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Review of Last Week's Lesson.
Even though the Love of God cannot be defined in rational terms, yet, God has seen to it in both the Old Testament and the New Testament that man in his finite mind gets the very important point that He does Love man and desires to have fellowship with him. We learned of Man's Desperate Condition. That man is sinful beyond hope. As the scripture says:
"As it is written: 'There is no one righteous, not even one;  there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God.  All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.'" (Rom 3:9-12, NIV)
This means that left to his own efforts, man has never and will never come into a right relationship with God - as God defines it. We learned of the fact that Man was Created in the Image of God. This is truly a difficult paradox to resolve. On the one hand man is desperately wicked and on the other hand God is involved in the gestation of every man - in that every man is capable of being restored, regenerated - born from above - a new birth - not from his mother's womb but by the Spirit of God so that he can enjoy a restored relationship with God but also have loving fellowship with Him. That man was created by God even though he was parented by sinful parents is resolved by a detailed study of Psalm 139. Why this is so can only be explained by the fact that God loved man and was prepared to go to whatever lengths to provide for his salvation. So, Man's Sinful Condition Does Not Exclude Him from God's Redemptive Plan. In fact, it brings great joy to all of heaven when just one sinner comes to Christ in repentance. No man is excluded from this obligation to respond to Redemption's call. All must be held accountable for the rejection or acceptance of God's provision of redemption.
Finally, we reviewed that Man's Desperate Need Is Met by the Love of God. To understand the preeminence of God's Love in His plan to redeem man we must understand that His Love is never quiescent - that is It is never satisfied to just be an essence of God. His Love must act - it is His nature to act. Proverbs chapter eight provides a very enlightening view of the mutual love between the Father and the Son:
"Then I was by him, as one brought up with him: and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him;" Proverbs 8:30
The word delight implies a mutual pleasure in each other's presence - the Son was the delight of the Father - the Son always rejoiced before Him. This delight was not only shared between the Father and the Son but the Trinity looked down on the sons of men and took great delight in them - this is the Love of God for man - this is a preview of John 3:16a.
So, we rejoice in reading that God so loved.... That the Love of God was great.... because it was that Love that energized the plan of redemption that met the desperate need of sinful man.
But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, (Ephes. 2:4, NAS) All we need to do is recognize our condition and receive what God has provided for all of sinful man - that is what the theologians call the finished work of Christ on the cross. He has done all the work of redeeming man from sin - man has only to step down from the "auction block of slaves" into the care of his Savior, Jesus Christ. It was the Great Love of God that made the salvation of man a reality.
God's Love Illustrated in the Old Testament
" 'Then I passed by and saw you kicking about in your blood, and as you lay there in your blood I said to you, "Live!"  I made you grow like a plant of the field. You grew up and developed and became the most beautiful of jewels. Your breasts were formed and your hair grew, you who were naked and bare.  " 'Later I passed by, and when I looked at you and saw that you were old enough for love, I spread the corner of my garment over you and covered your nakedness. I gave you my solemn oath and entered into a covenant with you, declares the Sovereign LORD, and you became mine. Ezekiel 16:6-8, NIV.
This is a very earthy story of a man who found an abandoned newborn baby who had been tossed like garbage into a field to die. Unwanted, this baby - but, as the narrative goes, an anonymous passerby had pity on this filthy, bloody baby and rescued it. I have referred to this story before in reference to salvation. Let's revisit it and look at the "rest of the story." Actually the story is an allegory that goes back to the Hebrews in Egypt where the benefactor (Jehovah) rescues them and raises them up in the promised land and loves them as a husband would love his wife.
The reference to Jehovah spreading the corner of His garment over Jerusalem is a reference to a practice in Biblical times where a man commits himself to a woman in marriage. For another reference to this practice turn to Ruth 3:7-12. Here Ruth in a bold act lay at the feet of Boaz and asked him to cover her with his garment - this was, in fact, a proposal of marriage. Boaz, a picture of Christ as our redeemer responded in love and did so - and we know that they became married. This is the picture of God's love for us. We, as sinners, are in desperate need. For a woman to be living without a family or a husband meant abject poverty. Marriage for a woman was very necessary for her survival. God uses this practice of a man covering a woman with his garment in the act of espousal to marriage to show us that He loves us and desires intimate fellowship with us. Remember this point - it is the key to understanding what we are about to study in the first epistle of John.
May we now turn to the first epistle of John and investigate the Love of God as depicted by the apostle John.
God's Love Is Lavished on Us as His Children.
"How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him." 1 John 3:1, NAS
When we turn to the Lord in repentance God does several works of grace in our lives and as a result we have been declared His children. As such now the Father, as a loving Father, is compelled, because of His very nature, to lavish His Love upon us. This saving experience is called in the gospel of John the new birth. Jesus taught in the gospel of John that every sinner must be born from above - then and only then can he see (perceive) the kingdom of God - as opposed to being subject the kingdom of "Hell." The thrilling fact is that now we live in His kingdom - are subject to its "laws" and to its benefits as citizens of God's kingdom - rather than Satan's. In Ephesians Paul calls this being in the "Heavenly Places."
"For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another." (1 John 3:11,
John introduces us to a very basic truth regarding our New Birth: The very fact that we are expected not to hate fellow believers in Christ, but rather, to pro-actively love them is foundational to our fellowship with God. This Amessage@ is taken from Jesus= own command in 13:34 and also in this passage;
John 15:12 This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.
This passage in 1 John seems to be reminiscent of the Gospel passage in 15:12-19. The point of these passages is that the New Birth brings about an affinity between man and God that never existed before since the fall. This is John=s point in;
"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." 1 John 4:16
Man is completely helpless in his sin to have fellowship with God and to love Him. But a wonderful thing happens when a sinner comes to Christ in faith and receives Him as Lord and Savior - he is Born from above. The wonderful fact is that when a sinner comes to Jesus Christ and receives Him as Lord and Savior that man is regenerated as part of the saving experience. The evidence of this New Birth is that the Love of God now resides within the Regenerated child of God. Oh yes, Christians still sin. John knew that Christians did sin. He taught in this epistle that it was the life-style of loving sin that separated the unbelieving sinner from the Christian. He then went on in this section to amplify on what Jesus Christ had already commanded His disciples to do - love the brethren. No unbeliever can evidence this kind of Love because it comes from God, Himself. God's Word states unequivocally that it is His Love that is shed abroad in the heart of the converted sinner (Romans 5:5). And so, it is this Love that becomes the litmus test in John's epistle for a genuine Christian. John gives us three tests that we can apply to our lives to prove to ourselves and to other believers that we are, indeed a child of God.
1. It is His Love that is perfected, achieves it goal, in the believer, who looks over, guards God's Word (2:5).
2. It is His Love that is bestowed upon all who have had faith in Him (3:1).
3. It is His Love that is perceived [ginosko] by the believer who, accordingly, appreciates the death of Christ on the cross for what it is and thus emulates that same love toward fellow believers (3:16).
Unbelievers are characterized by the lack of this Love that remains [meno] in the genuine believer (3:17). God's Love is His exclusively (4:8, 16). If a believer Loves another believer, it is because of this indwelling Love of God not the believer's amicability, felicity toward the other.
The sinner cannot fake God=s Love, he cannot fake a desire to keep His Word, nor can he appreciate the true nature of Jesus Christ=s person. All these qualities in a believer come directly from the New Birth experience. Today we look at the new Love - the Love of God that indwells the believer.
God's Love Contrasted, 3:11-15.
1 John 3:11 For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.  Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother's righteous.
I think we are all familiar with the account of the murder of Abel. Able had been taught about the need to shed blood in sacrifice to the Lord for the remission of sins. Cain had undoubtedly been taught the same concept but because (from John's account) Cain was still in unbelief, he hated his brother even before Abel's sacrifice was accepted by the Lord. Cain's sacrifice was not according to God's plan and in addition to that he performed the ritual with a heart of unbelief. Cain, the son of the wicked one, killed his brother in jealousy and hatred because of the spiritual animosity that naturally existed from him toward his brother even though family love should have controlled his action - but, of course, it was not..
Without Christ all men are murderers by bent. Paul, the apostle said this in his epistle of Romans;
Romans 3:15 Their feet are swift to shed blood:
This is the natural response of the unsaved - even against their own kind. Lenski points out that the original for murderer is Aman-murderer.@ It doesn=t even have to be the taking of physical life to qualify as murder.
Matthew 15:19 For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies:
Murder can come in the form of character assassination. It is a matter of the heart. The sad fact is that we are all in our sinful nature prone to murder - either mental or in the extreme physical.
John's conclusion is this; that Christians should not be surprised when the world - the unsaved have a hatred toward them - the model for this hatred was set forth early in this Genesis account.
1 John 3:14 We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death.  Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.
Here's the exciting news from the Gospel - we can love not only each other but our enemies because of God's love, not some sort of character improvement program.
The fruit of the Spirit is Love - God's Love.
Next time we will look at His Love commended, and the Confidence that comes from the Love of God.