As always, here’s my fairly literal translation of these verses:
12And may the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love toward one another and toward everyone, just as we to you, 13into the establishment of your hearts [to be] blameless in holiness before the God and our Father in [the] coming of our Lord Jesus with all His holy ones.
These two verses are jewels, diamonds to turn every which way and see them sparkle. Pretty much every one who comments on verses 11-13 refers to them as prayers, but actually they’re more like wishes. Paul is saying, this is what I wish for you – which of course easily becomes his prayers, but still, they are wishes. In Greek the verbs are in what is called the optative mood, which was their way of expressing wishes and “hope-so’s.”
These apostolic “wishes” are highly significant for us to note because they actually express to us the heart of God Himself. Loving Him makes us ask the question, “What does He want for me? What can I do to please Him, to love Him in return for all He’s done for me?” How can we sum up the life God wishes us to live? The answer is to be found right here in these two simple verses. In my last post I looked at verse 12 which says, “And may the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love toward one another and toward everyone, just as we to you,…”
There you have it from the very mouth of God. What, in a nutshell, does He desire? What does He “wish” for you? “To increase and abound in love.” He is love and His presence in our hearts is one of His means of channeling His love into our world. He pours it into our undeserving hearts and we, overwhelmed by grace, overflow that love into the lives of “one another and toward everyone.” If you or I were to pause and ask, “What do I want most for my children and their spouses? What do I most desire for them in their marriages?” Would it not be this very thing – that they should “increase and abound in love” first of all “for each other” and then “for everyone?” This is not only love – it is parent love, it is Father love!
Verse 13 continues these thoughts, and, if I may say so, this verse highlights exactly why I want to study the Bible, why I am very glad to be able to scratch in the original languages. What do I mean? Verse 13 is actually a statement of purpose. In the Greek, the verse begins with an “eis” clause, a prepositional phrase which specifically expresses purpose or intent. The word “eis” literally means “into” (as I translated it above) but the idea is “in order that,” “for the purpose of,” “to the end that.” So, in verse 12, the Lord desires that we increase and abound in love, then verse 13 says, “In order that …”
For whatever it’s worth, note that some translations, like the NIV, do not reflect this purpose clause. They express verse 13 as just another “wish” and thus lose the logical flow from the love of verse 12 to the purpose clause of verse 13. As I said, this is exactly why I am very thankful I can scratch in the Greek. I want to know exactly what the Lord says – and what He does not – and be able seriously to build my life on what I am confident are the very words of God. Verse 13 is not just another wish, it is telling us what the Lord wishes for our love to accomplish.
For the sake of people who want to think deeply, this is profoundly important. The Lord doesn’t just say, “Love everyone,” and leave it at that. Even the loving is for a purpose. He’s going “somewhere” with it. It’s not like He wants us to sit up in a tree and just “love everyone.” And for those of us who love Him, we long to know more of His heart – and so when He says, “In order that …,” we’re all ears.
And what is it? What is the purpose of our increasing and abounding in love? It is “in order that your hearts may be established blameless in holiness before God and our Father …”
Note several things. It is “in order that your heart …” It is your heart that the Lord is after! “My son, give me thine heart …” (Prov 23:26). “Above all else, guard your heart, for out of it are the issues of life” (Prov4:23). The Pharisees thought they were deeply religious, but Jesus said of them, “Everything they do is done for men to see” (Matt 23:5). It was all externals. It is a very sad fact that the entire human race thinks “religion” is about externals, about rituals and rules, and saying all the right things, doing all the right things – and some of that may have its time and place – but Jesus died to save us to something far greater than a new set of rules. He is after our hearts – the inner us, the real us, the man or woman who lives behind those eyes, who sees and hears and thinks and decides.
And what is it He desires for our hearts? First of all notice, it is that they may be “established.” The word means to “set fast,” to “render solid,” to “make immovable.” Even within the English word “establish,” you can see the word “stable.” He wants to give us hearts that are stable. He wants the inner us, the person we really are, to be a stable, mature person. Even the psalmist asked, “Give me an undivided heart …” (Ps 86:11). Note in our passage, it is an “increasing and abounding love” which will result in an “established” heart. This is again where the Greek here is so important. This matter of established hearts isn’t just another “wish” for us. It is a result we will enjoy as we let the Lord give us a greater love.
This is an amazing blessing I’ve certainly enjoyed from the Lord and I see in my own life exactly what Paul is talking about. The Lord saved me nearly 40 years ago and His presence in my life immediately meant I made better decisions, and was just generally a LOT more stable person. But I’ve still felt almost my entire life a sense of confusion, of not knowing exactly where to land. It was way worse before I was saved, but even after, I feel like I’ve spent my life groping around trying to figure things out, with the result that I far too often said really stupid things, did really stupid things, made very bad decisions.
Just in the last ten years, He finally helped me to understand what Jesus meant when He said the two great commands are to love God and love others – and that, in those two things, I’ll find everything that matters. When He enabled me to shed my legalism and really embrace His love, suddenly now the world makes almost perfect sense to me. It makes sense to me that my life is His love – that every minute of every day, in every conversation, in every interaction, in every decision, in every activity I undertake, the bottom line is His love – for me myself and expressed through me into the lives of the people He places around me. And what I feel and what I see happening, is that that realization, that understanding, suddenly gives me a sense of peace, of confidence, of stability, to begin making good decisions, of saying and doing the right things. His love has in fact, for me, given me a more stable heart. Words utterly fail to express my gratitude for this one simple blessing, but I feel it is monumental in my own heart and life. I hate being confused. I love to have a compass that always points north!
But then finally, notice it is established “blameless in holiness before God …” Once again, it isn’t just “love” however we want to define it. It isn’t just “established” or “stable” in any way that we would imagine or desire. It is all about our God. “In Him we live and move and have our being.” It is all about the “holiness” that He desires for us. Only He knows what is truly best for us, how we “fit” together, what we were created to be. And we must find, in His presence, and in His heart, what is truly good and best. In a sense, that is the point of the entire Bible – to help us live wisely, or, even more precisely, to love wisely.
And it is interesting to me how Paul includes, “in the Coming of our Lord Jesus with all His holy ones.” This unblamable holiness in which our hearts have been established by an ever increasing love – it is supremely important it be true when Jesus comes. I sort of think I understand why this is true, but I don’t know why it was important to add this. In other words, it seems like it simply is important – always. So then, of course it is important when Jesus returns. So why add that? I suspect there is something here I don’t understand, but I’m going to have to let it go and, as I continue to study, simply trust the Lord to teach me whatever it is.
For now, it is enough to see here in this short little passage, the grand design of our wonderful salvation – to give us this ever increasing love for each other and toward everyone which then results in stabilized hearts that feel a confidence to live and love wisely.
I knew when He saved me, He’d do me good. I just never dreamed just how far or how deeply He’d go.
Hallelujah, what a Savior!