The Expression of Divine Love in the Body of Christ
The love that is experienced within the church is a New Covenant reality. It is a love that is initiated through the regenerating of the heart and is then shed abroad in a saint’s life through the Holy Spirit. Both of these things are discussed at length in both Jeremiah 31:31-34 as well in Ezekiel 36:22-28. Though the reality of divine love is experienced now, it will not be until the eschaton that it is experienced in its fullness. The experience of divine love by the church is an inaugurated eschatological love. It is a love that is firmly established within the church now but will reach is full expression on the New Earth.
Divine love is experienced between two Spirit-empowered spouses as they seek to love in a way that is reflective of the relationship between Christ and the church.1 However, this same kind of marital love will cease prior to the New Heavens and the New Earth, when marriage is no more.2 The love that Jesus speaks of in John 17 however will continue on for eternity, as the church is not a temporal institution but an eternal fellowship of saints who have been purchased and united with their Savior. After Jesus’ death, he was raised on the third day and he visited the disciples. When Jesus comes to the disciples, they have already locked themselves away together. Rather than disperse, the disciples stayed close together because they loved one another.3 In Acts 2, Luke tells us, “When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all (a gathering of Christ’s followers) together in one place.” Again, we see an example of the people of God being drawn together in a desire for community and fellowship. Third, we read in Revelation 7:9-10; “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” In this passage we see a large number of people of various backgrounds united together in worship. As we look into the window of eschatological fulfillment, past this life, we see the saints united in fellowship. Finally, the last scene revealed to us in the biblical narrative is found in Revelation 21 and 20. Revelation 21:3-4 states,
“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
Generally, when Christians look at this text they consider the mourning, crying, pain, and former things passing away in a general sense. This text, however, must include hindrances to loving rightly. There are many obstacles that get in the way of Christians loving God with all their mind, body, and strength as well as loving others as themselves. Previous betrayals, abuse, loss, sin, as well as many other things that hinder saints from loving each other the way Christ desires them to, namely with a divine love. This text teaches that when the New Earth comes and saints are glorified, they are going to be able to love free of any hindrances that they currently experience presently. Charles Leiter in his book The Law of Christ spoke of Christian love in the following way:
The Christian’s standard is thus not just any sort of “love,” but Christlike love-love of the same quality and magnitude as Christ himself demonstrated in His incarnation and death on the cross! By rising to pray, and commune with his Father, by walking through jostling crowds in perfect peace and tranquility of heart, by opening His mouth in wisdom and compassion, by washing His disciples feet, by forgiving His enemies-by everything He ever said and did, the Lord Jesus gave us a pattern for our conduct….There can be nothing more exacting, or more demonading, or more wonderful than this-to love God and to love others in just the same way and to the same degree that Christ did! No one has ever fathomed the full import of these words, nor has anyone ever begun to fully live up to them.4
Leiter is correct that no Christian has ever lived up to the love that God calls them to walk in. However, there will be a day when we all will. When all the brokenness of this world is fixed in the new, we will be able to love without any hindrances. The very fact that God promises a new earth demonstrates the Lord’s desire for the Church to continue to love one another eternally.5 Jesus gives his Church the new commandment in John 13:34-25 and it is not disbanded when Christ returns. All the saints who have ever lived are united across generations to worship and fellowship together for all eternity. Paul Gardner is his commentary on Revelation states, “The newness of everything is again stressed with the reference back to Isaiah 65:19. What joy it will be when we realise that since death is no longer present in the new heaven and earth, so all that has been part and parcel of a world with death has also gone. The suffering that people have known, whether in illness or in persecution, the crying and pain of seeing loved ones die or simply of becoming ill or growing old and nearing death, all that is gone.6 In this age, there will be no more “black church”, “white church, “Spanish church”, or “Asian Church” for the saints will not be segregated but joined together across ethnic lines to worship the Lamb and fellowship together with thankgiving.7 There will be no more need for church discipline because no brother will sin against another.8 There will be no more distrust and not thinking the best of the other for Christians will no longer insist on their own way, distrust one another, or not hope for the best of their brother.9
- Ephesisans 5:25-33
- Matthew 22:30
- John 20:19-23
- Charles Leiter, The Law of Christ (Hannibal, MO: Granted Ministries Press, 2012), 160.
- Isaiah 65:17
- Gardner, P. (2002). Revelation: The Compassion and Protection of Christ (p. 286). Ross-shire, Great Britian: Christian Focus Publications.
- Revelation 7:9-12
- Mathew 18:15-20
- 1 Corinthians 13:4-7