Stairway to Godly Love

The apostle Peter shared a list of qualities we need to develop to become more like our loving God. These growth goals include the love God has.

There are many scriptures that tell us what God has laid out for true Christians in the future. One of them tells us that we will be like Him, as children of God.

“Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3:2).

In order to be like God, we have to have the same heart, mind and attitude as He has. What would that be?

“And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him” (1 John 4:16).

A transcendent love

The word love is translated from agape, a Greek word much used in religious circles today. It is a word that has no exact modern-day English equivalent. The best the biblical translators could come up with is love, but that is not complete.

Agape can be used of human love, but it can also transcend any human concept of love when it describes God—what He is, if you will. Godly love is the basis for all that God does and all that He teaches. It is also what He desires all of His children to become, just like a human father wants to have his children grow up to be like him.

How do we become like God?

The question is, how do we as His children grow up to become like our Heavenly Father? The apostle Peter gives a concise but meaningful summary of qualities we must develop:

“But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue [supplement your faith with virtue, Revised Standard Version], to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love [agape].” This chain of eight important points of character are all interlinked. The growth of each one of them is proof of God working in us to make us in the image of Jesus Christ.

“For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:5-8).

Climbing the stairway

Notice that the first quality mentioned is faith in God, because without faith, we cannot please Him (Hebrews 11:6). Without faith, we have no basis for Christian growth.

Second, we work on adding virtue, which means excellence of character. God expects us to be virtuous in everything we do.

Third, we must add knowledge. This word is translated from the Greek word gnosis, which in the New Testament implies the practical knowledge of spiritual truth.

Along with spiritual knowledge, we must develop self-control. This is a quality that is sorely lacking in the world today. When anyone ignores or loses self-control, he or she may be given to fits of anger or rage. That can lead to all sorts of illegal—not to mention ungodly—behavior. God expects His people to follow the example of Jesus Christ and always be in control of our emotions and actions.

As we continue to grow, we will need to develop perseverance, because it will take a great deal of patience and effort to overcome bad habits and replace them with better ones.

In our diligent efforts to develop all these qualities, we will be taking on the nature of God and growing toward the mature perfection He challenges us to attain (Matthew 5:48). This is referred to as “godliness,” or “godlikeness”—being made more completely into the likeness of God (Genesis 1:26).

As we grow in these things, we will naturally be growing in philadelphia—brotherly love. That’s because we are growing in attributes that enhance (rather than tear down) our relationships with others.

The final quality mentioned is agape, used here to describe godly love. As we grow in this kind of selfless love, we become closer and closer to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29). We will be preparing to experience our transformation into a spirit-born child of God, and our entry into the eternal Kingdom of God.

Diligently climb those stairs

It behooves every Christian to seek God’s help to diligently develop those Christlike qualities and to reach that ultimate goal—of fulfilling 1 John 3:2 and becoming just like our Elder Brother and our Heavenly Father!

Learn more in the section on “Christian Conversion.”

About the Author

Ted Japhet

Ted Japhet attends the Nashville, Tennessee, congregation of the Church of God, a Worldwide Association.