The Love of God
The whole of the world at this particular time of History and possibly more than at any other time is taken up with the theme of Love, nearly all the song which are sung, poems that are written, and films which are produced, depict, speak or ring with this theme, and yet with all this, it is clearly apparent that men and woman are not taking a grasp of what real love is. In so many places and in the experience of so many they are finding fanciful ideas that meet in a partial manner the needs of the flesh, and are stimulating and invigorating, but are missing the mark of what real love is.
Why is this? It is because they are failing to take a grasp of God and who He really is.
The Bible declares in “1 John 4:8” – “God Is Love” and it is clear to see as His character is unfolded before us, in His word that love is one of those sensual attributes that compose the very essence of His character It is important however to acknowledge and to have a realisation of the fact that this attribute is no greater than any of the others, but that all are perfectly balanced one with another.
There are many great themes such as sin, the cross, and even creation itself, but one theme throughout the whole of the Bible stands out head and shoulders above the others and possibly more clearly than them all and that is that God Is Love. Before we get into discovering how it is “Manifested, Exemplified and Appropriated,” it would be good to have a look at some of the descriptions we have of it, some in detail and others by name: –
Descriptions of the Love of God.
- The Description of its Sovereignty.
God is sovereign meaning He is supreme; a supreme ruler; and it is seen one particular way in that He created the World, and that He did it, because He desired to. There was no internal or external compulsion which forced him to do so, and likewise it is with His love.
God chose a People, and He made them into a Nation, Israel; and He set His love upon it, and even when they rebelled and were adulterous, His love remained steadfast. This shows to us one of His many interesting aspects. Its constancy. Love in human beings can grow or diminish, but God’s love is a constant force not a fitful emotion.
- The Description of its Irrespectiveness or Merit.
Not only is God’s Love Sovereign but it placed upon whosoever He deigns to place it. In “Deuteronomy 7:7” we see an example of this in the following words – “For you are a holy people to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth. The Lord did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples; but because the Lord loves you…” – NKJ Version
God set His love upon this people who He latterly made a Nation because He wanted to. We do not forget here that He had made a covenant with Abraham nor that as part of His sovereign plan it was that through Israel the Saviour of the World would appear.
No man or woman is able to work or buy to gain this love, but we do become partakers of it in a personal and individual manner by the acceptance of Christ as our Saviour. In “John 3:16” we read some of the most quoted words by the Christian Church. It says – “For God so loved that He gave…” and what did He give? He gave Christ His Son. We might ask the question why? And I hope that we do. The reason is simple – Firstly that we might recognise His Love. Secondarily that it might be found in us and have its dwelling place in our lives. The Bible tells us that the “…the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.” – “Romans 5:5” Thirdly, that in love, appreciation, and adoration it might be given back to Him in worship and thanksgiving.
- The Description of it Being Great.
Let me bring before you what we are told in “Ephesians 2:4-10” and I bring it from the J.B. Phillips Translation “But even though we were dead in our sins God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love he had for us, gave us life together with Christ – it is, remember, by grace and not by achievement that you are saved – and has lifted us right out of the old life to take our place with him in Christ in the Heavens. Thus, he shows for all time the tremendous generosity of the grace and kindness he has expressed towards us in Christ Jesus. It was nothing you could or did achieve – it was God’s gift to you. No one can pride himself upon earning the love of God. The fact is that what we are we owe to the hand of God upon us. We are born afresh in Christ and born to do those good deeds which God planned for us to do.”
Notice the words great love that are mentioned in these verses and consider why it is so great. When we look into the context of the words and situation that surround them, we discover that its greatness lies in its scope.
The verses clearly speak of they who are bound in inherent sin, a sin which is abhorrent before God, a sin which distasteful and obnoxious before him, and a sin which in reality and fundamentally portrays a continual rebellion against His own self – And yet He loves, and that love gives and fills the bankruptcy in the lives of all humanity caused by sin.
We have seen therefore three descriptions of God’s love although, only briefly. We could look at others such as : –
- His Love is an Abiding Love – “Zephaniah 3:17.”
- His Love is an Unfailing Love – “Isaiah 49:15-16.”
- His Love is an Unalienable Love – “Romans 8:39.”
- His Love is a Constraining Love – “Hosea 11:4.”
- His Love is an Everlasting Love – “Jeremiah 31:3.”
However, perhaps that’s for another time.
Manifestations of the Love of God.
God’s Love, Manifested towards Sinners.
When God first brought the Universe into being and then transformed its chaos and He made man He did so with the intention of having fellowship with him amongst many other things. He set His love upon him, and desired that love should be returned, and He gave mankind every possible amenity to make things pleasant for him and daily deigned to come down and commune with him – Yet! man rebelled against God, was filled with pride and sinned in many various forms thereafter.
God is sovereign and He could have quite rightly destroyed His creation, but He chose not to, instead He gave man chances of forgiveness. I mentioned earlier about the people God brought into being, the people of Israel and we see in God’s dealings with Israel who were described as His treasure that they were a sinful and adulterous Nation.
However even Israel and the Christian Church which is the “Spiritual Israel” His own peculiar treasure, upon whom he had bestowed so much blessing, is seen to ofttimes to turn aside from him. On no less than seven occasions is the term “Peculiar” Treasure used in the Scriptures.
|1||“Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine…”||Exodus 19:5|
|2||“…for a holy people art thou to Jehovah thy God, and on thee hath Jehovah fixed to be to Him for a people, a peculiar treasure, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the ground.”||Deuteronomy 14:2|
|3||“And Jehovah hath caused thee to promise to-day to become His people, a peculiar treasure, as He hath spoken to thee, and to keep all His commands…”||Deuteronomy 26:18|
|4||“And again, because of my delighting in the house of my God, the substance I have – a peculiar treasure of gold and silver – I have given for the house of my God, even over and above all I have prepared for the house of the sanctuary…”||1 Chronicles 29:3|
|5||“For the LORD hath chosen Jacob unto himself, and Israel for his peculiar treasure.”||Psalm 135:4|
|6||“And they shall be unto me a peculiar treasure, saith Jehovah of hosts, in the day that I prepare; and I will spare them as a man spareth his own son that serveth him.”||Malachi 3:17|
|7||“But, ye, are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for a peculiar treasure, that, the excellences, ye may tell forth, of him who, out of darkness, hath called you into his marvellous light”||1 Peter 2:9|
Even so, there was blatant sin. What has been the result? Bondage and Slavery is the result. Israel eventually went into bondage to the Roman Empire and both Jew and Gentile into the even more bondage and slavery to a sinful nature.
How was this all dealt with? Well, God had already in His foreknowledge made a provision which was made long before the Universe came into being – He made a Covenant with His Son Jesus Christ to redeem the World and He promised Jesus Christ to be the Redeemer, Saviour and Messiah.
In “Genesis 3:14-15” we read “God told the serpent: “Because you’ve done this, you’re cursed, cursed beyond all cattle and wild animals, cursed to slink on your belly and eat dirt all your life. I’m declaring war between you and the Woman, between your offspring and hers. He’ll wound your head, you’ll wound his heel.” – The Message
Now what is this saying to us? “Genesis 3:15” is an unusual and sometimes confusing verse but it is the “protoevanelium” or literally “first gospel” verse because in it there is found the Bible’s first prediction of the coming Saviour. The striking of the Messiah’s heel was a picture of the wounding and death of Jesus on the cross. Satan bruised Jesus’ “heel,” but Jesus showed complete dominance over Satan by bruising his “head.”
The “protoevangelium” shows us that God always had the plan of salvation in mind and informed us of His plan as soon as sin entered the world. Satan formulated a plan involving the serpent in Eden, but God was way ahead of him, having already ordained the one who would be the Serpent-crusher. Jesus Christ perfectly fulfilled God’s mission. In “1 John 3:8” it is declared “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.” And what a wonderful job He has done.
God’s Love, Manifested in the Giving of Jesus.
God Is Love I hope that we will believe this. But one thing is essential here to mention and that is that Jesus Christ Is God, and therefore when we look upon Jesus Christ, we see the embodiment of the Love of God.
Love always gives, this is one of the essential elements of it, often a boy gives a girl a token of His love in the form of some gift, and when that love deepens an engagement ring generally follows until that love is consummated in the marriage bond. Thus, it is with the love of God. When any Man or Women first comes to Jesus Christ, Christ loves them and there is a passionate bestowment of His salvation and forgiveness. Although we humanly initially can only be infatuated with Jesus through the increasing knowledge, we gain of Him it turns into an ever-increasing love for Him. In the natural realm love can decline, as sometime blemishes are recognised, not so though with Jesus because Christ is perfect in all possible ways.
“This is what love is: it is not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the means by which our sins are forgiven.” – “1 John 4:10” Good News Translation
It has been said that love always gives, and Jesus was given to this world which deserved only to be destroyed because of sin, so that it might be delivered, and forgiveness might be found. This in fact was the whole reason for Christ’s willingness to come to us, because of His great love for us.
The Hymn “Give me a sight, O Saviour” written by Katherine A.M. Kelly puts it beautifully in the words: –
“Was it the nails, O Saviour, That bound Thee to the tree? Nay, ’twas Thine everlasting love, Thy love for me, for me.”
The Bible declares “Ephesians 2:1” all without Jesus Christ as their Saviour are “Dead in trespasses and sins” another verse states “…without God we are without hope in this world” but God has wonderfully in His great love provided a means for us to live and to live in a hope that never disappoints, and this means is Jesus.
The Bible goes on to say – “This is how God showed his love for us: God sent his only Son into the world so we might live through him. This is the kind of love we are talking about—not that we once upon a time loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to clear away our sins and the damage they’ve done to our relationship with God.” – “1 John 4:9” The Message
There are many examples in the Bible which show the manifestation of God’s love, let’s briefly look at four of them.
The Rich Young Ruler – “Mark 10:21”
In this incident Jesus had never met this young man and yet the Bible tells us that He loved him, and what was the reason for this love?
His young man fell at the knees of Jesus and said: – “Good Master what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” – “Mark 10:17b”
Here was a young man of great earnestness? longing for the truth, a young of great integrity, one who could say to the Christ of God, without bushing, that he had kept all the commandments, and notice Jesus did not contradict him. However, yet he was lacking in one thing, His willingness to love away all that he had for Christ’s sake.
Christ admired we can be sure this young man’s tender and zealous heart and the integrity seen within his life. But there was a weakness and it had to be corrected. The correcting was not to embarrass or cause him to feel guilty No! it was out of love.
Jesus Christ will often by the Holy Spirit pinpoint things in our lives which need to be corrected and dealt with because without it the fulness of God’s blessing and love cannot be experienced.
Mary and Martha and Lazarus – “John 11:5”
Correction removes some faults found in man, but a chastening effect the whole man for the good.
In the case of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus the chastening came about because of the death of Lazarus and was for the purpose of increasing faith by seeing the power of God displayed.
There were three particular groups of individuals that are apparent in this episode in the Scriptures, and all testify of the love that Lazarus had of the Lord Jesus Christ.
- Sisters – “John 11:3”
- The Inspired Writers – “John 11:5”
- The Jews – “John 11:36”
We may know the story well but let me recap it for us. Jesus was informed that Lazarus was very sick, and it was a sickness that led to his death. Jesus said He would come to him, and all knew that Jesus was the great healer. However, in the account we find that Jesus deliberately delayed His coming and delayed it to the point that Lazarus died.
When Jesus finally reached the home in Bethany, we are told that Martha came to Him as she saw Him approaching, and a very down to earth manner said to Jesus that if He had been there sooner Lazarus would not have died. Jesus then surprised and confused her by saying her Brother Lazarus would rise again. She knew this would be the case in eternity future at the resurrection, but Jesus was speaking of it being literally in the coming hours.
Mary, Martha’s Sister came to Jesus sobbing her heart out saying the same as her sister as did the Jews and mourns who accompanied them. Jesus cheers her spirit by weeping with her and then wonderfully raises Lazarus from the dead.
What love Jesus showed at this event – With one He conversed, with another He brought comfort, with others He wept and with Lazarus He raised him from the dead.
We claim as Christians and justly so that we are the children of God, and the title informs us that if we are not chastened of the Lord then we are not sons but bastards. In the natural realm a father will discipline a child if he knows there is a need for it, because he knows that without discipline the Child will become slothful and wayward and later miss out in the life they could have had.
How much more is this true of our Heavenly Father when we become wayward, He is there by the Holy Spirit to bring us back into line, the reason again is so that we may enjoy the fullness and abundance of His blessing.
The Disciples – “John 13”
Love is a high and pure thing, and yet it is not too great to think that any task is to low or menial. And that is exactly what we see portrayed by Jesus with His disciples.
In John 13 we find the occasion of the last supper. It was a time of great uneasiness and tension because Christ knew that His hour had come, and He realised that the purpose of His coming into the World was about to be fulfilled. In the midst of all this tension and uneasiness we see that Christ arose and washed the disciples’ feet, removing the dust that had been collected in the streets.
Jesus washed their feet but now Jesus Christ washes us of our sins in His blood. He cleanses in a far deeper manner than the washing of the disciples in that He washes us of our sins in His blood. Christ humbled Himself to the form of a Servant in His love for all of us.
The Christian Today – “Romans 12:1-3”
We have already seen that the love of God – Corrects, Chastens and Cleanses but we need to remember also that it Claims.
In the book of “1 Corinthians 7:3-4” we see an example of claiming love in the natural realm, in the Husband-and-Wife relationship. The Scriptures explain that a Man’s Body and a Woman’s Body are not their own when they come together in the bond of matrimony. No! they belong to each other.
However, when we look into the Matrimonial Bond between Christ and His Bride the Church, we see a far greater and profound claim portrayed. It reveals that the Love of God demands everything we have and are or ever will be.
“Romans 12:1-3” shows to us that God demands – Our Bodies, Our Wills and Our Energy – Why? Because of His great love shown towards us.
In “Proverbs 23:26” we discover that God wants our hearts which in reality means our lives. As our Creator He has a right to them, but He desires that we will willingly give them in response to His great love.
So, in these four instances we have seen differing ways in which God’s love is displayed, and how it is manifested and exhibited to Men and Women.
Finally, then: –
The Appropriation of the Love of God.
In seeing the ways in which this great and marvellous love of God is displayed, it obviously brings us to the place of thing – “How can we become recipients of this love?” Well! it is by appropriation, appropriating Jesus Christ as our Saviour and living for Him daily.
If we are enjoying the love of God, then a responsibility becomes ours – Jesus said, “If you love me keep my commandments” How are we doing in the sphere? There is another area that is “Go into all the World and be my witnesses” again How are we doing in that sphere?
Today, if you are not a recipient of God’s love then take the opportunity, receive Christ and know of the “Love of God shed abroad in your heart by the Holy Spirit.”