Among the seven churches in the book of Revelation, the church in Philadelphia shows the state of completion of the church of God. When is the community completed? In short, if it is equal to its master. If the church represents the image of Jesus, God has completed His work in it.
A wonderful characteristic of our God is that God is love. “God is love” (1 John 4:8) says the Word of God. This characteristic has also become visible and come to maturity in the church in Philadelphia. This can be seen in the name of the community. The name Philadelphia means “brotherly love.” John’s letter continues, “No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God dwells in us, and his love is perfected in us” (1 John 4:12). This testimony characterizes the church in Philadelphia: the love of God among the brethren. It is not just a sympathy or natural love that is meant here. Rather, it is the love of God, the perfect love “agape” that has grown in believers. This love has come to maturity and is now visible in their dealings with each other.
But what does it look like when the love of God has come to maturity in us believers? 1 Corinthians 13 gives a wonderful description of the expression of God’s love as it was visible in Christ and wants to come to maturity among us: “Love is longsuffering and kind, love is not jealous, love does not boast, it does not puff itself up, it does not behave indecently, it does not seek its own, it does not allow itself to be embittered, it does not impute evil” (vv. 4-5). How much of this love can already be seen in our dealings with one another today? How kind and patient is my interaction with those closest to me, my wife, family or roommates? John said in this regard, “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen” (1 John 4:20). The genuineness of love is best seen in your interactions with those you are with on a daily basis. There our patience, long-suffering, kindness, willingness to forgive are tested daily.
How is it possible for us to ever come to this witness and interaction? The good news is, “The love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Rom. 5:5). This perfect, selfless love of God has already been poured into us believers when we were born again. It now dwells within us. Thanks and praise be to our Lord for this! This is the necessary foundation for being Philadelphia today. But how is it that this wonderful love has been poured out in us, but yet often becomes so little visible, especially in our dealings with our neighbors at home?
Unfortunately, we all still carry a sinful flesh and fallen self, and this limits the expression and growth of God’s love. That is why the Word encourages us to enter into the experience of the Cross. When our inner man is strengthened daily by the Lord through His Word, Spirit and Name, we have a way to put to death the actions of our body through the Spirit (cf. Rom. 8:13) and to crucify and sweep out our ego, pride and bitterness with the Lord. By doing so, we create space for the growth of God’s love in us and the Lord can build His testimony of Philadelphia with us today.
May the Lord strengthen us to cooperate with Him in this way and to achieve this goal with us soon!