1 Thessalonians 3:12-13(NKJV): And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all, just as we do to you, 13 so that He may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints.
Here, Paul prays for the Thessalonians and by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit for all saints that our love would increase and abound to one another and to all men.
Now the love of God in the Greek is the word Agape. So God wants us to increase and abound in Agape.
There are 3 words translated love in the New Testament:
1. Agape—divine love
2. Phileo— brotherly affection or emotional love
3. Eros—sex or physical love
Now Agape is God’s love, which is exercising undeserved good will to men:
The love of God is undeserved good will: good will towards those who do not deserve it particularly to those who have hurt, or hate and abuse you; it is an inner heart attitude of underserved good will towards men; it is exercised by wisdom and patience and shown in acts of kindness (most of the time) and discipline (when necessary).
Romans 13:8-10(NKJV): Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not bear false witness,” “You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
Matthew 5:43-48(NKJV): “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? 48 Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.
Now, since wisdom is the principal (Proverbs 4. 7) part of love, to develop agape and make it abound in you, you must increase in the wisdom and knowledge of God. This is why Paul prayed in this manner for the Philippians(and we should do the same for ourselves regularly; at least weekly):
Philippians 1:9-10(NIV): And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ
This increase in the knowledge and wisdom of God is made possible by daily balanced Bible reading:
1 John 2:5(NKJV): But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him.
As you grow in the wisdom and knowledge of God, your agape will increase and abound, causing your will to become more and more aligned with the will of God, especially in difficult situations where your emotions and physical feelings want to divert your will from the will of God.
Furthermore, agape is developed by the power of the Holy Spirit, through praying in the spirit (Jude 1.20-21) with tongues and travail in all kinds of prayer (Eph. 6.18), (See our book ‘A practical guide to prayer’ for more details). This power of the Holy Spirit strengthens your will, emotions and feelings to stay aligned with the love of God causing you to exercise patience, kindness and discipline in difficult situations.
In fact, it is undeveloped agape that gives room to misdirected phileo and eros.
For instance, Peter’s phileo for the Lord Jesus was misdirected by Satan, through his emotions when he asked him to pity himself and not go to the cross:
Matthew 16:21-23(NIV): From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. 22 Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!” 23 Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.”
Here, Peter obviously thought that he was walking in love towards Jesus by protecting him from such a horrible fate, he had no idea Satan was deceiving him and speaking through him. This happens to us in many situations and we have no idea we are being deceived by Satan misdirecting our phileo and eros because our agape is undeveloped.
In our article next week, we will see more examples of how developed agape keeps you in the will of God and undeveloped agape will take you out of the will of God.