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Love is of God

C Jones, Cardiff

Love

Adam was made in the image of God (Gen 1.27), and was so made that he was capable of loving and wanted to be loved. Human love at its best is a very wonderful thing. Love for others has so dominated, controlled and motivated some lives that tremendous sacrifices of time, energy and resources have been made for the objects of that love. The Lord Jesus Christ said, "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends" (Jn 15.13). At a human level, love results from some perceived characteristics or qualities in the person loved. Human love is not always and inevitably constant and unchanging. Unlike the unchanging love of God, love has been known to change when changes have occurred in the object of that love.

God is Love

In 1 John 4.8 and 16 we read that "God is love". This might at first glance appear to be a definition of God. It is, however, a phrase which describes the nature of God. God's love for us is not called forth by any characteristics or qualities we might have - the source and cause of God's love is in Himself. He loves because He is love. God is holy (Lev 19.2), and yet, despite the fact that "all have sinned" (Rom 3.23), He loves us with a divine unchanging love. We were loved with an infinite love "Even when we were dead in sins" (Eph 2.4,5), and "God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Rom 5.8). We had no love for God but we are told in that lovely verse in 1 John 4, "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins" (4.10).

God's thoughts are not our thoughts and His ways are not our ways (Is 55.8). The eternal God is infinite in every aspect of His being. His love is infinite and eternal. Paul could say, and every believer can say, "…the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me" (Gal 2.20). The love of God the Father, and of the Lord Jesus Christ, can be appreciated and understood to only a very limited extent by our finite minds: "…to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge" (Eph 3.19).

One consequence of loving someone is that you want to give gifts to the one who is loved, and "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (Jn 3.16). The Lord Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners (1 Tim 1.15; Lk 19.10). God gave His only begotten, eternal and beloved Son, and the "gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Rom 6.23).

The Lord Jesus Christ "loved the church, and gave himself for it" (Eph 5.25). This is true, and yet the Lord suffered, bled and died primarily to glorify God His Father. In the Garden of Gethsemane, the Lord suffered in an agony of anticipation, knowing that shortly He would experience excruciating physical agonies, but, far more than that, He who knew no sin would be made to be sin for us, "that we might be made the righteousness of God in him" (2 Cor 5.21). The Lord knew that when He would hang suffering, bleeding and dying as a sacrifice for the sin of the whole world (Jn 1.29; 1 Jn 2.2), He would be forsaken by God (Ps 22.1; Mt 27.46). The Lord was forsaken that we might never be forsaken (Heb 13.5). In His agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, He prayed, "all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt" (Mk 14.36). The Lord always did those things that pleased and glorified His Father (Jn 8.29). He said, "What shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour. Father, glorify thy name" (Jn 12.27-28). He obeyed and glorified His Father despite the cost involved, and could say, "I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do" (Jn 17.4).

On leaving the Upper Room, the Lord said to His disciples, "that the world may know that I love the Father; and as the Father gave me commandment, even so I do. Arise, let us go hence" (Jn 14.31). The love of the Father for the Son, and the love of the Son for the Father, is eternal. The Lord was always conscious of His Father's love for Him and His eternal delight in Him (Prov 8.30; Mt 3.17; 17.5). The Lord said, "Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again" (Jn 10.17). After Judas had left the Upper Room "Jesus said, Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in him" (Jn 13.31).

The sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ makes us think of the burnt offering. This was not a compulsory offering - it was brought voluntarily by those who had been blessed by God and were in covenant relationship with Him. The offering was brought to give pleasure to God - it typified the Lord yielding and surrendering entirely, in love, devotion and obedience, to the will of God, His Father, and glorifying Him. The Lord voluntarily offered Himself completely to God, and glorified and showed His love for Him in His life, suffering, bleeding and dying. Only God can fully appreciate and value the significance of the offering of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross.

God's eternal, unchanging love is always the great motivating force behind all His plans and actions. "Love is of God" (1 Jn 4.7), and should characterize believers, who are the children of God (1 Jn 4.11). Love is part of the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal 5.22-23). It is the will of God that we should love one another (1 Thess 4.9). We are to love fervently (l Pet 1.22), without dissimulation (Rom 12.9), and unselfishly (1 Cor 13.5). We are commanded to love God and each other (Mk 12.30-31; Jn 15.17). The Lord said, "If ye love me, keep my commandments" (Jn 14.15), and "A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another" (Jn 13.34-35). The reality of love is shown ultimately by deeds (1 Jn 3.16-18). The Lord Jesus Christ, the suffering servant, showed His love for His Father and for us by doing His Father's will and glorifying Him. He was "obedient unto death, even the death of the cross" (Phil 2.8).

Concluded.

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