Sermon 4: God's Admirable Love
"The gift of Christ is the highest and fullest manifestation of God’s love for sinners that was ever made" (John Flavel).
by John Flavel on June 12, 2020
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son” (John 3:16).
The preceding verses reveal the nature and necessity of regeneration. This verse infers its necessity from the peculiar respect that God has upon believers in giving Christ for them. They alone reap all the special and saving benefits and advantages of that gift: “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish.” There are four points to consider.
First, the original fountain of our mercies is God’s love. (1) His benevolent love is His desire and purpose to save and do good. Thus, His gracious purpose to Jacob is called “love” (Rom. 9:13). (2) His beneficent love is His actual doing good to those whom He loves. It is His bestowing the effects of His love upon us. (3) His complacent love is His delight and satisfaction in beholding the fruit of the grace which He first intended for us (benevolent love) and then actually bestowed on us (beneficent love). God’s benevolent love was handled in the previous sermon; namely, God’s design to save us according to the terms and articles of His compact with Christ. God’s beneficent love is in view in our verse. Out of the fountain of God’s benevolent love flowed His beneficent love (Christ) to us. Both lead to His complacent love, for He both purposed and bestowed Christ on us so that He might everlastingly delight in beholding the glory and praise of all this reflected on Himself by His redeemed ones. This, then, is the fountain of our mercies.
Second, the mercy flowing out of this fountain is Christ (Luke 1:72). He is the marrow, kernel, and substance of all other mercies. This love is expressed with a double emphasis in our verse. The first is the particle “so.” How did God love the world? He “so” loved it. The second emphasis is the expression “only begotten Son.” To have given a son would have been wonderful, but to give His “only begotten Son” is inexpressible love.
Third, the object of God’s love is the world. This respects God’s elect in the world; that is, those who do (or will) believe. The term “world” is used to signify the elect because they are scattered throughout all parts and among all ranks of people. These are the objects of God’s love. It is not angels, but people, who were so loved. He is called a Lover or Friend of people, but never the Lover or Friend of angels or creatures.
Fourth, this mercy flows to us freely and spontaneously. He “gave” His Son. Moreover, Christ freely gave Himself (Gal. 2:20). The Father gave Christ out of good will to us, and Christ as willingly gave Himself.
Doctrine: The gift of Christ is the highest and fullest manifestation of God’s love for sinners that was ever made.
“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). Why does the apostle magnify this gift by saying, “Herein is love,” as if there were love in nothing else? Do we not see God’s love in His provision and protection? Yes, but there is no love in these things as compared to the love expressed in giving Christ for us. These are great mercies, but, when compared to this mercy, they are like the light of candles when brought into the sunshine. It is remarkable that when the apostle declares the fruit that most commends God’s love for us, he says, “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). This is the very flower of His love.
The Nature of God’s Gift
How was Christ given by the Father? We must not think that God parted with His interest in His Son. When people give, they transfer property to another. But, when God gave Christ, He was still as much His as ever. His giving of Christ implies the following. First, He appointed Christ unto death for us (Acts 2:23). By the counsel and purpose of God, Christ was chosen and set apart for His service (Isa. 42:1). Second, He parted with Christ for a time. There was a kind of parting between the Father and the Son when He came to tabernacle in our flesh (John 16:28). The distance established by His incarnation and humiliation was proper to His humanity, which was really distant from God’s glory. Third, He delivered Christ into the hands of justice to be punished (Acts 2:23; Rom. 8:32). Fourth, He applied Christ (with all that He purchased by His blood) to us as a portion and inheritance (John 4:10; 6:32–33).
The Value of God’s Gift
How was God’s gift of Christ the highest and fullest manifestation of His love that the world has ever seen? First, we must consider how near and dear Christ was to the Father. He was His only Son; the Son of His love; the darling of His soul; the express image of His person; the brightness of His glory. In parting with Christ, He parted with “his dear Son” (Col. 1:13). Our dearest children are but strangers to us in comparison to the unspeakable nearness that was between the Father and Christ. His willingness to part with His Son is a manifestation of a love that we will admire for all eternity.
Second, we must consider the reason the Father gave Christ; namely, to die on the cross; to be made a curse; to be scorned and ridiculed; to endure unparalleled sufferings. It breaks our hearts to see our children striving in the pangs of death. But the Father beheld His Son struggling under agonies that no-one has ever felt. He saw Him falling to the ground, groveling in the dust, and sweating blood. He heard His heart-rending cry: “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me” (Luke 22:42). Christ was delivered to the wrath of an infinite God, to the very torments of hell, and that by the hand of His own Father.
Third, we must consider that, in giving Christ, the Father gave the richest jewel in His treasure—a mercy of great worth and inestimable value. God bestowed the mercy of mercies, the most precious thing in heaven and earth, upon poor sinners. As great, lovely, and excellent, as His Son was, He did not account Him too good to bestow upon us. O, what manner of love is this!
Fourth, we must consider on whom the Father bestowed His Son. Upon friends? No. Upon enemies (Rom. 5:8–10). Who would part with a son for the sake of enemies? O, unspeakable love!
Fifth, we must consider how freely this gift came from the Father. It was not forced out of His hand, for we neither desired nor deserved it. It was eternal love that delivered Him to us (1 John 4:19).
Souls are exceedingly precious. God gives His only Son out of His bosom as a ransom for us. Surely, this speaks of our value in His sight. God would not have parted with such a Son for small matters. “Ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold … but with the precious blood of Christ” (1 Peter 1:18–19). God had such esteem for us that Christ was made a curse for us. O, we must learn to put a due value upon our own souls. We must remember what a treasure we carry with us. The glory that we see in this world is not equivalent to the soul’s worth (Matt. 16:26).
We may rightly expect all temporal mercies from Him (Rom. 8:32; 1 Cor. 3:21–22). We hold all other things in Christ, who is the capital and most comprehensive mercy. These four things must be weighed and pondered in our thoughts. First, no other mercy is (or can be) so dear to God as Christ is. He never laid anything else in His bosom as He did His Son. There is no outward enjoyment that compares to Christ in God’s estimation. If God has parted so freely with that which was infinitely dear to Him, how can He deny outward comforts when they may promote His glory and our good? Second, no other mercy is as great and excellent as Christ is. These things are but poor creatures, but He “is over all, God blessed forever” (Rom. 9:5). They are common gifts, but He is the gift of God (John 4:10). They are ordinary mercies, but He is the mercy of God (Luke 1:72). If God has so freely given the greatest mercy, how can we suppose that He will deny lesser mercies? Third, we are entitled to all temporal mercies by the gift of Christ. As to right, they are conveyed to us with Christ (1 Cor. 3:21–23; 2 Cor. 1:20). With Christ, God has given us all things to enjoy (1 Tim. 6:17). Thus, we have all mercies upon account of our title to them in Christ. Fourth, God has given us this all-comprehending mercy when we were enemies to Him and alienated from Him; thus, it is unimaginable that He will deny us any inferior mercy when we have entered a state of reconciliation with Him (Rom. 5:8–10).
The greatest evil is manifested in despising, slighting, and rejecting Christ. It is sad to abuse the love of God manifested in the lowest gift of providence, but to slight the richest discoveries of it in the Father’s gift of His Son is astonishing. There is no guilt like this.
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