Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 1 John 4:10

Wondrous cross of the Son of God!

Gleaming brightly with the light of the love of God, in the universal darkness of our night of sin and death!

For this is the meaning of the cross: it is the revelation of the love of God to sinners that are hopelessly lost in death and condemnation, and that could never know that God loved them were it not for the light of love shining from the face of the crucified Christ.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life, John 3:16. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us, Rom. 5:8. And in this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him, 1 John 4:9. And thus, in the words above this meditation, herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be a propitiation for our sins.

Nowhere else, in this world of sin, can this light of divine love be found.

All about us, and within us, there is darkness; and that, too, darkness of wrath and condemnation. In spite of all that philosophy may babble about the love of God that is too weak to execute righteousness and judgment upon the workers of iniquity; in spite, too, of the philosophy of those who imagine that they discover glimmers of grace in the things of this present time, apart from that one revelation of the love of God in the cross of His Son, the fact remains that our present night is a revelation of the wrath of God, In sin bearing more sin, in corruption advancing to deeper corruption, in death giving birth to eternal desolation, in debasement upon debasement, in slippery places on which men hasten to destruction, we behold and are crushed under the burden of God’s holy and terrible anger against sin. For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness, Rom. 1:18.

And in this darkness of wrath and death and desolation, there shines the one light of divine love, penetrating he universal gloom, swallowing it up, reaching down into our very hearts: the cross of the Son of God!

O, to be sure, it speaks, too, of His own love, of the love of Jesus, my Savior.

He, the Son of God in the flesh, loved His brethren; and He loved them even unto the end, even to the bitter and shameful death of the accursed tree.

Yet, His love is not the last word of the cross.

In and through the love of the dying Christ, shedding His lifeblood as a propitiation for our sins, we behold the love of God!

For the death of Christ is the death of the Son of God. Deny this, and the cross is made vain, lowered to the level of any other cross.

And the death of the Son of God is the realization of a mission.

God sent His Son into the world!

And by this mission He commended His love toward us!

O, blessed cross of Jesus!

Sovereign love of God!

For precisely this it is that, according to the words of 1 John 4:10, is revealed in the cross of Christ.

It speaks of a love that is sovereign, that is free, that is independent, that has its source in itself. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us! . . .

No, the Word of God here does not simply mean to impress upon us that there was, indeed, love in the mission of the Son, of God to be a propitiation for our sins. It emphasizes a very particular truth. It rather intends to call our attention to the nature, the essence, the source and operation of all true love: herein is love. Love, it declares, true love, wherever you find it, whatever form it may assume, whether you know it as the love of God to you, or as your love to God, or as your love to the brethren,—love always consists in this, not that we love God, but that He loves us. And this is clearly and indubitably revealed in that one great act of the love of God, that He sent, His Son to be a propitiation for our sins. Therein you taste and see, not only that God loved us, but that His love is sovereign and free, self-existent and independent. . . .

Love is a bond.

It is the union between persons. Strictly speaking, love does not exist between inanimate creatures, nor between brute creatures. One abuses that noble word love when he speaks of loving his dog, or when she exclaims that she loves your new hat. Love is a bond between person and person. It exists only between rational, moral beings.

Moreover, it is a spiritual bond.

There is, indeed, a kind of love that operates w a lower level, and that is an image of the higher love of which our text speaks, a bond that is based on and rooted in the natural affinity of our race. A young man loves the maiden of his choice; a mother “loves her suckling child. This “natural love” is found even among animals. Even the robin loves and cares for its young.

Yet, all this does not compare with, cannot reach up to the love in that highest sense which Scripture defines as the bond of perfectness. It is not a mere affinity that has its source in the blood, in physical likeness and adaptation: it is spiritual. It is a bond between soul and soul, between spirit and spirit, between mind and mind, between will and will; it is a spiritual power of attraction that knits being to being in the bond of perfect knowledge.

For, and this, too, must be emphasized, love, is the bond of perfectness. It is a spiritual bond that, is established and functions only in the sphere of moral perfection. Not in darkness, but in the light; not in the sphere of the lie, but in the truth; not in iniquity, but in righteousness; not in corruption, but in holiness;—in a word, solely in the sphere of ethical perfection does the fire of love burn, does the light of love shine, does the bond of love knit being to being. The wicked do not love, whatever other bond there may be between them. Love is the bond of perfection.

It is the attraction of person to person in the sphere of the light.

It is the longing of spirit for spirit, a seeking and finding of each other, a living into each other’s life, a giving wholly of each to the other, a complete possession of the other, a seeking of each other’s good, the will to please each other, a perfect delight in each other,—all in the sphere of ethical perfection.

Herein is love. . . .

Not that we loved God, but that He loved us!

How impossible it would be to make a statement of this kind, thus to describe and characterize the bond of love between two human beings! Between them, love is, and must needs be, bilateral, two-sided, mutual. The love of the one is incapable of kindling love in the other. The bond of love can only be established between them when the love of each meets and mingles with the love of the other; and it can be maintained only as long as, constantly, each continues to meet the love of the other with his own.

Not so the love of God!

It is strictly unilateral, not only in origin, but also in its continued operation. It does not consist in this that we love God, and that because of our manifest love He now loves us. Nor is the nature of love such that, simultaneously, we, God and we, bring our love to teach other. It dare not even be said that love is established between God and us by Christ’s position between Him and us, so that Christ causes God to love us, and kindles the flame of the love of God in us. Love is of God! Before we loved Him, He loves. Before Christ was sent into the world to be a propitiation for our sins, He loved us. O, to be sure, we love Him, too; but even then, love is of God. His love is the great, the eternal, the unquenchable fire that kindles all our love, and that lights all the candles of our love. Even as in the firmament, the light is of the sun, and this light of the sun is reflected a thousand fold in the twinkling stars, so love is of God, and our love is never more than the reflection of His love. Herein is love. . .

He is attracted to us and draws us. He longs for us, and makes us long for Him; He is delighted in us, and causes us to have our delight in Him.

He seeks us, and we are found, and seek Him!

He does not rest till He possesses us, and gives Himself that we may possess Him!

Love is the living current that has its source in the triune God, touches us, and takes us up in its stream of delight.

Out of Him it runs through our hearts to return to Him.

Of Him, and through Him, and unto Him is love!

Sovereign Is the love of God!

O, blessed cross!

For therein know we that wondrous love of God! Therein behold we the love as sovereign, free, eternal, absolutely self-existent, and, therefore, as a love that is a fire which the floods of many waters are unable to quench.

How otherwise, pray, could He have sent His only begotten Son to be a propitiation for our sins?

Does not this mean that, on our part, there was no love? Does it not reveal that, both in time and logically, the love of God was prior to any manifestation of love as far as we were concerned? Nay more, does it not imply that we exerted ourselves, with all that is within us, to quench the fire of divine love by the miry, stinking flood-waters of our iniquities, and that now the flame of His unquenchable love penetrated through those miry waters, victoriously, licking them up, and consuming them completely?

Propitiation for our sins!

O, it means that we were enemies of God, dead through trespasses, standing in proud and wanton rebellion against the living God. It means that we were guilty, worthy of damnation, objects of the wrath of God, and that, in His justice, He could only inflict the punishment of eternal desolation upon us. It means that there was absolutely no way for the love of God to reach us but through the perfect satisfaction of His justice, that is, through the very depth of hell. It means that we could, nor would, ever travel this way of hell in perfect obedience of love, as we were required to do in order to make this satisfaction, and become the objects of God’s love and favor. . . .

As far as we were concerned the situation was hopeless!

Propitiation for sins!

It means that there is a covering for all our iniquities; not a covering in the sense that now our sins are hid from before the face of God, though they still are there; but in the sense of complete coverage. The damage done by our sins is completely covered. It is paid for. The justice of God is satisfied. The way through hell has been travelled in perfect obedience of love, for us, in our stead, in our behalf. . . .

But by whom?

God sent His Son!

O, mystery of mysteries: God sent His Son to be a propitiation for our sins!

He sent Him, His Son, God of God, light of light, the everlasting darling of His bosom, in whom is the Father, and in whom is the Spirit. . . . Himself!

He, the triune God sent Him: the Father, through the Son, in the Spirit, sent the Son!

He sent Him in eternity, for in His eternal good pleasure He ordained Him to be the head of the Church, the firstborn among many brethren. He sent Him in the fullness of time, in our flesh and in our blood, in the likeness of sinful flesh, that He might be like unto His brethren in all things, sin excepted. He sent Him all the way of His humiliation and suffering. He sent Him, loaded with our iniquities to the place of judgment, and into the shameful death of the accursed tree. He sent Him into the depth of hell to pay the price, to respond with His perfect Yes, instead of our wicked and wanton No, to the unchangeable justice of our God. . . .

To be a propitiation for our sins!

What does it all mean?

O, to be sure, it declares unto us the love of God, amazing, unfathomable, adorable. . . .

Yes, but this is the point that is all important: it is the revelation of first, of sovereign, of independent, and, therefore, of unquenchable love!

For not the work of Christ evokes and kindles the love of God: herein is love, that before Christ died God loved us!

His mission, His cross is the revelation of love!

O, glorious cross of Jesus!

Herein is love. . . .

Glorious revelation of the God of our salvation!

For, by faith, looking at the wondrous cross of the Son of God, we may have confidence that all our sins cannot quench His love. Our sins may be as scarlet, floods of iniquity may rise up against us, and our transgressions may be more than the hairs of our head; our conscience may accuse us that we have sinned, and do sin daily, and that we have kept none of His commandments, yet, trusting in that free and sovereign love revealed in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, we know that we may come to Him, and that, if we confess our sins, He will burn them all away in that mighty fire of His love, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness!

That is the meaning of the cross!

It is the revelation of a love such as sinners need to inspire them with confidence to come to the throne of grace.

Again, surveying that wondrous cross, and its revelation of sovereign and independent, never ceasing love of God, we know that we may, that we do love Him, and that His love will be perfected in us. No, the truth that He loved us sovereignly does not make us careless and profane. It does not induce us to say: let us sin that His love may abound. On the contrary, it is exactly the mighty power of that love that draws us, the unquenchable flame of that love that kindles its own response in our hearts, and will do so, until we shall forever dwell with Him in love!

And nothing can separate us from that love, because love is all of God!

Herein is love: He loved us!

Blessed revelation!