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Discussion Forum : Articles and Sermons : FIRST-CLASS LOVE

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Joined: 2007/4/25
Posts: 1632
Scotland, UK



Many suppose that when Jesus told the Ephesian Church that He had somewhat against them, because they had left their first love, He referred to the love they had in their first conversion, as babes in Christ. But I have often felt that our Lord meant something more than that, and that the love He referred to was not "first" in the order of time, but "first" in the order of rank; meaning they had left the state of pure, ardent, perfect love. So, in examining the Greek, I find this impression of what should be meant by first love is confirmed.

There are two words in the Greek Testament for love; the one is philos, which signifies natural affection, and the other agape, which signifies divine love, which is the pure benevolence of the divine nature. There are also two words for "first"; one is mias which, as a general rule, signifies the first in time, and the other is protos which signifies, as a rule, first in rank. These words may not be used invariably in these senses, but that is the main tenor of their usage. And in that verse, Rev. 2:4, the Greek word is agape prote, that is, divine love of the first or highest rank.This is the sense in which we have utilized the Greek word protos in our language, as when we say "prototype," by which we mean a model type, or a pattern, conveying the idea of rank more than the idea of priority in time.Also, we say "proto martyr," by which we mean not only the first martyr in time, but a model martyr.

The Ephesian believers were among the best and holiest of all the early churches, and from Paul's epistle to that church we learn the very high order of their faith and spiritual discernment and fruitfulness. John wrote the Revelation over thirty years after the epistles of Paul to the Ephesians, and nearly a whole generation had passed away, and while the blessed Jesus recognized their works, and patience, and hatred of false doctrine, yet amid all their zeal, and orthodoxy, and morality, they had lost the deep, pure, melting love to Jesus which always characterizes the high water mark of holy love.

Hence, we learn from this word protos agape, instead of mias agape, that the love of a young convert, as a babe in Christ, however strong it may be, is not the highest form of love. A great many ministers, in preaching from that text, who do not know the perfection of love experimentally, through the abiding fullness of the Spirit, give an erroneous interpretation to the passage, and represent that the love of a young convert because it is first in the order of time, is the best and the strongest form of Christian love. And so they deny any perfection of love, or any higher love subsequent to the new birth, and magnify the believer's infant love in justification as the grandest epoch in Gospel experience. And, instead of urging believers to a state of divine love, ten-fold stronger and higher than their first conversion love, they are always turning the eyes of old Christians back to their spiritual cradle, trying to realize their conversion over again, and singing the backward-looking hymn, "What peaceful hours I once enjoyed." The love that Jesus wants us to give Him is first class, first in rank, the very cream of the heart, the love of a spiritual bride, the protos agape, which outranks every other affection and every other degree of love which is possible to our nature.

1. The first-class love is the love of the spouse to the heavenly Bridegroom. It has a great many marks to distinguish it from the love of the partially sanctified believer. While in both stages of experience the love is divine, yet this first, highest rank love is pure, unselfish, unmixed with earthly motives, and far more positive, and concentrated, and pungent, and prompt, and fearless. Among the distinguishing traits of this first-class, bridehood love, we may notice the following. It is intensely personal. In the weaker stages of Christian life, love for God is of a vague and general nature, and the affection for a divine personality is indistinct. It is a holy love in a general way for the church, the Bible, and good people, and for God, and Jesus, all more or less blended together. But in the higher rank of pure love for Jesus, as the Bridegroom of the soul, there is a bright and startling distinctness in it for Him as a person, a deep, interior attachment, a divine passion for the God-man, a personal love which is not confused in the love for the Father, or for the Holy Spirit, or for the saints, or for God's Word; a love which does not weaken but rather brightens every other love, yet so intensely personal for the blessed Jesus that if He were taken away, the soul, like a heavenly lover, would die of a broken heart. Again, this bridehood love is exceedingly tender, it is continually bathed in a sea of exquisite gentleness. It cures the soul of harshness and rashness, and religious scolding and sanctified severity. It is worth a hundred deaths for any Christian to get into that place of unspeakable tenderness of spirit which adivine passion for Jesus will produce. Again, this highest rank love has a lightening-like vigilance in it; it has keen eyes to see divine things, it watches the dealings of God, the movements of the Spirit, the divine manifestations, the interior operations of grace; it follows close behind the Master and keeps in a frame of highest intellectual activity, and watches every opportunity of obtaining a deeper union with Christ. Again, it is very sensitive for the things of God; it is jealous for its Lord, and loses that miserable trait of touchiness which so many Christian people have, because it is so touchy toward the glory of Jesus.It would gladly be a door mat for Jesus to walk upon. It is a sweet and lavish love, which enjoys suffering for His sake. Again, this highest love is distinguished by an intense craving for God. The heart pines for Christ as for an absent lover, and although it feels His presence warming the fountains of the soul, yet it craves to see Him, it yearns for the beatific vision of the three persons in the Godhead, and longs to see the King in His beauty coming in His kingdom; it is that leaping, bounding desire for Christ spoken of in the Song of Solomon. This love is covered all over with graces that correspond with the royalty of Jesus, and loves Him in all His forms, and all His offices, and adores Him as a loving despot under whose feet it delights to hide.

2. First-class love for Jesus will prompt the soul to be and do its very best for God. People who enter this state will have a singular prayer spring up in their hearts in which they will deliberately beg the Lord to do His infinite best in them, and through them. It will be no ordinary prayer, such as most Christians pray at random, but a deep, solemn, earnest thoughtful prayer, in which they look, as it were, into the face of all possibilities, and of all contingencies, and in view of every price it may cost, and of every suffering it may bring, they calmly and bravely meet the issue, and plead with tears that Jesus will take utter possession of them, and carry out in them the very best purposes of His love and will. Such a prayer, born out of bridehood love, will be accompanied or followed by wonderful revelations of Jesus, and of the beautiful possibilities of our union with Him. There will open up to the spiritual understanding, serene ocean depths into the character of God that make the heart quiver with holy fascination at the gorgeous things in the soul of Jesus. And this is followed by an inexpressible thirst that Christ would pour all of Himself through us, as blood through the veins of the body. From this time on the soul wants no character but that of Christ, it despises every thought except the Christ-thoughts, it wants no life but His life, no plans but His, no opinions but His, no love but His. Then in deed and in truth its motto is, "Not I, but Christ."

3. This first-class love leads the soul instinctively to choose a first-class service. The higher we ascend in fellowship with God, the more accurately we can discern the different ranks of service which people are rendering to God. There are Christian people who serve God on the plane of philanthropy, and humanitarian enterprises, or on lines of education and reform, and we should praise God for whatever can be accomplished in these departments of service. There are others who serve on the plane of their denominational church work, and their service is largely the outcome of sectarian zeal and denominational pride; they have hardly learned to deal with God directly, or to co-operate with Him in a personal way, and all their service is through the medium of a religious system. There are others who serve God in a more direct way, but still they have mixed motives. They desire to do something great for the Lord, but they are strongly attached to their own religious work, and they want some credit for what they do. But the highest love leads the soul out into the highest forms of service, which is a service in the power of the Holy Ghost, and a service to accomplish everlasting results in the saving and sanctifying of souls, and a service for Christ alone, regardless of self-interest.

Such believers aim at not merely reforming people, but saving them from all sin; not merely at blessing people in time, but blessing them in eternity. They seek not to build up a party, or a system, but to build up Christ in the soul. They don't try to get results by planning, but by prayer; not to accomplish certain results, but to have God accomplish His thoughts. In other words, all their service is up in the altitudes of the Holy Spirit. Many great and strong people are wasting their energies on some lower level of second or third-class service, with Utopian dreams, which at the best will produce only brief, or physical, or local benefits. First-class love for Christ will lead us to serve in the highest forms, with the highest agencies, from the highest motives, with the highest zeal, and under the highest light, for the accomplishment of the highest results, for the highest well-being which God has provided for us. Let us keep in mind that Jesus is very sensitive to any coldness in the hearts of His people. Inasmuch as His very nature is love, He is keenly alive to any lack of love in us, and everything else which it is possible for us to give can never form a substitute for our warmest personal affections for Him. God loves to be loved. He made us to love Him, and if we fail in that love, it disappoints His infinite heart. Nothing will satisfy Him but our best love, and every thing we do for God is acceptable according to the love that is in it. Hence the heavenly Bridegroom is ever on the alert for the protos agape, for those humble and crucified hearts that love Him with their first-class love.

By George D. Watson

Colin Murray

 2012/1/5 8:25Profile

Joined: 2011/8/14
Posts: 1127



What a beautiful piece .
Thank you for sharing.

A blessing,it is,

 2012/1/5 9:31Profile

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