Rabbi’s Reflections – Saturday, February 17, 2024
Shabbat Shalom *|FNAME|*,

Agapē for a Reason
By David Harwood

Many teach that agapē is a type of love that does not consider the worth of the beloved, is uncaused by the beloved, and gains nothing from the beloved (this is called, “disinterested”). Before we begin, allow me to illustrate this through some remarks from diverse sources (charismatic, reformed, devotional, academic theology, and a theologian).

Take a look:

(agapē) does not consider the worth of its object.

The New Spirit Filled Life Bible

We have no intrinsic value, no intrinsic worth-there is nothing in us to love… God loves because He is love…

The Love of God, John MacArthur

Thy love is uncaused and undeserved. Thou art Thyself the reason for the love wherewith we are loved.

The Knowledge of the Holy, A. W. Tozer

God does not need us. He is all-powerful, all-sufficient. He can accomplish what he wishes without us, although he has chosen to work through us. Thus, his love for us and for his other creatures is completely disinterested.

Millard J. Erickson

It is not a love of the worthy, and it is not a love that desires to possess.

Leon Morris

Sentiments like these abound. They influence the believing community’s preaching, counseling, prophetic expressions, and songs. They effect how we see God, and help form how we see ourselves and others.

And they’re wrong.

These thoughts originate from specific theologies through which agapē is defined. We shouldn’t allow systematic theologies to guide definitions of biblical words. A better method is to allow the definition of words to guide our theology. We understand words through their context.

Now, on to the thought that agapē does not consider the loveliness of its object. Here’s the next part of agapē‘s definition.

agapē is given for a reason. Yeshua revealed that Father loved (agapaō) Him: because He laid down His life so that He might take it up again (John 10:17). The psalmist loved (agapaō) Adonai because He heard his voice (Psalm 116:1).

“Agapē is given for a reason.” We perceive this through the context of where and how the word is used. Towards that end let’s look at John 10:17.

“For this reason the Father loves (agapaō) Me, because I lay down My life, so that I may take it up again. (John 10:17) 

Messiah revealed that Father loved Him for a reason (dia touto). The Lexham English Bible translates the Greek as, “Because of this…” I enjoy the way the New English Translation puts it: “This is why the Father loves Me”.

Yeshua sparked Father’s agapē. Yeshua was loved, and knew that He was loved, for a reason. Father’s agapē was directed towards Yeshua “because”. There was a cause. There was a reason.

What about the worshiper’s agapē for God? As with Father’s love for Jesus, the worshiper’s agapē for God is motivated by the loveliness of the beloved.

Here’s Psalm 116:1’s rendering in the Tree of Life Version:

I love (ahav) Adonai, for He hears my voice, my cries. (Psalm 116:1) 

What is ahav’s Greek equivalent? Let’s look at how it is rendered in the Septuagint:

I loved (agapaō) that God will hearken to the voice of my entreaty. (The Lexham English Septuagint)

Was the source of this agapē‘ solely within the worshiper? Here, the psalmist declared that he loved (agapaō) Adonai for a cause. What was it? In his experience Adonai had acted in such a way that motivated his agapē for God. What was the reason? God heard Him. God answered him. Adonai cared about him.

To sum up: Father loved (Agapē) Yeshua because He offered Himself as a sacrifice for the sins of the world. The psalmist loved (Agapē) God because Adonai heard his voice.

Conclusion: Agapē is motivated by the worth of its object.

This is what we’ve covered thus far:

Agapaō (the verb) and agape (a noun) convey the emotion we call love. These words became familiar to the Jewish people through the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures: the Septuagint. In the Septuagint ahavah (Hebrew for love) is translated as agapaō/agape over 200 times.

In the New Covenant Scriptures agapaō/agape is found a similar number of times. They parallel the use of agapaō/agape in the Septuagint. Here are some examples:

We are commanded to (agape) God (Deuteronomy 6:5; Matthew 22:37) and our neighbors (Leviticus 19:18; Matthew 22:39).

The psalms proclaim the worshiper’s agape for Adonai. (Psalm 5:11; 18:1, etc.) This love is echoed by John (1 John 4:20)

Agape can convey the meaning of a deep, emotional, parental love. (Genesis 22:2; Genesis 25:28; Matthew 3:17; 2 Timothy 1:2).

And today’s:

agapē is given for a reason. Yeshua revealed that Father loved (agapaō) Him: because He laid down His life so that He might take it up again (John 10:17). The psalmist loved (agapaō) Adonai because He heard his voice (Psalm 116:1).

Daily Bread, reading plan by Lars Enarson (https://www.thewatchman.org/)
8 Adar I Shabbat 17-Feb-24
Parashat Trumah Exodus 27:9-19 1 Kings 5:12[26]-6:13