In the final verse of Ephesians, Paul brings up something he has not mentioned at all previously in the book: the believer’s love for Jesus Christ. Five times he has mentioned Jesus’ love for us, and eight times he describes our love for each other, but he saved this final category for the very end. It is as if everything Paul had written in this incredible letter (and everything God’s grace accomplishes in us) is supposed to lead us to loving Christ. Inevitably and gloriously this is the all-important goal of Christian life. And not just any kind of love: it is an incorruptible love for Christ which marks out a true Christian.
Thomas Vincent began The True Christian’s Love to the Unseen Christ with this:
“The life of Christianity consists very much in our love to Christ. Without love to Christ, we are as much without spiritual life as a carcass when the soul is fled from it is without natural life…Without love to Christ, we may have the name of Christians, but we are wholly without the nature.”
Where there is no love for Christ, there is no true Christianity.
That’s why this Ephesian church, some 30 years later in the book of Revelation, was threatened by Christ to be destroyed. Although they had all of their doctrine right and were fastidious about kicking out false teachers, they had neglected true love for Christ. The same warning applies to each church that has lost its love for the Savior.
Nevertheless, the goal of the gospel is true love for Christ, incorruptible love for Christ in our hearts. This should be the heart’s desire of every church that seeks to honor and follow the Lord.
The idea of an incorruptible love is simply this: a love that cannot be extinguished. The word incorruptible is sometimes translated immortality in other passages. The idea is that if we love Christ truly, we love Him eternally. If we have received the grace of God, we have such a love for Christ that not even death itself will stop our love for Christ, but we will love Him throughout all eternity with a fierce, loyal, unending affection and admiration.
Paul’s prayer is that those who are true Christians, who have received the grace of God in the gospel and manifestly so because they truly love Christ, would be empowered and equipped by His grace to live out that love in a loveless world. The one thing Jesus desires from His disciples is love for Him.
There is perhaps no more moving picture of our Savior’s grace than when He encounters Peter after the resurrection on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. After Peter denied the Lord three times, he believed he was a failure and disqualified from future service to his Master. But Jesus wasn’t done with this broken man who had so catastrophically sinned against Him.
We read from John 21:15-17 that Jesus asks Peter, using a verbal form of the Greek word agape, which is the highest kind of love, “Do you love me?” Peter was very hesitant the first two times to say that he loves Jesus in this way because he knows how he failed. But Jesus meets Peter where he is the third time and uses the same word Peter is using for love (the verbal form of philia); Peter’s heart was broken, and he tells Jesus the third time that he loves Him.
Immediately, Jesus re-instates Peter with all of his flaws and despite all of his failures. Why? Because Jesus is after our hearts. He knows Peter isn’t perfect. He understands Peter is sinful and flawed. But the one thing Jesus desires from Peter, and from us, is that we love Him sincerely, incorruptibly, with a love that cannot be extinguished.
If we truly love Christ, that love will command and control everything in our lives. And so, the only way to enjoy God’s blessing of grace is to love Christ with an incorruptible love. I pray that we love Jesus Christ with a love that is so fierce that nothing, not even death itself, can put it out. I pray that we love Christ in truth. I pray that we love Christ so greatly that our souls feel that Christ deserves more love than we have toward him, so we continually cry out to Him to help us love Him more.
I pray that we love the Lord Jesus Christ with an incorruptible love.