Lazarus (3) Don’t Mix It

The church must discover and rightly position what the world today calls “love.”


John 11:5 – Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus.


Today I write again on the topic of the word we so often use – LOVE.  In John 11:3, Martha and Mary sent a message to Jesus telling Him about the illness of Lazarus, and in that verse they referred to Lazarus as someone whom Jesus loved.  And Jesus did indeed love Lazarus as He did Martha and Mary.  But there is a great difference in the two Greek words used in John 11 that are both translated “love.”  In verse three, the word used by Martha and Mary was “phileo.”  It is a term that has often been translated as brotherly love.  While it does include the love of sibling to sibling, or brother to brother, it is a more inclusive word.  “Phileo” is a word that speaks of a strong, emotion-laden love that exists between people who hold a relationship built on blood and/or strong commitment to one another.  I am referring to the blood relationship between siblings, but also the life-long relationship between husband and wife, parents and children, and even extended family such as aunts, uncles, cousins, and more.  This is also the kind of love that exists between people that have been in school together, served in the military or some profession together, or even neighbors.  “Phileo” is a high-quality love, but so often frothed with emotions that can be both pleasant and cruel.  Martha and Mary based their call for Jesus to come to their aid on “phileo.”

But the Greek word for love used in our Text for Today in NOT “phileo.”  Rather, it is the word “agape.”  This is the God kind of love.  This is the love by which faith works.  Faith does NOT work by “phileo.”  Yes, there may be much in “agape” and “phileo” that are similar traits, but these are still two completely different words with diverse meanings.  “Phileo” can be deeply influence and affected by emotions, while “agape” is governed solely by the choice of the one expressing that love, being based solely on the character of the one expressing the love.  That is why “agape,” not born in or of God, but being the very identity of God, for God is love (agape), is the love by which faith works.

My friend, you can try all you want to make your faith work by “phileo,” but it will not happen.  ONLY by “agape” will your faith work.  Hebrews 11:1 faith is the parent-creator force of all that exists.  It is powerful beyond the words one might use to attempt to describe it.  Such power will NEVER be trusted to the emotion-influenced “phileo,” and especially not to anything less than “phileo.”  The God-kind of faith will ONLY be trusted in the hands of “agape,” for it requires God-character to release such power.  Don’t confuse the two; don’t mix them.  Pure faith requires pure “agape” to obtain results. 

Manna for Today – John 11:1-46; 1 John 5:3; John 14:15; Galatians 5:6; Hebrews 11