I start my day every morning the same way, while my wife is still sleeping. I make a cup of hot tea, grab my Bible and go to the couch, where I have a chat with my Father.
One morning, just a week or so ago, while I was praying, the Lord reminded me of a Greek word, “rhema”. And I remembered my pastor, in Flagstaff, asking us one morning if we had ever had a rhema. He stood there, behind the pulpit, watching our confused faces for several seconds before he went on and told us the word rhema (ray-ma) is from the Greek and it means “a word from God.” He was wanting to know if we had ever had a word from God.
The word rhema is always used in the Bible as meaning a word from God or Jesus, i.e. Mark 14:72 where it says “…Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken to him.”
It’s also used in Matthew 4:4, where Jesus is speaking. He says, “It is written: Man does not live on bread alone, but on every Word that comes from the mouth of God. These are just two examples; there are many more such as Hebrews 6:5; Acts 11:16; Luke 5:5; Mark 14:72 etc.
And so, in my prayer on this particular morning, I said, Lord, do You have a word for me today? Use Your word, as I read, to teach me and correct me, or even to rebuke me; that I might be equipped to do Your work.” That’s from 2 Timothy 3:16 and I always use the word of God in my prayers. He says to pray according to His will and so I think that’s the best way to do it. Don’t you?
Anyway, I finished praying and went to Matthew 22, where I had left off yesterday. As I read, and then reread, verses 37 to 40 I knew the word God have given me for this day. LOVE – the greatest commandment.
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and the greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Well, of course, this brought to my mind a whole list of questions. What does it mean to love God? What does it mean to love yourself? Isn’t that being conceited? Who is my neighbor? So, I looked up the word love in my Strongs Concordance. I was specifically interested in the New Testament Greek and actually there are two words most commonly used in the NT Scriptures for the word love; Agapao and phileo. (A-gop’-a-o and pheel’-a-o).
Agape love is the kind of love that God has for all of us. This kind of love does not come from feelings or emotions but from a sense of morality; an act of the will. Yes, God the Father has a moral obligation to love us because He created us. Through the power of God’s will to love us, Jesus loved us all the way to the cross. Remember what Jesus said when He prayed in the garden, just before they came to arrest Him? He said, “everything is possible for You. Take this cup from Me. Yet not what I will, but what You will.” That’s agape love.
To further state this truth, let me remind you of 1st John 3:16... "This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers." That's agape love.
We are commanded to love God and to love our neighbor as we love ourself. I always wondered about that loving yourself part. Isn’t that what they call conceit? There are some who are IN love with themselves; but that’s pride and vanity, which are sins. What God is saying is that He wants us to love our neighbor as we love ourself in the sense that we take care of ourselves. We eat when we are hungry; we drink when we are thirsty; we sleep/rest when we are tired; we get treatment when we are sick. Paul reminds us of this in Ephesians 5:29. It’s a natural thing to love yourself; to care for yourself.
But there are people who cannot do these things for themselves. “The poor you will always have with you.” (Matthew 26:11). This is where we love our neighbor as ourselves. We provide for them; physically and spiritually (feed my lambs – John 21:15) we pray for them, yes, but we also need to feed the hungry and clothe the poor and care for the sick (Matthew 25:34-40). And also in 1st John 3:17-18, it says... "If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in thruth." This is agape love.
Now the other kind of love is phileo, which comes from the word philos, meaning dear to your heart; a personal attachment; affection.
Allow me to add this little note before I continue; nowhere in the bible is the word love attached to the act of sex. Sex is a small part of a marriage; a pleasure that God allowed us and a way to reproduce. If sex is attached to any other word, it’s the word “lust”. For more about that subject I would suggest you read “Real Marriage” by Mark and Grace Driscoll.
Now this is the discovery that really surprised me; the word phileo for love is found in Titus 2:4; “…teach the older women….to teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children.”
Wives are supposed to love their husbands; give them affection; hold them dear to their hearts as in a personal attachment. That’s the meaning of phileo. But here is where it really caught my attention. The word phileo is used here for the wife toward the husband. It does not say anything about the husband showing affection toward the wife. Now listen up men!
A husband is commanded to love his wife as it is written in Ephesians 5:25. “Husbands love your wives…” But the word used for love here is not the Greek word phileo or philos; it is the same word used to love God. It is the word “agape”. A man is to love his wife as Christ loved the church. You are to be willing to give your life for her. That’s a lot more than simple affection, is it not? Do you love your wife that way? Do you treat her as Christ treats the church? Read the rest of the passage gentlemen and see if you measure up. I have to admit I don’t think I do. But I am going to work on it.
It’s taken me three days to go through the Scriptures and the concordance to research the word love; not to mention the hours I lay in bed during this time thinking about what I had read and learned. I started out by saying the Father and I have a chat; but after you’ve said your piece and you start listening to what the Father has to say; you better be ready for things you may not want to hear. I simply asked for a word and God answered. He gave me the word love. And I have discovered that I fall short in every way. Praise the Lord for His unfailing love and patience.
If you would like to understand more about how to love I would suggest you read the third chapter of 1st John. Down through the years I have heard people refer to the 13th chapter of 1st Corinthians as the “love chapter” but I think the 3rd chapter of 1st John should be added to that.
The grace of the Lord be with you. My love to all of you in Christ Jesus. Amen