God’s love was perfectly exemplified in God’s Son. Now that Christ resides in heaven, it is His Body, the Church, whom He expects to reach out with His embrace of love. That love is primarily to be directed toward the individual members of the Church and then to all the world. Love was intended to be so much a characteristic of the Church that Jesus could say, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35).
In the book of Acts and the epistles we see the tangible ways in which this love was expressed, from providing for the poor (Acts 6; 2 Corinthians 8,9; James 2:14-16), supporting ministers of the Word (Galatians 6:6), and the widows (1 Timothy 5:3-16), to a general showing of hospitality (Romans 12:13; Hebrews 13:2). But actually, the community of love demonstrates its love in countless loving deeds performed by every believer every day for other Christians and non-Christians alike.
The apostle Paul especially developed the theology of love in the Christian community. As he wrote to Timothy, “The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” (1 Timothy 1:5). The goal of our instruction is not the evangelization of the world, though that will result from achieving the goal of love. It is not sound doctrine, though that is necessary if we are to love properly. The goal of our instruction cannot be anything other than love or the church will not function as it must.
The Church cannot “grow up into him who is the Head” unless it “builds itself up in love” (Ephesians 4:15,16), and it might as well not grow or even exist if it has nothing to offer but the shallow sentiments of the world. Salvation could have been an individual possession with no community basis had God not intended for the community to provide believers with unique benefits. A body of believers who love one another is the perfect environment for personal growth, a worthy place to bring new converts, and is itself a testimony to the world of the reality of Christ’s claims. Lack of love in the community of faith will kill Bible teaching, foment divisions, and draw the world’s cries of hypocrisy.
The dynamic for love is present in every genuine Christian (1 John 3:14,15) but must be consciously worked on and stimulated by gathering in fellowship. And so Hebrews 10:24,25 serves as a suitable conclusion: “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”