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Hate Week Essay #5: Jesus said to hate our family? Can this be true?

If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:26).

This seem harsh. This seems contradictory to the God of Love that we know Jesus to be. So what can it mean?

By the way, that its the first question we should ask when we see something we don’t understand in the Bible, or when we see something that seems to contradict. There are no contradictions in the Bible. If we can’t reconcile two verses, i.e. ‘God is love’ and ‘hate your mother’ or ‘Honor your mother and father’ but ‘hate your mother’ then there is something I must do to understand it, because I’m wrong.

I like Gill’s Commentary. Many commentaries are available for free at biblehub.com. There are concordances, lexicons, devotionals, and more.

Gill’s says of the Luke verse:

and hate not his father and mother, and wife and children, and brethren and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple: not that proper hatred of any, or all of these, is enjoined by Christ; for this would be contrary to the laws of God, to the first principles of nature, to all humanity, to the light of nature, to reason and divine revelation:

but that these are not to be preferred to Christ, or loved more than he, as it is explained in Matthew 10:37

Ohhhh! Getting clearer now.

A parallel verse was mentioned so let’s take a look at it. Scripture interprets scripture. Commentaries are helpful, but scripture is best. That’s where parallel verses come in.

He that loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. (Matthew 10:37)

Christ should be primary in life and love. Paul carries this sense of highest love for one, that by comparison it’s hate for the other in Romans 9:13-

As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

The verse to which Paul was referring is from Malachi 1:2-3. GotQuestions is helpful here,

So, considering the context, God loving Jacob and hating Esau has nothing to do with the human emotions of love and hate. It has everything to do with God choosing one man and his descendants and rejecting another man and his descendants. God chose Abraham out of all the men in the world. The Bible very well could say, “Abraham I loved, and every other man I hated.”

Yes, context is king when studying scripture. The Malachi/Romans verse isn’t referring to one man, but nations from one man.
There’s one more parallel verse to the Luke verse I’d posed at the start. John 12:25-

Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.

S Lewis Johnson of Believers Chapel Dallas had preached on this verse. He’s a preacher I like.He explained

What does he mean by that? Why, you know he means that it is possible for us to be so desirous of life as we want to live it that we actually are unfruitful in our lives. We may desire the kind of existence that we desire, we want the world’s wealth, we want the world’s power, we want the world’s pleasure, we want the world’s glory, we want to live our lives as we wish to live them and that’s right, you may live for a time but you abide alone. … In other words, if you want to keep your life you can keep it, but you’ll lose it. And if you’re willing to lose your life, if you are willing to have your set of priorities such that Jesus Christ is first in your life, then you’ll gain it. And furthermore, you will gain it unto life eternal and fruitfulness.

Hate is complicated, isn’t it? There’s things God hates, things we should hate because God does, the world’s hate, our hatred of even our parents or our own life in comparison to the life we should live in Christ…

The Bible is an endless wealth and treasure of precepts and doctrines, all pointing to the One alone who is worthy: Jesus Christ. Emmanuel, God with us. Our love for Him should be the primary orientation of our lives.

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Hate Week Essay #4: Hate Equals Darkness

Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. (1 John 2:9)

What does this mean? Can we hate our brother if we’re saved? I thought our lives were supposed to be characterized by love?

Yes, that is true, but the sin nature is still inside us, crouching at the door and waiting to leap. Since our lives are supposed to be characterized by love, our lives should reflect the highest and best love: love for Jesus and love for our brethren. Sadly, it doesn’t always happen that way.

Else, as Paul put rhetorically but actually to the Corinthians,

For I fear that perhaps when I come I may find you not as I wish, and that you may find me not as you wish—that perhaps there may be quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder. (1 Corinthians 12:20)

Else, why would Jesus and Paul admonish those who take the Lord’s Supper to reconcile with brethren or examine one’s self before doing so, in order that taking the Supper would not be done in an unworthy manner? (1 Corinthians 11: 27; Matthew 5:23-24).

Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary puts it simply

his brother—his neighbor, and especially those of the Christian brotherhood. The very title “brother” is a reason why love should be exercised.

The command to love one another is an old one, says John in 1 John 2, but with a new twist. John uses the analogy of light and dark throughout his epistle. The command to love is nothing new, but it is a specific and foremost spiritual test to determine who is in the faith and who is not. John MacArthur here in his sermon Live Life By a New Love:

If you hate your brother, if you hate others, if you hate those in the Kingdom, if you hate anyone essentially, if you don’t see people the way God sees them then He’s not in control of your heart. Love proves everything when connected to sound doctrine.

But in 1 Corinthians 15, if you don’t have love it’s all noise, it’s all noise. So the practicality of it is, if you’re a true Christian it’s going to show up in your love, not perfect love, love is not going to be the perfection of your life but it will be the direction of it. You’re going to have a heart of love for those around you, not a heart of hatred. You’re going to want to serve those around you, not demand from them. You’re going to want to help those around you, not harm them. You’re going to want to come to the aid of those around you, to lift them up not to step on them. And particularly is that true among believers. If you don’t have a love to be with God’s people, it’s a clear evidence that you’re in the darkness no matter what you claim.

The Light is warm and bright, it’s where love is.
prickly 4

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Love week essay #7: Conclusion

All this week we’ve explored the blessings of love.

We looked at God’s love through the lens of Psalm 136.

We looked at the meaning of love through the lens of the Apostle John’s epistle.

We looked at how there are different words to express love (which is not a feeling.)

Yesterday we looked deeper into how love is not a feeling, but a choice of the will.

Yesterday we explored the difficult concept of loving our enemies.

In #6 we looked at how Love fulfills the Law

The number one topic of songs, they tell me, is love. The world, which does not know love, sings about it. In 1984, Foreigner sang I Want To Know What Love Is. As Wikipedia describes,

The song hit number one in both the United Kingdom and the United States and is the group’s biggest hit to date. It remains one of the band’s best-known songs and most enduring radio hits… and is listed as one of Rolling Stone Magazine’s greatest songs of all time.

When Mick Jones of Foreigner wrote the song, he later described it as one of those things where, at 3:00 in the morning, it all suddenly came to him. He said it ‘was like a higher force’ just gave it to him in toto ‘as a gift’. Later, he attempted to enhance the song in a spiritual way, contacting The New Jersey Mass Choir to perform another version, which also earned numerous awards and lots of radio play.

If ever there was a man of Ecclesiastes howling into the darkness of his soul for clarity on love and meaning of life, this song is it. I sang it myself as an unsaved young women who had the same yearning amid the strong sense of vanity and emptiness. I WANT TO KNOW WHAT LOVE IS I’d sing at the top of my lungs, and I really meant it.

In His grace, He eventually showed me. Love is Christ. God is love. There is no other love that is real, permanent, eternal, and sure as the love of God to His person of the Trinity and to us, whom He has invited into His circle through Christ. The world does not know love. They want to know what love is.

Love is explained and shown in the Bible. Read it. It is shown in answered prayer. Pray it. It’s demonstrated among brethren, receive it. It fulfills the commands when you choose it.

Psalm 103 is a song of love toward our God. He is great and worthy of all our love and attention and obedience and praise.

verse love one another.jpg

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Love week essay #6: Love fulfills the law

All this week we’ve explored the blessings of love.

We looked at God’s love through the lens of Psalm 136.

We looked at the meaning of love through the lens of the Apostle John’s epistle.

We looked at how there are different words to express love (which is not a feeling.)

Yesterday we looked deeper into how love is not a feeling, but a choice of the will.

Yesterday we explored the difficult concept of loving our enemies.

Today we look at how love fulfills the Law. First, the scriptures.

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38This is the great and first commandment. 39And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:36-40)

Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. (Romans 13:8)

As we have looked at previously, love is a distinguishing characteristic of the Christian. It marks him or her out from the world. Yet we go even further, that the kind of love Jesus expects of us to display is a law-fulfilling love. The two commandments are to love Him, and love people.

But how can God command us to feel something, one might ask. We can’t command feelings, can we? Again, as we have looked at previously, love isn’t a feeling that comes on its own like the wind and blows away when it wants, leaving us either filled and romantic, or dry and loveless. We have the will to choose to love. We gain that will by adhering to the precepts of the Father, who said to love all, even one’s enemies. The will to love comes from the fountain of grace that indwells us, AKA the Holy Spirit.

Now, commandment one is to love the God with all our strength, soul, and mind. The second is to love your neighbor as yourself.

Love doesn’t harm a neighbor. Love protects a neighbor. Love doesn’t slander him, or murder him with ill thoughts, or take his wife. Love doesn’t harm a neighbor by harboring covetousness over his new car/riding lawnmower/pool. Love wants the best for people, always.

It is upon us to rely on the Spirit, ask the Spirit, pray for the Spirit to cultivate in us Godly desires that squeeze out even the desire for violence against our neighbor, violence even in the form of sinful thoughts, never mind sinful actions. The goal is to love one’s neighbor enough so that any desire for harm against him is not even present in our heart.

When we do that, when we love our neighbor as purely as possible, it cycles us back to the first Law, loving God with all our strength,mind, heart, and soul, because we are obeying Him.

Love fulfills the Law.

Now I need to get to work. It seems I have a lot of heart work to do… 🙂 Do you?

—————————————————–
Resources

In this devotional, Alistair Begg wants us to Make Him Glad with our Love

Hugh Binning’s book Christian Love is recommended at Banner of Truth Trust, Monergism, Reformation Trust, and other sources. Here is the book blurb-

In this Treatise of Christian Love, the Scottish Covenanting minister Hugh Binning movingly presents the need for Christians to show by their love for one another that they belong to Christ. Basing his remarks on John 13:35, By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another, he argues, ‘This badge that Christ left to his disciples: if we cast this away on every disagreement, we disown our Master, and disclaim his token and badge.’
Binning describes the excellence of Christian love, demonstrating its nature from 1 Corinthians 13. He gives strong reasons why Christians should love one another, and shows that love is rooted in Christian humility and meekness, after the pattern of Christ himself.

lubec door 2

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Love Week Essay #5: Loving our Enemies?

All this week we’ve explored the blessings of love.

We looked at God’s love through the lens of Psalm 136.

We looked at the meaning of love through the lens of the Apostle John’s epistle.

We looked at how there are different words to express love (which is not a feeling.)

Yesterday we looked deeper into how love is not a feeling, but a choice of the will.

Today we’ll look deeper into that, loving not only those who are easy to love, or loving who we are supposed to love, but loving those who actively hate us. Enemies.

I’ll take a moment here to let you all know something. I enjoy writing, but that’s not the only reason I write blogs every day. I process the Word by writing. When I post a blog essay, I’m not telling you all how to be Christian, though there is some exhortation with each essay. Mainly, I am preaching to myself. I don’t find it easy to love the way the Bible tells us, even to friends and brethren. I certainly don’t find it easy to love enemies. I fail in many ways, every day. So please don’t ever think that I have it all together!

But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men. (Luke 6:35).

And again in Matthew:

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:43-48)

Barnes’ Notes explains:

We are bound to love our enemies. This is a law of Christianity, original and unique. No system of religion but Christianity has required it, and no act of Christian piety is more difficult. None shows more the power of the grace of God; none is more ornamental to the character; none more like God; and none furnishes better evidence of piety. He that can meet a man kindly who is seeking his hurt; who can speak well of one that is perpetually slandering and cursing him; that can pray for a man that abuses, injures, and wounds him: and that can seek heaven for him that wishes his damnation, is in the way to life. This is religion, beautiful as its native skies; pure like its Source; kind like its Author; fresh like the dews of the morning; clear and diffusive like the beams of the rising sun; and holy like the feelings and words that come from the bosom of the Son of God. He that can do this need not doubt that he is a Christian. He has caught the very spirit of the Saviour, and he must inherit eternal life.

It’s easy to love those who love us. It’s simple to treat others lovingly who treat us well. Jesus said even the Gentiles (who do not know love) do the same.

A Christian’s love must be different than what is expected. It has to be different from the kind of love the world is used to. It must be perfect.

But how can our love be perfect? We’re imperfect sinners!

John MacArthur here in his sermon Love Your Enemies part 3:

The point is this: you are to be like God.  You say, “Well, that standard is too high.”  You’re right, and that’s exactly what He wanted the Pharisees to know. You can’t make it. … What Jesus is saying in the Sermon on the Mount is the same thing, “Be perfect.”  They’re supposed to say, “But I can’t be perfect.” And that’s when He says, “Right; and if you fall short of perfection, you need a Savior.” And that’s where Jesus comes in, and brings to you what Peter calls the divine nature, and makes you like God, a partaker of His nature. Then God, in a miracle of salvation, does for you what you could never do for yourself – be like God. When you came to Jesus Christ, positionally, you were made like God. You were given His eternal life, His righteousness, you became like Him in that sense. And now you need to bring your behavior into harmony with your position.

Oh no! I still can’t!

John MacArthur continues:

Listen: a Christian is not someone who keeps the Sermon on the Mount. A Christian is somebody who knows he can’t, do you see – and comes to Jesus Christ for forgiveness for the sin of falling short, and receives from Christ the forgiveness, and then the power to begin to live these principles. That’s the point of the message.

If that makes you cry, good. It did me. His standards are holy and high, and we can’t make it. It makes me cry out Abba! Father! Help me! Help me to love like you would have me do! And He will.

enemies

A note about the photo: It was taken by a friend of mine who works with the American Legion, an American veteran, who was in NYC for a conference on the day of 9-11. He took this photo the day after. He gave this picture to me and spent some time telling me how the day was for him and his colleagues. It was an emotional day for all of us, though it’s hard to believe it has been 17 years since then. I watched in shock as the towers fell (and knew many were dying at that moment), the pit in the ground in PA where the plane dove in, the Pentagon ruptured and a Navy man who lived in our town was killed inside. Whether it’s an individual enemy at work, or a national enemy out to destroy America, and every enemy in between, it is very hard to love your enemies. Yet Jesus did, while He was being nailed to the cross, He pleaded for mercy upon those who nailed Him and wanted Him dead. The truth is, before salvation we were all enemies of God and we all have that depravity in us that wants God dead. Praise Him that before we knew Him, He first loved us.

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Love week essay #4: Hooked on a Feeling?

Happy Valentine’s Day! Here are some famous songs about love for you!

All You need is Love
I Wanna Know What Love Is
Love Stinks
Can’t Help Falling in Love
Addicted to Love
Can’t Hurry Love
I Will Always Love You
Love is A Battlefield
I Just Called to Say I Love You
I Think I Love You
Psalm 136

Wait, wut? Psalm 136? Yes! It is a tremendous song about God’s steadfast love. I wrote about it in Love Week essay #1, here.

The world tries to understand love but the world never will know it unless that seeking person is saved by grace through faith. When we abide in Jesus we can then know love. (1 John 4:8).

Still the world sings songs and wonders where it all went. All too often, We’ve Lost that Loving Feeling and wonder what to do After the Love is Gone.

We must understand that love is not a feeling, but a position, a decision.

Author Mary Kaasian says in her essay Love is a Choice,

 Although it is often felt in the heart, love is primarily an act of the will. Nowhere is this demonstrated more clearly than in the way God loves us. In the Old Testament, two Hebrew words describe God’s love for his people. The first Hebrew word for love, ahab, means: “to desire, to breathe after; to be inclined toward, to delight in.”  The Lord God delights in us and is inclined toward us. He desires–“breathes after”–us with affectionate (ahab) love. Although Ahab is an intense word, it’s only used a handful of times with regard to the Lord. There’s another richer, more powerful word that’s used repeatedly throughout Old Testament Scripture to describe God’s love for us: the Hebrew word chesed.

Chesed speaks of a love that is firmly rooted in choice. It involves loyalty, steadfastness and commitment to a promise. It’s a love that doesn’t depend on the response or behavior of the receiver but rather on the steadfast character and commitment of the giver. Ahab has to do with feelings, whereas chesed implies a mind-set and mode of interaction based on unwavering loyalty to a commitment.

The world will tell us (in its songs) that we are slaves to our feeling of love. We’re hooked on a feeling, addicted to love, finding or losing that feeling. That it makes us Crazy, Fools, and love even has its own Power.

All that makes Love its own god.

Only God has as much power as pagans think love has.

We don’t love the way the world loves. We who are saved have the ability to remain loving in the Christ-like way because it’s a choice in which the power of God in us through the Holy Spirit allows us to persevere. The Gentiles fall in and out of love, find it and lose it, wax and wane within it, because feelings are ephemeral, temporary, and deceptive.

The only love that endures in a pagan is self-love.

A Christian’s love is counter-cultural to the world because the Bible teaches us to consciously deny our self-love and focus our love on others, even unto death. Jesus taught in Matthew 5:43-45-

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.

Christian marriage between one man and one woman is a major way that God wants to demonstrate His kind of love in the world. He demonstrates in the picture of marriage, the counter-cultural, upside down attitude toward love wherein it becomes a choice and not a snare. When marriages endure through the act of the will and not fail or succeed because we’re reflexively responding to a feeling, it’s His way and not the world’s way.

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

25Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.a 28In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30because we are members of his body.

Wives, submitting? Husbands loving, even unto death? Yes, because we are members of His body. The Gentile is cut off from His body and therefore thinks that love is a feeling, when it is actually a choice.

Love well today, on this Hallmark holiday exalting the world’s version of love. Love as Jesus taught, which is  a choice toward others, sacrificial, permanent. Love your friends, wives love husbands and husbands love your wives, love your children, and love your enemies. Because love isn’t a feeling, it’s a permanent choice in Christ.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. (1 John 4:7-9).

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Love week essay #3: Love is not a feeling

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 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. (1 John 4:7-10).

S. Lewis Johnson said of those verses in his sermon The Divinity of Love part 2, “Now, there are three parts to the section. The apostle exhorts us to love in verses 7 and 8, he talks about the manifestation of authentic love in verses 9 and 10,”

God’s love is not a feeling, at least, not like we experience love. In human life, love waxes and wanes from fervent to fleeting and everything in between. It is erotic, brotherly, and sacrificial (eros, phileo, agape). Songs are written about love, people die for love, they live for love. Which is all very amazing, because we do not understand it until we are saved and thus experience God, who is love.

SL Johnson again, on the three kinds of love, (eros, phileo, agape)

One of the commentators somewhere to try to bring it down to our level has said the first word that has to do with sexual love, we might say, is all take. And then the second word is the weaker word, is give and take. And then the final one is all give and that is the true biblical kind of love. The apostle uses that third term that is the will of an individual and the expression of his love in a sacrificial kind of way to put it very simply.

At some point God communicated His perfect love for Himself in the form of the Father-Son-Spirit toward His creation and specifically toward His created humans. DA Carson here says,

What is of interest to us for our topic is the way the texts distinguish how the love of the Father for the Son is manifested, and how the love of the Son for the Father is manifested — and then how such love further functions as lines are drawn outward to elements of Christian conduct and experience. These function in various ways. There is space to reflect on only one of them.

In John 15, Jesus tells His disciples, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you” (15:9). Thus, we move from the intra-Trinitarian love of the Father for the Son to the Son’s love of His people in redemption. Jesus thus becomes the mediator of His Father’s love. Receiving love, so has He loved. Then He adds, “Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love” (15:9b–10).

Consider the gift, privilege, and grace of God’s love to us. Here, John Gill,

As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love.

As the Father hath loved me,…. As his own Son, and as Mediator, from everlasting; and in time, in his state of humiliation, throughout the course of his obedience, and under all his sufferings; which he testified more than once by a voice from heaven; which he showed by concealing nothing from him as Mediator, by giving all things into his hands, by showing him all that he himself did, by appointing him the Saviour of the body, and making him the head of the church, by exalting him at his right hand, and ordaining him to be judge of quick and dead.

So have I loved you: Christ loves his as his spouse and bride, as his dear children, as members of his body, as branches in him the vine, as believers in him, and followers of him; which he has shown by espousing both their persons and cause, by assuming their nature, by suffering and dying in their room and stead, and making all suitable provision for them, both for time and eternity.

And there is a likeness between the Father’s love to him, and his love to his disciples and followers: as his Father loved him from everlasting, so did he love them; as his Father loved him with a love of complacency and delight, so did he, and so does he love them; and as his Father loved him with a special and peculiar affection, with an unchangeable, invariable, constant love, which will last for ever, in like manner does Christ love his people; …

Bless the LORD for His love – of and to Himself among His Persons, and through His Son to us. How grateful we should be that we can know love, for God is love and apart from Him, we know not what love its at any time.

god's love for us verse
EPrata photo
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Love week essay #2: What did Apostle John mean when he wrote ‘God is love’?

Christians know Jesus and thus, they know His love. But many people don’t understand His love, biblically.

Others who aren’t saved, if they know nothing else in the Bible, they know the verse “God is love” from 1 John 4:8…which they use to reject any discussion of sin, wrath, or judgment, half the Gospel. But unsaved people can’t love (in a Christ-like, God-honoring way). (1 John 4:8)

So what does Apostle John mean when he writes ‘God is love’?

Here is a reposted essay from the blog at Grace To You explaining the verse.

The Nature of God’s Love: John MacArthur on God’s Love Defined Biblically

“God is love” (1 John 4:8).

That’s a transcendent thought that finds its ultimate expression in the cross of Christ. The most famous verse in the Bible confirms that God’s love was the motive for sending Christ: “For God so loved the world . . .” (John 3:16).

But God’s love didn’t first appear two thousand years ago—that’s where it climaxed. The truth is that all of history bears the undeniable marks of God’s loving nature. From Genesis to Revelation, His great love is displayed on multiple levels and in countless glorious ways. In fact, His unchanging love is older than time itself.

God’s Love Before Time

John MacArthur points out that right from the beginning—in fact, before the beginning—God’s love was the driving force that set the scene for His creation:

In eternity past, within the perfect fellowship of the Trinity, God the Father purposed, as a love gift to His Son, to redeem a people who would honor and glorify the Son (cf. John 6:39; 17:9–15). Thus, though God existed in perfect Trinitarian solitude, He created a race of beings out of which He would love and redeem those who would in turn love Him forever. [1]

It’s overwhelming to consider that God’s plan of redemption originated in eternity past and that His predestined strategy is fueled by His great love (Ephesians 1:4–5).

God’s Love in Creation

God’s love is also on display in the perfect world He created for us. The creation account repeatedly features the phrase, “and God saw that it was good” (Genesis 1:10, 18, 21, 25; cf. 1:4, 31). And in His immense love, He created mankind as the capstone of His very good creation (Genesis 1:27–28). That theme continues throughout Scripture. The earth is full of God’s lovingkindness (Psalm 119:64). “The Lord is good to all, and His mercies are over all His works” (Psalm 145:9). “He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good and gave you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness” (Acts 14:17).

But there was a greater purpose behind God’s creative work. He did not create the world as the main attraction, but as the theater where His redemptive plan would take place and His love would be put on display. Even the corrupting blight of sin on God’s creation is integral to the display of His love: His redeeming love would forever remain hidden without sinners to redeem.

God’s Love in Humanity 

Furthermore, God’s love is also evident in the fact that He created people rather than robots. God is all powerful, all knowing, and perfectly capable of creating a race of creatures to do His bidding. But He is also relational and created man to reciprocate His love.

He designed sinners to know and love Him by an act of their wills (cf. John 7:17–18), though not apart from the work of His Spirit (cf. John 1:12–13; Ephesians 2:5; Titus 3:5). God’s greatest commandment is that people love Him with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mark 12:29–30). [2]

What a privilege it is that we, as sinners, can actually enter into and enjoy a loving relationship with our Creator as His responsive creatures. God is under no obligation to reconcile with His rebellious subjects, but He is “rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us” (Ephesians 2:4). His love is the means by which we can willfully love Him—“We love, because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19).
Is God’s Love Inconsistent?

But what about those who don’t love God? Is His love exclusive to Christians? Or does God love everyone equally? For many, those questions are vexing, as they wrestle with the theological implications of God’s love.

We recently brought those questions to John MacArthur. You can see what he had to say in the following video:

There is a universal aspect to God’s love. This general love of God for all people is most evident in the fact that He delays His wrath upon unrepentant sinners (Genesis 15:16; Acts 17:30–31; Romans 3:25). And while God’s saving love is exclusively bestowed on His elect, He powerfully displays His love for the whole world by offering the gospel to all people (Matthew 28:19).

But that general love of God is temporary—it extends no further than the Day of Judgment. By contrast, God’s saving love is exclusively and eternally lavished on those who believe. It is a love so glorious that the apostle Paul could scarcely contain his superlatives when describing it:

God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:4–7)

God is love. But His love is manifest in different ways over time, and bestowed according to His redemptive purposes. It’s a blessing to all men, but a comfort for only His elect.

love week #2 photo

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This Grace to You article originally appeared here. Copyright 2007, Grace to You. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Posted in encouragement, Uncategorized

Love Week #1: Psalm 136, “for His steadfast love endures forever”

I was listening to RefNet.fm (Ligonier’s 24-hour Christian station) and Psalm 136 was read aloud. The recurring phrase “for His steadfast love endures forever” seeped into my soul and covered it like a balm. The whole Psalm was refreshing in its praise of God. I pray you have an opportunity to find an audio of the Psalm and hear it. Though it was not sung as it originally was, spoken aloud it had a ring of love and truth that was not otherwise impactful to me as I’d read it myself in the past.  I dug deeper and looked into the origin of the Psalm and found these study notes. I pray you are refreshed and encouraged as you read them sometime yourself.

Psalm 135-136, from John MacArthur Study Bible Notes.

These two Psalms complete the “Great Hallal.” The composer and occasion of Ps. 135 are unknown but likely postexhilic. Psalm 135:15-20 is strikingly similar to 115:4-11.

Psalm 135

I. Call to Praise (135:1-2)
II. Causes for Praise (135:3-18)

  1. God’s Character (135:3)
  2. God’s Choice of Jacob (135:4)
  3. God’s Sovereignty in Creation (135:5-7)
  4. God’s Deliverance of Israel (135:8-12)
  5. God’s Unique Nature (135:13-18)

III. Concluding praise (135:19-21)

Psalm 136

This Psalm, extremely similar to Psalm 135, closes the “Great Hallal*.” Unique to all the Psalms, Ps. 136 uses the antiphonal* refrain “for His steadfast love endures forever” after each stanza, perhaps spoken by the people in responsive worship. Author and occasion remains unknown.

I. Call to Praise (136:1-3)
II. Causes for Praise (136:4-22).

  1. God’s Creation (136: 4-9)
  2. God’s Deliverance (136: 10-15)
  3. God’s Care and Gift (136:16-22)

III. Concluding Praise (136:23-26).

*antiphonal = of music, especially church music, or a section of a church liturgy) sung, recited, or played alternately by two groups.

*Hallal = praise, hallelujah

Posted in encouragement, Uncategorized

Bible Reading Plan thoughts: Lavish Love

loveIn our Bible Reading plan today we are progressing through Romans. We are to read today chapters 5-6. Romans, a book that a famous pastor had said he thought is the greatest philosophical treatise of any kind ever written down anywhere. (Sorry, I forget which pastor said it). Romans certainly is demanding, and the thoughts I have about the first few chapters, especially the interplay between the Law & Grace, are immature and unformed. I dare not offer anything of my own because I don’t think it would be of value.

But except for this: Romans 5:5

and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

I love the visual picture here, God’s love is a liquid poured out, gushing, lavishly splashing into our hearts. And that love is the Holy Spirit Himself, who is God. He is said to be almost the forgotten member of the Trinity. The Holy Spirit is introduced in this epistle. And here he is shown to be a full member of the Triune God and a token of God’s love for His people lavishly given to us.

Before salvation: Enmity. War. Rebellion. Struggle. Uncertainty.
After salvation: PEACE

Preacher S. Lewis Johnson said of this passage

So the apostle’s argument is this. We were enemies. When we were enemies, when we hated God, when we did not want him to minister to us, he came to us, and through the alluring power of the Holy Spirit, he wrought within us, in his own mysterious way, a change of our wills, a change of our disposition, so that the thing that we did not want we ultimately came to want. We, who hated him, by the work of the Holy Spirit, were reconciled as the Holy Spirit brought to us the saving work of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross. As he says, “When we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son.”

The Holy Spirit’s part in this is that He draws us to Jesus, and He dwells in our hearts to sanctify us, each one of us, throughout our post-salvation lives. What joy.

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Further reading

John MacArthur, article The Ministry of the Holy Spirit

GotQuestions: What does the Holy Spirit do?