The Love of God
November 20th, 1960 @ 7:30 PM
1 John 4:7-21
THE LOVE OF GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 John 4:7-21
11-20-60 7:30 p.m.
Now in our Bibles, turn to 1 John chapter 4, 1 John chapter 4, and we shall read together from verse 7 to the end. And the message tonight—you do not mind a little extra tonight, do you? This is such a godly hour and such a marvelous time. We’re going to read the passage; it’s a passage on the love of God. And then after we read it, the choir is going to sing for us “The Love of God.” And the preacher will preach his sermon on the love of God.
Now let’s read it out of the book together; 1 John chapter 4, verse 7, and all of us reading to the end together:
Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.
He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.
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.
Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.
No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and His love is perfected in us.
Hereby know we that we dwell in Him, and He in us, because He hath given us of His Spirit.
And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Savior of the world.
Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God.
And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.
Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as He is, so are we in this world.
There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.
We love Him, because He first loved us.
If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?
And this commandment have we from Him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.
[1 John 4:7-21]
I know you are listening to the message tonight, even though it is later than usually I begin to preach. I prepare these sermons long and carefully. I pour my life into them. And sometimes I try to sum them up, and I will tonight, but you listen, with an open heart to the thing that God has given me as I have studied and prepared in this text.
In the tenth verse of the 1 John and chapter 4: “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that God loved us, and sent His Son to be the hilastērion , the mercy seat, the propitiation, the covering for our sins” [1 John 4:10]. God loved us. What a wonder! What a remarkable, amazing thing, that He, whom the heaven of heavens cannot contain [1 Kings 8:27; 2 Chronicles 2:6], should love us! For a dog to love us is a moving experience. For a little baby to hold out his arms to us is a thing that touches the soul. For a friend to love us, for mother to love us, or a father, for a man to be loved by woman, or a woman to be loved by a man, these are moving experiences, and the flame of it and the burning of it finds a response in our own souls. But how infinitely more wondrously amazing that God should love us! We who are but the dust of the ground, we who are but ashes for the heap, we who are but a falling-off tumble leaf, we who are but a cipher in this great city and in this vast world; that God should love us—how amazingly condescending! God loved us and sent His Son to die for us [1 John 4:10].
For two noble men who are peers to respect each other and to honor each other would be a fine thing to behold. But for a nobleman of great peerage and birth to love, and to minister to, and to care for, and to devote affection upon a poor, crippled peasant would be an astonishing thing! And a thing that would draw a response of devotion and love from the crippled, poor, peasant man; that his lord should so honor and respect him.
It is thus with God and us. What a condescension that the Lord should bow down to see, and to look, and to hear from His children in this weary world. And to think that God has loved us, and does love us, in our need, and in our want, and in our unloveliness, even in our sin, our ingratitude, and our ungodliness. His love reaches down to us in our impurity, and our infirmity, and our imperfection. Not because we were good, not because we were fine, or godly, or holy, does God love us. In fact, it seems that the more we are lost and the more we need Him, the better and the more wonderfully does God so flow out to us. “Scarcely for a righteous man would one die: yet peradventure for a good man, some would dare to die. But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” [Romans 5:7-8].
The Moravian missionary for these generations past has gone out in the most out-of-the-way place. In the cold of the Arctic, in the heat of the jungle, there you will find the Moravian missionary. And when you ask him why, he replies, “The more degraded they are, the more do they need a Savior.” And it is thus with us. The more lost we are, and the more full of infirmity and need, the more does God love us.
“As I live, saith the Lord, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that he turn from his evil way and live” [Ezekiel 33:11]; the love of God to us. And it is seen, and I haven’t time even to speak of it—and it is seen in the daily providences of our God, whereby He blesses us and cares for us, in childhood, in manhood, in old age, and even unto death. Even the law God gave to us: these signs on the road: “Danger! Danger!” That’s God’s law, out of the love of His heart. And on these drugs that we see a skull and a crossbones, “Danger!” placed there because God loves us.
So all of the things in life, whether they are interdictions or whether they are privileges and invitations, they all come from a loving God. God loves us; the sun that shines upon us, the showers that fall from heaven, bread for the eater, sleep for the weary; all about us the abounding, wonderful, super-flowing, gracious remembrance and affection of God.
But after we’ve said all that we could, this is the great illustration and demonstration of the love of God for us: God loved us and sent His Son to be a Savior for our poor lost souls. As he said in the third chapter in the sixteenth verse: “Hereby perceive we the love of God, because He laid down His life for us” [1 John 3:16]. With all that we could say of the bounties of creation, and the gracious gifts and favor that daily come from God’s hand, yet this is the greatest demonstration of God’s love to us: that He sent Jesus [1 John 4:9-10]. Not a seraph, not one of the cherubim, not an archangel, but He sent His only begotten Son to die in our stead that we might not have to taste the cruel perdition and damnation and the wrath of God upon our souls [2 Corinthians 5:21].
We see God’s love to us in a crimson stain. Nobody ever understands the love of God for us until he comes to Calvary and see Jesus die in his stead and in his place [Matthew 27:32-50]. These wounds are for me, and these sobs and tears are for me, and this love that stains the ground crimson is for me! And when one comes and stands at the foot of the cross, he sees somewhat of the love of God for us.
This we perceive as the love of God, because He laid down His life for us. As Jesus said to His disciples: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life” [John 15:13] for the object of his devotion and affection.
I’ve told you many times of the kind of preachers that I listened to when I was a boy growing up. They told many, many stories, and those stories linger in my mind forever. That’s the way they preached. They didn’t exegete much. They didn’t break the bread of life in scriptural interpretation very much. They preached by illustrations. But as a boy, and listening to them, they moved my soul. And when one of those preachers would stand up in the pulpit in our little church, and start talking about how God loved us and laid down His life for us [Matthew 27:32-50], he always illustrated by a series of stories, and I remember them.
This is one of them. There was a runaway team, and when I was a boy, that was always electric news: when a team ran away with a wagon. There was a runaway team dragging a wagon. And a man, seeing this team startled and running, ran in front of those scared horses, and trying to drag them down, slow them down, and stop their furious pace, he himself was trampled to death. And the neighbors ran to him, and looked upon the bloody mass, and asked him, “Why? Why? Why?” And the dying man as he expired, says, “Look in the wagon. Look in the wagon.” And there, they look in the wagon, and in the bed of the wagon is a little baby. To lay down His life for us; so great His love! [1 John 3:16].
I haven’t time to speak of other illustrations like that that they tell. But they just move your soul to listen to them. And then they’d say, “That’s the way God loved us; to give His life for us.” We who are in such danger and such mortal peril—to rescue us and to save us, did God lay down His own life [1 John 3:16].
Far more is that meaningful in Christ than it is meaningful in us. For we shall die anyway. And if a man were to lay down his life for somebody that he loved, it’d be just a week earlier than he’d die anyway, or a month earlier, or a score of years earlier, then he dies anyway. But death had no claim upon Christ. And He laid down His life for us; freely, voluntarily, laid down His life for us. “Herein perceive we the love of God, because He laid down His life for us” [1 John 3:16]. He went beyond that. He laid down His life for us poor sinners when we didn’t ask Him to. We didn’t invite Him to. We didn’t want Him to.
Did you ever think about Adam in the day that he sinned and fell under the curse, and condemnation, and judgment of his transgression? [Genesis 3:1-6]. Did Adam fall down on his knees before God and beg God, “O God! O God! I’m a lost man, send me a savior!” No. No. There’s no such record of any such sentiment in the heart of our first father. But out of the goodness, and out of the compassion, and out of the love of the heart of God did God say, “And I will send you a Savior who shall bruise the serpent’s head, the Seed of the woman” [Genesis 3:15], out of the compassion of God, and it is thus with us. We never invited Jesus. We never desired Him. We never asked that He die. He just did it voluntarily of Himself because we were so lost and so undone [Philippians 2:3-8].
And not only that, but He died for those who clamored for His blood. He came to save us from our sins [Matthew 1:21]. And those to whom He was sent, His own, cried “Crucify Him! Crucify Him! Take Him away!” [John 19:15]. Then they plucked out His beard [Isaiah 50:6], and they put a crown of thorns on His head, and they spat in His face [Matthew 27:29-30]. And between the earth and the sky they lifted Him up and nailed Him to a cross [Matthew 27:32-35]. And further, as He sank in that raging flood, there came from His agonizing lips that awful cry: Eli, Eli, lama, “My God, My God, why,” lama, sabachthani, “hast Thou forsaken Me?” [Matthew 27:46]. Oh, the love of God in Christ Jesus when He laid down His life for us! [1 John 4:9-10].
And then out of that great sacrifice, John mentions several things here, and just briefly do I refer to them; several things here. First: the love of God for us is the initiation, the instigation, the introduction, the appeal, the drawing of our love for Him. “We love Him, because He first loved us” [1 John 4:19]. Before we were born, before we repented, before we had faith, before the world was made, or the sun and the stars and the moon, did God love us and set His affection upon us [Ephesians 1:4]. We love Him, because He first loved us, and our love to Him is in a response to His first love for us [1 John 4:19].
The stream that trickles toward the sea first drew itself out of the bosom of the ocean. And those great rivers that rush to the main themselves first were born of the floods that came out of the oceans. The light that you see shining in the sky, in these beautiful stars, in the moon, is first reflected and received from the sun. So our love to God first comes from Him [1 John 4:19]. His good creates our good. His loveliness creates our desire to be lovely. And His graciousness, and kindness, and compassion, and sympathy excites in us a holy desire to be thus gracious, and thus compassionate, and thus pitiful in the presence of God. “We love Him, because He first loved us” [1 John 4:19].
And then that responding love is a mark of our being born again, of our being regenerated, of our being saved. “And every one that loveth is born of God” [1 John 4:7]. However we may fall into mistake and error, “Yea, Lord; Thou knowest all things; Thou knowest that I love Thee” [John 21:17]. With all of the infirmities of the flesh, and all of the mistakes and sins of our life, “Lord, Thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love Thee” [John2 1:17]. That is a sure mark of a child of God, that he has been born again, that he’s saved [John 3:3, 7]. No matter what, no matter when, no matter where, no matter the state, “Lord, Thou knowest all things; Thou knowest that I love Thee.”
And in that love is our knowledge of God. “He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love” [1 John 4:8]. Read all the libraries, read all of the theological tomes in and all of the theological centers of this whole earth, but if a man doesn’t love God, He will never know God. We don’t perceive Him by intellectual processes. We know God from the soul and the heart. The man that is taught of God is the man that loves God. Knowledge shall vanish away, and tongues shall cease [1 Corinthians 13:8], but the love of God shall abide forever [1 Corinthians 13:8-13].
“And if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another” [1 John 4:11]. This is the essence of ethical Christianity. Love bears no ill to his neighbor [Romans 13:10]. Therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law [Romans 13:10]. And the whole law is fulfilled in these words: “Thou shalt love God with all of thy heart and thy soul, and thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” [Matthew 22:37, 39], this is the law and the gospel. And there is holy peace in loving God. “There is no fear in love; perfect love casteth out fear” [1 John 4:18]. When a man loves God, he’s not afraid of the judgment day, and he’s not afraid of perdition, and he doesn’t tremble before damnation and judgment. And whatever the future might hold, the man that loves God is at peace in his soul and in his heart; “for perfect love casteth out fear” [1 John 4:18].
And last: “This is the love of God, that we keep His commandments: and His commandments are not grievous” [1 John 5:3]. Faithful obedience to the word and will of God is found in the love of the Lord. He asks us to assemble together [Hebrews 10:25]. If I love God, that’s no grievous commandment [1 john 5:3]. I love to come to church. I love to be here tonight. I’d rather be here in this service tonight than in any vaudeville, than in any show, than in any theater, than in any opera, than in any entertainment, than in any place, any home, any dinner, any party, anything anybody could contrive or think of or imagine. I’d rather be here in this house of God tonight.
Why, I couldn’t compare in my own heart a television program, or a radio series that would compare with the overflowing joy and abundant, abounding, gladness of coming here tonight. Do not forsake the assembling of yourselves together” [Hebrews 10:25]. Why, I love God, and loving God, I love God’s church and all the other things that the Lord hath laid upon us. These are but the fruits that come from the root of the love of God in our souls and in our hearts.
When a man loves God, to come down an aisle and confess his faith in Jesus is a privilege. To stand before men and angels and say, “By His grace [Ephesians 2:8], and in His love [John 3:16] and mercy [Titus 2:5], I give my soul back to God, and here I am. Here I stand.” And for one who loves God to be baptized is no onerous burden, it’s a privilege; setting forth before our very eyes, the burial and the resurrection of God [Romans 6:3-5]. And for a man who loves God to give his life in devoted service to the Master is a happy song all the days of his life, sweeter as the years go by; dearer, more precious with each passing moment, until finally we see Him whose gracious hands open for us the gates of grace, shall open for us the gates of glory in the love and mercy and compassion of God.
And that’s our invitation to your heart tonight. Somebody you, come down this aisle, give his life to Jesus: “I do it now.” A family coming into the fellowship of the church: “Pastor, this is my wife, and these are my children, all of us are coming tonight.” There’s a throng in this balcony. Is there somebody you, coming down that stairway at the back or at the front, tonight taking Jesus as Savior? In the throng on this lower floor, this solemn holy evening hour: “Tonight I take Jesus as my Savior? It’s in my heart. It burns in my soul. Here I am and here I come.”
I can’t make the invitation; the Spirit of God must open that door [John 16:13-15]. If He does, if the Lord bids you tonight, would you make it now? [Romans 10:9-10]. Don’t wait to rearrange things, straighten up things, let God do that for you. He can do it better than we. All power is in His hands to make everything right that ought to be right, to correct everything that ought to be corrected, to change everything that ought to be changed. Come first to God and let God see you through. Would you make it tonight? On the first note of this stanza, “Here I come, pastor, and here I am.” Out of the balcony from side to side, into these aisles and down to the front, “Here I come, pastor, and here I stand.” While all of us sing together this hymn of appeal and invitation, while we stand and while we sing.
I. “God loved us”(1 John 4:10)
infinitely precious by His condescension
Made infinitely marvelous because He loved us in our sinsand human frailty (Ezekiel 33:11, Romans 5:6-8)
Lord looks down in loving compassion and pity upon us (Psalm 103:13-14)
infinitely blessed because of His unwearying providences
The law for our benefit – road signs of danger
The home, family group ion which most of us are reared
The greatest demonstration of the love of God is in the gift of His Son
His Son to lay down His life for us(1 John 3:16)
a. Man stopping a
runaway wagon trampled to death
of God in His atoning grace largely unwanted and undesired(Genesis 3:15)
to die for those who rejected, blasphemed and crucified Him
As He sank in the raging flood, the agony in His soul as the Father turned His
face away (Matthew 27:46)
II. God’s love for us the source of our
love for Him(1 John 4:19)
first loved us – before we were born, before foundation of the world
responding love the mark of the new birth (1
John 4:7, John 21:17)
responding love a sign of our knowledge of God(1
John 4:8, 1 Corinthians 13:8-13)
source of our love for one another (1 John 3:14,
4:11, 21, Matthew 22:37, 39)
The means of holy peace (1 John 4:17-18,
spring of true obedience (1 John 5:3)