Who are we?

In this blog, there will be a variety of material: thoughts on Bible books, book reviews, historical characters, aspects of Scottish church history and other things.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

The mystery of brotherly love (Philippians 1:7-8)

Paul describes the key to brotherly love when he says that he yearns for them all with the affection of Jesus Christ. The word translated as ‘affection’ was used of the inner parts such as the heart and the stomach. We can understand this by thinking of the parts of our body that are affected when something exciting is happening. Our hearts begin to palpitate, our stomachs begin to flutter, even our breathing can increase. Paul is describing a very strong expression of love.

It is important to note that he does not say that he is imitating the affection of Jesus Christ. Obviously, all believers are to copy Jesus because he is their great example. But Paul says more than imitation here. He says that the affection that Paul has is actually the affection of Jesus Christ. The apostle has a love that is profound and supernatural. And he has this love because he is united to Jesus by the Holy Spirit.

We should not be surprised when Paul says that he has the affection of Christ. After all, he gives his peace and his joy to his people, so why should he also not give his love? What Paul is describing here is another way of saying that believers possess the life of Christ. In a way similar to how blood flows through our natural bodies and gives life, so the Spirit of Jesus flows through our spiritual bodies giving us life. Jesus, although in heaven, is the source of our life.

There are many things that could be said about the affection of Jesus. For example, he was tender and gentle, compassionate and gracious, in his words and in his actions. Sometimes he had to speak strongly, but he never spoke harshly or inappropriately. His words were marked by pardon and peace. His relationship to his disciples can be covered in three words: intimacy, instruction and intercession. As he was them, he was patient with their failings, he rejoiced in their successes, and he protected them from the devil’s attacks.

How does this life reveal itself? Clearly we have to get rid of all that prevents this life manifesting itself. It is sinful attitudes or actions that stops this renewal being experienced in our hearts. This shows the importance of ongoing repentance for our sins as well as ongoing appropriation of what Jesus has for us. By prayer and Bible reading, by fellowship with and meditation on Jesus, we become increasingly like him, and others will take note that we are like Jesus.

The obvious deduction from having the life of Christ within is, with all its gracious benefits, is that we have no excuses if we fail to love one another. Often when we fail to love we blame the person who has caused the problem. But a Christian should be different. Indeed the existence of the problem only causes him to love the offender more because he sees him or her through the eyes of the compassionate Saviour. How we should ensure that the affection of Jesus is the affection we show to others.

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