spirit directs these things in our lives through our own spirit's intuition and conscience, they are acceptable to God because they came from God and are exercised by Christ, whose Spirit lives in us. But, if we let our selfish soul lay hold on these gifts and we try to "do it my way," they become tainted and no longer acceptable in accomplishing the work of God's perfect Son.
Jesus said love one another, even love your enemies, with the kind of love that is an attribute of God and comes only from God. How do we comply with these commands? Remember, our part in anything for God is simply to exercise "obedience of faith" as we "walk in the Spirit." We must be willing to be used by our Savior. We must know we have a soul and a spirit and be willing to lose our soul-life. We must present our soul-life to our High Priest to be pierced through by the word of God. So we must live with the word which informs us about his love. No where else is this love revealed to us except in the word of God. As we read and study about it, the Holy Spirit living in us will implant it into our intuition and conscience. Then as we walk through life where the Spirit leads, and we have opportunity to exercise this love, the intuition and conscience will cry out with a "still small voice" and direct our "members as instruments of righteousness to God." (Rom. 6:13).
There are some interesting facts about this Greek word AGAPE. The secular Greek language of New Testament days did not use the word AGAPE, or other words derived from the same root, hardly at all. I am told that one cannot go to the secular Greek language and get a clear meaning of the word. But the noun AGAPE appears over and over again in the New Testament (114 times at least). Someone has said, "AGAPE is a word born within the bosom of revealed religion." Someone else said, "AGAPE is the characteristic word of Christianity." We can understand why the word was not used in the secular Greek. The secular Greeks did not know God. Therefore they did not have AGAPE. Only the word of God explains this attribute of the Creator and Father of us all.
There is another interesting fact that I have noticed as I have studied the subject of love in my Bible. Jesus said, "Love your enemies." (Matt. 5:44). The Spirit of Jesus also said. through the Apostle Paul, "Husbands, love your wives." (Eph. 5:25). In both cases the Greek verb AGAPAO is used where we translate the English verb love. Notice that husbands are commanded to love their wives with the same kind of love they are commanded to have for their enemies! At first utterance that statement seems astounding. Husbands are to love their wives with the same kind of love they are to have tor their enemies! Oh, I'm sure that
husbands and wives are intended by God to hold and express other kinds of love towards each other. But the love that is commanded and is put forward in the Ephesian letter as the foundation for the marriage relationship is the same kind of love that one must have for his enemy. It's also the kind of love that Christ has for His bride, the church, for whom Christ gave himself up, said Paul in Ephesians. Then we remember that "while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us, ... while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son." (Rom. 5: 8-10). Christ has already demonstrated the kind of love that husbands and wives should have for each other and for their enemies. When we meditate upon that kind of love for a while, we can see why that kind of love is needed as the foundation for marriage. It is the only kind of love that will live through and survive the occasions in married lives when husbands and wives virtually become enemies. Enough on that for now.
Now the Greeks had another word which we translate "love" that is used extensively in the New Testament. Love, which was of the highest form to the secular Greeks was the Greek word PHILEO (verb), and PHlLlA (noun), and other words derived from these words. These words describe an intimate, warm, and tender relationship of mind and body. It includes a physical side for it can mean to kiss or to caress. But it means much more than that. It was used primarily to describe love within the family, to father and mother, to brother and sister, and to close friends. But it is a human attribute, a human emotion of the soul. It can change if the soul changes it's mind. Friendships, even close ones, and family closeness can fade. While this word expresses the highest, warmest kind of human love, it can grow cold in the human.
The New Testament uses this word a number of times but it makes it clear that it is not the same as AGAPE which comes only from God. Christ used this word PHILEO in John 12:25 when He said, "He who loves (PHILEO) his soul loses it: and he who hates his soul in this world shall keep it to life eternal." (John 12:25). Remember our studies about the soul. Jesus said a man can love (PHILEO) his soul, that is, have great regard for his own mind, his own will, and his own emotion, but it he does he will lose out on eternal life. This is the type of love that is inherent in the natural man, the man descended from Adam. Man expresses it under the direction of his own soul. This kind of love from one's own soul makes one have the attitude of: "I’ll do it my own way, thank you." We studied this kind of love under the heading - an emotion of the human soul.
This is not to say that this kind of PHILIA love has no place in the life of a Christian. It is to say that it must not be substituted for the AGAPE love that we must have. And it is to say that when we exercise PHILIA love, we should do it under the direction of the Spirit. The Spirit uses this kind of love in the service of God and it has been demonstrated by some of the great Bible characters. This kind of PHILIA love is the kind
that Jonathan had for David. We know this because the Old Testament writer said, "The soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as himself." (1 Sam. 16:1). Jonathan and David loved each other with a kind of love that emanated from their own souls, not their spirits. Jesus Himself had this kind of PHILIA love for the Apostles. It is the word John used when he spoke of "the other disciple whom Jesus loved (PHILEO)." (John 20:2). And Jesus again used the word one of the times when He asked Simon Peter, "Simon. son of John, do you love me?'" (John 21:17).
Having investigated the meaning of this word (PHILEO), we know Jesus was asking Simon Peter, does your soul love me? And, obviously, Peter did love the Lord with his soul's attributes. Jesus did not reject this kind of love or say that it was bad. Both Peter and Jesus knew the commandment to "love the Lord with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind," as Jesus said in Matt. 22:37. Although Jesus used the word AGAPAO and not PHILEO when He said "love the Lord," he included the sense of PHILEO in the command "with all your soul, and with all your mind." That then speaks of love of the soul and mind (PHILIA love) being directed by the love that comes from the Spirit (AGAPE love).
And when Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Do you love (PHILIA) me?" in John 21:17, that is, "do you love me with your soul?" Jesus did not leave any impression that PHILIA love of the soul is enough by itself. Lets examine this passage in John 21:15-17 a little more closely. Jesus first asked Peter if Peter loved (AGAPAO) Him. Jesus' question was tantamount to asking, "Do you love me with the kind of love that comes from God?" Peter replied that surely Jesus knew that he loved Him. But Peter used the word PHILEO, not the word AGAPAO. Peter's reply was tantamount to saying, "I love you with my soul." Jesus asked Peter again. "Do you love (AGAPAO) me?" Peter again answered, "You know that I love (PHlLEO) you." For some reason Peter did not use the same word Jesus used for the verb "love." Perhaps Peter did not know as yet the difference between the two words. Finally, Jesus changed His question and asked, "Peter, do you love (PHILEO) me?" It was as though Jesus was finally asking Peter, "Do you even love me with your soul?" What was the reason that Jesus questioned Peter and brought about this exchange using two different words for "love?" I think Jesus' reason for the questions are revealed in what Jesus said to Peter each time there was an exchange. Jesus said, "Tend My lambs," “Shepherd My sheep, " "Tend My sheep." Jesus was telling Peter that "to love Me with your soul is not enough by itself. Not only must you love Me, You must also feed my sheep." When did Peter start to "feed His sheep?" The answer: when Peter began to "walk by the Spirit," when God's AGAPE love began to flow through his spirit to direct his actions, then Peter began to answer the Lord and "feed His sheep." PHILEO love of the soul could not get the job done by itself.
One of the main points in one of our previous classes was that the emotions of the soul can finally be of some use to the Lord if we first give them up, acknowledge that they are inferior, and let the soul be fully subjected to the spirit. Then, if the Lord sees fit, He may utilize some attribute of the soul, as long as it is fully subject to the spirit. Then it can be that PHILIA and AGAPE love can at last be blended. But it will come out as all AGAPE, I'm sure, since the love of God is so great it will eclipse all other kinds of love.
AGAPE love is love which comes from God through the spirit. PHILlA love is an emotion of the soul. The New Testament also reveals a kind of love that is characteristic of the body. Paul said to the Galatians, "Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its affections and lusts.” (Gal. 5:24). The Greek word here for affections is PATHEMA. It was also used by Paul in writing to the Colosians. He said, "Consider the members of your earthly body as dead to passion.” (Col.3:5). This word PATHEMA means "feeling" or "passion." Paul also said in Romans, "For this reason God gave them over to degrading
passions (or degrading affections).” (Rom. 1:26). The Greek word here for affections or passions is PATHOS. It also means "feeling" or "passion." These words seem to always mean inordinate or evil passions. This kind of affection is to be subdued, considered as dead in the Christian because it expresses sin of the soul, and Christ died to forgive us for it and to free us for life in the Spirit. Life in the Spirit will not be characterized by such evil affections.
This does not mean that there is no legitimate bodily expression of love. The Greeks also had a word to indicate physical love between the sexes. That word was EROS. It does not appear in the New Testament. But the teachings of the New Testament make it clear that this kind of love is proper in marriage. For every appetite and function of the body, God has given us a corresponding legitimate way of satisfaction. Knowledge of these emotional satisfactions come through the word of God and their
use is also part of our spiritual lives on earth, under the direction of the Holy Spirit. All other use of our "affections" is sin because it "misses the mark.”
Paul, in Ephesians 5, referred to love between Christian husband and wife as being a type of the love between Christ and His church. He used the word AGAPE to describe this love. Here again we see how the lives of spiritual people, in this case husband and wife, walking by the Spirit, will be given the gift of AGAPE love. Their souls and their bodies will be so directed by their spirits that God's love (AGAPE) can finally even be expressed by their souls and their bodies. Even the love (EROS) between husband and wife can come to be characterized by the meaning of AGAPE love.
Do you see how a fundamental understanding of the functions of spirit and soul and body can help us understand the deeper things of God?
With Love, F. M. Perry.
(Originally prepared for classroom presentation November 22, 1993.)