The Shepherd of Hope blog is here to serve you, to help you know Jesus better and to find hope in Him. This blog relies on the Spirit of God using the word of God to build people of God. All material has been prayerfully submitted for your encouragement and spiritual edification. Your questions and comments are welcome.

Monday, April 18, 2011

His Own Love

What is God’s love like? That’s an interesting question. It presupposes that God loves. Some people would say that God is not a God of love. They look around at their lives and the world and see pain, suffering, tragedy, injustice, and they blame it all on God and say God is not loving! Such an assessment is based on a wrong perspective of the world and an earth-locked view of God. Solomon in the book of Ecclesiastes grappled with similar things and assessed the world “under the sun” as “vanity, vanity, all is vanity.” But at the end of that book he learned you have to look up, through the clouds of this world to find the answer to your questions and the meaning and purpose of life. Even the wisest man who ever lived, in his own strength, fell short of understanding such things. The only way to come to true understanding in anything and everything is for God to reach down to us, to condescend and reveal it to us. And that is true of Himself too. We know God because He has revealed Himself to us. And when He does that we discover, “God is love” (1 John 4:8, 16).

We know “God is love” because He has revealed that to us in His word. But what is God’s love like? That question is answered in His word and as we look at His answer about His love we will receive insight into some of those other questions about suffering in the world.

In Romans 5 verse 8 it states, “But God demonstrates His own love . . . .” The term “demonstrates” is a term used to describe how a merchant lays out his product before prospective buyers. The idea is the seller wants to present his product in the best possible light. In Romans 5 God lays out His love in the best possible light for us to see.

Notice too that the love God lays out for us to see is “His own love.” It’s not just any love. The New Testament was originally written in Greek. There are many words in the original Greek of the New Testament that are translated with our single English word love. The word “love” in Romans 5:8 is a translation of the Greek term agape. Agape is used to communicate affection, charity, benevolence, good will, love feast, and love. These words are all good words but they don’t touch the surface of “His own love.” To understand “His own love” we have to turn to His love letter to us. And we have to turn to a particular part of His love letter, Romans 5:6-11 which reads:

Romans 5:6-11 - 6 For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. 10 For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. 11 And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.

When we turn to Romans 5:6-11 we see eleven aspects of God’s own love.

First, God’s own love loves us even when we are weak (Romans 5:6a). It says, “For when we were without strength . . .” God loves us even when we are feeble and weak. When we are at the end of ourselves and nothing left in the tank to move on, God still loves us. He doesn’t yell at us when we’re weak. He doesn’t shout at us and say “Come on, suck it up, get up and get going!” No, even in our inherent human weakness, God still loves us.

Second, God’s own love loves us even when we are ungodly (Romans 5:6b). It states, “. . . in due time Christ died for the ungodly.” The word “ungodly” means, destitute of reverential awe toward God or impiousness. If ever there was a word to describe people today, ungodly is it. People show little to no respect or reverence for the Creator of the universe. Almighty God, the Ancient of Days, the LORD, is viewed and addressed with little to no appropriate respect. Humanity disrespects God outright. An ungodly person is one who breaks the first four of the Ten Commandments which have to do with worshipping only God, not making idols or images of God, not taking God’s name in vain or using it inappropriately and observing a day of rest in the Lord. The ungodly break all of those laws of God. And yet He loves them.

Third, God’s own love loves in a way that is superior to the best love the world has to offer (Romans 5:7). People may heroically give their lives for those they view as righteous or good, but God’s love goes beyond anything people in this world have to offer. No matter how sentimental, sacrificial, or love based a person’s love is, it doesn’t measure up to “His own love.”

There’s something else here that needs to be mentioned. Romans 3 tells us as far as measuring up to God’s holy standard, “There is none righteous, no not one” (Romans 3:10). Unrighteousness can be defined as breaking the last six of the Ten Commandments: dishonoring parents; murdering or thinking hatefully toward others; committing adultery or having lustful thoughts; stealing; speaking untruthfully; and coveting. When you look at the problems in the world today, they shouldn’t be laid at the doorstep of God, humanity is the culprit. God, on the other hand, in His own love has made a way to overcome the sinful ills of this fallen world. When people shake a fist at God and blame Him for everything wrong with this world, they ought to look in the mirror and consider that all our problems and pains are due to the sinful decisions of humanity in rebellion toward God.

Fourth, God’s own love loves even sinners (Romans 5:8a). God loves the unlovable. God loves those who don’t deserve to be loved. Sinners are those who have broken the holy law of God. Sinners are those who cause pain to others. Sinners miss the mark of God. Sinners are stained with the tar of sin. They have an indelible black mark of rebellion against God. But God loves sinners and He demonstrates His own love to them. And His love does not rest on words alone.

Fifth, God’s own love is extreme (Romans 5:8b). God doesn’t love with pleasant platitudes. God’s own love acts and goes all the way. God demonstrates His own love to all through the death of His Son Jesus on the cross. A crueler more painful death would be hard to find. The spiritual aspect of Christ on the cross makes His death unmatched in severity. The perfect, sinless, blemishless Jesus, who had never experienced any sin or disconnect from the Father, went to the cross and experienced the full brunt and extent of the penalty of sin; separation from His Father (e.g. Mat. 27:46; Ps. 22). God did that because our sin had caused a separation between us and Him that we were helpless to cross (Is. 59:2). Out of love for us, He made a bridge from Him to us through the cross of Christ. God’s own love holds nothing back; it goes all the way. God’s own love never fails (1 Cor. 13:8). God’s own love always does what it takes to redeem the lost.

Sixth, God’s own love is substitutionary (Romans 5:8c). God demonstrates His own love in Christ on the cross “for us.” It is on the cross that in love God sent His only Son Jesus in our place, for us, to pay the just penalty for sin. God’s love does for us what we could not do for ourselves. He made Jesus sin for us that we could become righteous through faith in Him (2 Cor. 5:21).

Seventh, God’s own love is always “much more” (Romans 5:9a). No matter how deeply we come to understand God’s own love to be, no matter how experienced we get in His own love, it is always “much more” than we conceive it to be. You can’t exhaust God’s own love. You can pray to know the “width and length and depth and height” of God’s love but there will always be “much more” for you to experience and know about it (Eph. 3:18-19).

Eighth, God’s own love justifies us from sin by Christ’s blood (Romans 5:9b). Jesus paid the death penalty of sin for us to establish a just legal basis for forgiveness of our sins. The just penalty for sin is death and God’s wrath. But God in His own love provided a way to escape that wrath. The first 5 verses of Romans 5 indicate when we put our faith in Jesus Christ as Savior we are justified before God. That means through faith in Christ we receive a just legal status before God just-as-if-we-had-never-sinned. We are saved from the wrath of God through faith in Jesus. That incredible benefit is the product of God’s love toward us.

Ninth, God’s own love provides reconciliation (Romans 5:10a). We were enemies, literally actively hostile toward God and yet He made a way for us to be reconciled or change from an enemy to an ally of God. This is freely offered to us by God’s grace, but such reconciliation doesn’t come cheap. It is the result of God in love, sending His Son Jesus to die on the cross for us. This reconciliation is like a resurrection, like going from death to life in Christ.

Tenth, God’s own love provides us a new way of life (Romans 5:10b). Verse ten ends, “. . . much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” God’s own love and its impact on us leads to a new way of life. Here we need to pause and consider our response to God’s own love. The apostle John is often referred to as The Apostle of love or The Apostle who Jesus loved (cf. John 13:23; 20:2; 21:7, 20). In one of his inspired epistles he wrote the following:

1 John 4:7-12 - 7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. 9 In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us.

The only appropriate response to God’s own love is to love like God loves. Now on our own that would be impossible. But back in Romans 5 the apostle Paul was inspired to write:

Romans 5:5 - 5 Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

Now read that verse again. It says the hope we have in God is reliable, it won’t disappoint us. Why is this so? “Because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” God’s love is poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit who dwells in the believer. That’s incredible! By the power of the Spirit, we can love like God loves. We can love the weak and the ungodly. We can love in a way that is superior to the world’s brand of love. We can love even sinners and love sacrificially. We can love to the end. We can love in a way that brings reconciliation between enemies. We can love in action, in life. And all of that is reason to rejoice.

Eleventh, God’s own love is reason to rejoice (Romans 5:11). The incredible benefits of God’s love give us reason to rejoice in Him. We should sing the Hallelujah chorus with every breath of new life in Christ we take. Because of God’s own love we can enter into a personal eternal saving relationship with God Almighty! For that we should rejoice.

That is a small picture of God’s own love. Remember, it’s always “much more” than we think it is. We could spend a lifetime studying God’s own love and still not fully comprehend it. But that would not be a bad way to spend the rest of our existence; experiencing, enjoying and expounding on His own love.

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