[Below are the sermon notes for tonight's message by Pastor Joel on "love unfeigned" in 2 Cor. 6:6. PTL! Enjoy!]
2Co 6:1 We then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain. 2Co 6:2 (For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.) 2Co 6:3 Giving no offence in any thing, that the ministry be not blamed: 2Co 6:4 But in all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses, 2Co 6:5 In stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labours, in watchings, in fastings;2Co 6:6 By pureness, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned, 2Co 6:7 By the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, 6:8 By honour and dishonour, by evil report and good report: as deceivers, and yet true; 6:9 As unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and, behold, we live; as chastened, and not killed; 6:10 As sorrowful, yet alway rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.
Do you remember what we covered so far? One of the first places we went was 2Co 12:9 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. These two sentences are a cause and effect. The cause of what the Lord said results in Paul’s reaction. Plus, we have a cause and effect within each sentence. The Lord said. “My grace is sufficient for thee” (the entire package of grace has equipped you to the end – the cause) “for my strength is made perfect in weakness” (The result - It’s not that His power only works when we are weak, but we rely most on His power when we are weak and His power is perfect to carry us in our weakness. We access His strength though the study of His Word, through prayer, and meditation of His Word). And so what’s Paul’s reaction to what the Lord told him? Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities (he is boasting about the sufficiency of His grace during all of his times of weakness. Why? So), that the power of Christ may rest upon me (If you glorify Christ in your time of weakness, then you are exhibiting the attribute of His power, which becomes visible to everyone around you. You glorying about Christ and the sufficiency of His grace and His strength at work in your weakness makes His power visible to everyone, which includes even the demons and angels. The evidence of that fact that His power is at work in you is seen when you glory in your infirmities!). When we go through hard times, we MUST glory in our infirmities – praising God for all the He is and all that He’s accomplished in us by His grace – because that glorying has a psychological and emotional impact on those around us, but it has the strongest impact on each one of us.
We talked about His power to us-ward who believe. We also talked about the excellency of the power of the truth. We also talked about sufferings of this present time, suffering for Christ’s sake, suffering and reigning. And then we came to these passages in 2 Cor. 6. You might remember that we have here in these group of passages three sections. We have the first section, this list of sufferings Paul went through punctuated by the preposition IN. Then we have the second list - HOW he got through those hard times, and this list is punctuated by the preposition BY. Then we’re given a third section, the blessed results of the grace that carried him through the hard times, and this list is punctuated by the preposition AS. We went through the list of sufferings Paul went through. And now we’re going through this second list, the things Paul was focused upon while he suffered. Because the fascinating thing about this second list is the fact that when Paul suffered, he wasn’t just focused upon – getting through the suffering. He was focused upon EXCELLING at these qualities WHILE he suffered, which is brilliant. When he suffered, he was focused upon EXCELLING at pureness, then knowledge, then longsuffering, and then kindness. We called it PKLK – Pureness, Knowledge, Longsuffering, and Kindness.
We covered Pureness. We had a two-part series on knowledge. We took a look at longsuffering, and kindness when persecuted. And the bigger point to PKLK is that this wasn’t simply about Paul just trying to get through the suffering. It wasn’t the suffering itself that tested him. It was Paul who tested himself when he went through the suffering – by excelling at PKLK. What we’re seeing in Paul is a strategic thinking and a mental discipline about suffering unlike anyone else in Scripture. This was never about how to simply get through the hard times. This was about how well can you excel in Pureness, Knowledge, Longsuffering, and Kindness while you’re going through suffering, which is absolutely brilliant. By focusing upon PKLK, you’re not as worried and upset about the suffering because you’re more concerned about your service to God. By staying focused upon PKLK, you’re lessening your worry and keeping yourself in the spiritual game of advancing the cause of Christ rather then fretting and worrying yourself to death about “how do I get through all this suffering?” Because the question was, “how do I excel while I’m suffering?” And I’m convinced that there is no greater testimony than the suffering servant glorifying God while he or she is going through some of the most difficult circumstances in their lives. That’s the kind of demonstration of God’s power that should make anyone look at that suffering servant and think, “I want what he has or what she has.”
Then Paul said that he endured suffering "by the Holy Ghost." So we began to look at the Holy Spirit, who was one of the means by which Paul would excel at Pureness, Knowledge, Longsuffering, and Kindness while he suffered persecution. So I thought, “we’ll do a thorough examination of the Holy Spirit, and we went through how the Holy Spirit operated from the OT all the way to the age of grace.
Some have asked me to go through how the Spirit will operate during the Tribulation and the Kingdom, but there’s not a lot to say about that. I have a few verses to share about Holy Spirit during the Tribulation. After the Rapture, the Holy Spirit will still be operating on this Earth. He is quite active upon the Earth in the book of Revelation. In all the letters to the seven churches, the Lord says, “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.” Do you remember the two witnesses in Rev. 11 when they’re dead three and a half days? And then John writes in Rev_11:11 And after three days and an half the Spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet; and great fear fell upon them which saw them. You consider a verse like Rev_16:6, “For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and thou hast given them blood to drink; for they are worthy.” How was it that the prophets of old were able to prophesy? They had the Spirit upon them, although the Jewish saints during Pentecost were able to prophesy by being filled with the Spirit, but during the Tribulation, I think they’ll only have the Spirit upon them. Peter wrote in 1Pe_4:14 “If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you...” The Hebrew epistles will be read and studied by the believers during the Tribulation, and Peter seems to confirm that the Spirit will be upon them during the Tribulation, which will enable them to prophesy.
Then, when the Lord returns at His Second Coming and all the OT and Kingdom saints are resurrected into their glorified bodies, they will be filled with the Spirit. Ezekiel wrote, Eze 37:13And ye shall know that I am the LORD, when I have opened your graves, O my people, and brought you up out of your graves,Eze 37:14 And shall put my spirit in you, and ye shall live, and I shall place you in your own land: then shall ye know that I the LORD have spoken it, and performed it, saith the LORD. It’s the Holy Spirit who shall raise the saints of old from the dead just as He raised Christ from the dead. I think it’s the Spirit who will carry out the judgment at the Great White Throne, because that judgment is the operation of the entire Godhead, the will of the Father, by Jesus Christ, through the Spirit. I think it’s the work of the Spirit that’ll give us a new Heaven and a new Earth, and did you ever notice that you don’t read of angels carrying New Jerusalem when it descends from Heaven? I think the power of the Spirit will bring New Jerusalem down to the Earth. And when Paul says that then God will be “all in all,” I think we’ll all be filled with the Spirit, sharing with Him in all his knowledge and wisdom, as well as all His love, joy, peace, and other attributes of the Spirit.
Love of God
Now we’ve arrived at the next subject on the list, the next thing that helped Paul get through suffering. “By love unfeigned.” What’s that all about? What does that mean exactly? And here’s a question. Is Paul talking about the love of God to him or the love of God through him? YES.
Now here’s a great study. Whip out your Searchable Riches drive, which is now 4,800 books, and do a search for “love” or “charity” and just dive right in to hundreds of books, which is what I did and you’ll be blessed. So I’m going to quote quite a few people tonight.
One article I came across was by Keith Blades called, “Love One Another”. He wrote, “Love in its various forms and expressions is probably one of the most talked about, written about, sung about, and… dreamed about subjects that there is; as well as being one of the most hoped for, longed for, sought after, needed, and even beneficial sentiments that there is in a person’s life. And this is only natural for a number of reasons, not the least of which [is] the fact that God originally designed man to love and to be loved, which even though this has been adversely affected by sin’s entrance into the world and even largely cheapened, it has not been expunged or destroyed or completely corrupted... Wherefore, it is not surprising that the subject of love has naturally occupied man’s mind and heart, and still does today. Likewise, it is little wonder that it has been constantly extolled for being both man’s greatest asset and distinguishing virtue, as well as what he needs the most of at any given moment. Hence love is generally considered ‘the quintessential sentiment and capacity of the human heart,’ as well as ‘that of which man can never get enough, or have enough, or give enough.’”
And interesting enough, he makes a distinction between Natural Love and Supernatural Love. He writes, “Natural Love Man, therefore, has a natural capacity to love and to be loved. It is part of his make-up as man, being the specific kind of creature of God that he is. As such man not only can do things on the basis of love, but in so doing he can actually do things that are genuinely good and beneficial to others and also to himself. Along with this he can also respond to love that is bestowed upon him unto the same end.” On the other hand, he compares that to Supernatural Love. He writes, “However as the Christians that we are; or more particularly as the members of God’s ‘new creature,’ the church the body of Christ that we are in this present dispensation of God’s grace; our love should not be confined or limited to that which is merely natural. For God has both purposed and provided something better for us. Instead, our love should move out of the realm of the natural and into the realm of the supernatural. In other words, our love should move out of, and go beyond, that which belongs to purely ‘natural love’ and that is ‘common to man,’ to that which is Godly. And indeed God’s love is supernatural. In other words it goes beyond that which is natural to man, exceeding it in all areas and in every way. For it is not only devoid of being adversely affected and restricted in any way by the corrupting effects of sin, (as man’s natural love is), but by its very nature it also possesses features and characteristics that are greater than, or surpass, what God originally instilled in man. Hence God’s love is supernatural compared to man’s ‘natural love.’ Moreover, God designed that the greater and surpassing features and characteristics of His love be acquired by man as part of his godly education. This means that God designed that man should learn His supernatural love and… possess it. Or in other words God designed that man should be taught by Him to love to the same extent and degree that He Himself does.”
And he’d also write that “we are not only privileged with the opportunity to be taught of God to love as He does, it is also expected of us. For in accordance with granting us this phenomenal privilege God has also made full provision for us to be so taught. Moreover, God has actually dedicated Himself to teaching us His godly love and getting it operating within us. Not only because it is naturally an essential component of godliness, but also because it is imperative that we learn to love as He [loves]. For if we do not, the truth of the matter is that much of our Christian lives and walk may be in vain; no matter how much else we might learn and do ‘in the name of Christ.’” You consider a verse like I Thess. 4:9. “But as touching brotherly love ye need not that I write unto you: for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another.” Blades would write, “As Paul described when he commended the Thessalonian saints for their ‘brotherly love,’ our provision for learning Godly love resides in God Himself teaching us to love as He does. For, as Paul said, the Thessalonians were ‘taught of God to love one another.’ Not only did the Thessalonians know that they were being ‘taught of God to love one another,’ but Paul also saw the evidence of it, and he also knew that they knew how it was that God had provided for their Godly love to ‘increase more and more.’ Hence, when Paul beseeched them to have the ‘brotherly love’ aspect of their Godly love ‘increase more and more,’ he knew that they were not going to ‘scratch their heads’ wondering what in the world he meant, or be perplexed as to how to go about doing it. Rather, the Thessalonians knew exactly what Paul meant, as well as exactly how to go about doing it. For they knew how God was teaching them ‘to love one another,’ and they knew how God had provided for their ‘brotherly love’, [which enabled them] to ‘increase’ and to even ‘abound.’” Now we’re going to return to this subject of God’s enablement to increase and abound in love as He has taught us in His Word. But first…
Christ is Love
Turn to Rev. 1. Consider these passages.
Rev 1:4 John to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace be unto you, and peace, from him which is, and which was, and which is to come; and from the seven Spirits which are before his throne; Rev 1:5 And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, Rev 1:6 And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.
First, these passages are about prophecy. These passages are about Israel, not us. Israel shall become kings and priests unto the Father, not us. And yet, Charles Henry Mackintosh did something amazing with these passages. He extracted from the Lord’s example four simple actions of love. He wrote:
“First, love thinks of its objects. This marks the motive in operation to be unaffectedly pure, for when the heart regales itself by meditating on its object, it seeks not to be noticed, to be praised or exalted for thinking of its object; its reward is found in the very thought itself — a reward, a pleasure with which nothing can compare.
“Secondly, love visits its object. It could not be content with merely thinking: the same principle that leads love to think with pleasure, induces it to visit its object; and, moreover, we can trace the same purity, elevation, and disinterestedness, in the visit as in the thought. It does not think upon its object in order to please or attract the attention of any one, neither does it visit in order to effect such ends; it has its own real, substantial enjoyment, both in thinking of and visiting its object.
“Thirdly, love suffers for its object. It rests not satisfied with merely thinking of, or visiting its object — it must suffer. In order to exhibit itself in all its reality and intensity, love must put itself to cost for its object; it must spend and be spent, not because it expects a return, but simply because it will express itself in a way not to be mistaken. Love never thinks of what it may reap for itself in thus suffering. No: it simply contemplates its object, in thinking of, visiting, and suffering for it.
“Fourthly, love exalts its object. This is the highest point. In the exaltation of its object, love sees the fruit of previous thought, visitation, and suffering. Hence, loves feels exquisite happiness in exalting its object, for in so doing, it reaps the wished-for harvest.
Then he writes, “Let us now apply the above blessed characteristics of love to the Lord Jesus and see how His love exhibited all of [us]. Did not He ponder in His own eternal mind His much-loved Church before the foundation of the world? Yes, truly… Did He rest satisfied with merely thinking about us? No: He laid aside all His glory; He came down into this… world… He made His way down into this rough valley of ours, which had ‘neither been eared nor sown.’ ‘The day-spring from on high hath visited us;’ but He did not rest satisfied with coming down to look at us in our misery and degradation; He determined to suffer for us, to groan, to bleed, to die for us; He hath washed us in ‘His own blood,’ which marks the intensity of His suffering for us. What, then, was all this for? Why those ineffable sufferings of Jesus? Why the groans and bloody sweat in the garden? Why the mysterious hour of profound darkness, together with the cry, ‘Why hast Thou forsaken me?’ Simply that the love of Jesus might exalt its object.
“Thus, we have seen how the love of Jesus has thought of, visited, suffered for, and exalted its object: this is for our comfort. But then we should remember that if we love Jesus, we too will often like to think of Him, to contemplate His grace, ponder over His perfections; moreover, we will pay frequent visits to… His sanctuary, not to gain a name as persons of much prayer, but simply to indulge the desires of our hearts after Him ‘who is the fairest among ten thousand, and altogether lovely.’ Again, we shall be ready to suffer for Him, not… to commend ourselves to our brethren as persons of great energy and zeal, but to express the high estimation in which we hold His blessed Person.”
Manifesting His Love in Us
So we had just demonstrated to us the way that Christ thought of the object of His love, visited the object of His love, suffered for the object of His love so He can exalt the object of His love. And then you consider the love of God the Father, who willed our creation by His Son. We’ve made the point before, and I think it’s worth repeating that love is God’s very nature. God is love, which is why love exists in the world, because He is the source of all love, because He is love itself. God isn’t loving. He is love itself. We often talk about how love is a choice for us, but God never chose to love you. He will always love you because He is love itself. That’s who He is. That’s how He operates, how He has always operated because His nature is love itself. Love is the eternal active energy of His essence. As God Himself is without end, so His love is without end. As no man can measure the heights and depths of God, so no man can measure the heights and depths of His love. As God is eternal, so His love is eternal.
Jeremiah wrote in Jer 31:3 The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love… The Lord wasn’t talking about Israel. The Lord said thee, the singular you. I have loved YOU with an everlasting love. Can this not also be said of each one of us? This to me was one of the most powerful verses on His love. I don’t think He means that He’s loved Jeremiah all the way in eternity past. This is a statement that speaks to the very nature of His love. His love is an everlasting love because He is an everlasting God, and love is the very essence and nature of His being. His love isn’t temporary. His love isn’t conditional. His love doesn’t fluctuate. His love doesn’t stop. His love doesn’t require any effort on His part, nor does He view His love as something separate from Himself or His nature, as if it’s something He has to make an effort to do. He makes no effort to love because He is love itself. His love is a holy signature attribute of His nature, and we know that God’s nature never changes.
I once quoted Dwight L. Moody who said that “Divine love is as high above human love as the heaven is above the earth.” I’d argue that His love is infinitely higher than that. But then we had Keith Blades saying, “God designed that man should be taught by Him to love to the same extent and degree that He Himself [loves].” And my question to you is, how can any of us love to the same degree that God loves? Or the way that Christ loves? How is that possible?
It is possible for you and for me to love to that same degree. How?
Because of how God made us in Christ.
That moment we believed, we became dead, buried, and risen with Christ. We’re living His resurrection life, freed from the power and dominion of sin. We’re completely new creatures. His life has been poured into our souls, we’re alive unto God, with a new man alive in us and the new man loves like God loves. The new man was created in the very image of God Himself in all righteousness and true holiness. The ability to love to the same degree as God Himself became possible the moment we believed, but manifesting that love in our lives requires a renewed mind through the study of His Word, by which the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts, His love is literally poured out onto our hearts, His love is abundantly produced from within us, His love fills us to overflowing in our hearts, and through the study of His Word we may together with all the saints be able to comprehend something that surpasses all human knowledge – what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height of the love of Christ Himself. And having that knowledge fills us with all the fullness of God Himself. And in all of that, because of what God made us in Christ, and because of the power of His Word working in us, fortifying in our souls His own nature of love, we can and should love to the same degree as God.
All of this brings us back to where we started. Paul said that one of the things that helped him endure all suffering was “love unfeigned.” Let’s start with love. In the Greek, this is agape love, which is sometimes translated as “love” and sometimes translated as “charity”. I suspect that the translators using two different words isn’t simply for variance but also helps to give us depth of meaning to agape. It isn’t just love but it’s also charity, too.
First, "love," as defined by Webster, is “1. In a general sense to be pleased with; to regard with affection, on account of some qualities which excite pleasing sensations or desire of gratification… In short, we love whatever gives us pleasure and delight, whether animal or intellectual; and if our hearts are right, we love God above all things, as the sum of all excellence and all the attributes which can communicate happiness to intelligent beings. In other words, the Christian loves God with the love of complacency in his attributes, the love of benevolence towards the interest of his kingdom, and the love of gratitude for favors received.”
But then for “charity,” Webster says, “1. In a general sense, love, benevolence, good will; that disposition of heart which inclines men to think favorably of their fellow men to think favorably of their fellow men, and to do them good. In a theological sense, it includes supreme love to God, and universal good will to men. 2. In a more particular sense, love, kindness, affection, tenderness, springing from natural relations; as the charities of father, son and brother.” Agape love isn’t just love. Agape love isn’t just great affection toward something. Agape love is also charity, which is not so much love in action as it is the attitude that produces the love in action, that pre-disposition in our hearts that inclines us to act in love toward everyone. The Supernatural Love God would have manifest in us, isn’t just great affection, isn’t just love in action, but it’s also having that disposition of heart that’s always inclined to act in love.
But Paul doesn’t say that he’s simply focused upon love. He is focused upon love unfeigned. What does that mean? Webster says, “UNFEIGNED, adjective Not feigned; not counterfeit; not hypocritical; real; sincere; as unfeigned piety to God; unfeigned love to man.”
This is actually the same Greek word translated as dissimulation. Rom_12:9 “Let love be without dissimulation.” Webster says, “DISSIMULATION, noun [Latin , to make like; like.] The act of dissembling; a hiding under a false appearance; a feigning; false pretension; hypocrisy. Dissimulation may be simply concealment of the opinions, sentiments or purpose; but it includes also the assuming of a false or counterfeit appearance which conceals the real opinions or purpose.” This isn’t just a love that isn’t counterfeit, isn’t just hiding under a false appearance, but this is a love that is as real and as pure and as natural as the love of God Himself.
Ironside said this is “A love that is genuine, not put on, that is not pretended but is real… This is a love that’s implanted in the heart by the Spirit of God.”
Les Feldick said, “did Paul ever put on a false front? Did the apostle Paul ever come into a pagan city with a veneer? No. He came in with that heart full of [love and] revelation and knowledge in the power and working of the Holy Spirit.”
Stam wrote, “’By love unfeigned,’ love sincere and true, not superficial or a lack of love covered with a deceptive veneer.” So here’s a question, what does a hypocritical love look like? I think this speaks to motivation. It is a fake love. A love displayed to another under some kind of false pretense.
Ricky Kurth, in a June 2010 Berean Searchlight wrote about “love unfeigned” (II Cor. 6:6). “We once knew a Christian woman who freely admitted she was caring for an elderly woman just to be named in her will! Grace pastors must be motivated to serve God’s people by a sincere love for them, not by a feigned love that is only interested in what these saints can contribute financially to them personally or to their ministry.”
Consider what we covered, the way that Christ thinks of the object of His love, visits the object of His love, suffers for the object of His love so He can exalt the object of His love. And then we covered the love of the Father, in which God never chose to love you. He always loved you because He is love itself. His love isn’t temporary. His love isn’t conditional. His love doesn’t fluctuate. His love doesn’t stop. His love doesn’t require any effort. He loves naturally because He is love.
So the question we have to ask ourselves, myself included, how well do you love? How loving are you? What are your motivations behind the love you show others? Do you love them sincerely or under some kind of false pretense? Is your love temporary and/or conditional? Or is it fixed like God’s love? Do you love others because you’re supposed to or because you actually love them, because the love of God is overflowing in your heart? How much of the love of God is operating through you? I remember, before coming back to the Lord, that I withdrew my love to everyone because I was concerned about myself and being hurt. Then I came to learn that God freely gives His love away because He’s concerned about them and their eternal destiny. What’s worse? You being heartbroken or someone else spending eternity in a lake of fire? We must love freely to all because God loves freely to all. And when we’re wronged by a brother or a sister, do we not forgive for Christ’s sake, even as the Father hath forgiven us for Christ’s sake? And should we not suffer long all the wrongs of this world because Christ Himself is also suffering long all the wrongs of this world?
And consider that when Paul suffered, he was focused on exhibiting God’s pureness of love, focused upon exhibiting that natural, unfiltered, sincere love to everyone, including those who were his enemies, and including all those who persecuted him unfairly. Why? Because he wanted to be released from all that suffering? Because he wanted to advance himself and his ministry? No. He was focused on loving them with all pureness because God Himself loved them, and God Himself wants them all saved and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. When Paul suffered, he was focused on pure love, the love of God to him that was living out through him toward everyone, even his worst enemies.