Tag Archives: God’s Love

Considering the Love of God

In the first epistle of John, much like his gospel account of our Lord’s life and ministry, the apostle of love rightly earns this familiar title through his expositions on the love of God.  In many respects, several of these verses have become the most recognizable, most recited verses on the love of God in all of Scripture.  Surely a testimony to their simplicity, but moreso to the truths behind them.

One such passage is found in 1 John 4:10

“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.”

In order for us to comprehend and feel the weight of a passage like this one, concerning the love of God for us in Christ, we need to first understand the love of God for His Son.  If we are to properly appreciate the love that God has for His adopted children, and similarly the love that Christ has for those for whom He died, and subsequently avoid a man-centered understanding of these truths, then we must begin with the love between the Father and the Son.

When we consider the love that the Father has for the Son, we have only limited, imperfect examples from which to draw upon.  For instance, the Father’s love for His Son far exceeds the love that a husband has for his bride.  A husband may care for his bride, love and cherish her, protect her, but this is an incomplete, finite love when compared to God the Father’s love for God the Son.  Additionally, the love that a parent has for a child, closer in relationship, but again inadequate.  God the Father’s love for His Son far exceeds both that of a husband for his bride and a parent for their child.  In fact, if you consider anything in this world that you love, so much that you would die for it, you have but a pale shadow in comparison to the love that the Father has for the Son.  It is an infinite, everlasting, and eternal love.  It knows neither beginning or end.  It cannot be exhausted nor measured.  Our language fails to properly describe it, though we may begin with the word, perfect.  The love of God, this intra-trinitarian love, infinitely exceeds any example of love that we could possibly imagine.

To draw our minds to even an initial comprehension of the love that the Father has for the Son, Puritan John Flavel offers the following

How this gift of Christ was the highest, and fullest manifestation of the love of God, that ever the world saw: and this will be evidenced by the following particulars:

(1.) If you consider how near and dear Jesus Christ was to the Father; he was his Son, “his only Son,” saith the text; the Son of his love, the darling of his Soul: His other Self, yea, one with himself; the express image of his person; the brightness of his Father’s Glory: In parting with him, he parted with his own heart, with his very bowels, as I may say. “Yet to us a Son is given,” Isa. ix. 6. and such a Son as he calls “his dear Son,” Col. i. 13. A late writer tells us, that he hath been informed, that in the famine in Germany, a poor family being ready to perish with famine, the husband made a motion to the wife, to sell one of the children for bread, to relieve themselves and the rest: The wife at last consents that it should be so; but then they began to think which of the four should be sold; and when the eldest was named, they both refused to part with that, being their first-born, and the beginning of their strength. Well, then they came to the second, but could not yield that he should be sold, being the very picture and lively image of his father. The third was named, but that also was a child that best resembled the mother. And when the youngest was thought on, that was the Benjamin, the child of their old age; and so were content rather to perish altogether in the famine, than to part with a child for relief And you know how tenderly Jacob took it, when his Joseph and Benjamin were rent from him. What is a child, but a piece of the parent wrapt up another skin? And yet our dearest children are but as strangers to us, in comparison of the unspeakable dearness that was betwixt the Father and Christ.——Now, that he should ever be content to part with a Son, and such an only One, is such a manifestation of love, as will be admired to all eternity.

Now, considering this love that the Father has for the Son, consider that He gave, out of love, His son to be the propitiation, literally the wrath-absorbing-atoning sacrifice, for us, disgusting and vile sinners.  Stained not only with the guilt of sin, but filled to the core with rebellion against this same God that loves His Son without measure.  Consider that this same God, loving His Son as He did, freely offered Him up for sinful man.  As we are told in the passage above, this free offering of His Son was because God loved us.  This is the manifestation of the love of God, in Christ, for sinners (1 John 4:9; Romans 5:8).  This is what it means that God so loved the world (John 3:16).  When the Apostle writes, God is love, this is the starting point towards untangling the complexity of this divine attribute (1 John 4:8).

In comparison with both the love of God for Christ and the love of God, in Christ, for us sinners, how weak and feeble are our own declarations of love for our Heavenly Father.  It is not that we loved God, but that He loved us (1 John 4:10).  Yet despite this, one of the very evidences of the love that God has for us in Christ, which we share in and experience upon being born again, is that we love one another, “if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.” (1 John 4:12)  An evidence of the indwelling nature of God’s Spirit within us is love, for one another.  This outward, horizontal expression of love can only come from a heart that is oriented vertically with love from God and love for God.  As the Apostle exhorts,

19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.”

Therefore, dear readers, come often to the fount of God’s love and consider, meditate, draw upon the love that God has for His own Son.  Allow this to frame your understanding of the love that God has for you, in giving His only Son to die in your place.  If after contemplating the magnificent reality of God’s love, your heart is not drawn to love Him more, hardly moved closer to Him by increased affections, then perhaps the love of God does not abide in you.  Perhaps you have not come to either  be born of God or know God.  In that case, repent of your sins, turn to Christ for forgiveness with a genuine desire to love God and be loved by Him.

10 Tests for Knowing that you Know God’s Love – Martyn Lloyd-Jones

The following is a summary of 10 tests for knowing that you know God’s love as preached by Martyn Lloyd-Jones in his sermon on 1 John 4:16.  Specifically, they can be found in his collection of 1 John sermons entitled Life in Christ: Studies in 1 John published by Crossway.  They are listed in reverse order.  Following along in 1 John, we can submit that knowing God’s love equates to being His child, therefore our list can be evidences of genuine salvation.

10. A loss of the feeling that God is against you.

9. A loss of a fear of God, while a sense of awe remains.

8. A sense that God is for you and that God loves you.

7. A sense of sins forgiven.

6. A sense of gratitude and thanksgiving to God.

5. An increasing hatred of sin.

4. A desire to please God and to live a good life because of what He has done for you.

3. A desire to know Him better and to draw closer to Him.

2. A conscious regret that our love for Him is so poor combined with a desire to love Him more.

1. A delight in hearing these things and in hearing about Him.

Trials, Discipline and the Love of God

Guest post by Justin Lyttle.

Philippians 4:10-13 I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. 11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

While Philippians 4:13 is a coffee mug verse in this culture, I wonder how often we consider the context? Paul’s exhortation in these verses centers not so much around contentment with accomplishment, as many people would apply this verse, but with contentment in circumstances. This is a biblical psychology which states that Jesus, not my circumstances, dictates my contentment. This follows the context of the previous chapter of Philippians as Paul describes all things as rubbish compared with knowing Christ and pursuing him. When considered in this context, these words are countercultural and counterintuitive to our experience and feelings. Many times our circumstances become a point of contention for us moving forward in obedience to the Lord. Think of the last time a difficult circumstance entered your life. How did you handle it? Did you run to and lean into the Lord first, rejoicing that he was using it to make you more like Jesus? It would seem that stressful or difficult circumstances may reveal to a deeper extent how much we trust God.

Learning joy in suffering is not something that comes naturally to us as fallen men and women, even though we are commanded to do so (James 1:2-4). Rather than learning contentment through trust in God, we would have our pain and difficulty numbed so as not to feel anything at all. We would consider any assault on our sense of comfort as something unfair to be put aside immediately. However, God’s word would speak of trials and discipline as an act of love by our Father. Although God created us to bare his image, it has been marred by disobedience. God uses the difficulties we encounter to make us more like Christ, because he ultimately desires our holiness more than he does our comfort. In truth, the fact that God has chosen to make us more like Jesus rather than leave us in the sin we currently live in should be more comforting than how we feel in situations. God’s sovereign rule over our circumstances, us knowing without any doubt that he is in control of everything, and that he has our holiness in mind should trump any feelings of comfort derived by our circumstances. Circumstancial comfort will always be fleeting due to the ambiguity that life brings on a daily basis, but seeing God’s sovereign refining love as the purpose in trials is the greater comfort and hope to all who believe.

This idea fails to be understood by Christians because we associate discipline with punishment. Instead of focusing on the unpleasantness of a circumstance, it would be more biblical as a child of God to see discipline as an act of love by our Creator, who is restoring us into right relation with him. This is what the writer of Hebrews was trying to convey when he wrote these words:

Hebrews 12:3-11 3 Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. 4 In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5 And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?      

            “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,

                    nor be weary when reproved by him.

            6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,

                    and chastises every son whom he receives.”

            7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

How great is God’s love that he wants to redeem every portion of our lives into obedience to him. We as humans could be no more fulfilled, no more at peace, have no more joy than experiencing Christ more deeply each day. The Scriptures tells us specifically that no discipline from the Lord seems pleasant at the time it is happening, but it yeilds righteousness to those who are trained by it. This is ultimately why Paul can say “I can do all things through Christ.” It is not because all circumstances are easy or painless, but that they all have a purpose to teach continual reliance on God through humility. It is not in our power to control every circumstance, but it is in our power to fall down and worship in obedience through the grace of God, knowing that he is merciful and loving in that he works all things for our good to make us more like Jesus (Romans 8:28-30). This truth does not mean that our pain is not real and difficult to bear, more than that it is through these times that our God refines us as his children, loving us through the hurt to a more holy life. May we all learn this truth in a deeper way at every opportunity we are blessed with.