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“Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” – 1 John 4:10

     GOD IS LOVE. Those three words may confound the world, but that is only because the world does not know God. They cannot conceive of a God who can be angry with the wicked every day (Psalm 7:11), while being not willing that any should perish (2 Peter 3:9). They cannot comprehend how a God of love and a God of judgement may be one and the same. I do not marvel over this, since the unsaved man can neither receive nor know the things of the Spirit of God. Yet, even we who have been redeemed from iniquity by the precious blood of Jesus Christ can scarcely understand the reasoning of our Sovereign, for his thoughts are not our thoughts, neither are his ways our ways (Isaiah 55:8). And too often, we wonder how a God who loves men’s souls can cast those souls into hell if they do not believe on his Son?

Do not look to me for an answer. I have none. I have but a feeble human intellect, which can never comprehend so profound a truth as this. What I do have, however, is the knowledge that things which are contrary to reason, and things which are above reason, are not necessarily the same. Our inability to ponder how God can both love and condemn, speaks more to the limitations of our faculties, than it does to any alleged maliciousness on behalf of the Almighty. It is not for us to make such inquiries against the character and goodness of God; rather, we would do well to avoid foolish and unlearned questions, knowing that they do gender strifes, and leave the unprofitable palaver and vain jangling to the fools who indulge them.

With this background in place, I now intend to elaborate briefly on the great love wherewith God loved us – the great love which moved him to give his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

Did e’er such love and sorrow meet, or thorns compose so rich a crown?

“Not that we loved God”

My brother, I urge you to consider your love for God at this hour. How diligently do you keep his commandments? How fondly do you cherish his fellowship? How thoroughly do you love his law? Is your love for God contingent upon what you expect him to do for you? I certainly hope not. I certainly hope you are not one of the many “fair-weather Christians” who would curse God if their lives were altered for the worse. Yet, even if you will love God through peace and peril, how fervent is this love you show? I trust you are familiar with the first and great commandment: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind.” Now, it is good to love God with all your heart, but do you leave off loving him with all your soul, strength, and mind? Of course, you do. So do I. So has every Christian which has ever lived.

This is not meant to be an indictment upon you, sir. It is only acknowledging a reality which will remain so long as our sinful flesh does, for while our spirits indeed may be willing, our flesh is weak. The love of God is to keep his commandments (1 John 5:3); if we keep his commandments little, we love him little. True, you may keep his commandment, “Thou shalt not steal”, but do you keep his commandment, “Thou shalt not covet”, or “Thou shalt not bear false witness”, or, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me”? You may not be an adulterer, but are you a talebearer, or a hypocrite, or a boaster?

Alas, the love we show to God is, at its best, a weak, wavering, pitiful thing. For all that he has done for us, and all that he will do for us, how little we offer him in return!

“But that he loved us”

We love him, because he first loved us. Do you know how he loved us, O Christian? I will tell you. I will tell you of a God who left the majesty and joy of heaven to come to this sin-cursed world and take upon himself the form of a servant. I will tell you of a God who was despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief, though he did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth. He made the withered whole, the weak strong, the sick healthy. He gave men sight, gave them food, gave them hope for life eternal! And how was he recompensed for doing the works which none other man did?

I will take you to a garden he ofttimes resorted thither with his disciples. There, in an agony he prays more earnestly: and his sweat are as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground, because he knows he must shortly be obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. He is beset by a band of men accompanying one of his very disciples, and though he could presently be given more than twelve legions of angles to combat his apprehenders, he meekly submits to an illegal and rigged trial which sentences him to death. Imagine this! An innocent man, God manifest in the flesh, who was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin, calmly allowing himself to be executed for crimes he did not commit!

I will take you to the suffering of the Son of Man, who came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life as a ransom for many. Behold how they treated the propitiation for the world’s sins! See him smart upon the scourge of their whips! See him stumble from the scornful blows of knaves! See him languish beneath the burden of his cross! Verily, he was wounded for our transgressions. He was bruised for our iniquities. The chastisement of our peace was upon him. And with his stripes, we are healed.

I will take you to Calvary. There, upon the tree, hangs the bleeding Savior. Before him is gathered a large and boisterous crowd, directing their speech and gestures at Jesus. Do they thank Immanuel for suffering so on their behalf? Do they praise his goodness and extol his grace? No! They revile him, and wag their heads, and mockingly scorn, “He saved others; himself he cannot save.” What agony the Prince of Peace bears, as the Lord lays on him the iniquity of us all! What anguish he endures, as he pays for our sins with the invaluable currency of his precious blood! And what fearsome happenings follow, as he gives up the ghost, so we, through faith in his blood, might have life!

I will take you to one place more, and be done with it. It is the first morning of the week, and the tomb where Christ was laid stands silent. It stands still. It stands, empty? Yes, empty, indeed! For up from the grave he arose, with a mighty triumph o’er his foes! Death could not keep him there. Sin could not keep him there. Satan and all the hordes of hell could not keep him there. For God hath raised him from the dead, hath taken the sting of death, hath taken the victory of the grave! Christ has risen unto our justification, and sprinkled his blood on the heavenly mercy seat to complete our redemption. And he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.

Do I dare to compare the love of man with the love of God? It does not seem fit that the two should even be spoken of in the same breath, much less contrasted. But, I will. When I put our floundering love for God next to his faithful love for us, I find that our love is shallow; his love is profound. Our live is conditional; his love, unconditional. Our love is transient; his love, everlasting. When our love wavers, his love stands strong. When our love fails, his love endures. For God could no sooner cease to love, than he could cease to exist.

“Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love” – wonderful, that. He loves us with an everlasting love! He does not love us with a fickle, fluctuating “love” which evaporates as quickly as it appears, but an immutable, steadfast love that shall endure forever. Before we could ever love him, he loved us. Before we ever knew him, he loved us. And now, in spite of our sins and shortcomings, he still loves us. What a paltry and pitiful thing is our love, when measured against the lofty standard of his divine love! And to think a holy, just God would choose to love we wretched clumps of sinful clay, notwithstanding our iniquities and transgressions and vileness! How great a love is this!

Alas, try as I might, I fail in attempting further to convey so powerful a thing as his love, through so feeble a thing as my keyboard. Therefore, I point you once more to the most wonderful language in the world: “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”


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