The Manner Of God's Love
James L. Reynolds

(1 John 3:1-3 ) "Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. {2} Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. {3} And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure."

    We would like to take a few minutes this morning to consider the 'Manner' of God's love. We are exhorted by the Holy Spirit in the I John 3:1 to 'behold' the manner of God's love.
    We are correct when we think of the word behold as it is used to note that which is seen with the eyes, as when we view something. However, that is not the only meaning which the word 'behold' correctly signifies. A brief examination of the word 'behold' in the English language will reveal that it means much more than just a casual or cursory thought or glance.
    The Oxford Universal Dictionary lists as one of the definitions of behold;
        'To regard (with the mind), consider, have regard unto.'
    It is this 'regarding with the mind' which we wish to think upon this morning.
The Greek word translated 'behold' in the King James Version is eido (i'-do). It is defined various Greek scholars as:
        'to know, be aware, behold, consider, (have) known (knowledge), look (on), perceive, see, be sure, tell, understand.
    An example of how this word signifies that which is to be diligently considered is given to us in Acts chapter 15.
(Acts 15:1-6) "And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved. {2} When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question. {3} And being brought on their way by the church, they passed through Phenice and Samaria, declaring the conversion of the Gentiles: and they caused great joy unto all the brethren. {4} And when they were come to Jerusalem, they were received of the church, and of the apostles and elders, and they declared all things that God had done with them. {5} But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses. {6} And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter."
    The apostles and elders did not come together just to have a brief and casual discussion on this matter. They came together to 'regard it with their minds', and that carefully and with great consideration and undoubtedly with much fervent prayer.
    Is it possible, that along with esteeming lightly a host of other Divine Blessings, that many of God's redeemed children are also guilty of not frequently and thankfully considering the manner of God's love?
    How often can God's people be rightly charged with taking His mercies and blessings for granted?
    Sometimes it seems that those who have been the recipients of God's greater temporal blessings, such as health, wealth and prosperity, are also the ones who take these blessings for granted.
    Now that we have briefly spoken of the necessity to give a careful, prayerful and deliberate consideration of God's love towards His people let us turn our attention to the ‘manner of God's love’. The Holy Spirit directed the apostle to exhort God's people to ‘Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us.’
    We may, on occasion, and that rightly and properly so, consider the love that a parent, a spouse or a child has for us and that we in turn have for them. But infinitely more important and beneficial is the consideration which should be given to the manner of love that God has for us.
    The Greek word translated manner in our text (I John 3:1) is potapos, (pot-ap-os’) and it literally means: of what possible sort: - what (manner of). This Greek word is used thirteen times in the New Testament. In six verses of Scripture it is used back to back and translated 'what manner'.
    The Holy Spirit is therefore directing us to consider what sort, what type that is 'what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us.'
    As the being of God is incomprehensible in it fullness so also the type or sort of God's love is, in reality, unfathomable in its totality. Throughout the endless ages of eternity the trophies of God's redeeming love and grace will forever be learning more about the love of Him who eternally loved them and redeemed them from the eternal condemnation which they so justly deserved.
    However, the fact that we can not comprehend God's love in it fullness and totality does not prevent us from rejoicing in the measure of understanding of that love which He has been pleased to grant or reveal unto us.
    There are many more characteristics of God's love revealed unto us in His word than we could possibly mention in the brief time allocated unto us this day. Therefore we would like to draw you attention to but a few of those characteristics this morning.
   1.)The manner of God's love for His people is eternal.
(Jeremiah 31:3) "The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee."
    It is certainly an awesome and stupendous thought to consider that God has loved His people with an eternal love.
    There is no measure of comparison between God's love and the love of one human for another. Most parents love their children and most children love their parents. And in many instances each are greatly devoted to the other's happiness and well being. Yet there was a time when that love did not exist. A parent did not and could not love a child that had never existed. And a child could never love a parent whom they never knew. Yet, God loved His people when they did not as yet exist, that is when they had no corporal being. Certainly, they existed in the mind of the Almighty God.
    Concerning the divinely sanctioned institution of marriage we often hear or read about couples who were married for many years and of the ways in which they loved and cared for each other. Yet, there was a time when those individuals did not love each other, for they did not know each other.
    It is impossible to love someone whom you do not know. This may run contrary to soap operas and harlequin novels but it is nevertheless a fact.
    It is certainly true that there are individuals who think that they love a person whom they have only seen but they have a malformed concept of love and have only a fantasy affection for the person they think they love.
    However God has eternally known each of His people, and that in a loving, covenant relationship.
(Jeremiah 1:5) "Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations."
    There never was a time when God did not love His people nor shall there ever be a time when His love for them will cease. The immutability or unchangeableness of God prohibits God's love for His people from ever being diminished or terminated.
    Unlike the parent or the spouse whose love began when they made acquaintance with the object of their love God knew His people from eternity and fixed His love upon them in the recesses of His eternal counsels.
    Because we are mutable or changeable creatures it is possible that we may cease to love one who was formerly the object of our love and adoration. There are a multitude of reasons that are given as to why a person ‘fell out of love’ with someone. Perhaps something occurred between them which caused such a great breach that they deem it irreparable. Or, perhaps they did not know each other as well as they thought they did. It does not matter the reason that may be given for the cessation of one's affections towards another. The point is that our love for another person has a starting point and in some cases it has an ending point.
    Such is not the case with God's love for His people however. God never falls out of love with His people. Though they forsake Him He will not forsake them.
(Hebrews 13:5) "Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee ."
    The hymn writer, Charles H. Gabriel pens for us just such an amazement of God's unworthy saints when they reflect upon His great love for them.
            I stand amazed in the presence of Jesus the Nazarene
            And wonder how He could love me, a sinner condemned, unclean.
    If it were in ourselves that we came into God's presence we would be totality unacceptable and be immediately consumed with His holiness and our eternal souls would be cast, as a loathsome, filthy object, into the eternal flames of God's holy hell.
    So when one ponders, ‘How can the omniscient or all knowing God have an eternal love for me?', the only answer is that His eternal love for us is not in us.
    2.) The manner of God's love for His people is in the Lord Jesus Christ.
(Romans 8:35-39) "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? {36} As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. {37} Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. {38} For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, {39} 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."
    We would like to now take a few minutes and discuss how God's love for His people is in Christ and take note of a few of the things it means to be ‘in Christ’. The word of God is distinctly plain and clear that any and all favorable acceptance in God's sight and any and all spiritual blessing are a result of being in Christ. The term ‘in Christ’ is used seventy-seven times in the New Testament.
In ourselves we are sinful and fully deserving of God's eternal and holy wrath. We can never offer unto God anything that will commend us favorably unto Him.
    In ourselves there is the sentence of death and condemnation. But, praise God,
(Romans 8:1) "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus."
    It is never in ourselves that we have acceptance with God but always and only, ‘in Christ’.
    Our eternal salvation from  God's holy wrath is completely and totally ‘in Christ.’
(II Timothy 2:10) "Therefore I endure all things for the elect's sakes, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory." (II Timothy 2:10)
    It is not any perceived good deeds or works that garners salvation for us. God declares that all of our righteousness are as filthy rags.
(Isaiah 64:6) "But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away."
    At our best state or condition we are altogether sinful and that includes each and everyone of us.
(Psalms 39:5)  "Behold, thou hast made my days as an handbreadth; and mine age is as nothing before thee: verily every man at his best state is altogether vanity. Selah."
    We are told time and again in God's Word that it is not by works of righteousness that we obtain salvation but by God's mercy.
(Titus 3:5) "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, ..."
    Truly, the salvation of the gospel, which is declared in God's inspired and holy Word, is only ‘in Christ’ and is compete ‘in Christ’.
    Our sanctification or separation to service is, ‘in Christ’.
(I Corinthians 1:2) "Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus. called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours:"
    When God separated us from the remainder of fallen mankind He did so by placing us ‘in Christ’.
    It is God who separates His people from the world just as the husbandman separates  the wheat  from the tares. And He does so that they will be engaged in the work or service which He has appointed them unto, and that for the glory of His grace.
(Acts 13:2) "As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them."
    We are born again and become a new creation ‘in Christ’.
(II Corinthians 5:17) "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: ..."
    After the new birth we yet have that old nature which wars against the spirit. But now we also have that new divine nature which is capable of offering service that is acceptable and pleasing unto God.
    All our spiritual blessings are bestowed upon us ‘in Christ’.
(Ephesians 1:3) "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: ..."
    As with so much of God's blessed word the above scripture contains many gems of comfort and spiritual nourishment. There are two things we wish to point out to you at this time.
    a.) All the spiritual blessings which we receive and enjoy, that is each and every one, are received in Christ. There is not a single spiritual blessing to be had for the saint outside of the Lord Jesus Christ.
    b.) All spiritual blessings, the full sum and total number, are available unto us in Christ. The fact that we do not realize all of them is exclusively due to our own failures to appropriate them and also to our unconfessed sins which mars our fellowship with the Holy Trinity.
(James 4:2) " have not, because ye ask not."
    Our eternal election unto salvation was, ‘in Christ’
(Ephesians 1:4) "According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, ..."
    In the everlasting covenant of redemption, entered into by the three persons of the Godhead, God the Father chose a number, sure and fixed, of Adam's fallen posterity to be made acceptable in His eternal presence. From an equally hell deserving mankind He chose that unchangeable number ‘in Christ’ and in so doing He assured that each and everyone of those chosen would one day realize and be partakers of those eternal benefits of Christ's atonement.
    In the eternal economy we are raised up and sit in heavenly places ‘in Christ’.
(Ephesians 2:6) "And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:"
    The new creature that we are ‘in Christ’ has been ordained to good works ‘in Christ.’
(Ephesians 2:10) "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them."
    That great gulf between a holy God and sinful creatures has been bridged by the sinless blood of Christ being applied to those who are ‘in Christ’.
(Ephesians 2:13) "But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ."
    God's promises to His people are made to them ‘in Christ’.
(Ephesians 3:6) "That the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel:"
    The prize of God's high calling is ‘in Christ’.
(Philippians 3:14) "I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."
    God's promise of eternal life for His people is ‘in Christ’.
(II Timothy 1:1) "Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, according to the promise of life which is in Christ Jesus."
    All of mankind can be put into two categories, those who are in themselves and those who are in Christ.
    To be in yourself is to stand condemned and without excuse or hope before a thrice holy God and to be answerable to His holy justice for your each and every transgression of His holy law. For all those who die in themselves the verdict will be guilty and the sentence will be eternal damnation in God's lake of fire.
    Conversely however, to be in Christ is to stand faultless in God's acceptable presence, because the eternal penalty of your each and every transgression was charged to and completely and fully paid by the Lord Jesus Christ.
    3.) The manner of God's love for His people is active.
(Romans 5:8) "But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."
    It has often been said in reference to relationships between humans that true love manifests itself in actions towards the objects of that affection. Some would claim that it is impossible to love someone and not be concerned about their well being and happiness. It is also claimed that the concerns and cares which we have for a person are in direct proportion to the love which we have for that person. If that be the case in mortals, and it often is, how infinitely greater is God's love expressed towards His people by     His concerns for their eternal well being and His gracious actions towards them.
    We probably have all heard stories of the secret love which someone had for another individual. Years and years went by we are told and the object of that persons affections never knew that they were the focal point of someone's ‘secret love’ and that their secret admirer lived in a fantasy of ’what might have been.’
    Beloved, God does not have a secret love! He does not keep in the background of His loved ones’ lives and fantasize about what might be. As the sovereign and omnipotent Creator of the universe He manifests, in the fullness of His own time, that love for His people and fills their unworthy hearts with praise and adoration that He chose to love them in Christ.
    In time past 'God commendeth his love toward us’ in the sending of His only begotten Son to live the perfect life which we could never live and then to pay the sin debt which we could never pay.
God commends, demonstrates, displays and manifests His love for His people in the continual mercies he bestows upon them.
(Psalms 68:19) "Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation. Selah."
    In His common goodness to mankind He makes the rain fall o the just and the unjust. The rebellious sinner often benefits from many of the mercies of God just as do the redeemed sinner. Yet that common goodness does not equate to divine love for all the objects of divine love are 'in Christ'. It is God's people who are daily loaded with His benefits for it is they alone who know the Lord as 'the God of our salvation.'
    God is not passive, in His love for His people or in His hatred for sin.
    As the absolute Sovereign of the universe God has every right to do as He desires with His creatures.
    The Lord Jesus Christ asked the question, "Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own?" (Matthew 20:15)
    We must bow our unworthy heads and humbly acknowledge that it is indeed lawful for Him to do as He will with His own.
    And surely we must also acknowledge that it is indeed the potters’ rightful prerogative to make from the same lump of His clay two types of vessels. One is made a vessel of dishonor and the other is made a  vessel of honor.
(Romans 9:21)  "Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?"
    God demonstrates His active love for us in working out all things which befall us to our good and to His glory.
(Romans 8:28) "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose."
    Even those trials and afflictions which seem so burdensome to us are in reality manifest tokens of His love, for they refine us and cause us to more reflect the image of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
(Isaiah 48:10) "Behold, I have refined thee, but not with silver; I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction."
    In closing we wish to call your attention to the Scriptural declaration that God's love has been "bestowed upon us."
    The Bible nowhere teaches that we can earn God's love nor does it say that God will bestow His love upon us sometime in the future, based upon what we may have done. The word of God emphatically declares that it ‘hath’ been bestowed upon us. Without belaboring the grammatical construction of this verse it is sufficient to say that ‘hath’ is past tense. It signifies something that has already transpired.
    Note also, if you please, that God's love was not earned as the result of creature action but was ‘bestowed’, that is gratuitously and freely given at His own prerogative.
    Sadly, multitudes are deceived into thinking that they can earn God's love and obligate Him to extend mercy to them by their actions and efforts. Those individuals have not been swept up to heavenly places and been lain prostrate at the feet of Him whose freely bestowed love fills their very being and causes them to cry out,
(II Samuel 7:18) "Who am I, 0 Lord GOD? and what is my house, that thou hast brought me hitherto?"
    Oh dearly beloved, that the blessed Holy Spirit may induce each of us to give frequent, prayerful and diligent consideration of the manner of the great love which the Father hath so freely and graciously bestowed upon us in Christ Jesus. And, that by so considering His great love for us we may daily increase in our love for Him.
    The greatest of all Christian duties is to love the LORD with our entire being.
(Mark 12:30) "And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment."
    While the yet depraved flesh will rebel and war against such a love and devotion to our gracious Lord and Savior it is possible by the Holy Spirit's leading to be continually increasing in our love and gratitude for God.
    We can love God because of the fact that He eternally loved us. There can be no gainsaying the scriptural fact that, 'We love him, because he first loved us.' (1 John 4:19).
    I encourage you dearly beloved brothers and sisters in Chcrist,
    "Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God:"

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