Posted by: rcottrill | December 5, 2012

The Love of God

Words: Frederick Martin Lehman (b. Aug. 7, 1868; d. Feb. 20, 1953)
Music: Frederick Martin Lehman

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: Pastor Lehman published hundreds of songs, but this is by far his best known. As the Cyber Hymnal notes, his daughter Claudia Lehman Mays arranged the music for his songs, including this one.

Love. It means many different things to different people. Sometimes, what is called “love” in popular songs, movies, and television shows, is nothing but lust.

Lust  is selfish; it focuses on getting, and what I want, and what gives me pleasure.

Love is selfless; it focuses on giving and what I can share with others, in order to please them, and help them, and be a blessing to them.

In our English Bibles, various forms of the word “love” are found about five hundred times. Sometimes, the word is used in the sense of kindness or kindred affection. But the Greek word agape is used particularly of the spiritual bond of love between God and man, or between human beings.

“Love is an image of God, and not a lifeless image, but the living essence of the divine nature which beams full of all goodness” (Martin Luther).

Agape love is the willing sacrifice of ourselves and our resources for the good and blessing of others. Here are a few of the qualities of this divine love.

1) The Gift of God. It’s a quality that is listed first as the “fruit” (or result) of the Spirit’s work in the believer (Gal. 5:22; cf. Rom. 5:5). And it’s the central quality of Christlikeness, so fundamental to the character of God that the Bible is able to say that “God is love” (I Jn. 4:8, 16).

2) A Giving Love. As noted above, giving is a prominent quality of this kind of love. “God so loved that He gave His only begotten Son” to die for our sins (Jn. 3:16).

3) A Sacrificial Love. If love is characterized by giving, it is a sacrificial giving. “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (Jn. 15:13). That too is evident in the supreme sacrifice of Christ, who became poor in order to provide for us eternal riches (II Cor. 8:9). “By this we know love, because He [Christ] laid down His life for us” (I Jn. 3:16).

4) A Gracious Love. It is gracious love, rather than an “I’ll love you if…” conditional kind of love. The merits of its object are irrelevant to this kind of love. “While we were still sinners [polluted by evil and most unlovely], Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). No wonder the Scriptures speak of this as “great love” (Eph. 2:4).

5) A Humble Love. The Bible says of Christ, just before He went to the cross, “Having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end” (Jn. 13:1). That could mean that the Lord Jesus loved them to the last–He kept loving them all the way to the cross. But a more common interpretation is that Christ loved them (and us) completely, to the uttermost. The NIV renders it, “He now showed them the full extent of His love.”

It’s interesting, though, that John, the author, doesn’t place that statement at the beginning of chapter 19, about the crucifixion itself. What follows the statement in chapter 13? The Lord Jesus, God the Son incarnate, takes water and a towel and washes the feet of His disciples. That demonstrates to us that the Lord’s love is infused with infinite humility. He laid aside the heavenly glory that was rightfully His, to become a servant of those whom He created, and who had rebelled against Him (Phil. 2:5-8).

6) An Eternal Love. One final thing: this wonderful love is enduring. To be wrapped in the infinite love of God is to be loved forever. Nothing and no one can separate us from the love of God (Rom. 8:35-39). And what is true of His chosen nation Israel is surely true individually of His blood-bought children on this side of the cross: “Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore with loving kindness I have drawn you” (Jer. 31:3).

It is this divine love, a giving, sacrificial, gracious, humble, eternal love, that Pastor Lehman’s hymn so beautifully celebrates, especially in the sublime imagery of the final stanza. (Note: “the guilty pair” in CH-1 refers to Adam and Eve.)

CH-1) The love of God is greater far
Than tongue or pen can ever tell;
It goes beyond the highest star,
And reaches to the lowest hell;
The guilty pair, bowed down with care,
God gave His Son to win;
His erring child He reconciled,
And pardoned from his sin.

O love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure
The saints’ and angels’ song.

1) Can you think of other qualities of the love of God not mentioned in the above article?

2) What other hymns effectively praise the Lord for His great love?

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal


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