Divine Love and its Practical Effect
Knowing God’s love compels us to love God and others. The apostle John, who delighted to speak of himself as the disciple whom Jesus loved, said, “We love Him, because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). Here we see love’s practical effect in John, and the same should be true of all who know the love of God. God’s desire is that the divine nature will be produced and nourished in every believer. But are we not all conscious of the relatively small measure to which this is achieved in us?
Love One Another
If there was one thing pressing upon the heart of the blessed Lord before He left this world, it seemed to be the desire that His followers should love one another. He had loved His own; this is what had characterized Him. Now He desires that it should characterize them: “By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:35).
Why is there so little love seen in us? It must be because we have failed in our apprehension of divine love. “God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Christ died for us while we were yet sinners; and when we believe in Christ, the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given unto us (Romans 5:5). When this is known and enjoyed in the soul, it must have a practical effect. We will love God, and we will love one another. This must be the result if we are able to say “we have known and believed the love that God hath to us” (1 John 4:16). And if we love one another, the love of God is perfected in us (1 John 4:12).
If we turn to Galatians 5:22, we find that the first fruit of the Spirit is love. All the other fruits grow out of that one. If love is lacking, the rest are only like artificial fruit tied on a tree—it never grew there. The next on the list is joy. Our joy will always be in proportion to our love. This is an unfailing principle. And so it is with the next, peace. If, by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, we are actuated by love in all we do and say and think, we shall enjoy a peace which nothing can disturb.
Love As Christ
In Ephesians 1:4 we read that, “We should be holy and without blame before Him in love.” This requires us to be conformed to the image of His Son: “Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given Himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 5:1,2). Rather than leaving us exposed to what we justly deserved, Christ sacrificed Himself for us, covering us with His own acceptability. This is precisely how we are to act. Instead of simply exposing the delinquencies of others, we are to seek to remove them. Our Christlikeness is measured, not in condemnation, but in recovery and restoration. “[Love] shall cover the multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8).
Let us look at a couple of illustrations from the Bible regarding the practical effect of love. Moses is an example for us. He was on the mountain enjoying communion with the Lord, and he received from His hand the two tables of stone. But when he came down he found the people dancing around the golden calf. We read that “Moses’ anger waxed hot, and he cast the tables out of his hands, and brake them beneath the mount.” He destroyed the golden calf, poured its remains into the water and made the children of Israel to drink of it (Exodus 32:19,20). But notice what he does next: he says to them, “I will go up unto the Lord; peradventure I shall make an atonement for your sin” (v. 30). Then he prayed, offering himself for the sake of these very people: “Oh, this people have sinned a great sin, and have made them gods of gold. Yet now, if Thou wilt forgive their sin—; and if not, blot me, I pray Thee, out of Thy book which Thou hast written” (vv. 31,32).
Paul had the same spirit. He could say, “I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh” (Romans 9:2,3). And again, to the Corinthian saints who had not shown him much appreciation he writes, “Behold, the third time I am ready to come to you…. And I will very gladly spend and be spent for you; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved” (2 Corinthians 12:14,15).
How could these two devoted servants of God manifest a spirit so sublime? Because the love of God had touched their hearts. And this same love will produce similar results in us in proportion to our appreciation of it. May the Lord give us to see that “the end of the commandment is [love] out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned” (1 Timothy 1:5). And again, “This is His commandment, that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as He gave us commandment” (1 John 3:23).
—R. E., adapted.