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The Love of God

“Frederick Lehman and his daughter wrote the first two verses of this hymn and its chorus after they found their inspiration in the most unusual of places: scribbled on the walls of a room in an insane-asylum.”   Source: https://doubleedgemusic.com/love-god-frederick-lehman/

The love of God is greater, far
Than tongue or pen can never 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

Could we, with ink, the ocean fill
And were the skies, of parchment made
Were every stalk on earth a quill
And every man, a scribe by trade

To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry
Nor could the scroll contain the whole
Though stretched from sky to sky

Oh, love of God, how rich and pure
How measureless and strong
It shall, forevermore endure
The saints' and angels' song

Lately the love of God has been heavy in my thoughts.  What a glorious and wonderful expression of God’s love is given in this hymn.  Of all God’s attributes the most difficult for me to comprehend is his love for a world of sinful humans like myself.  I cannot comprehend his love but by his precious grace I readily receive it.

Why he loved us is beyond our understanding but how he loved us in Christ is revealed to us in the scripture.  The magnitude of his love is too great for our feeble and sin tainted hearts to comprehend but the benefit of his love is for all who believe to understand and enjoy forever.

There is an unselfish giving love and a selfish receiving or possessive love.  The act of giving love is expressed in John 3:16 and the characteristics of this love are detailed in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8.  The question is which do I exhibit and who benefits?  How do I manifest God's love in my relationship to others?  Possessive or receiving love expects to receive something in return.   Do I give love solely for the benefit of others or give it for my own benefit?

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”  NKJV

God loves sinners such as you and me.  We know he loves sinners because the Apostle Paul so stated in Romans 5:8 “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  NKJV

While still full of sin and living for our own selfish good God still loved us.  What is there to love in us?  Some would say nothing but God so loved us that he gave his only begotten son to redeem us.

And what did God give?  His most precious and only begotten son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  So we are allowed to understand that God’s love is a giving love.  What could God receive from us that is good?  God gave his son for our benefit and good not his own good.  God’s love is for the good of those loved.

God’s giving love is more fully understood in Paul’s description of love in 1 Corinthians chapter 13:4 – 7.
“4 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up;
5 does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil;
6 does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth;
7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”  NKJV

Giving love has both a positive and negative aspect.  It does and it does not.  It is long suffering, kind, rejoices in truth, bears, believes, hopes and endures.  Giving love is not envious, not proud, not rude, does not seek its own good, not provoked, thinks no evil, does not rejoice in iniquity.

Such words convict my heart of sin and failing.  Such words, though painful to us, are a balm in our wounds to heal us and conform us to the image of Christ our Lord.  He is the balm of Gilead, he restores my soul, he is the goodness and mercy that indwells us, he is rest, he is joy, he is our mighty tower, he is freedom, he is our future, he is eternal life itself.  He is our brother and friend, our loving father that bids us come directly without fear into his presence before his throne to seek his help that our love may be a giving love.  My prayer is that he may allow me to give love to others so that I may be like him.

Then there is the selfish receiving love.  This love expresses itself through the mindset of what can be gained as a benefit for one’s self. 

God gave.  Mankind receives.  The question I ask myself is which love do I express?  Is it for the benefit of others or is it only for my benefit?

I pray that our Lord will give me and you the proper answer and the strength to be a giver and not a receiver only.  Lord help us to not be selfish and seek our own good but to give of ourselves to each other for the good of others then our love will be like that of our God.

"Whoever" believes in Christ shall have eternal life.  What does "world" and "whoever" encompass?  Can those who "believe" lose God's love?  Does the "world" that God loves mean every human being without exception?  Does "whoever" mean all who simply follow a Christian tradition?  The Bible answers these questions.

First consider the durability of God's love.  Will God stop loving believers?
Romans 8:35 - 39 AKJV   "[35] Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?  [36] As it is written, For your sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.  [37] No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.  [38] For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,  [39] Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."  Paul declares the love of God toward those of us who believe in Christ cannot be changed by any means in the present or the future. 

Some might say that God only continues to love us if we live without sin but Paul puts this argument to rest when he writes in Romans 5:8 that,  "But God commends his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."  God's love was shown to us when Christ died for us while we were yet sinners.  God knows we are flesh and blood with weaknesses and He won't remove His love because we are prone to sin since Christ's sacrifice for sin was made while we were in such a state.

In a town near us is an Episcopal church.  The following words were posted on a sign outside the church building; "God loves everybody, No exceptions".   If the "world" which God loves means every human without exception then this sign would be correct.  Are there exceptions to God's love? 

Consider Romans 9:10 - 16,  "And not only this; but when Rebecca also had conceived by one, even by our father Isaac;   (For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calls;)  It was said to her, The elder shall serve the younger.  As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.   What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid.  For he said to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.  So then it is not of him that wills, nor of him that runs, but of God that shows mercy."  God did not love Esau therefore the word "world" in John 3:16 cannot mean every human without exception because Esau is an exception and God's word always agrees with itself.

Also consider Hosea 9:15,  "All their wickedness is in Gilgal: for there I hated them: for the wickedness of their doings I will drive them out of my house, I will love them no more: all their princes are rebels."  God said this of Ephraim.  Ephraim was an exception to God's love.

Consider Proverbs 6:16 - 19,  "These six things does the LORD hate: yes, seven are an abomination to 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 brothers."  This refers to actions committed by people and God hates such.  They are exceptions to God's love.

Consider Psalm 5:5, "The foolish shall not stand in your sight: you hate all workers of iniquity."

Consider Psalm 11:5, "The LORD tries the righteous: but the wicked and him that loves violence his soul hates."

All these are exceptions to God's love.  The sign in front of the local Episcopal church was wrong.  There are exceptions to God's love.  If one believes the Bible as it is written and accepts that the Bible is the breath of the living God then one is obligated to accept the truth presented by God in His word.  How could a religious professional say there are no exceptions to God's love?  The answer is found in the story of Nicodemus, a religious professional, in John 3 beginning in verse 1.  Jesus said that Nicodemus needed to be born again.  Beware of the professional religious elite for some of them serve the entity which issues their pay check instead of Jesus Christ.

However God does not take pleasure in the death of the wicked.  Consider Ezekiel 33:11,  "Say to them, As I live, said the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn you, turn you from your evil ways; for why will you die, O house of Israel?" 

The word "world" in John 3:16 cannot mean every human being without exception because the scripture, being the breath of God, agrees at all times and they declare that God hates some.  What then does "world" encompass?  Consider Galatians 3:28,  "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for you are all one in Christ Jesus."  God's love extends equally to every race of humans, every social rank and to both male and female.  God's love is without distinction.   Romans 10:12 - 13, "For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him.  For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”   Revelation 5:9 - 10,  "And they sung a new song, saying, You are worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for you were slain, and have redeemed us to God by your blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation;  And have made us to our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth."  The scope of God's love is without distinction to every tribe, every language, every race, slave or free, high or low, rich or poor, male or female.

God loves the "world" without distinction but not without exception.  To say that God loved without exception is to deny the plain reading of scripture and believe what one desires and not what the plain reading of scripture teaches.

God loves people of all races, all tribes, all languages, all nations, male or female and gave His only begotten son that those who believe in Him should have eternal life.  The angel said you shall call his name Jesus for he shall save his people from their sins.  God's love is as infinite as God himself.  To fully comprehend His love is beyond our present capacity but through faith we can receive God's love in Christ.