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Galatians 5:14 & Leviticus 18:19 by Robert Dean
Series:Galatians (1998)
Duration:1 hr 8 mins 45 secs

Characteristics of Love

Galatians 5:14; Leviticus 19:18


Galatians 5:14 NASB "For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the {statement,} 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF'."


Leviticus 19:18 NASB "You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the LORD." Notice that the positive mandate to love your neighbour as yourself refers to anyone who comes into our periphery. The contrast here has to do with mental attitude sins and it really starts in v. 17 "You shall not hate your fellow countryman in your heart; you may surely reprove your neighbor, but shall not incur sin because of him." So it is an absence of vindictiveness, malice, hate, and of emotional sins that are so destructive. So one of the first things we observe here is that the mandate in Leviticus is defined negatively as the absence of mental attitude sins dominating the thinking of the soul. It is treating the person with courtesy and kindness.


Leviticus 19:9 NASB "Now when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very corners of your field, nor shall you gather the gleanings of your harvest." In other words, don't pinch your pennies. Be gracious towards those who are poor and do not have anything. Remember that this was in an agricultural economy. Most people worked out on the farms and it is talking about their basic personal economy, how they handled their personal finances. [10] "Nor shall you glean your vineyard, nor shall you gather the fallen fruit of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the needy and for the stranger. I am the LORD your God." So this is God's divine plan for a welfare system. There are always going to be the poor. This is a personal system of taking care of those who are without, it is not a government system and not a bureaucracy set up in order to take care of them. There is a bureaucratic framework for this in the second tithe which was national and taken up in order to take care of the widows and the orphans. But here it was a personal issue where a certain amount of the field was left to take care of the poor. So that is one illustration of impersonal love. The second is in v. 11 NASB "You shall not steal, nor deal falsely, nor lie to one another." This was for the protection of private ownership of property. [12] "You shall not swear falsely by My name, so as to profane the name of your God; I am the LORD." This refers to treating God's name lightly and swearing by His name and then telling a lie. [13] "You shall not oppress your neighbor, nor rob {him.} The wages of a hired man are not to remain with you all night until morning." In other words, don't go out and try to take advantage of other people and see how you can screw them out of all their money. A man was to be paid at the end of the day; money was not to be kept to earn a little more interest. Generosity with other people is an aspect of grace orientation. Furthermore there was to be a certain amount of respect for all men, even those who have physical deformities. [14] "You shall not curse a deaf man, nor place a stumbling block before the blind, but you shall revere your God; I am the LORD." Notice the connection between respecting God and respecting man generally. Why? Because man is made in the image of God. Even though that image has been somewhat marred we are to treat all men with a certain level of respect whether believer or unbeliever, whether they are good or bad because they are created in the image of God. [15] "You shall do no injustice in judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor nor defer to the great, but you are to judge your neighbor fairly."


In summary what we see here is that love is defined as an absence of mental attitude sins and an absence of what we might call discourtesies, and an absence of taking from other people what is rightfully theirs; and respecting privacy, property and truth. Love at this point in Leviticus is pretty simple in the way it is defined. In other words, in the Old Testament when they did not have the filling of God the Holy Spirit this was the best they could do. Because they didn't have the dynamics of the filling of the Holy Spirit and a completed canon of Scripture they were limited as far as they could go. But notice how it changes when we get to the New Testament.    

There is a level here that is missed in the Old Testament, it doesn't seem to come to the level of expectation that we see in Luke 6 and later on in the epistles. In Luke 6 we have Luke's account of the sermon on the mount. This primarily focuses on how things will be in the Millennial kingdom. The reason for this is because when Jesus came—"in the fullness of time," Galatians 4:4. Paul uses that same phrase as a title for the Millennial kingdom, so we know that it is a dispensationally pregnant time—at the beginning of this dispensation there was a shift because now in terms of requirement there was the personal presence of the Messiah who was announcing a kingdom. He is preceded by John the Baptist and John's message was to repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. So there was new revelation that the kingdom was at hand. But what happened? Halfway through Jesus' ministry it becomes clear that both the leadership in Jerusalem and the people reject His offer of the messianic kingdom. At that point Jesus shifts gears and He begins to teach directly to the disciples to prepare them for the church age. Now that He has been rejected His kingdom is going to be postponed. So there is a dispensational shift that involves approximately 33 years between the birth of Christ and the crucifixion of Christ. This is a "hinge" dispensation, a unique dispensation, because it fulfils everything from Israel on; it fulfils the law but it also sets the precedent for what comes in the future. Jesus Christ in His spiritual life was the first one to live a spiritual life based on the indwelling and filling of God the Holy Spirit. That is going to set the pr4ecedent for the spiritual life of the church age.


In Matthew 5-7 and in Luke 6 this is at the very beginning of Jesus' ministry. Jesus is announcing what the standard procedures and policies will be in the Millennial kingdom. Even though that is a direct interpretation it has an application for this age because it helps us to understand in the church age what it means to love others. Luke 6:27 NASB "But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you." Now what has just happened? What has happened is He has just upped the ante. Instead of love being defined in terms of an absence of mental attitude sins and courtesy and politeness to other people, there is now an element of action here. Instead of just being generally in a passive sense of avoiding mental attitude sins we are now going to be involved in taking some initiative and doing something positive for the object. [28] "bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you." In other words, there is an action of positive initiation towards the person who is intent on doing you harm, the person who is antagonistic to you, and the person who rejects you. We can't do that on our own, it cannot be emulated by the flesh; it can only be a product of the Holy Spirit. We will see that this is one of the first fruits mentioned in Galatians 5:22. This will only happen as we take in the Word of God and advance spiritually. Only then will we be able to put this into practice.


Then we get another example. Luke 6:29 NASB "Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also; and whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either." This does not mean that you do not defend yourself if somebody comes up and hits you. He is not talking literally here, He is talking about the fact that if someone is hostile to us then we are going to be somewhat vulnerable. Illustration: God the Father sends His Son, Jesus Christ, to earth, who takes on true humanity. He comes to a planet which is in open rebellion against Him and hostile to Him in every way possible. He comes to His own people. What did John say in John chapter one? John 1:10, 11 NASB "He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own [Israel], and those who were His own did not receive Him." He was rejected and reviled. This is the whole point of John 3:16 NASB "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son…" God the Son makes Himself vulnerable at that point: He is going to be completely taken advantage of and mistreated to the point of physical death on a cross. That is the ultimate model of what impersonal love is all about. In Leviticus generosity is exhibited by just leaving extra in the field so that the poor can come by and take the gleanings for themselves. Here, if he wants your coat give him your shirt too. In other words, give him more than he needs. Be generous, even with a person who is antagonistic to you. When we realise that our personal desires are no longer the issue because that it going to be taken care of by the Lord that frees us to where we can be vulnerable to people and we can truly love people and do what is best for them in spite of what negative consequences that may bring to us. We know that the issue is the Lord who is protecting us. That is why it is a problem-solving device.


Luke 6:30 NASB "Give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back." This is just hard to do. But the dynamic in the Millennial kingdom is still the dynamic of the church age, and that is the filling of the Holy Spirit. In the Millennial age, according to Joel 2 and passages in Isaiah and Ezekiel that describe the Millenial kingdom, the Holy Spirit is going to be indwelling every believer in the Millennial kingdom. That is why we can say there are dispensational distinctions there is also dispensational continuity between concepts. [32] "If you love those who love you, what credit is {that} to you? For even sinners love those who love them." Peter says the same thing. In other words, the unbeliever operating on the flesh can have a tremendous amount of love for people who are kind to them. What value is that? What has that to do with the spiritual life? Anything that the unbeliever can do is not part of the spiritual life. That is a crucial principle to understand. Jesus' point is that the whole point of the spiritual life is that it is unique, it is uniquely the fruit of the Holy Spirit, and it moves beyond anything you can do in your own natural power, in the flesh.

Contrast: Luke 6:35 NASB "But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil {men.}" That phrase, "ungrateful and evil {men}" summarises every single person the moment they enter into physical life, because we are sinners and are at enmity with God. God demonstrated His love towards us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. The phrase "sons of the Most High" is a technical term for the spiritually mature believer in eternity. Not too many people will be called "sons of the Most High."

Luke 6:36 NASB "Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful." This is the standard: God's impersonal love for all mankind; His mercy which is grace in action. John 3:16; Romans 5:8.

John 13 further ups the ante.  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." What is the standard? "Even as I have loved you." So when we are to love one another (specifically other believers) who is the role model? The Lord Jesus Christ. We are to love other believers in the same way that God loves other believers. Jesus said in John 15:13 NASB "Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends."

That brings us to understanding God's impersonal love for mankind. Personal love is when there is affinity between the subject and the object. But in the case of God, He is perfect righteousness and we lack perfect righteousness. We are sinners and what the righteousness of God condemns the justice of God rejects, so that God could not have personal love for fallen creatures. There is no affinity between our negative righteousness and His perfect righteousness. So God has to love us with impersonal love or unconditional love that is based exclusively on His character. His character is absolute righteousness and perfect virtue. His love for us is based not on anything we do or who we are, it is based on His character and on the work of Jesus Christ.

What are the characteristics of that impersonal love? It is expressed most clearly at salvation. Remember that man is hostile to God, he is at enmity to God, he rejects God, and he is continually taking advantage of every provision that God gives him.

1.  From eternity past God made a plan to solve the problem, so we see that His love is initiating. God's love took charge of the situation to provide the perfect solution necessary to restore the relationship that was broken by Adam's original sin.

2.  God's impersonal love is aggressive. It asserts itself with confidence and boldness.

3.  There is humility. Jesus did not seek His own personal glory but He took on the attitude of a servant in order to do whatever was necessary. This included the incarnation, limiting His attributes in time—voluntarily restricting the independent use of His attributes while He was incarnate, sacrifice, and the undeserved imputation of human sin, and He received in His body on the cross the imputation of every single sin in human history.