At first, it came across as a pretty tall order. One of those “challenging encouragements” that is thrown out with the intent of getting believers to step up to the plate and just do it. Raising the bar . . . setting the standard. But quite frankly, just as easily as inspiring someone to “go for the gold,” it can just as easily cause someone’s shoulders to bow under the weight of another exhortation beyond our ability to attain.
Peace be to the brothers, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with love incorruptible. (Ephesians 4:23-24 ESV)
I read verse 24, Paul’s final words to the Ephesians and, at first, thought, “Really. Paul’s wishing grace upon all who love Jesus with an incorruptible love? Who can claim that?” Other translations say who love Jesus “in sincerity” (NKJV) or ” with an undying love” (NIV). The NLT translates it giving a different sense, that the incorruptibility is with God’s grace and not about our love. While that’s true and while I like that better, given that it doesn’t align with the sense given by the ESV, NASB, NIV, or NKJV, I think I have to wrestle a bit with what the verse seems to be saying.
So what does it mean to “love our Lord Jesus Christ with love incorruptible?”
Literally the word has the idea of “unending existence.” That which is beyond corruption, that which is immortal in nature.
And chewing on that for a bit, maybe the love we’re talking about is less about a love we’re able to manufacture and maintain and ensure that it’s a sincere, incorruptible, non-decaying love, but more a reflection on the nature of the love which God, in His grace, has “poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5:5).
We love because He first loved us (1John 4:19). We know Him because He first knew us. We sought Him because He first sought us. We pursue Him because He first pursued us. We’ll love him eternally, into immortality, because God has seeded within our hearts His eternal, immortal love. We might falter, but we won’t fail. We might get distracted, but we won’t be disqualified. We can love with a love incorruptible because God is love and He has taken up residence in our lives through the Holy Spirit.
So, I’m thinking it’s less about an exhortation to step it up, and more a reminder of the riches of grace that is ours through Him who “having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end” (John 13:1). And in so doing, has empowered us to love Him to the end . . . the end of eternity . . . with a love incorruptible.
All because of grace . . . all for His glory.