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Charity is important—so important that we should immediately reject the counterfeit "bibles" that omit all references to it.
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The Greatest Of These Is Charity
Daryl R. Coats 2003
"Looking for that blessed hope," (Titus 2:11-14)
"Greek has more than one word for ‘love.’"If you’ve done much Bible study at all, you’ve heard at least one person (or read at least one piece of literature) that made this claim.
Most of the people who make it fail to mention that only two of those Greek words even appear in a Greek New Testament, or that in the New Testament in general (and in John’s gospel in particular) both words are used interchangeably (as even "biblical scholars" acknowledge).(1) For that matter, they fail to mention that English has more than one word for "love." Indeed, after championing Greek because it has more than one word for "love," they attack the Authorized (King James) Version of God’s word because it uses not only the English word "love" but also the English word "charity."
"Charity" DefinedMany expositors have offered guesses as to the meaning of "charity," but there’s no need to guess, because the Bible defines it for us: "Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned:" (1 Timothy 1:5). An "end" is an outcome, goal, or result. When God Almighty gave the Old Testament law, He had an end in mind—and that end is charity. Later the Lord Jesus Christ explained that end, thereby defining charity for us: "And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. ... On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets" (Mark 12:28-31 and Matthew 22:37-40).
Unlike God’s love, human love is ultimately selfish. Man loves God not unselfishly but because God loved him first (1 John 4:10, 19). The greatest of human love would lead a man to die for his friends (John 15:13); God’s love, on the other hand, led Him to die for His enemies (Romans 5:7-10). As bumper-stickers like "I Ì my dog" indicate, most contemporary Americans limit "love" to the deceitful and desperately wicked heart (Jeremiah 17:9), but God asks for a four-fold love that involves not just the heart but also the mind and the soul and even strength—a four-fold love that loves others as much as it loves self. (2) In order to avoid barrenness and unfruitfulness in their service and ministry (2 Peter 1:7-8), God’s children need more than just human love. They need charity: a manifestation of God’s love working in and through them.
The Importance of CharityCharity is important—so important that we should immediately reject the counterfeit "bibles" that omit all references to it. The Bible says that charity is greater than faith and hope (1 Corinthians 13:13), twice explaining that believers should desire charity "above all things" (1 Peter 4:8; Colossians 3:14). Sound doctrine and sound deeds are worthless unless accompanied by sound charity (Titus 2:2; 1 Corinthians 13:1-3); therefore God instructs His children to "Let all things be done with charity" (1 Corinthians 16:14), listing it as the final stage of spiritual growth (2 Peter 1:5-8). No wonder the Bible says that charity is "the bond of perfectness" (Colossians 3:14)! In a time when people excuse their imperfection with trite excuses ("Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven") instead of repenting of it and obeying the scriptures (for example, Matthew 5:48), the Lord’s people have a serious need of charity.
The Source of Charity: "A Pure Heart"Since charity is the loving of God with all the heart, 1 Timothy 1:5 tells us that it proceeds "out of a pure heart." This truth is pointed out again in 2 Timothy 2:22: "Flee also youthful lusts [the contemporary world’s concept of love]: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart." No believer can demonstrate charity without also demonstrating purity (1 Timothy 4:12).
The Source of Charity: "A Good Conscience"Since charity is the loving of God with all the mind, 1 Timothy 1:5 tells us that it proceeds out of "a good conscience." This good conscience is associated with sobriety in 1 Timothy 2:15: "continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety."
In the Bible, a sober person is serious, self-controlled, and in his right mind (hence the contemporary world’s use of the word to describe a person not under the influence of alcohol and drugs). A believer cannot love God with all his mind unless he is in his right mind, because sobriety produces soundness in charity (Titus 2:2).
This sober "good conscience" is also associated with prayer in 1 Peter 4:7-8: "But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer. And above all things, have fervent charity among yourselves, for charity shall cover the multitude of sins." A sober mind knows that God commanded His children to pray for certain things—and to pray for others more than for self.
The Source of Charity: "Faith Unfeigned"Since charity is the loving of God with all the strength, 1 Timothy 1:5 tells us that it proceeds out of "faith unfeigned"—real faith, not a fake or counterfeit faith. Through true faith Sarah "received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised" (Hebrews 11:11). Only through genuine, unfailing faith could Peter strengthen the brethren (Luke 22:32). When faith grows, charity toward others abounds (2 Thessalonians 1:3). Because "faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Romans 10:17), the written words of God can give a believer the strength to have charity (Psalm 119:28).
The Source of Charity: "All That Is Within Me"Since charity is the loving of God with all the soul, believers need pure hearts, sober minds, and real faith. The heart, soul, and mind make up all that is within a believer. The Bible has a word for "all that is within me" (a word that, like "charity," is missing from the various perversions masquerading as Bibles): "bowels" (Jeremiah 4:19). A believer cannot scripturally and properly love others without "bowels of compassion" (1 John 3:17-18). Only after putting on bowels of mercy, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering, forbearance toward others, and forgiveness of others can a believer "put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness" (Colossians 3:12-14). Charity starts where faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, and brotherly kindness leave off (2 Peter 1:5-8)!
The Fruits of CharityGod devotes an entire chapter in the Bible (1 Corinthians 13) to the importance of charity and lists the fruits that come from it. Long-suffering charity doesn’t seek its own will instead of God’s, nor does it behave improperly by envying or boasting. Charity therefore enables believers not to love the world instead of loving God (1 John 2:15)—and to love others enough not to put stumbling blocks in the path of their walk with God (Romans 14:15). Instead of satisfying itself (Jude 12), charity edifies others (1 Corinthians 8:1; 3 John 5-6) and isn’t slighted even by "the multitude of sins" (1 Peter 4:8).
Charity doesn’t rejoice in iniquity but rather rejoices in the truth. Therefore we are commanded not to jest (a form of lying justified by the words "just kidding"; [Ephesians 5:4]) but to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15) and to show our love for God by keeping His words of truth (John 14:28). Charity endures all things and bears all things. In English, "bear" can mean two things: "to support" (so charity helps to bear others’ burdens [Galatians 6:2]), and "to transmit" (so charity helps believers to bear glad tidings to others).
How to Develop CharityBecause charity is so important, the Bible tells us how to cultivate it in our lives.
(1) Keep the word of God: "But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: ..." (1 John 2:5). Charity—God’s love working in and through us—is perfected when we keep the His words.
(2) Love the brethren: "No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us" (1 John 4:12). Without brotherly love, there can be no charity (2 Peter 1:7).
(3) Boldly witness of your Savior and His great love: "And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world. ... And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. ... Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment, ..." (1 John 4:14-17). Charity is perfected when we boldly and lovingly witness of the Savior—and it also strengthens us by casting out fear of facing the judgment seat of Christ unprepared (1 John 4:17-18).
(1) See, for example, John Painter, Reading John’s Gospel Today (Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1975), pp. 65, 92.
(2) This truth is recognized by The Oxford English Dictionary, which defines "charity" as "Man’s love of God and his neighbor, commanded as the fulfilling of the law. Matt. 22:37, 39"!
First printed: Fall 2003
The LORD'S Messenger
A Message To The People
“Then spake Haggai the LORD'S messenger in the LORD'S message unto the people, saying, I am with you, saith the LORD.” Haggai 1:13