Not All God’s Love Is Unconditional: How To Become A Friend Of God

Do you ever feel like God just loves you because that’s something He does for everyone, not because He actually likes you?

That’s how I started the seminar I gave back in December, which I’m finally getting around to sharing on this blog. I’m willing to say that I’m not the only person who’s ever felt this way about God’s love, at least some of the time. There are a couple different things that play-in to this idea, but I think at least part of it is that usually when we talk about love in the Bible, we focus on the Greek word agape, which describes God’s unconditional love for all people. But there’s another word for love that talks about God’s affection for His friends. Depending on which resource you look at there are up to eight different words for “love” in Greek, though most people focus on these four:

  • Agape — selfless, benevolent love
  • Philos —  friendly, affectionate love
  • Storge — natural, family love
  • Eros — passionate, romantic love

We’re going to talk about agape and phileo, since those are the two used in the Bible. Together, agape and the root word agapao appear a total of 263 times in the New Testament. Philos and the closely related word phileo are used only 54 times, though it also appears in several compound words like philadelphos (brotherly love) and philostorgos (family love).

It would be pretty easy to look at these numbers and say agape is the most important kind of love in the Bible. And considering it’s the word used in the phrase, “God is love,” I’d say that’s a pretty good description. It’s also the word for love that’s defined in 1 Corinthians 13. There isn’t any other word gets such a thorough analysis in scripture. But maybe our emphasis on agape, even though it’s correct, comes at the expense of a good understanding of another important word, phileo.

Do You Love Me?

The difference between agape and philos might not seem significant at first glance. But there’s a conversation in John’s gospel that illustrates how different these two words for love can be. This conversation takes place after Jesus’ resurrection. His disciples had gone fishing and He met them on the beach, had dinner with them, and then asked Peter a question. In most Bible versions I’m familiar with, both agape and philos are translated in these verses as “love.” I like the World English Bible, since it makes clear that there are two different concepts at play. Read more

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The Things That Happened When God Died

The Passover commemorates Jesus’ sacrifice. He told us to continue keeping it in remembrance of Him, and that’s what we did just a couple days ago. And now we’re beginning the holy week following Passover — the Days of Unleavened Bread. It’s the perfect time to reflect on the meaning of His sacrifice.

When Jesus gave His life to save sinners, that was God choosing to die for us. The being John calls “the Word” whom we now know as Jesus was God along with the Father throughout the Old Testament. He gave up that glory to live as a human and sacrificed His life on our behalf; the Creator dying for His creation.

Such a sacrifice as half the original Godhead dying shook the world, both literally and figuratively. In the moment Jesus died the temple veil tore from top to bottom, the earth quaked, rocks split, and dead people rose from their graves (Matt. 27:50-53). And as time passed, the Christian believers learned more about what that moment meant on a spiritual level as well.

The Things That Happened When God Died | marissabaker.wordpress.com
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End Of The Old Covenant

Covenants are the basis of God’s relationships with people. In the first covenant, God included a revelation of His laws, statutes, and judgements which Ancient Israel agreed to follow (Ex. 24:7). But the people fell short of the Divine standard and that brought on them a death penalty. Someone had to pay for the broken covenant.

In the Greek language of the New Testament, the word used for “covenant” is the same as “testament.” The writer of Hebrews was inspired to use this comparison in explaining what effect Jesus’ death had on the Old Covenant.

For this reason he is the mediator of a new covenant, since a death has occurred for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first covenant, that those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance. For where a last will and testament is, there must of necessity be the death of him who made it. (Heb. 9:15-16, WEB)

Jesus’ sacrifice paid the penalty for human transgression of the covenant. Since He was the God who made this covenant, His death also ended its claim on our lives. And it made way for a new and better covenant. Read more

Shield Of Faith

Our God has an Adversary. And when we choose to walk in a relationship with God, Satan aims his attacks at us as well. Jesus’ work on the cross ensures Satan’s defeat, but for now the Adversary is still active in the world and fighting against God’s people.

Knowing that He has called us into a battle, God makes sure that we’re well equipped to stand against spiritual wickedness. He offers us His own strength and clothes us with appropriate armor. The first three pieces of this armor are the Girdle of Truth, the Breastplate of Righteousness, and the Footwear of the Gospel. They’re all vital, but there’s something particularly important about this fourth piece.

in everything taking up the shield of faith, with which you are able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one (Eph. 6:16, LEB)

The King James says, “Above all, taking up the shield of faith.” Whichever translation you use, the emphasis is clear. The shield of faith is needed all the time in everything we do and we must make using it a high priority.

Shield Of Faith | marissabaker.wordpress.com
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The One Who Shields Us

This is the only reference to shields in the New Testament. They’re mentioned quite often in the Old, though. Many of these references speak of war and soldiers, for shield and spear were standard weapons (1 Chr. 12:8; 2 Chr. 14:8; 25:5). But there are also many versus like this one:

God is my rock in whom I take refuge; my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my high tower, and my refuge. My savior, you save me from violence. I call on Yahweh, who is worthy to be praised; so shall I be saved from my enemies. (2 Sam. 22:3-4, WEB)

Comparing God to a shield shows up several times in David’s writings (Ps. 3:3, among others). God also describes Himself as Abraham’s shield (Gen. 15:1) and all Israel is told Yahweh is “the shield of your help” (Deu. 33:29, WEB). It is a symbol of protection held by a capable defender. Read more

Footwear Of The Gospel

If you’re going into battle, you’re going to need a good pair of shoes. That’s probably not something most of us think about, but what soldiers wear on their feet helps determine how far they can travel in a day and what type of terrain they can fight on. In fact, a good argument can be made that one of the Roman army’s key strengths was improved footwear. Perhaps that’s part of what Paul was thinking about when he wrote this phrase to describe the third piece in the armor of God:

and binding shoes under your feet with the preparation of the good news of peace (Eph. 6:15, LEB)

This piece of armor is related to preparation, the gospel, and peace. It’s a curious combination, especially considering the girdle of truth and breastplate of righteousness have pretty straightforward descriptions. I wasn’t even quite sure what to title this post. Shoes of peace? Prepared footwear? Sandals for preparing good news of peace? I settled on the title you see up there since similar scriptures in Isaiah and Nahum place the focus on carrying good news. Let’s take a look at those.

Footwear Of The Gospel | marissabaker.wordpress.com
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Carrying God’s Words

How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news, who proclaims salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns!” (Is. 52:7, WEB)

Nahum borrows this phrase in 1:15 and Paul uses it to support his teaching that “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17, WEB). People must call on the name of the Lord to be saved, but before that they must believe on him and to do that they need to hear about Him. For that to happen, there must be a preacher sent to carry the good news of peace (Rom. 10:13-15). Read more

Breastplate of Righteousness

When we’re going into spiritual warfare, we need spiritual armor. As we talked about in last week’s post on the Girdle of Truth, God is the one who gives us this armor. He doesn’t invite us to do battle and then leave us defenseless.

take up the full armor of God, in order that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand. Stand therefore, girding your waist with truth, and putting on the breastplate of righteousness. (Eph. 6:13-14, LEB)

The second piece of our armor is a breastplate of righteousness. In a physical soldier’s armor, this is the part of the armor that protects the front and back of the torso. It’s keeping your spine, internal organs, and especially your heart and lungs safe.

Breastplate of Righteousness | marissabaker.wordpress.com
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Keeping Your Heart

For us, righteousness serves much the same protective function. In a broad sense, the word dikaiosune (G1343) means being in a “condition acceptable to God.” It also refers to “the doctrine concerning the way in which man may attain a state approved by God” (Thayer’s Dictionary). Righteousness involves the condition of your heart and state of your character.

Oh that there were such a heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep all my commandments always, that it might be well with them, and with their children forever! (Deut. 5:29, WEB)

God has always been interested in wining His people’s hearts. That desire is at the core of Him asking us to follow Him in righteousness, which is why Jesus didn’t destroy the Law when He came. Rather, He revealed the full expression and intent behind God’s law — that we might develop His character and become like Him (Matt. 5:17-20, 48).

Armor God Wears

Speaking of becoming like God, the Breastplate of Righteousness is a piece of armor that He actually wears.

He put on righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on his head. He put on garments of vengeance for clothing, and was clad with zeal as a mantle. (Is. 59:17, WEB)

The breastplate we’re talking about isn’t just something God gives us to wear. It’s also something that He wears Himself. This is truly armor of God what He’s sharing with us. Read more

The Girdle of Truth

The first piece in the armor of God is a girdle, or belt, of truth. We’re told, “Stand therefore, girding your waist with truth” (Eph. 6:14, LEB). Girdles hold an interesting place in scripture. There are five Hebrew words used to talk about things you can belt around your waist (Easton’s Bible Dictionary).

Some girdles were used as a purse or pockets. Others to belt your clothes on. Different types of girdles were part of a soldier’s attire (2 Sam. 20:8), worn by princes and important people (Eze. 23:15), or by priests (Ex. 28:4, 8; 29:9). Girdles often symbolize strength and readiness. But what does it mean to have a girdle made of truth?

The Girdle of Truth | marissabaker.wordpress.com
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Where We Get Our Girdle

Truth in a Christian context is defined by God. The truths that come from Him aren’t subjective and don’t fluctuate. They’re reliable. And they’re what we put on like a belt around our waists as we prepare for spiritual battle.

Jesus gives a succinct definition of truth in His prayer recorded in John 17. He prays to the Father, “Sanctify them in your truth. Your word is truth” (John 17:17, WEB). The words of God are precious; the only reliable source of truth.

Give diligence to present yourself approved by God, a workman who doesn’t need to be ashamed, properly handling the Word of Truth. (2 Tim. 2:15, WEB)

When we’re looking for truth, we look to God’s Word — both in the Bible and in the person of His son Jesus Christ. Jesus is the Word (John 1:1-3, 14) and He also is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). He provides the truth that forms the first piece of our armor. Read more