Three Types of Love

I have been thinking on this allot lately.  The “Potential of Love found in the Greek “Mood” tense for Agapao love is heart-based, based on the decision of our will to love a person. (I have fallen short on this) I repented and have found joy again.  Agape love is based on what we hear about another person in the Spirit, without a need to see it with our minds or feel it with our emotions. When Jesus saw us, He saw a race of people in sin, separated from the Father, but His heart heard what the Spirit said about us. The Spirit declared that we were people with a God-potential in us that could be restored if only there was someone willing to sacrifice himself for us, and Jesus answered the call and loved us.  

This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.  Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.  Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.  John 15:12-15

The Three Types of Love

Before we can study the three levels of pastoring, we must first get to know the three Greek words that can be translated as “love”:

Erao
This word refers to love, mostly on a physical level, and it is the word from which “erotic” is derived. Even though it never appears in the New Testament, it is the word from which the name “Erastus” is derived; this name appears 3 times in the New Testament (Acts 19:22, Romans 16:23, 2 Timothy 4:20).

Phileo
This word refers to love, mostly on a soulish or emotional level, and it is the word from which we get “affiliation” in English. The Greek word for “kiss”, philema, is also derived from it. This word, therefore, refers to affectionate, fraternal love born out of finding common elements with another person.

This verb appears 25 times in the New Testament. The reason for this is that 25 was the age when a Levite could “… go in to wait upon the service of the tabernacle of the congregation …” (Numbers 8:24). The Hebrew word translated by the King James Version as “go in” in this verse is tsaba, which literally means, “to fight, to wage war”. Numbers 8:24, therefore, should have been translated to say, “fight the service of the tabernacle”. This means that you cannot become a spiritual warrior until you develop a deep phileo love for your brothers and sisters in the faith, a love that is not born out of social or cultural commonality, but rather out of the awareness that the same Spirit of God that is inside of you is also inside your brother and sister in the faith. It is this spiritual “affiliation” or “affinity” which should drive your love towards your brothers and which will lead you to wage spiritual warfare in order to see the manifestation of the potential of God in them.

Agapao
This word refers to love, mostly on a spiritual level. The noun form of this word, agape, is the word used in Greek in the famous “love chapter”, 1 Corinthians chapter 13. This type of love implies a willingness to sacrifice oneself for the sake of another person. The verb agapao appears a whopping 146 times in the New Testament.

As we mentioned in a previous article, the Bible shows that our soul is comprised of three parts:

The mind
This is the center of our thoughts and logic. Judgments are made through the moral laws and principles that are stored in our mind. It is through the mind that the soul perceives its surroundings.

The mind is the soul’s eye or “gate” to the external world. 

The emotions
This is the most predominant part of the soul. The heart many times “hears” through the emotions to discern what the mind cannot “see”. The heart and the emotions, however, are not exactly the same, contrary to popular belief.

The heart
According to Ephesians 6:6, the heart is where our will resides. This is the part of the soul that makes decisions. Since Romans 10:10 declares that man believes with the heart, we can conclude that faithabides in the heart. Since Romans 10:17 declares that faith comes by hearing, we can conclude that the heart hears. Since John 6:63 declares that the Lord’s words are Spirit, we can conclude that it is through the heart that we can hear the words of God and be connected to the Spirit.

The heart is the soul’s ear or “gate” to the spirit realm.

1 Thessalonians 5:23 declares that our whole being is comprised of spirit, soul, and body. Combining all of the above, we could make the following abstract representation of man:

We could then say that

The heart is the “spiritual” part of the soul

The emotions are the “soulish” part of the soul

The mind is the “physical” part of the soul

Returning to the three types of love, we can say that 

Erao love is mind-based, based on the physical impressions perceived through the mind.

Phileo love is emotion-based, based on the emotional connection we make with people.

Agapao love is heart-based, based on the decision of our will to love a person. Agape love is based on what we hear about another person in the Spirit, without a need to see it with our minds or feel it with our emotions. When Jesus saw us, He saw a race of people in sin, separated from the Father, but His heart heard what the Spirit said about us. The Spirit declared that we were people with a God-potential in us that could be restored if only there was someone willing to sacrifice himself for us, and Jesus answered the call and loved us.

Jesus’ 3 questions to Peter

In John 21, the resurrected Lord appears to the disciples by the sea of Tiberias. After eating with them, He asks Peter three questions:

“So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep. He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.” (John 21:15-17)

Since the Lord refers to taking care of sheep and lambs in this passage, we can conclude that it applies most directly to the shepherd ministry, i.e.- the pastoral ministry (the word for “pastor” in Greek literally means “shepherd”). Since pastors are placed in the Church to impart the “pastoral” anointing on the rest of the Church, this passage not only applies to “full-time” pastors but to all of us as believers.

The first question that Jesus asked Peter (v15) was

Do you love Me more than these?

This question could be taken in either of two ways. It could be interpreted as, “Do you love Me more than these love Me?” or as, “Do you love Me more than you love these?”. Even though my technical knowledge of Greek is limited, I came to the conclusion that the original Greek text in John 21:15 should be taken to mean, “Do you love Me more than you love these?”. Since the word translated as “love” here is from the Greek verb agapao discussed above, the question can be paraphrased as:
Are you willing to sacrifice yourself more for Me than for these?
After hearing Peter’s answer, the Lord replies back by saying,

Feed My lambs
The Greek verb translated as “feed” here is bosko, which refers to the specific act of providing food, so the Lord’s reply could be paraphrased as
Give food to My lambs

The second question that Jesus asked Peter (v16) was
Do you love Me?

Once again, the word translated as  “love” here is from the Greek verb agapao, so the question can be paraphrased as 
Are you willing to sacrifice yourself for Me?
After hearing Peter’s answer, the Lord replies back by saying,

Feed My sheep
The Greek verb translated as “feed” here is poimaino, which literally means, “to pastor”. Even though poimaino does have the connotation of feeding, it also includes the notion of overseeing, the way a shepherd oversees the sheep to make sure that none go astray and that all are going in the right direction. The Greek verb bosko which appears in verse 15 refers more directly to the act of providing food. The Lord’s reply could then be paraphrased as
Guide and give food to My sheep

The third question that Jesus asked Peter (v17) was
Do you love Me?

Even though, in English, this third question looks just like the second one, it is different in the original Greek text. The word translated as “love” here is from the Greek verb phileo discussed above, so the question could be paraphrased as
Do you feel fraternal affection for Me?
After hearing Peter’s answer, the Lord replies back by saying,

Feed My sheep
Even though, in English, the Lord’s reply here looks just like His reply for the previous question, it is different in the original Greek text. In verse 16, the Lord uses the verb poimaino described above, while, in verse 17, He uses the verb bosko. The Lord’s reply could then be paraphrased as
Give food to My sheep

Each of the Lord’s replies refer to a “pastoral level”:

“Level-3″ pastors are those who give food to His lambs

“Level-2″ pastors are those who guide and give food to His sheep but who do not give food to His lambs

“Level-1″ pastors are those who give food to His sheep and nothing more

Unfortunately, most pastors in the Church today are “Level-1″ pastors, but God has prophesied in His Word that He will bring judgment on the pastoral ministry and release a true pastoral anointing on the Church that will allow for the manifestation of a mighty prophetic remnant that will shake the foundations of the world.

To understand each pastoral level, we will look into the spiritual meaning behind each question and reply given by the Lord.

Level 3: Do you agapao Me more than you agapao these?

The key to understanding this question that appears in John 21:15 lies in the last word, “these”, which is translated from the Greek word touton. This seemingly insignificant Greek word appears 69 times in the New Testament, and more than 10% of the time (7 times, to be exact), it is used by the Lord Jesus to refer to “little” believers, as can be seen in the following 2 examples:

“And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward.” (Matthew 10:42)

“And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” (Matthew 25:40)

When reading through these verses and the 5 other verses where touton is used to refer to “little” believers (Matthew 18:6, Matthew 18:10, Matthew 18:14, Matthew 25:45, and Luke 17:2), we can infer that Jesus uses the word “these” to test how much Simon Peter valued his fellow disciples. This is why He asked Simon if his love for Him was above his love for his brothers. Five verses before the passage of Matthew 10:42 quoted above, the Lord says,

“He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” (Matthew 10:37)

The Greek verb translated as “loveth” here is phileo, meaning, therefore, that our emotional affection for God should be greater than our affection for any soul on Earth, including family members and our closest friends. God has called us to love Him above all else, and, when we allow our emotional ties to get in the way of our love for God, we become incapable of really loving the people around us, because the only way that true and life-transforming love can flow out of us is when we love others in Him, not over Him:

“And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world.” (1 John 4:16-17)

Therefore, we must never phileo any other human being more than we phileo God. This, however, does not apply to agapao love. When the Lord asked Simon if he “agapao-ed” Jesus more than he “agapao-ed” his fellow disciples, Simon should have said “No”. Why? Because anyone who really “agapao-s” Jesus will discern the presence of Jesus in his or her brother or sister in the faith. If you don’t see the God-potential in your brothers and sisters in the faith, you have not loved God enough to know Him, because, if you knew Him, you would recognize the His presence in your brethren:

“Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments.” (1 John 4:7-8) 

When the Bible says “brethren” or “children of God”, it is not a mere reference to the fellow members of your congregation. It is deeper than that. When a fellow born-again believer is behaving in the flesh, he or she is not acting as a “son of God”:

“Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.” (1 John 3:9)

When a believer sins, it is not a “son of God” sinning, because the part inside of you that the Bible calls “son of God” is the just and perfect spirit that was planted into you when you received Jesus into your heart:

“And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.” (Ephesians 4:24)

“And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him” (Colossians 3:10)

When you are acting in righteousness, it is because you are walking in the “new man” that God placed in you. That new man is what the Bible calls the “son of God”. All believers who have accepted Jesus into their hearts have that new man inside of them, and that new man is what the Bible calls your “brother”. When a believer is acting unrighteous, he or she is hiding the “new man” inside of him or her, and it is his or her rebellious soul which is being manifested. As a righteous believer, you are called to hate the manifestation of iniquity in your brother, but, since love is proactive, you are also called to fight for the manifestation of the “son of God” inside your sinful brother, breaking through all the barriers of iniquity that are preventing that fellow son of God to shine forth. To break through the barriers, you may have to pronounce spiritual judgment over his life, either through open rebuke or through prayer that will bring judgment on his life in order for him to be restored:

“Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.” (Matthew 18:15)

[The brother you "gained" is the manifestation of the "son of God" that was inside your brother]

“Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.” (James 5:19-20)

“Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” (James 5:16)

Most preachers interpret this last verse as if it is speaking about literal healing, and, even though, at times, it does have a  literal application, the deeper meaning of this verse, taken in the context of the other verses, is speaking about the spiritual healing of a person with the disease of sin in his or her heart. The “fervent prayer of the righteous man” mentioned in this verse refers to prayer for judgment and restoration. In the next verse, verse 17, James speaks about Elijah praying for it not to rain over Israel for 3 and a half years. This was not a prayer for “blessing” and “prosperity”. It was a prayer of judgment against a rebellious and stubborn people so that they would be restored from their worship of Baal.

The agape love that you and I are to practice for others must be proactive:

“Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” (1 John 3:16)

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)

This is why we can project agape love even over those who are not yet our brothers in the faith. God’sagape love is willing to sacrifice self in order to see the manifestation of the God-potential of others. An unbeliever is under a cloud of eternal condemnation (John 3:18), but, he or she has the potential of manifesting God if he or she is only willing to believe, and we are called to act in the Spirit to break through the barriers of sin and iniquity in that unbeliever’s heart in order to see his or her reconciliation with God. This “acting in the Spirit” may at times imply praying for judgment that will break the hardness in the person’s heart. Remember the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32). After he left, his father did not speak to him until he repented. His father allowed his son to go through a judgment process, and it was until that young man was in a state of total poverty, desiring to eat the swine’s food that he realized what a fool he had been. Judgments make manifest what has been hidden all along. When the prodigal son desired to eat the swine’s food, he realized that, in a spiritual sense, he had been doing that all of his life. If his father had decided to send his “poor” son some money to alleviate his financial crisis, he would have been hindering God’s judgment over his son’s life, thereby hindering his repentance and subsequent salvation:

 “For though I made you sorry with a letter, I do not repent, though I did repent: for I perceive that the same epistle hath made you sorry, though it were but for a season. Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing. For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.” (2 Corinthians 7:8-10)

Since agape love operates based on God-potential, it is impossible to give that kind of love when that God-potential is lost:

“If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it. All unrighteousness is sin: and there is a sin not unto death.” (1 John 5:16-17)

A “sin unto death” refers to a state of the heart that leads to the death of your spiritual calling in God. A clear example of this is Saul, who was cast off by God after he constantly refused to live in God’s purposes:

“And Samuel said unto Saul, I will not return with thee: for thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, and the LORD hath rejected thee from being king over Israel. And as Samuel turned about to go away, he laid hold upon the skirt of his mantle, and it rent. And Samuel said unto him, The LORD hath rent the kingdom of Israel from thee this day, and hath given it to a neighbour of thine, that is better than thou.” (1 Samuel 15:26-28)

I know believers who, like Saul, have already been cast off by God. They continue in their “Christian ministry”, as pastors and church leaders, and, to the natural eye, they seem to be well respected brothers and sisters in the “Christian community”, but God has already cast off the prophetic calling for their life. Saul continued as the visible “king of Israel” for  many years after he was rejected by God, but the true king of Israel since that day was David, even though he did not “officially” hold the office of king until many years later. When a person reaches a point of no return and loses his God-potential, any sacrifice made in favor of that person is pointless. It is better to pour out that sacrifice for those who still have that God-potential:

“And the LORD said unto Samuel, How long wilt thou mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel? fill thine horn with oil, and go, I will send thee to Jesse the Bethlehemite: for I have provided me a king among his sons. And Samuel said, How can I go? if Saul hear it, he will kill me. And the LORD said, Take an heifer with thee, and say, I am come to sacrifice to the LORD.” (1 Samuel 16:1-2)

God is a very patient and loving God. He is willing to wait a long, long, long time to see the restoration of a person, but, if that person persists in his iniquity, he will eventually cross a certain point of no return, and once that happens, the fulfilling of the prophetic calling of that person is lost, and the person can no longer be “agapao-ed”. I am convinced through other passages of Scripture that Saul did not go to hell, so Saul did not lose his “salvation from hell” when he was cast off, but he did lose the potential to be all that God wanted him to be. He lost the opportunity to fulfill that purpose for which he was placed on Earth, and he lost the opportunity to be One with God for eternity. Saul will not abide in the New Jerusalem that Revelation 22 speaks about, and neither will any believer that loves the things of this world more than God. These believers will not be in hell, but, is escaping hell all that matters? If that is the only thing that matters to you, I can assure you that you will be right alongside of Saul outside of the New Jerusalem. I hope and pray, my brother and sister, that you will realize that there is more to being a Christian than escaping hell and attending church until you are taken in the “rapture”. God has placed before you the possibility of fulfilling a mighty prophetic calling for your life on Earth and the possibility of being One with Him for Eternity. Are you willing to cast that aside, or are you willing to pour out your life as a living sacrifice to see that prophetic purpose fulfilled in your life? If you are, the love of God will by its nature propel you to pour out your soul, not only to see His purpose fulfilled in your own life, but to also see it fulfilled in the lives of all those around you. When Jesus asked Simon if he agapao-ed Jesus more than he agapao-ed his brothers, he should have replied:

“Lord, I do not agapao them as individuals separate from You. I agapao them because I see You in them. The only reason I have to agapao them is that I see in them the potential to be all that You are, Lord, so I cannot agapao You more than I agapao them, because, if I really agapao You, I will automaticallyagapao You in them. If at any moment I see that God-potential depart from them, I would not be able toagapao them anymore, because I would no longer see You in them.”

This is the answer the Lord was waiting for, but Simon did not say it, so Simon Peter underwent a process in his life until he eventually understood the right answer. This is why he wrote this many years later:

“Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord, According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” (2 Peter 1:2-4)

“Level-3″ pastors, as we called them before, are those who see the believers under their care as potential “partakers of the divine nature of God”. This may sound as blasphemy to many traditionalist believers, but it is in Scripture (not only in 2 Peter 1 but in many other passages), and the Scripture cannot be denied. Pastor, if you see the members of the congregation as mere “sinners saved by grace” who are so spiritually insignificant that they can only contribute to the work of God by tithing and doing some minor church activity, you are not a Level-3 pastor. Do you see each one of them as a potential Jesus on Earth? Is each one so important that you would be willing to lay down your life (i.e.- your soul and all its interests) for them in order to see the God-potential in them manifested on Earth? If the answer is yes, you are a Level-3 pastor.

“I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep.” (John 10:11-15)

Level 3: Give food to My lambs

Jesus’ reply after His first question, as we paraphrased it above, was, “Give food to My lambs”. The word “lambs” in John 21:15 is translated from the Greek word arnion, which is a diminutive of the Greek word arenmeaning “lamb”. In other words, arnion could very well be translated as “little lamb”. Interestingly enough, this word appears 30 times in the New Testament, and it only appears in two books: once in the gospel of John (John 21:15), and 29 times in the book of Revelation (also written by John), referring to Jesus as “the Lamb of God”. Here are three examples:

“And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints.” (Revelation 5:8)

“And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?” (Revelation 6:16-17)

“These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful.” (Revelation 17:14)

This means that the “arnion”, the “little lamb” of Revelation is none other than the Lord Jesus in the fullness of His Glory and Power. There are several things that we can then say about the word “arnion”:

Outside of John 21:15, the Holy Spirit reserved this Greek word to be used exclusively for the Lord Jesus in His Glory. This means that, when the Lord told Simon to “feed His lambs”, He was telling Simon to see each of his brothers in the faith as having the same potential to manifest the Glory of the Father as Jesus Himself.

This Greek word does not refer to a “giant lamb” but is rather a diminutive of the Greek word for lamb, so it has a connotation of something that seems small or “insignificant” to the natural eye. To Simon Peter, his brothers seemed insignificant, but God uses what carnal man considers insignificant to manifest His Glory:

“Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed. But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:” (1 Peter 2:7-9)

This Greek word appears 30 times in the New Testament, and 30 is symbolic of the age of a fully mature man ministry-wise (Numbers 4:3, 1 Chronicles 23:3, Genesis 41:46). The Lord Jesus began His earthly ministry at that age (Luke 3:23). This means that Jesus wanted Simon Peter to see his brothers as priests who have the potential to achieve full maturity. This is why, many years later, it is Peter who writes in 1 Peter 2:9 that we are “a chosen generation, a royal priesthood”.

In Scripture, only lambs (arnions) are described as having horns (Revelation 5:6, Revelation 13:11); sheep are never associated with horns. In Scripture, a “horn” is a figure of spiritual authority and exaltation (1 Samuel 2:10, Psalm 89:24, Psalm 92:10):

“He also exalteth the horn of his people, the praise of all his saints; even of the children of Israel, a people near unto him. Praise ye the LORD.” (Psalm 148:14)

This means that Simon Peter was to see his brothers as spirits with authority, not as weak and needy souls who will forever remain dependent on the love and maternal care of “their pastors”. We discussed this briefly in a previous article.

From all of this, we can conclude that a believer who gives food to the Lord’s lambs is a person who recognizes the arnion inside every brother and is willing to sacrifice him or herself in agape love to see thatarnion grow until the brother manifests the measure of the stature of the fullness of the Anointed One (Ephesians 4:13). Level-3 pastors are “lamb feeders”. All of us are called to be lamb feeders.

Level 2: Do you agapao Me?

As we can see, this second question also asks about agapao love, but is less specific than the first question. This means that those whose hearts can answer the first question properly have entered into perfect agape love. And perfect love gives of itself to perfect those around them with the potential of perfection:

“But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.” (Ephesians 4:15-16)

“But ye are come unto Mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect” (Hebrews 12:22-23)

Perfect agape love, therefore, believes that fellow brothers and sisters can be just like Christ. Level-2 pastoring also believes in sacrificial agape love, but it does not have enough faith to believe that fellow brothers can be like Christ.

Level 2: Give food and guide My sheep

Jesus’ reply after His second question, as we paraphrased above, is “Give food and guide My sheep”. As we also mentioned above, the Greek word used by the Lord in John 21:16 is poimaino. To understand what the Lord meant when He used this word, let us look at other passages where this same verb is used:

“Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.” (1 Peter 5:2-4)

The word translated as “feed” in verse 2 is poimaino again. From this passage we can infer the following:

The verb poimaino is related with the task of “overseeing”, which means that it involves making sure that the sheep are moving in the right direction towards God’s calling for their lives.

The word translated as “ready mind” in verse 2 is prothumos, which comes from the word “pros” and the word “thumos”, which means “passion”. In the New Testament, the word “pros”, which literally means “towards”, is generally related with the concept of prophetic projection (the word prophet has “pros” as a prefix). As we briefly mentioned in a previous article, the prophetic ministry is probably the most “emotional” of all the ministries. This means that a pastor who “poimaino-s” is a pastor who portrays a prophetic anointing in his or her life and who gives him or herself emotionally for the sake of the Lord’s sheep.

Verse 3 shows the danger that poimaino-ing can produce in a pastor if he or she is not careful. If a person receives authority to oversee others, he is prone in the flesh to become domineering and to think that the people he is overseeing belong to him. This is why verse 3 warns pastors against lording themselves over God’s heritage. When God places any human being in a position of leadership, verse 3 shows that the purpose of that leadership is not to own the people being led but to be an examples to  those following him or her may imitate his or her good qualities. This is also emphasized in other passages:

“Not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us.” (2 Thessalonians 3:9)

“Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1)
[The word "followers" comes from the Greek word mimetes, which literally means "imitator"; this is the word from which we get the English verb "to mimic"]

“That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” (Hebrews 6:12)
[Again, the word "followers" here comes from the Greek word mimetes, so it should be translated as "imitator"]

Poimaino-ing involves overseeing the sheep, teaching them to be prophetically led by the Holy Spirit. This is similar to parents who begin to give certain freedoms to their teenage son. While they continue to “oversee” or “supervise” him, they slowly increase his independence, giving him advice so that he can learn to lead his life independently of his parents. The teenage son continues to be “fed” by his parents, as has been the case since he was a baby, but, now, he is being taught to be guided by someone over him.  Level-2 pastors can see fellow believers as young teenagers with increasing freedoms. Level-3 pastors can see them as potential adults who can be completely independent of them.

From the passages we saw above, we can also say that those who poimaino must set themselves as examples for God’s sheep, which implies that a “poimaino-ing” pastor must at least have enough faith to believe that the sheep can imitate him or her, even if he or she is not willing to believe that the sheep can imitate Christ. This, in essence, is the difference between a Level-3 pastor and a Level-2 pastor.

Level 1: Do you phileo Me?

In the last question (John 21:17), the Lord changes the verb from agapao to phileo, meaning that Level-1 pastors do not practice sacrificial agape love. Their love is more of an emotional affection towards Jesus. If a pastor’s love for Jesus stays at the philos level and never moves up to the agape level, he or she will eventually betray Jesus in a spiritual way:

“Now he that betrayed him gave them a sign, saying, Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is he: hold him fast.49And forthwith he came to Jesus, and said, Hail, master; and kissed him. And Jesus said unto him, Friend, wherefore art thou come? Then came they, and laid hands on Jesus, and took him.” (Matthew 26:48-50)

The word translated as “kiss” in verse 48 is from the Greek word phileo that we have discussed in this article, so, if the King James translators had been consistent in their translation of phileo, the text would say, “Whomsoever I shall love, that same is he”. The word translated as “kissed” in verse 49 is philema, which, as we mentioned above, is also derived from the word phileo. Judas loved Jesus at the phileo level. He followed the Master for three and a half years, so it was not like he disliked Jesus. Along with the other disciples, he cast out demons and healed the sick, but his love for Jesus never went past the emotional friendship level (notice that Jesus calls Judas a “friend” in verse 50). Judas was never willing to take that friendship to the next level, i.e.- to sacrifice himself in anyway for the sake of Jesus:

“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)

[The word translated as "love" here is agape, and the word translated as "friends" is the Greek word "philos", which is related to the word phileo]

In all three replies that Simon gave to Jesus’ three questions, he never used the word agapao. Every time he told Jesus that he loved Him in John 21:15-17, he used the word phileo. In other words, Simon was not yet willing to give himself in sacrifice for God. He was willing to follow Jesus, to enjoy His presence, to enjoy the fellowship of his co-disciples, to enjoy the spiritual gifts Jesus gave him, but he was not yet willing to lay down his life for Him. This is why he denied Jesus three times. But God was already working in his life, and this is why Simon Peter eventually became a bold preacher of the Gospel who died as a martyr for the sake of Christ.

Level 1: Give food to My sheep

This is Jesus’ reply to Simon after the last question. As we mentioned above, the word used in the Greek here is bosko, which refers to the literal act of “giving food”. As we saw before, Jesus refers to “lambs” in His first reply and to “sheep” in His last two replies, and the word for “lamb” (arnion in Greek) has a connotation of spiritual authority because lambs have horns and sheep don’t. This all implies that giving food to lambs refers to feeding the spiritual authority of believers, whereas giving food to sheep is to act as a provider of their temporary needs, at the soul level. This is the lowest level of pastoring.

As we said in the section above, Level-1 pastors end up betraying Jesus because they trade in the Gospel of justice and judgment and the Gospel of sacrificial love for a self-centered gospel where God is seen as the servant of the believer’s temporary needs and desires. This is why the Scriptures record the following:

“Then saith one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, which should betray him, 5Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor? 6This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein.” (John 12:4-6)

Judas’ suggestion sounded very humanitarian. It sounded like the “Christian” thing to do, just as it sounds “Christian” when pastors preach a gospel where congregation members don’t have to suffer anymore, where the “fierce” God of judgment of the Old Testament has been replaced by a gentle, Santa-Claus-like god that wants nothing but “blessings” and “happiness” for his people, a god who would never dare to call any of his little children to suffer for him. And just as it happened with Judas, most pastors have a hidden agenda behind this kindness and mercy, and it is to please people to win them over. They want to preach a gospel that is “people-friendly” in order to  be more popular, to have larger congregations, and to gain theunconditional loyalty of the congregation members. They do talk about “order” and “discipline”, but only when it comes to church activities and to obeying their commands, and they totally discourage any questioning of their decisions. Any questioning is immediately labeled as “rebellion” and some pastors even call it the “Jezebel” spirit. Judas’ rebuke of Mary is similar to when pastors condemn brothers and sisters for following the leading of the Holy Spirit and doing things that go outside the boundaries of the pre-established religious routine.

Notice also how Judas Iscariot is called “Simon’s son” in John 12:4-6. This is done on purpose by the Holy Spirit to establish a link between this passage and John 21:15-17, where the Lord refers to Peter exclusively as “Simon of Jonah”. If you are a Level-1 pastor (i.e.- a Simon), you are in danger of unknowingly birthing in you a Judas (a son of Simon) that will betray Jesus, because you will cheapen the Gospel and turn on Him when He starts speaking to your heart about preaching of (and living out) a life of dying and sacrifice. Remember, pastor, that it was precisely Jesus’ comments about dying and giving Himself for others that drove Judas to betray Him. Judas could not follow a man who constantly spoke of pouring out His life for others. He would only serve a man who could bring him political and religious benefits. When he saw Jesus washing the feet of His disciples, he realized that the Gospel Jesus was preaching was not about blessing himself or about being famous and revered, but rather about pouring out your soul so that God’s eternal purposes are fulfilled  in the lives of others. A happiness-oriented gospel, though popular and appealing to the soul, does not allow God to mold His prophetic and apostolic purposes in the lives of His saints. God does not want a Church full of self-satisfying, spiritually stagnated people. He wants a Church made up of believers who manifest the Anointing and the Glory of God on Earth. He wants a Church whose spiritual presence will shake the foundations of the Earth and release the greatest revival mankind has ever seen.

A final summary

In conclusion, we can say that 

Level-3 pastors see believers as future adults

Level-2 pastors see them as teenagers with certain freedoms

Level-1 pastors see them as children who are completely dependent of them.

We, as believers, are called to move in all three of these levels. When we see a fellow believer who is weak in the faith in a certain spiritual area, we are to see him as a sheep who needs temporary provision and protection while he begins to grow in the faith. When we see a fellow believer who is beginning to mature, we are to see him as a sheep who needs guidance. When we see a fellow believer who is beginning to show signs of full maturity, we are to see him as a lamb who needs his spiritual authority to be fed with prophetic and apostolic word so that he can manifest the Glory of Jesus on Earth.

The problem with Level-1 pastors is that they always see all the members of the congregation as needy children who will never amount to much in the Spirit. Level-2 pastors always see all the members either as children or as teenagers who can do certain things in the Spirit but who can never be like Christ. Level-3 pastors always see all members as potential manifestations of Jesus on Earth, even when they see them in their childhood stage. Inside every child is the potential to be a grown adult, and level-3 pastors lovingly sacrifice themselves in the Spirit until they see the manifestation of that adult potential. Level-3 pastors want the members of the congregation to grow to such an extent that they will no longer be spiritually dependent on them. Level-3 pastors know that every believer, even a believer who was born again yesterday, can have a direct relationship with God by faith, without the need for human intermediaries:

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand. I and my Father are one.” (John 10:27-30)

“But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him. And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming.” (1 John 2:27-28)

“A little one shall become a thousand, and a small one a strong nation: I the LORD will hasten it in his time.” (Isaiah 60:22)

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