New Testament Love Letters

By Larry Ray Hafley

One of the constant themes of W. Carl Ketcherside is that the New Testament is not a legal treatise, but that it is a series of love letters. The truth is not to be found in an “either-or” selection. The New Testament is a message of love, for God is love. The work of God is also a legal document, for God is, by His very nature, the God of authority. The confusion as to whether or not the New Testament is legality or love exists because of a prominent and prevalent misconception of the essence of love.

Love between man and God and God and man is based on the relationship of authority. The creature and His Creator-that is our status before God. God’s love for men is not syrupy sweet sentimentalism. It is not divorced from law. Christ’s death, the necessity of it, shows that God’s love was combined with His authority. It is no wonder, therefore, that we should find the word of God, “law and love combining,” as the old, beloved hymn says.

Paul wrote very authoritatively to the Corinthians. He wrote and called upon the name of Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 5:4). His ultimate purpose was that they “might know the love which I have more abundantly unto you” (2 Cor. 2:4). His appeal to lawful action was not devoid of love. It was the very expression of it. So, to say that the New Testament documents are “love letters” is to beg the question of authority. Even in the area of discipline of children, the word of the Lord entwines law and love. Make your child obey the law, the rule of righteousness, because you love him, that is the consistent teaching regarding the instruction of children. It is the same with respect to our love for the Lord and for one another. Insist upon respect for Divine authority, “For this is the love of God that we keep his commandments” (1 Jn. 5:3).

Yes, it is agreed that the Scriptures are love letters. But those love letters are founded and grounded in the authority of God. “The faith that saves is the faith that obeys” (Gal. 5:6; 1 Cor. 7:19). And the obedient faith is motivated by love; it “worketh by love.” Let us hear none of the idle prattle and idiotic babble that tries to separate God’s word of law from his law of love.

You can mark this down. It is almost axiomatic. When you find someone who wants to talk about God’s love as though it were somehow on a peak above His authority, you have found someone who wants to work and worship in some area or another without Divine authority. All of this love talk is a ruse; it is a guise to hide the fact that some want to go beyond the word of God. The end in view will vary from person to person, but whoever tells you that he is in love with God’s love and tries to play down God’s law, that man is trying to get by with something for which he has no scriptural authority.

Truth Magazine XXI: 29, p. 459
July 28, 1977