The Great Commandment
In my last blog I discussed some things that the Apostle John wrote about love in his first epistle. We will now consider some of what the Apostle Paul had to say about the topic. Love, of course, is a major theme of the New Testament, which should not surprise us, as it was to the Apostles that Christ gave the command to love.
Paul being the most prolific New Testament writer has much to say about love and it is not possible to look at more than a couple of passages in a blog. An obvious passage is 1 Corinthians 13 (known as the love chapter) where Paul defines love – what it is and what it is not. This is often read at wedding ceremonies, but unfortunately not paid much heed to thereafter. It is clear from this passage that love is not a feeling but a decision. The Apostle also declares that regardless of our gifting or abilities, without love we are nothing and gain nothing.
The second passage we consider now is Ephesians 3:14-19. Paul informs the Ephesian believers that he is praying for them, and twice he says he is asking for them to have power! But this is not for doing some spiritual work (preaching or miracles), but that the Spirit would strengthen them in their inner being, so that firstly Christ might dwell in their hearts. He prays that they would be firstly rooted and established in love to secondly have power that they might grasp how great the love of Christ is. But this too has a purpose, “and to know this love that surpasses knowledge”, that they might be filled to the measure of all the fullness of Christ.
This short passage emphasises clearly that a powerful work of the Holy Spirit is required for us to have the fullness of Christ dwell in us and for His love to be produced in us.
In Philippians 1:9 and 1 Thessalonians 4:9-10, Paul encourages the believers to “love more and more”. We could refer to this as a double superlative, and indeed that is the intent of the exhortation. In the Philippians passage it is doubly so as his prayer is for their love to abound (the meaning is overflowing, superfluous), more and more. This is very much in keeping with the source of love. God’s unlimited, measureless, abounding love that is poured into our hearts by His Spirit.
It should be clear that this love, although freely available to us as believers, is only received through the empowering work of the Holy Spirit.