This is how God's love was revealed among us: God sent His one and only Son into the world, so that we might live through Him.
I. IN ITS GREAT ORIGIN. "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us"
1. God's love to man originated entirely with himself. This love in its beginning was all on God's part, and none on ours. We did not love him. There was nothing in us to awaken his love to us. We were not beautiful, or amiable, or meritorious, or good. "But God commendeth his own love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." It was our sin and suffering and deep need that called forth his compassion toward us; and ere he could love us with the love of complacency, he loved us with the love of tender and Divine pity.
2. God is the Fountain of all love. Love flows from the essential nature of the Divine Being. "Love is of God... God is Love" (verses 7, 8). As light and heat from the sun, so all true love everywhere flows from him, or took its rise from him. And seeing that he is love, that love is of his essence, the flowing forth of his love to us is the giving of himself to us. But the love of God was manifested in our case -
II. IN THE GREAT MESSENGER WHICH HE SENT UNTO US. "Herein was the love of God manifested in us [or, 'in our case'], that God hath sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him." Notice:
2. The endearing relation of Jesus Christ to God the Father. He is "his only begotten Son." The word" Son" alone would suggest that their relation is one of deep affection; but other terms are added, which intensify and strengthen this idea. The Father speaks of him as "my- beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" (Matthew 3:17). St. Paul writes of him as "God's own Son" (Romans 8:3). And St. John styles him "the Only Begotten of the Father.... the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father" (John 1:14, 18); "The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand" (John 3:35). And our Saviour said, "Father, thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world" (John 17:24). It is impossible for us to comprehend this ineffable and infinite love subsisting between the Father and his only Son, or the deep and unutterable joy of their communion. In sending such a Messenger to our world, what a revelation we have of the love of God!
3. The subordination of Jesus Christ to God the Father in the work of redemption. "God sent his only begotten Son into the world." "As thou didst send me into the world, even so sent I them into the world" (John 17:18). The Divine Son cheerfully became a servant that his Father's authority might be vindicated, and his Father's glory be promoted in the redemption of the human race (cf. Philippians 2:6-8).
III. IN THE BLESSING WHICH HE DESIGNS FOR US. "That we might live through him." Notice:
1. The condition in which the love of God finds man. "Dead by reason of trespasses and sins." There is a resemblance between a dead body and the state into which the soul is brought by sin. In both there is the absence of vision, of hearing, of sensibility, and of activity.
2. The condition into which the love of God aims to bring man. "That we might live through him." His design is to quicken men into spiritual life - the life of true thought, pure affection, righteous and unselfish activity, and reverent worship. This life is eternal in its nature. It is not perishable or decaying, but enduring and progressive. And it is blessed. Life in the text comprises salvation in all its glorious fullness. How clear is the manifestation to us of the Divine love in this!
IV. IN THE MEANS BY WHICH THIS BLESSING IS OBTAINED FOR US. "He sent his Son to be the Propitiation for our sins." The best commentary on Christ the Propitiation that we know, is that found in the words of St. Paul, in Romans 3:24-26. Two remarks only do we offer concerning the propitiation.
1. It was not anything offered to God to render him willing to bless and save us.
2. It was designed to remove obstructions to the free, flowing forth of the mercy of God to man. How splendid the expression of the love of God in sending his Son, only and well-beloved, to be the Propitiation for our sins!
V. IN THE EXAMPLE WHICH IT PRESENTS TO US. "Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another." The obligation to copy the Divine example in this respect is grounded upon our relation to him as his children. Because we are "begotten of God" (verse 7) we should seek to resemble him. The argument of the Apostle Paul is similar: "Be ye therefore imitators of God, as beloved children, and walk in love," etc. (Ephesians 5:1, 2). If we are "partakers of the Divine nature," we should imitate the Divine example.
1. In relation to mankind in general. "I say unto you, Love your enemies, and pray for them that persecute you; that ye may be sons of your Father which is in heaven," etc. (Matthew 5:44, 45). He loved us with the love of compassion before he could love us with the love of complacency. Let us imitate him in this respect in our relation to those who are yet in their sins.
2. In relation to the Christian brotherhood in particular. (Cf. chapter 1 John 3:10-18.) Let us evince our relation to the Father, who is infinite Love, by our unfeigned love to our Christian brethren. Let the supreme manifestation in regard to us of his love thus produce its appropriate effect in us. - W.J.
In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent His only-begotten Son into the world
I. THE DIGNITY AND WORTH OF HIM WHO WAS GIVEN TO THE WORLD FOR ITS MANIFESTATION. "God sent His only-begotten Son into the world." This was the first step in the demonstration of His matchless benignity.
II. Observe, as a further illustration of God's love as here set forth, THE CONDITION TO WHICH HE FREELY SURRENDERED HIS SON. "He sent Him into the world." "He sent Him to be the propitiation for our sins." And think! — this love has been shown to you! All this God did to prove Himself gracious to you — to you, the most ungrateful and hard-hearted here this day, who do not, will not love Him in return?
III. Consider a third particular which the text adduces in illustration of the great love wherewith God has loved us, namely, THE GLORIOUS END, IN RELATION TO OUR RACE, WHICH THAT LOVE CONTEMPLATED. "God sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him." That which the apostle here means by "life," is happy existence — existence in connection with the highest and fullest development of all our powers, both of perception and enjoyment; existence in the possession of the Divine favour and love, moral rectitude, and internal purity. A life is it whose vigour no power of disease can undermine, whose actings are superior to waste and fatigue, whose duration is lasting as Jehovah. Oh! what, then, must be the measure of that love which gave Christ to procure for us such a benefit as this?
IV. Consider, in the last place, how marvellously this love is enhanced by the fact, THAT IT WAS LOVE TO THE UNLOVING. "Herein is love," says our text, "not that we loved God." What should be the effect upon us of such contemplations.
1. Love begets love, and if God has so loved us, we should surely love Him in return.
2. Love is exemplary. and if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.
(C. M. Merry.)
I. GOD'S LOVE DOES NOT DEPEND UPON OUR CHARACTER, BUT UPON HIS OWN. I do not mean to say that it makes no difference whether a man has a good or a bad character. I do not mean to affirm that there do not spring up, between the Divine nature and ourselves, by reason of our relations to that nature, certain deep intimacies and more wonderful affections. But I do mean to affirm that there is a great overshadowing of love to us, that exists, not on account of our character, but on account of His.
II. THE DIVINE LOVE EXISTS AND WORKS UPON US, NOT ALONE WHEN WE ARE CONSCIOUS, BUT EVERMORE. Men mount up under flashes of glorious realisation, and it seems as if God then began to love them, because they then first become sensitive to His love. When a man has passed through religious changes from darkness to light; when he has put off his worldly character, and taken on the character of Christ; when, coming out of despondency, the compassionate Saviour rises before his imagination, and he says, "Christ has begun to love me" — his impression is that the Divine love for him began when the burden which had weighed down his soul was rolled off. This is as if a blind man, who had never seen the heavens, nor the earth, nor the sweet faces of those who loved him, should have a surgical operation performed upon his eyes, resulting in the restoration of his sight, and he should think to himself on going out of doors, "Oh! how things are blossoming! The earth is beginning to be beautiful! Mountains and hills are springing up in every direction! The forms of loving friends are being raised up to meet my gaze! And the sun has just begun to shine forth from the heavens!" But have not these things existed since the creation, although the man's eyes have not before been in a condition to enable him to see them? A man has lived in a cellar, where he has been a poor, confined creature, striving to live a life which was but like a prolonged death. At last he is permitted to go up one storey, and then one storey higher, and then yet another storey. Thus he keeps on exploring and going up, until finally he reaches the roof. There he beholds the heavens over his head, and the sun in the east, and he is tranced with amazement by the glory of the things which surround him. And yet, every single day during his existence, and for countless ages, the heavens have hung above the earth, the sun has shone forth in splendour, and the creations which astonish his vision have been beheld by men. For forty years he has been in the cellar, and now he has come up where he can see, it seems to him that objects now appear for the first time, because he sees them for the first time. So it is with the disclosures of the love of God in Christ Jesus to Christians. They think that the time at which they first realise God's love is the time when it is first shed upon them. But as God pours abroad infinite breadths of His being without an eye except His own to behold, so He spreads over our heads an unknown, an immeasurable love, waiting for our recognition, but in no wise depending upon it.
III. There is something unspeakably affecting to me in this thought of THE SOLICITUDE OF DIVINE LOVE FOR MEN, AND ITS PATIENT CONTINUANCE IN GOD WITHOUT CONSCIOUSNESS ON OUR PART. There is something sweet in interpreting the nature of God from the family. Now who can tell the sum of the thoughts which the mother bestows on the child? And yet he is unconscious of most of her solicitude concerning him. He knows that she loves him, but he only feels the pulsations of her love once in awhile. I think we never know the love of the parent for the child till we become parents. Not only does God think of us constantly, and love us steadfastly, but there is a healing, curative nature, forever outworking from the Divine mind upon ours, even although we may cooperate voluntarily with His will. All these yearnings which we have for good, are the crying out of the soul for God, under the influence of His love to us. Every throb of our spirits that answers to spiritual things is caused by the influence of God. And that is not all. We have testimony in the workings of the providence of God in the experiences of our daily life, that God's love is still shed upon us, although we may be unconscious of it. I recollect to have read the case of a man in a city of Southern Europe, who spent his life in getting property, and became unpopular among his fellow citizens on account of what seemed to them his miserly spirit. When his will was read after his death, it stated that he had been poor, and had suffered from a lack of water; that he had seen the poor of the city also suffering from the same want, and that he had devoted his life to the accumulation of means sufficient to build an aqueduct to bring water to the city, so that forever afterward the poor should be supplied with it. It turned out that the man whom the poor had cursed till his death had been labouring to provide water for the refreshment of themselves and their children. Oh! how God has been building an aqueduct to bring the water of life to us, He not interpreting His acts and we not understanding them!
IV. GOD'S LOVE IS NOT, AS TOO OFTEN OURS IS, THE COLLATERAL AND INCIDENTAL ELEMENT OF HIS LIFE AND BEING. It is His abiding state. All time and all eternity are filled with it. All plans are conceived and directed by it. All histories and all administrations are transfused with and carried forward in it. All triumphs are to end in it, while all that cannot be made to harmonise, and blend, and cooperate with it shall be utterly swept away.
1. Can any other truth so justify and enforce an earnest, instant, manly search, to see if these things be so?
2. If what I have said is true, can any honourable man justify himself for not coming into a living faith in and communion with God?
3. Will not the realisation of such a nature, brought home to us personally, account for all the sometimes discredited Christian experiences?
(H. W. Beecher.)1. The love of God as a principle is, of course, eternal. Like His own nature, it is uncreated, self-existent, and independent.
2. But, while the love of God as a principle is from everlasting, the manifestations of this love are related to events, and to circumstances, and to time. Now the manifestation of God's love not only makes us acquainted with it, but renders that love available to us. Now, in the text, a gift is introduced as manifesting God's love.
I. THE NATURE OF THIS GIFT. Now here, you observe, a being is given to us, and a being closely related to God Himself; so closely related to the Father that we must look upon Him as the Son of the Highest. This Being is sent into our world — sent to live in close connection with it; for He is born of a woman, and sent into our world to become thoroughly indentified with it. He is indentified with it as a newborn babe; He is indentified with it as an infant; He is indentified with it as a child; He is indentified with it as a youth; He is indentified with it as a man; He is indentified with it as pursuing the ordinary occupations of His country and age.
II. THE INTENT OF THIS GIFT. To give "life." Originally, life was staked upon a covenant. God said to our first father, "Do this, and you shall live." That was a covenant of works, and the continuance of life to Adam under that arrangement was his due. The covenant is broken, and it is utterly impossible for God to place us now under a covenant of similar character. If we are to have life now, it must be by a dispensation of mercy. And while He personally imparts to us that life which consists in freedom from condemnation, He gives us life in soul and spirit by "the Spirit of God."
(E. D. Griffin, D. D.)I. It is a great evidence of the love of God to mankind, that HE WAS PLEASED TO TAKE OUR CASE INTO CONSIDERATION, AND TO CONCERN HIMSELF FOR OUR HAPPINESS. Now that He, who is far above us, and after that we by wilful transgression had lost ourselves, had no obligation to take care of us, but what His own goodness laid upon Him; that He should be so solicitous for our recovery, is a great evidence of His goodwill to us, and cannot be imagined to proceed from any other cause.
II. Another evidence of God's great love to us is, that HE WAS PLEASED TO DESIGN SO GREAT A BENEFIT FOR US. This the Scripture expresseth to us by life; because, as it is one of the greatest blessings, so it is the foundation of all other enjoyments.
1. We were spiritually dead, dead in trespasses and sins, as the apostle speaks (Ephesians 2:1, 2).
2. We were likewise judicially dead in law, being condemned by the just sentence of it. What a surprise of kindness is here! that, instead of "sending His Son to condemn us," He should "send Him into the world to save us." But His love stopped not here; it was not contented to spare us and free us from misery, but was restless till it had found out a way to bring us to happiness.
III. The last evidence of God's great love to us was this, that God WAS PLEASED TO USE SUCH A MEANS FOR THE OBTAINING AND PROCURING OF THIS GREAT BLESSING. "He sent His only-begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him."
1. The person whom He was pleased to employ upon this design: "He sent His only-begotten Son."
2. How much He abased Him, in order to the accomplishing of this design, implied in these words, "He sent Him into the world."
3. To whom He was sent, to the world.
4. That He did all this voluntarily and freely, out of His mere pity and goodness; not constrained hereto by any necessity.What remains but to apply this to ourselves?
1. Let us propound to ourselves the love of God for our pattern and example.
2. Let us readily comply with the great design of this great love of God to mankind.
3. With what joy and thankfulness should we commemorate this great love of God to mankind.
(Abp. Tillotson.)I. THE CHARACTERISTICS OF GOD'S LOVE.
1. Everlasting in its date (Jeremiah 31:3).
2. Unmerited in the objects of it (Ezekiel 36:21-23).
3. Immutable in its nature (Psalm 89:30-36).
4. Of unspeakable value (Ephesians 3:17-19).
5. Eternal in its duration (Ephesians 3:11, 12).
II. THE MANIFESTATION OF GOD'S LOVE.
1. The greatness and glory of the person sending: God (Isaiah 57:15).
2. The dignity of the person sent: Christ, the God-man (Hebrews 1:3).
3. The place into which He was sent: this world (1 John 4:9).
4. The purpose for which He was sent: salvation (Galatians 4:4, 5).
III. THE GRACIOUS DESIGN.
1. A life of reconciliation with God (2 Corinthians 5:18).
2. A life of justification before God (Romans 5:1).
3. A life of Divine communion in God (1 John 1:3).
4. A life of consolation and genuine happiness (2 Corinthians 1:5).
IV. IMPROVEMENT. The nature of this life has many most paradoxical traits connected with it.
1. A warlike yet victorious life.
2. A painful yet pleasurable life.
3. A friendless yet friendly life.
4. An humble yet exalted life.
5. A dying yet eternal life.
6. A worthless yet most precious life.
(T. B. Baker, M. A.)I. THE AMAZING. MANIFESTATION OF DIVINE LOVE, WHICH IS HERE DESCRIBED. As when some eminently beautiful object rivets the attention of a traveller, so that he scarcely gives even a passing glance to other objects; so the believer's thoughts are so fixed upon one manifestation of God's love. "In THIS was manifested the love of God," etc.
II. FOR WHOM THIS WONDROUS LOVE HAS BEEN MANIFESTED. "God sent His only-begotten Son into the world." It might have happened that, for some reason known to the Creator, such a sacrifice should have been necessary for the world in its first state of innocence; and even in such a case the love of God in sending His Son would have been inconceivably great; but what was really the state of the world, when this love was manifested in its behalf? We shall learn what the state of the world is, by considering what we ourselves are. Some are sincerely desirous of living to the glory of God, while others are seeking to please themselves. But what are the best feelings of the best of us towards God? What is the best conduct of the best of us in comparison with the will of God? Alas! how cold are our affections! How inconsistent is our habitual deportment! The devices of Satan, how often we allow ourselves to be deceived by them! And, if the best are so bad, what must the worst be? And yet God sent His Son into such a world! Oh, what wondrous love!
III. THE OBJECT WHICH GOD'S LOVE HAD IN VIEW WHEN HE SENT HIS SON. "That we might live through Him."
(A. Stackhouse, M. A.)
(J. M. Gibbon.)I. GOD LOVES MAN. Why, with a little child speaking of his mother's love, sometimes they fail; how much more when we speak of God's love! I saw a little child the other day clasp its arms round its mother's neck, and say, "Mother, I loves 'ou, and I know 'ou loves me, but I don't know how much 'ou loves me." So the little child spoke; and if it is true in that love, how much more in the love of God, of which all human love is but a shadow, a spark!
II. GOD HAS MANIFESTED HIS LOVE. "In this was manifested the love of God." Of course God has manifested His love in ten thousand ways. Why everything in Nature, if we only see it rightly, is a manifestation of God's love. Every ray of warm sunshine is but a going out of God in love. But oh, the manifestation of God's love in nature is not enough to make us live. When some great artist manifests his skill in a work of art, begotten of his genius, it is exhibited in carpeted saloons, amid grandeur and pomp, and within tapestried walls. But when God manifested this masterpiece of grace His only-begotten Son — it was in the manger of Bethlehem, amidst the surroundings of poverty. Oh, have you believed that love? Many of you have heard about it, but it makes a vast difference when you believe it. The other day I stood by the death bed of a young man; his wife was beside it, and some friends were in the adjoining room; and I stayed there talking with them. And one earnest young man said, "Sir, can you understand why God allows such sorrow as that?" And I said, "Honestly, sir, I don't understand it; but I know that God loves us, and He knows what is best for us. Supposing I had a friend in trouble and I lent him £20,000; do you think that after I had done that I should see him starve for the want of a sixpence? Well, then, if God loves us so much that He gives His Son, let us trust Him for the rest, though we cannot understand it."
(M. Rainsford, M. A.)
I. We say IT IS SHOWN IN THE NATURE OF THAT WORK WHICH HE CAME TO DO. Let us consider that work, its character, its object, in order to understand the greatness of the love which prompted it. To silence every cavil, to give an evidence of the love of God which imagination should not reach, to place it above the level of every doubt or insinuation, Christ came, not to cure our natural evils, not to teach, not to direct, though any one of these acts might well have awakened amazement; but He came to die for sinners.
II. Let us now endeavour to remark THE EVIDENCE OF THE LOVE OF GOD, WHICH IS INCLUDED IN THE MANNER IN WHICH THAT WORK WAS ACCOMPLISHED, AND THE EFFECT PRODUCED BY HIS MINISTRY.
1. Let us observe first, in the certainty of its accomplishment. Eternal life is purchased for us by Jesus Christ, and it is offered to all in Him, absolutely and universally. "This is the record," says St. John, "that God hath given to us eternal life; and this life is in His Son." He hath given it. He who is the truth itself hath given it, and hath given it in His Son. "He, therefore, that hath the Son hath life." He that hath the one is secure, absolutely secure of the other. Unlike other marks of love, where there is no positive connection between the pledge and the possession, between the means and the end; unlike the gift of riches, for instance, which does not ensure contentment; unlike the gift of health, which does not ensure joy; unlike these, the gift of Christ ensures eternal life.
2. Again, let us observe it in the largeness of its offers, in the multitude, the innumerable multitude of those who are included in the compass of this love of God. Who has ever come to Christ, and been excluded for want of room?
3. Think, finally, how much it exceeds in magnitude all that was ever before expected. Eternal life, a life of everlasting joy, of uninterrupted holiness and peace. Compared with this, what are the distinctions and circumstances of the world but the colours which adorn a shadow; the illusions of a dream which passes away and is gone?
(H. Raikes, M. A.)I. THE REDEMPTION OF MANKIND WAS AN ACT OF THE FREEST AND MOST UNMERITED GRACE.
1. God's designs of mercy could not arise from His thinking the constitution He had made with Adam as the representative of his posterity severe and unrighteous.
2. God was not moved to provide a Saviour for His creatures by any sense that His law was too strict in its demands.
3. The inability to perform his duty, which man contracted by his fall, did not render his case in the least more deserving of compassion.
4. God was not moved to this act of unmerited grace by any foreknowledge He had that mankind would receive it with thankfulness.
II. THE REDEMPTION OF MANKIND IS A FULL DEMONSTRATION OF THE UNBOUNDED LOVE OF THE DIVINE NATURE.
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
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