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Theology > Church > Nature of the Church > Fellowship of Love


The Church is a fellowship (see: The Fellowship), and that fellowship is a fellowship of love. This love is the love taught by Christ about God and His love, and the love personified by Christ in the giving of Himself for others—the example and teaching of this love resides with Christ.

It is a supernatural love created in the believer by the Spirit, nurtured, and made to grow by the Spirit; therefore, it is not naturally within the individual but comes to the individual from without. If this is true then this love adds a historical dimension to the Christian faith; it is not symbolic but it is what He taught and how He lived. The love being discussed is not an abstract concept nor a mere symbolic image, but is identical to the God-Man of history, His words, and His acts. He gave Himself for us, and in that giving we are instructed.

It is not a love created by the musings of His followers but it is His teaching of them and living before them—a living reality, the fact of history. Love is personified, because love entered into history when the Eternal became manifested in time. Love is given an image, an example, a definition when it is discussed and reflected upon in terms of Christ. Love is Christological, and because it is Christological it is Theological.

“If we walk in the light as He is in the light,
we have fellowship with one another” (I Jo. 1:7),
the fellowship will be a fellowship of love.

The fellowship of love has two dimensions: Love for God—the Father, Son, and Spirit; and Love for the Brother.

Love for God – “God is love” (I Jo. 4:16)

God is love; therefore, all love is in Him and flows from Him. Love is what or who God is. Love is what God communicates to those He has set His affection upon. That which is of God, is initiated in the believer by God; Paul writes that “the fruit of the Spirit is love” (Gal. 5:22).

Love has elevated the believer from servant to son: “Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son then an heir of God through Christ” (Gal. 4:7). And because of this supernatural transformation, as children of God, “we cry out, ‘Abba, Father’” (Rom. 8:15). This is the work of love; this is the Grace of Love. The lost man, who in his natural state only knows God as Judge, is brought in salvation to know Him as Father—the believer prays: “Our Father” (Matt. 6:9).

It is revealed to the believer that he is the recipient of love, and the love which he has experienced has been communicated to him. Therefore, the believer has a foundation for love and an enablement to love. Because of what God has done we love Him—we love Him because He first loved us, and because of the miracle of Grace, we love one another (I Jo. 4:10-11). Without the gift of love, the believer can never love.

Love for the Brother – “Let us love one another” (I Jo. 4:7)

The Apostle anchors his admonition to love another in the love of God, in the transformation wrought by God in the life, and in the growing knowledge of God by the believer; the entire verse reads: “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God” (I Jo. 4:7). Love is love for the brother, and this love is not optional: “He who does not love does not know God” (I Jo. 4:7).

If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also (I Jo. 4:20-21).

An early synonym for the Church was the phrase: “the whole brotherhood throughout the world”; Tertullian wrote: “They are angry with us because we call one another brethren” (Apol. Adv Gentes, XXXIX). Note the word “brother” in the above passage from I John (three times); the relationship between believers is spiritual family—believers are brothers. And spiritual brothers must love each other. The love that characterizes the Christian fellowship is unnatural; consider the following traits:

It is a love arising from the character of the one who is loving and not from the image or personality of the one being loved; in other words, the love is indicative of the one doing the loving not the person being loved; in this sense love must be discussed in terms of the subject not the object.

It is a love that seeks the best, therefore a love that is redemptive. In order for the love to be redemptive it is willing to accept sacrifice, even a sacrifice involving death. Love for self is not as great as love for the beloved, so the self is willing to decrease in order that the other might increase.

It is a love that is willing to suffer in order to fulfill its purpose which is the betterment of the one being loved; the love is willing to pay a price, any price. It does not count the cost but pays the cost.

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels,
but have not love,
I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.
And though I have the gift of prophecy,
and understand all mysteries and all knowledge,
and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains,
but have not love, I am nothing . . .
And now abide faith, hope, love,
these three;
but the greatest of these is love.
I Cor. 13:1-2, 13

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