The Love of God - by F.E. Raven
[Editor: PREFACE: 5/18/10 It is apparent that, when Christians arrive in our Heavenly home, we shall have reached our final estate. We shall “know as we are known”, and shall have bodies of glory. Our earthly histories shall have been closed up – all is new in Christ (Rev21:5). We won’t need the Bible, we won’t need ministries, preachings and studies (1Cor13:8-12). Everything shall be realized for us in a realm of perfection and love.
The understanding of this provides a wonderful illumination for our earthly path while we are yet here. If we entered more fully – while yet here on earth – into the character of our heavenly calling, we would be less affected and hindered by internal and external influences. Our Christian calling and inheritance is founded on the love of God, and the intended reciprocity of that love by every Christian towards God Himself – in short, the realization of love in mutual activity.
It was felt that the following few pages of ministry by dear FER ably presented the great privileges in this relationship of love as open to every Christian.]
THE LOVE OF GOD – FER, NS vol 8
ROMANS 5: 5—l1; 1 CORINTHIANS 2:9—l1, 15, 16;
ROMANS 8:28—39; EPHESIANS 2:4—7
I would like to say a few words as to the way in which we are led on in the knowledge of the love of God. To this end I must refer you to a few scriptures. The first is Romans 5:5-11. My object is more to draw attention to the scriptures than to attempt to expound them. The scriptures will tell their own tale without much comment of mine.
We were speaking this afternoon of the purpose of the gospel. I do not think that anyone would be disposed to question the statement that the purpose of God in the gospel is that He might be made known, according to what He is in His nature, in the heart of man. What man is to be brought into is another point; but the first thing is that God might be known in the heart of man as He has been pleased to reveal Himself. “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.” The great work of the devil was to produce in the heart of man distrust of God and rebellion. There is a rivalry existing there. Then it is that God in due time comes in in His Son to make known what He is, so that the heart of man might be encouraged to trust God. God’s love enters so that we may have confidence in Him. It is made effective by the Spirit in the believer’s heart. It is impossible to trust anyone that you do not know, nor will anyone trust God till he knows Him. When God is known as He has been pleased to reveal Himself, then all is changed for us. Here we get the true expression of the love of God.
"While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” It goes further than expression, for the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given to us. It is not only that God has in the most inconceivable way proved His love, but the love of God is realised in the believer by divine power. A man may get an apprehension of the grace of God, but I am confident that it is impossible to know God according to what He is in His nature until the Holy Spirit is received; then it is that “ the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts.” And that is the force of the passage, “ Hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given to us.’’ Why ‘‘ not ashamed” ? Because the heart is able to confide in God. There is confidence in God as to all the changes and trials and exercises of the wilderness. Tribulation works patience ; and patience, experience; and experience, hope; and hope is assured by the love of God. That is the first scripture I turn to, the very beginning. I trust everyone will go with the thought that the purpose of God in the gospel is to make known to man the heart of God. Light is the revelation of God in love. I have often spoken of the intimate connection between light and love. Light exposes, but if even I am exposed by the knowledge of God it is the light of His love, the more light I have the more I am acquainted with His blessed Being; so that the more I am acquainted with the light the more I know the love. One word describes His nature, and that is—love.
Now I want to come to the next step. I Corinthians 2 is the scripture I turn to (vv9-11 and 15,16). I believe that here you get something presented which is intended to attract the heart. It supposes the love of God is known, for the proper answer to the love of God on our part is that we love God. No man ever loves God until he knows that God loves him. Love on our part is the response of the heart by the Spirit to what God has made known of Himself. “ Every one that loveth is born of God and knoweth God.” We could not love God if He were not made known.
I cannot know Him apart from the revelation of Himself.
But now that God is known the heart is attracted by the thought put forward. “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” It does not say here for those whom He loves; but our love toward God is the answer of our hearts to His love. I am attracted in this way. Of course loving God ought to be the mark of every Christian, for every Christian ought to love God and every Christian does love God. His love may be deep down and overlaid, but the love is there. Now, loving God, something is presented to our affection, the thought of the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him.
There are wonderful things to be made known to us, which eye hath not seen (the Corinthians did know them), which have never entered into the heart of man to conceive. Many would say that God has prepared these things for the Christian, and that they belong to the future. Yes; but the present knowledge of these things belongs to those who love God. Every Christian will enter into them eventually I quite admit, but the present enjoyment is to those who love God. If our hearts are entering into that love, He will lead us into the enjoyment of these things and that is present.
The way to love God is to get the heart under the influence of His love. If we love Him then Hedelights to make known to us the things which He has prepared for them that love Him, and which never formed any part of man’s conception. I only just refer to this passage because I believe it is by what is presented here that the heart is attracted. It is the spiritual man that discerns these thing; they are not entered into by the natural man any more than they are seen by him. He that loves is born of God and knows God. If you love Him you will get a present entrance into the purposes of His love.
Now if you turn to Romans 8 I think you will come to what I may call the third step (vv. 28—30 and 35—39). Here we get what I should call the complete answer in the heart of the saint to the work of the devil. His work was to create in the heart of man distrust of God; here I get full confidence in the love of God. It begins in this way in verse 28: “We know that all things work together for good to them that love God.” Not only have we been attracted by the thought that God can make known to us what eye bath not seen nor ear heard, all those things that He hath prepared for them that love Him; but we know that nothing can go wrong, because we are conscious that all things work together for good to them that love God.
Then in the remainder of the passage we have the complete and blessed response on our side to that which is found in chapter 5. Chapter 5 makes known to us the attitude in which God is towards us now, and whenever a soul has entered into the truth of God’s purpose, it is persuaded that nothing can separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. You may not have, as yet, a full entrance into the effect of the love of God, but you have a full persuasion about that love, and that nothing can separate you from that love. “ I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” The most mighty power in the universe is the love of God! It is transcendent and of God. There is full persuasion in the saint that nothing can separate us from that love.
It is a great thing to be attracted by the thought that God delights to make known to them that love Him what He has prepared for them, but it is greater to be persuaded that nothing can separate you from the love of God, and that all things work together for good to them that love God. Every created thing, all that is great and mighty in this world, or outside of it, is put in contrast to the love of God, and the love of God is greater than all. In Christ Jesus our Lord we are in the blessed circle of the love of God. It is the portion of the saint as belonging to that circle, not as being in the wilderness here; in the realization of God’s purpose he is in spirit outside of it.
The last passage I turn to is in Ephesians 2:4-7. Here we have the full display of love in the way in which it comes out towards us. There are three qualities of God seen in the passage: (1) God is “rich in mercy”; (2) “His great love wherewith he loved us”; (3) “That … he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” But the point I am dwelling on is the love that originated all. God has made known to us here the things that He has prepared for them that love Him. It is not simply bringing us through redemption into the wilderness and giving us His Spirit; that did not content the heart of God. It is not even blessing us with manifold blessings – that will not satisfy His heart. What suits His heart is to have us with Him where Christ is, in His own dwelling-place, His own habitation, in the full enjoyment of His love – that we should be with Him there in the exaltation of Christ as Man.
The point in all this is not what you want, or what I want, but what God wants. God works to satisfy His love. Nothing makes so great a demand on God as His love. To satisfy His love He will have the subjects of His love in His own habitation. It was a great thing for Israel when they were brought into the wilderness, and God had set up His dwelling-place among them; I admit they were brought to God, but they were not yet brought to the full purpose of God as to them. In Exodus 15 it says, “ Thou shalt bring them in, and plant them in the mountain of thine inheritance, in the place, O Lord, which thou hast made for thee to dwell in, in the Sanctuary, O Lord, which thy hands have established “—that was God’s thought. And so it is the thought of God’s love now in regard to Christians, that they should be in His dwelling-place, graced in the honour and exaltation in which Christ is there as Man. The foundation is in the way in which God has been completely glorified in Christ. He has gained the place of honour at the right hand of God; but the honour He has gained is that into which we are to enter, in order to satisfy the heart of God about us.
Verse 7 refers, I judge, to the public display: “ That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.” In the church will be the display of the exceeding riches of His grace. That is future, when He will show to the whole universe His grace.
We are led on thus in the knowledge of His love; and it is a great thing to love God, and to know His love. If you love God, He will make known to you the things He has prepared for them that love Him. I believe that God delights in an attentive ear. If He brings a saint into a condition in which he can appreciate these things, then it is His delight to make them known to him.
I only just desired to point out these steps by which we are led on into the great reality of the love of God. First, we are attracted by it; then we are persuaded of it; and then the soul enters into the things which God has prepared for them that love Him.
[Editor: ADDENDUM: It appears clear to me, speaking in the broadest sense, that every failure of a Christian involves a lack of fidelity to Christ. Christ and the truth are one – “I am the way, the truth and the life.” This lack is a result of the failure of the heart. “Out of the heart are the issues of life”, and the 1st and great commandment is to love the Lord with all the heart. Of course, as having our treasure in earthen vessels “we all often offend”; yet,“that which is born of God cannot sin.” The great question then is WHY the failures – individually and collectively?
Christians have suffered much separation and division today because they have not given the Christ His proper place in the heart. If Christ reigned supreme in the heart – if He was given His rightful place as King – issues and conflicts could be settled very quickly (see 1st Chronicles 12:38)]