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God is Agape, Part 1

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey
The Truth Network Radio
January 11, 2023 12:00 am

God is Agape, Part 1

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey

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January 11, 2023 12:00 am

Love isn’t just something God does; it’s something He is. And in this message, Stephen explains why that is eternally significant for us as believers.


This is who God is. Aren't you glad he isn't choosing to love you based on how he feels?

And whether or not you're lovely, or attractive, or you've done something that makes him happy, aren't you glad it's a covenant, volitional choice? I love you with agape. God is agape. That's what John says. He is agape personified.

He does it because he is it. God is love. That's an amazing truth that we probably don't spend enough time contemplating. It means that love isn't something that God just does. Love isn't something that God just shows you. Love isn't just a feeling that God has toward you. Love actually defines God. It's what God is.

God's love for you is eternally significant, not only because it defines his relationship with you, but because it defines how you should relate to the people in your life. This is Wisdom for the Heart with Stephen Davey. Stephen returns to 1 John today with this lesson called God is Agape. Alexander Strach's book entitled Leading with Love opens with an interesting story from the biography of Dwight Moody.

Strach retells this signature event when D.L. Moody invited a man by the name of Henry Morehouse to preach for him at what would later be named Moody Church after D.L. Moody died. Earl Lutzer, of course, is pastoring that church right now. To everybody's surprise, Morehouse preached seven consecutive sermons from John 3 16. D.L. Moody's son recorded the impact of that week of meetings on his own father's life and heart and ministry.

D.L. Moody's son wrote, for six nights, Morehouse preached on this one text. The seventh night came and he went into the pulpit. Every eye was upon him and he said, Beloved friends, I have been hunting all day for a new text, but I cannot find anything so good as this one. So we will go back to the third chapter of John in the 16th verse. Then he added these words, For a whole week I have been trying to tell you how much God loves you, but I cannot do it with this poor, stammering tongue. If I could borrow Jacob's ladder and climb up into heaven and ask Gabriel, who stands in the presence of the Almighty, to tell me how much love the Father has for the world, all he would say is, God so loves the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life.

D.L. Moody would confess later, I never knew up to that time how God loved us so much. But over the course of that week, this heart of mine began to thaw out.

It was like news from a far country and I just drank it in. He would later credit that series of messages with changing his life. It seems that Henry Morehouse and the Apostle John have this in common, this recurring theme of the love of God. In fact, for the third time now in his first letter, John returns to the subject of love. From verse seven all the way over to verse 21, he's going to mention love over and over and over again.

In fact, you could circle that word love 27 times in these next 14 verses, 27 times referring to God's love and our love for each other. Augustine, the church leader and theologian from the fourth century, would write that the Apostle John has spoken many words and nearly all of them are about love. Now the fact that John circles around to the subject of love again doesn't mean that he's run out of stuff to write about and he's just determined to have five chapters in his first letter. Now, what John will do is take us a little further and a little deeper into this subject that he now brings up for the third time, the subject of love. Just about everything that John has written or will write in these next 14 verses has been discussed in some way earlier, but what he does is drop in some new phrases and some key thoughts or words that expand his earlier treatment.

What I'm going to do is sort of do a flyover to get to the end of this chapter, but I want to stop periodically to focus on these special words or phrases that he introduces to us. As we work through these verses, let me give you points to this outline. I want to give you four statements about love from this last half of John's chapter that we call Chapter 4.

The first statement is this. Love is who God is, verse 7. Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, that is, isn't acquainted with God, for God is love. God is love. Everyone who is born of God, that's John's way of saying, everyone who is born again has become acquainted with God, will then reflect, has the capacity to reflect the nature and character of God, who is love. Now he begins this theme. I think it's intriguing to note that every time he uses the word love, he's going to use the same Greek word over and over and over again. He wants us, evidently, to get something here.

Let's pause for a moment and consider further. I know we've referenced some of this, but let's consider further the fact that John had several words to choose from. Certainly the Spirit of God threw him from Greek culture and the Greek language. He could have used the word storge, a Greek word for love. It's a reference to family love, family devotion, family commitment. This is the love that you have for people who are in your family. You love them because they're in your family. You don't see your aunts and uncles and grandparents and cousins, but maybe once or twice a year. When you do, there's this bond of family. You might not really like them all that much, but they're in the family and so you love them. Storge, family loyalty. As one author said, you'll visit them, but you surely don't want to go on vacation with them. You love them, you're not sure you like them. John could have selected that word.

He didn't. He could have selected the popular word philia or philia, the verb phileo translated love. Philia is what we call warm affection or brotherly love. Philadelphia is named after that Greek word, that city of incredible affectionate, warm, brotherly love.

I met two couples from there after the second service. Philia is the Greek word for warmth and affection and friendship. It was one of the most popular words of John's day. People talked about it and used the word philia often. One New Testament Greek scholar wrote that philia is a kind of love built upon the warmth and affection of common interest, common insight, common points of view, common stages in life, common taste. It bonds people together affectionately because of common lifestyles or pursuits, maybe even occupations. It's what one author called the love of mutual attraction.

The problem with this, and this is without a doubt the most common thought or one of the most common thoughts of love in our own western culture, certainly our American culture, the problem with philia is that if that's all you have, you have a love that can really be nothing more than everything about me, myself, and I. It can simply represent loving someone because they like the same things I like, because they are like me. They like the same sports, they like the same restaurants, they like the same whims and wishes, they have the same ideas, they agree on just about everything, and you really like having them around because they cater to your whims and your wishes.

In fact, you always seem to be going in the same direction. I really like them because they're like me. Someone whose bond with another person is nothing more than philia is somebody who really never gets past themselves in that relationship. When they say they love you, what they really mean is, in reality, I love me, and you make me feel good about me, and I want to keep you around because you make me happy.

Just listen to the music of our day. It's all about that warm, affectionate, fuzzy feeling. I'm hooked on a feeling, and I can't stop loving you. She loves me, yeah, yeah, yeah. I know those are all from the 70s, which dates me here. But how many of you recognize those lyrics?

How about these? Why do birds suddenly appear every time you are near? Just like me, say it with me, they want to be close.

We've got some old people in here with me. My wife and I have to put out bird feeders in our backyard to coax the birds to come around. But for you, birds appear every time you are near.

Think about that. I mean, who would want to fall in love with a guy where birds appear everywhere he goes? You answer the door, there he is, and there's a flock of birds flying around.

That's a scary movie, that's what that is. Anyhow, you go to the Internet, and you, as I did this week, just to check it out again because I don't listen to the radio unless I'm driving somewhere. And I confirmed, once again, that even though words may change a little bit, the most popular subject in music today is still all about that kind of you-meet-my-needs-and-you-make-me-happy kind of love. And by the way, if you ever stop doing that, I'm not going to love you anymore. We'll say, well, we just kind of grew apart. We have different interests now.

We have different pursuits now. Now, philia can have a good side to it, by the way, because there is a good side, a warm, affectionate love of that kindred affection, that same desire, common interest. But that isn't the deepest bond.

John is going to use a word over and over and over again. It's the word agape. It is loving someone who is unlovely. This is love in terms of self-sacrificing, volitional commitment.

It's a bond made up of the will that then guides the affection, that then guides the emotion. In fact, I read this week as I prepared for this message that in non-biblical Greek literature, going back to the time of John the Apostle, agape rarely ever showed up. They never chose that word. They considered it cold and formal.

I mean, what kind of fun is that? They would use words translated love like eros, erotic, sexual love, physical love has its place. Epithymia, another Greek word that's all fiery and passionate. Storge, family loyalty. Philea, affectionate brotherly love. These were the world's favorite choices of words for love, and they still are.

What's fascinating is you get into the New Testament, and everything is reversed. Eros is never mentioned ever once. Storge, mentioned a few times. Philea, around 55 times.

And agape, 320 times. Over and over again, it's used to describe God's love for us, a man's love for his wife, a parent's love for their children, our love for each other in the community of Christ. It's that word. You don't fall into that kind of love. You choose that kind of love. That's the word here.

And it fits, doesn't it? This is who God is. Aren't you glad he isn't choosing to love you based on how he feels? And whether or not you're lovely or attractive, or you've done something that makes him happy, aren't you glad it's a covenant, volitional choice?

I love you. With agape. God is agape. That's what John says. He is agape, personified. He does it because he is it.

Now, be careful here. This is a wonderful expression that John is delivering to us. It's a deep truth for the believer that boggles our mind. But it's probably one of the most misinterpreted, most abused texts in all the New Testament.

I can think of a couple others, but this would be leading the way. God is love. About the time that you deliver the gospel to someone and the truth of their sin and their need to repent, about the time you deliver to them the fact that God will judge sin and sinners one day, about the time you ever dare to mention the word hell and forever in the same breath, they're going to say something like, oh, but God is love.

I've read that somewhere. It's in the Bible. God is love. He would never condemn anyone. He would never judge anybody. They can't ever be a real hell because I read somewhere, didn't I, that God is love?

And you'll stand there and go, yeah, you did. The Bible says that. God is love. John also already told us in the first chapter, God is light.

That is, there's no darkness in him, another facet to his nature. Now, the writer of Hebrews wrote, God is a consuming fire. That would not be one of the top 10 verses out there in the community. God is a consuming fire, Hebrews 12, 29. Most people want to think of God as a warm candle, not a consuming fire. In fact, every cult that tries to use the Bible, in addition to whatever else they came up with, have this in common. They emphasize one facet of God's character or they emphasize one verse or one phrase of Scripture to the exclusion of just about every other verse.

They basically ignore every other facet of God's nature revealed to us in Scripture. But you study the Bible and you discover not only the many facets of the nature and character of God, we call them attributes, you discover the relationships between those attributes. And John specifically, in this text, wants us to understand the relationship between the love of God and the gospel of God, the relationship between who God is and what God did.

And that would be my second point. Love is not only who God is, secondly, love is why God died. Look at verse 9. By this, the love of God was manifested in us that God has sent his only begotten son into the world.

Sound familiar? Sounds like John 3.16, doesn't it? So that we might live through him. This is love. Not that we love God, but that he loved us and sent his son to be the propitiation for our sins.

We'll get back to that word we can hardly pronounce without practicing, but in the meantime, let's go back to the beginning. This is the love of God manifested in us that God sent his only son so that we might live through him. Philea would say, I love you because you are so much like me. Agape says, Here, I love you even though you are nothing like me.

Think of it. What have we done to attract God's attention? How are we like God? Storge would say, I love you because you're in my family. Agape is saying here in this text, I love you, and I want to make you a member of my family. Several key words or phrases are added to what John has written earlier. Notice in verse 9 that God, the father that is, sent his only begotten son into the world. The word for begotten doesn't mean that Jesus didn't exist until his birth, that he was begat in the human sense of the word. In fact, the word for begotten is a compound word, monogones.

It's an original word made up of manas, meaning single or one, and genas, meaning kind. He's saying that Jesus is one of a kind. You ought to write that in the margin of your New Testament because cults love to go to this word and say, look, he had a beginning.

It's not at all what he means. Jesus is one of a kind. He's God the Father's only son. He's God the Son, which means there is no equal to God the Son. He is uniquely qualified to reveal the essence of the triune God in bodily form. Colossians 1. Now I want you to notice something else interesting here.

He says, not that any of it isn't interesting, it all is, but let me show you this. It's this phrase, God sent him. God the Father sent Jesus.

This is a volume. It implies preexistence. He already existed and he was sent. Babies aren't sent by God. Babies don't exist prior to conception.

They are gifts from God, but they are not sent by God. Yesterday was the due date of our first grandchild. Much to everyone's chagrin, that date has come and gone. And I never keep my phone with me, but I have it. In fact, yesterday, I got our own buzzer, but if it buzzes, I'm out of here. Hopefully I'll finish before I get buzzed, but at any rate, if I don't, you'll understand. Benjamin called me last night and I saw it ring, I was at a wedding, saw it ring, saw his name, and I answered it.

Yeah! That's how I'm answering the phone, now what? And he said, Dad, nothing's happening. Like the Apostle Paul, I said, phooey.

It's an ancient Greek word I found in the New Testament. We're waiting for him to be born, not sent. I mean, Caroline would love to have him sent. Okay, now, this would be great. Send him.

No. Jesus was both born and sent. That is, he pre-existed from eternity past, was sent, and then born at a particular point in time as a human being through Mary, the God-man. And what John wants us to know here is that he was sent for a purpose.

Notice verse 10. To demonstrate the love of God for the world. He is the demonstration of love. Agape. God loved the world, so what?

Anybody can say, I love you. But God what? He gave himself and the person of his son the willing sacrifice of Christ, which was pictured centuries earlier prophetically in the signature event where Abraham took his only son and they climbed Mount Moriah. God had told Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac, the son of promise through whom would come the people of God.

And Isaac obediently went along with the will of his father, didn't he? Most of us miss the grandeur of that event because we picture Abraham and a little boy Isaac here sort of trudging up the hill and Isaac is kind of pestering his dad with, you know, where's his sacrifice? Where's the sacrifice daddy?

Where is it? Ha ha ha. And finally Abraham says, well look you're it. And then he picks up little Isaac and puts him on the altar. Well if you'd like to read the entire narrative at some point it's found in Genesis 21 where Isaac is born and chapter 22 where Isaac is offered. What's lost on us is the willingness of Isaac who prefigures Christ.

That's because the typical Sunday school curriculum somehow misses the fact that there are 20 years between chapter 21 and 22. The birth of Isaac and the sacrifice of Isaac. Isaac isn't a little boy. He's more than likely, even though we can't prove it in his early 30s, I think he's probably the same age as Jesus whom he prefigured. He isn't lifted up by Abraham in place.

He willingly climbs up and says I'm willing. Of course God stays at the hand of his father and then prophesies that he will send a lamb. Centuries later Jesus Christ willingly climbs that wooden altar as the lamb of God who came to die for the sins of the world. The death of Jesus Christ was not an accident.

It was an appointment. And he didn't die as a martyr. All the plans went awry. This wasn't what we planned. No, he dies as a conqueror right on time. In fact Peter will preach as the church is created on the day of Pentecost in Acts chapter 2 verse 23 that Jesus Christ was crucified by the predetermined plan of God.

This was the plan. Now back to that word propitiation. It's the word halazmas. It means basically satisfaction.

You could write perhaps in the margin next to that as you encounter it again a few times. Satisfaction. More theologically the fully atoning, satisfying sacrifice of Christ for sin. God the Son satisfied the worthy demands of holy justice against sinners.

He effectively served our death sentence. Being infinite God he could pay an infinite price, experience an infinite amount of time, and yet at one point in time die because he was both man and God. Do you know why you will never face the fiery judgment of God? Because you stand in Christ. He is your propitiation. Holy justice has already consumed him at that once for all sacrifice for sin. And God the Father is satisfied with Jesus and you by faith in Jesus stand on ground we call propitiated ground or propitiation.

God is satisfied with Jesus, God the Father then, because you by faith are in Jesus is satisfied with you too. There's more for us to learn from this lesson, but we're going to stop right here for now and we'll conclude this lesson on our next broadcast. You can learn more about Stephen Davey and the Ministry of Wisdom International if you visit our website, which is, where you can learn more about Stephen Davey and the Ministry of Wisdom International if you visit our website, which is Once you go there, you'll have access to the library of Stephen's Bible Teaching Ministry. Every day we post that day's broadcast, so if you ever miss one of these lessons on your local radio station, you can go to our website and keep caught up with our daily Bible Teaching Ministry. You'll find each day's broadcast right on the home page. We have two daily broadcasts and this one is called Wisdom for the Heart.

You can also navigate to the previous broadcasts as well if you want to go back a little bit. The library of Stephen's Teaching Ministry is also available on that site. Stephen has been teaching the Bible for over 36 years. All of those full-length sermons are posted to our website. We've organized all of those messages by Book of the Bible, so if there's a particular book that you want to study and if Stephen has preached through it, you can listen or read each message. All of that content is available free and on demand. You can access it anytime at I hope you'll visit us online today and I hope you'll join us tomorrow for the conclusion to this message here on Wisdom for the Heart.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-01-11 00:20:42 / 2023-01-11 00:30:50 / 10

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