Here’s where I’m coming from on this: God’s Law commands us to love. The command of the Law is to love God completely and without any obstacles or qualifications, and then love other people as we love ourselves. When Jesus sums it up, He says that; when the Lawyer who is testing Him sums it up, that’s what he says, and Jesus commends him for it.
That’s the command: Love.
But let’s face it – in this day and age, we have to define what that means if we are to say that to people. The ideal of “Love” has been watered down significantly over time – especially in my generation and the generation before it – to mean “a warm gushy feeling which makes us happy”. But the definition which the Bible gives us is a different one which some people will actually see as unloving and unkind and burdensome.
The place to start with this definition is, of course, here:
- God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
- By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.
Yes, yes: particular redemption. That’s fine. But that doesn’t make my point any less forceful: it actually makes my point more forceful. Christ was doing something in particular and did it for particular receivers. The act of love is not some dandelion that is blown into the wind with the optimism that some of the fluff will tickle somebody’s face. The act of love is done for the purpose of accomplishing something in the one you are doing it for.
So the command is Love. You love people. You have to love that person – you have to give to them, and you have to do for them, and you have to be honest with them, and on and on through all of Leviticus. You have to love them – that’s the Law.
And this love is for their benefit, not for your benefit. This is the thing which kills me about this discussion. You (a person) don’t love them to be self-fulfilled: you love them so that they get something they didn’t have before. When we say, “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us”, we are saying, “God loves us by giving us something we couldn’t have without Him.” Love is not self-fulfilling: love is pouring yourself out for the good of someone else.
Now, let’s put one thing on the back burner before we go forward: the meaning of “love God” given this definition of Love. The really smart readers who are already mad at me for saying Love is glorious and gives Glory to God are already typing on this subject, and I will come back to it after I do the “common language” thing. Are we giving something to God He didn’t have before when we love God? Stay tuned.
Love is the command of the Law. But why? Why is Love the command of the Law? It is in order to conquer all things out of the power of sin, and bring them under the order of the Love of God.
Now the righteousness of God has been shown and displayed apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets tell us all about it-- the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no double standard: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by His good will and favor – His Grace -- as a gift, through the payment-like-a-ransom that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a satisfaction-of-justice by His blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in His divine patience and endurance He had passed over sins which have already happened. It was to show His righteousness right now, so that He might be right and good, and the rightness and goodness of the one who has faith in Jesus.
You know: the Gospel is “good news”, right? But the Greek word under “gospel” (from the old English “good spell” or “good telling”), before it meant “the good news about Jesus Christ and the Kingdom”, it meant “good news of victory” or the reward for a messenger who brings such news.
The victory has come, and we are declaring it – but it’s a victory of love over death and love over sin and love over enmity and love over lawlessness. It gives us a beautiful head-dress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit.
Eventually, in our knowledge of the Gospel, in our knowledge of God, we have to decide that God did these things to us and for us for a reason which involves us. The reasons are not completely transcendent. It turns out that at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
God is saving us. The Gospel is the power by which we are being saved, right now. This results in the idea which some call “Lordship”, but what does that mean? Does it mean that we are just spiritual marionettes now dancing for the Holy Spirit rather than the Devil, or does it mean that we have been moved from a position of willing disobedience to a position of willing obedience?
The command is to love, and love conquers – it puts us on the other side of the battle not just was POWs but as workers for the cause of Christ.
Now, before anyone gets an idea that this is the precious moments gospel, or that I’m talking about your best life now, let me reiterate: which love conquers? That is: is it the love by, from and for men, or is it the love by, from and for God?
If Christ is right about the commandments, it is the love by, from, and for God. But that love redeems men. It is from God and pointed at men. It is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. It is according to God’s own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior. This is a glorious love, and a gracious love, and an unmerited love, and a love which wins us out of damnation and into eternal life.
And this love is offered as forgiveness for repentance. To everyone. The offer is open. Jesus is not asking to come in: He has come. He’s telling you that He’s here, through me, through Steve Camp, through Francis Chan, through any ambassador of Christ. Now you have to do something about it – you, the sinner whom God ought to judge as guilty.