Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
May 5, 1955

Love -- No. 1

Connie W. Adams, Atlanta, Georgia

The Apostle to the Gentiles wrote, "And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not love, it profiteth me nothing." (1 Cor. 13:3.) In that chapter Paul set forth the characteristics of love positively and negatively and concluded by saying, "And now abideth faith, hope, love, these three: but the greatest of these is love." It is most important, in view of these statements, that we give sober attention to the subject and that we manifest love as portrayed in the oracles of God.

Love, A Divine Characteristic

When we learn the true meaning of love and manifest that love by our conduct we are being like God. "God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son," said Jesus in John 3:16. The same John, described as the disciple of love by many, sets forth in 1 John the divine principle of love. He said, "Let us love one another: for love is of God." (1 John 4:7.) Also, "He that loveth not, knoweth not God; for God is love." (V. 8.) When we learn to love in the scriptural meaning of the word, we become more like God, for love is one of His attributes.

The Negative Aspect

Though we are taught to love, we must not love indiscriminately.. There are proper objects of love, but there are also improper ones. We need to understand both.

1. Love is not mere sentimentalism. Some mistake an overdose of sentiment for love. The man who presents a warm, pious appearance may be able to sway the unstable with his winsome ways, but the mature child of of God will not mistake his suave, pious manner for love. Many brethren now are appealing to sentiment rather than revelation in discussing current issues. But mere sentiment is not love.

2. "Love not the world," admonished John in 1 John 2:15. He then referred to "the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye and the pride of life." These constitute the "things of the world" that we are not to love. How tragic that so many have fallen in love with the world!

3. We are not to love preeminence. "I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not." (3 John 9.) The love for prestige has led to division and discord in many congregations. The Lord wants laborers in the vineyard, not bosses. Men bent on ruling or ruining are usually successful in doing both unless their intentions are detected. Consider at least these two areas where a love for preeminence will manifest itself. First, in the eldership; second, among preachers.

That elders are due proper honor and respect, we could not deny. Paul said to "esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake." (1 Thess. 5:13.) They are to "oversee" the flock. In their work many problems are encountered and we should take that into consideration. But while all of this is true, let it not be forgotten that ambitious men can wind their way into the confidence of the brethren, present a perfect picture of soundness before a congregation, reveal teaching ability, manifest sobriety and in general conduct themselves in such fashion as to convince the saints of God that they are perfectly fitted for the eldership of the church. Of course, brethren can usually avoid many heartaches by writing a few letters and investigating somewhat. However, some fail to do so. And once a man, desirous of power, finds himself in the position of an elder, then watch out, congregation! If this boy understands the scriptures on this point, the eldership is a work. True, honor is due those who thus serve, but basically, the eldership is a work. The Catholic Church stands as a reminder that there have been elders who "lorded it over the flock," were bent on prominence, and today Pius XII is nothing but an overgrown elder. Love of preeminence in the eldership of the church can certainly bring havoc.

Preachers are not exactly immune to this love for importance. We like to be respected for our work, and sometimes (whether we admit it or not) enjoy hearing people "brag" on us. Is it not possible that preachers have at times taken unusual positions on certain passages that they might be considered as "scholars" ? In a desire to make a mark in the world is it not all too easy to abandon principle for prominence? There is nothing wrong in being known by many brethren and respected by them, but it is certainly not pleasing to the Lord to use the influence one might possess to his own selfish purposes. It is worse than disgraceful to see the conduct of some preachers regarded as prominent, as they use their influence to castigate and brand anyone who may have occasion to differ with them. They are "big" and anyone who may be "stuck off" in a little insignificant town better not question what the big boys say or do! Yes, the character of Diotrephes lives on. Doubtless, his kind will abide until the Son of God returns in the clouds to claim his own and the earth and works therein shall be burned up.

As we strive to understand love, remember that it is not mere sentiment, that we are not to love the world, and the love of preeminence is abominable in God's sight. The next article will deal with love positively.