October 24, 2017

“Philadelphia”

By W. C. Moseley

"But as touching brotherly love ye need not that I write unto you: for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another." (I Thess. 4: 9)

With the coming of Christianity, there came a new word among men, especially those who had embraced Christianity. This word was "philadelphia" in the Greek language, and meant "brotherly love." (Vine) In New Testament days, there was a 16 church in Philadelphia." (Rev. 3:7) Even in our nation today, there is a large city by the same name, although I doubt if much "brotherly love" exists there, in the New Testament usage of the word.

But "philadelphia" distinguishes a remarkable characteristic of the early church. It is indicative that the early Christians regarded themselves all of one family. Their society was not a communistic one as some have charged, just because they "had all things common." (Acts 2:44) But as members Of one household, and in the spirit of home life, they shared their possessions "as every man had need." (Acts 2:45) This ideal condition could only exist so long as the family spirit existed in the church. And so it is today. We find in many churches a great lack of brotherly love, simply because the "family spirit" does not exist. Unless brethren regard one another as members of one family, then brotherly love cannot exist.

A Debt Always Owed

Regardless of who a fellow-Christian may be, we owe him a debt of brotherly love. We may owe our brethren many things in life, and may pay them. But the debt which is never paid in full is love. Paul said, "Owe no man anything, but to love one another; for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law." (Rom. 13:8) We learn from this that the debt of brotherly love is always owed; it is never paid in full. You may owe a brother some money. If so, pay it. You may have borrowed from him. If so, return what you borrowed. You may owe him some labor. If so, perform it. All these areas include debts that can be paid in full, but the debt of brotherly love is always owed.

The Source

Since we are considering "philadelphia," and therefore love within a family, we ought to consider the source of such love. It springs from a common fatherhood. God is the father of all Christians, and all Christians are brethren. God is "Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named" (Eph. 3:14-15). Therefore, we bear a brotherly relationship to Jesus Christ. Each Christian can claim God's Son as his brother. What was the attitude of Jesus toward his brethren? It was the greatest example of "philadelphia" the world has ever seen. He said, "A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another." (John 13:34) To what extent did Jesus love his brethren? "Greater love hath no man than this that a man lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13) Thus, the source of such love is heavenly in nature.

The Effect

True "philadelphia" has a great effect, upon the unbeliever also. He looks at, Christians, members of one family, and their' attitude toward one another in brotherly love, and cannot help but be impressed and influenced by it. Herein is another important reason for us to make sure brotherly love is practiced properly. When a non-believer sees Christians striving and contending with one another; when he sees malice toward one brother on the part of another; when he sees unconcern one for another, he can hardly be blamed for not being a Christian, if this the only conception of Christianity that he has. On the other hand, if a non-Christian sees brethren with common love, mutual help and forbearance, he must be influenced for good. Probably the worst kind of war in the world is a civil war. When brethren are engaged in a "civil war" in the church, men cannot see our good works and glorify God, for when they are continually quarrelling one with another, they have no time for good works.

May we all learn "philadelphia" to a greater extent. We cannot go to heaven without it. We cannot make the claim to love God if we hate our brother. (I John 4:20) A short, simple verse from the pen of the Hebrew writer says it all. "Let brotherly love continue." (Heb. 13: 1) May we all be willing to let it be so.

TRUTH MAGAZINE, XV: 26, pp. 12-13
May 6, 1971

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