What is Love?

The word ‘love’ is very prominent in everyday life. It can be heard mostly in popular songs and sprinkled liberally in most movies and television serials, especially the ‘soapies’. Regrettably, much of the reference to love is very superficial, associated only with emotions and, too frequently, really only associated with sex.

The Bible concept of love is much different. There are two words in the New Testament that are translated as ‘love’ in English. One of them covers the ideas of affection and emotion, and the other suggests something more substantial ‚ having morality and principle. The noted Bible analyst, James Strong suggests that the first mostly relates to the heart and the second relates to the head.

Which do you think is the word used in John 3:16? "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." Yes, it is the latter. God’s love was of incredible depth and substance, so much so that he gave his only Son so that others might be saved from eternal death.

There is another interesting use of the two words in the New Testament. You might recall this passage. "When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?’ ‘Yes, Lord,’ he said, ‘you know that I love you.’ " (John 21:15) The words used for ‘love’ in this verse are different in the original Greek text. Jesus asked Peter if he had a substantial, principled love for him, and Peter answered that he had great affection for Jesus. Peter had not, at that stage, reached maturity in his love for Jesus.

What about our love? Is our love for our families and for Jesus substantial, as was God’s love for us in providing his Son? Or is it only the superficial, affectionate variety so evident in current society? Affection is important, but the Bible has suggested that it must go hand in hand with love of a much deeper nature.

How Important is Doctrine?

‘Doctrine’ literally means a ‘tenet’, a ‘belief’ or ‘teaching’. It might be religious, political or philosophical. While some people have a doctrine about some aspect of their life, many others avoid using the term because they see it in a context of a fixed belief and prefer to be more flexible.

Probably the word is used mostly in connection with religion and the Bible. You might be interested to know that the word ‘doctrine’ occurs 51 times in the Bible. Most of the occurrences are in the New Testament. The first usage was in reference to Jesus. "When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law." (Matt 7:28-29.) (The word ‘teaching’ here is translated as ‘doctrine’ in the King James Version.) It was evident that Jesus’ doctrine was more authoritative than the doctrine of the church teachers.

Jesus alludes to the importance of doctrine in John 7:16-17. "Jesus answered, ‘My teaching is not my own. It comes from him who sent me. If anyone chooses to do God's will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own.’ " It is obvious that the Christian should follow Jesus’ doctrine as it came from his Father.

The Apostle Paul refers many times to the need for adhering to sound doctrine or teaching.

In his letter to Timothy (1 Tim 4:6), for example, he writes "If you point these things out to the brothers, you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus, brought up in the truths of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed."

The Apostle John was also adamant that the doctrine or teaching of Jesus was the only doctrine that the Christian can accept. "Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son."(2 John 1:9)

It is important, then, for us to make certain that we know what the real doctrine or teaching of Jesus is. And, as for avoiding doctrine and being flexible, Paul had this to say: if we are mature "Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming." (Ephesians 4:14)

Strong words!

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