Paul told Timothy that “the object of our instruction is agape/love from a pure heart, a clean conscience and sincere faith.” (1 Tim.1:5) The Christianity that grew up with, told me those first 2 are impossible. But, Paul continues in the next verse to say that those who have neglected this have turned aside to fruitless talk! Considering Jesus told us to abide in and remain in Him and remain in his love to bear fruits of righteousness that remain; maybe we should take this verse seriously. (John 15)
Love God, love yourself and love others as you love yourself. Every time the word is used it is agape/love which is the 1 Cor.13 model of love. Do you see that there is an aspect of a degree or measure of love involved in loving others as (to the extent) that we love ourselves?
Because God has given us some pretty serious instructions; especially in 1st John. Things like 4:20 ~ “If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.” (always agape/love)
This could come across pretty discouraging if you flip immediately to 1 Cor.13 and read things like ~“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful… 7Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (always agape/love) (13:4-7)
Who among us can say they always only agape love everyone? But, that IS the command of God!
He continues…”Love never ends/fails. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10but when the perfect/complete/mature comes, the partial will pass away.” (13:8-10)
I believe he is describing an imperfect agape love that he/we now possess. This entire chapter IS about love but, it is also about functioning within the spiritual gifts IN love. Notice that it is specifically located in between the 2 longest chapters devoted almost entirely to functioning within the spiritual gifts in the church.
The gifts listed will pass away; along with knowledge (information) but, he continues…“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” (13:12)
He prophecies that there will be a time that complete/perfect love comes! Remember John also said in 1 John 4:18 that “the one who fears has not been perfected in love because perfect love casts out all fear.”
We only know God’s love incompletely now and He only expects us to love to the degree that we have understood HIS LOVE FOR US! If you think that “get’s you off the hook”; you are clearly missing the point. Knowing God’s love for you is what sets you free into greater liberty and power! It’s deep relationship with the depths of God that not only gives us greater responsibility to love but, desire and ability to love! (Phil.2:13)
When this perfect love comes inside us; we shall relationally (not just informationally) know Jesus even as we are relationally known! He uses 2 very different words that are unfortunately both translated know/knowledge in most translations. One is “scientific or informative” and the other is “relational”. (Link to article I wrote about this contrast)
Because the scientific will come to an end when the relational knowledge comes to fullness! God is all about loving us, relationally knowing us and being loved and relationally known by us! Because it is all the same thing according to Paul and John.
Too summarize what they say ~ “relationally knowing God is loving him and being loved by God is being known by Him.”
But the point was that we do have an incomplete understanding of agape love. If a person doesn’t realize that; they are either claiming to be perfected in love or seriously deceived…possibly both!
One of Paul’s most powerful prayers is in Ephesians 3:16-20. In verses 18,19 he prays that they “may be strong to apprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19and to know the love of Christ which passeth informational/knowledge, that ye may be filled unto all the fulness of God.”
Because God’s love is infinite as He is infinite. Remember that God IS love. God wants us to ask to be empowered to apprehend the immeasurable love he has for us! This is how we become filled up with the fulness of God! (Link to article I wrote about the word used for “apprehend” in verse 18)