Through the apostle John, the Holy Spirit draws our attention to the kind of love God has for us. He says to “behold,” to see, be aware of and understand the nature of God’s love that blesses us to be called God’s children. John will go on to proclaim, “God is love” (1 John 4:8). Today, let us behold and understand the depth and breadth of God’s love from three vantage points. (1) God’s love is sacrificial. He “so loved the world” that He gave His Son to be lifted up on a cross to deliver sinners from death (John 3:14-17). Love gives of itself to serve others (see the example of Jesus, Eph. 5:25-27). (2) God’s love is merciful. God’s “great love” is adorned by His “rich mercy” (Eph. 2:4). Love acts out of mercy to relieve others. With tender compassion, God saw our sin dilemma (death, Rom. 6:23) and graciously saved us through faith in Christ (Eph. 2:5-8). (3) God’s love is purposeful. “In this is love, not that we love God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10). Love takes the initiative; it is neither negligent nor apathetic. As we behold God’s love for us, may we follow John’s appeal, “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 John 4:11).
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), 6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:4–6, NKJV).
God made “us alive together with Christ” when we were dead in our trespasses and sins (v. 5). Three questions arise as we consider God’s tremendous work of saving sinners. (1) Why save us? Three elements of God’s character answer why God saves sinners: His mercy, love, and grace (v. 4-5). God’s mercy is rich, His love is great, and His grace is available to all (Titus 2:11; 3:4-5; 1 John 4:10-11). Without God’s mercy, love, and grace, we would all face the wages of our sins, eternal death (Rom. 6:23). (2) Who is saved? The “us” who are made “alive together” constitute the church, the body of Christ, the household of God (Eph. 1:22-23; 2:14-22). The Lord adds saved people to His church (Acts 2:47). Therefore, the church is essential; it is the saved ones (Eph. 3:10-11; 5:25-27). (3) Where is salvation? Salvation is “in Christ.” Sinners are raised out of the death of sins to “sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (v. 6). The “heavenly places” signifies the spiritual relationship of salvation in Christ. In the “heavenly places,” we have fellowship with Christ, every spiritual blessing, and we stand with Christ in the battle against the devil and evil (Eph. 2:6; 1:3; 6:10-13). God still The riches of God’s grace continue to be proclaimed in the gospel to everyone, offering salvation “by grace…through faith” (Eph. 2:7-8).
5 And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: “My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; 6 For whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives.” (Hebrews 12:5–6, NKJV)
Jesus faced “hostilities from sinners,” and so do Christians (Heb. 12:3). Instead of becoming “weary and discouraged” when this happens, we should remember God’s exhortation to us, His children. God uses times of trial to discipline us (educate through instruction and correction), train our faith, and bring us to spiritual maturity (Heb. 12:11; Jas. 1:2-4). If you find yourself asking why you are facing trials, God’s explanations in Hebrews 12:5-11 will help sustain you. 1) God loves you (Heb. 12:5-6). Just as discipline shows love for a child, even so, trials are undergirded by God’s love for us (Prov. 13:24). Do not despise the discipline trials afford. 2) Develop endurance (Heb. 12:7-8). The presence of God’s parental love teaches us to endure the temporary pain of trials (2 Cor. 4:16-17). By accepting God’s discipline, our faith grows because we are “looking unto Jesus” for strength (Heb. 12:1-2; 2 Cor. 12:9). 3) Our faith needs this training (Heb. 12:9-10). Children need instruction and correction, and so do Christians (Eph. 6:4). We submit ourselves to the training trials bring so we may partake of God’s holiness. 4) The intended result (Heb. 12:11). Trials hurt and are not joyful. Still, the pain generates peaceable fruit in the lives of faithful saints. Trials help train our faith to rely on the Lord. Let’s do that when hardships arise. God loves us, and He will use our trials to strengthen our faith, not discourage our souls. Keep running the race set before you (Heb. 12:1-2).
14 Now for the third time I am ready to come to you. And I will not be burdensome to you; for I do not seek yours, but you. For the children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children. 15 And I will very gladly spend and be spent for your souls; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I am loved. But be that as it may, I did not burden you. (2 Corinthians 12:14–16, NKJV)
Paul laid up spiritual treasures for his children in the faith by diligently teaching, admonishing, and equipping the Corinthians Christians to live faithfully. Paul had delayed his plans to return to Corinth, which was all his detractors needed to think and say the worst about him (1 Cor. 16:5-7; 2 Cor. 1:15-18; 2:1). Despite being loved less, he would continue to “spend and be spent” for their souls. Here is a word of exhortation to gospel preachers. Do not be deterred when others criticize you for preaching the word of God (2 Tim. 3:10-12). Do not be distracted when you are assigned improper motives for proclaiming the gospel. Preach God’s word with the urgency that truth and its power to save demands (2 Tim. 4:2; Rom. 1:15-16). Some will not accept the sting of sound doctrine and charge you with wrongdoing when you deliver God’s truth. Some may even lie in wait and try to catch you in something you say (Lk. 11:53-54). They may try to make you the problem. Do not be silenced (2 Tim. 2:9-10). Always be motivated by love for the saints and the lost. Incur the cost (“spend and be spent”), bear the burden, and declare the whole counsel of God without fear or favor (Acts 20:27; 2 Tim. 4:5).
Paul’s patient love for Mark compels us to ponder the breadth and depth of our love for brethren. Paul had not always considered Mark useful (good and profitable) for the service of the gospel. About 20 years earlier, John Mark had joined Paul and Barnabas on a preaching journey into Gentile regions, only to leave them and return to Jerusalem shortly after it began (Acts 13:4-5, 13). This failure to continue with them caused Paul to insist Mark would not be on his next preaching trip despite disagreeing with Barnabas (Acts 15:36-41). We should note that Paul did not “write off” Barnabas or Mark as unworthy Christians who did not love the Lord. The rest of the story makes this apparent. Paul was associated with Mark during his first Roman imprisonment (AD 60-62), sending greetings from him to the Colossian church and instructing them to welcome Mark if he came to them (Col. 4:10). Now, during his final days of life, Paul asked for Mark. The man he had refused to take with him roughly two decades earlier was now useful for the gospel’s service (2 Tim. 4:11). A great lesson of love’s patient endurance is staring us in the face (1 Cor. 13:4-7). Mark’s faith had matured, and Paul respected that. Paul loved Mark. Indeed, “love suffers long and is kind” as it rejoices in the truth. Love keeps on bearing, believing, hoping, and enduring all things, both in our attitudes and treatment of others. Love did not fail Paul and Mark. It will not fail us, either.
29 “And now I have told you before it comes, that when it does come to pass, you may believe. 30 I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming, and he has nothing in Me. 31 But that the world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father gave Me commandment, so I do. Arise, let us go from here. (John 14:29–31, NKJV)
Jesus was caring for the faith of His apostles even in the shadow of the cross. Its trauma would shake their faith (Matt. 26:31). When they saw the risen Lord and heard Him explain His fulfillment of God’s promised salvation, their faith would be renewed (Lk. 24:36-47; Acts 1:1-8). Evil forces were coming, thinking to eliminate God’s Son by death. Satan and his servants would fail (1 Cor. 2:7-8; Acts 2:32-36). Jesus was about to show the world His love for the Father by voluntarily dying on the cross (v. 31). Here is our lesson. When we obey God, we show the world we love God. Jesus exalted obedience to the Father as a defining demonstration of devotion (cf. Jno. 14:15). The Father had commanded Him, and He willingly yielded His will in obedient love. God so loved us that He gave His Son to die for our sins (Jno. 3:16; 1 Jno. 4:10). The Son showed the world His love for the Father by obediently dying on the cross (Heb. 5:8). We love God when we keep His commandments (1 Jno. 5:3). Christian, set an example for the world by lovingly obeying the commandments of the Lord.
25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, 26 that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, 27 that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. (Ephesians 5:25–27, NKJV)
Paul uses marriage to illustrate the relationship between Christ and His church (Eph. 5:32). We gain essential insight into the love a husband is to have for his wife from it. 1) Christ’s love for the church was sacrificial (v. 25). He gave Himself, His life, for her. There is no greater love (Jno. 15:13; Rom. 5:8). Husbands live (and are willing to die) for their wives. 2) Christ’s love for the church was purposeful (v. 26). His every act was unselfish. The salvation and spiritual safety of the church was foremost to Him. Every husband can improve his marriage by keeping his wife’s welfare as a fundamental priority. 3) Christ’s love for the church is constant (v. 27). Christ did not love for a day, a season, a moment in time. His love endures with the hopeful expectation of the church’s eternal glory (Rev. 21:1-4). Likewise, a husband vows “for better or worse” with a commitment to be constant and faithful to his wife. He is helpful as she tackles life, rejoicing in her triumphs and enduring in his affection. Her holiness drives his decisions. She is his life and love, and he cherishes her (Eph. 5:28-29). A God-fearing husband learns the love of Christ for the church and gives that love to his wife.
22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. 24 Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. (Ephesians 5:22–24, NKJV)
Secular feminists think this is sexism, male chauvinism, and bigotry. This is a gross misunderstanding and misrepresentation. The relationships of every organization or institution include roles and assignments that enable it to function successfully. Without such structure, relationships fray and falter. So it is with marriage. God-given roles in marriage accomplish their God-given purposes (Gen. 2:18-25). The husband’s role in marriage is to be a servant-leader. He is “head of the wife” like Christ is to His church. The wife’s response to his role is submission. She willingly puts herself under his leadership, not as a fearful slave to an overbearing tyrant, but as a respectful helper who respects and trusts his leadership. Husbands strengthen their marriages when they step up and become spiritual leaders in their marriages. Wives strengthen their marriages when they respect and help their husbands do so. These divine assignments are not about superiority and inferiority. They are about mutual love and respect with Christ at the center of the marital relationship. Unselfish service is at the heart of successful marriage.
32 So the scribe said to Him, “Well said, Teacher. You have spoken the truth, for there is one God, and there is no other but He. 33 And to love Him with all the heart, with all the understanding, with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is more than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 34 Now when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, He said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” But after that no one dared question Him. (Mark 12:32–34, NKJV)
Obedience is worthless when it does not come from a heart given to God completely. The scribe in today’s text perceived this truth when Jesus told him the first of all the commandments was to love God fully (Mk. 12:28-30). May we grasp this fundamental truth; Out of the heart comes the obedience that pleases God. Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (Jno. 14:15). Without love for God in our hearts, our outward actions of obedience are null and void. Christ calls us to be obedient children, so we will not discount the place of obedience in the Christian’s life (1 Pet. 1:13-16, 22). Obedience from the heart pleases God and frees us from the bondage of sin (Rom. 6:17-18).