As we have now reached the end of our 6 part series, there is only one other issue that needed to be addressed to bring the subject of the love of God to some kind of completion. HOW SHOULD WE RESPOND TO GOD’S LOVE?
LOVE YOUR ENEMY AND THOSE OF THE WORLD, THE SAME WAY IN WHICH GOD LOVES THEM
It is a critical issue, and it is the issue of response. We went deep and high and far and wide in our discussion of God’s love. And now as we got our arms as wide as we could get them and we were finally left in silence, unable to unscrew the unscrutable, the question left is how do we respond to that love? What is required of us? What is the appropriate response to being so greatly loved by God as He loves us? The answer is very, very clear in Scripture. Our response is to manifest that same love to others. How God has loved us is exactly how we are to love.
In Ephesians chapter 5 Paul says at the beginning, “Therefore be imitators of God and walk in love.”
This duty and the implication of God’s love is so crystal clear in Matthew 5. Verse 43, “You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.” Now Jesus is simply saying common knowledge. In other words, they were not a lot unlike our society today, they wanted to give room for hate. It was even religious to hate people who gave you trouble. “But I say to you, love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you.” Why? Verse 45, “In order that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.” Why? He loves His enemies.
The question is, does God love the world? Yes. Does He love those who hate Him? Yes. He loves His enemies and it is on that premise that we are commanded to love our enemies. We are to love the ungodly just like God loves the ungodly. And how does He love them? Through common grace, verse 45, “He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, He sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” There is a love which demonstrates itself commonly to everybody regardless of their spiritual condition or whether they are God’s own beloved or not. If you love, verse 46 says, those who love you, what reward have you?
Verse 47, “If you greet your brothers only, what do you do more than others? How different is that? Everybody does that, even the pagans do the same.” You need to love as God loves and He says it this way in verse 48, “You’re to be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Nothing more demonstrates the perfection of God then the fact that He loves those who hate Him. Matthew 5:48 is in the context of loving people who hate you.
We are to reproduce the same kind of love. And that starts with loving the ungodly the way God loves them. It manifests itself in common grace or goodness, kindness and secondly in compassion, pity, tender-heartedness, sympathy. Thirdly in warning about judgment and hell. Fourthly, calling them to repentance or giving them an invitation to believe the gospel. That is how we are to love, just the way God loves His enemies. That is to demonstrate, as verse 45 says, that we are the sons of our Father who is in heaven.
We started the first proposition in this series with God’s love to the world, which is unlimited in extent. That is, He loves the world, John 3:16. Titus 3:4 speaks of His love for mankind. It is demonstrated in common grace, compassion, warnings and a gospel call. It was His love for the world that motivated Him to send His Son to be the Savior of the world, as Scripture calls Him.
We are to love them with kindness. That is why Galatians 6:10 says do good to all men, especially those of the household of faith, but do good to all men. Or 1 Corinthians 16:14 , “Let all that you do be done in love.” Help to make the sun shine on them a little bit, bring a little joy into their life, treat them with courtesy and tenderness.
However, like the Lord, our tenderness cannot mitigate against a warning. We are to say to them that God has commanded all men everywhere to repent, and He has appointed a day in which He will judge the world by that man whom He has ordained, whom He raised from the dead, the Lord Jesus Christ.
And then as Mark 16:15 says we are to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. We are to reproduce His love in the world with kindness and compassion and warnings and invitations to believe.
A DEEP LOVE FOR OUR BROTHERS AND SISTERS IN THE BODY OF CHRIST
The second great proposition we said was that God’s love to the world is limited in degree. God does not love the world the way He loves His own. He loves the world in a temporary and a limited way. He does not love them like He loves the elect who He has designed to save. It says in John 13:1, He loves His own unto perfection. To the end, to the limit, forever. To them His love is forgiving, generous, merciful, gracious, inseparable, unbreakable, unconquerable, unwavering, unfading, sanctifying, cleansing, purifying, nourishing, cherishing love. And that’s how we’re to love them. That is how we are to love our true brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ.
In John 13 in that upper room the night of Jesus’ betrayal, He demonstrated His love and an example of how the disciples were to love by washing their feet. It was a custom to have the most menial slave available to do the foot washing because it was the dirtiest and lowest task on the responsibility chart. But Jesus who was King of Kings and Lord of Lords stooped and did it. And He said, “If I then the Lord, the master, the teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet for I have given you an example that you should do as I did to you. Truly, truly I say to you, a slave is not greater than his master, neither is one who has sent greater than the one who sent him.”
Then down in verse 34, “A new commandment I give you that you love one another even as I have loved you that you also love one another.” There is that lavish, unselfish, humble, sacrificial bowing of the knee to do the dirty task that benefits a brother or a sister. It is a love, as 1 John 3:16 and 17 says, it is a love that opens up our feelings of compassion toward one another. We are to love other believers to perfection. We have a love for the world but it is not to the extent that we love the brotherhood.
1 John chapter 4. John is writing here to believers calling them to this kind of love. Verse 17, “By this love is perfected with us.” John is not writing about some small component of love or some lesser degree of love, he is writing about perfect love so that we can be like our Father.
That’s John’s theme in verses 7 to 21. It starts in verse 7, “Beloved, let us love one another.” Yes we learn from Matthew 5 that we are to love our enemies, we are to love the world, with common grace, compassion, judgment and warnings and gospel invitations, but we are also to love the brotherhood. But here he emphasizes we are the beloved. We are to demonstrate the perfect love that will make us the perfect children of our perfect heavenly Father.
Then there are six reasons why we are to obey and they do overlap. In fact, if you read the epistle of John you have the feeling you are going in circles. But you will see that there are six reasons why the believer manifests self-sacrificing love that is like his Father’s love to him.
LOVE IS THE ESSENCE OF GOD
Reason number one, because love is the essence of God. If we are going to say we are the children of God as Ephesians 5 puts it, then we better walk in love because that’s the character of God. Verse 7, “Let us love one another for love is from God.” We who are God’s children will reproduce His nature.
So back to verse 7, “Love one another for love is from God and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God and the one who doesn’t love, doesn’t know God for God is love.” God’s people bear His reflection. Everyone who habitually loves gives evidence of being born of God. Their life and their love is derived from Him.
There were people in the assembly to which John wrote this epistle, who were being influenced by mystical teaching that later became known as Gnosticism. That mystical teaching said that we’ve elevated ourselves to the higher planes of human consciousness in which we have come to know God. And they looked down on humble Christians, demeaning, denigrating them. And to them John writes these words, “The one who goes around saying he knows God but does not demonstrate love for the brothers is not one who knows God because God is love and whoever is born of God and knows God, loves like God loves.”
You look at that little phrase at the end of verse 8, “God is love,” and as we have been going through the series somebody might say, “I question that. Look at the world around us.” You say history has this long tale of man’s inhumanity to man, history is one long massacre. Spain had its Inquisition, Britain its Atlantic Slave Trade, Germany had its gas chambers, Russia its Siberian labor camps, United States its own abuses. The world is still swept by fear and lust and greed and it seems to me escalating racial tension and hatred. Nature too seems as twisted if not more twisted in our time than ever. Babies are born depraved. They inherent diseases and tendencies toward all kinds of trouble. Ours is a world of preying animals, parasites, viruses, deadly bacteria. And when you read the Bible you certainly don’t read about Utopia. You open your Bible and you find tyranny, cruelty, mutilation, people having their eyes gouged out, their hands lopped off. God opens the ground and swallows them up. And the Bible is full of the stories of deceit and licentiousness and wickedness and immorality and homosexuality and war. And not only war but war that God starts. And Assyria, one of the most pagan, wretched, ungodly, cruel nations in the history of the world is called “the rod of God’s anger.” And then you read God is love?
We must realize that we are children and we are self-conceited, stiff-necked rebels who will get everything wrong unless we are willing to give up telling God what He has to do and what He has to be like.
This puts us right back where we were in part 5 in Romans 9 and we hear Paul say, “Who are you, O man, to answer God, close your mouth.” God is love because it says He is. But His love is never unmixed or untouched by His other attributes. God is love in spite of how it might look. He puts it on display through His children.
LOVE WAS MANIFEST BY CHRIST
Secondly, we are to have perfect love for one another because love was manifest by Christ. Look at verse 9, “By this the love of God was manifest to us, or in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him in this is love not that we love God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” We are supposed to manifest godlike love.
The origin of love is in the nature of God, the manifestation of love is in the coming of Christ. We are to love one another because we see the essence of that love manifest in Jesus Christ.
Jesus gives us the classic, the all-time, the perfect, the glorious illustration of what loving one another means when He gave His life. We are to love by sacrifice. John says if you see somebody in need and you close up your compassion, how in the world can we say the love of God dwells in you, where is the sacrifice?
Jesus Christ came and appeased an angry and a hostile God, a holy God sitting in heaven who was angry with the sinners every day. Jesus appeased His anger with His sacrifice and God wanted it that way because He sent Him. God bears a just and holy wrath against sin. God has a holy antagonism against evil and iniquity. And so He had to send His own Son to die on a cross to satisfy His own anger, to satisfy His own vengeance.
Now remember, it is not Bethlehem that was the preeminent manifestation of God’s love. It is Calvary and the atonement that is the preeminent manifestation of God’s love. No one who has ever been to the cross and seen God’s love displayed can go back to a life of selfishness. God was so unselfish that He sent His own Son. And he showed us how to love, not just by washing feet which was humble, but by giving our lives.
OUR LOVE IS OUR TESTIMONY
Thirdly, we are to love because it is our testimony. Look at verse 12, “No one has beheld God at any time.” The point that John is making here is not very subtle but it is pretty clear. What he is saying is nobody has seen God. Exodus 33 says nobody could see God and live. So how is anybody going to know about Him if they cannot see Him? God is going to reveal Himself to the world, to put Himself on display and He wants people to bow. John 4 says the Father seeks true worshipers who worship Him in spirit and in truth. He wants men to see Him, know Him, fall down before Him, honour Him, glorify Him and praise Him. But John says nobody has seen Him. How they going to know Him?
Verse 12, “If we love one another God abides in us and His love is perfected in us.” If we love one another they’ll see God and that is our testimony. God puts Himself on display through the love of His people. And then all of those queries about whether God is really a God of love … they all just wash away in the flood of Christian love. It is not an earthly love.
No man sees God at any time. Well the pure in heart shall see the Lord in the future. But for now, if we love one another then God is in us making Himself visible through this perfect, limitless love, loving believers the way God loves them, lavishly, generously, graciously, forgivingly, cleansingly.
LOVE IS OUR ASSURANCE
Lots of people wonder whether they are saved and they worry about whether they’ll go to heaven if they die. Now look at verse 13, “By this we know we abide in Him and He in us.”
How do you know God is in you and you in Him? “Because He has given us His Spirit.” The indwelling Spirit, Paul says, is the down payment, the guarantee, the engagement ring, the promise of an eternal glorious future. Follow this one, verse 14, “And…here’s another way we know we’re Christians…we have beheld and bear witness that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world.”
We also know that we are Christians because we understand the gospel. And then he adds to that verse 15, “And we know that whosoever confesses Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him and he in God.” But all that is preliminary to the real issue in verse 16, “And we have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us.”
That takes us to the ultimate. How do you know you have the Holy Spirit? By the fruit of the Spirit of which the first one is love. The reality of the fact that you are a believer is when you see the flow of God’s love in your life. The Holy Spirit, Romans 5:5, has shed abroad the love of God in us.
Do you love to be with Christians? Does your heart rejoice when somebody becomes a believer? Do you care when believers suffer? Do you feel their pain? Do you have any inclination to pray and to intercede on behalf of any other believers? Those are evidences of love. Do you want to help somebody who is confused about truth? Do you have some kind of desire in your heart to show somebody a straighter path in their Christian walk? That is love.
If you’re wandering around wondering whether you’re a Christian, don’t go back and say, “Well I must be, I remember the day I signed the card. I remember the day I stuck the hand in the air, walked the aisle, stood up, genuflected,” or whatever you did.” But until you see the fruit, you really don’t have anything tangible. You can take God at His word, absolutely, but not without the affirmation of the evidence.
OUR CONFIDENCE IN JUDGEMENT
Love is also our confidence in judgment. Look at verse 17, “By this love is perfected with us that we may have confidence in the day of judgment.”
When your life is characterized by love and you’re manifesting love everywhere, you’re going to have confidence in the day of judgment. Verse 18 says, “There’s no fear in love, perfect love casts out fear.” It is the fear of judgment because fear involves punishment, and if you are living in fear that Jesus might come or fear that you might face the Lord, there is something wrong in your life and what’s wrong is you’re not manifesting love because if you were manifesting perfect love you wouldn’t have any fear.
Our love might still not be the love as it should be and it is certainly not perfected yet and that is why we have those little breaches in our confidence, but it can be perfect in the sense of mature. Love is our confidence in judgment, it casts out all the fear. And we know as back in verse 2:28 it says we’re not going to be ashamed when He appears.
There’s a little phrase in there that is interesting at the end of verse 17, “As He is so also are we in this world.” What does that mean? Well, Jesus in this world pleased God and God said, “This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” Jesus is God’s beloved Son in whom He is well pleased, and so are we. We please Him when His love is manifest through us and we can share the very confidence of Christ who looked at the cross and saw the joy, said, “Pass the cross,” cause He knew He pleased His Father.
LOVE IS REASONABLE
Love is reasonable. That is the only thing that makes any kind of sense. This is really kind of a review. Verse 19, “We love because He first loved us.” Does that sound reasonable? It’s just the most obvious thing to do. We love others because He loved us. And if someone says, verse 20, “I love God and hates his brother, he’s a liar, for the one who doesn’t love his brother whom he has seen can’t love God whom he’s not seen. And this commandment we have from him that the one who loves God should love his brother also.” It’s just reasonable, it’s just normal, it’s just logical.
If you’ve learned to love the invisible God, the visible man is easy. Every claim to love God is a delusion if is not accompanied by unselfish perfect love for others.
OUR LOVE FOR JESUS CHRIST – THE SON OF GOD
There is one other aspect of God’s love we have to copy and it is this. Most supremely beyond God’s love for sinners which is limited, beyond God’s love for saints which is unlimited, God loves His Son. He said it over and over in the gospels. Jesus knew He was loved. In John 15:9, “Just as the Father has loved Me I have also loved you. Would you please abide in that love? Would you do the same?” John 17 verse 24, “Father, I desire that they also whom Thou hast given Me be with Me where I am in order that they may behold My glory which Thou hast given Me, for Thou didst love Me before the foundation of the world.” Verse 26, “The love where with Thou didst love Me.”
That’s why on the cross it was so horrendous when He said, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”
We must love the Son as God loves the Son, supremely. Loving the Lord Jesus Christ is everything. He is to be the object of our affection. It is He for whom we make the constant sacrifice joyfully.
Ephesians ends with these words, “Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ with a love incorruptible.” Is that love an emotion? No, here is how it works. John 14:15, “If you love Me you will obey My commandments.” Verse 21, “He who has My commandments and obeys them, he it is who loves Me.” Verse 23, “If anyone loves Me he will obey My Word.”
“Peter, or Jonas, do you love Me?” Yes, Lord, You know I love You. “Then feed My sheep.”
So we love the world with goodness, compassion, warning and gospel calls. We love believers with lavish, generous, sanctifying, purifying, forgiving love. And we love Christ with obedient love. And when we do that we are responding in the only appropriate manner to the love of God for us.
Thanks to all who joined us through this journey and above all, thanks to God who revealed the truths about His love to us.