The Greatest Love

Love is the greatest, certainly, but what is the greatest love? Here, let us renew our understanding about the nature and source of love, and the reason why we love.  Let us remind one another of "how great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God" (1 John 3:1)! In the love of God, let us also love one another.

No power or force on earth can be stronger than love. And God's love is the greatest love of all. By His love, we obtained salvation. By loving Him and then our neighbors, we manifest such salvation. We love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).

The strongest thematic message in the Bible, which contains the Word of God, is God's love. Everything revolves around God's love. God, who created the universe by His Word, is the source of love, which is love in its truest, purest and perfect form.

Many religious sects in the Philippines interpret the Bible in many ways. They differ in their interpretations of the way to salvation. There are those who claim that only by good works can men find salvation. There are those who say that faith alone, even without manifestation of good works or love, results in salvation. There are those who say that only those who work miracles by the Holy Spirit are truly saved.

For this, be warned. Not all men who preach the Word of God, no matter how eloquent they may sound, or do miracles beyond logical comprehension have found salvation. Neither wisdom nor power to cast out demons is an assurance of salvation.

Only those who love truly are assured of salvation. Unless a man loves God and the people around him, he is not saved. How can anyone proclaim himself saved if he does not love his brother?

In the love of God, let us come to an understanding of His Word. When asked what the Bible is about, many people could not readily respond. What is the Bible about? The Bible is about God's love. While it is true that the Bible speaks about sin and forgiveness or death and salvation, this is because of one Biblical truth: God's love.

Let us grasp how wide and long and high and deep the love of God is. God's love endures forever (Psalm 118:1). The earth is filled with God's love (Psalm 119:64). His love is even better than life (Psalm 63:3) and surpasses knowledge (Ephesians 3:18).

"Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:38-39).

By His love, He sent Jesus Christ to the world. "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" (John 3:16).

"This is how God showed His love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loves us and sent His son as atoning sacrifice for our sins" (I John 4:9-10).

"God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). "In love, He predestined us to be adopted as His sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will – to the praise of His glorious grace, which He has freely given us in the One He loves" (Ephesians 1:5-6).

"Because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved" (Ephesians 2:4-5).

A question that some people ask is if God really loves all men, why would He allow the sinners to be punished. Our God, who is rich in love, reigns with justice and righteousness. "The Lord is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion. Yet He does not leave the guilty unpunished" (Numbers 14:8). But the Lord, God of heaven, the great and awesome God, "keeps His covenant of love with those who love Him and obey His commands" (Nehemiah 1:15).

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, has endorsed love for God and among us. "For in Christ Jesus, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love" (Galatians 5:6).

Jesus said, "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command" (John 15:13-14). His commands: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.

And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. And all the Law and the prophets hang on these two commandments" (Matthew 22:37-40).
He even exhorts us to love our enemies. "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you that you may be sons of your Father in heaven" (Matthew 5:44). By loving each other, we will be worthy of His love. "Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another" (John 13:34-35).

According to Paul, love is the fulfillment of the law. "Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. The commandments, 'Do not commit adultery,' 'Do not murder,' 'Do not steal,' 'Do not covet,' and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law" (Romans 13:8-10).

Three apostles of Jesus Christ – John, Peter and Paul – have all encouraged us to love one another as a testimony of God's salvation. John said that love comes from God and that God is love. "Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love" (1 John 4:7-8).

Peter said that love defeats sins. "Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins" (I Peter 4:8). Paul said that of faith, hope and love, the greatest is love (I Corinthians 13:13). The first fruit of the Holy Spirit is love (Galatians 5:22-23). Love binds all good virtues in perfect unity (Colossians 3:14).

Paul said that the gift to do miracles would be nothing without love. "If I speak in the tongues of men and angels, but have no love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have a faith that can move mountains but have no love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have no love, I gain nothing" (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).

How can we show our love to God and to our fellowmen? Jesus Christ said that if we love Him, we will obey what He commands.  "Whoever has may commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves Me. He who loves Me will be loved by my Father, and too will love Him and show myself to him" (John 14:21).

Jesus said: "If anyone loves Me, he will obey My teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching" (John 14:23-24).

The apostle John said, "Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves His child as well. This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out His commands. This is love for God: to obey His commands" (1 John 5:1-3).

"If anyone says 'I love God,' yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And He has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother" (1 John 4:20-21).

"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. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity in 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 truth" (I John 3:16-18).

Paul described love this way. "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails" (I Corinthians 13:4-8).

Love is important, because by this we know that we have eternal life. John said that "we know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers" (I John 3:14).

With love in our hearts, we have the assurance and joy of salvation in Jesus Christ, the Son of God. "God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like Him.

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love" (1 John 4:16-18).

"If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us" (1 John 4:15-16). God, Himself, makes us capable of love through the Holy Spirit. "God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us" (Romans 5:5).

Jesus Christ will come again to Earth, this time to bring salvation to those who believe in Him. "Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and He will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him" (Hebrews 9:27-28).

He will bring us who love Him together in one body. "Speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into Him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From Him the whole body, together by every supporting ligaments, grows and builds itself in love, as each part does its work" (Ephesians 4:15-16).

In Jesus Christ, we have a new life. We rejoice at the fact that "our citizenship is in heaven" (Philippians 3:20). We say these things to you because these are true, and because God wants you to know that He loves you very much and patiently waits for your acceptance of His gift of eternal life.

Jesus Christ says: "Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with Me. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with Me on My throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on His throne" (Revelation 3: 20-21).

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