Divine Love in Scripture
Many parts of Scripture teach us how to love as God has loved. Let us look at some examples:
Jeremiah 31:3 says, “I have loved you with an everlasting love.”
John 15:13 teaches, “Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friend.
Paul identifies believers as “enemies” in Romans 5:8-10 saying, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.”
Paul tells us to forgive each other through our love in 1 Peter 4:8 - “have fervent love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.”
1 John 4:19 importantly teaches us, “We love Him because He first loved us.”
1 John 3:1-3 says, “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!”
Song of Songs 8:7 declares, “Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it. If a man were to offer his entire wealth for love he would be utterly scorned and despised.”
John 13:1 shares how Jesus loved, saying, “Having loved His own which were in the world, He loved them unto the end, and the highest degree.”
Love in Ephesians 3
Paul exemplifies the type of prayer warrior that commands his audience to love. In his letter to the Ephesians, he describes his prayer: “For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named.” (Ephesians 3:14) In Ephesians 3:17 Paul exhorts us to let Christ “dwell in your hearts.” This means to make Christ’s home, where he actually lives, at home in our hearts. Paul uses the phrase “being rooted and grounded in love.” This concept of being rooted and nourished like a plant can be seen in other scripture passages like Jeremiah 17 and Psalm 1.
Jeremiah 17:7-8 says:
“Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD,
And whose hope is the LORD.
For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters,
Which spreads out its roots by the river,
And will not fear when heat comes;
But its leaf will be green,
And will not be anxious in the year of drought,
Nor will cease from yielding fruit.”
Psalm 1:1-3 continues with this illustration as well:
“Blessed is the man
Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly,
Nor stands in the path of sinners,
Nor sits in the seat of the scornful;
But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
And in His law he meditates day and night.
He shall be like a tree
Planted by the rivers of water,
That brings forth its fruit in its season,
Whose leaf also shall not wither;
And whatever he does shall prosper.”
This idea of being rooted and nourished by the water, bearing fruit, and spreading roots, was essential in the new relationship between Jews and Gentiles in the early Christian church of the first century. They were to be rooted in love, which would then direct their relationships with each other. Paul continues to instruct the believers of the church in Ephesians 3:19 “to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge; that you might be filled with the fullness of God.”
Paul deeply desires for believers to experience the love of Christ, which transcends mere human knowledge and is so far beyond our comprehension! He also wants us to be absolutely fulfilled to the full with God Himself, because human love pales into insignificance when compared with Divine love. In 2 Corinthians 5:14-15, Paul teaches that each believer is compelled to live for God out of the love He has for us as believers: “the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if one died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.
Additionally, John 3:16 shows us four dimensions of God’s love. The breadth of His love is the entire world, evident in the phrase, “God so loved the world.” The length of His love is evident though the giving of His Son: “that He gave His only Son.” The depth of God’s love is seen in those that hear and believe: “that whosoever believeth in Him.” Finally, the height of His love is what offers those eternal life: “they shall have everlasting life.”
Let us meditate on our Lord’s divine love through the words of the hymns, Loved with Everlasting Love and Grateful Praise:
“Loved with everlasting love,
Led by grace that love to know,
Spirit, breathing from above,
You have taught me it is so.
O this full and perfect peace!
O this presence so divine!
In a love which cannot cease,
I am His, and He is mine.”
“All worlds thy glorious power can fare.
Thy wisdom all Thy works express,
but oh! His love what tongue can tell?
My Jesus has done all things well.”
The Power of the Holy Spirit
Paul’s request in much of his writing is that God would grant believers, not according to themselves, but according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might by the Spirit in the inner man. See Ephesians 3:16. Paul teaches that a battle for supremacy exists in believers’ lives. Christ is to have lordship and headship over all people and all parts of our lives. The throne of our heart, where intellect, emotions, and our wills compete, is where this battle takes place. The phrase, “In the inner man” signifies such components as intellect, knowledge, and material things, such as wealth. The spiritual part of our being includes our soul and spirit.
Paul exhorts believers in Ephesians 4:21-23 “to put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.” But how are we to “put off, and put on?” The inner man is fortified and nurtured by the Spirit and through the fruit of the Spirit that is produced in the inner man. See Galatians 5:16-26.
In John 7:37, Jesus tells his listeners, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” We are exhorted by Paul to be “filled with the Spirit.” (Ephesians 5:17) There should be evidence of this being filled with the Spirit, which is fourfold: in speaking, singing, giving thanks, and submitting. As John 7:37 says, “His heart will flow with rivers of living water.”
The epistle of Ephesians is written to a group of believers who are indubitably rich in Christ, yet are living like beggars because they are ignorant of their wealth in Christ. Let us consider the extreme wealth at our disposal when we are believers in Christ. Each believer is chosen, predestined, adopted, accepted, redeemed, forgiven, granted wisdom, given a great inheritance, sealed by the Holy Spirit, and gifted with eternal life, grace, citizenship, and every spiritual blessing! Then it is evidenced in our lives individually and corporately in the “teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” (Colossians 3:16).
The heart in which Christ dwells displays outward proofs that this is so. A believer develops the mind of Christ and becomes more and more Christ-like as he grows in “spiritual blessing.” In Ephesians 3:17 Paul makes two requests: “that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith” and “that you will be rooted and grounded in love.” In Galatians 2:20, Paul requests that Christ, through our faith, would actually enter, settle down, and make the permanent home in our hearts. He proclaims, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.”
When Paul uses the phrase, “strengthened with power” in Ephesians 3:16, he is speaking of the Holy Spirit’s power. Ephesus was a very wicked city that worshipped pagan gods. In fact, multitudes of people visited every year to pay homage to Diana, the shameless pagan goddess. It was difficult to survive as a Christian amid the licentiousness, wickedness, and immorality, which was practiced openly under the approval of Diana. Paul knew of this danger; he had lived in the city for three years, and so he prayed earnestly that the believers would be strengthened with the Holy Spirit’s power. This is an important truth of which many believers are ignorant!
Many believers do not realize the strength of the power available to them in the Holy Spirit. Let us consider John’s gospel as we look at the metamorphosis the Holy Spirit brings about in a believer. First, in John 3:7-8, Jesus teaches the indwelling nature of the Spirit in his encounter with Nicodemus that each believer must be “born of the Spirit.” Secondly, in John 4:14, Jesus tells of the upspringing and nourishing nature of the Spirit to the Samaritan women at the well, “But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.”
The Spirit empowers believers to live in eternity with Jesus, having this everlasting life. In John 7:37, as we have previously looked at, Jesus reminds believers of the out-flowing and fruit-bearing nature of the Spirit, since they should have rivers of living water flowing out of their hearts as a result of the Spirit’s ministry in their lives.
Luke 11:13 declares this power readily available to all believers, saying, “How much more will your heavenly father give Holy Spirit power to them that ask Him?” In Matthew 17:14-21, disciples have just descended from the mountain of transfiguration when they meet a man who asks them to heal his son. But they are powerless and cannot heal him, so the father brings him to Jesus. Kneeling down before Him, the father unburdens his heart, telling the Savior that his demon-possessed son has epileptic seizures and will fall into the fire and water. He mentions that he had asked the disciples to cure him, but they could not. Jesus cries, “Oh faithless and perverse generation!” in his frustration with their inability to know the truth and act with the power bestowed upon them. So Jesus Himself rebukes the demon, it leaves the child and he is healed immediately. The disciples are puzzled, asking, “Why could we not cast him out?” The Lord’s answer is straightforward: “because of your unbelief.” If they had faith the size of a mustard seed they could have said to “the mountain,” which can be identified as the boy’s sickness, “be removed!” and the boy would have been delivered and healed. These disciples are severely rebuked for their lack of faith, because Jesus teaches that if you have faith, “nothing shall be impossible for you.” However, Jesus warns, “This kind of need does not go out except by prayer and fasting.” (Matthew 17:21) Prayer and fasting, according to this story, are the keys to faith in the power of the Holy Spirit!
Indeed, each believer has at his own disposal the power of the Holy Spirit to call upon. May we as believers follow suit of the father of the sick boy in Mark 9:14-29, saying, “Lord I believe! Help my unbelief.” Or as Peter said, “Lord depart from me for I am a sinful man,” let us fall down at Jesus’ feet and humbly acknowledge our inability and sinfulness, learning from Peter’s example. (Luke 5:8)
Evangelism by the Power of the Spirit
Paul reminds Timothy in his closing words of 2 Timothy 4:5, “Be careful in all things, endure affliction, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of your ministry.” So what is the work of the evangelist? Despite the pressure and responsibility of shepherding, Timothy is urged by Paul not to neglect to do the work of an evangelist. This powerful admonition given to Timothy in the first century is still as powerful and binding to us today.
We should never be overwhelmed with other pressures in our lives that we neglect the crux of the gospel or ignore the command from Mark and Matthew’s gospels to “Go ye into all the world” and “love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 16:15 and Matthew 19:19) Many believers have stepped out of the sphere of soul-winning by claiming they are not evangelists or out of fear to witness. This was Timothy’s problem too! But remember Paul’s words to Timothy about Onesiphorus’ pursuing of Paul in 2 Timothy 1:17. Onesiphorus “sought (him) out zealously.” Listen to the command from the Supreme Commander to “do the work of an evangelist” and “go into all the world,” all done by and through God’s provision and power, not by and through our own.
This evangelism was to be done from Pentecost “to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20, Acts 1 and 2) Let us consider Peter as an evangelist and disciple before and after Pentecost. We see him boasting, “I will die for you” in Matthew 26:31-35, and then shortly after denying Jesus, saying, “I know not the man.” Yet after Pentecost, Peter clearly has made a transition from this transgression, suddenly delivering a powerful sermon and seeing the conversion of three thousand souls to the early church. So what makes the difference in Peter’s power before and after the events of Pentecost? The power of the indwelling spirit transforms Peter into an effective evangelist. Luke 24:49 shows Jesus instructing his disciples to “tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high.” Immediately before Jesus ascends, He promises his disciples the Holy Spirit’s power in Acts 1:8, saying, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to mein Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Jesus answers Nicodemus by commending him to be born again in the Holy Spirit, saying, “Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” As we previously examined, both John 4:14 and John 7:37 also teach the nourishing, fruit-bearing aspect of the Holy Spirit’s ministry in believers’ lives.
We are all led and equipped by the Spirit. In the early church of Jerusalem, the believers, empowered by and through the Holy Spirit, sought to follow Christ’s command to bring the gospel to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth. We can see how many parts of the book of Acts correspond to this fourfold ministry. In Acts 2, the early church begins its ministry in Jerusalem, and then begins ministering to the outer local regions of “Judea” and “Samaria” through Acts 8-12. Acts 13-28 then focuses on how the early church disciples the “uttermost parts” of the earth.
There are many examples in Scripture of God’s people being led by the Spirit, and not by their own power, courage, wisdom or strength. For example, in 1 Kings 3:7, Solomon praises the Lord for granting him power, claiming in his humility, “but I am a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in.” Moses is also a great example of not having his own strength to lead his people, rather being used by God in His power. In Exodus 4:10-12, he says, “O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither before nor since you have spoken to your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.” So the Lord responds, “Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes the mute, the deaf, the seeing, or the blind? Have not I, the Lord? Now therefore, go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall say.” These people of God need the Lord’s guidance and power just as all believers are humbly without power unless the Spirit lies within them.
Let us remember our zeal for bringing others to saving grace in the Lord, by the power of the Holy Spirit, with the words of the hymn Must I Go and Empty Handed:
“Must I go, and empty handed, Thus my dear Redeemer meet?
Not one day of service give Him, Lay no trophy at His feet?
Must I go, and empty-handed? Must I meet my Savior so?
Not one soul with which to greet Him, Must I empty-handed go?
Not at death I shrink or falter, For my Savior saves me now;
But to meet Him empty handed, Thought of that now clouds my brow.
O the years in sinning wasted, Could I but recall them now,
I would give them to my Savior, To His will I’d gladly bow.
O ye saints, arouse, be earnest, Up and work while yet ’tis day;
Ere the night of death o’ertake thee, Strived for souls while still you may.”