1. Ever think about love? Last Sunday I decided once and for all to do something I have been contemplating for quite a while. So, beginning this morning, I am going to bring a series of messages on the subject of love. The reason I am bringing this series of messages on the subject of love is because I am absolutely convinced that love is a subject almost no one knows anything about.
2. I think I have done a pretty good job of convincing the people in our church that heathens and pagans don’t know anything about love, but I think I need to go a bit farther than I’ve gone in the past to show you that not even most so-called Christians, for the most part, know what love is.
3. Let me illustrate: Over the years as your pastor I have repeatedly parodied fornicators who justify their sins by claiming to be in love, who say “I love him” or “I love her.” My objective in doing this is to point out the reality behind such lies. What the fornicator should admit is not that she loves him, but that she lusts him.
4. So, this false idea of what love is, from the perspective of a fornicator’s tendency to justify his selfishness, or her willingness to lie in order to moderate the seriousness of her wickedness, really is a mystery to most people. It is so much a mystery that I wonder how firm a grip on this thing called love anyone who has been a fornicator will ever have. Such is the damage done to the heart and mind by the self-destructive sin of fornication.
5. Oh, how very much the fornicator needs a thorough conversion. First and foremost, of course, for the forgiveness of sins. Oh, the terrible tragedy of sins not forgiven, those lead weights that drag the sinner into Hell. But on top of that, there is the tragedy of not knowing what love is. The fornicator has so twisted reality to persuade himself and others that love is lust and that lust is love that the renewing of his mind is necessary before he will ever recognize love for what it really is and lust for what it really is.
6. Added to this mix of thoughts are several phone conversations I had with pastors this last week. Pastor Jim Miller, as many of you know from the times he has preached in our church, is a former Southern Baptist. It seems that a pastor that he knows is facing a likely church split, the second split the poor fellow has had to deal with in the last five years or so, which means it’s really just a continuation of the original split. Splits take much longer to run their course than most people realize.
7. As one of Pastor Miller’s former colleagues in the Southern Baptist Convention once said to me, “What Southern Baptist church members say when they are planning a split, when they have nothing really bad to say or accuse the church or pastor of, is that ‘There is no love here.’” What unimaginative lies.
8. People who have been in church for many years, familiar with church politics and intrigue, will make such statements, of course, to justify what they are about to do to foment a church split, just as a fornicator claims love for the person he is sinning against and with. Both are cases of intentionally mishandling the truth about love to justify sinning. It’s a terrible business.
9. Of course, sometimes congregations do suffer from a lack of love. But most of the time such accusations are launched by church members who haven’t the foggiest idea what love really is, nor have they the slightest inclination of doing anything to discover that love is. And would they ever promote love in the church? Surely you jest.
10. My friends, not only do so many people not know what love is in connection with sexual sins, there must be many people who do not know what love is when it is expressed in a church congregation setting. So, I think this series of messages on love will be of great benefit in clarifying our own understanding of love.
11. Where does one begin when investigating what love is? Let us begin where the great divines of the past began, the Word of God. The Westminster Assembly in London began with the Word of God. The London Baptist Confession of Faith 1689 also begins with the Word of God.
12. Why begin with the Word of God? Taking our leadership from the sweet psalmist of Israel, note that David wrote these words of worship and praise to God, in Psalm 138.2: “for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name.” You see how profoundly important God’s Word must be to us if it is this important to God?
13. Our desire is to be objective, to base our understanding on unchanging truths and reality, rather than on our own personal feelings, interpretations or prejudices. Our commitment must be to base our understanding of spiritual things on God’s eternal and unchanging Word. “For ever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven.”
14. Once we have decided to turn first to God’s Word, we first look in God’s Word at God’s love. Why so? Because although God’s Word is the resource of first resort when seeking truth, the first subject of God’s Word, the primary subject of God’s Word, is God. Thus, we begin our study of love by turning to God’s Word, the Bible, and looking therein at God’s love.
15. Because we are pressed for time, and so that I can leave the subject of God’s love to you to study more thoroughly, I will provide for you today only the briefest of initiations into this vast subject before this morning’s sermon.
16. Three considerations of love as it relates to God.
1A. First, LOVE IS WHAT GOD IS
In First John 4.8 and First John 4.16, we find a straightforward phrase that has the profoundest implications: “God is love.” What a pregnant phrase. A man can spend his life pondering the meaning of that phrase without ever plumbing its depths.
A few comments about “God is love.”
1B. In both First John 4.8 and First John 4.16, the phrase translates the same Greek sentence. “John does not say that love is God, but only that God is love. The two terms are not interchangeable.”
2B. What must that tell a reasonable and rational man about God’s motives and about God’s intentions, if God is love? What does that tell you about God’s purpose and God’s plan, if God is love? What does that tell you about God’s nature and the very essence of His being, if God is love?
3B. Is it any wonder that when God created the universe, and all that herein is, He described it all at the end of the sixth day as “very good”? And though we cannot understand all of God’s ways, because they are higher than our ways, and though we cannot comprehend God’s thoughts, because they are higher than our thoughts, is He not One to always and in every case be trusted, because “God is love”?
4B. You may not like the pain, but “God is love.” You may not appreciate the anguish, but “God is love.” You may see no sense in the suffering, but “God is love.” The world may overwhelm you with its injustice and irrationality, but “God is love.” Thus, whatever your complaint may be, wherever you would lodge your accusation, it should never be pointed toward Him, because “God is love.”
2A. Next, LOVE IS WHAT GOD DOES
Love is not only a noun that describes the essential nature of God’s morality, it is also a verb that lies back of every thought and deed ascribed to God. To put it another way, love is not only what God is (and He really is love), love is also what God does.
1B. First, God loves His Son, Jesus
1C. In John 5.20, Jesus told a multitude of people that “the Father loveth the Son.” What do you suppose He meant by that? Don’t you think Jesus was stating an eternal truth, that the Father has always and will always, therefore does always, love the Son?
2C. Some people understand love to be the willingness and the desire to meet the needs of another. But does the eternal Son of the living God have needs to be met? No. Jesus has no needs. Thus, the Father’s love for His Son, Jesus, is something other than anything imaginable by you or me, something too high for us to fully comprehend.
2B. Next, God loves His chosen, Israel
1C. Listen to what Moses told the people in Deuteronomy 7.6-8:
6 For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God: the LORD thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth.
7 The LORD did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people:
8 But because the LORD loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers, hath the LORD brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.
2C. In other words, God’s love for the Jewish people has nothing to do with loveliness. For His Own reasons He chose Israel from among the nations to be a special people unto Himself. So we see, though Jesus fully deserves the Father’s love because He is altogether lovely, God’s love also extends to those who are profoundly undeserving of His love.
3B. Third, God loves the saints, those who are believers in Jesus Christ, Christians
1C. In Romans 1.7, Paul writes “To all that be in Rome, beloved of God.” To the Corinthians he wrote, in Second Corinthians 13.14, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Amen.” In Ephesians 2.4, we read, “But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us.” And in First John 3.1 we read these marvelous words: “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God.”
2C. But what kind of people become believers in Jesus Christ, who God loves? Sinners. Ungodly wretches. Liars. Despicable people. Filthy lepers. Dead men. Trespassers. Such as these are the objects of God’s transforming love.
3C. So, once again, we see that God loves those who are completely undeserving, those who are completely unworthy, those who are not in any way lovely. That is so comforting to me.
3A. Finally, GOD’S LOVE DISCRIMINATES
What do I mean by “God’s love discriminates”? I mean that God does not have to love anyone. He is, after all, sovereign. Although it frightens the daylights out of some people to think that God’s love is discriminating, the fact remains that such is shown in the Bible.
1B. For instance, God may have no love for some of His creatures.
1C. Turn to Proverbs 6.16-19:
16 These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him:
17 A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood,
18 An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief,
19 A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.
2C. This passages speaks of those who God hates. Is it possible for God to both hate and love the same object, the same deed, the same person? Some people, of course, argue that it is possible, and that for that reason there is not a single individual God does not love. But I do not think God loves Satan. Do you think God loves Satan? So, God does not love every creature.
3C. Of the six things listed in this passage that God hates, the seven that are abominable to Him, these descriptions are poetic representations of the people who commit such sins. But if that is difficult to swallow, then focus on the last phrase of verse 19, “he that soweth discord among brethren.” This phrase, at least, shows that there is a type of individual that God hates.
4C. The question arises, Does God love who He hates? Some insist that He does, because they insist that God loves everyone. I will not be dogmatic about this, but I do not understand how God can love someone who He hates.
5C. I am willing to grant that the scope of God’s love is broader than my understanding. So, while I think there are individuals who are not the objects of God’s love, though He lets the sun shine on them because of His love for others, I may be wrong. But I don’t think I am.
2B. However, God definitely loves for some of His creatures.
1C. John 3.16 tells us that “God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son.” I think God loves everyone, with the possible exception of those mentioned by Solomon, those who sow discord among brethren.
2C. There are some who would teach that “the world” in John 3.16 refers only to those who are saved or who are going to be saved. I think that is an incorrect understanding of John 3.16. My thinking is that the whole point of John 3.16 is to show that the love of God extends far beyond the Jewish nation, as the Jewish rabbi Jesus was talking to in that chapter would have understood God’s love. The surprise is that God’s love extends to the entire human race.
3C. Therefore, you should have no hesitation whatsoever in telling anyone you meet, anyone you are witnessing to, anyone you encounter, that God loves him. But I would question in the back of my mind God’s love for that person who stirs up trouble in a church, who sows discord by flapping his lip and disrupting the congregation’s harmony and unity.
3B. As well, there is no doubt that God has a “much more” relationship with some of His creatures.
“It will be conceded by all who are awake to the divine revelation, that the love of God for the unsaved is as immeasurable as infinity; yet there is clear revelation that the expression of divine love for those who are saved is even ‘much more.’ The argument is that, if God loved sinners and enemies enough to give His Son to die for them, His attitude will be ‘much more’ toward them when they are reconciled and justified. The Apostle states: ‘But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life’ (Rom. 5:8-10). This inconceivable devotion on the part of God for those He has saved leads on to various blessings for them.” [Emphasis added]
1. The love of God is a vast subject, with most of it incomprehensible to us, but with that part that is within our grasp fully worth the effort to appreciate it.
2. Brother Isenberger comes now to lead us as we stand to sing the hymn, “Such Love.” Turn in your hymnal to number 179.
1. I would like for you to turn in your Bible to Romans 5.8, our text for this morning’s message from Scripture. When you find that verse, please stand for the reading of God’s Word: “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
2. In this verse we find three remarkable truths that should provoke you to fall down on your knees in gratitude to God for loving you.
1A. First, THE PLACING OF GOD’S LOVE
“But God commendeth his love”
1B. This verb, “commendeth,” does not mean what most people think it means. The word does not mean to “prove” God’s love, nor does the word mean to “show or exhibit” God’s love. It actually means to place in the right light for full acceptance. You could say the word refers to bringing something out where it can be seen in a better light.
2B. There are different ways God has proven His love. There are a variety of methods He has adopted to show His love. And these different ways and varieties of methods have all been employed in one way or another. But there is only one way that God could so showcase His love that it is presented in the best possible light. And God has done precisely that.
3B. But there is one other thing about this verb, “commendeth.” It is a present tense verb, meaning that by whatever means God has chosen to place His love in its best light, that means is still being employed. Thus, God is, to this day, still showing in its best light His great love.
2A. Next, THE RECIPIENTS OF GOD’S LOVE
“But God commendeth his love toward us”
1B. This phrase does not suggest that God does not love those who are unconverted, or those who will never be converted. But it does directly state that God has placed His love in the best setting possible for “us,” which is to say for “us” who are converted, for “us” who know Jesus.
2B. My friends, there are certain truths, there are some verities, that are better appreciated from one perspective than they are from another perspective. Thus, it simply is not possible for someone who is unconverted to appreciate or grasp in a meaningful or significant way the love of God.
3B. However, the person who is converted, those who fit into the category Paul designates as “us” in this verse, are in the best position possible to appreciate God’s love, to be thankful for God’s love, to feel the blessedness of God’s love, to ponder the profoundness of God’s love, to glory in the richness of God’s love, and to be humbled by how much we do not deserve God’s love.
3A. Finally, THE CLIMAX OF GOD’S LOVE
“But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
1B. How different God’s love is from what usually passes for love in this world. Fornicators would never think of describing their revulsion for someone who was in no way attractive to them as love. No, they reserve the word love for those who excite them and who they think to be pretty or handsome.
2B. Nasty church members would never think of describing the hidden labors of a pastor’s studying or a pastor’s prayer life for his flock as love. Neither would they ever consider it to be love that more gentle and more spiritual members put up with their nonsense and tolerate their wickedness. No, they reserve the word love for those specific acts of kindness that accommodate them, in the precise way that pleases them and bolsters their egos. That is what love is to the sower of discord.
3B. But what is the supreme act of putting in the best possible light God’s love for those who are His enemies, those who conspire against His cause, those who seek to undermine His efforts, those who speak against His people? While we were yet sinners, He actually sent His only begotten Son to die for us on the cross of Calvary. There can be no better way to showcase God’s love than that.
1. I must apologize for my inability to communicate to you with better skills the love of God. I am truly sorry that I am so clumsy that I cannot paint for you a verbal picture of God’s great love shown in its best light on the cross of Calvary.
2. God did not prove His love for His creatures at the cross. He had proven His love in a multitude of ways before Jesus ever died for our sins.
3. But there had never before been such a way to show God’s love in its best light as the cross of Christ showed.
4. Do not think, however, that showing His love for us was the only thing God sought to accomplish on the cross, for that is not the case. In addition to showing in its best light His love, God also punished sin on the cross . . . by punishing His Own Son.
5. So, God showed His holiness, His righteousness, and His wrath, as well as showing in the best light His love, when Jesus died for sinners. But our consideration, this morning, is God’s love. Such love.
6. What will you do with such love? How will you respond to such love? Will you reject it? Will you refuse it? Will you ignore it? Will you trample it underfoot? Or will you respond to God’s great love by receiving His Son?
7. You see, you cannot respond to God’s love without receiving His Son, Jesus. And by refusing His Son, Jesus, you reject and repudiate God’s great love. Don’t do that.
8. Would you like to talk to me about becoming a Christian and knowing the love of God in Christ Jesus? Call the church office and request an appointment so we can fully discuss the matter.
 Peter Masters, The Baptist Confession of Faith 1689, (London: The Wakeman Trust, 1981), pages 15-20.
 Webster’s New Universal Unabridged Dictionary, (New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1996), page 1336.
 Psalm 119.89
 A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures In The New Testament, Vol VI, (New York: Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1930), page 232.
 Genesis 1.31
 Song 5.16
Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology, Volume III, Soteriology, (Dallas, Texas: Dallas Seminary Press, 1948), page 259.
 R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Augsburg Publishing House, 1936), page 347.
 Bauer, Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, (Chicago, Illinois: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), page 973.