love

The Use of the Incarnation

Because of the influence of self-righteousness….

…many see the birth of Jesus Christ as something to be admired, celebrated, and adored. If we learn anything from Israel, we learn that external behavior towards God does not replace His work in people for holiness. To bring to worship a heart of rebellion and selfishness is to create a horrible noise in the ears of God. This reality brings us to one of the “uses” of the incarnation. Because of the refusal of man to worship God as God, God became a man in order to lead His elect to Himself by means of atonement and propitiation; erasure of sins and satisfaction of righteousness. His birth is our example, not to be fulfilled self-righteously, but to condemn us in our inability to conform. Further, it is meant to call out to God for help.

 

In Philippians, Paul has to remind these dear saints of this very thing. They are commendable in many ways. However, they are on the verge of sliding down the slope that many of the NT churches were sliding. Paul’s teaching that would curb, halt, that slide is dependent upon the fact that Jesus Christ, the second Person of the Godhead, became a man and wore a man’s outer shell. That sacrifice is the only way that we can keep ourselves from falling into the useless position of so many Christians throughout the years-the position of selfishness.

V.1 “Therefore, if (there is) any encouragement in Christ; if (there is) any hope of love; if (there is) any fellowship of spirit; if (there is) any compassion and mercy…”

This verse/section begins with an inferential conjunction that says, “Based upon what is written before, this…”

Philippians 1:27–30 

Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with

one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel;

in no way alarmed by your opponents—which is a sign of destruction for them, but of salvation for you, and that too, from God.

For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake,

experiencing the same conflict which you saw in me, and now hear to be in me.

Paul has been admonishing them to unity and service to Jesus Christ.

Here, he does so by exhorting them to continued faithful unity in service to Jesus Christ by means of the faith of the gospel.

Those opponents to the faith are indicating their destruction and the Philippians’ reward and validation of their regeneration, as they suffer for the faith of the gospel; the content of the faith.

In fact, they are suffering the same way that Paul is suffering.

He is in jail in this letter.

He is writing from a Roman rented room, albeit under chains.

Each of these easily fits into the Roman hypothesis except the travel records. The strongest objection to a Roman hypothesis is the distance between Philippi and Rome. Objectors to the Roman hypothesis point out that the evidence calls for a minimum of four trips between Philippi and Rome, and perhaps as many as six would be necessary. The trips would have been: (1) news of Paul’s imprisonment was sent to Philippi; (2) Epaphroditus was sent from Philippi to Rome with a gift and an offer of help (2:25); (3) news of Epaphroditus’s sickness (after some time?) reached Philippi (2:26); (4) word reached Paul and Epaphroditus that the Philippians were concerned about Epaphroditus (2:26); (5) Paul hoped to send Timothy before he came himself (2:23–24); and (6) Paul possibly expected that Timothy would return and journey with him to Philippi.

The trip to Rome from Philippi was approximately 800 miles. From Rome, the traveler would follow the Appian Way to Brundisium (360 miles), take a ship across the Adriatic to Dyrrachium (2 days with favorable weather), and follow the Ignatian Way to Philippi (370 miles).45 Sir William Ramsay estimated that a foot-traveler covered 15–20 miles per day on the Roman roads.46 That equals 52 days by the slower rate and 39 by the faster. Imperial couriers traveled at a rate of 50 miles per day, perhaps with the help of carriages or horses.47 That makes the travel time only 15 land travel days, 2 sea travel days, and whatever intervals were needed for rest or inclement weather. Some estimate that the travel requirements of 5 months traveling round trip, and thus 10 months total for 4 one-way trips, easily fit into 1 year of time48 It is difficult to see how earlier commentators, such as A. Deissmann, claimed that the travel was impossible in less than 2 years.49 (Melick, Richard R. Philippians, Colossians, Philemon. Vol. 32. The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1991), pp.34-35.

Paul writes to this church in order to express appreciation for their financial support in light of his imprisonment.

This is his first imprisonment as outlined in Acts 21:27-28:31.

During this timeframe of Acts 21-28 he spent about 2 years in custody in Cesarea in Herod’s summer palace called the Praetorium (See Acts 24:27; cf. Acts 23:34-35) after being arrested for his own protection as he was a Roman citizen (Acts 25-28).

During this arrest, Paul appealed to Ceasar, seeing that he was the center of ugly politics (Acts 25:11).

On to Rome he went, via a turbulent ship voyage on the Mediterranean Sea.

While in prison there, the Philippian church sent financial support to Paul for his needs, as they had done a couple times in Thessalonica (Philippians 4:15-16).

In doing this, they “participated” in his ministry AND his suffering (Philippians 1:7).

However, even in a church committed to Paul and the furtherance of the gospel of the kingdom (Acts 28:30-31), there will be problems-troubles between saints and a disunited condition can result.

This is what Paul addresses here.

As mentioned, Paul urges, after hearing from Epaphroditus about their condition (Philippians 4:18), the church there to strive for unity while Paul is absent from them.

Although they financially supported him, he still holds them accountable to the standards of the Christ he preaches.

If anything, they must see him as a pattern to follow, along with Epaphroditus and others:

Philippians 3:17

Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us.

Ultimately, Paul is a follower of the Pattern of Jesus Christ:

1 Corinthians 11:1

Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.

v.2 “make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.”

So, Paul’s words here are simple:

If there is any level of (all in Christ; I.e. In the pursuit of Christ’s kingdom):

Encouragement

Consolation of love

Fellowship of spirit

Affection/compassion

Compassion/mercy

Then…

Strengthen my joy by…

Being of the same mind

Maintaining the same love

United in spirit

Intent on one purpose

 

Therefore, for the Philippians to be unified as a whole church, all of them to give joy to their apostle, have the same mind, same love, unity of spirit and purpose, they must meet one objective.

 

V.3 “no longer according to selfish ambition; no longer according to empty (self) glory; but rather, in the lowliness of mind/thinking, be considering one another having above of yourselves.”

This command is given to them from the apostle because Epaphroditus had returned to Paul identifying the particular ways that the church had become a bit splintered.

For example, two women were fighting each other, the very women who had shared with Paul in the purpose of Jesus Christ (Philippians 4:1-3).

They were anxious about life (4:6).

They had sent money to Paul for his needs twice (4:16).

They had participated in Paul’s imprisonment and were willing to identify with him to their detriment (1:3-11).

They were even suffering some influence from “dogs” of the circumcision, which may have been the very source of their strife among themselves (3:1ff.).

Therefore, Paul gives them a set of prohibitions in order to protect themselves from their influence and distraction from the gospel.

“Do nothing from selfish ambition, empty (self) glory…your own personal matters…”

Rather,

“…In humility of mind consider one another as more important than yourselves…(have regard for) the things of others…”

Paul’s teaching here is to let go of the affairs of this world, and protecting your life, and strive for the concerns of other believers.

In fact, the depths of the heart of each believer, in love, must be filled with more of a concern for the affairs of others than for your own affairs.

In other words:

Luke 9:57–62

As they were going along the road, someone said to Him, “I will follow You wherever You go.”

And Jesus said to him, “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”

And He said to another, “Follow Me.” But he said, “Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father.”

But He said to him, “Allow the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim everywhere the kingdom of God.”

Another also said, “I will follow You, Lord; but first permit me to say good-bye to those at home.”

But Jesus said to him, “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”

The priority of the kingdom in all things demands a preoccupation with the welfare of other believers over and above a preoccupation with your own.

James 2:14–17

What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him?

If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food,

and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that?

Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.

The admonition of the apostle is the same as that of another apostle, John.

He wrote the same thing as Paul and as James because it is a consistent tendency:

1 John 3:16–17

We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.

But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?

The perfect law of Christ, love, requires a refusal to be rich in the world and poor towards God.

The perfect law of Christ exhorts us to care for the needs of the saints tangibly and even above our own.

This might not fit into many people’s line items on their budgets, or their day-planner, or their schedule for the day, but you will always know who loves you when they are willing to sacrifice their time, money, health, and needs for yours:

Think of this:

Philippians 2:17-30

1 Thessalonians 2:8–12

Having so fond an affection for you, we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us.

For you recall, brethren, our labor and hardship, how working night and day so as not to be a burden to any of you, we proclaimed to you the gospel of God.

You are witnesses, and so is God, how devoutly and uprightly and blamelessly we behaved toward you believers;

just as you know how we were exhorting and encouraging and imploring each one of you as a father would his own children,

so that you would walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.

 

2 Corinthians 12:14–15

Here for this third time I am ready to come to you, and I will not be a burden to you; for I do not seek what is yours, but you; for children are not responsible to save up for their parents, but parents for their children.

I will most gladly spend and be expended for your souls. If I love you more, am I to be loved less?

 

2 Timothy 2:8–10

Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descendant of David, according to my gospel,

for which I suffer hardship even to imprisonment as a criminal; but the word of God is not imprisoned.

For this reason I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, so that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory.

Again, I agree with Paul, follow men and women who are willing to sacrifice their very souls for you…for you!

In our contemporary smug American evangelicalism, a mild form of health, wealth, and propsperity, we hold onto our lives…protect them.

Consider:

2 Corinthians 8:8–9

I am not speaking this as a command, but as proving through the earnestness of others the sincerity of your love also.

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich.

How about you?

Do you practice becoming poor so that the saints around might be made rich?

Do you sacrifice for their interests (not hobbies, or pastimes).

Do you need to be sacrificed for so that you might excel in the provisions of Christ?

How can this be?

How can a church be united, intent on one purpose, and restore the fellowship of the eternal purpose and preaching of the kingdom of Christ?

 

V.5 “Think this among yourselves, even that (which was/is) in Christ Jesus.”

This is the command from the imprisoned apostle to the free disciples: think like Jesus.

The whole church must follow Jesus’ teaching AND example.

To follow His teaching and not do as He did is to ignore His teaching.

To follow His example apart from his teaching is to redefine His example.

Have this mind in yourselves.

It is the same mind which was in Jesus Christ during His earthly stay/ministry.

What kind of mind was it?

What kind of thinking did He have?

What was His purpose, intention, and practice?

Whatever it was, think, intend, purpose the same thing.

1 Peter 2:21–25

21 For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps,

22who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth;

23and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously;

24and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.

25For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.

 

V. 6 “who, while existing in the form of God, did not consider (that) a thing to be grasped, that to be equal with/to God.”

Jesus Christ left the riches of eternal heaven and proximity to the Father in order to enter His fallen kingdom.

He did not enter it as God, in the outward form of God.

Rather, He entered it in the “form” of a man.

“Form of God…” = μορφή outward form; appearance; shape; expression. 

In this case, even though it might say “form of God,” it is impossible to resemble God and not be God.

There are no true imposters of God.

His actual outward appearance is the very expression of His nature:

Hebrews 1:3–4

And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,

having become as much better than the angels, as He has inherited a more excellent name than they.

So, this cannot merely be saying that Jesus was an outward form of God but was not divine in nature.

Further, since he did have the very outward appearance of God, the exact representation of the Father and the Spirit, that is what Paul is focusing upon here.

He is focusing upon Jesus’ “appearance.”

He., apparently, did not consider that appearance a “thing to be seized.”

“Seized” = snatch, seize, grasp.

He did not hold tightly to His outward form as God.

Rather….

“…That to be equal to God…”

Equal in what sense?

Did Jesus release His equality to God in his nature?

No, since Hebrews says that even while on this earth He was the exact representation of His nature and Paul said that He was even then, the glory of God (2 Corinthians 4:4).

Jesus Christ did not set aside His eternal nature.

Paul called Him God here.

Peter recognized that He is divine in human flesh:

Matthew 16:13–16

13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”

14And they said, “Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.”

15He *said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”

16Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Even the demons called Him:

Mark 1:23–24

Just then there was a man in their synagogue with an unclean spirit; and he cried out,

saying, “What business do we have with each other, Jesus of Nazareth? Have You come to destroy us? I know who You are—the Holy One of God!”

If you believe that somehow Jesus set aside His very nature as God and became a mere man, without divine nature, you are not a Christian, the truth is not in you, you have defiled the faith and denied that He is Messiah.

The Christ must be God

1 John 1:1–3

1 What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life—

2and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us—

3what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.

 

1 John 4:1–3

1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

2By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God;

3and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world.

What does it mean then?

Well, what was the exchange?

If John, Peter, and even the demons recognize the divine nature of Jesus Christ, then He did not set aside His divine nature, ok?

But, what did he set aside?

What did He do?

“He did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped….”

His equal standing with God was not seized and held on to.

 

Vv. 7-8 “But rather, he emptied Himself while taking a form of a slave, while becoming in likeness of men; and while being found in the appearance (function) as a man. He lowered himself while becoming obedient until death, yet, the death of a cross.”

Matthew 20:25–28

25But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them.

26“It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant,

27and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave;

28just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

How To Use the Cell Phone.

Last Sunday evening at church, we reviewed some considerations for using the cell phone (assuming a cell phone with data and text messaging functionality). Some might say that this is not a spiritual issue and is outside the bounds of pastoral ministry. However, I believe it is a pastoral concern because:

1) Relationships are suffering.

2) The world and its ideologies are pumped in through the cell phone/social media.

3) Digital dialogue is taking over the church’s communication.

4) More and more children have them, thus affecting their ability to hear their parents.

Matthew 18:1-10 indicates that the way that we treat those who follow Christ is the way that we treat Jesus Christ Himself. Therefore, it would be better to drown yourself than to cause a “little one” to stumble into sin. Jesus also instructed us to “love one another” (John 13:34). The NT goes on to instruct as to how to love one another in the world so that we might demonstrate to the world that we are disciples of Christ, both for their conviction and drawing work of God.

The fact that both of these teachings come down to conversations, how we speak, is clear in the NT. Our conversations with one another must be well thought-out, purposefully edifying, and meant to provoke one another to love and obedience (see Ephesians 4:29-32; Colossians 3:16-17; Hebrews 10:25). If Proverbs teaches anything, it certainly instructs us in the wisdom of useful conversation. For example:

Proverbs 16:13
Righteous lips are the delight of kings,
And he who speaks right is loved.

 

Proverbs 16:21
The wise in heart will be called understanding,
And sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness.

 

Proverbs 16:23–24
The heart of the wise instructs his mouth
And adds persuasiveness to his lips.
Pleasant words are a honeycomb,
Sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.

Learning how to speak to one another with righteousness, wisdom, and pleasant words will take time, effort, and practice. In fact, so much so, that it takes a lifetime of effort to produce words “fitly spoken” (see James 3).

However, what seems to be the case, is that the product of having all kinds of data, stories, and pictures at instant disposal, has produced in people a failure to communicate face to face. The ability to look someone in the eye and learn what they need to hear at that very moment is precious and valuable in the church (it is at the very heart of ministry!). But, the lack of interest in the concerns of others is evident in the superficial and careless communication that exudes the church. In short, personal, verbal, communication is unclear. And, when communication is unclear, the mind is muddy. And, when the mind is muddy, the glory of God suffers, and we cannot look at one another in the church in love.

Why make that assertion? Consider:

Philippians 2:3–4
Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves;
do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.

How much of what we do on our cell phones is for personal interest? News stories (so-called), rumors, trends, shopping, music, latest scores… In fact, there are very few things that can be done on our cell phones (or other personal digital devices) that are for others. Sure, you can send a text message of encouragement, email an important letter, look up something for someone. But, don’t let the little things like that, give permission for the greater problems that are created by the wasted, selfish, time spent. The fact is, it is a phone. Phones were created to communicate with someone else. The new technology that allows deep self-interest is actually working against the commands to love others before yourself.

A mature believer uses things the way they are meant to be used. When he is done, he puts it away until useful again. In that way, the phone becomes a tool, not a worker. It remains a slave and not a master. Many conversations are lost due to untold hours surfing Facebook, “checking” text messages, reading useless weather reports and articles. And that, beloved, is leading the church to superficiality at best, and sinful self-indulgence at worst (compare the wisdom of Paul in Acts 20:24).

Quite simply, put it away. Use the technology to alert you when your spouse, children, or other important people, are trying to get contact you. Limit your business calls to regular work hours, where appropriate. Otherwise, put it down and do the dishes, wash the car, visit someone in the church, read Scripture, pray, etc.. Channel surfing, whether on T.V., or the cell phone (including iPads etc…), is a complete waste of precious time. Time must be redeemed, not wasted:

Ephesians 5:15–17
Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise,
making the most of your time, because the days are evil.
So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

Does God Love the World?

Does God love the world? What does the Bible say? Is there any Scripture to teach that He does not? Is there any Scripture to teach that He does? Does it matter? It is important that we are willing to hear and understand what God says about this, not what supports or offends a popular notion about the love of God because every doctrine of Scripture, in one way or another, intersects with the love of God. Here goes:

1) GOD’S LOVE IS described as relationship to Himself. Intimacy and relationship to the Father is the gauge of love. Jesus said,

 
John 14:21–23
21 “He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him.”
22 Judas (not Iscariot) *said to Him, “Lord, what then has happened that You are going to disclose Yourself to us and not to the world?”
23 Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.

Notice the disciples’ response: "You are going to disclose yourself to us and not the world…why?" What is the answer? "Because I love you and the Father loves you. The world does not share in that love."

2) GOD’S LOVE IS conditional. Intimacy and unhindered relationship is only for those who keep His commandments. And, that is not the result of man, but of God’s own will:

John 15:10, 14
10 “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.
14 “You are My friends if you do what I command you.
(see also Deuteronomy 7:11-23; Daniel 9:4)

3) GOD’S LOVE IS lesser, much less, in degree for the world than for His own due to the fact that the world does not know God. This kind of love expressed toward the world is not the result of knowing the Father. It is the nature of God expressed to enemies in spite of their rebellion (1John 4:8, 16). This is love, but it is not given back to the Father, sadly. They are still enemies of God (James 4:4)

Matthew 5:44–45
44 “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

In fact, the love of the world is not the kind of love that comes from the Father. God does not love the world in the sense that His affections are for the world or His pleasure is felt toward the world. It is not. John wrote that the kind of love that the Father has is not resultant in the love of the world:

1 John 2:15–16
15 Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.

4) GOD’S LOVE IS expressed purely and absolutely by the expression of His own will, and not the worth of man.

Deuteronomy 7:7–8
7 “The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples,
8 but because the LORD loved you and kept the oath which He swore to your forefathers, the LORD brought you out by a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.

1 John 4:10, 19
10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
19 We love, because He first loved us.

5) GOD’S SOUL HATES the sinner who does violence. And, by the way, every sinner does violence (Romans 3:10-18):

Psalm 11:5–7
5 The LORD tests the righteous and the wicked,
And the one who loves violence His soul hates.
6 Upon the wicked He will rain snares;
Fire and brimstone and burning wind will be the portion of their cup.
7 For the LORD is righteous, He loves righteousness;
The upright will behold His face.

Proverbs 8:13
13 “The fear of the LORD is to hate evil;
Pride and arrogance and the evil way
And the perverted mouth, I hate.

Luke 14:26–27
26 “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.
27 “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.

For many, the issue is not "Does God love the world?" For many the issue is, "How, now, do we relate to the world if indeed God hates those who commit sin? Should we now hate them too? (and since we simply cannot relate to this level of perfection expressed in hate and love in God, we usually have a fleshly definition of ‘hate’)" Jesus said in Matthew 5:43–48,

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR and hate your enemy.’
44 “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
46 “For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?
47 “If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?
48 “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

We must express mature, perfect, discerning love (Philippians 1:9–11
9 And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment,
10 so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ;
11 having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God) to the world. To not do that is to be of no use to God, whether in the church or out of it (Galatians 6:10
10 So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith; cf. 1 Corinthians 13). However, to set affection upon the world is not wise either and is not God’s kind of love (1 John 2:15-16).

God’s people, who have the love of God shed abroad in their hearts (Romans 5:5) and who have been reconciled to God into a level of intimacy with the Father equal to that of the Son (John 14:23; 16:26-27!), can rejoice and praise God for His mercy in loving them first so that we might receive this love AND be able to return it back to Him in fulfillment of His commandment, "You will love the Lord your God with all your heart…" To Him belongs all praise, dominion, and affection!

Romans 11:33–36
33 Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!
34 For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, OR WHO BECAME HIS COUNSELOR?
35 Or WHO HAS FIRST GIVEN TO HIM THAT IT MIGHT BE PAID BACK TO HIM AGAIN?
36 For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.

Biblical Masculinity-pt.2

If you were asked to write a book, only one book, that you believe would summarize who God is in every way, what would be the topic of that book? Some might say, “holiness.” That is true, God is holy, immensely holy. Some might say, “Grace.” That is true, God is a God of grace. However, after considering a bit I believe that I would write it on the “Love of God.” Why the love of God? Because it is the love of God that bridges the distance from a sinner to a holy God. It is the love of God that motivated grace to be extended to me, a sinner. It is the love of God that defines the relationship between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and has done so for eternity. God is love. Further, it is the love of God that summarizes the magnificent work of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, on the cross. Paul writes,

“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

When a person considers all that occurred in the death of Jesus Christ, and to know that it was all motivated out of love, love for God and love for His neighbor, it must bring you to your knees. Why? Because that one act is so much unlike us. We do not love in that way. We should. We are made in the image and likeness of that God who is love. But we don’t. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Jesus Christ died for us.

There are a myriad of ways the love of God can be understood and observed. However, one of the best displays of that love, outside of the cross itself, is found in that little-known prophet of the Old Testament, Hosea.

Hosea ministered during the reigns of four kings of Judah and one king of Israel (Hosea1:1), a number of years before Israel’s exile into Assyria, and Judah’s into Babylon at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar. He is prophesying as a prophet of God toward both Israel and Judah. What God commands Hosea to do is very unusual and even irrational. However, Hosea obeys and thus speaks volumes about his character as a man of God, and God’s character as one who loves.

In chapter 1, verses 1-3, Hosea is told to go and take a harlot as a wife. Further, he is to have children by her also. This would signify Israel who is like that harlot and has gone after other gods and thus has offspring by those other gods/men. This would be highly illustrative of Israel’s waywardness, often spoken of in terms of adultery. So, Hosea went and took Gomer, the daughter of Diblaim, as his wife. This was extremely unusual because a priest was forbidden to take a harlot for a wife (Leviticus 21:7, 13-14). This level of consecration would, I assume, also extend to God’s prophets as well. He would not be expected to marry a known prostitute, yet God commands him to. Why? To demonstrate that love triumphs over law. Love establishes the law, fulfills the law, supersedes the law. Hosea would then demonstrate God’s love to an unfit woman.

At some point, the woman returns to her wickedness, and leaves Hosea behind with the two children she bore to him. We know this because in chapter 3, Hosea is once again told to go find a woman who is loved by her husband and yet is an adulteress (v.1). That is the same woman, Gomer. He does find her…on the slave block. She would have been naked, chained, and being sold for slavery in order to repay her debts. It is a pitiful sight from a woman who had a godly man for a husband. Hosea gathers all that he had, some silver and barley to pay for her. He apparently used all the money he had, because he resorted to paying by barley, a valuable commodity. He pays everything he has to buy her back. Sold. She is his now. He makes a covenant with her, since he paid her price-you will remain faithful to me, and I to you (v. 3).

What a display of love. This woman deserved to be on that block. She was in flagrant sin, rejected her responsibilities at home, despised her husband and children, and rejected the Law of God. However, Hosea loved her. He loved her! He went to her in her worst, and paid the price for her freedom and purchased her from the slave market so that he could take her home and care for her. She would never again go after other men. She would never again be in debt. She would never again have to resort to wickedness for her needs. She would be cared for, protected. In short, she would be loved by a faithful husband.

This is the love of God. You obviously see the similarities between Hosea’s love for Gomer, and Christ’s love for the church (not to mention God’s love for Israel, which will culminate to her restoration in the future-2 Kings 13:23;14:27). To love a woman who is defiled, unlovely, and unfaithful is not the normal husband’s ideal bride. Normally, a man wants the most beautiful, the most lovely, the most respectful and faithful woman he can find. But, what about the woman who is none of those things? Would we love her? God did.

Men, if we are to be like God toward our wives, then this is the love that we are to exhibit. God’s love seeks to cleanse, restore, and sanctify. This kind of love understands the state of the other person. She may be defiled, disrespectful and dirty. But God’s love seeks to make her beautiful and holy.

All of this is in the powerful verse in Ephesians 5:25. This one verse sums up the motivation of the behavior of a godly husband. He loves his wife in the same manner as Christ loved the church-He gave Himself up for her. Jesus Christ “threw away”, so to speak, His life for the benefit of a people who were dirty, defiled, destined for destruction and unfaithful. However, He did not consider His high and lofty privileges in heaven something to hold onto, but rather left those behind out of obedience to the Father and benefit to the church, in order to purchase a bride off of the slave block, naked, destitute and unclean. Thus, making for Himself a cleansed bride who would be presented to Himself something glorious. In short, like Hosea, “He was rich, yet for our sakes He became poor, so that [we] through His poverty, might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9).

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her.”

Husbands, do you love your wives? According to what standard? Do you love her when she does good to you? Do you love her when she respects you and agrees with your decisions? Do you have a harder time loving her when she is disagreeable, and defiant? Do you have a harder time loving her when she rejects you and maybe even slanders you? The world’s love would never hold up under such disrespect. But God’s will. If you doubt that, look at Christ. The love of God and man met at the cross. Jesus loved God with all of His heart, soul, mind, and strength and obeyed Him to the point of death. Jesus loved sinners as Himself and died so that they might be with Him forever and share in His glory and joy. This love endures. Love never fails (1 Corinthians 13:8).

So, men, the next time you think that you just can’t love a woman like that, remember the cross of Jesus Christ. What if Jesus used that excuse to the Father? “I can’t love a sinner like that. He despises Me, he disrespects Me, he will not do what I say, and he refuses to listen.” Remember, men, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, died for the ungodly, not the godly. He came to call the unrighteous to repentance, not the righteous. Men, you love your wives, because they are sinners; seek to cleanse them, in wisdom and love, and you will enter into the work of the Lord Jesus Christ, thus bearing His image and likeness.

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