Before we get into this week’s text, I need to WARN you…THESE ARE EXTREMELY FAMILIAR VERSES! So, please beware of reading through them haphazardly. I believe there is some truth to the old adage “familiarity breeds complacency.” I ask that you would pray for fresh eyes, a humble heart, and a teachable mind to learn from Scripture today, that again will be extremely familiar if you have any extended background in church.
Ironically enough, the hardest verses for me to memorize are the ones that I have known for years BUT IN A DIFFERENT VERSION! An additional word here. A different word there. So instead of just memorizing new text, I’m actually having to deprogram then reprogram data that was downloaded way too long ago. 🙂
Are you prayed up? Then dive headfirst into Galatians 2:17-21 (English Standard Version):
17 But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! 18 For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor. 19 For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.
“….[the Son of God] loved me and gave Himself for me.” Can I ask you to go back and read that phrase again–out loud if possible? Did you do it? Good. Now say it again. Wasn’t that easy? Now say it again. The person next to you might think you’re a little weird, but that’s OK. Say it again. I will sit right here and wait, until you say it as many times as your precious soul needs to hear it. Please, say it just one more time.
It’s the Gospel. I know you probably think I am a broken record (or would the more relevant phrasing be “a broken iPod”?) by now. But it’s not my fault–Paul is the one writing about Jesus Christ’s Gospel of GRACE over and over and over again.
There are four different Greek words that are all translated into our single English word, love. Herein lies some of our disconnection from and devaluing of Jesus’ love for us. I tell you that I love your outfit. I tell my dog that I love him. We say that we love Chick-fil-a. But we also say that we love our parents, children, spouse, GOD…and we say that He loves us.
The four Greek words and their definitions are as follows:
- Storge–“affection, especially of parents to offspring.” It is natural love, even in the animal world. It is why mama bears feed their cubs. A normal, healthy person does not need to be told to give storge.
- Philia–“friendship.” C.S. Lewis says in his book, “The Four Loves”, “Friendship is the least natural of the loves. Without eros [love] none of us would have been begotten and without affection [storge] none of us would have been reared; but we can live and breed without friendship.”
- Eros–“passionate love with desire and longing; being ‘in love’.” I have always thought eros automatically indicated sexual desire/activity/motivation. However, Lewis states that this is inaccurate: “Sexual desire, without eros, wants it [sex], the thing in itself; eros wants the Beloved.” I think his words are simply beautiful.
- Agape–“unconditional love.” It refers to the covenant love of God for humans, as well as the human reciprocal love for God. Lewis describes it as what he believes is the highest level of love known to humanity—a selfless love, a love that is passionately committed to the well-being of the other. In his book, “The Pilgrimage”, Paulo Coelho defines it as “the love that consumes,” i.e., the highest and purest form of love, one that surpasses all other types of affection.
As you can guess, the word Paul uses in 2:20 is agape. Jesus loved you with a selfless, covenant love; the highest form of love that is passionately committed to your well-being; the purest love; a love that surpasses all other loves. Jesus agaped you.
That love led Him first down to earth to a wooden manger in a town called Bethlehem. Then that love led Him down the Via Dolorosa to a wooden cross on a hill called Calvary. Where, as the text says, he “gave Himself for” me and you.
“A love that consumes…” as Coehlo states. Consumes means, “to destroy, to do away with completely, annihilate.”
His love consumed my heart of stone and gave me a new heart of flesh, and He put a new spirit within me (Ezekiel 36:26). His love consumed every single drop of the judgement and wrath of God against me (2 Corinthians 5:21). His love consumes every ounce of condemnation I experience (Romans 8:1). His love consumes my sin (John 1:29, Hebrews 10:14).
Consume, Lord. I agape you.