Brethren Archive

The Deep, Deep Love of Christ

by Inglis Fleming


To the Christian no subject for consideration can afford more pleasure than that of the deep love of Christ.

It is with this theme I would engage your thoughts for a little. May our occupation with it refresh and energize both writer and reader.

John 13:1 is the first of the scriptures to which we shall have to turn in the course of our meditation:

Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus know that his hour was come that He should depart out of this world unto the Father, having LOVED HIS OWN WHICH WERE IN THE WORLD, HE LOVED THEM UNTO THE END.”

The hour of all hours was nearing. That for which our Lord has come was about to be accomplished. He was to suffer and to die, and the path of life led through death to the Father for whose glory He had come into the world. He would be “out of the world” while His own were still treading their pathway through it. He would be with the Father in all the delights of that home of joys eternal, but they would be left in it for His pleasure.

“Out of the world,” “With the Father.” The two expressions give His place both with regard to the place of our journeying and with regard to our home. He is not here. One of the Christian poets has said:

“There has one object been revealed on earth

Which might commend the place,

But now ’tis gone—Jesus is with the Father.”

Let us not forget it. We are in the world of our Saviour’s rejection and murder. He has been cast out and crucified. And the call to those who love Him sounds both loud and clear, “Arise ye and depart, for this is not your rest, it is defiled.” The world seeks to hide the fact by its pleasures and its pursuits; it attracts by its inventions and developments, but it is only a judged scene; it is as in a condemned cell awaiting execution of its sentence, and the hour of its doom is at hand. In long-suffering God waits in order that He may save and bless all who repent and believe the gospel, but the time of its judgment tarries not.

On the other hand Jesus our Lord is “with the Father.” He is there for His loved ones. He has won for them a place of nearness and of dearness measured only by His own place. His Father is our Father. His God is our God. His Home is our Home. And already He would have us to enjoy the position of favour into which He has introduced us. With this end in view the Holy Ghost is given to us, the Spirit of adoption whereby we cry, “Abba Father.” And in order that we may be able to enjoy the fellowship with the Father which is our privilege, the Lord while on high serves His own in His glorious Advocacy, Intercession and Priesthood.

Yes, “having loved his own which are in the world, He loves them unto the end.” His is a

PERMANENT LOVE.

He loved, He loves, He will love. As Jehovah said of His earthly people Israel, “I have loved thee with an everlasting love.” And what joy this is, that His love continues unto the end. It abides perfect until all that it set itself to do shall be carried out. He is what a little coloured boy once described Him to be, an “All-the-way-home Saviour.” He will never cease to love and care for His own. When in the home to which He has gone and to which He is guiding them, His love will take a different character in its expression. It will be in rest then, and He will “rest in His love, and joy over us with singing” then, as later on He will over Jerusalem. Now it is in activity because the objects of it are in a world of contrariety, and their need calls for ceaseless attention and service. And this is given “unto the end.”

Blessed indeed it is to be numbered among the company thus called “His own.” This is an elastic term embracing every one who believes upon Him in this glad gospel day. Wherever in the world there is one of these, there is His love finding an object of its tenderest thought and solicitude. “His own . . . in the world” were but few in number in the time spoken of in John 13:1, but they are daily being added to, and the love to each is as great as ever. His love is infinite, inexhaustible, eternal. And all His own are the objects of it (let us remember this), and will be until the last step of their pilgrim journey has been trodden and the threshold of the Father’s house is crossed and they go no more out for ever.

Now let us turn to Romans 8:34,

It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.

Here we find what we may call the

PERSISTENT LOVE

of Christ. As we have seen, He loves for ever and for ever. Here we are shown that His love unchanged persists with its objects amid all that opposes and threatens them in all their earthly course.

We should dwell in this Love Square, for there the sun is ever shining. It is this 34th verse to which I refer. There are four sides or parts to it. Each presents an expression of the love of Christ.

1.—“It is Christ that died,”

2.—“Yea rather, that is risen again,”

3.—“Who is even at the right hand of God,”

4.—“Who also maketh intercession for us.”

He died for us, He lives for us, He is on high for us, He makes intercession for us.

Love marked Him in death, He suffered for us to clear us from all that was against us.

Love marked Him in resurrection, He hastened to send to His disciples the tidings of the spoil He had won for them, telling them, “I ascend to my Father, and your Father, and to my God, and your God,” and on that same day in the evening coming into their midst and saying unto them, “Peace be unto you,” and showing unto them His hands and His feet, the marks of His suffering when He “fought the fight alone” to secure eternal blessedness for them.

Love marks Him now at the right hand of God, He has sent thence the Holy Ghost, the Comforter, to guide His own into all truth and to empower them for walk and for service here, uniting them to Himself by an eternal bond.

And love marks Him in His occupation with His own as He makes intercession for them unceasingly. In this He never slumbers nor sleeps, and never forgets the weakest and most wayward of those who have received Him as their Saviour and Lord.

Dwell there in Love Square then. Let the sunshine of His love fall upon you. Keep yourselves in it. Do as an old Christian used to exhort his Christian friends to do, “Sit still, and let the Lord love you.” Revel in His love. Think not of your love to Him. That is variable as the weather. At times it may wax a little warm but soon it chills off. It can never be depended upon for a single hour. It is not worth troubling about. It is His love to us to which the Spirit of God ever directs our gaze.

Who shall separate us from that love? The apostle Paul challenges all creation, in the words of our Scripture: Tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, sword, death, life, angels, principalities, powers, things present, things to come, height, depth, and any other creature. All are thought of, and all are declared as unable to affect the persistency of the love of Christ. Nothing can divert its flow, nothing can deflect it from its purpose.

But some trembling believer may say, “I believe all that has been said as to the love of Christ, but I find so much in myself which is contrary to God that I sometimes wonder whether Christ loves me.”

This brings us to consider what I will call the

PERSONAL LOVE

of Christ. In Galatians 2:20 we read:

I am (I have been) crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”

Now to be crucified was to be brought to an end in judgment as unfit for life among men. So it was that Christ was reckoned in the sight of men, and thus it was that a cross of shame became His portion at their hands; but in His death, as we know with thanksgiving, He was made an offering for sin on our behalf. There on the cross He “bare our sins in His own” holy body. All that we had done came under the righteous judgment of God, and in result,

“All our sins, so great, so many,

In His blood are washed away.”

But not only so: There was the deeper question of what we were in ourselves as children of a fallen Adam. Our state as well as our guilt must be met. And on the cross He was “made sin for us.” Thus all that we were in ourselves as in our sinful state was brought to an end under the righteous judgment of God.

To illustrate this an old preacher used to say that he had taken three looks at the cross of Christ. The first was what one may call the Historical look. He saw one named Jesus of Nazareth nailed to a gibbet there outside Jerusalem’s wall. To him then Christ was only as a great figure passing over the stage of life, like a Washington or Wellington, or a Grant or Gordon. But that was all. It did not concern him much.

Again he looked, and now it was with the tear-dimmed eyes of penitence, for he had learned that he was a sinner guilty before God, and he longed now for rest and peace of conscience. Then finding that all his own righteousnesses were but as filthy rags in the sight of God he looked away from himself and his sins to the Saviour of sinners upon the cross. That we may term the Salvation look. It brought him relief as he saw that the precious blood of Christ was shed for him and that it cleanseth the believer from all sin.

But as years rolled on their way he discovered more and more of what he was in himself, and began to wonder whether it could be possible that he could be a child of God at all, seeing that such thoughts of infidelity and evil of other kinds filled his mind. Then after many vain attempts to improve matters he learned that the believer may say, “Our old man has been crucified with Him (with Christ) that the body of sin might be destroyed (annulled) that henceforth we should not serve sin” (Rom. 6:6). Then it was that taking his third look at the cross he saw that not only was Christ, the Son of God, there bearing his sins but he saw that he was there crucified with Christ. He knew now that be need not try any longer to improve the flesh, for it was a judged thing in the sight of God, and that he as a believer upon the Son of God was now alive in Him as the Risen One, and that he was now therefore to reckon himself “dead indeed unto sin and alive to God” in Christ Jesus. This we may call the Delivering look.

Making it his own by faith the apostle could say, “I have been crucified with Christ (all that I was as a sinner was ended in the cross of Christ); nevertheless I live (I am still a living, individual), yet not I (no longer the old Saul of Tarsus), but Christ liveth in me (Christ was now his life), and the life which I now live (as an actual man still upon earth) I live by the faith of the Son of God (faith that had the Son of God as its object and that drew all its power from Him) who loved me and gave Himself for me.”

He could now rejoice that the One who knew all about him had loved even him and had given Himself for him.

Paul is seen here rejoicing in the personal love of Christ as though he were the only object of that love. And happy is the one who can isolate himself for the time and delight in that love as though it were all his own. It is the privilege of the feeblest of those who are Christ’s to do so. The story is told of a servant of the Lord calling upon an aged Christian. He quoted the verse of which we are speaking—“The Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me.” With equal pleasure the old Christian went over the words saying, “The Son of God who loved me, and gave Himself for me.” As she did this she felt a tug at her dress; turning to her little grandchild, who was swinging to and fro in the rocking-chair beside her, she said, “What is it, child?”

“And me too, grandma,” said the little girl. She had been listening to the conversation and had felt rather left out; but she too could say that Christ was her Saviour, and therefore was entitled to claim the love of Christ as her own as well as those who were older.

Let me ask the Christian reader of these lines whether he has thus appropriated the love of Christ as his own. If not, let him do so at once, knowing that all that he is as well as all that he has done, is known and provided for in the death of Christ.

Before leaving this part of my subject let me pass on a statement which has helped many. It is this: “When Christ went to the cross, you went too.” With Him you died, and now in Him you live beyond judgment and beyond the dominion of sin, and power is given to you in order that you may walk in happy liberty in the warmth and blessedness of the love of Christ.

Let us go on to the Epistle to the Ephesians. In 3:19 we find: “And to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge.” This we may speak of as the

PAST KNOWING LOVE

of Christ. The apostle has presented some of the great thoughts of God’s plans and purposes for the glory of Christ, and has spoken of the breadth and length and depth and height of these. In the consideration of such a theme we might be overwhelmed. But we come back to that which ever gladdens the believer, the glorious fact that He for whom all this glory is counselled is none other than the Son of God, our precious Saviour. And thus in the midst of the wide realm of glory we may place our head upon His breast, and nestling there, like a wearied child does upon his mother’s bosom, may delight in His searchless love.

That love we know and delight in, though in its fullness, it passeth knowledge. It is known, and yet it is unknowable. That it passeth fully being known need not hinder our enjoying it more and more.

We sit and revel in the rays of the sun on a bright day in the Spring, glad that the Winter is past and gone. But what do we know of the sun itself? Astronomers tell us of gaseous flames of two or three hundred thousand miles in length, but even they, who have spent year after year in the study of the matter, know but very little of its component parts; and they will go to the ends of the earth to witness an eclipse which may add to their limited stock of information concerning the great orb of fire. Meanwhile the millions of the earth’s population profit by and delight in the unceasing light and warmth which its rays impart to the wide world. Never can the human mind understand all the love of Him who made the sun. It is infinite, and therefore beyond the grasp of the finite; but it is for our increasing enjoyment as we learn more and more concerning it.

Going on to chapter 5 we hear the call, “Walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us and has given Himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God of a sweet smelling savour.” Here we see the love of Christ as a

PATTERN LOVE,

He has loved, and now we are to love. He has loved us—that is, all His own, and we are to love the same “us”—that is all His own, likewise. And His love was a love that led to the sacrifice of Himself. He gave Himself for us. As He has loved so we are to love. Thus we see that we can never love our fellow-believers enough and never can we do enough in seeking their good and profit.

A beloved and devoted servant of Christ used to say that he would “like to be a door-mat if the saints would wipe their feet upon him.” He would like them to be cleansed from all that hindered them in the enjoyment of that which was theirs in Christ. This is the spirit which should mark every one of the saints of God.

It has been observed that Scripture does not call us to look for love from others but does call us to manifest love ourselves. And this is the more blessed part, a part which is seen in the whole story of our Lord’s pathway, in which He said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” He has set us the pattern of love, and we are called to walk in His steps. How little we love like Him, each believer has to own. But we may take courage as we remember that we are taught of God to love one another, and that the Holy Spirit, given to us, produces “love in the Spirit,” the one to the other, and that “the fruit of the Spirit is love” and kindred graces. As we walk in the power of the ungrieved Holy Spirit so the fruit will be produced in ever-increasing measure.

We see another view of the same love of Christ in verses 25-27 of this 5th chapter. We read of the

PERFECT LOVE

of Christ to the assembly.

Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it: that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the Word, that He might present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.

Here we have presented before us Christ’s love to the church (or assembly), that is, to His own loved ones of this present time, looked at not as individuals (as in other passages to which we have referred), but as a whole—as one blessed company which is seen as His Body and as His Bride. Verse 25 speaks of that love as displayed in the past. He gave Himself for it. Only thus could He secure it for His own. Adam fell into a deep sleep, that from his side might be taken the rib of which the Lord God made the woman to be his bride. And out of the deep sleep of the death of Christ the Church has been formed for Him. And He gave Himself that it might be His own. It is of Himself and for Himself.

Verse 26 tells of His present service of love on behalf of that assembly. Having sanctified it, having set it apart to Himself, He washes it with the water of the Word. He uses the truth unfolded in the Scriptures to cleanse it from any defilement contracted on its heavenly, homeward way, for He would have it even now more and more according to His own thoughts, as in a coming day He will have His Bride in perfect conformity to Himself.

Finally, in verse 26, we see that same love in its future action. He will present the Church to Himself a glorious assembly without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing. It will be like Himself, holy and without blemish, fitted to be displayed before wondering worlds as His Bride, His companion, for the day of His glory.

One more passage is to occupy us for a little. I will speak of it as the

PROVOKING LOVE

of Christ. It is found in 2 Corinthians 5:14,

For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge that if one died for all, then were all dead: and that He died for all that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves but unto Him which died for them and rose again.

As the truth of the love of Christ fills our hearts it must produce an effect. It will create a response. In some little way we shall seek to answer to His wondrous love to us. And His love impels us in this direction. He died for us. We now live through and in Him. His love claims our life. Not henceforth to ourselves are we to live, but unto Him, the Risen One who died.

Our whole life before our conversion swung round ourselves. “I,” “self,” was the centre which dominated our whole being. It was our pleasure we sought. It was our profit we aimed at. It was our glory we laboured to effect. It was “I, I, I,” each day and every day, and each year and every year. In the death of Christ that life of sin and self was brought to its end, as we have seen, and now ours is the happy lot of living unto Him who died to give us the liberty which is ours.

The great musical composer Gounod is said to have remarked concerning his own productions and those of Mozart: “When I was twenty I said, Gounod. When I was thirty I said, Gounod and Mozart. When I was forty I said, Mozart and Gounod, and now that I am fifty I say, Mozart.” Little by little he had been brought to think more of Mozart than of himself. And is it not thus that the Holy Spirit is working with us that we may be brought more and more to refuse ourselves and delight and live unto Him who loves us and gave Himself for us? Christ is everything to God, and God would have Him to be everything to us.

May that love which we have been considering constrain us increasingly so that His interests in the gospel and among His loved ones may be the controlling interests in our lives while we wait for Him to come and take us to His own Home, the Father’s house, where His love will be our joy and delight for ever.

“Oh, the deep, deep love of Jesus,

Vast, unmeasured, boundless, free:

Rolling as a mighty ocean

In its fullness over me.

Underneath me, all around me,

Is the current of Thy love;

Leading onward, leading homeward,

To my glorious rest above.

Oh, the deep, deep love of Jesus,

Love of every love the best;

’Tis an ocean vast of blessing,

’Tis a haven sweet of rest.

Oh, the deep, deep love of Jesus,

’Tis a Heaven of heavens to me;

And it lifts me up to glory,

For it lifts me up to THEE.”

I.Fleming

Help and Food 1925






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