Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
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.
Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one anotherβίος) and looks on his brother in want, and locks his compassions out of his reach — how is God's love imminent in him?" The barbed question is followed up by a glowing indignation, called for it would seem, even in those days of first love. Ah! "Little children of mine, do not let us be loving in word, nor even in tongue, but in deed and in truth." Not so much theory, not so much even of warm expression, but reality. "If God so loved us, as now we know He did, we owe it to love one another." It is a debt. That life was given, and given to us. There must be some obligations growing out of that utterly unearned increment. Surely it is by our working that God will cease to permit the misery that He has not made. Repay, redress, rebalance, we cannot by mere almsgiving, however liberal. But "this world's goods" — "the life of this world (βίος κοσμου)" of which St. John asks us to give him some — "this world's life" is more than its spare monies. Breath, light, space to be decent, and healthful food; order and peace and rest, and beautiful sights and sounds; knowledge and the power to care for it, time to consider, religion, and a belief that religion and worship are for the likes of them, and not a form of luxury; these are regions of "the life of this world" which we inherit, but which have been fenced and walled from millions. When we with the best intent are building, broad and high, castles of dwellings for artisans we still are not working on the lines of nature and society. Sanitation and accommodation, with even recreation added, are not all that the simplest society claims. Society, to be society, must have society. It cannot be all of one grain. The simplest must have some little range of ranks. It must have some elements of inspiration from without it, and from above it, in force sufficient to be felt. Some loving spirits must go and dwell among them; who will not hear of brutality being regarded as the natural law even of the lowest; who will begin by expecting of them, even as of others, soberness and honesty and care for the family, and through expecting patiently will create. There are the ἀρχηγοί of a new society, and there is no form of influence fuller of power, fuller it may be of trial, but also fuller of reward, and richer for the future. What the few bear who live thus, what discouragements, what broken pledges, what fallings back, what mad sounds by night, what sights by day, no novel and no visitor can describe. None know but they who live there. And yet there are the elements of society. There is duty constantly scorning selfishness, suffering brutality rather than wrongly escape from it, working itself to death for the children rather than take them to the workhouse. There are sacrifices as strange as the sins that impose them. Again, there are ears that will hear, men and families that will advance their whole standard of life, under the influence of those whom they have seen loving them for nought.
(Abp. Benson.)I. LOVE SHOULD BE EXERCISED BY US AFTER THE EXAMPLE OF THE LOVE OF GOD (ver. 11). What, then, were the features of the Divine love, and what ought to be those of our love?
1. The love of God was universal. He expressed it to all, good and bad, worthy and unworthy.
2. More than this, the love of God has been conspicuous toward His enemies (Romans 5:6, 8, 9). In this respect also we are bound to imitate the Divine example.
3. This is farther demanded, though it should be at the cost of the greatest self-denial. It need not be asked at what expense did God express His love for sinners? What, then, shall we refuse to suffer for the benefit of others?
4. Nor let us overlook that our love, like God's, should be aggressive. We are not to wait until we are besought. God did not so deal by us.
5. To complete all, love should be constant. Nothing should weary it or cause it to relax.
II. IN THE EXERCISE OF THIS LOVE WE ENJOY COMMUNION WITH GOD (ver. 12). "No man hath seen God at any time." It is as if it had been said, although "no man hath seen God at any time, yet, if we love one another, God dwelleth in us."
1. When we engage in duties of brotherly love we are conscious of the Divine approval. And this applies to all duties of brotherly love, whether those that relate to our immediate connections, or the Church of Christ, or the world.
2. There is a sustaining sense of the Divine cooperation. God is with us in them.
3. He will bless us and our work!
III. THUS ALSO "HIS LOVE IS PERFECTED IN US." This expression may be understood either of the love of God, as it is perfected when it produces love in us, or of our love when it is perfected in the exercises of brotherly love.
1. The love of God is perfected in us. From the beginning He had a design of love toward every one of His people. But that design is not carried out into completion until His grace secures the heart, and fills it with His love.
2. Or the saying may be understood of our love when it is perfected in the exercises of brotherly love. The Divine love is perfected when it inflames our souls, and makes us like God in love. And our love, thus kindled by the love of God, is perfected in the deeds of charity.
IV. IN OUR BROTHERLY LOVE WE ARE FURNISHED WITH THE EVIDENCE OF OUR FELLOWSHIP WITH GOD, as it is seen to arise out of the indwelling of the Spirit. "Hereby know we that we dwell in Him, and He in us, because He hath given us of His Spirit." These fruits do not grow on the soil of nature. They are the plants of grace alone, and proclaim their heavenly origin.
(J. Morgan, D. D.)I. THE LOVE OF THE FATHER AN INCENTIVE TO MUTUAL LOVE AMONG CHRISTIANS.
1. On the principle that like begets like —(1) The primal source of real spiritual love is the Divine nature;(2) The manifestation of Christly love is an evidence of spiritual regeneration;(3) The incentive to mutual love among Christians thus becomes all-inspiring and important.
2. On the principle of Christian professions —(1) Every professing Christian professes to "know" God;(2) But "he that loveth not, knoweth not God";(3) Not to manifest the spirit of love is thus inconsistent with the profession a Christian makes of knowing God.
II. THE LOVE OF THE FATHER IN ITS MARVELLOUS EXAMPLE.
III. THE POSSESSION OF THIS DIVINE LOVE IS AN ASSURANCE OF RICHEST SPIRITUAL BLESSINGS — the Divine indwelling and perfection of love. Lessons:
1. The revelation of the Divine love in Christ and in Christianity the highest truth, and its demonstration most scientific and clear.
2. The leading design of the manifestation of God's love in the new birth of souls into the same love the sublimest and most blessed of all possible objects.
3. The importance of each Christian being an exemplification of the reality of God's love and of the gift of His Son is thus seen to be most vital, as constituting one of the leading features in Christian apologetics — an unanswerable argument for the fundamental fact of Christianity.
4. As love is the most essential force for elevation and regeneration of the human race, Christianity is the only spiritual force yet discovered for that most-devoutly-to-be-wished-for consummation.
(D. C. Hughes, M. A.)I. WHAT RELATION WE STAND IN TO GOD.
II. THE RELATION WE BEAR TO ONE ANOTHER.
1. We are all creatures made of the same ignoble materials, and derived from the same Hand.
2. We all agree in one common nature.
3. We have all of us occasion for the assistance of one another.
4. As to the injuries we may receive, they do not come up to our sinning against God.(1) Our sins against God are more numerous than the injuries one man offers to another.(2) Another difference is the greatness as well as multitude of our sins.
5. Let us consider the relation we bear to one another as being united in one common Christianity, and having embraced the same profession of faith. A motive this, to love, the most prevailing that can possibly be urged.
III. WHAT BENEFITS GOD HATH CONFERRED UPON US. Were our minds fully possessed of a hearty sense of the extreme bounty of God, we could not be so base as to deny Him the only returns we are capable of making, that is love and compassion for one another.
IV. THE KINDNESS AND LOVE WE ARE CAPABLE OF SHOWING THOSE OF THE SAME FRAME AND CONSTITUTION WITH OURSELVES, COMES PRODIGIOUSLY SHORT OF THE MARVELLOUS FAVOURS AND REPEATED KINDNESSES WE HAVE RECEIVED FROM GOD.
(R. Warren, D. D.)
1. Because ignorance of what God means by love must now be wilful.
2. Because doubt and uncertainty as to the objects of love are forever excluded.
3. Because the power of love to conquer obstacles and impediments is, in God's case, most gloriously shown.
4. Because the restoration of love between man and man is one of God's objects in that redemption which so proves His love for us.
5. Because we are required to be followers of God as dear children.
6. Because love on our part must be pleasing to God.
7. Because "hereby we express our love towards God."
1. Its greatness and depth. One may dip out the ocean with a shell sooner than exhaust the ocean of God's love with the little bucket of human conceptions. It is as boundless as God Himself, for "God is love" (ver. 8). But the apostle puts into our hand a scale to measure even such greatness (ver. 9). Is there for a father a greater offering than to give up his only son? "If God so loved us, we ought also to love one another." The greatness of this Divine love ought also to be the motive to and the example for our love to our neighbour.(1) Surely the motive. How often are we stirred to love by beauty merely, by talent, or other excellences, or even sometimes by pleasing weaknesses; but not first and foremost by the thought that God the Lord in Christ went after him in love!(2) And our example. We are by nature egoists. "For all seek their own" (Philippians 2:21). The soul of God's whole activity, from the creation to the new creation, is love. And now has God, indeed, opened "the bowels of His mercy and compassion" (Luke 1:78), and in Christ given Himself, His best, His heart, to men for their own; so that "whosoever receiveth Christ receiveth the Father that sent Him" (Luke 9:49). But we? Even when we make our loving sacrifices, we keep back to ourselves the greater part of ourselves. Do thou, my hard, selfish heart, with thy scanty, wretched love, which scarcely ever deserves the name, be transformed after this great, Divine pattern! But love shames us yet in many other things. We are further amazed at —
2. The all-embracing extent of this love. God sent His Son into the world. He gave Him not to some few, but to all. How often our love suffers from a miserable straitness of heart! Towards some, sometimes towards those who love us, we are very kind and pleasing, but towards others indifferent. Some attract us, numberless others are repulsive. And oh! what wretched pettinesses often suffice to lock up our hearts so that not the least drop of love can flow out! God's love did not suffer itself to be held back, nor to set itself any bounds: it embraced all, even its enemies. God finds people enough to love His beautiful and richly-gifted children; but few whose love goes far enough to receive the miserable ones also. If we desire to do what is pleasing to God's heart, let us also love those whom no one else is likely to love! And if our courage fails us for this — for such love requires much courage — let us look up to the primal example of God's love, which condescended to this miserable world.
3. The clearness and calmness of God's love. The greater and stronger the love of men, so much the harder for it to remain clear and calm. The bleeding Lamb of God on Calvary shows not only how deeply and all inclusively, but also how clearly, and soberly, and holily God loves the world. He will heal its sin and guilt, and therefore He suffers the Lamb to bleed. He must judge while He heals, and He heals while thus judging. Thus clear and calm, too, was the love of Christ, in all its greatness. How He loved His disciples, and yet how soberly and calmly He pointed out to them their errors! "If God so loved us, we ought also to love one another." Do we do it? Alas, how rare among us is that great and therefore sober love which steadily seeks to make our neighbour better! Either we continue clear and calm, and our love is, commonly, very lukewarm; or else it is great and warm, while we are as it were blind and dull.
4. Its unselfish disinterestedness. We love those who please us, who love us, or from whom we expect love. Therein appears the interestedness of our love. God loves those who love Him not; from whom, moreover, He can have no great hopes of love. Just as unselfish, too, is Christ's love. In all His life of love He never seeks His own gain — not His honour, not His advantage, not His proper esteem, but only the honour of the Father and the salvation of the world. He puts away all self-help from His love (Matthew 4:3, etc.; 26:53, etc.); renounces the applause of the great masses, especially of the rulers; and walks the way of self-abnegation and the Cross. "If God so loved us, we ought also to love one another" — so unselfishly, so disinterestedly. How rare is the love in which one thinks not of himself, but only of the welfare of another; which forgets one's self, seeks stillness and retirement, lets not its left hand know what its right hand doeth; yes, even expects nothing for itself, because it has its own reward in itself; which therefore rewards evil with good, which blesses them that curse us, and does good to them that hate us!
5. The steadfastness and faithfulness of the love of God; which is not less worthy of imitation. Only the unselfish love "never faileth." Selfish love, in its very selfishness, has a worm in itself which speedily gnaws away its life. The purer love is, the less it changes. Because God's love is without any mixture of impure self-seeking, therefore is it so steadfast.
(Prof. T. Christlieb.)
1. I notice that God's love was originating love. He completely took the initiative. We should do the same — not wait to be loved.
2. And I notice that God's love is a wise and thoughtful love. Our love is often very unwise and unthoughtful. There is very little mind in it; no consideration; therefore our love often does harm where it is meant to do good. God's love is so carefully, so exquisitely adjusted. It is so very wise.
3. And God's love, tender as it is, is always faithful. So far as reproof is faithful, God's love is faithful. An unfaithful love is worse than hatred; and I may say very unlike God's!
4. And God's love is self-sacrificing love. "He spared not His own Son."
5. And God's love is never capricious. It never changes, except to deepen. Is your love so? Concerning love, let me further observe this — God always looks to the reflection of Himself in all His creatures. He expects to find the image of one or other of His attributes. If He finds it not, He passes unsatisfied. If He finds it, He "rests." There He is content. Many different gifts and graces reflect different parts of the character of God; but God reflects all. Love gives back God to Himself, for "God is love."
6. And love is the atmosphere of heaven. We are all to love now, that we may be ready to go forward.
(J. Vaughan, M. A.)
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