1911 336 Scripture says, “Let brotherly love continue“; and indeed it is so sweet, that the wonder is that we should ever let it drop. But we are such an unwise people, and the hardening influence of the world so much affects us, that even where there has been happy fellowship, coldness often creeps in. Sometimes brotherly affection will wither, just for want of a little expression, and our watchful enemy is only too glad to see it die down. Then, Christian, if you have love in your heart to your brother, do not hide it as a secret that must not be known. Refrain not from those small expressions of love, which will not only refresh thy brother’s heart, but keep love from dying in thine own. One can imagine how Satan may chuckle when he manages to estrange Christians from one another. Where you see this estrangement, you see the work of Satan; but where Christians are loving one another, you see the work of God’s Spirit, for “love is of God” (1 John 4:7). Do you see a Christian walking in the power of love? Then you see one who is under divine teaching, for Paul says of the Thessalonians that they were “taught of God to love one another” (1 Thess. 4:9). God is glorified and Satan defeated when love triumphs amongst Christians.
Scripture distinguishes between “love” and “brotherly love.” They are expressed by distinct words in the original. Love is “agape,” and brotherly love is one word, “philadelphia.” “Philadelphia” is rather friendly love; and the Authorised Version has tried to convey this by the expression, “brotherly kindness” (2 Peter 1:7). But it is more than that. It includes kindness, but it is love; only, love in the form which it takes in the intercourse of brethren. Perhaps the best rendering is Mr. Kelly’s, which is “brotherly affection.”
Peter tells us to add to godliness, brotherly affection, and to brotherly affection, love (2 Peter 1:7). That is to say, dry godliness — if one may speak so — won’t do; we must have with godliness, the warmth of Christian friendship, brotherly affection. How stiffly, hardly, with what grinding and creaking, the machine sometimes moves; per haps won’t move at all, when a few drops of oil make it all right and smooth: so is love amongst brethren. Love surmounts the difficulties of the day, conquers coldness and apathy, and goes forth winning the hearts of the saints in order to serve them. Surely it is not without significance, in a book so full of symbols as the Revelation, that “Philadelphia” is the name of perhaps the most admirable of the seven churches. But then brotherly affection will not suffice alone, or it may degenerate into mere human sentiment, so there must be godliness; and with godliness, brotherly affection: then again, with brotherly affection, love: that is, love in its highest, broadest, noblest sense; love to God, love in the truth, love to the brethren shown in walking according to His commandments (2 John 1-6), love to poor fallen man. How perfect is Scripture!
Now love to the brethren is an evidence of divine life. First to ourselves, “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren” (1 John 3:14); secondly to the world, “by this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another (John 13:35). Thus, then, love amongst Christians is a positive testimony for God in the world. Do you desire to bear testimony for Christ, to preach the gospel? Good! it is a good aspiration. But all are not gifted for this. Yet there is a testimony which everyone can display — even the humblest: he is greatest who shows it most, and the most splendid gift is naught without it. It is love! Love “in truth,” manifested amongst believers, preaches Christ to the world. E.J.T.