The old popular song, you know who sang it, goes like this: “All you need is love, All you need is love, All you need is love, love, Love is all you need.” Sadly, the generation which grew up with these lyrics has shown that it actually understands so little about love. This alone should attract our intention to what the Bible teaches about this whole matter of love. This especially is true because in the passage which we have been studying two kinds of love are contrasted. Please consider 2 Peter 1:7 and its teaching that brotherly kindness (or love) must be supplied with love. In expounding this text I want to ask, answer, and apply three questions. The three questions are …
I. What is this love?
II. Why must brotherly kindness be supplied with it?
III. Why is this love the last virtue mentioned and in no need of being supplied with another virtue?
I. What is this love?
The word used here is the famous Greek word, agape. Everyone who has been a Bible-believing Christian for any amount of time has probably heard some preacher or other refer to God’s agape love. Of course, in our text it is not God’s love in itself that is in view, but a love that is a grace found in the heart and lives of Christians. I will argue later that there is no more important grace than this one. I will do so under five D’s.
A. Its Distinction
This love is clearly distinguished by Peter from brotherly love or kindness. The previous grace is translated by the NASB, brotherly kindness. But if you look at the word in the original, it is literally, brotherly love. But the word for love used in this word is different than the one we have been studying. Remember it is Philadelphia. In philadelphia the phil part is from a Greek word which also means love, but it is not the word we are studying this morning, agape. Agape is to be supplied into brotherly love and, therefore, must be different than brotherly love or kindness. A different word is used, and a different concept is in view. John Brown states the distinction of this love from the previous love when he says, Brotherly kindness is to be the social character of the Christian in reference to the church–…love, in reference to the world. It is not love for the brethren, but a love that includes the whole world that is here in view.
B. Its Demand
This love is demanded by the express and fundamental command of God. Many times the Creator requires that we love our neighbor and not just our brother. This command is presented as one of the basic requirements of the law of God.
Leviticus 19:18 ‘You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the LORD.
Matthew 22:35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And He said to him, “‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’ 38 “This is the great and foremost commandment. 39 “The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ 40 “On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”
Luke 10:29 But wishing to justify himself, he said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
The biblical answer to the question, Who is my neighbor? Is the one we teach our children in their catechism: All my fellow men are my neighbors. We are to love our fellow men because they are made in the image of God and bear His likeness. One of the most interesting passages in the Bible with which to illustrate this is Genesis 9:1-6. The very theme of this passage is that God loves people. This is why He commands that the earth be filled with people by procreation. This is why He makes provision for people to be fed by giving them both plants and animals to eat. This is why He institutes the death penalty for those who kill people. The whole Noahic Covenant teaches plainly that God loves people, and the Noahic Covenant tells us why God loves people. He loves people because they are made in the image of God (Gen. 9:6). It is important to realize that people are still made in the image of God in a fallen world. Speaking of fallen and sinful human beings God commands that they not be murdered because they are made in the image of God. Even fallen human beings are made in the image of God and are to be loved because of it. Anything that cheapens human life is contrary to one of the most basic commands of the Bible.
C. The Definition
So far we have talked about the distinction of this love as love for the whole world of men and not just for Christian brothers. We have also talked about the fact that this love is demanded by God simply because men are made in the image of God. Now we must ask, What exactly is this love? How should this love be defined?
Here again we must note that this love is contrasted with brotherly kindness. The nature of brotherly love, as I said last week, is that it is rooted in the fact that I am a Christian brother and the one I am loving is a Christian brother. Because we are both born again, we love each other. Thus, this brotherly love has its basis in who and what the other person is. It is a love of delight that finds something spiritually worthy of love in the other person.
Now the love to be supplied in this brotherly kindness is according to Peter something different. This love may be defined as good-will, a desire for the good and happiness of the other person, no matter what they are. A philosopher or theologian might call it universal benevolence. In the church we speak of giving a person benevolence. We mean that we are going to give them some charity. Benevolence or charity is not given to someone because they earned it. Benevolence is not pay. It is charity. Now this love of which Peter is speaking is universal benevolence. It is love shown to men just because they are men and no matter what their spiritual or moral character might be. It is not a love of delight. It is a love of benevolence. These are two different kinds of love. And we learn, thus, from 2 Peter 1:5-7 that there are two different kinds of love.
Let me illustrate this distinction to you. Suppose you and your wife volunteer once a week at one of the institutions which feeds and houses druggies and drunks. Now suppose you and your wife wanted to spend a relaxing evening of fellowship with friends. Who would you choose to spend it with? Would you go down to that local half-way house and spend your evening talking with criminals and druggies? No? You would prefer to spend it with Christian brethren. Well, what’s your problem? Don’t you love the people in that half-way house? Well, you do, and your life proves you do, but there is a difference between the love of delight you have for your Christian friends and the love of benevolence you have for the inhabitants of the local half-way house.
The Bible, in fact, teaches that we are not to love the world with a love of delight, even though we are to love the world with a love of benevolence. Recall 1 John 2:15: “Do not love the world, nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” We are to have a love of delight for our brethren. We are not to have a love of spiritual delight for the world. For the world we are to feel good will and benevolence, but not delight. We are to wish for their happiness. We are to pity them, but we are not to delight in them spiritually. It is a love of benevolence for all mankind of which Peter is speaking in our text.
D. Its Demonstration
How is such a love of benevolence manifested or demonstrated? Negatively, it is manifested by doing no injury to our fellow men. Romans 13:10 teaches: “Love does no wrong to a neighbor; love therefore is the fulfillment of the law.” Positively, love is demonstrated when we relieve the needs and especially the spiritual needs of our fellow men.
Matthew 5:44 “But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you”
Luke 6:35 “But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men.”
It is not just to our fellow believers that we are to be benevolent. There is to be a benevolent place in our heart for any of our fellow men that we see in need. Galatians 6:10 makes this clear: So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all men, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.
E. Its Divinity
It is important to realize that in calling us to this love Peter is asking us to be like God. There is something peculiarly divine about universal benevolence. God’s love for men is sincere and universal. Listen to the words of John Brown on this subject:
As to the characteristic qualities of this love, they may all be described in one word. This love to the world of mankind, should resemble God’s. It should be sincere and universal. God does not, cannot love the world, as he loves His own. Christians do not, cannot, love the world as they love the brotherhood. But God does love the world; He loves man as man; His love is philanthropy—the love of man; and so should be the Christians. That man is wicked, is no reason that I should not love him: when men were sinners, Christ, God’s Son, died for them. He makes His sun to shine, and His rain to fall, on the unthankful and evil. It is no reason why I should not love a man, that he is my enemy: when men were enemies, they were reconciled to God through the death of His son. God’s love to the world is an active love. What human being does not enjoy innumerable fruits of His love? And this is the most remarkable fruit of His love—He gave His only-begotten Son to suffer and die, that any man—every man, however guilty and depraved, believing in Him, “might not perish but have everlasting life.” Our love to man should be fruitful love , and one of its chief fruits should be the carrying to all men the soul-saving truth—that God loves the world, and that whosoever believes in His Son who died, the just in the room of the unjust, shall not perish. God’s love to the world is patient, long-suffering love. Had it been otherwise, where would our guilty race have been?—Not in the land of the living, not in the place of hope. “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not.” Our love to a perishing world should “suffer long and be kind;” our compassions should not fail. No obstinacy nor ingratitude should induce us to relinquish, or even to abate, our labours of love among our guilty, depraved, perishing brethren. They can never try us as we have tried God—we never can bear with them as He has borne with us.
First, let me apply this by way of instruction. Confusion has reigned among some Calvinists over whether God loves everybody. Those who deny this do not have a hard time finding texts which tell Christians not to love the world. They do not even have a hard time finding texts which say that God does not love the ungodly.
Psalm 5:5 The boastful shall not stand before Your eyes; You hate all who do iniquity.
Psalm 11:5 The LORD tests the righteous and the wicked, And the one who loves violence His soul hates.
But these texts are not the whole of the story. “Does God love the wicked?” is not one of those questions that can be answered in just one word. If you say either “yes” or “no,” you are wrong. Why? Because there is more than one kind of love! So both the tract that tells unconverted men that God loves them and has a wonderful plan for their life, and the tract that tells them that God hates them and has a terrible plan for their life—both of them are wrong and one-sided. The fact is that God does not love the wicked with a love of delight, but He does love them with a love of benevolence.
Second, let me apply this by way of clarification. I have said in the previous application Be like God—love the unlovely! Now here I want to say Be like God in the way you love the unlovely and the ungodly. Do not feel that you have to like the wicked or delight in them in order to truly love them. I believe that sincere Christians often struggle with the command to love their ungodly enemies. I know I did when I had to rub shoulders with some of them every day at work in Amway’s Central Warehouse in Ada, Michigan. This distinction between a love of delight and a love of benevolence is one great help in those struggles. You are not called to like the wicked or delight in them. If they are ungodly, you cannot and you should not delight in them or like them. You are called to have good will toward them. You are called to pray for them. You are called to greet them. You are called to do good to them. You are not called to delight in them!
Dr. Sam Waldron is the Academic Dean of CBTS and professor of Systematic Theology. He is also one of the pastors of Grace Reformed Baptist Church in Owensboro, KY. Dr. Waldron received a B.A. from Cornerstone University, an M.Div. from Trinity Ministerial Academy, a Th.M. from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary, and a Ph.D. from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. From 1977 to 2001 he was a pastor of the Reformed Baptist Church of Grand Rapids, MI. Dr. Waldron is the author of numerous books including A Modern Exposition of the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith, The End Times Made Simple, Baptist Roots in America, To Be Continued?, and MacArthur’s Millennial Manifesto: A Friendly Response.