Love for Man - philanthropia

John Mitchell, Cardiff

There are a number of Greek words used in the New Testament which are compounds of the verb phileo: "I love". One such is the noun philanthrd-pia, which is a compound of phileo and anthropos, "man". Hence its meaning, "love toward (for) man". We can see our English word "philanthropy" in the word.

The word is used only twice in the New Testament, Acts 28. 2 and Titus 3. 4, although its associated adverb, translated "courteously" is used in Acts 27. 3. In Acts 28. 2 a.v., it is translated "kindness", and in Titus 3. 4 by "love toward man". The latter is quite a literal rendering, and expresses the appearance of God our Saviour's love towards sinners who were totally incapable of saving themselves. Through the work of the Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ our Saviour, such sinners can be saved, regenerated, renewed, justified and guaranteed eternal life. What a love is this!

The more usual words for love in the New Testament are agapad (and agape) and phileo, but it seems most appropriate that Paul should use philanthropia in Titus 3. 4 to express that love to man shown by God against a background which was anything but kindly and loving; see 1. 10-12. The Cretians may not have shown love to men, but our Saviour God certainly did, and continues to do so. This benevolent spirit should also characterize Christians, 3. 8.

The word is used in Greek generally of kindness to individuals in distress. When Paul and his companions were shipwrecked on Malta, in the providence of God the islanders showed them exceptional philanthropia, Acts 28. 2. This involved providing the basic necessities of life for travellers. So we have evidence of the provision of God's love for men in both material and spiritual matters.

Mankind's dreadful condition is de scribed vividly in Titus 3. 3, and the greatness of God's love is seen in the deliverance that our Saviour has effected. He not only promises, 1.2, but provides, 3. 4. He is the great Philanthropist!