Essay On Gods Love
The Extent of the Love of God
It is a common error within Christian circles to group the love of God in with His other infinite characteristics. Verses such as John 3:16 are quoted freely to convince one and all that a 'God of love' would never do such and such; then when such and such does occur people feel betrayed and God is considered to be at fault. The reality is that God is a God of love; and the extent of His love is incredible. However the love of God is bounded. There comes a point where God has had enough. The aim of this essay is to demonstrate one example of God's long suffering being over stretched: the case of Esau.
Many of the more naïve proponents of the 'God is love' slogan find an immediate need to jettison most of the Old Testament as it doesn't square with the picture of the infinite unconditional love of God that has been painted. Mal 1:3 is one of those examples of a 'problem verse'. It flatly states that God hates Esau. However it is also a verse that will not go away just by ignoring the Old Testament; the verse is quoted in Romans 9 in the context of our election. In fact it only by understanding the plight of Esau that the full glory of salvation can be comprehended.
Notwithstanding the above, the problem with the passage in Romans 9 is that upon rapid reading it might appear to state that Esau was elected to be hated. Worse Ro 9:11 clearly states that the election part of this equation occurred prior to the birth of Jacob and Esau and is explicit that this occurred before either of them could be counted as having done good or bad. But the passage doesn't state he was elected to hate. Esau was elected to have a lower position than Jacob. But Esau could still have stayed within God's favor. He had been given territory and the Israelites were explicitly told that they were not permitted to have one square foot of it. The Israelites were even told they could not hate the Edomites because of the relationship between them.
Thus we see that Esau had been given a place within God's plan; it just wasn't as favorable as Jacob's. The question therefore becomes: "Would Esau settle for the position he had been given?" Gen 27:41 tells us quite clearly that the answer was: No. Esau hated Jacob and plotted to kill him. Viewed from a modern day counselors perspective I'm sure that Esau could find just cause. His mother and brother together plotted to take the blessing that Esau had quite legitimately earned. We also know that on at least one occasion Esau and Jacob made peace and Esau was very much the instigator. We also know that David actually breached Edom's lands and planted garrisons there. The net result was that for hundreds of years Edom's hatred of Israel brewed.
If anyone allows anger and hatred to fester internally then eventually it will break forth. This happened when Judah was being attacked by the Chaldeans. Unable to attack Jerusalem herself Edom took extreme glee when calamity fell upon it. In fact it would appear that Edom joined in the attack and even stood at the exits cutting down those that attempted to escape. It was subsequent to nothing this that the Lord declares that the inheritance that had been given to Esau was now going to pass to Israel too.
What we therefore see is that election had given Esau an inheritance within the will of God. Esau's inability to gratefully accept what he had been given led to him loosing that which he had. It should be noted that this didn't happen after Esau's first desire to kill Jacob; it happened several hundred years later after the anger had festered. Thus we see the love of God is longsuffering; but that doesn't mean it will suffer sin forever.
In fact the extent of the love of God is memorably illustrated in a passage that this essay has already mentioned Amos 1. Amos used the formula: "For three transgressions of Edom, and for four, I will not turn away its punishment". It suggests that had Edom stuck with three major sins calamity would not have come. But having 'got away' with three transgressions it clearly felt a fourth was possible too. But that was one too many. The longsuffering God that is slow to anger had finally gotten angry. And once judgment was announced it was inescapable and irrevocable. Esau and hated Jacob; therefore God had hated Esau.
Leaving the example of Esau; even John 3:16 should sound a warning note to those that read it carefully. We are told that Christ died "so that those that believed on him might not perish." Simple logic tells us that the fate of those that don't believe is that they do perish. God has defined precisely the extent of His love. It was enough that He should allow His Son to die a brutal death so that we might be forgiven, if we believe on Him. If we choose to ignore that offer then not only do we have the original wrath of God to deal with, but we have now grossly insulted the work, worth and person of His beloved Son too!
We should not consider the fact that God's love is limited in duration to imply it is limited in extent. We can be the vilest of sinner and still find forgiveness. In fact we are told that God commends His love towards us because we were still sinners when Christ died for us. Yet this must not lead us to believe that sin will be tolerated indefinitely. On three occasions the apostle of free grace informs us that the wrath of God is coming upon mankind. Revelation 14 onwards shows us precisely how this is going to happen. We ignore it at our peril.
We have therefore seen that the love of God whilst vast, and extremely longsuffering, is not inexhaustible. God does not appoint people to hatred but He does appoint people to places which are less than they may wish. We are then responsible for how we respond to God's plan for us. If we humbly accept it then we will have a place in His kingdom. If we fight against God and refuse to accept His provision for us, which in this dispensation is a place in His church, they we may eventually face His wrath and hatred.
God is Love
By Ernie and Mary Kroeger
"The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love." (1 John 4:8)
"God is love." This sentence has been quoted over and over again, but have we ever considered what this actually means? Since God is love, the very essence of His being is love. If we do not love, we do not know God, for we cannot know God without receiving His love. We may know many things about God, but that does not prove that we know Him. Loving others is the proof that we know Him.
This love is not the love that does good to those who do good things to us, but the love that is described in 1 Cor. 13: 4-8a. It says, "Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails." With this wonderful description of love we have the promise that love never fails! If God would send the bulk of humanity to be tortured in hell for all eternity, then that would be the proof that love had failed. Therefore we know that God will not do that.
Since God is love, we know that everything He does comes from a heart of love. All His thoughts, words and actions have love as their source and motive. His goal for all humanity is rooted in love. He can do nothing other than love. His disciplines too are rooted in love.
God's love is not a permissive love. He doesn't say, "You can do whatever you please and I'll love you anyway." Responsible and mature parents train their children to be trustworthy, respectful, reliable, truthful and loving. God also trains His children. He does not withhold His love in the training sessions, but He shows us the areas in which we need to change. He is always right, and we do well to heed His voice. God is very thorough in His training, for He has committed Himself to change us into the exact image or representation of Christ!
We also know that God is absolutely righteous. How does the mixture of the two absolutes, love and righteousness, work towards unrighteous humanity? Does God love us just the way we are or does He love us in spite of the way we are? God's passion is against unrighteousness. Does God's hatred of evil obstruct His love for the sinner? Many theologians claim that God does not love the sinner, since He hates evil, and there is nothing good in unrighteous humanity. Others say that He loves the sinner but hates their unrighteous deeds. What do the scriptures declare?
In Romans 5:8 we read, "But God demonstrates His love towards us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." Sending Jesus Christ to this earth to die that horrible death on the cross is a demonstration of God's love for sinners - and that includes all of us, for at one time we were sinners. Our minds may wonder how this can be possible, but this is the declaration of scripture. God is always true to Himself.
The humanity that is generated from Adam does not have the knowledge of God. It is ignorant of the true God. The Athenians put up an inscription, "TO THE UNKNOWN GOD," for they feared they had missed a god. Humanity is very religious and very imaginative. These imaginations have resulted in the formation of many gods. But imaginations are not founded on truth. When imaginations become our truth, we do not know truth, and therefore believe the lie. So unregenerate humanity believes the lie, and is ignorant of the true God. Adam, the first man, was an earthy image of God. (1 Cor. 15:45-49) He was a living soul and he bore the image of the earthy. Adam's successive generations never change; they are unable to receive spiritual realities, for the flesh always opposes the spirit. All who are in Adam remain ignorant of the love of God.
The question then comes to us, "How can the unregenerate receive the love of God? In Romans 3:9-18 Paul gives us a description of that humanity - and it is not a pretty picture! He says that no one is righteous, no one understands, no one seeks after God, all have turned aside, all have become useless, no one does good, and there is no fear of God before their eyes. How can those who are dead in their trespasses and sins receive God's love? Adam's humanity has no way of receiving life and love through any ability of its own. It does not have the capacity to receive from God.
Our salvation begins with the love of God. His love for righteousness and for a man created in His own image is so great, that He gave his only begotten Son into the hands of unregenerate humanity, to torture Him on the cruel cross so that we could receive His righteousness. God had purposed in His heart to create man in His own image. When He formed Adam from the earth, He made an earthy image of Himself. By blowing His breath into man, man became a living soul. Adam was creative, very intelligent, and superior to all the animals. But he was ruled by his soul - his mind, emotions and will. Christ, the second man, the last Adam, became a life-giving spirit. (1 Cor. 15:45) Christ is the beginning of a new creation. (2 Cor. 5:17) This new creation is a spiritual image or representation of God. This is the high calling we have in Christ Jesus.
God wants to take us out of the Adam man and place us into the Christ man! Of course this was His purpose from the beginning, from the foundation of the earth. God did not want a creation that was innocent of evil, and did no evil because there was no opportunity to do evil. To have a creation that had God's nature, He needed a creation that knew evil, but would not yield to evil's tantalizing temptations. God wanted a creation that was in union with Him!
The old generation is dead in it sins and transgressions. It is unable to change itself; it is unable to bring life into its body. God has to awaken him to His love and life. It says, "Awake, sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you." (Eph. 5:14) "By grace you have been saved through faith' and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God." (Eph. 2:8)
God brought a true expression and demonstration of His love into the world by the offering of His Son. Jesus Christ came to awaken humanity out of its sleep of death. He came to bring life and righteousness; He came to put an end to Adam's unregenerate humanity by being the firstborn of a new humanity. By faith in Jesus Christ we are born again - not into the material world, but into the spiritual realm of Christ's rule and dominion! We receive Christ's pure mind that wants to do the will of God. We receive His love! "The love of God has been poured out within our hearts, through the Holy Spirit who was given to us." (Romans 5:5b)
We cannot know God without receiving Christ. It is in Christ that we learn to know God. "In these last days (God) has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the ages. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature…" (Heb. 1:2-3a) In Christ the love of God is manifested - it is made clear and understandable to us! "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." (Rom. 5:8)
Our new birth brings us into union with Christ! Read John 17 and notice the union we have with Him! "I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me." (Jn. 17:23) Paul writes, "Christ in you, the hope of glory." (Col. 1:27)
Repentance has to take place before we can be placed into the new man. Jesus began His ministry by preaching repentance. He also said that He had not come for the righteous, but for the sinners. Didn't He come that all should be saved? He did, but those who are righteous in their own eyes, have to recognize that they are sinners, and repent of their ignorance before they can be saved.
God's love does NOT rejoice with the behavior and unbelief of Adam's generation. God is passionately against all unrighteousness. His love wants the best for us, and His best is His thinking and His nature! That is why we are exhorted to put off the old man, and to put on the new. As Christ was in this world, so we are to be in this world. We are to walk in the Spirit, that is, to walk in Christ's divine nature. Our walk includes our everyday life experiences, our business dealings, our friendships, our pleasures, and all our interactions with people. All have to come under the control of the Holy Spirit.
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