|Notice that the songwriter, does not ask a question. It is not "What
wondrous love is this?" It is an exclamation of the wondrous quality of the
love. This verse is sometimes heard in a very plaintiff, minor key, which
is very haunting and beautiful indeed, but can leave the listener with a
question, rather than a declaration.
The English language is not always very accurate. In this particular area
it is somewhat lacking. In the Greek language, there are five distinct words
for love, three that are commonly used:
First, there is eros, or erotic love. It is physical or sexual love.
And while some call it base, a taking rather than giving concept, or think
of physical love in a negative context, it was created by God. It has a place
in marriage. And in that place, it can be a giving thing too.
Then there is phileo, which references philadelphia, or brotherly
love. This is where the root for "The City of Brotherly Love", Philadelphia,
derives its name. I have dear friends who I think, and even refer to as brother
or sister. In that it is an act of my will, but it is based in emotion too.
These people fill a need in my life. Even if it is the faithful ability to
get in my face when I blow it and correct me, they fill a need that I recognize.
It is a love between friends and family.
Finally, there is agape, which is a love that is described best in
1 Corinthians 13. It is a love that gives, with no regard for reciprocation,
or return. It is an act of will. It is a decision to love someone, even if
they walk way in anger, even if they attack or do harm. It is the love that
Jesus asked Peter twice, "Peter, do you agape me?" A much more humble
Peter could only answer, "Lord, I phileo You." Peter had learned his
limitations and answered honestly. Can we agape as human beings? Certainly
not on an continual, ongoing basis. It is the standard Jesus held out for
us, making it the goal.
I Jn 4:18-19 There is no fear in love; but perfect love
casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is
not perfected in love. 19 We love, because He first loved
Parental love is close to this goal. Children are added to the family by
the Lord and the bond that is formed between parent and child is unexpectedly
powerful. The desire that is typically generated within a parent to protect
and nurture a child is a love that tolerates the many abuses of childhood,
and the teen years. Do parents punish children who disobey? If they want
them to learn right from wrong, they must correct them. Does God reprimand
his children? He has promised to do so for our good. So, what is the punishment
refered to in this verse? When a child playing in the living room breaks
a favored vase or lamp, does the child fear? Perhaps that they will be corrected,
even scolded or punished, yes. But, they never fear that they never fear
being told they are no longer the son or daughter of the parent. Just as
Jesus will never send us away.
John 10:27-28 "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them,
and they follow Me; 28 and I give eternal life to them, and
they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand.
Not even our own misdeeds, or declarations can wiggle us out of the loving
hand of God. Like Jonah, we may run and hide from our duties, or attempt
to hide from God. David tells in Psalm 139 that there is nowhere we can hide
from God, even if we were to make our bed in Sheol. As parents, of course,
we are not perfect and do make mistakes even in handling our love for our
children. It is an imperfect picture of this agape, but close.
Rom 8:1-4 There is therefore now no condemnation for those
who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life
in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.
3 For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh,
God did sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering
for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the
requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according
to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. (NAS)
As an ultimate manifestation of this agape love, Jesus came to earth
and lived a perfect, sinless life. He became the perfect Passover sacrificial
Lamb of God for all mankind. It was planned from before the beginning of
time (Rev 13:8). It could not be derailed though the enemy of our souls did
everything he could to keep Jesus from reaching Golgatha and being raised
on the cross. In being obedient to the Father, Jesus completed the plan to
satisfy the requirement of the Law. That requirement was absolute perfection.
Something we fallen people have no ability to do. Paul reminds us that all
our righteousness is as 'filthy rags' or menstrual cloths, which make reference
to uncleanness in the ceremonial law.
That means that our best efforts are an affront to the Lord. So Jesus fulfilled
the Law. In doing so, He gives us His perfect, sinless life in exchange for
the ruined tatters of our own lives. This act makes us righteous before the
Father. Jesus will hold us accountable to Himself one day for our rewards,
but never for our salvation. He will never tell us we are not His children.
His patience, correction and love toward us are perfect. And, as we grow
in Him, that love is manifested in our lives.
John 13:35 "By this all men will know that you are My
disciples, if you have love for one another." (NAS)
God did not wait for us to be good enough to pour His love out on us. We
were dead, unable to do anything for ourselves, in our transgressions against
His perfect law, God did for us what we could not do. We were idolitors,
liars, thieves, sexually immoral, drug users, angry, proud, hurtful creatures.
The wages of sin, transgressing the Law, is death, and we were dead. Jesus
showed us perfect love and exchanged places with us. He rose on the third
day, the first of many brothers.
Rom 5:8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in
that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (NAS)
The church has been described as brothers, children, and a bride. These are
all very intimate, powerful references. If someone thinks God is cold and
aloof, or distant; if someone says God doesn't care, show them the love that
Christ showed you and see if it doesn't make a difference. In some cases,
it will require an act of will to love this person. They can be unlovable,
but so were we. This is the nature of agape.
AGAPE - [ah GAH pay]-- a Greek word for love used often in the New Testament
<John 13:35; 1 Cor. 13; 1 John 4:7-18>. Contrary to popular understanding,
the significance of agape is not that it is an unconditional love, but that
it is primarily a love of the will rather than the emotions. The New Testament
never speaks of God loving unbelieving human beings with emotional love or
a love which expects something in return. But He loves with His will-- with
agapao <John 3:16; Rom. 5:8>. The reason for this is that God can find
nothing enjoyable about a sinner on whom His wrath still abides. So He loves
by His will; it is His nature to love. Also see LOVE, LOVE FEAST.
Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Copyright (C) 1986, Thomas
Lord, You have presented the standard for the love we
are to have for others, all others. No matter who they are, no matter what
they do or say, You died for them and love them. Fill us with the patience
and love to care for these people as an act of will, submitting to Your will.
Grace & Peace,
What Wondrous Love is This
What wondrous love is this, oh my soul, oh my soul,
What wondrous love is this, oh my soul!
What wondrous love is this that caused the Lord of bliss
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul, for my soul,
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul.
American folk hymn, Southern Harmony, 1835