The Love of God is in the Cross As I began to understand the use of the Moral Law to bring repentance, the question arose in my mind, "But if we tell unbelievers about the Law, sin, righteousness, judgment, Hell, and then the Cross, are we under-emphasizing God's love and grace? After all, isn't love what the gospel is all about?" A few good friends have also asked me this question and I am grateful for their bluntness because it cuts to the chase.
The Bible consistently defines the love of God toward sinners in two words: the cross.
- "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son . . . (John 3:16).
- "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we sere still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8).
- "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me" (Galatians 2:20).
- "This is love; not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins" (1 John 4:10, NIV).
Always and without fail, God uses the cross as the supreme example of His love toward sinners. Surely God offers the saved believer daily comfort, joy, inner peace, patience, self-control, and a safe harbor in times of trouble, but never does He offer it to the unbeliever. Check it out yourself. Look in your Bible to find any instance of Jesus, an apostle, or a prophet offering an unrepentant sinner any form of God's love other than Jesus' blood on the cross. Rather, God's wrath is on them! The cross is love's masterpiece. The cross is God motivated by love, running toward the sinner to rescue him from the flames of eternal punishment.
If I were to pinpoint a time in my life when my earthly father clearly demonstrated his love for me, I know exactly when it would be. It was the time he saved my life. I was four years old, playing on a boat dock, and I fell into the water and was drowning. I likely would have died if my father had not been there to save me. He dove into the water and rescued me. I know that my father loves me because he saved my life. I don't need to look any further for proof of his love. I couldn't want better proof that my father loves me than the fact that he risked his own life to save mine, and every other demonstration of love pales in comparison to that supreme moment of mercy.
So when it comes to telling sinners about the heavenly Father's love, if we have to point beyond the cross where Jesus rescued them from the waters of eternal death, we are missing the focal point of God's love. If you feel the simple message of the cross is not enough to describe the love of God... would you say that to the Father who sacrificed His one and only Son? Would you say it to Jesus who loved you and gave His own life for you? Would you say it to the countless martyrs who died for their faith simply because Jesus loved them and died for them? To promise an unsaved sinner anything more than the full mercy and compassion of the cross is to go beyond Scripture. As Paul said to the sinful Corinthians, "When I came to you I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified." (1 Corinthians 2:1,2, emphasis added) And again, "For Christ (sent me) to preach the gospel For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God." (1 Corinthians 1:17-18) So Paul determined not to preach anything but "Christ crucified," because nothing but "the message of the cross" is the power of God to salvation.
Perhaps the problem isn't that sinners need more than "Christ crucified," but to hear a better explanation of the One who loved us and gave Himself up for us. As messengers of life to a dying world, we must point people to Jesus and magnify the love of God in Him. We must expound the love that held Jesus to the cross, and fill the mind of the unsaved with the knowledge of God's solemn promise - written in his own blood - to forgive those who believe in Jesus. Without this rich explanation of the cross, we will no doubt paint God as cold and uncaring. God help us to faithfully proclaim the full love of God in the mercy of the cross.
Believer, do you understand that love yourself? Do you understand what you were saved from? Have you ever looked for yourself into the mirror of God's Law and seen your own heart's exceedingly sinful reflection? Do you know how hot the flames burn in God's eternal prison? Have you ever wept tears of gratitude for the precious blood of Jesus spilled to save you? If not, you will no doubt find it difficult to explain to others.
These are sobering thoughts for me as well as for anyone who has not yet fled to the Savior to escape the wrath to come. A fool will dismiss them as judgmental, but a wise person will examine himself to see if he is in the faith. (2 Corinthians 13:5)
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