SHORT SUMMMARY: The Hebrew/Greek concepts emphasize that Jesus wants us to be in loving/giving relationships (Ἀγαπήσεις) with God, loving all people as equals, and loving truth, soul/ψυχῇ refers to a person’s distinct identity-personality and God’s specific purpose for our lives, follow and teach rational thought, truth, laws and proof as ways of love, and that acting on all these together is crucial to do the most good and save the most lives
DEEPER ASPECTS OF GOD’S LOVE
When a lawyer asked Jesus what was most important, he DID NOT say 1 thing, but 4 things:
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.. ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.” Mark 12:30-31 (e.g. Matthew 22:37-40, Luke 10:27).
Each of these 4 principles Jesus mentioned are crucial to help Christians endure through current and future crises and the Greek here gives deeper insights that many have not understand well.
The Jews embraced only Bible verses about the Messiah conquering enemies, ignored ones about the Messiah suffering and ended up crucifying the real Messiah, Jesus. This was largely due to pagan philosophy that caused them to cherry pick only verses they liked. The same exact problem PERMEATES society now, with many choosing only 1 or 2 of those 4 principles above and leaving many Christians with a foundation no different than the Jewish leaders did for their people, causing many to be lost.
All 4 of these principles have been crucial for true church revivals in all ages to follow, but especially ours, because it is our privilege and Great Commission to finish God’s work. None of them can be left off or minimized or great harm to God’s work and people’s lives results. The 4 gospels also each emphasize these 4 principles without ignoring any and so did the early church. And EGW says we will only have the power of the early church when we integrate and follow all of the principles of God as they did (MB. P. 136+)
LOVE: Love is of course the highest virtue. Jesus places a double emphasis on love (Ἀγαπήσεις-Agapaseis) and heart (καρδίᾳ-kardia). Christians know that agape, unselfish/giving love, is the highest virtue. But the Greek term also means embracing and living according to God’s will in our daily choices by His power, making every daily choice in the light of God’s ultimate love for people everywhere (Christians in the 1800s lived this out by refusing to buy products made with slave labor, and many products now are also made with slave labor). Biblical love also involves “the love of reason”. https://biblehub.com/greek/25.htm which you see in God’s instructions to “love wisdom” (Pr. 7:4, Pr. 19:8), “love truth” (Zech. 8:19, John 18:37), etc.
Kardia never means the organ that pumps blood. It refers to the mind, character, inner self, will, intention, passions, desires, appetites, affections, purposes,… the fountain and seat of the thoughts, the faculty and seat of the intelligences and includes the soul as the seat of the sensibilities, affections, emotions, desires, appetites, passions, and the center and vigor of all physical and spiritual life. (https://biblehub.com/greek/2588.htm)
Our primary purpose on earth is to love God and humanity and strengthen loving relationships (Matt. 22:37-40). This involves basic kindness, service and compassion of course (1 John 3:17, 4:8), but also involves being active for justice (Prov. 29:7; 31:8,9, Luke 4:18-19) as well as being careful in our daily choices so that we are not complicit in harming others near or far away.
Without heartfelt love, the highest virtue, religion becomes heartless legalism, abuse and disregard for what is good for all people and many become disillusioned with church.
With genuine and full biblical love, we can turn the world upside down as the early church did (Acts 2:42-47;4:32-35, Acts 17:6, MB 136+).
PURPOSE: Jesus says to love God with all our soul. The Greek is ψυχῇ (pseukeh) which is the root of words like psyche and psychology. It refers to the power of life (which relates to SDA state of the dead doctrine), the willpower, your unique individual identity, basically a person’s distinct identity-personality and purpose in life (https://biblehub.com/greek/5590.htm).
If people don’t understand who God made us to be, our identity, our lives lack purpose and we live aimlessly and ineffectively. One of the bigger deceptions now is that secular culture tries to tell people they following their feelings is being true to their purpose, instead of God’s purpose for them. Many feelings though come from media and culture influences that are against God and end up in suffering, disillusionment and tragedy.
SDAS need a clear understanding of God’s purpose to do good through their lives (Ephesians 2:10) but also our specific purpose, since without this we lose focus. With a certain godly purpose we can do the greatest good that God planned.
INTELLECT: Jesus says to love God with our minds (διανοίᾳ-dianoia). Strong’s Concordance says this word means understanding, intellect, mind, insight, critical thinking and that “thorough reasoning…is essential to loving.” Strong’s Concordance (https://biblehub.com/greek/1271.htm).
It is crucial to have a solid intellectual/truth/proof basis for our faith and doctrines (Acts 1:3) so we can give good reasons for them to both believers and non-believers (Acts 9:22 Acts 17:17,31, 1 Peter 3:15). This also is important to help us distinguish truth from falsehood (Eph. 4:14) as well as to know what choices to make that live out for each person and all people around the world (1 Thess. 5:15) in a world where choices here have impacts on countries far away.
EGW says we need to use the Bible and science in combination to defeat sophisticated deceptions of our time. “to…successfully meet the strange forms of error, religious and philosophical combined,…requires a knowledge of scientific as well as Scriptural truth.” (Gospel Workers, p. 81)
It is crucial to teach SDAs and young people test everything and hold on to the good (1 Thess. 5:21) since every false doctrine and cult lacks a truth/proof basis/rationality and doesn’t allow much questioning and because there are and will be many new deceptions that we can’t warn people about. But all deceptions reject following proof and truth and harm/exploit people in various ways. So if we teach people these principles, then they can identify, avoid, and expose them and stay strong in faith.
Ellen White said, “Truth [should be]…backed up with a few strong proofs.” (TC3 p.36, CW p. 83) and we have more proof than ever before (Daniel 12). We have truth! Let’s show our people this, help them gain boldness and finish God’s work!
ACTION: Last, Jesus says to love God with our strength (ἰσχύος-ischys) which refers to physical strength, power, action, etc. If we don’t put God’s love, purpose and truths into action, talk without walk, it pretty worthless (Matthew 21:28-32).
To fail to put these principles into practice is what God called hypocrisy (Mark 7:6, James 1:22-23) and it is frankly unChristian. God does wink at ignorance (Acts 17:30), but departing in any way from God’s principles weakens our Christian lives and cripples our witness for our Savior.
To be biblical and authentic Christians, it’s crucial to put all these kinds of love that Jesus mentions, heartfelt love, following the loving purpose of God for our lives, loving God with fully rational faith and the minds God gave us, into practical action (Matthew 7:21-23).
Ellen White says something powerful about how the early church followed all of these principles:
“The standard of the golden rule is the true standard of Christianity; anything short of it is a deception. A religion that leads men to place a low estimate upon human beings, whom Christ has esteemed of such value as to give Himself for them; a religion that would lead us to be careless of human needs, sufferings, or rights, is a spurious religion. In slighting the claims of the poor, the suffering, and the sinful, we are proving ourselves traitors to Christ. It is because men take upon themselves the name of Christ, while in life they deny His character, that Christianity has so little power in the world. The name of the Lord is blasphemed because of these things…
Of the apostolic church, in those bright days when the glory of the risen Christ shone upon them, it is written that no man said “that any of the things which he possessed was his own.” ”There were no needy people among them.” “The apostles testified powerfully to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and God’s great blessing was upon them all.”
“They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity-all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.” Acts 4:32, 34, 33; 2:46, 47 (KJV originally, updated to NLT).
Search heaven and earth, and there is no truth revealed more powerful than that which is made manifest in works of mercy to those who need our sympathy and aid. This is the truth as it is in Jesus. When those who profess the name of Christ shall practice the principles of the golden rule, the same power will attend the gospel as in apostolic times.” MB 136-7
God the Father, the Holy Spirit and especially Jesus are perfect examples of all these types of love. God poured out all His love on Calvary, and gave us His Spirit. As EGW says, He emptied heaven and gave us the most valuable gifts He could possibly give. God loved us with purpose, Jesus lived out God’s highest purpose of God in opening a way for salvation for all humanity. Jesus used his mind to show repeatedly that faith in God and each doctrine is based on truth and proof and is beneficial to humanity and to refute deceptions of many kinds.
Jesus said, “My Father is always working, and so am I.” John 5:17 God has put these principles and all other principles of love and goodness into action perfectly. He is our ultimate example and asks us to aim to be perfect as He is (at our level of understanding as EGW says). So let’s test our lives consistently so that we keep all these aspects of love in balance in our lives to honor God in the best way we possibly can and win as many souls as possible to the cause of Jesus and eternal life!