This is the 13th part of a series of posts adapted from a paper I pre­sented at a New Covenant The­ol­ogy think tank in upstate New York in July 2010.

Water pouring from pitcher into a glassLove is a repeated theme for Paul.

While we have seen pre­vi­ously in this series that love ful­fills the law and that God’s love is poured into us by the Holy Spirit, let’s look at how Paul describes that love. In , Paul writes:

[1] If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clang­ing cym­bal. [2] And if I have prophetic pow­ers, and under­stand all mys­ter­ies and all knowl­edge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove moun­tains, but have not love, I am noth­ing. [3] If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

First, let’s note that in accor­dance with love being some­thing poured into us by the Holy Spirit, that love is not some­thing that would be described by Paul as “prac­ti­cal benev­o­lence. In fact, he cau­tions, “If I give away all I have … but have not love, I gain noth­ing.” Love is not the result of our actions; rather it is a God-given, Spirit-provided qual­ity that impels actions in the believer.

It is that same Spirit-provided love that forms the out­work­ing of the New Covenant ethic.


Paul writes to the Thes­sa­lo­ni­ans, “[9] Now con­cern­ing broth­erly love you have no need for any­one to write to you, for you your­selves have been taught by God to love one another. …” ()

Paul thanks God for the Colos­sians’ “faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, [5] because of the hope laid up for you in heaven” (), echo­ing the faith … hope … love pat­tern of , , , , and and 5.

In his beau­ti­ful dis­course on the min­istry of rec­on­cil­i­a­tion in , Paul tells us in that “the love of Christ con­trols us.”

And in his prayer for spir­i­tual strength in , it can­not be more plain that that a liv­ing faith draws its basis from love:

[14] For this rea­son I bow my knees before the Father, [15] from whom every fam­ily in heaven and on earth is named, [16] that accord­ing to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strength­ened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, [17] so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, [18] may have strength to com­pre­hend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, [19] and to know the love of Christ that sur­passes knowl­edge, that you may be filled with all the full­ness of God. [20] Now to him who is able to do far more abun­dantly than all that we ask or think, accord­ing to the power at work within us, [21] to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus through­out all gen­er­a­tions, for­ever and ever. Amen. ()

Love is not the result of our obe­di­ence to the law.

Love is not pro­duced by works of the law.

Our love of Christ – whether that phrase means to have the love He has, or to have love for Him, or both – is what ful­fills the law escha­to­log­i­cally, and there­fore that love is essen­tial to the not yet that we seek in the now as we strive to be holy in our lives.

Indeed it is that dual love of God and love of neigh­bor that comes from a cir­cum­cised heart that finds the roots of the New Covenant in the scrolls of the Decalogue.



13:1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clang­ing cym­bal. And if I have prophetic pow­ers, and under­stand all mys­ter­ies and all knowl­edge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove moun­tains, but have not love, I am noth­ing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arro­gant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irri­ta­ble or resent­ful; it does not rejoice at wrong­do­ing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends. As for prophe­cies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowl­edge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we proph­esy in part, 10 but when the per­fect comes, the par­tial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I rea­soned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up child­ish ways. 12 For now we see in a mir­ror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the great­est of these is love. (ESV)


Now con­cern­ing broth­erly love you have no need for any­one to write to you, for you your­selves have been taught by God to love one another, (ESV)


since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, (ESV)


13:1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clang­ing cym­bal. And if I have prophetic pow­ers, and under­stand all mys­ter­ies and all knowl­edge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove moun­tains, but have not love, I am noth­ing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arro­gant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irri­ta­ble or resent­ful; it does not rejoice at wrong­do­ing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends. As for prophe­cies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowl­edge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we proph­esy in part, 10 but when the per­fect comes, the par­tial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I rea­soned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up child­ish ways. 12 For now we see in a mir­ror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the great­est of these is love. (ESV)


5:1 There­fore, since we have been jus­ti­fied by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our suf­fer­ings, know­ing that suf­fer­ing pro­duces endurance, and endurance pro­duces char­ac­ter, and char­ac­ter pro­duces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a right­eous person—though per­haps for a good per­son one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sin­ners, Christ died for us. Since, there­fore, we have now been jus­ti­fied by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were ene­mies we were rec­on­ciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are rec­on­ciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

12 There­fore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned— 13 for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. 14 Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sin­ning was not like the trans­gres­sion of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.

15 But the free gift is not like the tres­pass. For if many died through one man’s tres­pass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. 16 And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judg­ment fol­low­ing one tres­pass brought con­dem­na­tion, but the free gift fol­low­ing many tres­passes brought jus­ti­fi­ca­tion. 17 For if, because of one man’s tres­pass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abun­dance of grace and the free gift of right­eous­ness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.

18 There­fore, as one tres­pass led to con­dem­na­tion for all men, so one act of right­eous­ness leads to jus­ti­fi­ca­tion and life for all men. 19 For as by the one man’s dis­obe­di­ence the many were made sin­ners, so by the one man’s obe­di­ence the many will be made right­eous. 20 Now the law came in to increase the tres­pass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through right­eous­ness lead­ing to eter­nal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (ESV)


5:1 For free­dom Christ has set us free; stand firm there­fore, and do not sub­mit again to a yoke of slavery.

Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept cir­cum­ci­sion, Christ will be of no advan­tage to you. I tes­tify again to every man who accepts cir­cum­ci­sion that he is oblig­ated to keep the whole law. You are sev­ered from Christ, you who would be jus­ti­fied by the law; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we our­selves eagerly wait for the hope of right­eous­ness. For in Christ Jesus nei­ther cir­cum­ci­sion nor uncir­cum­ci­sion counts for any­thing, but only faith work­ing through love.

You were run­ning well. Who hin­dered you from obey­ing the truth? This per­sua­sion is not from him who calls you. A lit­tle leaven leav­ens the whole lump. 10 I have con­fi­dence in the Lord that you will take no other view than mine, and the one who is trou­bling you will bear the penalty, who­ever he is. 11 But if I, broth­ers, still preach cir­cum­ci­sion, why am I still being per­se­cuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed. 12 I wish those who unset­tle you would emas­cu­late themselves!

13 For you were called to free­dom, broth­ers. Only do not use your free­dom as an oppor­tu­nity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole law is ful­filled in one word: “You shall love your neigh­bor as your­self.” 15 But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not con­sumed by one another.

16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not grat­ify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are evi­dent: sex­ual immoral­ity, impu­rity, sen­su­al­ity, 20 idol­a­try, sor­cery, enmity, strife, jeal­ousy, fits of anger, rival­ries, dis­sen­sions, divi­sions, 21 envy, drunk­en­ness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the king­dom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kind­ness, good­ness, faith­ful­ness, 23 gen­tle­ness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have cru­ci­fied the flesh with its pas­sions and desires.

25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. 26 Let us not become con­ceited, pro­vok­ing one another, envy­ing one another. (ESV)


4:1 I there­fore, a pris­oner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a man­ner wor­thy of the call­ing to which you have been called, with all humil­ity and gen­tle­ness, with patience, bear­ing with one another in love, eager to main­tain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one bap­tism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But grace was given to each one of us accord­ing to the mea­sure of Christ’s gift. There­fore it says,

“When he ascended on high he led a host of cap­tives,
and he gave gifts to men.”

(In say­ing, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? 10 He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heav­ens, that he might fill all things.) 11 And he gave the apos­tles, the prophets, the evan­ge­lists, the shep­herds and teach­ers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of min­istry, for build­ing up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowl­edge of the Son of God, to mature man­hood, to the mea­sure of the stature of the full­ness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be chil­dren, tossed to and fro by the waves and car­ried about by every wind of doc­trine, by human cun­ning, by crafti­ness in deceit­ful schemes. 15 Rather, speak­ing the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is work­ing prop­erly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

17 Now this I say and tes­tify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gen­tiles do, in the futil­ity of their minds. 18 They are dark­ened in their under­stand­ing, alien­ated from the life of God because of the igno­rance that is in them, due to their hard­ness of heart. 19 They have become cal­lous and have given them­selves up to sen­su­al­ity, greedy to prac­tice every kind of impu­rity. 20 But that is not the way you learned Christ!— 21 assum­ing that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22 to put off your old self, which belongs to your for­mer man­ner of life and is cor­rupt through deceit­ful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, cre­ated after the like­ness of God in true right­eous­ness and holiness.

25 There­fore, hav­ing put away false­hood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neigh­bor, for we are mem­bers one of another. 26 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and give no oppor­tu­nity to the devil. 28 Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing hon­est work with his own hands, so that he may have some­thing to share with any­one in need. 29 Let no cor­rupt­ing talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for build­ing up, as fits the occa­sion, that it may give grace to those who hear. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemp­tion. 31 Let all bit­ter­ness and wrath and anger and clamor and slan­der be put away from you, along with all mal­ice. 32 Be kind to one another, ten­der­hearted, for­giv­ing one another, as God in Christ for­gave you. (ESV)


1:1 Paul, Sil­vanus, and Timothy,

To the church of the Thes­sa­lo­ni­ans in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:

Grace to you and peace.

We give thanks to God always for all of you, con­stantly men­tion­ing you in our prayers, remem­ber­ing before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and stead­fast­ness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. For we know, broth­ers loved by God, that he has cho­sen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full con­vic­tion. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. And you became imi­ta­tors of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much afflic­tion, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an exam­ple to all the believ­ers in Mace­do­nia and in Achaia. For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Mace­do­nia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth every­where, so that we need not say any­thing. For they them­selves report con­cern­ing us the kind of recep­tion we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the liv­ing and true God, 10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who deliv­ers us from the wrath to come. (ESV)


5:1 For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a build­ing from God, a house not made with hands, eter­nal in the heav­ens. For in this tent we groan, long­ing to put on our heav­enly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be fur­ther clothed, so that what is mor­tal may be swal­lowed up by life. He who has pre­pared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.

So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. 10 For we must all appear before the judg­ment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.

11 There­fore, know­ing the fear of the Lord, we per­suade oth­ers. But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your con­science. 12 We are not com­mend­ing our­selves to you again but giv­ing you cause to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast about out­ward appear­ance and not about what is in the heart. 13 For if we are beside our­selves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. 14 For the love of Christ con­trols us, because we have con­cluded this: that one has died for all, there­fore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for them­selves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.

16 From now on, there­fore, we regard no one accord­ing to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ accord­ing to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 17 There­fore, if any­one is in Christ, he is a new cre­ation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ rec­on­ciled us to him­self and gave us the min­istry of rec­on­cil­i­a­tion; 19 that is, in Christ God was rec­on­cil­ing the world to him­self, not count­ing their tres­passes against them, and entrust­ing to us the mes­sage of rec­on­cil­i­a­tion. 20 There­fore, we are ambas­sadors for Christ, God mak­ing his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be rec­on­ciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the right­eous­ness of God. (ESV)


11 There­fore, know­ing the fear of the Lord, we per­suade oth­ers. But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your con­science. (ESV)


3:1 For this rea­son I, Paul, a pris­oner for Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gen­tiles— assum­ing that you have heard of the stew­ard­ship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, how the mys­tery was made known to me by rev­e­la­tion, as I have writ­ten briefly. When you read this, you can per­ceive my insight into the mys­tery of Christ, which was not made known to the sons of men in other gen­er­a­tions as it has now been revealed to his holy apos­tles and prophets by the Spirit. This mys­tery is that the Gen­tiles are fel­low heirs, mem­bers of the same body, and par­tak­ers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

Of this gospel I was made a min­is­ter accord­ing to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the work­ing of his power. To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gen­tiles the unsearch­able riches of Christ, and to bring to light for every­one what is the plan of the mys­tery hid­den for ages in God who cre­ated all things, 10 so that through the church the man­i­fold wis­dom of God might now be made known to the rulers and author­i­ties in the heav­enly places. 11 This was accord­ing to the eter­nal pur­pose that he has real­ized in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have bold­ness and access with con­fi­dence through our faith in him. 13 So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suf­fer­ing for you, which is your glory.

14 For this rea­son I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every fam­ily in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that accord­ing to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strength­ened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to com­pre­hend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that sur­passes knowl­edge, that you may be filled with all the full­ness of God.

20 Now to him who is able to do far more abun­dantly than all that we ask or think, accord­ing to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus through­out all gen­er­a­tions, for­ever and ever. Amen. (ESV)


14 For this rea­son I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every fam­ily in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that accord­ing to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strength­ened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to com­pre­hend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that sur­passes knowl­edge, that you may be filled with all the full­ness of God.

20 Now to him who is able to do far more abun­dantly than all that we ask or think, accord­ing to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus through­out all gen­er­a­tions, for­ever and ever. Amen. (ESV)