By G. D. Watson
The love of God poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit is the sum and substance of true Christianity. Everything else that belongs to the Christian religion is either a step to this love or else an effect that flows from it. Faith would be useless if it did not lead us into a life of love, and all good works and zeal would be useless and not acceptable to God unless they were prompted and pervaded by His love. Therefore, in a large sense, there is really nothing but love in pure Christianity. Most people, including a great majority of nominal Christians, do not know the difference between natural human love and the love of God. And yet the difference is just as great as the difference between the human soul and the perfections of God.
Natural human love may resemble Divine love in many things, for it is a created affection, made in the likeness of the Divine image (Gen. 1:26-27). But we need to clearly discriminate between these two kinds of love. One is human, the other is Divine; one is earthly, the other is heavenly; one is natural, the other is spiritual; one is temporal, the other is eternal; one is full of defects from sin; the other is holy and pure.
The Holy Spirit has given us, in the Greek New Testament, a strong distinction between these two kinds of love by using two separate words. The word philos, with its various forms, is the Greek word for natural or human affection, or that kind of love that springs up instinctively from relationship. The word agape, with its various forms, is the word for Divine love — the disposition, goodness, and heart feeling of God. It is true that philos is used a few times in connection with God to express His love for Jesus, but this should be understood as the expression of love for the man Christ Jesus; the parental affection for the humanity of our Savior. It is also true that in a few places in the New Testament agape is used to express the spotless sanctified affection of human beings for each other and the love of husbands for their wives, but in such instances it implies that the whole heart of the sanctified believer is flooded with the Holy Spirit, and that the natural human love is filled and overflowed with Divine love.
The Holy Scriptures make a clear distinction between these two kinds of love. It is to be regretted that both philos and agape are translated by the same word love, for it prevents the common reader from discerning the peculiar force of God’s Word, and from distinguishing the vast difference between that which is human and that which is Divine. It might be wished that philos was always translated by the term affection, so that everyone could get a good understanding of the mind of the Spirit in the Scriptures.
Divine love is strong and fresh. When the inward hindrances, such as inbred sin, doubt and moral fear, are removed from the heart, and Divine love can take entire possession of it, it turns the inner man into a moral giant of boldness and perseverance. Human affection is not in itself sinful, but it easily falls prey to the depravity of the heart, and is almost always poisoned with selfishness, greed, fleshly lusts, or ambition. But Divine love, introduced into the heart by the new birth, and perfected by the sanctifying baptism of the Holy Spirit, and filling the whole soul, is a constant fountain of compassion and charity for others, longing to save and bless all mankind. This love is always thinking, praying, planning, and going forth, in order to lead souls to Jesus, to bless the poor, to purify the Church, to evangelize the heathen, to lift up fallen sinners, and to alleviate pain. When Divine love has its normal action in the soul, then the Christian’s supreme gladness is in giving himself for the benefit of others. Human love is soon exhausted because its fountains are not very deep. It often dwindles into the poor sentiments of nothing more than good intentions. But Divine love has in it a fountain of satisfaction. It can constantly increase, despite poor health or poverty, hard work or bad treatment. The things that often kill human affection can become the occasions for the love of God to increase in the soul, and to deepen and sweeten it with marvelous power.
Our original purpose in Adam (the first man) was to be vessels of Divine love. The various parts of our compound being of body, soul and spirit will never reach their normal state until we are entirely possessed and governed by the love of God. Any effort to make the body or the mind to live in a right manner apart from the pure love of God is simply legality or bondage to law. When Divine love becomes the supreme possession of a man’s inner being, his whole being will easily harmonize with God’s law. We need God’s love to purify, elevate, and properly utilize our natural affections. This is the Divine element that John speaks of when he said, “God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him” (1 John 4:16).
Taken from The Heavenly Life, by G. D. Watson. Two Kinds of Love was revised and condensed.
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