by E.H. “Jack” Sequeira
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John testified concerning him. He cried out, saying, “This is the one I spoke about when I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’”) Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
Hanging on our front livingroom window we have a heart-shaped prism our daughter gave us for Christmas. When the sun shines on this prism it reflects all the beautiful colors of the rainbow on the wall. The sanctuary is like a prism too. When God’s glory, which the Old Testament calls His Shekinah, is revealed to the sanctuary and shines on the sanctuary, we are able to see all the beautiful truth of the gospel. We have been looking at some of this truth, the “in Christ” motif, the doctrine of substitution, and above all that which sums up the whole thing, Christ our Righteousness.
We will now spend the next few chapters on the glory of God. Without that glory, the gospel becomes meaningless. It is impossible for us to fully and clearly understand the truth of Christ our Righteousness unless we see it in the light of God’s glory. David tells us in Psalms 19:1 that the heavens declare the glory of God:
The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
But if you want to see the full glory of God, you can only see it in the face of our Lord Jesus Christ. The disciples saw it and they turned the world upside down. If we see it, we, too, will turn our neighborhoods upside down. The glory of God; we need to grasp this truth!
Jesus did not come to this world only to save us. That was His mission, yes, but He also came to this world to reveal to all the glory of His Father. When He prayed to the Father, as recorded in John 17, He said two things:
The two go together and you cannot understand one without the other. That is why, in John 1:14:
The Word became flesh [Christ became our sanctuary] and made his dwelling among us. We [the disciples and New Testament writers] have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
When we also behold the glory of God, we will never be the same again.
To find out what this glory of God is, we will go to Exodus 33:13, where Moses asked God to show him His glory, and God answered that request:
If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people.
In verse 19 and onward, we will find that the glory that God revealed to Moses was full of His goodness. Exodus 33:18-20:
Then Moses said, “Now show me your glory.” And the Lord said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.”
That is exactly what our text is saying. The glory that the disciples beheld “was full of grace and truth.” This is what we want to see. The best description that I have ever come across concerning the glory of God is not from some big and wonderful theological book that was written by some scholar but from a godly inspired woman who wrote a book called The Desire of Ages. I recommend to you the book. On page 20 she [Ellen G. White] says, “It will be seen that the glory shining in the face of Jesus is the glory of self-sacrificing love. In the light from Calvary it will be seen that the law of self-renouncing love is the law of life for earth and heaven; that the love which ‘seeketh not her own’ has its source in the heart of God.” Then the glory of God is not some dazzling light; it is the revelation of His character, which is love. That is why this study is important.
We should understand the love of God for three reasons. The first reason is that it is the central theme of scripture. In 1 John 4:8, 16 we have the greatest sublime equation that has ever been recorded in any book. Here is a statement that the Devil hates and it is a statement that we need to come to grips with.
8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. ...And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.
The Bible doesn’t tell us that one of the attributes of God is love. It says that God is love and every other facet or manifestation of God is within the context of that one truth. For example, when you look at Galatians 5, where the fruit of the Spirit is given, note that the word “fruit” is in the singular; it’s love! Galatians 5:22-23:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
All the other characteristics — joy, peace, etc. — are manifestations and ramifications of that one concept of love. The British preacher Charles Spurgeon was visiting one of his parishioners one day, a farmer. As he was talking to the farmer, he noticed that at the top of his barn was a weather vane. On top of it in large letters was “God is Love.” Spurgeon said to this farmer, “I did not know that God’s love is as changeable as the weather.” The farmer said, “You missed the point. It doesn’t matter in which direction the wind blows, God is always love.” So number one, the central theme of the scripture is “God is love.”
The second reason why we need to understand the love of God is that it is the fundamental issue in the great controversy between Satan and Christ. That we will discuss in the next study.
The third reason, that is also extremely important and crucial for us to understand, is that at the heart of the gospel message is the love of God. Christ our Righteousness is the means of our salvation but the love of God is the ground of our salvation. You cannot separate the two. Read that familiar text, John 3:16:
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
Another text is Ephesians 2:4-6:
But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions — it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,....
It was God’s love that led Him to give us His Son, not something we have done or something that we deserve. It was not because we were good that God saved us. It was because He loved that He saved us.
There is another text to emphasize here because we are living at the edge of time. It shows us the importance of understanding the love of God as we face the crisis that is ahead of us. Let’s look at the background of Ephesians chapter three. Paul wrote this letter while he was in prison. Because he had spent almost three years in Ephesus, it was a church that was very close to him. When the Ephesian Christians discovered that Paul was in prison, they were very disturbed and they said to themselves, “If this apostle, this great apostle Paul, is in prison and God can’t protect him, what hope is there for us?” They became discouraged and began to lose their faith in Christ because of Paul’s imprisonment. One thing is very significant in this epistle that Paul wrote to them. Paul never talks of himself as a prisoner of Rome but as a prisoner of Christ. In other words, “I am not in prison because God can’t protect me; it is because God wants me there. Rome can’t touch me if God says ‘No.’”
When the communists came to Ethiopia, one of them that was giving me a hard time because I wouldn’t give in. He said, “You are going to leave this country without your children.” I said to him, “Go and find somebody else to scare. If God wants me here, neither you nor your government can touch me.” And I was there for six more years. God was in charge and Paul was not in prison because God could not protect him. But the people were discouraged. Paul says in Ephesians 3:13:
I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory.
“Please don’t get discouraged because I’m in prison. I’m in here for your benefit even, for the glory of God.”
Notice the prayer that Paul offers here. It is a prayer that God wants to answer today in the life of every believer, especially those of us who are living at the close of time. This is the prayer beginning in verse sixteen. Ephesians 3:16-19:
I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge [you cannot get it in college, it must come from God] — that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Because God is love.
Paul is saying here that God wants to strengthen the believers. He strengthens the believers when Christ dwells in the heart by faith. There are two words in the Greek for “dwell.” They come from the same source word: parakiel and katakiel. The difference in meaning is the length of endurance. One means dwelling temporarily. One time when we moved we had not sold our house, so we were renting a house. That was not our permanent home. In fact, we are not unpacked completely; it was like camping. We were dwelling in that house temporarily. The Greeks would use parakiel for that. We looked and hoped to find a house soon. When we moved to that permanent house, it was katakiel — permanent dwelling. I don’t know how permanent because pastors are never permanent forever until they reach heaven.
Paul is talking to the Ephesians who are converted and already have Christ dwelling in them. What did he mean then, “that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith”? He does not use the word parakiel, which is “dwelling temporarily,” but katakiel, which means “permanently.” Yes, He is dwelling in your hearts as He is dwelling in the heart of every believer. The question is: “Is He dwelling in your heart permanently?”
How is He dwelling in our hearts? By faith. For Him to dwell permanently in our hearts, we have to have a faith that is unshakable and, if your faith is like a yo-yo, up and down, He is not dwelling in your heart permanently. Paul’s prayer is not simply Christ dwelling in the hearts of the Ephesians temporarily but permanently. To have a faith that is unshakable, we must be rooted and grounded in the love of God. Paul is using two metaphors, one from botany (rooted)and one from architecture (grounded).
Several years ago in Idaho there was a tornado, which was not normal for that area. It flattened the trees and when we saw the devastation on TV, there were some trees that stood up. They weathered the storm because their roots were deeply grounded in the rocks there. In Mexico City, they had an earthquake not too long ago. There they discovered that some of the buildings that collapsed had weak foundations. The reason was that the builders used more sand than cement in order to make some money and now it showed. When the storm comes will your faith stand? Jesus asked [Luke 18:8b]:
However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?
Paul’s prayer is that we understand the height and the length and the depth and the breadth of the love of God which surpasses knowledge. It is beyond human knowledge. You cannot get it academically; it has to come by revelation.
When you have understood God’s love, your faith becomes an anchor because you are filled with the fullness of God. That must be the goal. We do not want just that Christ be dwelling in our hearts but that He is dwelling in our hearts permanently. It is amazing what small things it takes for a person to leave the church. All you have to do is to say some bad thing to a member and he stops coming to church. What will you do in the time of trouble? My prayer is that you understand the love of God.
There are many sermons and books on the love of God and yet the sad fact is that most Christians have not understood the love of God. The reason is twofold:
The linguistic problem is that in our modern languages — English, German, French, Spanish — we have only one word for love. So whether we talk of the love between husband and wife or look at the cheap barnyard type of love that is displayed on television from Hollywood, or if we talk of love for food, we use the same word. Therefore we end up with a second problem. When we read our Bibles and read “God is love,” we project human ideas of love onto God. When we do that, we bring God to our level and, in doing so, make the greatest mistake.
When the New Testament writers wrote the New Testament, they did not write in our language. They wrote it in Greek and they had four words for love from which to choose. These are the four words written in English letters: storge, phileo, eros, and agape.
Storge simply means family love — the love within a family, husband and wife, children, relatives. We have an expression in English, “blood is thicker than water.” The Greeks would call it storge, love within the family.
Phileo is the intimate, affectionate love that people have between each other. Two close friends love each other affectionately and emotionally.
The third is eros. Please do not be confused by that word, because we do have an English word derived from the word eros. The original meaning is love between the sexes, so we can call it “sexual love.” But when Plato, the famous Greek philosopher, came along, he took this word eros and gave it another meaning. So, in the Greek language, the word eros has two meanings. Plato divided these two meanings by two different terms. He called one “vulgar eros” and the other “heavenly eros.” “Vulgar eros” was sexual love but “heavenly eros” was, according to Plato, detachment from the sensual and the material things of the world and a seeking after God. In other words, to Plato, heavenly eros was a noble, spiritual kind of love and the highest form of love that man can generate. By the time of the New Testament, eros became the most noble and spiritual sense of love. In fact, if the Greeks were to write the New Testament, they would always have put in “God is eros.”
But the disciples refused — as a group and individually, without any committee action, but because of inspiration — to ever use that word. The word eros does not appear even once in the New Testament. The Greeks were insulted by that as we shall see in the next study. Here was the highest and most noble form of love and the disciples, who were Jews (except for Luke, a Gentile), ignored that word. Instead they took the fourth word, agape, which was an obscure word, which you can hardly find in the noun form in the secular Greek literature, and they used it. They took this word and gave it a meaning that they derived from their understanding of the cross, a meaning that was so revolutionary, so radical, that the enemies of the gospel accused them of turning the world upside down. When we come to understand the true meaning of agape, it does one of two things: it either produces tears in your eyes or it makes you an enemy of God. The crying need in the world today is to restore the meaning of this “agape love” in our understanding of God.
Before we pursue this thought any further, I would like to deal with the linguistic problem. We have the facts; now, for an example, we will read a familiar passage, John 21. This is after the resurrection when Jesus meets his disciples by the Sea of Galilee. They have breakfast and then Jesus confronts Peter with three questions. You are familiar with those three questions.
First we will look at the background. At the Lord’s supper, Jesus predicted that every one of the disciples would forsake Him. They did not agree but Peter was adamant. He stood up and said, “Jesus, you are right about these others but you are wrong about me. I will die for you!” He was sincere and he meant what he said. The problem was that he did not know himself, which is a problem that we all face. So God has to open our eyes. After the resurrection, Peter denied Jesus and learned the hard way that, because of his weakness, he could not fulfil what he wanted to do.
In John 21:15 Jesus said to Peter:
When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”
I will use the Greek word that Jesus and Peter used since we now know the four words. In the English Bible, all through these three questions and answers there is one word, “love.”
When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love [agapa, the verb form of agape] me more than these?”
Do you love me with this everlasting, unshakable love? Peter answered:
“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love [phileo] you.”
He didn’t answer the question. He said, “You know it, Lord; my love for you is a human affection. That love is unreliable.” Now Christ was not displeased with Peter’s answer. God cannot use you as long as have confidence in yourself. Peter’s glory was now in the dust and God liked that because God can now use Peter. That is why He said,
Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”
In verse sixteen:
Again [that means He repeated the question] Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love [agape] me?”
He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love [phileo] you.”
Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”
Twice the same question and twice the same answer. Now look at verse seventeen and notice that the word “again” does not appear here because Christ did not ask him the same question.
The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love [phileo] me?”
“Is this the only kind of love you have for me, this human affection?” It was not the same question which our English Bible indicates. The third question was different. It was embarrassing to Peter. Is this because phileo is inferior to agape?
The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love [phileo] me?”
Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love [phileo] me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love [phileo] you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.”
“You know that I phileo you.” That is all I am capable of. And Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.” Now I can use you.
It is important that we know these two concepts of love. In three main areas, eros, the highest form of human love, and agape not only differ but completely contrast and contradict each other. We need to understand this so that we never project human love unto God. The moment we do that, we will pervert the gospel of Jesus Christ. The only way to understand God’s gospel is to understand the context of His agape.
Let’s examine eros, the highest form of human love and agape, God’s love.
Number One, eros is conditional. It needs arousing. It depends on outward beauty, on goodness. We don’t love people automatically. When I meet strangers, there are some people I like automatically and some people I don’t like. They have done nothing to me. Teachers face this problem all the time. They go to the classroom for the first time, they see a group of children; some they like and some they don’t like because there is something about the personality of some children that is not appealing to us. They may remind us of somebody else that we don’t like. So we like some, because human love is conditional.
We will look at two examples of the result of projecting this conditional love onto God, and what is the result? In John 9, Jesus performed a miracle on the Sabbath day. From the Jewish point of view, Jesus was sometimes a radical. He sometimes seemed to do things to create controversy. There was a blind man that needed healing. All Jesus had to do was say “see” and he could see, but He did not do it that way. He took some mud and spit and made some clay and put it on his eyes. To the Jews this was working on the Sabbath and it created a controversy. John 9:14:
Now the day on which Jesus had made the mud and opened the man’s eyes was a Sabbath.
Jesus worked on the Sabbath! Verse 16:
Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.” But others asked, “How can a sinner perform such signs?” So they were divided.
So there was a controversy. “Is He from God or is He not?” Verse 31:
We know that God does not listen to sinners.
In other words, they said if you want God to answer your prayers you have to be good.
We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly person who does his will.
That is projecting eros onto God. Because of this mistake, the Jews perverted the gospel and made God’s love conditional. Look at Matthew 19:16:
Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”
It was because he understood God in terms of eros that this young man was led to ask such a question. God’s love becomes conditional if you make it eros.
The Bible teaches that God’s love is unconditional, spontaneous, uncalled for and it is love that does not depend upon the beauty or the goodness of the object. You can be ugly, you can be terrible, and yet God loves you, not because of what you are but because He is agape. The Pharisees were teaching human eros. In the Sermon on the Mount, in Matthew 5:43, Jesus said the people had been taught to love their neighbors and hate their enemies:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’”
That is eros, conditional love. Verses 44-45:
“But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”
This is His example. God brings the rain and sunshine to everybody — the wicked and the righteous — because God is unconditional love. When God blesses us, it is not because we were good. He blessed, protected, and fed the Jews 40 years in the wilderness. He was not pleased with them, but He blessed them because He is agape.
When we project eros onto God, we make the gospel salvation by merit, where we have to do something to earn salvation. There are so many Christians who are trapped in this heresy. In Romans 5:6-10, there are four words to notice:
You see, at just the right time, when we were still  powerless, Christ died for the  ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still  sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, while we were God’s  enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!
Note that verse 7 is human love. He is not comparing human love here, he is contrasting it. In verse 7 he is saying that human beings are capable of dying for somebody good. Verse 8 he says:
“While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” That is agape, unconditional love. Then in verse 10, he defines sinners as enemies of God. When we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son. Remember that God’s love is unconditional.
Number Two, human love, eros, is changeable. We studied Luke 22:31-34:
“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”
But he replied, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.”
Jesus answered, “I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me.”
Peter was sincere when he said “I’m ready to go with you to prison and to death.” When the test came he failed because human love is unreliable. We live in a country today where fifty percent of the marriages end up in divorce. In other cultures, the parents arrange marriages and it works. In America marriages are based on love and they fail because human love is unreliable. The only way to make a marriage work in a Christian home is to receive the love of God. Agape is the solution to our problem. The work and the effort put into marriage counseling and enrichment is good, but the ultimate is to experience the agape of God. It works because God’s love is unchanging, reliable, everlasting, and it never fails. Jeremiah 31:3 says:
The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.”
In 1 Corinthians 13:8, we are told:
Love [agape] never fails.
In John 13:1c we have this thought:
Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.
Jesus loves us to the very end because His love never fails.
Number three, human love, eros, is self-seeking. Isaiah 53:6a:
We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way....
For everyone looks out for their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.
Man is by nature egocentric; his love is self-seeking. He always wants to climb up and up — socially, politically, economically. In contrast, God’s love is self-emptying. 1 Corinthians 13:5:
It does not dishonor others, it [agape] is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
2 Corinthians 8:9:
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.
That is agape — not climbing up, but descending down for the benefit of others. The famous passage known as the “knosis doctrine,” is the seven ways of Christ’s self-emptying is found in Philippians 2:6-8:
Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross!
This is in complete contradiction to human ways.
Jesus was equal with God but He did not cling to His equality. We like to cling to our high position. We do not like demotion. It is very hard for an elder of 20 years to step down and be a deacon. It is human nature. But Jesus, who was equal with God, did not cling to equality; He emptied Himself. He gave up the independent use of His divinity and of all His divine rights. We bicker, fight, and go to court for our rights. Jesus became a servant. The Greek word is a “slave.”
Nobody likes to be a slave, but Christ became one. Then He stepped down, taking the form of not of an angel but of men — not man but m-e-n. That means He took our form. As a man He humbled Himself. Jesus Christ was born in a stable. I couldn’t find but one African in Africa, the third world, who was born in a stable. I don’t mean in an American stable where it is clean and smells good. In the Middle East, a stable stinks and is full of flies and fleas. Then He even went below that, being “obedient to death, even death on a cross.” That is agape, love that is unconditional, everlasting, and self-emptying. Because of this love we have a gospel that brings hope and peace and assurance to us. Thank God for such a Saviour.
We need to go deeper into this love and to face the problems in the Christian Church, for before Christ comes, this earth must be lightened with His glory. I believe God has called the Church to do it. To do that, we must know for ourselves what is the glory of God.