love God and your neighbor“Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but for the sins of the whole world” (I Jn. 4:10; 2:2).


To us it is almost a given… a commonplace… But to the times in which it was first spoken and to the people who first heard the words, it was the most astounding, the most startling revelation that had ever fallen upon human ears.

It is helpful to understand how men viewed their God back in the day… The way in which they conceived of Him who created them. Would that we could go back to those ancient days in India or China or Japan and see the hideous idols with their grimacing countenances, their devouring teeth, their many arms and sharp claws, something of the devouring, hateful nature of their deities – or go back to the cruel Assyrians or Babylonians or Egyptians and the monstrosities, the tyrannies, which they worshipped as gods…

If you will examine the ancient pagan literature, you will find the concept of a loving God was alien to people. We take that so much for granted. Why, of course, God loves us! I want you to know that until Jesus came, people did not know that. They knew God according to superstition, or after the law. They knew that God was angry with people. God punished people. God woke up and threw thunderbolts at people. But that God loved them? God would accept their sacrifices. God would even put up with them, and they would propitiate Him and appease Him (or so they thought!), but they did not love God. But now our relationship with God is one of a Father infinitely loving a son…Jesus came to introduce us to a loving Father God….

The Greeks had a little different conception. They viewed God in terms of beauty or truth as revealed in their architecture or sculpture or their philosophy. The Romans who were led in a thousand battles by the Caesars, had become convinced that the Roman eagle never turned backward. They conceived of their god in terms of might and strength. God was might! Even the Jews, as they looked back to the time of Moses when God descended upon Sinai and caused the mountain to quake and poured out upon them His law, conceived of God, basically, as the great Lawgiver and Judge.

It waited for the apostle John – that one who had leaned his head upon the breast of Jesus, that one who had stood before the cross to drop those words which no man had ever dared to dream before. These words were the most startling revelation when they were first spoken – “GOD IS LOVE!” We all know that, you say! Do we indeed? It is my deep conviction that for most of us the words are so trite that we haven’t the faintest conception of what they mean, nor have they ever begun to grasp our hearts as they should.

Since it is an everlasting truth that men become like the god they worship, so this revelation, the unveiling of the face of the Father in heaven in the person of Jesus Christ, has done more to soften and conquer the hearts of mankind than anything that man has ever discovered. It has brought more love and more genuine progress to civilization than anything else. Without it we might still be as the Assyrians who worshipped cruel and merciless gods and, therefore, when they descended upon their foes they placed thousands of sharpened stakes in the ground, picked up their adversaries and left them impaled to die an agonizing death. Those they did not impale they flayed alive and covered the walls of their captured towns with the skins of their victims because that was the kind of god they worshipped.

But have we really made that much progress? The same beloved John who wrote so extensively of God’s marvelous love left us this solemn warning, “Little children, keep yourselves from IDOLS (that is, false gods, or false ideas and representations of the true God)” (I Jn. 5:21). Do we have false ideas about God? I fear we do. We say that God is all-wise, all-knowing, and all-powerful, and then turn around and deny it. We say that God “so loved the world” and that Jesus is “the Saviour of the world” and then turn around and say that only a few will be saved while God sends the vast majority to suffer the excruciating pains of fire and brimstone for all eternity without His feeling any concern for their suffering – without mercy! We say that God is all-powerful, and then turn around and say that God has “provided” salvation for all men, that God is “trying” to save the world, that God is “pleading” with men to repent, but the devil who blinds and possesses men’s souls is so much more powerful than God that he will carry captive into eternal hell countless billions of men for whom Christ died!

Also, folk who claim that they are true to the Bible say that God the Creator and God the Redeemer are the very same God, but they deny it in their attitude toward the question of the salvation of all men. “People have an infinite Creator, but a very little Redeemer. Their Christ is a comparatively helpless and puny Saviour who is going to lose most of those for whom He died. He can pay the price for the sins of the whole world, but the stubborn will of man makes it ineffective. Man’s will is mightier than God’s will. God is infinite to create, powerless to redeem! But either God is all-powerful, or He is not. Either God is all-wise, or He is not. Either God is all-loving, or He is not. Either God’s will is sovereign, or it is not. Either God’s grace is infinite, or it is not. Isn’t it time for the Church of Christ to decide one way or the other, and then make her theology fit her expressed faith?”

(Extracted from J Preston Eby’s series “Just What Do You Mean….God is Love”)

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