This articles underlines the great need to keep our hearts above all keeping. Our priorities will quickly reveal where our true love and devotion reside. Each of us pursues life with love either for that which is linked with a world to come, or for that which islinked with this age.
Theophilus – Some New Testament Lovers
Luke wrote his two treatises to the “most excellent Theophilus.” This name comes from two words, “Theos” (God) and “phileo”(to love). Thus we have a lover of God, or a friend of God. David wrote, “I love the Lord because…” (Psa 116:1) and we can trace through the Psalm a history of conviction (v 2-9), conversion (v 10) and consecration (v 12-19), revealed by his question, “What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits toward me?”
Paul was a Theophilus as well as David for he says, “The love of Christ constraineth us” (2 Cor 5:14). This word “constrains,” is the Greek word “suneko” found in Luke 8:45, “the multitude throng thee”, or “hem thee in”. Again in Luke 22:63, it is used of men “keeping a firm hold on Jesus” at His arrest. Thus we see Paul pressed, straitened, hemmed in and being firmly held by the love of Christ, that is, Christ’s love to him and his in return to Christ. So a Theophilus will always be constrained as the Lord said, “If ye love Me, keep my commandments.”
But love not only constrains to obey, but love communes and love desires companionship. Could John have been more loved by the Lord than were the other disciples? Or did he enter more into the intimacy of that love, enjoying it more than they? Since it is natural to want to be with those we love, we can say that Theophilus would have dwelt in the Lord’s presence.
But love also counsels. Since his name could be translated “Friend of God”, we apply the words of the Lord in John 15:15, “I have called you friends,” and He shows them that they are being taken into eternal counsels as was Abraham, another friend of God. Of him God said, “Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do?” Theophilus also was privy to divine counsels.
And love cares. When Peter professed his love to the Lord using the word “phileo”, he was told to “give food to my lambs … tend my sheep … feed my sheep” (John 21:15).
We know that this friendship which characterized Theophilus would have necessitated his breaking off other friendships. James wrote, “The friendship of the world is enmity with God … whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God” (Jas 4:4). Lot, in contrast to Abraham, was not a Theophilus. With his tent pitched toward Sodom and desiring the well watered plains which reminded him of Egypt, he moved away from friendship with God and from the influence of Abraham. He did not realize the unhappy portion which would be his as a result of his choices. It is written of Solomon that “he loved many strange women … Solomon clave unto these in love” (1 Kings 11:2). At this point in his life, Solomon was not a Theophilus, We cannot be constrained by other loves and at the same time by His.
But there are loves other than these which make it impossible for us to be a Theophilus. For example, Paul describes perilous times in which “Men shall be lovers of self (philautos)” and “lovers of pleasure (phileedonos) rather than lovers of God (philotheos)”(1 Tim 2:3,4) Think of the selfishness of the last days! What is there in self to love? How shortsighted can he be who is a lover of pleasure, living in defiance of the warning of Ecclesiastes 11:9! Timothy was not lover of self, for in commending him, Paul wrote, “All are constantly seeking their own things, not the things of Christ Jesus” (Phil 2:20). Demas must have loved things, and this love evidently caused his defection from the ranks of the soldiers of the cross. “Demas hath left me in the lurch, having loved the present age” (2 Tim 4:10).
Diotrophes “loveth to have the preeminence among you”(philoprotuo; 3 John 10). How could he love to have that which is reserved for the Lord alone? It is the Father’s purpose “that in all things He might have the preeminence” (Col 1:18). Diotrophes loved self and power and was not a Theophilus. Whenever we see rising up within ourselves the desire to be greatest, we cannot be a Theophilus. John the Baptist in contrast to Diotrophes, was a Theophilus. His words were, “He must increase, I must decrease” (John 3:29).
There is another negative love as well in the Pastoral Epistles, for in 1 Tim 6:10 and 2 Tim 3:2 we have “philarquire”, a lover of money. The Lord had taught that no man can be a bondslave to two masters; “ye cannot serve (dotileiio) God and riches.” The eye must be single in his service.
Turning to the Christian home, there are three “phileo” words which demand our attention. Paul writes to Titus of “truth which is according to godliness.” In Ch.2 we have godliness in the home. The aged women are to “school” the young women to be lovers of husbands (philandrous) and lovers of children(phileoteknous). In Ch.1 we have godliness in the church, the overseer is to be a lover of strangers (philozenos), no only showing hospitality to strangers, but to those who are among us (1 Pet 4:9).
Looking at the local church, we see a word which is to be one of the marks of discipleship and of the body of believers, “Philadelphia” or brotherly love. As we can see, it is from “phileo”(to love) and “adelphos “ (brother). It becomes then a word showing the family relationship into which we have been brought, for we have all been bought by that same precious blood. We are to look upon each other as one “for whom Christ died”. Having the same Father, indwelt by the same Spirit, joined to the same Lord, how can we allow ourselves to harbor thoughts of bitterness against any of God’s elect?
Philadelphia is also used in Rom 12:10, 1 Thess 4:9, Heb 13:1, 1 Pet 1:22, 3:8, 2 Pet 1:7 and Rev 3:7.
There are a couple of other interesting lovers. Philippians is from“phileo” and “hippos” meaning “horse”. The Philippians were lovers of horses. Of what do horses speak in the Scriptures? God asked job, “Hast thou given the horse strength?” (39:19), and we read, “He delighteth not in the strength of the horse” (Psa 147:10). Horses speak of strength. It is significant that this is the epistle of joy and rejoicing, for “the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Neh. 8:10).
But there is another aspect of the horse in Philippians, “Forgetting the things which are behind, and stretching forward to the things which are before, I press toward the goal for the prize..” (Phil 3:13, F.W Grant). He may be picturing the thoroughbred who, with blinders blocking out everything save the finish line, is intent on winning the race. He has no interest in that which is behind but stretches every sinew and muscle, pressing toward the goal.
Is it so with us? Are we likewise striving to fulfill that for which we have been apprehended, to reach the purpose for which God saved us, to reach Christian maturity?
Paul charged Archippus, “take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord that thou fulfill it” (Col .4:17). His name means “first or chief horse”. He was in danger of not fulfilling his ministry, of not being a faithful steward. Was it the timidity that prevented Timothy from fanning the flame of his gift? Could it have been discouragement because of failure to see immediate fruit? “In due season we shall reap if we faint not” (Gal 6:9). Or was this chief horse, like Psalm 32:9, controlled by self will, not guided by his master? Its mouth had to be held in by bit and bridle, for it wanted to choose its own course.
May we study and meditate on these loves of Holy Scripture!