Systematic Theology On Love

Love must be what Dr. Henry Drummond chose to term it, "the greatest thing in the world" (the title of his addresses on 1 Cor. 13). It is that which God is like to infinity. To realize the personal, unchanging love of God is a supreme experience.

There is everywhere a very real human love; but all Christian love, according to the Scriptures, is distinctly a manifestation of divine love operating through the human heart. A statement of the difference is found in Romans 5:5, "... because the love of God hath been shed abroad ['poured out,' margin] in our hearts through [as produced, or caused, by] the Holy Spirit which was given unto us" (R.V.). This activity, then, is not the working of human affection; it is rather the direct manifestation of the "love of God" passing through the heart of the believer out from the indwelling Spirit. It is realization of the last petition in the High Priestly prayer of Christ: "... that the love where-with thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them" (John 17:26). It is simply God's love working within and out through the believer. Such a feeling could not be humanly produced or even successfully imitated, for it, of necessity, goes out to the objects of divine affection and grace rather than to the objects of human desire. A human heart cannot produce divine love, but it can experience it. To have a heart that feels the compassion of God is to drink of the wine of heaven. In considering this imparted love of God, it should be noted:

1. The love of God being imparted is not experienced by the unsaved: "But I know you, that ye have not the love of God in you" (John 5:42).

2. The love of God reaches out to the whole world: "For God so loved the world ..." (John 3:16); "... that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man" (Heb. 2:9); "And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for our's only, but also for the sins of the whole world" (1 John 2:2). This is a divine love for the world of lost men. It indicates how God's affection knows no bounds. What is sometimes called "the missionary spirit" is none other than that compassion which brought the Son of God from heaven "gushing forth" or overflowing from a human heart. Interest in lost men is not secured by any attempted development of human affections; it however will be immediately Low realized in a Christian heart when there is a right relationship to the Spirit of God. A desire for the salvation of others becomes the first thought of many after they are born again.

3. The love of God abhors the present world system: "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world" (1 John 2:15-16). Such purified feeling will always be the experience of the one to whom the love of God is imparted.

4. The love of God is directed especially toward His Spirit-born children: "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. 5:9-10); "... Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it" (Eph. 5:25). He loves His own even though they are wandering away, for so it is revealed in the return of the "prodigal son" (Luke 15:1132). Furthermore, "If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us" (1 John 4:12). By divine compassion, then, the Christian proves his reality before the world. As also in another place: "A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another" (John 13:34-35). Such divine love is also the test of our brotherhood in Christ: "Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?" (1 John 3:16-17); "We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren" (1 John 3:14).

5. The love of God continues without end: ". Having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end" (hence, eternally, John 13:1) . Of the love of God operative in the believer it is said that it "suffereth long" and then still "is kind" (1 Cor. 13:4).

6. The love of God is exercised toward Israel: "... Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love" (Jer. 31:3). So the Spirit-filled believer will learn to rejoice in the great prophecies and purposes of God for that people with whom He is in everlasting covenants and for whom He has correspondingly an everlasting love.

7. The love of God is sacrificial: "For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich" (2 Cor. 8:9). Such an attitude on the part of the Son of God toward the eternal riches must, if reproduced in the Christian, affect largely his attitude toward earthly wealth.

Not only is the love of God sacrificial respecting all riches, it is sacrificial in regard to life itself: "Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us." It therefore follows: "and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren" (1 John 3:16-17). The Apostle Paul testified: "I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit, that I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh" (Rom. 9:1-3). The Apostle knew full well that there was no occasion for him to be accursed since his Lord had been made a curse for all; but the fact remains how he could still be willing to be made a curse. This kind of experience is the direct outworking in a human life of the divine love which gave Jesus to die under the curse or judgment of all the sin of the world. When this divine compassion for lost men is reproduced in the believer, it becomes the true and sufficient dynamic for soul-saving work.

Thus the mighty heart of God may be manifested in a human life, and the one word, "love," together with the other eight words which indicate all the fruit of the Spirit, be a representation of true Christian character (Gal. 5:22-23). The other eight words, when traced in the Scriptures, will also prove to be divine graces which can be realized in the human heart only as they are imparted; for example, "... that my joy might remain in you," "... My peace I give unto you" (John 15:11; 14:27). These divine graces are not produced in every Christian's heart. They will be achieved only within those who are "by the Spirit walking" (cf. Gal. 5:16).

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