Our host today is Diane Bucknell- I am so grateful for her life and her passion for God’s Word. She has a wonderful laugh and a sweet voice (yes, I have heard her many times now!). She is a wise woman and I encourage you to read and follow her blog. You will be blessed indeed!
Thank you Becky for inviting me to join you and our sisters here for your “Doctrines In The Kitchen”. What a joy and privilege it is to share together some of the great truths God has been impressing upon us.
The Love of God is a doctrine that is so deep, so wide and so measureless, that attempting to consider it in such a tiny space seems will be a real challenge. Therefore, I’d like to express just a few of the thoughts that I shared recently with the women in our congregation.
“The love of God is greater far
Than tongue or pen can ever tell;
It goes beyond the highest star,
And reaches to the lowest hell;
The guilty pair, bowed down with care,
God gave His Son to win;
His erring child He reconciled,
And pardoned from his sin.”
Frederick M. Lehman
The love of God is not only one of His many attributes but it’s also the very essence of His nature! God not only loves us and is a loving God, but his very nature IS love! There are three things Scripture reveals to us about God’s nature. I John 4:24 declares that God is Spirit. God is not “a” spirit but He IS Spirit which means that He exists equally everywhere in Heaven and earth and in even in Hell (Ps 139:7-8), and as R. A. Finlayson put it, “Hell is eternity in the presence of God without a mediator.”
God is Light (I Jn 1:5). “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.” He is the total of all excellence and beauty and in Him there is nothing that is evil or sinful. And finally I John 4:8 reveals to us that God is Love!
When we speak of God’s love we are describing a type of love that is unlike any kind of love that the world expresses. This is a new kind of love that cannot be conjured up and can only be manifested through the Holy Spirit’s indwelling presence in the heart of the believer.
“and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Romans 5:5
The Scriptures uses three Greek words that are all translated as the word love. The first is Agape love which is Divine love that comes from God and indwells the Christian. Unbelievers are not capable of expressing agape love because they do not have the Holy Spirit residing in them. Then there is Phileo or brotherly love which is the kind of love that people have for one another, whether it be the love between a husband and wife, parents and children, or friends and neighbors. Philadelphia, known as the city of brotherly love derives its name from this Greek word. And finally, the word Eros that is used to describe erotic love.
God’s love for us in not dependent upon us and it is a complete miracle that God should love us when there was nothing lovely in us! We had plenty within us to provoke His anger and His judgment and yet He chose to love us!!
“We love because he first loved us.” I John 4:19
“For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray,
slaves to various passions and pleasures,
passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.
But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared,
he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness,
but according to his own mercy” Titus 3:4-5
God’s love is everlasting! The Lord said to His people in Jeremiah 31:3 “I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.” And in Psalm 136:3 we read, “Give thanks to the Lord of lords, for his steadfast love endures forever;” The Christian CANNOT be separated from His love even by our own doing! What comfort and refuge we can take in the magnificent promises in Romans 8!
“Who will separate us from the love of Christ?
Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution,
or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
But in all these things we overwhelmingly
conquer through Him who loved us.
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life,
nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present,
nor things to come, nor powers, nor height,
nor depth, nor any other created thing,
will be able to separate us from the love of God,
which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. “
When considering the magnitude of God’s love towards sinful beings we can’t help but ponder His reasons for loving us. Romans 9 explains that God has set His love upon us in order to display His mercy and to manifest His glory.
“What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power,
has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction,
in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy,
which he has prepared beforehand for glory”. Romans 9:22-23
And in Ephesians we find that God also chose to love us in order to provide a Bride for His Son . John MacArthur made one of the most mind boggling statements I’ve ever heard when he said:
“The Great goal of creation was for God to provide a Bride for His Son”
“Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy,
cleansing her by the washing with water through the word,
and to present her to himself as a radiant church,
without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish,
but holy and blameless.” Ephesians 5: 25-27
“In this the love of God was made manifest among us,
that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.
In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” I Jn 4:9-10
God manifested His love towards us through the sacrifice of His Son, the atonement for our sin and by the adoption into His family. Prior to our adoption as sons and daughters we were children of wrath.
Because of Adam’s sin were all spiritually stillborn when we arrived on this earth and contrary to Western thinking; we are not the free agents we might like to imagine ourselves as being. Rather, we are all in servitude either to God or to Satan. There is simply no third alternative!
Jesus denounced the Pharisees saying: “If God were your Father, you would love me…You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires” John 8:42-44. And John proclaimed, “By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother. I Jn 3:10
Observe what great love the Father has manifested towards us as Paul states two of the most blessed words in all of Scripture — “But God…” !
“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved” Ephesians 2:1-5
Dr. Martyn-Lloyd Jones wrote in his commentary on 1st John,
“It is possible for a person to be absolutely correct and yet not be a Christian. …it is possible for them to be interested in theology and to say that one theology is superior to another… and yet to be utterly devoid of the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and of the love of God in their hearts ..”
An intellectual knowledge of the truth, no matter how accurate, is not sufficient in itself for salvation. The devils believe and tremble! Only by an outpouring of God’s love through His Spirit can one be truly converted. So then, how can we have a full assurance that we are genuine believers and how might we correctly express that love towards God? First and foremost we express our love for Christ by loving Him and by loving His people. We also express our love to Him by loving His Word and by obeying His commandments.
“Jesus said to him, “ ‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment.” Matthew 22:37-38
“Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day” . Ps. 119:97
“For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.” I John 5:3-5
The great English preacher Abraham Booth (1734-1806) wrote in his work on the subject of divine grace, “The Reign of Grace, from Its Rise to Its Consummation”,
“The essence of true holiness consists in LOVE to God. This heavenly affection is the fruitful source of ALL OBEDIENCE to Him and of all delight in Him, both here and hereafter….because all acceptable duties naturally flow from love to God.”
Another way we can express our love towards Christ is by not loving the world, or feeding our flesh and our pride. Where do our deepest affections lie? Do our greatest sources of joy come from our homes, our appearances, or bank accounts? Are we worshipping the idea of having godly marriages and families, rather than the God who gives us these gifts? Or perhaps our delights are a little more devious when we find ourselves desiring recognition and praise. We all struggle with this and we must continually guard ourselves from this subtle form of idolatry.
“Do not love the world or the things in the world.
If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
For all that is in the world—
the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—
is not from the Father but is from the world.
I John 2:15-16
We also express our love to Christ by loving the Brethren because this is the ultimate display of our faith to the world. God has forgiven our sins while we were still dead in them and how much more should we be patient with one another. How easily offended we can be and how prone we are to obsess about what others may or may not be thinking about us. There’s no getting around the fact that consistently loving one another takes effort and often means saying no to our pride.
“By this all men will know that you are My disciples,
if you have love for one another.” John 13:35
“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted,
forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”
It also means handling our differences Biblically. For the most part, we just need to pray about it and let it go when someone offends us. If a problem arises that just can’t be overlooked without causing bitterness, then we need to go to that brother or sister privately and talk to them in gentleness and humility rather than talking to our friends about it.
I Corinthians 13 provides us with a beautiful list behaviors that will solve most of our relationship problems before we even get to the point of being confrontational. Love is patient and kind, it isn’t envious or boastful and it is not arrogant or rude. It doesn’t insist on its own way and is not irritable or resentful. Love does not rejoice at wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. These are all very practical applications for everyday living. And after all is said,
“Love is the most abiding grace.
This will stay with us when other graces take their farewell.
In heaven we shall need no repentance, because we shall have no sin.
In heaven we shall not need patience, because there will be no affliction.
In heaven we shall need no faith because faith looks at things unseen (Heb. 11:1).
But then we shall see God face to face; and where there is vision, there is no need of faith.
But when the other graces are out of date, love continues…”
~ Thomas Watson