Not By Commanding, But By Love


There is an obscure verse in the book of Philemon which is the start of understanding God’s way of interacting with us.

Philemon 1:8-9

Therefore, although I have great confidence in Christ to order (G2004 – epitasso) you to do what is proper, instead I appeal (G3870 – parakaleo) to you because of love.

 Even though, the God of Heaven and Lord of Hosts is above all things and can command whatever He desires, this is not His way.  His way is love.  There are only three “God is” statements in the Bible:

  • God is Spirit – John 4:24
  • God is Love – 1 John 4:8,16
  • God is Light – 1 John 1:5

Love is defined for us in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

Love is patient, love is kind, love is not jealous, it does not boast, it does not become conceited, it does not behave dishonorably, it is not selfish, it does not become angry, it does not keep a record of wrongs, it does not rejoice at unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth, bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never ends.

Not only is God love itself, His way is love.  It is not the kind of love that fails to correct or discipline, but the kind of love that does what is in our best interest from an eternal perspective.

As a being who is love itself, God is not an overlord who operates as a tyrannical dictator.  He requests through the process of appeal rather than obligating through commands.  He is capable of commanding, but this is not His way.  This is demonstrated throughout the Bible.

  • He could have crushed Pharaoh to release the children of Israel.  He didn’t.  He appealed to Pharaoh giving every chance for Pharaoh to let the children of Israel go.  In summary, he appealed to Pharaoh.
  • He could have forced the children of Israel into a covenant relationship with Him.  He didn’t.  He gave them a free choice after He had freed them from slavery to enter (or not enter) into a relationship with Him.  (Exodus 19:3-8)
  • When significant disobedience occurred in the promised land, he could have crushed the Israelites and forced them into submitting to His righteousness.  He did not.  Instead He provided a way (the sacrificial system) to ask for forgiveness and make atonement in order to get back into a right relationship with Him.
    • It is important to note the level of disobedience that He allowed and endured
    • It is also important to note that even in the face of extreme and repeated disobedience, He always chose to send prophets to witness to His people repeatedly before ever taking action against them.
    • There are extremely rare exceptions to this pattern which fit both God’s character and the pattern of love He demonstrates throughout the Bible.  (Example: situation at Ai just after entering the promised land).

In summary, this writing will work to draw a larger perspective picture of God and His interactions with Israel as well as the Lord’s interactions with the Body of Christ.  From this broader view, it becomes clear that God is always an APPEALER and never a TYRANT.  God works to preserve our free will in every matter and to woo us into obedience.  He only resorts to stronger disciplinary measures after repeated attempts to appeal to us directly and through witnesses.  Even in his discipline, He is full of mercy and love.

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