|- J. Preston Eby -
"Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but for the sins of the whole world" (I Jn. 4:10; 2:2).
To us it is almost a commonplace. But to the times in which it was first spoken and to the people who first heard the words, it was the most astounding, the most startling revelation that had ever fallen upon human ears. In a way I could wish that somehow we might be plunged back into that heathen era so that we, ourselves, might hear those words for the first time - those words which we take so much for granted that their meaning for the most part eludes us entirely; that we might hear them in their pristine freshness when first they fell upon this earth - "GOD IS LOVE!"
It is helpful to understand how men viewed their God; the way in which they conceived of Him who created them. Would that we could go back to those ancient days in India or China or Japan and see the hideous idols with their grimacing countenances, their devouring teeth, their many arms and sharp claws, something of the devouring, hateful nature of their deities - or go back to the cruel Assyrians or Babylonians or Egyptians and the monstrosities, the tyrannies, which they worshipped as gods.
If you will examine the ancient pagan literature, you will find the concept of a loving God was alien to people. We take that so much for granted. Why, of course, God loves us! I want you to know that until Jesus came, people did not know that. They knew God according to superstition, or after the law. They knew that God was angry with people. God punished people. God woke up and threw thunderbolts at people. But that God loved them? God would accept their sacrifices. God would even put up with them, and they would propitiate Him and appease Him (or so they thought!), but they did not love God. But now our relationship with God is one of a Father infinitely loving a son. You can see this, for example, in one of the famous Confucian stories that our missionaries discovered when they got to China. It is a story about a young man of a wealthy father, who one day stole a large portion of his father's wealth and ran away from home. He took that money and wasted it in riotous living. The years passed, and finally it was all gone, and he came into destitution. Finally, through an intermediary, he appealed to his father to take him back again. With open arms, his father accepted him back into the home and prepared for him a great feast. Does this sound familiar? As they sat feasting together, all eyes were fixed upon the son. There was a big smile beaming on the face of the father, which broadened, as a look of horror suddenly spread across the countenance of the son. He grasped at his throat, finally realizing too late that he had been poisoned! And Confucius says, "So it shall be with every son that dishonors his Father." How infinite is the gap between that and the story Jesus told of the prodigal son! Jesus came to reveal the FATHER'S LOVE.
The Greeks had a little different conception. They viewed God in terms of beauty or truth as revealed in their architecture or sculpture or their philosophy. The Romans who were led in a thousand battles by the Caesars, had become convinced that the Roman eagle never turned backward. They conceived of their god in terms of might and strength. God was might! Even the Jews, as they looked back to the time of Moses when God descended upon Sinai and caused the mountain to quake and poured out upon them His law, conceived of God, basically, as the great Lawgiver and Judge.
It waited for the apostle John - that one who had leaned his head upon the breast of Jesus, that one who had stood before the cross to drop those words which no man had ever dared to dream before. These words were the most startling revelation when they were first spoken - "GOD IS LOVE!" We all know that, you say! Do we indeed? It is my deep conviction that for most of us the words are so trite that we haven't the faintest conception of what they mean, nor have they ever begun to grasp our hearts as they should.
Since it is an everlasting truth that men become like the god they worship, so this revelation, the unveiling of the face of the Father in heaven in the person of Jesus Christ, has done more to soften and conquer the hearts of mankind than anything that man has ever discovered. It has brought more love and more genuine progress to civilization than anything else. Without it we might still be as the Assyrians who worshipped cruel and merciless gods and, therefore, when they descended upon their foes they placed thousands of sharpened stakes in the ground, picked up their adversaries and left them impaled to die an agonizing death. Those they did not impale they flayed alive and covered the walls of their captured towns with the skins of their victims because that was the kind of god they worshipped.
But have we really made that much progress? The same beloved John who wrote so extensively of God's marvelous love left us this solemn warning, "Little children, keep yourselves from IDOLS (that is, false gods, or false ideas and representations of the true God)" (I Jn. 5:21). Do we have false ideas about God? I fear we do. We say that God is all-wise, all-knowing, and all-powerful, and then turn around and deny it. We say that God "so loved the world" and that Jesus is "the Saviour of the world" and then turn around and say that only a few will be saved while God sends the vast majority to suffer the excruciating pains of fire and brimstone for all eternity without His feeling any concern for their suffering - without mercy! We say that God is all-powerful, and then turn around and say that God has "provided" salvation for all men, that God is "trying" to save the world, that God is "pleading" with men to repent, but the devil who blinds and possesses men's souls is so much more powerful than God that he will carry captive into eternal hell countless billions of men for whom Christ died!
Also, folk who claim that they are true to the Bible say that God the Creator and God the Redeemer are the very same God, but they deny it in their attitude toward the question of the salvation of all men. As Dr. Hurley has written, "They have an infinite Creator, but a very little Redeemer. Their Christ is a comparatively helpless and puny Saviour who is going to lose most of those for whom He died. He can pay the price for the sins of the whole world, but the stubborn will of man makes it ineffective. Man's will is mightier than God's will. God is infinite to create, powerless to redeem! But either God is all-powerful, or He is not. Either God is all-wise, or He is not. Either God is all-loving, or He is not. Either God's will is sovereign, or it is not. Either God's grace is infinite, or it is not. Isn't it time for the Church of Christ to decide one way or the other, and then make her theology fit her expressed faith?" -end quote.
"Little children, keep yourselves from false ideas of God!" False ideas about God. How the world and the Church are filled with them! Many people view God as a schoolboy did: "...the sort of person who is always snooping around to see if anyone is enjoying himself and then trying to stop it." Then others make God out to be a tyrant, or a vengeful, wrath-filled FIEND. The Riverside Daily Press had an Associated Press report from San Francisco as follows: " 'A Father's Curse' was the legacy left by Dennis Donohue III, fifty-four, member of a well known family here, to his two daughters by a former wife, in a will filed for probate in Superior Court. 'And to my two daughters, Frances Marie and Denise Victoria Donohue,' he wrote in his own hand, 'by virtue of their unfeeling attitude toward a doting father, and because they have repeatedly thwarted my efforts to see them, I leave the sum of one dollar to each and a father's curse. May their respective lives be fraught with misery, unhappiness and poignant sorrow. May their deaths be soon and of a lingering, malign, and torturous nature. May their souls rest in hell and suffer the torments of the damned for eternity.' " I am sure that my readers agree with me that such an attitude is not that of a true father; it is only that of a fiend. But what may not be clear to all is that, in this respect, he is a perfect example of the God of popular theology! Because His children were unfeeling He consigns them to the torment of hell fire for ever! We loathe such a character when we see it in a mere mortal, but justify it as the character of our God who IS LOVE!
But the Bible knows of no such God. No more terrible insult was ever given to the God of all grace who came in Jesus Christ reconciling THE WORLD unto Himself. This story is told about a little girl. After she had heard her father preach a sermon on the awful wrath of God, and that the unsaved would go to a red hot, sizzling, burning hell the moment they died, and that they would twist in agony and torment forever, without mercy, this little girl said, "I wish Jesus were as good and kind as my father." God does bring judgment upon sinners - swift, strong, effective, coffective judgment - but never meaningless, sadistic torture.
Do you know what God wants more than anything else? "For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; who WILL HAVE ALL MEN TO BE SAVED, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth" (I Tim. 2:3-4). His mercy runs so deep that He sent Jesus as the Redeemer of the race, and has mapped out a beautiful and comprehensive "Plan of the Ages" in which to reconcile all things unto Himself. He has revealed that His tender mercies are over all His works; that He hates nothing that He has made; that it was all made for His pleasure; that He is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil; and that He has provided a way that even the banished may return to Him -- self-banished though they may be by sin. This unquenchable and eternal love of God our Father for all His creation is the great center of all Christ's teaching. He said, "For GOD SO LOVED the world..." He said, "I say not unto you that I will pray the Father for you; for the Father Himself loves you." He is not pleading with the Father to love us or any man in the world, for He came from that Father with the Gospel, with the glad tidings of the Father's love; that He so loved the world that He sent His son into it, not to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. What compassion! What wisdom! What love! What a God!
"He that loves not knows not God; for God is love. And we have known and believed the love that God has to us. God is love; and he that dwells in love dwells in God, and God in him" (I Jn. 4:8, 16). Charles H. Pridgeon wrote, "When Edgerton Young, a successful missionary in Northwestern British America, taught some of the Indians to read by the simple syllabic characters, he wrote on the rock for them to read the words, 'God is Love.' One old Indian chief looked and pronounced the characters, and as soon as he uttered them he caught their import. He arose to his great height and said, rubbing his eyes, 'Has there been sand in my eyes all these years? I have seen the Great Spirit in the lightening, I have heard Him in the thunder, but I never knew till now that GOD IS LOVE.' How many have really learned this truth?" -end quote. You see the old Indian chief knew something of the attributes and greatness of God, but he had never KNOWN WHAT GOD I-S.
Would that my tongue were eloquent enough to explain it, or that my mind were great enough to comprehend it. But neither is sufficient. I would ask that you join me as we descend into the great wealth of the glittering mine of God's attributes. As we look into this mine we find that it is scattered everywhere with precious jewels of the attributes of God that glitter and scintillate in the light that comes in behind us. Pick up one and examine it and perhaps you shall see something more of the greatness of God. Pick up the jewel of God's power and look at that. As you look into that gem you see omnipotence beyond comprehension - God speaks, and the universe leaps out of nothing into existence! God thinks, and vast myriads of beings spring into being to sing His praises! By a thought He creates; by a thought He could think them into nothingness and they would disappear as the foam on the ocean wave sinks back into the sea as if it had never existed at all. Our mightiest telescopes through which our astronomers gaze cannot begin to pierce the length and breadth of this universe which God in His omnipotent power has created. We cannot in our finite minds begin to comprehend the power of Him who can create the Milky Way or even the solar system we know. And yet, as limitless and infinite as the power and omnipotence of God is, even so limitless is HIS LOVE. It is without measure and without boundary. It is absolutely illimitable. You might as well try to drink up the ocean until it is dry as to ever exhaust the infinite love of God who sent Jesus to be the Saviour of the world.
Or consider God's wisdom. Pick up that jewel and gaze into its many glittering facets and you will behold something that will benumb your mind. God who knows all things that ever were, are, or ever shall be, is a God whose omniscience enables Him to comprehend not only what is, was, or shall be, but even contingent things: what might have been under all possible circumstances. There is nothing that escapes His mind. We are told that there are birds that fly high in the sky, who have not only microscopic but telescopic vision, and yet they are gropingly blind compared to the eye of God who sees all things; who sees the flashing neurons in your brain as the thoughts flash through your mind; who knows everything about you. And yet, as vast and incomprehensible as the wisdom and omniscience of God is, even so vast and incomprehensible is HIS LOVE through which He reconciles us to God!
When we speak of God's attributes we may say, and many do, that God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal and unchangeable in His being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth. This is a very beautiful definition; but it largely defines only God's attributes, whereas the text, "God is Love," tells us WHAT HE HIMSELF IS. This text reveals His nature, His state of being. For instance, in speaking of justice, we know that God has justice as one of His attributes, but He is not justice; God IS love. This fact gives us a revelation of GOD'S VERY NATURE.
This brings us face to face with the great central message of the Bible which is a message of love. We need to remember that the Personage about whom the Bible is written IS LOVE - a Being whose very nature is love. In our day that is something that can become distorted because we live in an age of distortion; we live in a time when even the truth of anything, whether it be the nature of God or the nature of human sexuality, is distorted and perverted. The fact that God is love is perverted into some sort of a mish-mash that God is a wishy-washy old grandfather who would never punish his grandchildren lest they stop coming to see him. We have met some brethren in this end-time move of the Spirit who have exaggerated the bright side of the love of God out of all proportion to its other aspects. The love of God has been presented in such a way that it is a weakness rather than a strength. It has been presented on the sunny side of the street with nothing on the other side ever mentioned. There is a "love" of God preached that sounds to me like the doting indulgence of rather senile grandparents instead of the vital and vigorous concern of a Father for the best interests of a son. They have used the old shopworn cliché "God is love, God is love, God is love" until love has become such a one-sided, mushy, gooey, syrup-sweet thing, and they have not told about the dark side of the love of God: "Whom the Lord loves, He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives" (Heb. 12:6). They have watered love down, making it sickening rather than stimulating, causing it to slop over on every side like a sentimental feeling rather than an abiding concern for the object of love. Some have no concern at all, they have settled into a drowsy complacency, into a do-nothing, don't-care disposition, for, they say, "Everything will turn out alright in the end, anyhow!" They have no passion for lost souls anymore, they have thrown judgment and hell out the window, and would not lift a finger to warn any man to flee from the wrath to come. Sometimes where we would endeavor to teach the whole truth of God, we might lean so far to the other side of the boat to balance it, that again the truth might be lost. The balance in the love of God was summed up by the sweet singer of Israel thus: "Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other" (Ps. 85:10).
In the conception of God that we have found and created in our own mind, if anything other than love is paramount, we have a distortion and an idol of the mind. If we have a concept where the justice of God becomes greater than His love, a concept where the omnipotence of God overrules His love, where the sovereignty of God outshines His love, and the omniscience of God puts His love into the shadows, then we have a false concept of God. For we have been told by one who knows, that God IS LOVE! That does not mean that He is not just, righteous, sovereign and wise, but all these are rooted in the fact that He is preeminently THE LOVING CREATOR AND REDEEMER OF THIS WORLD!
A famous preacher of yesteryear related the following story. "I was visiting one day with a religiously divided family. The wife was a devout Christian; the husband, a hard, rancorous unbeliever. He was hardly courteous to me. Why should he be? As a minister of the Word of God I was in his eyes little better than a fool. When the evening paper came, he grasped it eagerly as a fortunate escape from what he considered a boring conversation. I had been talking with his wife about the marvelous love of God. Suddenly he threw the paper in front of me. 'Look!' he shouted, pointing to the headlines - THOUSANDS ARE SLAUGHTERED IN BIG PUSH - 'how can you say that God is. love? Nonsense! If He were alive and loving as you say, would He not stop it all?' His question was put very sharply, but it was not new. It was as old as the race" -end quote.
Any thinking mind will be quick to consent that the problem in the world today is not with God - it's with MAN! The vast majority of the pain, sorrow, suffering, cruelty, heartache, war, bloodshed and despair in the world today really reveals nothing at all about the nature of God it merely points out the barbarity, selfishness, ruthlessness, brutishness, and savageness of MAN! It is MAN who wars, lies, exploits, divorces, deserts, deceives, cheats, ignores, intimidates, does drugs, steals, murders, and breaks the hearts and destroys the lives of those about him. Not GOD!
Why should men doubt the love of God? How dare they place a question mark after His beneficence? What reasoning has brought them to this fearful interrogation? Betimes their doubts have arisen because they have listened to the ambiguous oracles of nature, rather than the revelation of God in Christ Jesus. Nature impresses men with the awful mystery, power and wisdom of God. The storm with its jagged lightenings and rolling thunders, the proud mountains with their dizzy heights mantled in snow, the heaving bosom of the ocean with its foam-crested waves, yes, and the tiny violet on the hillside - these eloquently proclaim a God of infinite power, wisdom and riches; but they do not convince the unconverted heart of God's infinite love. The forces in nature that sometimes work for our good often turn about and seem to work for our ruin and destruction. The sunlight that warms our fields to produce the golden harvests also beats down unmercifully upon the earth and produces a dust bowl making thousands homeless and hungry. The warm rains that help to germinate the seed that has been sown sometimes come in ruinous abundance, producing floods in whose wake are destruction, disease, despair and death. How apparently contradictory! Possibly in the midst of some tragedy you, too, are asking the question, "Is God loving?" "Why does God permit war?" you ask. "If He is a loving God, why does He permit the roar of bombers and the barking of guns to silence the joyous laughter of innocent children? If God is a God of love, yes, why does He not stop it all?"
We do not have the answer to many of the dark questions of life, for our vision is so limited, and unlike God, we cannot see the end from the beginning. Ah! If only we could see the end - God's glorious end, THEN we would understand all the "whys" and "wherefores" and how even all of these things WORKED TOGETHER FOR OUR GOOD. We do not have the answer to many of the dark questions of life because we cannot fully understand the wonderful interplay of God's justice, chastisement and mercy. We only know that man has sinned, the whole planet is in rebellion, mankind continually rejects the ways of the Lord and spurns the love of God, and sin takes its awful toll, and all of nature is thrown into chaos in the process. The ambiguous testimony of nature alone cannot supply you with an adequate answer. Only those elect saints who are spiritually enlightened can discern the love of God, even in the adverse and fearful demonstrations of nature, and in the terrible judgment that stalks through the earth. Ah, let us turn from these oracles with their double answers and turn to a LIVING DEMONSTRATION of the loving nature of God - a demonstration that all the ages have not been able to contradict, namely, the great fact of the Incarnation, the deathless, eternally glorious fact that "God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (Jn. 3:16).
From childhood most of us have heard these blessed words, yet they are so freighted with heaven's riches that one instinctively shrinks from talking about them. Who presumes to be able to measure the magnitude of God's love? "God so loved the world." Charles Spurgeon once struck off a bold figure when he exclaimed, "Come, you surveyors, bring your chains, and try to make a survey of this word so. Nay, that is not enough. Come hither, you that make our national surveys and lay down charts for all nations. Come you, who map the sea and land and make a chart of this word so. Nay, I must go further. Come hither, you astronomers, that with your optic glasses spy out spaces before which your imagination staggers, come hither and calculate imaginations worthy of all your powers. When you have measured between the horns of space, here is a task that will defy you - 'God so loved the world!' " Although we may completely despair of calculating the love of God, there are nevertheless in these classic words of Jesus some very clear statements that help us compute, to some extent, the greatness of the heart of God. This little word so finds its definition, I think, in the object and the gift of God's love.
God loved "THE WORLD" - the world that then was and now is, the world rebellious against God, morally depraved and lost in degradation and shame. "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and send His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 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" (I Jn. 4:9-10). You see, it was while we were dead in trespasses and sin, while we made no response to God, while friendship with Him was cut off and the urge of faithfulness and goodness lay smoldering in the grave of our depravity - it was then that the love of God's great heart embraced us. God so loved the world - that means His love sweeps around the whole earth and flows out to men of every race and tongue and nation; but it means more. It means He loves the men and women of the world who by their own evil have wrenched themselves away from Him. It means that He loves the blaspheming atheist, the scornful skeptic, the lecherous outcast, the criminal behind the bars, the grafter who swaggers about as a good citizen and the unscrupulous leeches who drain the very lifeblood of widows and orphans. God so loved THE WORLD. ALL of it! And He loves it still. He loves the men living now upon the earth, and He loves those who have lived and died in dim and distant ages past. He loves them on earth and He loves them in hell. God so loved! Herein is manifested the love of God: He loves the unlovely, the unloving, and the humanly unlovable! Let holy and powerful angels from the extended galleries of heaven sing it! Let the redeemed in rapturous wonder take up the song and let sinners fall prostrate in penitence before the almighty Creator and Redeemer!" God IS LOVE!" Do you believe it?
Love has been described as AN ETERNAL WILL TO ALL GOODNESS. This is THE ONE ETERNAL, IMMUTABLE GOD that, from eternity to eternity, changes not, that can be neither more nor less, but an ETERNAL WILL TO ALL GOODNESS that is in Himself and come from Him, so that as certainly as He is Creator, so certainly is He the blesser of every created thing, and can give nothing but blessings, goodness, and holiness from Himself, because He has in Himself nothing else to give. The judgments of God can never be rightly understood apart from His nature of love. If God's judgments spring not from His love then they come not from God at all, for He IS LOVE. What ought this to teach us about His judgments! The pen of inspiration wrote, "My son, despise not the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when you are rebuked of Him: for whom the Lord LOVES He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives ... for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness" (Heb. 12:5-10). God doesn't go around purposelessly punishing or vindictively torturing any of His creatures. But He does go about precise paths of bringing forth correction UNTO RIGHTEOUSNESS, as the prophet says, "When Your judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will LEARN RIGHTEOUSNESS" (Isa. 26:9). God's judgments, whether upon saints, nations, or the wicked in general are all corrective in nature, accomplished by the motivation of His nature which is LOVE.
"Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son ... beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. No man has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwells in us, and HIS LOVE IS PERFECTED IN US" (I Jn. 4:10-12). Can words make it plainer that God's love in Christ is given to pass into us and to become our life? We shall then love God as He loved us. We shall then love one another as Christ has loved us. And we shall then love the world with the same love which God in Christ revealed upon the cross!
Some who read these lines may be bruised and battered by life. Some of you may be lonely and cast down. Some of you may feel all alone. If you are a father, or a mother, then you know something of the love of a parent for a child. You know something of a love that reaches out after a child, even in its waywardness; a love that reaches out to a child that has been hurt; a love that reaches after a child who has deserted its family; a love that NEVER LETS GO. All of that tender compassion of a parent's love is but the faintest shadow of the infinite love of God which knows no measure; a love that, indeed, could never let us or any man go. When we become children of God, we enter into that parental love of God. How sad that so many who call themselves children of God are, as the apostle warned, "without natural affection," stubbornly willing to consign the vast majority of God's wayward sons to everlasting damnation, yea, demanding, as judge and jury, that they be damned, rather than loving them infinitely and omnipotently as God loves them!
While reflecting upon the parental love of God, a story came to mind that I read some months ago. In this story a man who was entirely careless of spiritual things died and went to hell. And he was much missed on earth by his old friends. His business manager went down to the gates of hell to see if there were any chance of bringing him back. But, though he pleaded for the gates to be opened, the iron bars never yielded. His cricket captain went also and besought Satan to let him out just for the remainder of the season. But there was no response. His minister went also and argued, saying, "He was not altogether bad. Let him have another chance. Let him out just this once." Many other friends of his went also and pleaded with Satan saying, "Let him out, let him out, let him out." But when his mother came, she spoke no word of his release. Quietly, and with a strange catch in her voice, she said to Satan, "Let me in." And immediately the great doors swung open upon their hinges. For love goes down through the gates of hell and there redeems the damned! Our Father and God, incarnate in the Person of Jesus Christ, holds in His nail-pierced hand the keys of death and hell. O grave, where is Your victory? O gates of hell, you shall not prevail, for the Redeemer of Israel and the Saviour of the world, the God who IS LOVE holds in His triumphant hand your key!
THE POWER OF GOD'S LOVE
It is my deep conviction that this opening of Divine Love will melt more hearts for God than any other exercise. A mother may forget her child, but the Word says, "For God SO LOVED THE WORLD that He gave His Son" (Jn. 3:16). How can God ever forget the world, or give up on the world with a love so fierce as that! The Scripture declares, "But God commends His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Rom. 5:8). And again, "In this the love of God was made manifest, where we are concerned, in that God sent His Son, the only begotten or unique Son, into the world so that we might live through Him. 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; and not for ours alone, but also for the sins of THE WHOLE WORLD" (I Jn. 4:9-10; 2:2, Amplified).
J. A. Dowie relates the following story: "I remember how touched I was to look upon a grave once which had only these words: 'MY BROTHER. HE LOVED ME AND GAVE HIMSELF INSTEAD OF ME.' I turned to a person and said: 'Tell me the story of that grave.' He told me that it was erected by a man in memory of his brother who was killed in war. The man was drafted as a conscript; but when this younger brother, who had no wife or family, heard of it, he went to him and said: 'John, you have a dear wife and a nice family, and I have none. Let me take your name and go for you.' So he went under the name of his brother, John, and was killed in the battle. John went down to the battlefield and brought the body home and buried it. He erected a tombstone on which were only these words: 'My brother. He loved me and gave himself instead of me.' " -end quote.
Christ loved us, and gave Himself instead of us. He died for us, when we were not like that man's brother. We were not good. We were not worthy. The whole race was wicked and vile and hostile. When we were yet ungodly, the Word of God became the Son of man and died for us. So let us love Him and all mankind whom He loved, and for whom He died.
Here is love, vast as the ocean,
Loving kindness as the flood,
When the Prince of Life our ransom
Shed for us His precious blood;
Who His love will not remember?
Who can cease to sing His praise?
He can never be forgotten
Through Heaven's everlasting day.
On the Mount of Crucifixion
Fountains opened deep and wide;
Through the floodgates of God's mercy
Flowed a vast and gracious tide;
Grace and love like mighty rivers,
Poured incessant from above,
And Heaven's peace and perfect justice
Kissed a guilty world in love!
The story has been told of when John B. Gough, the great temperance orator, was entertained by some friends in an eastern city, the mother of the household called him aside and asked him to go to her son Edward and have a talk with him. She said that Edward had been a wayward son; in fact, had gone so far in disgracing them that the father forbade him to enter the house. She said that she had pleaded with the father and had prevailed, and that the father had consented to permit Edward to have a room where he would never have to see him. She said, "Mr. Gough, Edward came home intoxicated a couple days ago and is still in his room. I have been caring for him. Will you not go and have a little talk with him?" Mr. Gough said, "My dear mother, if you with all your love and patience can not do anything with him, I scarcely think that I can." With a mother's persistency she finally persuaded Mr. Gough to talk with her son. He knocked at the door and entering found Edward. Mr. Gough said, "Edward, aren't you tired of the kind of life that you are leading?" Edward said, "Yes, Mr. Gough, I am sick and tired of it." "Then why do you not quit it?" "Quit it? I can't, Mr. Gough; I am bound hand and foot with an evil habit." "Then why do you not pray, Edward?" "Pray! I don't believe in prayer; I don't believe in God; I don't believe in anything." "Oh, yes, you do, Edward," replied Mr. Gough. "You believe in something. You believe that your mother loves you." Edward replied, "I do not believe anything about it, I know she loves me." "Then, Edward," continued Mr. Gough, "you believe that there is such a good thing in this world as love, and I am going to leave you here and I want you to promise me that after I go out, you will get down on your knees and pray to love." "Pray to what?" said Edward. "Pray to love, for that is the only thing that you say you believe in." After much persuasion Edward promised. He afterward said that he felt very foolish when he knelt down to pray to love, but he had promised, and he tried to fulfill his promise. He kneeled and cried, "Oh love, love help me"; and straightway, as if through the cleft heaven, this text sounded as a voice in his heart, "God is Love"; and, still looking up, he said, "Oh God!" and there came to him the verse that he had learned years before, "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." And he cried, "Oh, Christ!" - and it was done. He rushed out of his room to find his mother, and, when he did, he threw his arms around her neck and said, "Mother, I have found the Christ!"
Our poor, lisping, faltering tongues cannot proclaim the Gospel as we would like; but we have God's Word that is true for the present time, and for all the times of all the ages. God IS LOVE! IS - unchangeably! IS - eternally! God is love in heaven, in earth, in hell! IS - everywhere! And the great practical consequence is for you and me to respond to that God and to that love, to become filled with that love, one with that love, the embodiment and manifestation of that love to all men in all realms. The best and most wonderful word in the universe is Love. For God is Love. And the best and most wonderful word in the inner chamber of our heart must be - Love. For the God who meets us there is Love. What is Love? The deep desire to give itself for the beloved. Love finds its joy in imparting all that it has, to make the loved one happy and fulfilled. And the heavenly Father, who offers to meet us in the inner chamber - let there be no doubt about this is in our minds has no other object than to flood our hearts with His love.
But the spirit of love is not in you till it is the spirit of your life, till you live freely, willingly, universally according to it. It knows no difference of time, place, or person; but whether it gives or forgives, bears or forbears, it is equally doing its own delightful work. The spirit of love does not want to be rewarded or honored; its only desire is to become the blessing and happiness of everything that needs it. The wrath of an enemy, the treachery of a friend, only gives the spirit of love an opportunity to be more triumphant. The rebellion of Adam but opened up avenues for mankind to experience and know the incredible depths of the love of God! God IS LOVE! And His SONS are of His own nature. The Sons of Love! What a blessed title! Little wonder, then, that the whole vast creation, sold under slavery and bondage to sin, sorrow, and death GROANS for the manifestation of THE SONS OF LOVE!
To know this is a wonderful help to faith. It teaches us that to love God, or the brethren, or our enemies, or the whole wretched race of men, is not a thing self-effort can attain. We can do it only because the divine love is dwelling in us; only as far as we yield ourselves to the divine love as a living power within, as a life that has been born into us, and that the Holy Spirit strengthens into action. Our part is first of all to rest, to cease from effort, to know that He is in us, and to give way to the love that dwells and works in us in a power that is from above. The love of God reigns. The Spirit of God still waits to take possession of hearts where He has hitherto had no room. Love is timeless, eternal. God so loved. He loves still. Though one hundred and sixty billions of men have lived and died and gone to Christless graves, HE LOVES THEM STILL. Oh, my dear friend, can you believe that? His mercy endures for ever, throughout all ages, and love will conquer, praise His name!
Hence it is that God, wanting to show us what love was, sent One who from the beginning was sinless; who was conceived without the aid of lust, who was conceived of the Holy Spirit of Infinite Love, and into whose being there entered no evil passion, since the virgin was sanctified in her spirit, her soul, and her body; so that the Holy Thing that was born of her was the Incarnation of Love in every part of His spirit, in every drop of His blood, and in every organ of His body. People have great difficulty relating to an abstraction or an invisible force. It must be personalized and that is why God has come in the person of Jesus Christ, so that we might see Him and see what God is like. God has been personalized. Love has been personified. God so loved this Son that He placed Him at the head of all the ages. God so loved Him that when He died the very heavens were darkened, and the earth trembled under the noonday sun veiling all nature, while silence in earth and heaven lasted until Love had finished His sacrifice upon the cross. That was Love so divine, so wonderful, so awful, that it could only have been possible for God in Christ to have revealed it at all. This Love is the Love which God imparts to us. This same Love that was in Him must be in us. The Sons of God must be the Sons of Love. Go and learn what that means and the hope of sonship will gleam brightly in your soul.
Some time ago, I read a story designed to illustrate the meaning of love. It touched me deeply and perhaps it will help you. It was a story of an incident that took place in mid-nineteenth century Russia. A Russian nobleman accompanied by his faithful servant of many years was making his way home across the frozen steppes of Russia in a dogsled. They had traveled many, many miles across the barren wastes and were now but twenty or so miles from home, when the servant spied something which, indeed, brought great terror to their hearts. About a mile or two behind them they could make out the form of a huge pack of wolves that had scented them and was now descending upon them. They gave the reins to the dogs, cracked their whips, and shouted whatever the Russian equivalent of "mush" is. The dogs strained their muscles and tried to go faster. Yet, irresistibly, the wolf pack closed the gap until finally there were only a hundred or so yards behind them... then only fifty ... then only ten ... then five. Their red eyes glowed like coals out of hell and their large yellow fangs were visible. The growling deep within their throats and the panting noises of their breathing, could be heard as they drew closer and closer. There was no hope; there was no place of escape. Suddenly, unexpectedly, the servant threw himself off backward from the dogsled, with predictable results. The onrushing pack converged and stopped, tearing the servant to pieces while his master escaped. I thought to myself, "What a wonderful illustration of love!" But upon more mature reflection, I realized that it only vaguely glimpsed the real meaning of love. It hardly touched the fringe of its garment. Ah, it would have come much closer if the nobleman had thrown himself off for the servant. "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins" (I Jn. 4:10).
Think ye, sin nailed Him to that cross?
For sin the hammer swung,
Sin lifted up the cruel tree
On whose broad arms He hung;
Sin triumphed, when from anguished lips
His bitter cry was wrung?
So seemed it. But not sin, nor men,
Nor nails had held Him there;
Love was the nail that held Him up
And made Him strong to bear
For us that weary weight of woe -
That tempest of despair.
A brother in Christ has shared the following experience with us. "Shortly after I became a Christian, I recall a story that was in all of the news, including a picture on the front page of Life Magazine. It was the story about five young men from America that had gone to Equador to try to bring the Gospel to the Auca Indians - supposedly the most primitive people on the face of the earth. No one had ever made contact with them and lived. They killed everyone that came within their domain. They had no contact with the civilized world; they were a Stone Age type people. These five young men determined that they were going to bring to them the Gospel of Christ. They laid their plans carefully. They lowered presents into the midst of the villages from their circling planes. Finally, months later they landed their plane on the beach of a river that flowed nearby and there were some initial contacts. The people seemed remarkably friendly. Then, suddenly, unexpectedly, without warning, a group of these warriors burst out of the jungle with eight foot spears in their hands and plunged them through the bodies of these five young men, each of whom was armed, yet none of whom used his weapon.
"Some years later, the father of one of these men spoke at a local hotel. He was a great hulk of a man, about six-four, two hundred and forty or fifty pounds. He said that when he had heard what these savages had done to his son, he boarded a plane in Chicago and flew to Quito, Ecuador, where he got on a train and went back into the jungle as far as he could. With a group of guides he made his way into that jungle village. He found the particular Indian that had plunged the spear into the body of his son. He grasped this man in his arms and said to him, 'In the name of Jesus, I love you.' I remember that I just about went out of my chair when he said that. I thought, 'Ah, this is love! ' " -end quote. Truly this was a manifestation of the love of our heavenly Father. The Sons of God must be preeminently the Sons of Love. "For God so loved the world..." And so will all who are called to sonship! Small wonder, then, that the glorious message of the reconciliation of all things is sweeping like a giant tidal wave through the ranks of those who treasure the beautiful hope of sonship to God. It could not be otherwise! Only those who are possessed with the spirit of Infinite and Omnipotent Love shall be able to minister on the level that will persevere through all obstacles and all ages until ALL CREATION is reconciled unto God and delivered from the realm of death. I do not hesitate to tell you that those who fight against the ultimate triumph of Jesus Christ, those who wage war against the salvation of all men for whom Christ died, those who set themselves up as a Prosecutor and plead before us and God and His Word for the eternal damnation of the billions of helpless souls who have lived and died like beasts upon this darkened planet are not the sons of God at all - they are the DEVIL'S ADVOCATE! They plead not for Calvary's cause, but for Satan, demanding that he be allowed to keep and imprison and torture forever all those whom he has gained through subterfuge. These are not sons of the God who is Omnipotent Love; they are the offspring of a weird, distorted notion of justice; and they will never reign as sons of God in His glorious, redeeming Kingdom of life and light and love.
LOVE YOUR ENEMIES!
While living here on earth, our Lord was extremely kind. He picked up little children and blessed them. He healed all who were suffering with pain. While relatives were weeping over dead loved ones, He raised four of them to life again. The Saviour of ALL men said to the woman caught in adultery, "Neither do I condemn you; go, and sin no more" (Jn. 8:11). His KINDNESS made an evangelist out of that wicked woman at the well (Jn. 4:29). Because Jesus really loved the weak, helpless creatures whom He had created, He wept over them, prayed for them and taught them continually. Except those religious Pharisees, Jesus never spoke one cross word to the unconverted masses. He was very tender and kind in all His dealings with men. His approach to them was very gentle, delicate, and considerate. Surely then, we are safer in His hands than anywhere else! The things He has in store for every one of us are far greater than we could plan for ourselves.
Does God expect His Sons to be better than Himself? In Lk. 6:35-36 we read, "But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and you shall be THE SONS OF THE HIGHEST; for HE IS KIND UNTO THE UNTHANKFUL AND TO THE EVIL, BE THEREFORE MERCIFUL, AS YOUR FATHER also is merciful. "In this instance Jesus plainly says that if we desire to be the SONS OF THE HIGHEST, we must be merciful as He is merciful. THE HIGHEST IS MERCIFUL TO ALL.
The question follows: Why should the Highest be merciful to the evil and the unthankful? The answer is clear - that the evil one and the unthankful one may come to know the mercy and goodness of God! They would never know that mercy in any other way. If Jesus teaches us we are to be kind to those who mis-use us, reproach us, curse us, and make themselves our enemies, then what kind of a God and Father would He be, whose words Jesus taught us, who would HATE HIS ENEMIES and cast them into merciless eternal hell to burn for ever? If such a thing were to be, then God would require us to be better than Himself! Jesus teaches us that we are to be merciful and kind. Do we then have a Father whose nature is entirely opposite to ours? Impossible! The Sons of God are sent, as was the Son, to reveal the nature of our Father to all.
If we see a God who loves only those that love Him, then we have a very small and fickle God indeed. But Jesus taught us the principles of the Kingdom of God: "You have heard that it has been said, you shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; THAT YOU MAY BE THE SONS OF YOUR FATHER WHICH IS IN HEAVEN: for He makes His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. And if you love them which love you, what reward have you? do not even the publicans the same? BE THEREFORE PERFECT AS YOUR FATHER WHICH IS IN HEAVEN IS PERFECT" (Mat. 5:43-48).
Are we to suppose that God requires us to behave in one way toward the unrighteous, while His own disposition toward them is exactly the opposite? Are we to believe that our Father commands US to be merciful, to love our enemies, bless them that curse us, do good to them that hate us, and pray for them that persecute us ... while HE banishes HIS enemies to everlasting damnation, torturing endlessly those that curse HIM, meting out eternal vengeance upon those that hate HIM, and shutting up all mercy from those who persecute HIM? What great nonsense! What horrible blasphemy!
There is a time to fight and a time to hate. "To everything there is a season, a time to every purpose under heaven ... a time to love, and a time to hate..." (Eccl. 3:1,8). The Word of God not only allows for hatred - it commands it. Love, true love, involves hatred even as true wisdom involves ignorance of evil. True love necessitates true hatred. The greatest hater is God! Have you ever thought about that? In this wishy-washy, mushy theology age of ours, where God is considered a lovey-dovey, spongy old grandfather who would never think of hurting anyone, we often fail to realize that God is a God of wrath who hates sin with an infinite hatred. He is a God who is ablaze with love, but He is ablaze with a holy wrath as well. The Scripture says, "Therefore I hate every false way" (Ps. 119:104).
"These six things DOES THE LORD HATE; yea, seven are an abomination unto Him: a proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood. An heart that devises wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, a false witness that speaks lies, and he that sows discord among the brethren" (Prov. 6:16-19). In the first chapter of Hebrews the Father speaks to Jesus Christ, as He heaps this great encomium upon Him: "Your throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of Your Kingdom." Why? "You has loved righteousness, and HATED INIQUITY; therefore God, even your God, has anointed You with the oil of gladness above Your fellows" (Heb. 1:8-9). What did Jesus do? He loved righteousness and hated iniquity, and you cannot have one without the other! Jesus said to the Church at Ephesus: "But this you have, that YOU HATE the deeds of the Nicolaitanes, which I ALSO HATE" (Rev. 2:6).
The Scripture says, "You that love the Lord, HATE EVIL" (Ps. 97:10). Evil serves its purpose but we are told what the proper objects are for that hatred that springs from the love of God. We are to hate evil; WE ARE NOT TO HATE PEOPLE! Furthermore, we are told that we are to begin to hate evil in our own souls. It is not until we have truly and honestly hated it within our own hearts and minds that we are qualified to begin to strike out against it in the world around us. That is why Paul, who spoke so eloquently against the evils of his time, could also say of those things which he did that were wrong, that he hated them. Do you hate the carnal mind and the evil that lurks in your own life or do you ignore it? Are you indifferent to it? Are you indulgent to it? Are you moderately concerned about it? Or do you hate it with a burning hatred? God hates it! He hates all evil. God is the greatest hater. We are told in the Scriptures that unless we hate sin we cannot truly love God or know the love of God. If God had not hated evil HE WOULD NOT HAVE SENT JESUS TO REDEEM US FROM ALL EVIL AND RESTORE US TO THE IMAGE OF GOD AGAIN. Pure, divine hatred springs from pure, divine love!
In order to follow on into sonship to God, we need, first of all, to have a right attitude and understanding of what sin really is. We need to see it for the pernicious, and devilish and destructive, and hateful, and damning, and destroying thing it really is. We need to have a holy fear of it which should develop into a holy hatred of it. Do you see sin for what it really is or do you see it as something to play with? Do you think that it is a little kitten that doesn't know it is a roaring lion which can destroy you? There is not one person who has not felt the ravages of sin in his own life and its destructive power, for it is inevitably true that when sin comes of age, it produces death. When you see sin for the pernicious and hateful thing that it is, and then when you see God for what He is, the all-holy One, the One who is ablaze with a holy love for every creature in His vast creation and a holy hatred for sin, you will at last understand the purpose of REDEMPTION and you will love what God loves, and hate what God hates. Only then will you truly be a Son of the Highest.
Paul commanded Timothy, "Fight the good fight of faith" (I Tim. 6:12). To deliver the creation and restore all back into Christ again, the Sons of God must go forth to war! They must FIGHT and they must HATE. Fight with love for humanity. Fight with hatred for sin. Fight with hatred for disease. Fight with hatred in your heart for death. Fight with hatred against the works of the devil. Fight with hatred against the powers of hell. Fight with hatred against evil. Hate evil. Hate it! But do not hate the evildoer. Love him, love her; but hate evil. Hate drunkenness, that which creates famine, heartbreak, violence, crime, and death. Hate drugs; and hate the heathenish, hellish, satanic jungle-beat of rock music, that which destroys the mind, impairs the hearing, perverts the emotions, and saturates our youth with the unholy spirit of rebellion. Hate lying, deception, and dishonesty. Hate the filthiness of the flesh. Hate it! Hate it in yourself. Hate it in others. Hate pride and selfishness. Hate worldliness. Hate the swaggering, harlot system of Mystery Babylon and her empty, lifeless, meaningless forms, and her blinding, spirit-enslaving traditions. Hate sin, and God will cause you to know His love, and God will flood your life with unspeakable happiness and blessing. God will make you strong, He will make you His son, and He will receive you and be a Father unto you. God will put the armor of the Army of Heaven upon you and will help you to smash the strongholds of sin and Satan. Do that and be that. Hate and fight while you love and reconcile. Hate sin, but love the sinner. Condemn sin, but do not condemn the sinner. "For God sent not His Son (or His Sons) into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. "Make sure, dear one, that there is no complacency in your heart about sin; and make just as certain that there is never any vindictiveness in your spirit against the sinner! That is how God loves and hates! That is why He is a Saviour, a Deliverer, and a Redeemer. He loves the sinner enough to be patient even for long ages with him; He loves the sinner enough to forgive him any depth of vileness, insult, or blasphemy; He loves him enough to pardon, cleanse, and transform him by His Infinite Grace and Omnipotent Power. And He hates sin enough to deal with it, He hates death enough to destroy it, He hates hell enough to empty it!
KNOWING THE REAL JESUS
A dear brother in Christ has penned these valuable words of admonition: "The opinions we form by hearing about people are usually found to be wrong after we have come to know them personally. This is also true concerning God. When you come to know Him, you will find Him very unlike the description given by theologians. You will come to know that much that they teach is only rubbish because it is contrary to the nature of God. It certainly was so with the Jewish theologians and doctors of the law. When Jesus came He smashed their theories to bits and tore the robes of their ecclesiasticism to ribbons. He ate with sinners, cast the devil out of the Syropheonician, let a sinful woman of the street wash His feet, forgave a thief, healed on the Sabbath, ate with unwashed hands, called the best religionists of His day liars, hypocrites, serpents, children of the devil, whited sepulchres, and a generation of snakes. They thought that they knew God, but they didn't. He was more pleased with the sincerely of sinners than with the ritualism of scribes and Pharisees. When you come to know Him, you will find that it is the same now as it was then.
"Furthermore, to know Him who is truth empowers one to immediately recognize all that is error. The more you come to know Christ, the more you come to recognize the flagrant error of so much that is taught in the name of truth. If the doctrines that men try so hard to prove run contrary to the very nature of Christ, then know that all that is contrary to His gracious Spirit is error. For years without number the evangelicals in their missionary fervor have taught that all heathen men will be condemned forever to groan in eternal flames in unremitting torment because they did not accept Christ, their ignorance of His existence being no excuse whatever. I have no hesitation whatsoever in calling this a lie, because everything about it is contrary to the very nature of the blessed Christ I know. It is contrary to His love, contrary to His kindness and mercy, contrary to His foreknowledge, contrary to His immutable wisdom, and contrary to His great and all-inclusive redemption, of which it is stated that as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.
"I care not how many wonderful acts of God you see or bear witness to, you will always remain a spiritual baby, living for and lusting after outward things, until your spirit is awakened to grasp the eternal, immutable purposes of God. Sadly we confess that the Church system is filled today, as in the centuries past, with those shallow souls who praise the excitement, the revival meetings, physical hearings, baptisms, seminars, building programs and acts without number, but who know not God's ways. Tell such super-spirituals that God had a purpose in the fall of mankind and they will brand you as a fanatic or a false prophet from the pit. Tell them that it is God's purpose to reconcile ALL THINGS unto Himself and they will begin their name calling and put the worst possible interpretation upon all you say. If you preach that ninety-and-nine out of every hundred of God's creation will burn in torment eternally, they will admire you as a man of truth and understanding, but if you say that every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father, they will gaze upon your ignorance with the sympathetic understanding generally reserved for lunatics. Like Israel of old, they have seen God's acts, but have known none of His ways. Ever learning, but never able to come to the knowledge of the truth; they pride themselves in being hell-fire preachers and love to try to dangle people over the flame, hoping to scare them into becoming believers. Well did the Lord say, 'I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran: I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied' (Jer. 23:21)" -The Page.
A man who knows God can answer questions about God because he KNOWS God. I know my wife. We have lived together, sacrificed together, suffered together, laughed together, loved together, prayed together, and triumphed together for some twenty-eight years. I believe I know her fairly well. There are some things that if I were told that she did them, I would not believe it for one moment, though there be all manner of circumstantial evidence to support the claims. I would not believe it BECAUSE I KNOW HER. I know how she thinks, how she is; her nature, her character, her ways.
I have served God all my life. I did not throw away my youth on filthy, disgusting and shameful practices. I have been preaching the Gospel of Christ practically full-time since I was fourteen years old. God kept me. He filled me with an intense hatred of evil, and an intense love for God. I love Him and have always wanted to walk with Him. I have been sitting at His feet for 45 years. To me the Christ has filled my life, and for me there is no life, no love, no power apart from Him. He has been to me, All. He is more to me now than ever, and I know Him. I know something of the power of His resurrection and I know something of the fellowship of His sufferings, and I have trod somewhat in His footsteps, and I love to speak His Name. Jesus! Jesus! Jesus! The Name that charms our fears, that bids our sorrows cease; 'Tis music in the sinner's ears, 'tis life, 'tis health, 'tis peace! Bless His name!
I would never preach anything I cannot find plainly indicated in the Holy Scriptures. However, if there was not even one small passage in all the Word of God that clearly states that God will have all men to be saved, that He will reconcile all unto Himself, I would still, in my deepest heart, believe it to be the truth because I KNOW GOD. I know something of His ways. I know something of His nature. I know something of His character. I know something of His power. I know something of His purpose. "That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you" (I Jn. 1:3). "That I may know Him!" cried Paul in the longing of his soul. "That I may know Him!" patriarchs and seers of all ages have prayed. "That I may know Him!" is the echo of my own longing heart. Yet I DO KNOW HIM in a measure. And I know that in all of His ways, in all of His intents, and in all of His doings GOD IS LOVE.
Why did God make the universe, the earth and sky above? Scripture gives the answer when it says that "God is love." Before God made the universe He worked a master plan, He knew how everything would end before it all began.
He made mankind so He could have an object of His love, But man was blind and did not see - it came from above.
So God created evil as He had created night,
So man could see the good in Him - in darkness we see light.
He made the "blackboard" very black,
with evil, sin, and woe.
He made an adversary to be His cunning foe.
He made the earth to be a "stage" to show the hosts above, By all of our experiences, His wisdom and His love.
He locks up all in stubbornness to make His mercy clear; Lets Satan lure all men away, so He can draw all near.
He gives His only firstborn Son to die and save us all;
Yet each in his own class we read; we're blind until our call.
You ask me why God made the earth,
the glittering stars above?
The Scriptures give the answer when they say that
GOD IS LOVE!
Anyone who dares to proclaim the beautiful truth of the restoration of all men to God and pins people right down to the Word of God is immediately accused by the unthinking masses of teaching heresy, and is accused of teaching doctrines which give the sinner nothing to flee from, no reason for accepting salvation. Such thoughtlessness! These poor simple folks are merely admitting in this that they themselves have never yet had a revelation of the abounding love of God. They are but admitting their shame in upholding a false gospel which would attempt to scare men into God's Kingdom. It never has worked. It never will. Christ leads and draws through love. Sometimes love disciplines and breaks, but it does not play games by "scaring" people into God! Fear is not the instrument of God to bring men unto Himself.
If fear of hell were a legitimate tool in turning men to God, we should expect to find that the community where the flames of hell were the stock argument of the preachers to woo men from sin would be noted for its spirituality and holiness of life. As one has written, "Witness, then, the Roman Catholic Church in its most prosperous times in the Dark Ages holding over its adherents a ceaseless threat of purgatory and hell, and fattening on the proceeds from the pockets of her poor hunted sheep. Was there such a striking scene of righteousness then, that a Luther should not be needed? Fear is the weapon of man and of law. Love is the all-conquering sceptre of God. 'God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of love and of power and of a sound mind.'
"It is love, not fear, that has bound those of us who love the Lord as willing captives to His chariot wheels. Love that does not spoil but lures and conquers: love that, while it loves the sinner, hates his sin: love that disciplines with unstinting hand, that the chastened may, at last, be a partaker of His holiness. This love is the power that has overcome men so far, and that is destined to do its perfect work till God is all in all"
-A. E. Saxby.
And instead of preaching a false gospel to sinners, instead of holding up before them fancied horrors which they may escape, the true Gospel tells them of the unsearchable riches of Christ, of the glory of the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. The sinner misses nothing by accepting Christ, nothing but the horrible fruit of unrighteousness, the terrible wages of sin. He does cease to be a degraded mortal under the curse of sin and death and becomes a child of God. Who wants to remain a faltering mortal when one can be translated into the highest realm of all infinity, when one may become the very same manner of being as the One who created the worlds?
How men struggle and strive and suffer here to obtain ownership of a mere particle of this little speck of dust known as our sin-cursed earth! How they sacrifice for a mere shelter for these sin-sick bodies, which must soon be left behind! Friends, I own a world, maybe a whole galaxy of worlds! For my Lord and Saviour owns the universe. He is "heir of ALL THINGS" (Heb. 1:2). And we are "joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with Him" (Rom. 8:17). Who wants to fritter away time and energy on this passing shadow which is earth, when such eternal and fadeless wealth and position and glory and power may be gained by merely coming into an experiential knowledge of THE ABOUNDING LOVE OF GOD?
Oh, that all men might learn God's one and only everlasting Gospel, the Gospel of love - and then preach it! and BE IT! Love alone can draw A-L-L MEN to Calvary's crimson fountain. Only a Calvary love can transform a world gone mad, and revive a sleeping Church obsessed with her deliriums into a thing of beauty and praise and usefulness. And anyone who is lifting up to a lost and dying world anything or anyone other than Jesus and His wonderful love is simply living a wasted life. The Love of God must be lifted up IN US. The Sons of God are the Sons of Love, for GOD IS LOVE!
The love of God is greater far
Than tongue or pen can ever tell;
It goes beyond the highest star,
And reaches to the lowest hell.
The guilty pair, bowed down with care,
God gave His Son to win;
His erring child He reconciled,
And pardoned from his sin.
When hoary time shall pass away,
And earthly thrones and kingdoms fall;
When men who here refuse to pray,
On rocks and hills and mountains call;
God's love so sure, shall still endure,
All measureless and strong;
Redeeming grace to Adam's race -
The saint's and angel's song!
Writings in This Series: