1 John 4:9-10
In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world…
There are two notions of God that have more or less prevalence among men. One represents Him that if there were not a man on earth, if there were nothing in all creation from side to side, there is that in Himself that would make Him forever overflow with taste, and feeling, and love. The one ascribes to Him a nature that is merely susceptible of being called out upon the application of the motive. The other ascribes to Him a nature that pours itself abroad in the earth by reason of its own fulness and richness. It is the latter of these two ideas that I suppose the Scriptures to teach. In our text God's love for us is not affirmed to exist because God perceived a spark kindled in us, gradually flaming forth and reaching up toward Him. God did not love man because man had prepared himself and made himself lovely, nor did Divine love spring forth from any deed of God's by which He, for purposes of government, aroused and incited Himself to strong emotion. Love springs not from an act, not from a fact of redemptive sacrifice, The love of God for the world was manifested in the Cross, instead of being created by it.
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.)
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.