“Peter, Do you Love Me? No…”

1Peter 1:22-25  Just like an expedition of scientific discovery, Bible Study begins with curiosity and the desire to get answers to the questions of how, what, where, when and who. It should be almost impossible to read 1 Peter 1:22 in any English translation of the Bible, or even in the Amplified Bible, and not notice that “love” is mentioned twice, in close succession. Furthermore, the words are not mentioned as a repetition, but as a progression. It is as if Peter is saying, you are at “Love – stage 1”. Now I want you to move on to “Love – stage 2”. And that’s exactly what he is saying.

The first Greek word translated “love” is “Philadelphia”.   It is one of four New Testament Greek words translated “love” in English, and typically refers to brotherly love and kindness on the 6 occasions it is used.  Reflecting this meaning, there are at least 9 States in the USA alone with cities named Philadelphia. Peter begins by acknowledging and commending his readers for their “philadelphia”.  He recognizes it as an excellent starting point. But he does not stop there.

He then moves on to the stuff that really matters when he selects the Greek word “agapao” for his stage 2 admonition. This word in its verb form is used 142 times, and 116 times in its noun form, “agape”, in the New Testament. It is used in a frightening range of circumstances. In John 3:16 it is used. Husbands are to love their wives, as Christ loves the Church. We are to love our enemies… all the same word – “agapao”.

Accessible records indicate that this word did not exist outside of the New Testament, and rightly so. Love is the Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). “…And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. (Romans 8:9)”  Our attempts at loving God would be futile were it not for the fact that He first loved us (1 John 4:19). On the second occasion that he uses the word “love”, Peter raises the bar to its highest level. We are to love each other exactly as God loves us. Sounds like a stretch? Then read this: “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. (1 John 3:16)”

It would be remiss of me if I failed to point out that an equally intriguing play on the word “love” is recorded in the post-resurrection conversation between Jesus and Peter – yes, the same Peter who wrote the Books of Peter. Jesus asked Peter if he Peter loved (agapao) Jesus. Peter said, “Yes Lord I love (phileo) you”.  “Phileo” is a third Greek word used in the New Testament. It is much stronger than “Philadelphia” but much weaker than “agapao”.  So what Peter essentially said was, “No Lord, I do not “agapao” you, but I do “phileo” you. Jesus repeated His question and Peter repeated his answer. The third time, Jesus lowers the bar for honest Peter to hurdle it. Jesus asked Peter if he loved (phileo) Him. Then Peter, with a little Petrine attitude, appears to be a tad upset by Jesus’ line of questioning… declaring that, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”

Brothers and sisters, let us love (agapao) one another deeply from the heart! (1 Peter 1:22).

Remember to visit RBC’s Our Daily Bread Devotional today at www.ODB.org

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