Love Manifested, Perceived, and Enjoyed
“God . . . is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins” (Ephesians 2:4).
When did God love us? When we were dead in sins. Looked at in the Epistle to Romans man is seen in the activity of sins. When we come to the Ephesians it is another aspect of man. God looks for life. There is no life. Man is “dead in trespasses and sins; wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air (that is the devil), the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience” (Eph. 2). Every man, woman, and child, who is not indwelt by the Spirit of God, and who has not got the love of God shed abroad in his heart, is under Satan’s power. Solemn consideration!
Who are the children of disobedience? All the unsaved, “Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others” (v. 3). What do you mean by “children of disobedience”? We took our own way. What do you mean by “children of wrath”? That is what each will discover himself to be, if unreached by grace, at the end of the pathway. But what has God done? Has He exercised His righteous judgment upon guilty sinners—coming out in the character of One who could not bear sin? No, listen: “But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ (by grace ye are saved)” (v. 4-5). Of course it is Christians Paul is talking of here, but that is God’s love.
God commends His love to us. Perhaps you say, “Oh, that. I could see His love.” Very well, you just look at 1 John 3:16. You have often looked at the sixteenth verse of the third chapter of the Gospel of John. What does it say? “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” There we get the love of God declared. The love of God is there most beautifully stated and proclaimed by the Son of God. What does the sixteenth verse of the third chapter of John’s first epistle say? “Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us.” It is not only love declared, it is love perceived. You say, “I like the sixteenth verse of the third chapter of the gospel.” So do I. And I like the sixteenth verse of the third chapter of the epistle. I never was a happy man till I got hold of it. “Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us.” It is the love of Jesus. It is the love of God. They are one. God gave His Son, and His Son is seen laying down His His life for us. Charming news for guilty sinners.
The gospel is the revelation of what God is, and His Son therein is making His heart known. When alive on earth He said, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). But what do I find here? That He laid down His life for His enemies. Oh, precious love! Friend, let this love in. If the doors of unbelief have been, so to say, fast closed, oh, may the out-shining of the love of God cause you, where you are, to open the door, and say, “Lord, henceforth I will let Thy love in, the love that gave an only begotten Son for a sinner like me.”
The love that brought Jesus down to the death of the cross must indeed have been wondrous. You despise His love and you will come into judgment. Make light of His mercy, and you will, in the day of His righteous judgment of sin, yet have to meet the One who is infinitely holy. Has not His love been made manifest? Absolutely! Yes, “God is love,” and the man that knows God, loves. “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God (John is writing to Christians, I quite admit): and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God” (chap. 4:7). When a man is born of God, you will always find he loves. All comes out very simply. The believer knows God. If you knew God you could not help loving. And that is why the apostle says, “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren” (chap. 3:14).
Perhaps my reader says, “I do not know whether I love the Lord.” Tell me, Do you love His people? Do you love their company? “Yes.” Thank God then, you can raise your note of hallelujah! Because the apostle adds, “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren.” You are at home with them, you are happy with them. That is a very simple thing. Swallows do not fly with eagles. Swallows go with swallows. Those that have the love of God in their souls delight to go with those that have similar enjoyment. Unsaved reader, the reason why you are trying to be happy in the world is because you are of the world, and not of God. You should ponder that serious fact.
Now read another verse: “In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him” (chap. 4:9). Here we get love manifested. Love is declared in the Gospel of John. It is commended in the Epistle to the Romans. It is perceived in the third chapter of John’s epistle, and manifested in the fourth. Here is what I may call the broad basis of the gospel. What was the manifestation of the fact that God loved us? “Because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.”
God knew that we had not got life. Ephesians said we were dead. What does God propose? He proposes to give you life. I cannot know God unless I am alive. “Well,” you say, “I sometimes think the gospel meets me, and I am sure I wish I were a Christian, but I do not think I have life.” Get hold of this verse (v. 9). Yours is a world of death. Sin brought in death, and judgment comes next. Eternal life is the gift of God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Why refuse such a priceless gift? Receive Christ and you will have this life, for Christ will be your life.
Now read the next verse: “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (v. 10). I have no doubt that if you or I had been writing the truth of this epistle, we should have talked about the sins first, and the life next. Not so with God. Divine order is perfect. The gospel comes out from God to bring to me, from God, what He only can give. And what is that? Life! “The gift of God is eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 6:23). The moment I touch Jesus I live. Touch Him and you begin to live, my friend, for the first time. “Oh,” yon see, “you do not know what burden I have got.” Your sins? Well, what does this tenth verse say? “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” Have you the sense of the burden of your sins? “Oh, yes, it is this that has troubled me for a good long time now.” I think then that you must have life. You say, “What do you mean?” I will explain.
Suppose a dead man on the floor before us. I get a hundred pound weight and I put it on his bosom. What will be feel? Nothing. What will he do? Nothing. Why? Because he is dead. But now, suppose that by some remarkable power I could infuse life into that man, what would happen? You say, “He would get up” No, he would not. My impression is that the first thing he would do would be to give a great groan and exclaim, “What a weight is on me.” That is just like the sinner touched by the Spirit of God, who for many a day may be heard exclaiming, “My sins, my sins.” All, thank God, you may depend upon it there is life there. The man never felt the burden until he had life. Of course I am supposing what is naturally impossible, but I believe that is exactly what takes place with a man spiritually. God touches you. The Spirit of God brings His Word to you. In some way or other you are reached. At length to your own eyes you are discovered hopeless, sinful, and lost. In vain you say: “What am I to do? I cannot love the Lord; I want to, but I do not do it.” Listen: “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” He came to give us life, and to blot out our sins.
When Jesus passed out of this scene by the cross, He wrought the work of redemption. God “sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” That is not the life of Jesus. It is His death. Propitiation was effected when Jesus was upon the cross. God then took up between Himself and His blessed Son the whole question of sin and sins. Christ then sustained the whole weight of God’s holy hatred and judgment of sin. God then forsook Him. In this lies the essence of atonement. It is God’s forsaking of Christ and His soul’s suffering for sins that effects propitiation. But you may ask, “Whose sins did He bear?” “Our sins.” I know that takes me in. I am sure, if you wish it, you will find it includes you too. Whom did He die for? Sinners, You do not know what a sinner I have been.” No, but God does. And that is why He sent His Son. “Oh, but the devil says I am an awful sinner, and that frightens me.” Admit the truth, face the devil, and then understand this, that Christ died for the ungodly. Therein is love. But perhaps to you, as to others, Satan says, “You do not love the Lord.” Admit it and reply, “Yes, quite true, but the Lord loves me.”
How do I get peace with God about my sins? By resting on the wonderful fact that His Son died for me. Man could not have life except through death, so God “sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” And if you have been trying, my reader, to love the Lord, now you just simply look to Him, and get the sense of His love to you. The love to Him will rise in due time. That is what the apostle says in the end of this chapter: “We love him, because he first loved us” (v. 19). Do not try to love Him, just believe the wonderful truth that He has loved you. And when was it that Jesus put all my sins away? When He died on the cross. And if He did not put all your sins away then, they will never be put away. Why? Because He will never die again. He will never come a second time to do the work of atonement.
But very likely you will say, “How am I to know whether He died for me?” Well, I do not want to reason you into believing the gospel, but you would be a new person if you learned that God loved you, and His Son had died for you. You would go to your home dancing with joy, and saying, “I have got peace with God. He has given me peace through the death of His Son.”
But more than that, a little lower down in the chapter the apostle says, “Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit” (v. 13). After believing in Christ, the next thing is you receive the Holy Spirit. The Spirit comes and sheds the love of God abroad in our hearts. God loves us, His Son has died for us, and He has given us His Spirit. Are we not well off. Here is the Trinity active in our blessing. The Father has loved me, His Eternal Son has died for me, and His Holy Spirit comes and dwells in me. “And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world.” Can you unfurl that blessed flag of testimony? “We have seen and do testify.” “I do not say much about these things,” you reply. I can tell you the reason thereof, you do not know much about them, but God would have you know and enjoy them.
Christianity consists in knowing and believing God. Mark these words: “And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him” (v. 16). Love is a wonderful place to be brought into and to dwell in. Again, “Herein is love with us made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment” (v. 17). Think of it! You think of the day of judgment. You say, “I thought I should be afraid.” No, you are to have boldness. Why? “Because as he is, so are we, in this world” (v. 17). That is where the gospel brings you. “As he is.” Who? Christ. As He now is, risen from the dead in life, righteousness, and acceptance before God, so is the believer. Life, peace, power, and boldness, belong to the Christian. These wonderful blessings the gospel brings to us.
Possibly you will ask, how do we get them? Through simply believing the love of God. “Herein is love with us made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we, in this world.” Take hold of those nine monosyllables. If there be a doubting person reading this paper, you get hold of them. “As he is.” Who? The risen Saviour. The risen, triumphant Victor. “As he is,” says the Holy Ghost, “so are we.” Who are the “we”? All who believe. I am in the “we,” are not you? But when is that true? When we come to glory? No. Listen. “In this world.” It is now. Just where we are. Here. “As he is, so are we, in this world.” That is where the gospel puts you. It puts you in touch with Christ. It is nothing but love.
I do not wonder that the apostle now adds, “There is no fear in love: but perfect love casteth put fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love” (v. 18). You say, “My love to Him is not perfect.” Quite true, and it never will be. It is His love to us that is perfect, not ours to Him. What does that perfect love do? It casts out fear, and the consequence is: “We love him, because he first loved us” (v. 19). When His love gets in, the fear goes out. There is an old saying, “When poverty comes in at the door, love goes out at the window.” I like to say, “When God’s love comes in at the door, fear will go out at the window.” It will never be seen more.
When you get the sense, “God loves me,” then fear goes out, and you can truly say, “I am loved of God.” I can quite understand the Holy Ghost saying in the closing epistle of the New Testament, “But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life” (Jude 20-21). That is, looking for the moment when Jesus will comes back and take us to the spot where He is. Love manifested, perceived, and enjoyed by the Holy Ghost is really Christianity.
Reader, do you not think it is worth while being a Christian? I do. I recommend all young people to start with the Lord at once. Oh, what a wonderful thing to be for the Lord in the scene out of which He has been cast, and to have the privilege of testifying of His love to those round about you. God help you to know what it is to have life, peace, power, and boldness, and to pass along witnessing of these blessings, till Jesus come.
The Gospel Messenger 1903, p. 215