The Love of God (part 1)
Greetings precious people. Beginning with todayís article, I would like to do a series covering the Love of God. The Love of God is so great and vast that no matter how many articles I would write I could never cover this subject adequately. The Love of God is beyond the ability of the human mind to fully comprehend. In writing to the believers at Ephesus, Paul had the following to say to them concerning their understanding the Love of God. In Ephesians 3:14-19, "For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height-- to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God."
Without doubt the most difficult part of understanding the Love of God is that the giving of His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to go to the cross of Calvary, subjecting Himself to the worst that man could give Him, then after that subjecting Himself to the wrath of God. For you see, it is the wrath of God that we all deserve for our sins. The Word of God, the Bible says, Romans 3:23, "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." Romans 6:23, "For the wages of sin is death." Ezekiel 18:4, "The soul who sins shall die."
Our sinful condition is easily seen in our lives daily in the things that we do, say, and think. There are many places in the Bible that accurately depicts our sinful state. One such place is in Ephesians 2:1-3, "And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others." Though a very accurate description of us all, itís not very pretty. Our sin puts us at odds with God; it makes us enemies with Him.
We are told the most amazing thing in the verses that follow. In Ephesians 2:4-9,
"But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast."
There are four vital points I want to draw your attention to in this passage. First, "But God". Because of our sin, we had no future whatsoever, only death and judgement. "But God", God stepped forward and offered a remedy, a remedy that would cost Him the suffering and death of His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ. John 3:16, "For God so loved the world (you and I) that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever (you and I) believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." 1 John 3:16, "By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us."
The second point is this, Godís Love is active, not passive. No doubt you have Ďheardí as I have, people say that they love you but there has been no proof of it, only words. Talk can be very cheap at times. But not so with God, He puts action to His Words. He says that He loves you and proved it through the giving of His son to die in our place. True love, real love is always active, it moves, it acts. We will examine this further in a later study.
The third and fourth points are the mercy and grace of God. "But God, who is rich in mercy." "For by grace you have been saved." It has been said, and I think rightly so that Grace and Mercy are the Siamese Twins of Godís Love. We will examine in detail what the Mercy of God is in the remainder of this article and the Grace of God in the next.
There are a number of both Greek and Hebrew words used in the Bible for Mercy having similar meaning, compassion; kindness; pity. The simplest way to understand mercy is not receiving what I should for the wrong that I have done. I always picture from the old time movies, a scene from the courtroom. A man has been sentenced for a crime that he has committed and been found guilty of, and before the judge pronounces sentencing the manís aged mother approaches the judges bench and asks the judge to have mercy on her son. In so asking for mercy, she is not arguing with the guilty verdict, in fact she may well know and admit that her son is guilty of all charges and a few others that werenít brought up. She knows heís guilty and deserves to be punished, but she cries out for mercy. I know my son is guilty, please do not give him what he deserves.
This is mercy. God is being merciful (full of mercy) toward you and I each day. We are not receiving what we deserve. We deserve judgement, punishment, and Hell. ĎBut Godí, who is rich in Mercy, doesnít give us what we deserve. At times I hear people proclaim, "I want what I deserve!" They obviously donít have a clue what it is that they really deserve.
Being merciful is a part of the character of God. We read in Exodus 34:5-7, "Now the LORD descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD. And the LORD passed before him and proclaimed, "The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin." Deuteronomy 4:31, "(for the LORD your God is a merciful God), He will not forsake you nor destroy you, nor forget the covenant of your fathers which He swore to them." Psalm 103:8, "The LORD is merciful and gracious, Slow to anger, and abounding in mercy." Psalm 117:2,
"For His merciful kindness is great toward us, And the truth of the LORD endures forever." Micah 7:18, "Who is a God like You, Pardoning iniquity and passing over the transgression of the remnant of His heritage? He does not retain His anger forever,
Because He delights in mercy."
God delights in exercising His mercy to us rather than His wrath. But because God is also Just, Holy and Righteous, our sin must be judged. If we repent and turn to Jesus Christ in faith for the forgiveness of sin through the death of Christ on the cross in our place, we will experience the fullness of Godís Mercy. This truth is revealed in Joel 2:13, "So rend your heart, and not your garments; Return to the LORD your God, For He is gracious and merciful, Slow to anger, and of great kindness; And He relents from doing harm."
Are you experiencing the fullness of Godís Mercy in your life today? If not you can be. No matter what your past or present life is like, God delights in Mercy. Do as the Psalmist did in Psalm 67:1, "God be merciful to us and bless us, And cause His face to shine upon us." Cry out to God now for His Mercy. His Mercy opens the door for His Grace to be exercised. We will look at the Grace of God next week. Until then may you delight yourself in the goodness of our Lord Jesus Christ.
If you have any questions, comments, or prayer requests you can contact me at: Calvary Chapel of Alpine, P.O. Box 1528, Alpine, Ca. 91903 or call 619-445-2589, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Drew Macintyre is pastor of Calvary Chapel of Alpine