Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love me more than these?” The Greek word Jesus uses for “love” in John 21:15 is “agapás.” The word agapás embraces the judgment and the deliberate assent of the will as a matter of principle, duty and propriety. It is a different type of love than the common expression for affection and friendship, phileo. Jesus asks Peter, “Do you love me more than these others do--with reasoning, intentional, spiritual devotion?”
The question posed was directed at Peter’s commitment, and his lifelong, wholehearted decision to continue walking in the Master’s path after he ascended.
Peter responded to Jesus’ question, ‘Do you love me more than these others do?’ by saying, “Yes Lord, you know I love you.” The Greek word for “love” Peter uses for his reply in John 21:17 is different than agapás. He cannot honestly say he has a committed love that goes beyond friendship; he remembers how he denied the Lord three times before Jesus was crucified. So Peter answers with, “Lord, you know I ‘fileís’ you.”
The Greek word ‘fileís’ is transliterated to English as ‘phileo’ (pronounced as ‘fil-eh'-o’); it means, “to be a friend to someone, or to be fond of an individual or an object.” The word was used quite frequently for having affection for, or denoting a personal attachment to someone, or something.
Phileo is the Greek word used for friendship, and it is a cognate of another Greek word ‘philos’ that means, “Dear, like a friend that is ‘dear’; it also means actively, fond, or friendly (still as a noun, an associate, neighbor, etc.) (Biblesoft's New Exhaustive Strong's Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. Copyright (c) 1994, Biblesoft and International Bible Translators, Inc.)
The Greek word phileo was a word form to express sentiment or one’s feelings. Peter was saying, “Lord, I have a very strong affection for you; the sentiment I feel is very close, very endearing.” There is nothing, in and of this word, that implies anything negative, or inferior. Many preachers have used the contrast between phileo and agape to demean phileo as being lesser and inferior to agape.
That Peter replied with phileo instead of agape is an admission that he had been humbled, and unlike his previous vow to stand and die with Jesus, which failed in an abysmal way, he was going to be more forthright and honest regarding his level of conscious commitment. So you see, Peter was actually being more up front with the Lord Jesus than he was prior to Jesus’ crucifixion.
This word phileo has been translated as “love” in most versions of the Bible, and stands in contrast to the other Greek word for love…agape. Agape has a wider use and especially embraces the exercise of mental judgment and the deliberate assent of the will as a matter of principle, sense of duty and respectability.
Agape also implies affection, and this fact is often overlooked. Strong’s define agape as:
NT:26 agape (ag-ah'-pay); from NT:25; love, i.e. affection or benevolence; specially (plural) a love-feast:
(Biblesoft's New Exhaustive Strong's Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. Copyright (c) 1994, Biblesoft and International Bible Translators, Inc.)
Agape is not the only word in Greek associated with God’s love, although it is the primary one. Phileo and agape are related, but each presents love from differing perspectives. Phileo is that, which being more “feeling” oriented, is an expression of one’s affection. On the other hand, agape is affection expressed in deliberate choice; it is the expression of the human commitment, and will, and intellect.
Agape is not better than phileo, or visa versa; they are merely different. Both are used in the NT for love, but agape is used in 1 Corinthians chapter thirteen as descriptive of the characteristics of love that has its origin in God, His word, and one’s obedience to the same.
In the context of 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 is a listing of Christ-like characteristics that are developed when a believer when he or she exercises mental judgment and the deliberate assent of the will with respect to God, His love, and expressing love for Him and to Him through obedience. The qualities, or fruit of this kind of resolution are:
· 13:4 Agape is patient, love is kind, and never is envious nor boils over with jealousy;
· 13:4 Agape does not brag and is not arrogant
· 13:5 Agape is not conceited (arrogant and inflated with pride)
· 13:5 Agape is not rude (unmannerly) and does not act unbecomingly
· 13:5 Agape does not insist on its own rights or its own way, for it is not self-seeking
· 13:5 Agape is not touchy or fretful or resentful; it takes no account of the evil done to it; it pays no attention to a suffered wrong
· 13:6 Agape does not rejoice at injustice and unrighteousness, but rejoices when right and truth prevail.
· 13:7 Agape bears up under anything and everything that comes, is ever ready to believe the best of every person, its hopes are fadeless under all circumstances, and it endures everything without weakening
· 13:8 Agape never fails and never fades out or becomes obsolete or comes to an end
These days, there is a lot of nonsense proliferated by Christians regarding how to love God or Jesus. One of the greatest deceptions is to romanticize the personal relationship between Christ and the individual believer.
Many Christian writers, authors, ministers, and particularly those involved with the charismatic “gifts” promote a passive, ethereal sugarcoated kind of love relationship between the believer and Jesus Christ. This is commonly referred to as, “The Bride of Christ,” theology and draws parallels between the OT cantata in the Song of Solomon and the relationship a NT believer has with Jesus. Solomon typifies Christ, his bride to be, Abishag the Shunammite, is symbolic of the believer who is his “dove” and his “perfect one.” (1 Kings 2:22; Song 5:2; 6:9)
I have heard Christians and pastors say, “God doesn’t need you to do anything for Him…He just wants YOU.” This is pure hogwash! If God didn’t need us to “do” anything for Him, why does His word, the scriptures, contradict such an assertion? Jesus said:
· Matthew 5:16 “In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (NIV)
Later, in Matthew 5:44-48, Jesus says our heavenly Father needs us to pray for our enemies, and love others who will not reciprocate; he commands us to “be perfect” (complete) as our Father in heaven is perfect; we are to have the same attitude, and respond in the same way as He does toward our enemies.
We are made a new creation in Christ, and our main function and purpose as such is to do the good works given to us by our heavenly Father:
· Ephesians 2:10 For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (NIV)
Christians in America and the western world are, for the most part, lazy, selfish, and apathetic. They love to hear sermons that instruct them to attend church, sing praises, and kneel at their bedside getting “close” to their so-called “bridegroom” Jesus. But talking to Jesus isn’t necessarily walking with Jesus. Worship has little to do with lifting hands and focusing attention upon the Lord.
2 Corinthians 5:18-6:1
18 But all things are from God, Who through Jesus Christ reconciled us to Himself [received us into favor, brought us into harmony with Himself] and gave to us the ministry of reconciliation [that by word and deed we might aim to bring others into harmony with Him].
19 It was God [personally present] in Christ, reconciling and restoring the world to favor with Himself, not counting up and holding against [men] their trespasses [but canceling them], and committing to us the message of reconciliation (of the restoration to favor).
20 So we are Christ's ambassadors, God making His appeal as it were through us. We [as Christ's personal representatives] beg you for His sake to lay hold of the divine favor [now offered you] and be reconciled to God.
21 For our sake He made Christ [virtually] to be sin Who knew no sin, so that in and through Him we might become [endued with, viewed as being in, and examples of] the righteousness of God [what we ought to be, approved and acceptable and in right relationship with Him, by His goodness].
2 Corinthians 6
6:1 LABORING TOGETHER [as God's fellow workers] with Him then, we beg of you not to receive the grace of God in vain [that merciful kindness by which God exerts His holy influence on souls and turns them to Christ, keeping and strengthening them--do not receive it to no purpose]. AMP
God wants more than our voice box, and He wants more than just our heart. He NEEDS us to be His instruments of reconciliation, love, and truth. How will the lost ever know that Jesus is their Redeemer unless we tell them? Jesus told his disciples, “Go out into all the world making disciples, teaching them to observe all that I taught you…” (Matthew 28:19). Does that sound like a passive command?
· Romans 10:13-18 For "Whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved." How then shall they call upon Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring glad tidings of good things!" However, they did not all heed the glad tidings; for Isaiah says, " Lord, who has believed our report? " So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. But I say, surely they have never heard, have they? Indeed they have; "Their voice has gone out into all the earth, And their words to the ends of the world." NAS
The god of pleasure is alive and flourishing in the Christian church. The teaching on repentance has fallen by the wayside for the doctrine of miracles, signs and wonders. People no longer embrace the cross, and say “no” to self. Hedonism has become a state of spiritual existence that uses God to feather the self-seeking desires of a Laodicean church.
Hedonism (Greek = hedone, ”pleasure”), in philosophy, the doctrine that pleasure is the sole or chief good in life and that the pursuit of it is the ideal aim of conduct. In ancient Greece the Cyrenaics, or egoistic hedonists, espoused a doctrine in which gratification of one's immediate personal desires, without regard for other persons, is considered the supreme end of existence. Knowledge, according to the Cyrenaics, is rooted in the fleeting sensations of the moment, and it is therefore futile to attempt the formulation of a system of moral values in which the desirability of present pleasures is weighed against the pain they may cause in the future.
Hedonism is that philosophy in which the highest good is pleasure. The hedonist decides between the most enduring pleasures or the most intense pleasures, whether present pleasures should be denied for the sake of overall comfort, and whether mental pleasures are preferable to physical pleasures.
Hedonism is a philosophy in which the highest attainment is power may result from competition. Because each victory tends to raise the level of the competition, the logical end of such a philosophy is unlimited or absolute power. Power seekers may not accept customary ethical rules but may conform to other rules that can help them become successful. They will seek to persuade others that they are moral in the accepted sense of the term in order to mask their power motives and to gain the ordinary rewards of morality. (Microsoft® Encarta® Reference Library 2002. © 1993-2001 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.)
The hedonist decides between the most enduring pleasures or the most intense pleasures, whether present pleasures should be denied for the sake of overall comfort. In the church this means that congregations want their pastor to give them church services with great music, lively and uplifting sermons. Don’t preach against sin, and worldliness, or that might actually mean we hedonistic Christians will have to give up our insatiable appetite for movies, and videos, and video games, and sports paraphernalia.
If the message requires us to do something for someone else, at our expense, we have to weigh whether or not it is “worth it.” Who do we think we are? Isn’t Jesus our Lord, our Master?
Don Barnett, a pastor in the Northwest part of Washington State was a prime example of how this kind of teaching can bankrupt an entire assembly of Christians. His teaching on the “bride of Christ” became little more than a whitewash gloss-over of the gospel. He portrayed Jesus as the “heavenly bridegroom” that people should “fall in love with.”
This ethereal pie-in-the-sky doctrine turned into a sexual teaching called “spiritual connections” and resulted in mass adulteries and divorce, and the devastation and spiritual ruin of hundreds of Christians.
This kind of hogwash is not limited to the example above; throughout the western world a fake Jesus is promoted at the expense of works. The kind of people that gravitate to this namby-pamby, wishy-washy “bride of Christ” theologies are misguided folks that are intrinsically lazy and apathetic.
This is a blanket statement, and there will always be exceptions, but by in large this kind of Christianity does not let its light shine in such a way that the world can see the good works, and glorify the Father in heaven.
Nowhere in the NT does Jesus say we are to “fall in love with Him.” This puts Jesus in a romantic scenario in which he doesn’t belong. Jesus Christ is our Lord and NOT our lover. Ministers who espouse this phony teaching make the Song of Solomon their premier text of scripture. Solomon somehow typifies Christ, and the Shunammite can do little more than chase after her elusive lover.
Our love for Jesus is not romantic, nor is it to be based in mere affection. Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commandments.”
· John 15:8-10 "By this is My Father glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father's commandments, and abide in His love.” NAS
If we keep Jesus’ commandments, we will “abide” (continue) in his love, just as he obeyed his Father, and abided in His love. That is a very simple concept, and takes us right back to scripture as the foundation for our faith.
Jesus told Peter, “Feed my sheep.” This is HOW he wants us to love him; he wants us to care for others. The teaching of Jesus is replete with examples of a love expressed with faith that has works. People try SO hard to steer clear of any doctrine with the word “works” and yet this is FUNDAMENTAL and ESSENTIAL in our relationship with the Father, and with His son Jesus.
· Philippians 2:12-16 So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. Do all things without grumbling or disputing; that you may prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may have cause to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain. NAS
The foremost of Jesus’ commandments that he taught repeatedly, related to his love, and how we, as his disciples, love each other, just as he (Jesus) loves us.
· John 13:34-35 "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." NAS
How did Jesus love us? Did he merely stay shut up alone in prayer all day long with God? Did he read lots of books on intimacy with God? No! Jesus loved us by GIVING HIS LIFE for us! So we ought also to lay down our lives for each other.
· John 15:12-14 "This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. You are My friends, if you do what I command you.” NAS
Perhaps the Lord’s teaching on love seems redundant, but this only emphasizes how important it is to him that we love one another, in the same way he loves us. He sacrificed his entire life for his church, and we are commanded to do the same for him by laying down our lives for each other. Not just as martyrs, but on a more practical level.
Only those that obey this commandment can be called the “friend” of Jesus. All others are trying to slip into the kingdom another way, and they won’t make it. Just “falling in love” with Jesus doesn’t cut it.
· Romans 13:8-10 Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. For this, "‘you shall not commit adultery,’ ‘you shall not murder,’ ‘you shall not steal,’ ‘you shall not covet," and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." Love does no wrong to a neighbor; love therefore is the fulfillment of the law. NAS
Love is the fulfillment of the Law; it is the summary of every commandment God gave to Moses. So loving your neighbor coincides with what Jesus taught; the only difference being Jesus showed us HOW to love one another by laying his life down.
Jesus asked Peter twice, “Do you love (agape) me more than these others?” Peter answered twice, “Lord, I love (phileo) you.” Each of Peter’s replies was followed by Jesus’ command, “Feed my sheep” or “Shepherd my sheep.”
Lastly, Jesus asked Peter a THIRD time, “Simon Peter, do you love (phileo) me as a dear friend?” Jesus was identifying with Peter’s weakness; he knew the cross, and how it had shaken Peter’s confidence in his own commitment. Peter felt hurt inside, mainly because Jesus had to ask him three times to get an honest answer.
The final response of Peter was the same as before; all he could reply with was,” Lord, I phileo you.” Jesus’ instructions didn’t waver; he told Peter a third time, “Feed my sheep.” Peter’s pride and ego were shattered…he knew his love and commitment to Jesus were limited.
Jesus was telling him, “Peter, if you want to love me with a love that is committed, and more than the mere expression of strong affection, then feed my sheep Peter. Get a shepherd’s heart Peter. This will cost you everything, but it will develop the kind of love you truly desire.”
Do you love Jesus? If you answer, “Yes Lord,” then his reply to you is the same as to Peter, “Feed my sheep.”
What does Jesus mean? Twice he says, “Feed my sheep,” and once he says, “Shepherd my sheep.” They amount to the same command; a shepherd is one who tends for, and feeds the sheep. He keeps them protected from harm, particularly wolves.
A shepherd of the sheep is not a hireling; he is not some man who wears the “pastor” hat, and does what he does for pay. I’m not saying that the workman is not worthy of his hire; certainly the elders’ who labor in the word and teaching are due some compensation. But there are so many ministers out there that would resign from the ministry altogether if they were not on the church salary.
· John 10:12-13 But the hired servant (he who merely serves for wages) who is neither the shepherd nor the owner of the sheep, when he sees the wolf coming, deserts the flock and runs away. And the wolf chases and snatches them and scatters [the flock]. Now the hireling flees because he merely serves for wages and is not himself concerned about the sheep [cares nothing for them]. AMP
Feeding the Lord’s sheep is not relegated to pastors alone; each one must help bear his or her brother or sister’s burden, and so fulfill the law of Christ. The main point here is if you love Jesus, you will EXPRESS that love by tending his sheep. This means meeting the needs of your brethren. Paul wrote a letter to the church in Thessalonica, commending them for this very expression of brotherly love:
· 1 Thessalonians 4:9-10 Now as to the love (filadelfías; philadelphias) of the brethren, you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love (agapán) one another; for indeed you do practice it toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia. But we urge you, brethren, to excel still more. NAS
Note there are BOTH kinds of love mentioned here in 1 Thessalonians 4:9-10, and BOTH apply in the SAME context. The phileo, or endearing and affectionate love is to find its expression in a commitment type of agape love. The agape love is that which GOD teaches us how to do. It is the demonstration of the characteristics mentioned earlier from 1 Corinthians chapter thirteen.
Notice that Paul says, “for indeed you do practice it toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia.” The agapán love is God’s love, and manifested through the character and attitude that Christ had, but it is done in an affectionate and endearing way. John’s letters to the church mention the manner in which, through good works, the agape love of God should be demonstrated.
· 1 John 3:16-19 We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has the world's goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth. We will know by this that we are of the truth, and will assure our heart before Him. NASU
Jesus told the parable of the sheep and the goats in Matthew chapter 25; this is a separation of the true believer from the one who feigns a love for God that is not active, and manifest in good works. Notice as you read the passage below, the distinct difference between “sheep” and “goats.” Jesus told Peter, “Feed my sheep,” not, “feed my goats.”
31 When the Son of Man comes in His glory (His majesty and splendor), and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory.
32 All nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them [the people] from one another as a shepherd separates his sheep from the goats; [Ezek 34:17.]
33 And He will cause the sheep to stand at His right hand, but the goats at His left.
34 Then the King will say to those at His right hand, “Come, you blessed of My Father [you favored of God and appointed to eternal salvation], inherit (receive as your own) the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”
35 “For I was hungry and you gave Me food, I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink, I was a stranger and you brought Me together with yourselves and welcomed and entertained and lodged Me,”
36 “I was naked and you clothed Me, I was sick and you visited me with help and ministering care, I was in prison and you came to see Me.” [Isaiah 58:7.]
37 Then the just and upright will answer Him, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink?”
38 “And when did we see you a stranger and welcomed and entertained you, or naked and clothed you?”
39 “And when did we see you sick or in prison and came to visit You?”
40 And the King will reply to them, “Truly I tell you, in so far as you did it for one of the least [in the estimation of men] of these My brethren, you did it for Me” [Prov 19:17.]
41 Then He will say to those at His left hand, “Be gone from Me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels!”
42 “For I was hungry and you gave Me no food, I was thirsty and you gave Me nothing to drink,”
43 “I was a stranger and you did not welcome Me and entertain Me, I was naked and you did not clothe Me, I was sick and in prison and you did not visit Me with help and ministering care.”
44 “Then they also [in their turn] will answer, Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?”
45 And He will reply to them, “Solemnly I declare to you, in so far as you failed to do it for the least [in the estimation of men] of these, you failed to do it for Me.” [Prov 14:31; 17:5.]
46 Then they will go away into eternal punishment, but those who are just and upright and in right standing with God into eternal life. [Dan 12:2.] AMP
This parable is a sober warning that “falling in love” with Jesus is not what he commands us to do. His command is to love one another, just as he loved us. Jesus didn’t “fall in love” with us; why should he? We are wretched and sinful! No, Jesus loved us because it was the will of God. He obeyed His Father in heaven.
Faith without works is useless; it will not benefit the believer, or those he or she influences. We are to show our faith by our works, and so feed Jesus’ sheep.
13 For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.
14 What use is it, my brethren, if a man says he has faith, but he has no works? Can that faith save him?
15 If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food,
16 and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and be filled," and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that?
17 Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.
18 But someone may well say, "You have faith, and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works."
19 You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.
20 But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless?
21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar?
22 You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected;
23 and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, "And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness," and he was called the friend of God.
24 You see that a man is justified by works, and not by faith alone. NAS
15 When they had eaten, Jesus said to Simon Peter, Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these [others do--with reasoning, intentional, spiritual devotion, as one loves the Father]? He said to Him, Yes, Lord, You know that I love You [that I have deep, instinctive, personal affection for You, as for a close friend]. He said to him, Feed My lambs.
16 Again He said to him the second time, Simon, son of John, do you love Me [with reasoning, intentional, spiritual devotion, as one loves the Father]? He said to Him, Yes, Lord, You know that I love You [that I have a deep, instinctive, personal affection for You, as for a close friend]. He said to him, Shepherd (tend) My sheep.
17 He said to him the third time, Simon, son of John, do you love Me [with a deep, instinctive, personal affection for Me, as for a close friend]? Peter was grieved (was saddened and hurt) that He should ask him the third time, Do you love Me? And he said to Him, Lord, You know everything; You know that I love You [that I have a deep, instinctive, personal affection for You, as for a close friend]. Jesus said to him, Feed My sheep. AMP