Love is crucial. The Bible says that without love “I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.” The Bible tells us that God is love, and those who know God will reflect His love.
What is love, though? The ecumenical world is confused about its definition. Love must be defined biblically. To human thinking, love is a warm feeling or a romantic thought. “Love,” to this ecumenical generation, is broadmindedness and non-judgmental tolerance of any one who claims to know the Lord Jesus Christ.
This is not what the Bible says about love. Consider the following verses of Holy Scripture:
“Jesus answered and said unto him, IF A MAN LOVE ME, HE WILL KEEP MY WORDS: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him” (John 14:23).
“And this I pray, that your LOVE MAY ABOUND YET MORE AND MORE IN KNOWLEDGE AND IN ALL JUDGMENT; That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ” (Philippians 1:9-10).
“For THIS IS THE LOVE OF GOD, THAT WE KEEP HIS COMMANDMENTS: and his commandments are not grievous” (1 John 5:3).
“And we have confidence in the Lord touching you, that ye both do and will do the things which we command you. And the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for Christ. Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us” (2 Thess. 3:4-6).
Biblical love is obedience to God and His Word. In the last passage cited we see that the love of God is sandwiched between two verses that emphasize obedience to God’s commandments, including separation from disobedient brethren!
Love is not a feeling. It is not blissful romanticism. It is not fuzzy toleration of things that are wrong. For a woman to love her husband means she submits to and serves him according to the Bible. For a man to love his wife means he treats her in the way the Bible commands. For children to love their parents means they honor and obey them as the Bible commands. Love is obedience to God’s Word.
Love is not an emotion. Emotions are unstable and undependable. Love is not broadmindedness. It is not non-judgmentalism. It is not non-critical tolerance. Biblical love is careful. It is based on the knowledge of God’s Word and is associated with the exercise of judgment. It proves all things and approves only those things that are the will of God.
Was the Lord Jesus Christ unloving when He called Peter a devil (Matt. 16:23) or when he publicly condemned the Pharisees (Matthew 23)? Was the apostle Paul unloving when he rebuked Peter for his compromise (Galatians 1)? Was the apostle Paul unloving when he named the name of false teachers and compromisers such as Hymenaeus and Alexander ten different times in the Pastoral Epistles? Was the apostle Paul unloving when he forbade women to preach or to usurp authority over men (1 Tim. 2:12) and required that they keep silent in the churches (1 Cor. 14:34)?
Biblical love does not mean that I ignore things that are wrong and injurious. To love a false teacher does not mean that I turn a blind eye to his error and strive to have unity with him regardless of his doctrine. It means that I obey the Bible and mark and avoid him (Romans 16:17), that I expose his error publicly to protect those who might be led astray by his teaching.
ECUMENISTS ARE CONFUSED ABOUT THE DIRECTION OF LOVE
Ecumenists are not only confused about the definition of love they are also confused about the direction of love.
THE FIRST DIRECTION OF LOVE MUST BE TOWARD GOD. Ecumenists talk much about love toward man, but what about love toward God? According to the Lord Jesus Christ, what is the greatest commandment?
“Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself”(Matthew 22:35-39).
The first and great commandment is not to love one’s neighbor. That is the second commandment. The first and great commandment is to love the Lord God will all of one’s heart, soul, and mind.
Ecumenists point their fingers at the Bible-believing fundamentalist and charge him with a lack of love toward men because he exercises judgment and discipline and separation. What, though, about love for God? The ecumenist tells me that I need to love all the denominations regardless of what doctrine they teach. I reply that I need to love God and His Truth first, and that means that I will obey the Bible, and that means I will measure, mark, and avoid those who are committed to error.
A genuine love for God requires that I care more about His Word and His will than about men and their feelings and opinions and programs.
We agree with Charles Haddon Spurgeon when he said: “On all hands we hear cries for unity in this, and unity in that; but to our mind the main need of this age is not compromise, but conscientiousness. ‘First pure, then peaceable.’ It is easy to cry ‘a confederacy,’ but that union which is not based upon the truth of God is rather a conspiracy than a communion. Charity by all means; but honesty also. Love, of course, but love to God as well as love to men, and love of truth as well as love of union. It is exceedingly difficult in these times to preserve one’s fidelity before God and one’s fraternity among men. Should not the former be preferred to the latter if both cannot be maintained? We think so” (Spurgeon, “The Down Grade – Second Article,” The Sword and the Trowel, April 1887, Notes, p. 16).
THE DIRECTION OF LOVE NOT ONLY MUST BE TOWARD GOD BUT IT MUST BE TOWARD THOSE WHO ARE IN DANGER. The ecumenical crowd tells me that I need to love the Modernist and the Romanist, etc., but they are practically silent on the subject of love for those who are deceived by the Modernist and the Romanist. We are charged with being unloving, for example, when we expose the fact that John Paul II or Mother Teresa preached a false sacramental gospel. The fact is that we love people enough to warn of false gospels so they will not be led astray to eternal hell.
A shepherd who loves wolves more than the sheep is a confused and wicked shepherd.
In conclusion, we quote from the words of James Henley Thornwell, a staunch Old School Presbyterian preacher who fought against theological modernism in the 19th century. He was the sixth president of South Carolina College (today the University of South Carolina). He was weary with the compromised evangelicals of his day, who said they loved the truth but were soft in their stance and refused to withstand heresy boldly. Note his powerful words and his understanding of true biblical love:
“To employ soft words and honeyed phrases in discussing questions of everlasting importance; to deal with errors that strike at the foundations of all human hope as if they were harmless and venial mistakes; to bless where God disapproves, and to make apologies where He calls us to stand up like men and assert, though it may be the aptest method of securing popular applause in a sophistical age, is cruelty to man and treachery to Heaven. Those who on such subjects attach more importance to the rules of courtesy than they do to the measures of truth do not defend the citadel, but betray it into the hands of its enemies. Love for Christ, and for the souls for whom He died, will be the exact measure of our zeal in exposing the dangers by which men’s souls are ensnared” (quoted in a sermon by George Sayles Bishop, author of The Doctrines of Grace and Kindred Themes, 1910).
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[This article is excerpted from the new book JUDGE NOT! IS IT LEGALISM TO JUDGE SIN AND ERROR? This book is a reply to 21 of the most common charges that are brought against a fundamentalist Bible approach to Christianity. These are the challenges that every fundamentalist Bible-believing Christian must learn to deal with, because there is no part of the world so remote that the believers there will not be confronted with this thinking. This very practical material would make a good series of study for Sunday Schools at the Junior High level or above or for Youth meetings or Bible Institutes. The sections of the book are as follows: The Bible Says We Should Not Judge; Love is Nonjudgmental and Tolerant; Being Strict about Biblical Issues is Legalism; Fundamentalists Are Pharisees; Jesus Told Us Not to Forbid Others; Why Don’t You Follow Matthew 18? We Should Heed Gamaliel’s Advice; We Should Leave the Tares until the Harvest; We Should Not Touch the Lord’s Anointed; If We Don’t Stand Together We Will Hang Separately; The Christian Army Shoots Its Own Wounded; God Does Not Look on the External Appearance; We Will Be in Heaven Together; The Christian Life Should Be Liberty and Fun; We Should Be All Things to All Men; Denominational Divisions Should Be Erased; It is Not Possible to Know That Your Doctrine Is Right; Loving Jesus Is All that Is Important; Fundamentalism Is a Belief in the Five Fundamentals; We Should Limit Our Message to Broaden Our Fellowship; We Should Be Balanced. 108 pages. $4.50. Way of Life Literature, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48068, 866-295-4143]