A number of months ago, I preached a message focused on the Faithfulness of God, this morning, I will be talking about the love of Christ which is a subject that’s been on my heart and something I’ve been musing over for the last few weeks now.
Text: Ephesians 3:14-19 (NKJV)
14 For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,[c] 15 from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, 16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, 17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— 19 to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Before we do any further speaking, let us go to the Lord in prayer.
Heavenly Father, we thank you for your inspired Word that is profitable for reproof, correction, instruction and righteousness. We thank you for our time this morning spent in praise, worship and adoration of your great name. We thank you for your character and all that you are. And Lord as we study one attribute of your nature may we be awe-struck, humbled, inspired, encouraged and may your name be exalted and uplifted. In Christ’s name, Amen.
There are four types of love:
- agape – refers to the love of God and one of the kinds of love that we are to have for people. Agape is the very nature of God because God is love (1 John 4:7-12)
- philio – essentially the love that you would show toward a friend. It refers to a strong liking or friendship
- storge – love in family relationships – brothers and sisters, dad and daughter, dad and son, mother and daughter, mother and son etc
- eros – this is the type of love that is to be shared between a married man and woman
Today we are going to focus on agape love in the context of what Christ did for us on the Cross and how our responsibility as Christians is to show that love for each other as well as those who are unbelievers. In fact agape love sets the standard for all other types of love because the love of Christ is the perfect example and standard for what true love is. God is the author of love. What I’m going to talk about this morning is only the tip of the iceberg so to speak so bear with me if I run out of time to mention certain attributes of God’s love.
I have distilled of what I believe as the core elements of the love of Christ into bullet points after studying and searching the Scriptures in depth.
- It is unfathomable
- It is sacrificial
- It is inseparable
- It is unchanging
- It is steadfast
- It is unconditional
- It is everlasting
- It is an example
It Is Unfathomable
First off, I want you to know that the love of God is unfathomable. Because once we have established that, it adds even more to the enormity of the greatness of His character.
Verse 19 of the passage we just read, Ephesians 3 says “to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
We can never truly understand the love of Christ. It is so unfathomable. It is wider than the widest ocean, deeper than the deepest sea. It is no where like any love that we know in our earthly context. It is so immense that no words can describe it.
The Sacrificial Love of Christ.
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),
1 John 3:16 By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.
Romans 5:7-8 7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
You have heard the account of the suffering saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ who upon that cross became sin for us! Upon that cross He died to self that He might live for us and that He might bear our sins and iniquities upon that tree and purchase our salvation. Let’s turn over to that account in Isaiah 53 for a moment.
53 Who has believed our report?
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
2 For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant,
And as a root out of dry ground.
He has no form or comeliness;
And when we see Him,
There is no beauty that we should desire Him.
3 He is despised and rejected by men,
A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.
And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him;
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.
4 Surely He has borne our griefs
And carried our sorrows;
Yet we esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten by God, and afflicted.
5 But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray;
We have turned, every one, to his own way;
And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.
7 He was oppressed and He was afflicted,
Yet He opened not His mouth;
He was led as a lamb to the slaughter,
And as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
So He opened not His mouth.
8 He was taken from prison and from judgment,
And who will declare His generation?
For He was cut off from the land of the living;
For the transgressions of My people He was stricken.
9 And they[a] made His grave with the wicked—
But with the rich at His death,
Because He had done no violence,
Nor was any deceit in His mouth.
10 Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him;
He has put Him to grief.
When You make His soul an offering for sin,
He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days,
And the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand.
11 He shall see the labor of His soul,[b] and be satisfied.
By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many,
For He shall bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great,
And He shall divide the spoil with the strong,
Because He poured out His soul unto death,
And He was numbered with the transgressors,
And He bore the sin of many,
And made intercession for the transgressors.
Philipians 2:5-11 also says something similar yet is shorter.
5 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. 9 Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
God the father sent His only begotten and beloved son to this world. Jesus Christ, the holy, spotless lamb of God willingly left His throne to become a man, take upon Himself the role of a servant that He might take upon himself the full weight of our sins (that we rightfully and justly deserved) on His own body, bearing the full brunt of the divine wrath of the father so that He might purchase our redemption. The text says He was crushed… CRUSHED! Not lightly bruised. He was forsaken during those three hours of darkness by His own Father. Before He was crucified, he was scourged beyond recognition and our comprehension, He was stripped naked, He had a crown of thorns cruelly planted into His head, He was made to drink sour vinegar! He was despised, rejected, smitten, afflicted, tormented, oppressed, cut off – these verbs vividly describe the great suffering that Jesus Christ endured!
Let me put it to you another way. Take a dam 100,000 miles high and a 100,000 miles wide and have it break in front of you and as the torrent of water rolls down toward you to engulf you and destroy you all of a sudden the ground opens and drinks it down and not one drop splashes to your feet and so Christ raised His hand up to heaven and took that great cup of the wrath of God and drank it down!
Through all that Christ went through, He satisfied justice to appease the Father’s wrath. Because of that, God can now be just and the justifier of the sinner. What amazing love for us sinners! Such love that we do not deserve!
Because of what Christ has done, we can now have access to the Father.
I want you to think about something. Jesus Christ did not have to die for us. In fact He could have sent us all to Hell and He would still be just because He would be giving us the sentence that we deserved for the crimes that we had committed.
John 15:13 “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” Further down in verse 17 we read “These things I command you, that you love one another.”‘
There are many people who have given their lives for someone they deemed worthy – spouse, a loved one, a friend or perhaps some other “good” person. The amazing thing is that Christ did not die for His friends, He died for His enemies! He had no friends! While we were still unregenerate sinners, enemies and haters of God, He died for us… the unworthy… the vile!
Such is the amazing love of God. This is the very essence of Godly love or agape love. This is God-like love not man-like love because it is sacrificial and selfless.
The Inseparability of the Love of Christ
The love of Christ demonstrated toward us on the Cross is just the beginning. When we repent of our sins and put our faith in Christ’s work on the cross as the only way that our sins could be atoned for, we then become His children, co-heirs with Him!
He sends His Holy Spirit to dwell in our lives and promises that He will never leave or forsake us (Hebrews 13: 5-6). Thus we have a faithful father-companion who guides us and stays with us throughout the rest of our lives.
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written:
“For Your sake we are killed all day long;
We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”[a]
37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
When we go through dark times in our lives, Christ will always be there to see us through it. His love is inseparable. It is so strong. It doesn’t matter what we go through. Nothing… nothing at all can separate us from His immense love.
The Steadfast/Unfailing/Unchanging/Everlasting Love of Christ
My love for the Lord and others is sometimes fickle and if your honest I’m sure you will say the same thing. Some days I can be all on fire and zealous for the Lord and on the next day I could be as dead as a cold potato. Some days I’m hot, some days I’m cold and some days I grumble. If someone does something to irritate me, my affection for them dries up rather quickly. If I wake up with a headache well let’s say I’m more tempted to grumble than to rejoice.
Friends will fail you, people will disappoint you, your heart will be broken.
Again what I’m trying to do is reflect on the fluidity and fickleness of man’s concept of love.
But thankfully Christ’s love never fails. It is everlasting. Jeremiah 31:3 “Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you.
This I recall to my mind,
Therefore I have hope.
22 Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed,
Because His compassions fail not.
23 They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness. (or as
24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“Therefore I hope in Him!”
The ESV says it succinctly:
“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”
God knows everything about you. He knows the sin in your heart, your ungratefulness, your pride yet He chooses to love you. Why? Because of His great goodness, kindness and great faith. Because of Himself!
God’s love does not depend on our love. That is one of the great attributes of God. He is unchanging and unfailing. His love depends on Himself! His love is not transient and fluid like man’s! Love in our world today is selfish, it depends on someone else for us to reciprocate that love. “You don’t give me what I want, well bye-bye”. It doesn’t work like that with God.
Even when we did not love Him, He died for us! While we were still enemies of God, dead in ours sins, He still loved us enough to come down to this earth to die for us!
1 John 4:10 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.
God’s love for you is both unconditional and undeserved. He loves you in spite of your disobedience, your weakness, your sin and your selfishness. He loves you enough to provide a way to abundant, eternal life (but that does come with a condition for the unbeliever). When Christ was hanging on the cross, He cried out, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they are doing.” If God loved those who are sinners that much, can you imagine how much He loves you — His child through repentance and saving faith in Christ and who seeks to please Him?
The Love of Christ as an Example
I want to make this practical for us because Christ’s love was practical so we are going to now look at how the love of Christ is an example for us to live out in everyday life.
1 Corinthians 13:1-13
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. 2 And though I have the gift ofprophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned,[a] but have not love, it profits me nothing.
4 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; 5 does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; 6 does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8 Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part. 10 But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.
13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
It is very important that we as Christians live out the love of Christ in everyday life. Loving others does not come naturally. In fact at many times, it may be difficult. It’s easy for us to do things in malice… to be spiteful… to hate. I know I’m guilty of this personally. But God doesn’t want us to do that. In order to be Christ-like, we need to reflect His example in our lives.
1 Cor 16:14 has a very clear message for us “Let all that you do be done with love.”
As Christians, we all need more love in us. We all need to be more loving in all that we say and do. As we have just heard over the last 15 -20 minutes or so, one of God’s character traits is love and we should be seeking to follow His example!
1 John 4:8 says “He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” Wow! What this verse is saying is that if you do not love, you don’t understand or know God’s character because He is love!
1 Corinthians 13:4-6 says “4 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; 5 does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; 6 does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
When we love others, God is pleased with us and we actually feel better by doing things in love rather than hate, spite or malice.
One of our roles as disciples or followers of Christ is to bring His message of hope, love, repentance and salvation to a lost and dying world. We must preach as though these people’s very lives depended on it because they do! We must preach and witness with urgency. And we must do it with love and compassion. Christ loves even the vilest of sinners and He is not willing that anyone should perish but that all should come to repentance and the acknowledgement of the truth (2 Peter 3:9). We must love them but we must be willing to hate and rebuke their sin!
How Do We Know the Love of Christ?
Let’s go back to Ephesians 3:17-19 for a moment 17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— 19 to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
The only way to know Christ’s love is through a personal relationship with Him. He needs to dwell in your heart for that to happen otherwise you will not be able to comprehend the width, length, depth and height of that love. You will not be able to be “filled with all the fullness of God.” You will not be able to love God with all your heart, mind soul and strength (Mark 12:30).
Understanding what Christ did on the Cross to pay the penalty for your sin is the key to knowing His love… the love that is like no other. This type of selfless, sacrificial love should literally blow you off your feet. Why would the son of God do something like this? Why would He care enough to love me, a rotten wretched sinner? The only answer is that He cared more about saving you from your sin and depravity than His own comfort and life. He cared enough to give you the option to repent of your sins and accept His finished work on the Cross as the only way your sins could be atoned for. And we know without what Christ has done that the wages for sin is death. There would be no way of escape. Thankfully there is.
As Christians we need to be rooted and grounded in love. That is the basis upon all that we say, think, feel and do. I’m not saying we shouldn’t be firm when correcting sin, evil and wrongdoing, however we are to reprove and correct in love.
How Do We Respond to That Love?
The question now is “how do we respond to that love? I think that the immense power of the love of Christ should drive us onto our knees in humble gratitude and adoration for all that He has done for us. It should make us to love Him! We will never be able to fully comprehend the immensity of that love but we can at least gain a small appreciation of what He has done for us and thus respond with hearts full of awe, thankfulness and worship.
God’s love should make you want to serve Him with all that you have… with everything… with nothing held back. In fact God wants your life! Just because He died for your sins doesn’t mean you can live the life you want to live. Becoming His child means that you surrender all to Him. Your life is no longer your life, it is now His life. Your time is no longer your time, it is now His time. Your possessions are no longer your possessions, they are now His possessions. Your future is no longer your future, it is now His future. Your treasure is no longer your treasure, it is now His treasure. And you have now transferred all that you are and all that you have to all that He is. You are now His Servant and He is now your Master. You will have to be willing to serve Christ even if it means persecution, hardship and even death. As Steven J Lawson said in his challenging sermon Counting the Cost, “You will have to break with the crowd. You will have to be willing to stand alone for Christ. You will have to be willing to walk to the beat of a different drummer. And to step out of the crowd even if no one follows after Jesus Christ.”
While this message is one that talks about love, I want to be clear that it is not the airy-fairy sort preached by false preachers like Joel Osteen, Rick Warren and Benny Hinn! Yes God is love, yes He wants you to know that you are loved but He also wants you to know that you need to show that you are grateful for His love by walking in obedience to Him. Christ loved His father and was obedient to death, even the death of the cross and if we really love Christ, then we will be willing to do all that He has asked us to do… even those things that are difficult! It cost Christ everything in order to come down to die for us. He was stripped of the glory and majesty that is due His name. And it will cost us everything to be His servants. You will have to count the cost of discipleship.
1 Peter 2:21-23
… Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps:
22 “Who committed no sin,
Nor was deceit found in His mouth”;
23 who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; 24 who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed. 25 For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
Notice that it implies that we have to die to our sins first before we can live for righteousness?
If you think that you can live in continuous unrepentant sin all the days of your life whilst claiming to be a Child of God then you have a real problem. You are in essence showing your unthankfulness, ungratefulness and rejection for His love that was manifested toward you on the Cross.
There is a solemn reminder in Matthew 7:21-23 21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’
So in summary let us be eternally thankful and grateful for the amazing love of Christ. Let us serve Him with all that we have with nothing held back. Let us give Him sincere praise, worship and adoration from our hearts, because He is worthy to receive it.
Finally let us attempt to live out His love to the best of our ability. Let us all look for ways to do things lovingly. Here are some examples:
- Reprove someone lovingly
- Do a difficult task lovingly
- Sacrifice your time and energy lovingly
- Be selfless because that is being loving
- Share your faith with a heart of love for that other person
- Disagree lovingly
- and I’m sure there are plenty of other ways to do things in love… I just can’t think of every single one.
But whatever you do, let it replicate the love of Christ which is the ultimate example.
May God Bless you!