Receiving and Giving God’s Love
“Speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”- Ephesians 4:15–16
“The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything” (Acts 17:24–25). Those words from the Apostle Paul as He proclaimed the gospel on the Areopagus to unbelievers have application to Christians as well. God has no need of anything from His creatures; the gifts He gives to His people are not for His benefit (see 1 Cor. 12). Yes, we serve Him by exercising our gifts in the context of the church, but not because the Lord lacks anything.
God may not need our gifts, but our fellow Christians do. After all, as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12, if the eyes of our physical bodies cannot say that they have no need of our hands, surely one member of Christ’s spiritual body, the church, cannot say he does not need another member. Truthfully, we need one another. What we lack in ourselves, God helps to provide through the service that other Christians render with their spiritual gifts. But we need to serve others as well, for our gifts and graces are the means by which the Lord provides what others in the church may lack. We are all in this together. Together we give and receive doctrinal instruction so that we may advance to maturity (Eph. 4:11–14). Together we serve and are served by one another so that the body is complete, possessing everything it needs for health and growth (1 Cor. 12). Ultimately, “when each part is working properly” the body of Christ grows so that it builds itself up in love (Eph. 4:15–16).
Love is the greatest Christian virtue (1 Cor. 13:13), so love must be definitional of any community that calls itself Christian. If a church does not have love, it is not a church. The church, in fact, is the arena wherein we give and receive God’s love. Wonder of wonders, God has poured out His own love into our hearts through the Holy Spirit (Rom. 5:5). But God’s love is other-directed, as we see in His love for His creation that moved Him to send His only begotten Son to save us (John 3:16). Christian love is other-directed as well because it is the love of God given to us. If we have been granted God’s love, we must and will shower that love on others. We will seek to “do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Gal. 6:10). We love other believers in the context of the church, helping to meet their needs, serving one another after the model of Christ.
Love never ends, so God’s purpose of the church as the arena where we receive and give love will never end either. Even into glory we will be loving and serving one another. We practice, as it were, for that day by loving and serving one another today. If we are not looking for ways to love and serve other believers, meeting their needs as we are able, we are not fulfilling God’s purpose for His church.
Passages for Further Study
1 Thessalonians 4:9–10
1 John 3:16–18