In Eph 6:23 we have, “… and love with faith.”
The Greek reads, KAI AGAPE META PISTIS. The Coordinating Conjunction KAI, “and” links Paul’s blessing and desire for the believers in the Church to have peace, with a blessing and desire for them to also have love (AGAPE) in their soul. Interestingly, he also adds “with faith,” META PISTIS. This tells us that love, which germinates “from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,” can only be accomplished when there is faith in the life of the believer. Likewise, peace is only accomplished in the life of the believer when there is faith. Therefore, we see that peace and love come into your life by means of faith. Paul is now emphasizing the love of God that operates in a person through faith. We will talk more about the relationship between Love and Faith below.
But first, we will discuss Love by itself as used and defined in the Book of Ephesians. Nevertheless, throughout the Scriptures, AGAPE Love consistently relates to the motivating force behind all that God does. God is motivated in all that he does because of His love. In other words, why does God do or say anything? Because of His Love.
AGAPE Love is also one of His Divine attributes that make up His essence. Not only is it the motivational factor in His grace pipeline when blessing man, both believers and unbelievers, in addition, it is one of His virtues. It is that which provides Him to have dignity and integrity in all that He does and says. In other words, how does God do or say anything? In a Loving way! Therefore, AGAPE Love is God’s Motivational Virtue Love by which He says and does all things.
This is the same love that we should have in our lives; the motivation behind all that we think, say, and do, plus the virtue behind all that we think, say, and do. When God’s type of AGAPE Love operates inside the believer’s soul, whatever he does will have the same motivation that God has, and the same integrity with dignity for others, (i.e., virtue) that God has. Therefore, we will call this “Motivational Virtue AGAPE Love,” (MVA Love), cf. 1 Cor 13.
1 Cor 13:13, “But now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is (MVA) love.”
All joking aside, the believer who consistently operates in MVA Love, will be an MVP in God’s eyes, Cf. Mat 25:21, 23; Heb 13:20-21.
It is appropriate to conclude this letter with love, because it began with love and emphasizes the unfathomable love of God. Paul has often spoken about it utilizing the Noun AGAPE, Eph 1:4, 15; 2:4; 3:17, 19; 4:2, 15-16; 5:2. A survey of its utilization in the book of Ephesians tells us about God’s Motivational Virtue AGAPE love and how we can have His MVA Love and apply it in our lives.
1. Eph 1:4, “Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love 5He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will.”
Here we saw the Motivational Virtue AGAPE Love of God in His election of every believer in eternity past, “before the foundation of the world.” Because of the saving work of Jesus Christ upon the Cross, “the Beloved,” vs. 6, believers are predestined to adoption as sons of God, vs. 5. The Love of God was the motivating factor for electing and predestining us through adoption into His Royal Family, giving us the status of being a child of God. Motivated by His love, He overcame our sins, and elected and predestined us to join His eternal Royal Family.
2. Eph 1:15, “For this reason I too, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which exists among you and your love for all the saints.”
In this passage, Paul was commending the believers of the Church for expressing their motivational virtue AGAPE love towards other members of the body of Christ in their generation. It may have reference to the offering collected by the Churches in Asia Minor for the poor and stricken believers in Jerusalem. That may be how they demonstrated their love. Therefore, love was the motivating factor for these believers to give, either of their time, talent, or treasures. Therefore, we see that MVA Love is demonstrated, it is not just a thought that exists by itself. True AGAPE love is always manifested, Deut 10:19; 2 Cor 8:24; 1 Tim 4:12.
Deut 10:19, “So show your (MVA) love for the alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.”
2 Cor 8:24, “Therefore openly before the churches, show them the proof of your (MVA) love and of our reason for boasting about you.”
3. Eph 2:4, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us.”
The greater context of this passage is found in the preceding and following verses that tell us we were dead in our sins and enemies of God, yet because of His MVA Love, God saved us, gave us eternal spiritual life and raised us up in glory to be seated with Christ at His right hand. God motivated by His love did all this for us.
As Paul is pointing out the motivating factor for God’s “mercy” being shown towards us, this is also a reminder to believers that this same MVA Love must be the motivating force behind all our deeds as Christians towards others. That is, not holding their sins against them, but forgiving them and then helping or serving them to raise them out of their sinful state to a place of glory.
4. Eph 3:17, “So that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love.”
Here, the faithful believer is rooted and grounded in motivational virtue AGAPE love as a result of their experiential sanctification, where Christ is consistently at home in their heart, the right lobe of the soul, i.e., “the mentality of their soul.” In other words, with the Word of God, (the mind of Jesus Christ), resident within our souls, we will be “rooted and grounded in MVA Love.” That is, we will have a firm / solid foundation by which we stand upon that motivates us to construct and conduct our spiritual life. The further context of this passage is of comprehending the “Tesseract Love” of Christ is noted below.
5. Eph 3:19, “And to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.”
Having the solid foundation of motivational virtue AGAPE Love for Christ, it will propel you to know and grow even greater in love with Jesus Christ, where you can know and live in His “Tesseract Love,” (breadth, length, height, and depth), vs. 18, when you live in the “Life Beyond GNOSIS,” vs. 19, and the “Life Beyond Dreams,” vs. 20.
As you may recall from our teaching in Ephesians chapter 3, (see our website), the “Tesseract Love” of Christ is that which we can comprehend spiritually and live in experientially. It is a love envelope between Christ’s love for you and your love for Him that consistently interacts and overlaps, surrounding your every thought and action. It also has the 4th dimension of time, which is the eternal and infinite love that the Lord Jesus Christ has for you that you can know and comprehend in the faith rest life. It is “the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge.”
6. Eph 4:2, “With all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love.”
To “walk worthy of our calling,” vs. 1, the believers Motivational Virtue AGAPE Love is demonstrated by being humble, gentle, patient (longsuffering), and tolerant towards others. Having the mental attitude of MVA Love moves you to express that love towards others in these ways. The further context of this MVA Love is found in vs. 3, “Being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” With MVA Love demonstrated through your humility, gentleness, patience, and tolerance towards others, you will be a peacemaker inside the body of Christ, as you help, exhort, reprove, lift up, etc., your fellow believers to the glory of God.
7. Eph 4:15, “But speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ.”
Working diligently as peacemakers towards the unity of the Spirit, in this passage MVA Love is the virtue that motivates you to teach the truth of God’s Word to each other with the result of your own personal spiritual growth, as well as enhancing the growth of others. In this, you should recognize false teaching and false teachers when you hear it and see them, vs. 14, so as to refute their teaching with the “truth” of God’s Word. This will allow you to continue your momentum in the spiritual life and provide momentum for others too. Motivated by the truth of God’s Word, individually and collectively, we will grow spiritually, with the result of being drawn closer and closer to Jesus Christ.
8. Eph 4:16, “From whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.”
When we personally grow spiritually, we will be motivated by the virtue of AGAPE Love to assist the rest of the Body of Jesus Christ, (i.e., other believers), to also grow spiritually. The demonstration of having motivational virtue AGAPE Love is to support your church by which the Word of God is disseminated, and be an Ambassador for Christ yourself in one or more of its many applications. A demonstration that you do not have AGAPE Love, is when you do not assist the growth of others within your church or even outside of your Church with your time, talent, or treasure.
9. Eph 5:2, “And walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.”
Here, our motivational virtue AGAPE Love leads us to live the Christian way of life; “walk in love,” as we imitate how God lives, vs. 1, (i.e., in holiness and righteousness). This is demonstrated when our lives are a pleasing offering and sacrifice to God. In other words, instead of living for yourself inside of Satan’s cosmic system, you live for Christ, serving and sacrificing on behalf of others as God leads you to do so, as you ultimately serve God. Our great example in this endeavor is Jesus Christ and His completed work culminating in the Cross.
John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” This is a demonstration of Tesseract MVA Love.
10. Eph 6:23, “Peace be to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Here, Paul gives a final blessing based on his desire for all believers to have Motivational Virtue AGAPE Love in their souls and lives. In this passage, we see that love is not possible without faith. Faith means “what is believed.” It is knowledge we rely upon and use. That knowledge should be God’s Word, Bible Doctrine, resident within your soul. Having God’s Word in your soul, you rely upon it to make the various daily moment by moment decisions in your life. You think like God would think. You think like Jesus Christ would think. You think by means of the Holy Spirit based on what the Word of God says. When you use God’s Word as the basis for your daily moment by moment decisions, you are expressing your MVA Love towards God while expressing your MVA Love towards others by the righteous and holy decisions you make. That is Paul’s desire for you. That is God’s desire for you!
In addition to AGAPE Love, Paul utilizes the actionable Verb for “love,” AGAPAO, 10 times, in 7 passages, with 5 different contexts in this letter, Eph 1:6; 2:4; 5:2, 25, 28, 33; 6:24. Therefore, we see Motivational Virtue AGAPE Love in action in these passages. With 10 being the number for perfect order, 7 the number of spiritual perfection, and 5 the number for grace, we see love is the perfect order for the believer to live in spiritual perfection under the grace plan of God; to express the grace of God to others.
1. Eph 1:6, “To the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.”
The first use is in Eph 1:6, in the Perfect, Passive, Participle in the Dative Case that is in fact a title for Jesus Christ; “The one having been loved.” It emphasizes God’s actionable love for the human race by providing His salvation grace to the world through the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ, who God the Father truly loves.
The action item of God’s love is seen in His son who He sent to provide the world with salvation that is applicable to those who believe in Jesus Christ. It emphasizes that fact that Jesus died for our sins, and the effect of His love and grace shown to those who believe, who are now in the “sphere of the beloved.” Therefore, it emphasizes our union with Jesus Christ, being “in the sphere of the Beloved.”
It is translated “Beloved,” which in other passages, (Eph 5:12 and 6:21), utilizes the Adjective AGAPETOS, as we will see below.
2. Eph 2:4, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us.”
The second use is in Eph 2:4, which we noted above as it also uses the Noun AGAPE for God’s “great” motivational virtue love. Here, God’s motivational virtue AGAPE love led Him to express mercy towards us sinners because He loved us. As such, God expressed His actionable AGAPAO love towards us in the form of mercy, which overcame our sins and gave us life in Christ, raising us to eternal glory, and seating us with Christ at the right hand of God in heaven, which also “demonstrates His surpassing grace in kindness towards us,” vs. 7. The action item of God’s love is His mercy applied to the sinner who accepts Jesus Christ as their Savior.
This is our example of MVA Love in that we should help others to overcome their sins and raise them up, predominately but not exclusively by witnessing to others the gospel of Jesus Christ.
3. Eph 5:2, “And walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.”
We noted Eph 5:2 above, as this verse has both the Noun AGAPE and Verb AGAPAO in it. Here we are noting the actionable verb AGAPAO, which is Christ’s demonstration of His motivational virtue love. The demonstration of His MVA Love was the giving of Himself to God the Father as an offering and sacrifice for our sins. His sacrifice was pleasing to God, as noted in the phrase, “fragrant aroma.” In other words, it propitiated God the Father as a satisfactory sacrifice for the payment of our sins that pleased Him, cf. Rom 3:25; Heb 2:17; 1 John 2:2; 4:10.
Rom 3:25, “Whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed.”
1 John 2:2, “And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.”
1 John 4:10, “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”
Jesus Christ demonstrated His MVA Love by laying down His life on our behalf, John 15:13. As such, His MVA Love is the great example of how we should be expressing our MVA Love. This MVA Love is demonstrated in our lives by offering and sacrificing our lives on behalf of others. In other words, instead of living for ourselves inside of Satan’s cosmic system, we live for Christ, serving and sacrificing on behalf of others as God leads you to do so, as you ultimately serve God. This is our “walk in MVA love,” which is a pleasing aroma to God, cf. Phil 4:18; 2 Cor 2:14. In those two examples, we see that our MVA love is demonstrated in our giving and the application of Bible Doctrine in our lives, i.e., “the manifestation of the knowledge of Him.” The expiatory character of Christ’s death included the giving of Himself in our place as a sacrifice. With so great an example on our behalf, should we not give of ourselves in any capacity on behalf of others?
4. The 4th through 9th usage of AGAPAO takes what we just noted in Eph 5:2, and narrows it down to one application of MVA Love regarding the husband’s responsibility to actionably love his wife, just as Jesus Christ demonstrated actionably His love for the Church by going to the Cross. AGAPAO is used twice in Eph 5:25; 3 times in vs. 28; and once in vs. 33.
- Eph 5:25, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her.”
- Eph 5:28, “So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself.”
- Eph 5:33, “Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband.”
Therefore, we see the significant role and responsibility husbands have to apply Motivational Virtue AGAPE Love towards their wives. The love of Christ for the Church demonstrated what the husband’s attitude toward his wife should be. Christ loved His church enough to die for it, John 10:15, 17; 15:13. Likewise, the husband should lay down his life for the benefit of His wife. This is further explained in vs. 26-27, and in vs. 28, it relates back to the greatest commandment “to love others, (in this case the wife), as you love yourself,” or even “as Christ has loved you,” John 13:34-35; 15:12, 17; Rom 13:8-10.
5. Eph 6:24, “Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ with a love incorruptible.”
The tenth and final usage is in closing the book of Ephesians, Eph 6:24. Here, it speaks of the actionable love believers should have for the Lord Jesus Christ, demonstrated by being unwavering in their faith and following of Jesus Christ. We will note the interesting word “incorruptible,” the Greek noun APHTHARSIA ἀφθαρσία when we study vs. 24 in detail below, but for now I want to tell you that the context of this word in its other usages in the NT stand for immortality. In other words, an everlasting love. And that is what we see here. We are to love our Lord Jesus Christ with an ever-present and ever-continuing Motivational Virtue Love.
Therefore, as Paul closes this letter, he has a statement about our personal relationship with Christ. Paul has told us of God’s great MVA love, but now he asks us:
- “Do we love Christ?”
- “Do we love Him?”
- “Are we Christians?”
- “Have we turned from sin and placed our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ?”
- “Do we love Him with an undying love that will go on into eternity?”
What a great question to end such a letter. Let us love Jesus! Soon we will see Him, and then we will put our weapons down. Then we will not regret having put all our trust in His perfect work, and we will not regret having been faithful soldiers engaged in His mission.
In all these examples, the action of AGAPAO love is motivated by the mental attitude motivational virtue of AGAPE love within the soul:
- The MVA love that characterized the person of Jesus Christ as “The Beloved,” through Whom we receive grace because of our union with Him, Eph 1:6.
- The MVA love that Christ has for us by going to the Cross, Eph 5:2.
- The MVA love God the Father has for us by providing for our Salvation, Eph 2:4.
- The MVA love a husband has for his wife that demonstrates Christ’s love for the Church, Eph 5:25, 28, 33.
- The MVA love we, the Church, have for Jesus Christ, in response to the love He has demonstrated towards us, Eph 6:24.
Because Christ first loved us, we in response are able to love Him that is also demonstrated in our love for one another, 1 John 4:10-19.
1 John 4:10, “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”
1 John 4:11, “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”
1 John 4:16, “We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.”
1 John 4:19, “We love, because He first loved us.”
Next, we see that faith resulting in MVA Love is noted in the following NT passages, 1 Cor 13:13; 2 Cor 8:7; Gal 5:6; Eph 1:15; 3:17; 6:23; Col 4:4; 1 Thes 1:3; 3:6; 5:8; 2 Thes 1:3; 1 Tim 1:5, 14; 2:15; 4:12; 6:10-11; 2 Tim 1:13; 2:22; 3:10; Titus 2:2; 3:15; Philemon 5; James 2:5; Rev 2:19.
1 Thes 5:8, “But since we are of the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation.” Cf. Eph 6:14, Breastplate = righteousness. Therefore, faith and love result in walking in righteousness.
Gal 5:6, “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love.”
Eph 1:15, “For this reason I too, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which exists among you and your love for all the saints.”
Eph 3:17, “So that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love.”
1 Thes 1:3, “Constantly bearing in mind your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father.”
1 Thes 3:6, “But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and has brought us good news of your faith and love, and that you always think kindly of us, longing to see us just as we also long to see you.”
2 Thes 1:3, “We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brethren, as is only fitting, because your faith is greatly enlarged, and the love of each one of you toward one another grows ever greater.”
1 Tim 1:5, “But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.”
2 Tim 1:13, “Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.”
1 Tim 1:14, “And the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus.”
1 Tim 4:12, “Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe.”
The misappropriation of your love is the result of your failure in faith, 1 Tim 6:10, “For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”
Yet, the believer is to, 1 Tim 6:11, “But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness. Cf. 2 Tim 2:22.
Titus 2:2, “Older men are to be temperate, dignified, sensible, sound in faith, in love, in perseverance.”
1 Cor 13:13, “But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.” The reason love is the greatest, is because it is the visible expression of the Christian way of life. The other two are the internal workings of the Christian way of life, but motivational virtue AGAPE love is both the inward and outward expression of the Christian way of life.
And in fact, faith, peace, and love are all part of the Fruit of the Spirit, i.e., Divine Good Production, Gal 5:22; Rev 2:19.
Gal 5:22, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness.”
Rev 2:19, “I know your deeds, and your love and faith and service and perseverance, and that your deeds of late are greater than at first.”
In Eph 6:24, “Love,” is the verb AGAPAO that is used 10 times in the book of Ephesians, as we have noted above. Here it is the Present, Active, Participle, in the Genitive, Plural. The Present Tense is Gnomic for a timeless general fact that God’s grace is poured out to those who love the Lord, and that the action of loving and grace pouring continues without time limit. In other words, the believer who continually loves the Lord will continue to be blessed by the grace of God. The Active Voice says that the believer performs the actions of loving the Lord. The Participle provides a substantive force of “love” that the believer possesses, (using the Genitive case here), that is directed toward the Lord Jesus Christ. It is a thing possessed, (i.e., Category 1 Love, love towards God), and in this case specifically, love that is expressed towards the person of our Lord Jesus Christ.
As we noted above in vs. 23, Paul utilizes the actionable Verb for “love,” AGAPAO, 10 times, in 7 passages, with 5 different contexts in this letter, Eph 1:6; 2:4; 5:2, 25, 28, 33; 6:24. Therefore, we see Motivational Virtue AGAPE Love, (MVA Love), in action in these passages. With 10 being the number for perfect order, 7 the number of spiritual perfection, and 5 the number for grace, we see AGAPAO love as the perfect order for the believer to live in spiritual perfection under the grace plan of God, to express the grace of God to others. In this case, it is expressed towards The Lord Jesus Christ.
In the five contexts that AGAPAO Love is used in the Book of Ephesians, the action of AGAPAO love is motivated by the mental attitude motivational virtue of AGAPE love within the soul:
- The MVA love that characterized the person of Jesus Christ as “The Beloved,” or “the One loved,” through Whom we receive grace because of our union with Him, Eph 1:6.
- The MVA love God the Father has for us by providing for our Salvation, Eph 2:4.
- The MVA love that Christ had and has for us by going to the Cross, Eph 5:2.
- The MVA love a husband has for his wife that demonstrates Christ’s love for the Church, Eph 5:25, 28, 33.
- The MVA love we, the Church, are to have for the Lord Jesus Christ, (in response to the love Jesus Christ has demonstrated towards us), that results in God’s grace being poured out in our lives, Eph 6:24.
1 Peter 1:8, “And though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory.”
This MVA love of ours is directed towards the person of “our Lord Jesus Christ,” HO KURIOS HEMEIS IESOUS CHRISTOS. In Eph 6:24, “Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ,” is Paul’s closing statement about our personal relationship with Christ, where he is telling us that we ought to be occupied with Him on a daily basis, first in appreciation and thanksgiving for all that He has done and is doing on our behalf, and secondly, to be occupied with Him we have to know Him and what He has done and is doing for us. The only way to know Him is to learn and apply His Word, DAILY!
As you know, in both the Old and New Testaments, we are commanded to love God with our all, Deut 6:5; Joshua 22:5; Mat 22:37; Mark 12:30; Luke10:27.
Deut 6:5, “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”
Joshua 22:5, “Only be very careful to observe the commandment and the law which Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you, to love the LORD your God and walk in all His ways and keep His commandments and hold fast to Him and serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul.”
Luke 10:27, “And he answered, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself’.”
In our passage, Eph 6:24, the phrase, “those who love our Lord Jesus Christ,” is a Christological adaptation of the common expression “those who love God,” found in the OT. The OT promised God’s grace blessings motivated by His love to all who loved Him, Ex 20:6; Deut 5:10; 7:9; Neh 1:5; Dan 9:4; cf. 1 Kings 8:23.
Deut 7:9, “Know therefore that the LORD your God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps His covenant and His lovingkindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments.”
1 Kings 8:23, “He said, ‘O LORD, the God of Israel, there is no God like You in heaven above or on earth beneath, keeping covenant and showing lovingkindness to Your servants who walk before You with all their heart’.”
Therefore, there was a promise of some kind of blessing in their lives by the love of God, when they expressed their love for Him. This same concept was carried over in the NT regarding the reciprocal love relationship we are to have with God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ in Rom 8:28; 1 Cor 2:9; 8:3; James 1:12; 2:5.
Rom 8:28, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”
1 Cor 2:9, “But just as it is written, ‘Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love Him’.”
James 1:12, “Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.
James 2:5, “Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?”
As such, we too, who are expressing our love for God towards Him during this Age of Grace, are blessed by God as a result. And, these promises of blessings apply specifically to those who love the Lord Jesus Christ, (i.e., are occupied with Christ consistently, experientially), as noted in our verse.
Throughout this book, Paul has referred to God’s love for believers, Eph 2:4, Christ’s love for them, Eph 3:19; 5:2, 25, believers’ love for one another, Eph 1:15; 4:2, believing husbands’ love for their wives, Eph 5:25, 28, 33, and believers’ love in general, Eph 1:4; 3:17; 4:15, 16; 5:2; 6:23. Yet, this is the only place where our love for Christ is made explicit. In this way, the letter closes with a stress on believers’ personal relationship and commitment to Christ. As such, it is important not only that we are aware of the objective benefits of the great salvation God has provided in Christ, but also that we have a subjective response to Him called “MVA love.” Our response of allegiance to our Lord Jesus Christ is that we actively express our love for Him who loved us and gave Himself for us. And, as our passage indicates, when we do, the grace of God will be in our lives.
Love for Christ includes adoring admiration of His person, desire for His presence in our lives, zeal for His glory, and devotion to His service. It does not need to be ecstatic, but it must control us.
So, this last sentence speaks yet again of our union with Christ but in terms of our occupation and love for Him. We have already been told in previous passages about the mystery that lies behind and above; the Purpose, the Grace, the quickening Power, the Sealing, and the Presence. But here we are asked:
- “Do you love the Lord Jesus Christ?”
- “Is He your joy and crown?”
- “Do you rejoice in His glory?”
- “Do you delight in His Name?”
- “Do you cherish His will?”
- “Do you look for His appearing?”
- “Is He to you as Bridegroom to Bride,”
- “Is He, this wonderful Being in your life here and now, dear to you?”
- “Is He cherished, as the ‘Object of your first desire, so that His holy Presence sways your inmost being?”
Because we have received new life through Jesus Christ by grace through faith alone, we are to live out that new life of love by the power of the Holy Spirit. When we yield to His transforming grace, we can be assured that the Spirit will do everything necessary to help us wrap up well. Then we will be able to say the same words Paul said when he wrote his final words to Timothy, at that time the pastor of the church in Ephesus, in 2 Tim 4:7-8,“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.”
If you have all the good of Christianity but are without love, it would be like a “gold setting from which the diamond has dropped out.” (Henry Ward Beecher). Cf. 1 Cor 13:1-3.
1 Cor 13:1-3, “If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.” Cf. 1 Cor 16:22.
The last two words of this benediction and letter define the love we are to have for our Lord Jesus Christ. They are “in incorruption,” which in the Greek is EN APHTHARSIA. They are the Preposition EN, “in or with,” and the Noun APHTHARSIA, “immortality or incorruptibility.” Both are in the Dative of Manner case. As a Dative of Manner, they denote a way in which the action of “loving” our Lord Jesus Christ is performed or accomplished. It tells us how we are to love our Lord, the way or manner of loving Him. A Dative of Manner answers the question “how” we are to love Him in action, attitude, emotion, or circumstances.
Some translators translate our passage as, “a never diminishing or undying love,” which may be the sense, and still others translate it, “in sincerity.” But these are a bit on the light side. When applied to the believer, the incorruptibility is the manner in which he loves our Lord Jesus Christ and manifests God in this World.
Given the unique use of APHTHARSIA in this verse, compared to its other more common usages in the NT, we see predominantly both “circumstances” and “attitude” being defined regarding how we are to love our Lord Jesus Christ, as we will see below. But let us first define this word to get a sense of what the Bible is talking about. Please bear with me in the defining of this incorruptible love, because it is only mentioned once here in the NT and is a very unique word. So, we will flush it out step by step.
“Incorruptible,” is the Noun APHTHARSIA, ἀφθαρσία in the Dative of Manner, Singular. It typically means, “immortality or incorruptibility.” It comes from the negative prefix A, “not,” and the verb PHTHEIRO that means, “to destroy, kill, corrupt, defile, ruin, or spoil.” So, it literally means, “not to destroy, not to kill, not corrupt, not to decay, etc.”
Notice that both incorruption and immortality take the root concepts of corrupt and mortal and negate them. This illustrates the limits of our human language and understanding. For example, there are things we have never seen about eternity and so, in order to describe them, God had to resort to something we know and put a negative in front of it. For instance, one of the beauties of heaven is the blessed state of inexpressible joy that must be described by “no more tears.” The light of heaven, Rev 22, will be given by God, but it is described as “no night,” and “need no lamp, neither light of the sun.” In just this way, incorruptibility is freedom from death, decay, ruin, corruption, etc., but to its most superlative extent.
Louw-Nida defines it, “The state of not being subject to decay, leading to death – ‘immortal, immortality. A continuous state or process, with the implication that the state or process in question is not interrupted by death – ‘unceasing, always, eternally, undying. A number of scholars, however, insist that ἀφθαρσία in Ephes. 6:24 must be understood in the sense of ‘immortality’ or ‘eternity’ as a temporal expression, but one which can be rendered as ‘with undying love.” (Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Symantic Domains.)
BDAG, “The state of not being subject to decay/dissolution/interruption, incorruptibility, immortality.” (A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature.)
Complete Word Study Dictionary, “APHTHARSIA also means incorruptible in a moral or spiritual sense, i.e., freedom from corrupt doctrines or designs.”
“Paul pronounced grace toward only those who unceasingly love our Lord Jesus Christ. This unusual expression is difficult to decipher in regards to its meaning and to what it is connected. The Greek term APHTHARSIA means “incorruptibility” or “immortality,” indicating a continuous state or process not interrupted by death and hence has the sense of “unceasing, always, eternally, undying.” Some suggest that this word is connected to the immediately preceding words “our Lord Jesus Christ,” who is immortal (Dibelius 1953:100), while others think it is connected to “grace” mentioned in the first part of the verse, thereby signifying that the grace conferred by God on believers is immortal or indestructible (Schnackenburg 1991:291; Lincoln 1990:467-468). Most think that it is connected to “love,” indicating a love that is not corrupted by death, hence referring to “those who unceasingly love our Lord Jesus Christ” (Abbott 1897:191; Robinson 1903:138, 220; Best 1998:620).” (Cornerstone Biblical Commentary.)
APHTHARSIA defines the state of not being subject to decay, dissolution, or interruption. It speaks of an unending existence, of that which is not capable of corruption. APHTHARSIA indicates immunity to the decay that infects all of creation. It is the word chosen by Paul, as inspired by the Holy Spirit, to describe the genuine MVA Love for the Lord Jesus Christ believers are to exercise before their heavenly Father and before a lost world. It is a requirement of a love that is free from the seeds that will lead to decay. Therefore, there is to be no source of change or corruption within it. We are to love Jesus Christ with a love that is immune to decay or corruption; an unending, unfading, un-denying love.
Do you love your God with a love that is free from the corrupting seeds of self-centered worship, Biblical ignorance, blind unbelief, and cherished sin? It is this type of love which the Lord counts dear, highly prizes, and fully rewards with the experience of His daily grace.
The Dative of Manner is used to indicate how we are to love our Lord Jesus Christ. We see that it is with a love that is incorruptible, without death, without ruin, without decay, without corruption, etc. And, because it is only being applied once in all of Scripture, here in our verse, it signifies its superlative nature. Therefore, it is the most superlative type of love God can express.
Many times the Dative case can be a Dative of Sphere. Some believe it to be so here. If it were, it would refer to the sphere in which your love for Christ takes place, namely, in the sphere of incorruptible or eternal life, which He has given to you. The Dative of Sphere would emphasize the eternal life you have and in that light love God. It would express your love for our Lord Jesus Christ with a view toward the eternal life He has provided for you. Since we have eternal life, we are to love Him with that life; immortal and incorruptible. This is a true statement, and something we are to be doing, but it comes up a little short in the application or how we are to love Him. Sphere tells us the domain in which we are to love Him, yet, we need to understand the mode, manner, method, and means by which we are to love Him.
For Paul, incorruptibility is at the same time the result of a struggle and a gift of God’s grace. The contrast corruption and incorruption becomes the equation of the fallen man as a result of his freedom, and the solution requires the process of salvation. The incarnation of the Son is the way God accomplishes both goals: to conquer death and “clothe” man in incorruptibility; to bring man closer to God, that is to give him the incorruptibility in stability, for eternity. Therefore, this is not a fleeting, earthly love, but a spiritual and eternal one.
Blaikie writes that “The expression is peculiar—love the Lord Jesus Christ in incorruptible. The word denotes, especially in Paul’s usage, what is unfading and permanent. The love that marks genuine Christians is not a passing gleam, like the morning cloud and the early dew, but an abiding emotion. Nowhere can we have a more vivid idea of this incorruptible love than in the closing verses of Romans 8.”
Rom 8:38-39, “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
APHTHARSIA is primarily used in the NT to speak about immortality, life after death that is ever-lasting. This Noun is used 7 times, in 4, (the number of material things), applications, in the NT, Rom 2:7; 1 Cor 15:42, 50, 53, 54; Eph 6:24; 2 Tim 1:10. There is also an additional variant usage in Titus 2:7. Seven is the number of Spiritual Perfection in the Bible. Therefore, this type of MVA Love towards our Lord Jesus Christ is spiritually perfect, as we fulfill God’s Plan for our lives in spiritual adulthood. A quick survey of the seven usages in the NT will give us a better understanding of its application in our verse.
- In Rom 2:7, it speaks of our Divine Good Production, as we keep our eyes on the things above.
Rom 2:7, “To those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life.”
Therefore, APHTHARSIA MVA Love towards our Lord Jesus Christ is part of our Divine Good Production, as we live the unique spiritual life of the Age of Grace.
- It is used in 1 Cor 15:42, 50, 53, 54, for a description of the resurrection body that is imperishable or incorruptible.
Therefore, APHTHARSIA MVA Love towards our Lord Jesus Christ is performed from our new resurrection life while here on earth, as a new spiritual species, a new creation, a new man that is found in Jesus Christ.
- In Eph 6:24, it speaks of the manner in which we love our Lord Jesus Christ, as we have and continue to define it in this study.
- It is used in 2 Tim 1:10, it is speaking of the new life, (immortal, imperishable, and incorruptible), that Jesus Christ brought and made known to mankind.
2 Tim 1:10, “But now has been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.”
Therefore, with the new life we have in Christ, (immortal, imperishable, and incorruptible), we are to Love Him.
In addition, there is a variant usage of APHTHARSIA in Titus 2:7, it was used for “uncorruptness” in the teaching of God’s Word, as used in the KJV. Some, like AMG’s Complete Word Study Bible and Dictionary, use it for the translation of “sincerity” in that passage.
Titus 2:7 (KJV), “In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine shewing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity.”
Another variant uses ADIAPHTHORIA, ἀδιαφθορία that means, “sincerity, integrity, uncorruptness,” for those words.
Nevertheless, the more reliable texts do not use APHTHARSIA at all in Titus 2:7, but use the noun APHTHORIA, ἀφθορία, a cognate of ADIAPHTHORIA, that means, “incorruptibility, incorruption, sincerity, integrity, soundness, freedom from corruptible mixtures or adulterations,” as does the NASB.
Titus 2:7, “In all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds, with purity (integrity) in doctrine, dignified, (the Noun SEMNOTES, “dignity, honorableness, nobility, propriety”).”
Paul is saying to Titus that he should present the teaching of God’s Word in a complete and utter incorruptible way, which is impossible to change or degenerate. It is evident that here we have the metaphorical use of the word. But from it, we see that our love for our Lord Jesus Christ should be thought and brought in the same way; one that is completely and utterly incorruptible and unchanging, sound, and free from corruption.
To help us define the application of APHTHARSIA in our text, we will note other cognates like the Adjective APHTHARTOS, ἄφθαρτος that means “imperishable, incorruptible.” It is also used 7 times, in 6, (the number of man), applications in the NT, Rom 1:23; 1 Cor 9:25; 15:52; 1 Tim 1:17; 1 Peter 1:4, 23; 3:4. In classical Greek, it means “indestructible, not liable to death,” and is the opposite of PHTHARTOS, “destruction, death.” In older Greek philosophy, APHTHARTOS referred to that which is constant and abiding in nature, as opposed to that which changes and perishes. In drawing a contrast, the historian Philo described man as PHTHARTOS, while God is APHTHARTOS. Likewise, Josephus classified the SOMA, “body,” as PHTHARTOS, and the PSUCHE, “soul,” as APHTHARTOS. Therefore, using the opposite of our human life that is corruptible, we are to love Him with our soul and spirit in perfection with an incorruptible love.
- In Rom 1:23 and 1 Tim 1:17, it is used as an attribute of God in reference to The Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, this is a Divine Love we are to have for Him.
- In Rom 1:23, for man not believing in and honoring the incorruptible God.
- In 1 Tim 1:17, it defines God who deserves our praise and glory.
- In 1 Cor 9:25, we see how we are to live the spiritual life, so as to win an imperishable crown. Therefore, we are to give our all in Loving TLJC. When we do, we will be rewarded at the BEMA seat of Jesus Christ.
- In 1 Cor 15:52, it is used with the Noun APHTHARSIA, speaking of the resurrection body and life we will have at the resurrection or Rapture of the Church; an imperishable one. Therefore, this love is from our new spiritual creation; not from our flesh.
- In 1 Peter 1:4, it defines our eternal inheritance as imperishable, incorruptible. Therefore, this love will be carried forward to the eternal state.
- In 1 Peter 1:23, it defines the means by which we are saved, the Word of God that is imperishable and incorruptible. Therefore, through the application of Bible Doctrine, we are able to express this love for our Lord.
- In 1 Peter 3:4, it tells us of the way we should be worshipping God, from the heart with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit. Therefore, from the heart of our soul, we express this love towards our Lord in gentleness and quietness.
From the Adjective APHTHARTOS, we see that this type of Incorruptible MVA Love for our Lord Jesus Christ is a “godly love from our souls,” in thanksgiving and reciprocation for the imperishable life that He is and gives to us, along with the imperishable inheritance and rewards He provides and gives to us.
To complete the word study, a synonym of APHTHARSIA is the noun ATHANASIA, ἀθανασία that means, “immortality.” It is used 3 times in the NT. It is used in 1 Tim 6:16 to describe the attribute of God of immortality, cf. Rom 1:23; 1 Tim 1:17 above. And, it is used twice alongside of APHTHARSIA in 1 Cor 15:53-54, regarding the resurrection and resurrection body.
1 Cor 15:53-54, “For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP in victory.”
In the resurrection, our bodies will be clothed in immortality. This is part of Christ’s total victory over death. The concept of immortality is bound together with the hope of resurrection and eternal life in Christ Jesus. Our union with Christ means we not only die with Him but are raised with Him and will live with Him, John 6:44-51; 10:27-30; Rom 6:3-9; 8:11.
As we have seen, the Biblical meaning of the term incorruptibility is twofold: it refers to God and to believing mankind. When applied to God, incorruptibility, along with immortality, is a Divine feature that characterizes His eternal nature, shows His perfection, and tells of His self-sufficiency, as revealed in the Scriptures. This does not mean an abstract quality of the Divine transcendent essence, but the personal character of the Biblical eternal God who is deeply involved in a relationship with man and the world. It also defines God’s entire economy, His actions and words, especially those that speak about His Son’s incarnation. As such, incorruptibility is first applied to God in a Trinitarian construction: the Father is incorruptible, the Holy Spirit has an incorruptible purity, and the Only-begotten God is incorruptible. By the incarnation of the incorruptible Son of God, believers have the possibility of participating in His purity and so they become partakers of His immortal glory. And with these grace gifts, we love Him.
Now, we see in Scripture that this word is applied to God and believing man. When applied to man, APHTHARSIA appears in Paul’s texts with soteriological (salvation) and ontological (existence) implications. Incorruptibility represents the feature of the restored man changed from the fallen one. This process happens at the resurrection and is related to Christ, the one who united in Himself the two natures: Divine and human. Therefore, APHTHARSIA is an attribute of eternal life and man is invited to participate in that life as a heritage from God. Therefore, Paul intended to state indirectly that when the heart of man is free from all hypocrisy, it will be free from all corruption. In that way, we are to love our Lord. This prayer conveys to us the instruction that the only way of enjoying the light of the Divine countenance in our lives, is to love incorruptibly God’s own Son, in whom His love toward us has been declared and confirmed.
You are a genuine Christian if you know that God has given you eternal life in His Son, 1 John 1:2, 2:25; 3:15, 16; 5:11, 13, 20, and as a result, you love Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. Therefore, we are to love Him with an immortal / incorruptible MVA Love that is unending, undying, incorruptible, and without decay as we walk in our new nature fulfilling the unique spiritual life for the Age of Grace. When we do, God’s grace will be poured out onto us. And, when we experience His grace, it will further increase our Incorruptible MVA Love for our Lord Jesus Christ.
As such, in our passage Paul is identifying the ones who will receive grace as only those whose love is not temporary and untrue, but one that is permanent, genuine, and undiminishing. Believers’ love for the Lord Jesus Christ is to be pure, not corrupted with wrong motives or secret disloyalties of sin, human good, legalism, religiosity, or evil. Unfortunately, years later, some Ephesian believers did lose the fervency of their love for Christ, Rev 2:4.
Rev 2:4, “But I have this against you, that you have left your first love.”
In spite of their zeal and hard work for the Lord, the Ephesians had one serious flaw. They had left or forsaken their first love. Their love for the Lord was corrupted. The Greek for “left” is the Aorist, Active, Indicative of APHIEMI, ἀφίημι that means, “let go, leave, disregard, leave behind, dismiss, divorce, cancel, remit, or abandon.” It is usually used of willful abandonment, a deliberate giving up, though it also includes the results of long neglect. They were giving the Lord their service but not giving Him themselves. They were outstanding in their work for the Lord, but they no longer had the intimate fellowship with Him they once had. Therefore, their incorruptible love was corrupted by the sin nature in either lasciviousness or approbation lust.
Peter exhorts us how to continue in our incorruptible MVA Love for Christ in 2 Peter 1:4-8.
2 Peter 1:4-8, “For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. 5Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, 6and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, 7and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. 8For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
“Many profess to love our Lord Jesus who are corrupt in all their ways; on these the grace or favor of God cannot rest; they profess to know Him, but in works deny Him. Such can neither expect favor here, nor hereafter.” (Adam Clarke’s Commentary.)
“There could not be a more appropriate close of the epistle than such a desire; there will be nothing more needful for us, when we come to the close of life, than the consciousness that we love the Lord Jesus Christ with an incorruptible love. Far better is the evidence of such incorruptible love, than all the wealth which we can gain, all the honors which the world can bestow upon us, then the most splendid mansion, or the widest fame.” (Barnes’ Notes on the New Testament.)