Pastor Ron E. Thompson: What Is This Thing Called ‘Love’?

Pastor Ron E. Thompson

Most of us use the word “love” to convey a variety of meanings. In the Bible, there are 3 Greek words that all translate as “love.” The word “eros” is the love of pleasure. It is associated with eyes, desires, and emotions. It is used of sexual love and that which draws people of a different sex to one another. But “eros” has to do with externals alone, as this poem shows: “John’s girl is rich and haughty, my girl is poor as clay. John’s girl is young and pretty, mine looks like a bale of hay. John’s girl is smart and clever, my girl is dumb but good. But would I trade my girl for John’s girl? You bet your life I would!” The second word for love is “phileo,” and this goes far deeper than “eros.” It is the love of affection and friendship. The lack of this kind of love is what is filling our divorce courts and producing broken homes. The third and most common word in the Bible for love is “agape.” It is used to describe the supernatural love of God that originates in the very heart of our Heavenly Father.

This is the love I want us to consider as we focus on Paul’s prayer that believers might know the true magnitude of God’s love: “ I pray that you and all God’s people will understand what is called wide or long or high or deep. I want you to know all about Christ’s love, although it is too wonderful to be measured. Then your lives will be filled with all that God is” (Ephesians 3:18-19 CEV). As we consider these measurements, you will see how they match perfectly with the Gospel in a nutshell – John 3:16.

  1. God’s Love is Wide. “God so loved the world.” He loves not just a few, but the whole creation. The ground is always level at Calvary. His love encompasses both Jew and Gentile, everyone – even you and me. Remember that Sunday School song, “Red and yellow, black and white (we) are precious in His sight.” Author Max Lucado writes: “If God had a refrigerator, your picture would be on it. If He had a wallet, your photo would be in it. He sends you flowers every spring and a sunrise every morning. Whenever you want to talk, He’ll listen. He can live anywhere in the universe, and chose your heart…Face it, friend, He’s crazy about you.” Church Father, Augustine adds: “God loves each one of us, as if there were only one of us.”
  2. God’s Love is Long. “He gave His only begotten Son.” God chose us before the foundation of the world for a salvation that will last throughout all eternity! An old conversation goes like this: “Someone asked the Lord: ‘How much do You love me?’ The Lord said, ‘This much.’ Then He stretched out His arms, bowed His head, and died.’” Jeremiah 31:3 NKJV testifies: “The Lordhas appeared of old to me, saying: ‘Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore, with lovingkindness I have drawn you.’” How long will God wait for anyone to become a Christian? “The Lord does not delay His promise, as some understand delay, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance” (II Peter 3:9 HCSB). But do not put it off, my friend, because today is the day of salvation (II Corinthians 6:2 AMP).
  3. God’s Love is Deep. “Whosoever believes in Him should not perish.” We see God’s deep love reaching down to the lowest level of depravity to redeem those who are dead in trespasses and sin (Ephesians 2:1-3). His love goes beyond the adorable, the loving, the kind and gracious to the poor, the down and outers, the ignorant, the wretched. It includes the criminal, the drug peddler, the addict, the atheist, the cultist. It reaches the gay community and the Aids victim. It goes to theleper colony, the starving masses of humanity, and the prostitute. Christian singer, Steven Curtis Chapman wrote: “In the Gospel, we discover we are far worse off than we thought, and far more loved than we ever dreamed.” Remember that chorus: “From sinking sand He lifted me, With tender hand He lifted me; From shades of night to planes of light, O praise His name, He lifted me.”
  4. God’s Love is High. “But have everlasting life.” The blood that Jesus shed for you and for me way back on Calvary, the blood that gives us strength from day to day will never lose its power. It reaches to the highest mountain; it flows to the lowest valley. God has truly blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ (Ephesians 1:3 NKJV). How high is God’s love? As high as the Son of God lifted up on a rugged cross. The upper arm of the cross points up; the lower arm points down, and the crossing arms point out to the widest horizons. Blind hymn writer, George Matheson, expresses his thoughts about agape love in these words: “O love that will not let me go, I rest my weary soul in Thee; I give Thee back the life I owe. That in Thine ocean depths its flow, May richer, fuller be.”

Is that how you feel about the love of God? Is it a love that will not let you go? Is it a love that causes you to give your life to? If so, then sing and live out the testimony of that children’s classic: “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so!”

Pastor Ron E Thompson

Ron E. Thompson is a retired pastor/evangelist having had a ministry spanning over sixty years. He served as pastor of churches in Indiana, Virginia, Arizona, and South Carolina. As Director of Brethren Evangelistic Ministries, he held numerous evangelistic and revival crusades in twenty-two states. He led a team that conducted evangelism seminars throughout the United States and in several foreign countries. Ron is author of two books: Hurricane Evangelism and Sermons in Song. He is also a musician, having studied piano under noted composer-conductor, Hubert Tillery. Music has served him well as an avocation in his life and ministry. He currently is a pianist at the Fountain of Life Bible Church in Johnson City, TN. Ron received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Bridgewater College and his Master of Divinity degree from Grace Theological Seminary. He did graduate studies at Wheaton College and the Billy Graham School of Evangelism. He attended the North American Conference for Itinerant Evangelists in1994. Ron’s home is in Limestone, Tennessee. He is the father of two daughters: Evangeline Hales, a musician at Thomas Road Baptist Church, Lynchburg, VA and violinist with the Lynchburg Symphony; Dr. Melody Archer, Retired Administrator and Principal of Tri-Cities Christian Schools, Blountville, TN.

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