Many today are quite willing to talk about God’s love, but they lack understanding. There is the temptation to get haughty as if we deserve it, as if it is something that God owes us. Looking at God’s love that way cheapens this attribute, but when coupled with God’s justice and wrath – attributes in God’s character many choose to ignore – we can grasp its depth. God’s love is amazing. It should come as a complete surprise to us because, as R.C. Sproul in his book, The Character of God: Discovering the God Who Is, points out we are totally unworthy of it, but the staggering fact is that He loves us anyway. So much so that He gave up His Son.
When the Bible speaks of God’s love it invariably reaches the subject of God’s sacrifical kindness. The love of God is the love of a God who gives. The most famous verse in the Bible underscores this fact: “God so loved the world that He gave” (Jn 3:16). This giving of His only begotten Son on our behalf is the dearest expression of the love of God we can find.
The Apostle John wrote, “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” (1 Jn 4:9). Here John spoke of “manifesting” something. To manifest something is to make it plain, to show it clearly. God doesn’t merely talk about being loving; He puts His love to the test by showing it in a way that is undeniable. He shows His love by giving.
What God gives and to whom He gives it further manifests His love. God is a gift-giving God, but His supreme love is showing by His supreme gift—His only begotten Son. Elsewhere Scripture says that there is no greater love than a love that willingly lays down its life for a friend. To sacrifice your life for your friends is the “greatest” display of love we can show. Or is it? Jesus took it one step further by giving His life for His enemies.
Although Jesus did lay down His life for His friends. He died for them while they were still sinners in the midst of deserting and denying Him. This act of self-sacrifice was not done alone. Jesus acted in concert with His Father. In fact, it was His Father’s idea. The Father conceived the cup, filled the cup, and gave the cup to the Son to drink. The Son shuddered before the cup and sought to have it removed. The father said no, He would not compromise. The Son then willingly took the cup and drank it to its bitter dregs. Together they made the gift of Jesus’ precious life.
John understood the order, “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” (1 Jn 4:10). The essence of the gospel is found in the words, “While we were yet sinners,” The love of God reaches out to us while we are alienated from Him. We have no love for Him, and our hearts are stony and cold. We love ourselves and our things. There is no affection in our hearts for God.
The supreme irony is that although God is altogether lovely, as fallen creatures we do not love Him. He is worthy and deserves our love. We owe Him our love, yet we do not love Him. On the other side, we are altogether unlovely by His standards. There is nothing in us to commend us to God, and He certainly does not owe us His love. But the staggering fact remains, He loves us. He loves us to the extent that He gave His only begotten Son for us.
HT: Tim Challies