Love: The Supreme Test of the Church
I would like to spend all my time on this matter of discerning love, because there is so much about it. We do not grow by teaching and information, by being filled up with the Bible and its doctrines and its truths, however wonderful and true and great they are. We only grow by love and we grow by love in terms of spiritual discernment. "Love buildeth up" (1 Corinthians 8:1); but love buildeth up because love gives us spiritual insight, and the simplest child of God, who has never been brought up in profound things, in the midst of a great wealth of teaching, but who loves the Lord, will make far greater strides in spiritual growth than those who have it all mentally and intellectually and not through the yes of the heart. It is true. If there is an adequate love there will be no compromise with error, with wrong, no permitting of questionable things, no long-drawn-out shedding of things which, while they may not be altogether wrong, would be better not there. The Holy Spirit can come along that way. Have we not seen it? Have we not seen people making all kinds of changes in their habits, in their manner, in their very adornments and fashions, as they have grown spiritually, and because of an intense love for the Lord, without anyone having said anything at all? Probably had someone pointed out various things - I had better not mention them - they might have said, 'All right, he says we must not do this.' Is that good enough? Oh no! But without ever mentioning these things, we have seen people gripped by the love of God, some right at the beginning of their Christian life, steadily through following months changing themselves outwardly, becoming different people. Love is the key. You can see, then, why the Lord spoke to the church at Pergamum in the terms in which He did. What was needed there, and therefore what is needed in the consummation, is first love as marked by discernment.
(c) Uncompromising Love
In Thyatira again we come to a bad state, as well as a sad one, a state of spiritual tragedy. Look at the language, the names, the history behind certain names there, and it is the history of the seduction of Israel. They have been seduced, and corrupted through seduction. That is summing it up. What, then, is the requirement, in what way will love express itself? If a state of compromise in Pergamum requires discerning love, in Thyatira seduction and corruption demand an uncompromising love, repudiating Balaam and all the rest of his kind. No compromise, no seduction unto confusion, no mixing things up, no trying to bring together contrary things, no wearing of linen and wool, no ploughing with ox and ass - the symbols, you know, of two realms of two natures - none of this trying to bring together the life of the flesh and of the Spirit; it cannot be done. No compromise can really be established between the flesh and the Spirit, between the world and Christ. No; here first love to be recovered will mean no compromise, no mixture, no confusing of issues.
(d) Distinguishing Love
Sardis - what is the upshot of things in Sardis? "Thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead." You look at the message to the church at Sardis and try to put it all into one word. What is the word that sums it up? Well, you have to say it is indefiniteness. So we can say again, in the light of the whole standard, that first love, ultimate love, the love of Christ, the love which He is seeking, is a distinguishing love that marks you out as clearly defined for the Lord and all that is of the Lord. Distinguished, different, outstanding, defined, unmistakable by the love that characterizes and governs. The thing that distinguishes from all else is this great love, and this great love brings about a distinctiveness of life. You cannot be indefinite if you are mastered by this kind of love. First love does not care one little bit what people think or say. Oh, everybody is saying this and that about the lover in the grip of first love. They may be using all sorts of language - He is a fool, he is made! - it does not matter. This love is making them clear-cut - one object, one design, one thought, one intent. They are people marked by one thing and not two. There is no doubt about it. We have our humorous ways of speaking of people who are in that state. He is in love, you cannot get away from it, everything goes by the board! There is one thing and one thing only in that life. That is, of course, how it ought to be. You young people, never have any relationships in the beginning that are not like that. First love is like that, and the Lord says, "I want you where you were at the beginning." Or shall we
say, "I want you where I have ever been. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end; I am like that from first to last. I want you back there in a distinguishing love."
(e) Steadfast Love
Philadelphia is very quickly summed up. While the name itself means "brotherly love," there is one word that sums up this message, and that is "patience." "The word of My patience." First love is patient love, or, to use the other word that is always in the margin of the New Testament when you come on patience, "steadfast love." That is first love, that is the love of Christ. "He loved them unto the end" (unto the uttermost): "I have loved thee with an everlasting love"; and oh, what a triumph that kind of love was and is! It needs steadfastness to go on with all that love has to encounter and suffer and endure. It is the quality of the love of God, steadfast love.
(continued with # 17 - "Fervent Love")