AGAPE, THE LOVE OF GOD
AGAPE, THE LOVE OF GOD
By: Frank Tunstall, D. Min.
The love Jesus identifies in John 14:15, “if you love me,” is Jesus calling for agape love from His disciples. It is the God kind of love that always acts unselfishly and in the best interests of others, whether a person wants it or deserves it. Agape love is sacrificial and unconditional. People walking in this love for Jesus “will obey” what Jesus commands.
This is the kind of love that exists between the Persons in the Trinity. It means there is no selfishness in the Trinity. Each member of the Godhead always acts in the best interests of the others.
The institution of marriage and the family can give some illustration for agape love. Loving parents will care for each other, unconditionally and sacrificially, and will not be ruled by selfishness.
A dad and mom’s love for their children often rises to the level of agape. Parents will do without their own needs to provide for their children. Dads and moms will sacrifice their own wants and dreams to give their children a chance to grow up and have a better life. Parents will act unconditionally to advance their children. Sometimes, however, parents living in agape love must tell children “No” for their own good as they do what they believe is best for their children.
I have known pastors who I am sure climbed to the high level of agape love, and they demonstrated it to their congregation. My dear mother who is in heaven now showed agape love to our family of five children. I have also seen it in my dear wife, whom I fondly address as my Baby Doll.
But parental love does not climb to the level of the matchless love of God.
God’s love is revealed best on Golgotha’s hill when Jesus was hanging on three nails, because of His great love for us. He was unselfish and unconditional, and willingly made Himself the sacrifice for the sins of all people who repent and confess Jesus as the Son of God.
I ask you, my readers, please turn your imagination loose and begin to picture what Jesus was communicating, as if you were one of the disciples hearing this new teaching for the very first time. Please, see the scene and listen with the disciples as they receive fresh revelation never spoken in history. Jesus loved His disciples with agape love and wanted His disciples to love Him with agape love through the ordeal of Calvary that was ahead. Jesus was near the finish line of His incarnation as the God-Man as He completed the assignment given Him by His Father. He wanted to prepare His disciples because He was going back to heaven. The disciples were not left as orphans; the Father sent the Holy Spirit to take Jesus’ place.
The agape love with which Jesus planned to save the world did not include a single sword or a spear. Instead, Jesus’ goal was to change mankind from the inside out, one person at a time. In fact, Jesus said heaven rejoices when one sinner repents (Luke 15:4-7). Jesus explained to Nicodemus the transformation begins with a New Birth, a spiritual birth.
“I tell you the truth,” Jesus told Nicodemus, “No one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again” (John 3:3). This New Birth takes place when a person who is wooed and enabled by the Holy Spirit comes to Jesus in heartfelt repentance, asking for mercy (John 1:13; 3:6, 8; 6:63; 2 Corinthians 5:17; 1 John 3:9). Nicodemus rejected Jesus’ offer; he could have been the first person in history to drink the living water that saves the soul. Nicodemus came to Jesus at night and had the opportunity of a lifetime to discover the light of the world, but he walked away from Jesus and back into the dark night of His soul.1
The agape love of God revealed in Jesus Christ launched the New Birth and meets a need that is universal; every person anywhere in the world has the same sin problem. All people are born from Adam and Eve. Their firstborn son showed the problem clearly; Cain was determined to live his own way, independently of God’s plan for him, and it cost him dearly (see Genesis 4).
It is the job description of the Holy Spirit to draw people from their own agenda, and to Jesus. His death on the cross has made it possible for anyone to experience this New Birth. The prerequisite is for a person to confess sincerely his sins to God and embrace Jesus as the Son of God (1 John 1:9).
Wars will show who has the most powerful swords (or guns), but they do not touch the core evil of the human heart (Jeremiah 17:9; Romans 3:23). Jesus knew when men’s hearts are changed before God, one person at a time, this achievement is what will save the world. Yes, the gospel of Jesus Christ wins with God’s love (agape) – unselfish, sacrificial, and unconditional. This love transforms hearts and reveals with each conversion the power of Jesus’ death and resurrection.
It is a blessed Trinitarian truth that the essence of Jesus, and of the Father, and of the Holy Spirit are one and the same, and each Person in the Trinity lives to serve the best interests of the others. This is the essence of agape love. The Holy Spirit offers this same love to each of Jesus’ followers.
No one has ever conceived a more effective plan. Simply amazing. May the example and power of our gracious Lord motivate each of us to climb to the level of agape.
O love of God, how rich and pure,
How measureless and strong.
It shall forevermore endure
The saints and angels song.
Author: Frederick M. Lehman (1917)
1The Eastern Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church believe Nicodemus did later accept Jesus and each declared Nicodemus a saint. I surely hope he did discover His Messiah, but the Biblical record does not show it.