The Love Of Christ:  A Meditation And Challenge

The Love Of Christ: A Meditation And Challenge

The phrase ‘the love of Christ’ occurs just three times in Paul’s epistles, although its truth permeates much more of the New Testament revelation of our Saviour than that. This article considers each of these occurrences in turn with the aim of encouraging us as true believers both to understand its significance better and also to respond to its challenge more wholeheartedly than we have so far done. For the love of Christ is God’s love seen in action in the only perfect Man who ever lived in this fallen world. What has it to teach us today?

First, therefore, from Ephesians chapter 3 verses 17 to 19 we shall consider that:

Its Appreciation is the Summit of our Spiritual Experience

Paul here prays as follows:

‘That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God.’

In Ephesians chapter 1 Paul had prayed that the saints at Ephesus might understand the wonder of their blessings and resources in Christ. Here in chapter 3 He prays that they may enter into the full good of these blessings and experience the divine enablement that they can bring into believers’ lives. Chief amongst these blessings is the surpassing love of Christ for each one of His own. This can only be measured by the greatness of the self-sacrifice that Christ made when He gave Himself up to the death of the cross on our behalf. Chapter 5 tells us more of that love when Paul states that Christ died to secure the New Testament Church of true believers as His chosen Bride for eternity. It is the pattern to be followed by all marriage partners. How attentive Christ is to His Bride, loving, cherishing, and cleansing her for her future role with Him. How far do we appreciate the love of Christ shown towards us, and how far do we live in the practical good of it? If we do so, we will be fully controlled by it, and manifest all the features of God’s own full character and nature in our daily lives and experience. This is the summit of Christian experience and the necessary prerequisite for a life of effective witness to Christ such as is enjoined upon us in the remainder of the letter. So let us seek, with the help of all our fellow-believers, to apprehend the full extent of Christ’s love towards us, with the object of assimilating its good into our lives and characters.

Secondly, from Romans chapter 8 verse 35 we shall be assured that:

Its Consolation is our Strength in Times of Stress and Persecution

For Paul here asks the challenging question:

‘Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?’

This verse is part of a victorious section of Paul’s letter to the Romans, in which he gives us many reasons why no amount of difficulty, infirmity of the flesh, or opposition from the world around us can effectively take from us our assurance of final salvation in Christ. First, we have the indwelling Spirit of God interceding within and for us when we do not know how to pray for ourselves or others. Secondly, God’s sovereign purpose for us in salvation cannot be frustrated by any difficulties which we may face in our lives; they are as good as accomplished already. Thirdly,

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through faith, on the basis of His own Beloved Son’s precious blood. And finally, Christ has demonstrated His eternal love to us by dying as our substitute on Calvary’s cross. So no amount or kind of distress, persecution, or opposition from without can possibly separate us from enjoying the blessing and assurance of knowing Christ’s love towards us. This means that in all circumstances the Christian believer can become an overcomer. We may in times of trouble have temporary doubts concerning God’s love to us, or our ability to cope with the pressures we face; but the evidence is that God does love us still, since He did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all. And Christ willingly gave His life for us at greatest personal sacrifice. There is, therefore, no need to doubt their love towards us. We can face the whole world with God and Christ on our side.

Finally, from 2 Corinthians chapter 5 verses 14 and 15 we shall recognise that:

Its Motivation is our Spur to Self-sacrificial Service

For Paul here argues along the following lines:

‘For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then all died (RV): And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them and rose again.’

In 2 Corinthians chapter 5 Paul has been explaining his motives in his ministry, because some of the Corinthian believers had been questioning their sincerity and unselfishness. In verse 11 of this chapter he had given as one major motivation for his ministry his reverential fear of the Lord, before whom he knew that he must one day stand at the Judgement Seat for the review of his life and service. The words ‘Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord’ in the KJV are better rendered ‘the fear of the Lord’, in a good sense rather than the negative sense of dreading certain judgement. For our Lord Jesus is certainly not an unsympathetic Judge of our motives and conduct, but understands us better than we do ourselves in all our natural frailty. Also, ‘there is now … no condemnation for them that are in Christ Jesus’, according to Romans chapter 8 verse 1. Now in verse 14 he proceeds to explain his other major motivation in his ministry, namely, his recognition of the love of Christ for him. This is his main positive driving motivation. He reasons, correctly, that if Christ could love him so much that He died for him, in his place personally, then he owed an incalculable debt to Christ to live the rest of his life to please Him, not himself any longer. God had reckoned that when he trusted Christ, then his old nature died with Christ, had been buried with Christ, and risen with Christ to live a new kind of life altogether, one that fulfilled God’s will, not his own. He had died to the rule of sin in his life, and must now seek to live to please God and fulfil His righteousness in the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Now is that our sincere and dominant motivation in our own lives today? It will lead us into ministries which involve, perhaps, much self-sacrificial service and pain to the flesh. But is anything too much to give to the Saviour who so loved us that He gave His own life on our behalf? Does, then, the love of Christ constrain us? Do we find in it an irresistible argument for sacrificial living today? We certainly should do so.

So we find in the appreciation of the love of Christ shown to us on Calvary the summit of our spiritual experience as Christians, our perhaps only source of strength and consolation in times of stress and persecution, and our chief positive motivation for self-sacrificial service for our Lord. What, therefore, does Christ’s infinite love mean to us? How much are we prepared to love Him in return and to prove our love to Him in terms of practical devotion and service? He deserves much more than we can ever possibly give Him. All He asks from us is the ‘first love’ of our poor hearts in response to His perfect love for us. Will we give Him this?

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