Love the Truth and Truthfully Love

All over the world today the body of Christ is awakening to a new understanding and experiential awareness of the love of God the Father, the grace of God, and the significant change from the Old to the New Covenant. This is great! It’s a much-needed antidote for decades (if not centuries) of inaccurate misrepresentation of God as harsh, judgmental, and demanding—an eternally unhappy heavenly taskmaster with a whip and measuring stick.

However, just as there was a snake in Eden, there’s a snake lurking in the current renewed emphasis. If we’re not careful, ruination is ahead. The snake in the present hour is the tendency in the Church throughout the ages to swing from one extreme to the other in reaction to past under or over emphasis on any given facet of God’s character. The hazard regarding the love of God is embracing a concept that is Western, sentimental, psychological, individualized, and emotive rather than biblical.

God’s love must always be understood and presented within the context of Christ and Him crucified.  God’s love may accrue  to us without merit, but that does not mean it is without cost. The reason we can experience God’s love is because a Lamb was slain before the foundations of the world.[i] If we do not maintain a Christ-centered presentation of the love of God, we will drift into some very unhealthy places both objectively regarding Truth, and subjectively in our own experience. Let’s remember some things from the Scripture.

Jesus

No one would argue that Christ spoke of and embodied the Father’s love and our sharing in it.[ii] It is, however, very significant that when the Scripture describes the essence of what that love looks like in human form, love itself is not mentioned. Jesus is described as being full of grace and truth.[iii] There’s no mention of love. As the incarnation of God’s love, Jesus called people names and insulted them. [iv] That does not fit our cultural definition of love. Our culturally conditioned ideas of the nature of the love of God in Christ Jesus bear no resemblance, at all, to the biblical Jesus.

It is also fascinating to me to read the words of someone who saw Him, heard Him, handled Him, lived and ate with Him, and find no reference to the love of God in the experience of it[v] – just reference to light and life. That such an experience with the Living Word would not include by default, a primary revelation of the love of God, is inconceivable to us today.

Paul and John

Paul did not preach the “love of God” as a topic.  He preached (and admonished others to do the same) Christ and Him crucified, which is the manifestation of the love of God. Paul did not admonish young preachers to “make sure you preach the love of God to them.” His last words to Timothy were to remember the incarnation and resurrection of Christ,[vi] and the judgment at His appearing again.[vii] In Acts 20:21-25 we have Paul’s departing words to the Ephesian elders. He would never see them again. If there was ever a moment to emphasize the importance of preaching the love of God, this would have been it. Instead, Paul tells us the essence of his message:

  • Repentance toward God, faith toward Christ
  • The gospel of the grace of God
  • The kingdom of God

John is amazing on the essence of the “message” from his perspective. In 1John 1:5ff he describes it in terms of light, darkness, truth, sin, forgiveness, blood, cleansing, fellowship, etc. There’s no mention of the love of God until he starts talking about obedience in the truth and our responsibility to one another.  Wow, the so-called “apostle of love” himself, not even mentioning it in priority as we would.   He presents the message first, then in later chapters, its source and outcome: love. We can argue the significance and application, but not the facts.

The Book of Acts

As much as the Scriptures speak of the love of God, the specific phrase “God loves you” is never used. It was never preached by any apostle.  One would think by looking at the road signs of churches in America that “God loves you” is the apostolic message.  I once did a categorized compilation of all the messages preached by the apostles in the book of Acts. I was shocked to discover what they preached, and what they didn’t. The love of God is not mentioned once in the book of Acts. They preached (primarily) the resurrection.[viii] That’s a record of 30+ years of apostolic preaching and God’s love is never mentioned.

Now, this will get people squirming (maybe manifesting?) Again, we can (and probably will!) argue about the significance and how it applies, but it is a fact. It is irrational for us to have New Testament Church and book of Acts expectations for revival, if we don’t even preach what they preached in the Book of Acts!

God’s love accrues to us as the result of the apostolic preaching of Christ and Him crucified, raised from the dead.  “God loves you” is not the apostolic message. It is the apostolic motive behind the message[ix] and the experiential fruit of the message. Yes, God is holy love, and that love is manifested at Calvary. We appropriate it through faith in Christ’s work, not as a freestanding metaphysical cosmic commodity that exists solely so we can feel good about ourselves.

One Another

Certainly there’s a healing and therapeutic element that accrues to us personally as we understand and enter into the wonderful love of God. However, the love of God in its full expression involves more than the joy and psychological benefits that accrue to me personally.  The love of God is manifested by our care for others. We experience the biblical love of God in one-anotherness, not in Western individualism. Our relationship to one another determines if we are in the biblical love of God or not.[x] The biblical love of God is not some warm feeling I may subjectively experience in a meeting after a preacher has worked the crowd into an amening frenzy. The biblical love of God derives from Calvary and is expressed through Calvary, in and through you and I.

Conclusion

Love never fails and is the cement of maturity. However, love is not an emotive feeling. In John 3:21: truth is a verb—something we cannot even express in English. The tense is “truthing it” (KJV: doing truth). Someone who is “truthing it” is abiding in the light, and the love of God.[xi] Truth and love are inextricably linked. Sacrifice truth, and you do not have the love of God. Any concept of the love of God that diminishes the importance of truth is not biblical.

I realize that as soon as these things are said, many voices will be raised about how doctrine divides, and doctrine is the problem, and we just need to emphasize love and not theology, etc. These are all subjective comments from individuals’ past bad experience. The Scriptures themselves speak favorably about the role of doctrine and the apostolic commands to maintain it. Any expression of love that requires the diminishing or downplaying of doctrine and a commitment to Apostolic Truth is not genuine love from God, regardless of how wonderful it may feel. By doctrine I do not mean monolithic agreement to every nuance of Scripture, or the dead cerebral presentation of propositional truths. I mean a commitment to, reverence for, and the primacy of the disciplined study and presentation of Scripture and a relationship with Him who is the Truth. The Scripture is not an end in itself. The Scriptures are the revealer of Christ and point the way to have relationship with God and humanity through Him.

I am aware how threatening this article could be to many who are currently enjoying a wonderful and legitimate season of being renewed in the love of God. To them, it might sound like I am trying to take them back to some abusive experience and faulty understanding of God in their past.  I accept that many will misconstrue what I have said. However, I believe I have accurately presented the Scriptural record. We either believe the Scriptures are unique, or we do not. If we don’t, well, the floodgates are open and nothing I say herein matters anyway.

I’m very concerned for unhealthy trends I see emerging across a broad spectrum of the body of Christ regarding the love of God.  Danger is lurking. Let’s not ruin something divinely prescribed for good with undisciplined attitudes toward Scripture and our own culturally influenced ideas about the nature of God’s love.


[i] Rev. 5:6.

[ii] John 17:21-23 for example.

[iii] John 1:14

[iv] Matt. 16: 23, John 8:44, Matt. 23:33, Luke 24: 25 KJV: “fools” – Gr. idiotes – English – idiots! – those who are morally and intellectually deficient and responsible for their condition. There are many other examples.

[v] 1 John 1:1-10.

[vi] 2Timothy 2:7-9

[vii] 2Timothy 4:1 ff.

[viii] An Excel spreadsheet of my work in this regard is available to the interested upon request.

[ix] He loved us first when we did not love Him, and in His love He sent His son.

[x] John 2:711, 1John 3:16-17.

[xi] 1John 2:8-9.

Copyright 2011 Dr. Stephen R. Crosby www.drstevecrosby.wordpress.com. Permission to copy, forward, or distribute this article is granted as long as this copyright byline is maintained in all duplications, copies, and link references.

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20 comments on “Love the Truth and Truthfully Love

  1. Steve

    So appreciate your willingness to speak truth as revealed by Jesus and the Apostles. Many have strayed from the Apostolic teaching of the Gospel of the Kingdom. I would really value the spreadsheet of what the Apostles preached.

    Thanks
    Michael

    • Thanks Jeff. When we are together we can share about some disturbing stuff I am continuing to see. How could one “go wrong” preaching the love of God? Well, we seem to be succeeding at that in a lot of places.

  2. One of the things that has scared me in the present move of God is an outright replacement of scriptural truth with emotions experiences. In some ways I think it may pose more problems than being in the institution.

    • Agree. From the proverbial pan into the fire. I am aghast at the blatant, unapologetic disregard for Scripture I am seeing everywhere. At one level it is understandable from a logic point of view. Since Scripture is fundamentally “authoritarian,” if folks have been abused in authoritarian teaching atmospheres, the scriptures themselves become suspect subliminally and psychologically . . . folks cannot differentiate between the hands that abused scripture and the Scriptures themselves.

      I am finding that anything resembling authoritative “teaching” is vehemently resisted in the emergent church groups I have contact with. In that universe, one man’s opinion: is as good as another’s. I have asked people I respect in emergent circles about this very question; “Who has authority to say “NO” to someone’s opinion about the scripture? Is there a place for the authoritative transmission of doctrine in the emergent church universe?

      I have not gotten any good responses.

  3. Ohh man, just because the church has left the building does not mean we don’t have a LOOOOONNGGG way to go. We are like Israel just leaving Egypt.

  4. Steve, even “love” is not the foundation on which we build. “For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”

    Your point seems to echo a compilation of articles in a book called “No Other Foundation” by DeVern Fromke, written I think in the sixties. Fromke went through a number of faulty foundations that people use for their “work,” including, most surprisingly, love. The point that not even love, but Jesus Himself, was and is the only apostolic foundation, made a deep impression on me upon reading Fromke’s book in the eighties, and I am glad to be reminded again of it by you today.

    Yours in the Lord. Fob James

    • Hi Fob, Yes, I read everything DeVerne ever wrote when I was a young man in the Lord. His worked marked me in a good way. He was a clear, Christ-centered man. I think his stuff is “classic” along with Oswald Chambers and AW Tozer, Andrew Murray. I would put DeVerne in that category, and that anything I would say would even be in the same universe is of great encouragement and thankfulness to me. Thank you for your note.

  5. Interesting timing on your article, as I’ve been meditating on I Corinthians 13. Jonathan Edwards has a whole volume on this one chapter. Why? Because we need to know what love really IS. For example, if we really love God, have we ever thought about being PATIENT with Him? “Love is patient” or do we think patience is only necessary when some little kid is being ornery. How about love is not self-seeking? How’s that for a tall order? Reading I Corinthians 13 back into the life of Jesus, we see his motives in the way he dealt with people, particularly the Pharisees. I am blown away by the LOVE of God, what it is and what it isn’t. In some sectors I know of, the devil has actually transformed the word “Agape” into tolerance… moral relativity. And “God Loves You” has very little meaning if we don’t know what we’re being saved from. May the return of the Finneys, Moodys, Edwards, Whitfields, Wesleys… message come upon our land. The gospel, negative side and then positive side. Great article Steve. Some of my favorite “worship songs” take secular tunes and lyrics and direct those words and heart cries to God. Steve Perry’s “I wanna know what love is, I want YOU to show me” is one of my all-time favorites in this regard.

    • Hi Jeff, yes. Our culture has co-opted and redefined what love is, and like the frog in the kettle, most Christians do not know they are being cooked! Have you ever read the book “The Spiritual Journey of U2” . .it’s quite a read . . . Bono and the boys, at least trying to be followers of Christ, kicked out of the church for their music, but at least for Bono, still trying to find it. Their song “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m looking For” moves me every time I hear it. I agree with you on Steve Perry’s tune. Agape is not some propositional truth. It is either “seen” or it does not exist.

  6. Have crossed paths with many ’emergents” and others who have left…but perhaps they have not even left Egypt yet..just their homes. So many in the church have come in some side door but not through The Door! This “love” message, love is God, seems so insidiously sweet and delicious…but it will turn bitter in your stomach.

    Thanks Steve…we are all products of whatever “gospel” we have heard and received. Many leaving on the wilderness…have not yet “come out”. They first need the blood applied to the door posts and lentels. We must trumpet the message of Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Then the death angel will pass over and they can cross over and begin the journey to Zion.

    Right On Bro.

  7. Steve, i too am disheartened even trembling at the blatant disregard of scripture and spiritual authority. I sense a powerful wave, much like a sunami coming and it is a spirit of lawlessness. It is not scripture which they repudiate but it is a deep disdain and rebellion against spiritual authority. It is as if we are crying out “We have no King but “Caeser’…which is to say, “Crucify Him”.

  8. I found this article to have great value Bro. ! I am reading Yancey’s book “What’s So Amazing about Grace?” Over here in New Zealand dude and don’t struggle with envy now dude!!!! LOL!In this work Yancey quotes David Seamands…” Many years ago I was driven to the conclusion that the two major causes of most emotional problems among evangelical Christians are these:failure to understand, receive, and live out God’s unconditional grace and forgiveness; and the failure to give out that unconditional love, forgiveness, and grace to other people…..We read, we hear, we believe a good theology of grace. But that’s not the way we live. The good news of the Gospel of grace has not penetrated the level of our emotions.”

    Later Yancey writes “i yearn for the church to become a nourishing culture of grace.”

  9. Stephen
    Would you believe I have discussed this very thing in the last few weeks on John the Baptist TV blogspot.
    A woman from New Zealand who has to use a alias, so the big boys don’t come get me.
    You are the first I have found tht has opened this up and discussed it, thank you.

  10. Hello Steve, once again, a very thought provoking and challenging article. Your statement about the apostles never preaching “God loves you” was a very eye-opening thought, especially when I realized that it’s true. Being a person who has been performance driven all of my life, I am now coming to understand God’s grace in my life and what Jesus has done for me, ie. I don’t have to perform and work for what Jesus has already done. After being a Christian for 28 years I am finally coming to an understanding of God’s love and grace. However, I want to be balanced and scriptural in my understanding of His love. I am probably leaning “too far” into the love of God because of all that I have been through in my life. So your article challenges me to continue to gain a more clearer and greater understanding of what the love of God is really all about.

    I would be very interested in seeing your work on the apostles teaching. My email address is mwilson@thecitygate.us. Thank you for all of your articles and books. They have helped me more than you will ever know.

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