Love to God and the Divine Approval
William Nicholson, 1862
"But if any man loves God, the same is known by him." 1 Corinthians 8:3
Nothing on earth is of so much consequence to man as the Divine approbation. "He who believes has the witness in himself;" that he loves God, because he first loved him; his heart has been directed into the love of God, 2 Thessalonians 3:5, and the "love of God abides in him." God himself says, "I love those who love me." This is more valuable than thousands of gold and silver. Compared with a saving interest in God's loving-kindness, all earthly possessions are mere vanity and vexation of spirit.
The text is to be considered as a part of a long parenthesis, comprising several cautions and advice to the infant church at Corinth, and designed to suggest proper modes of conduct to Christians dwelling among Heathen idolaters.
I. The Character Here Described.
LOVE is a gracious affection of the soul which induces . . .
delight in God,
admiration of his nature, perfections, and works,
a desire to enjoy his favor,
a disposition to praise him, and to promote his glory.
In 1 Corinthians 13, the nature of love is given. Her incomparable painter has there drawn her at full length in all her fair proportions. Every attitude is full of grace; every lineament, of beauty. The whole delineation is perfect, entire, lacking nothing.
"Love never fails." When tongues and prophecies cease, love shall shine and sing in the kingdom of Heaven. Faith will go with us to the gate of paradise, and will bid us farewell; but white-robed love will enter with us through the gates into the city, and never leave us. Knowledge may fade away, but love shall flourish in immortal bloom.
Love is the master-principle of all good society. It is the holy bond which connects man with man. Love is an emanation from God's own purity; "for God is love, and he who dwells in love, dwells in God, and God in him." Love sweetens and sanctifies every privilege, possession, and connection. "And now abides faith, hope, and love — but the greatest is love!"
More particularly observe,
1. Love to God is connected with knowledge. There must be a knowledge of the Divine nature, attributes, and his purposes of grace and mercy — or there can be no genuine love to him. How can anyone love a person of whom he has no knowledge? "Those who know your name, will put their trust in you;" and trust or faith works by love. The more a believer knows of God, the more he will love him.
2. Love to God is connected with faith. Faith is that principle by which the soul rests on Christ for salvation; and by which the soul is brought to enjoy pardon, and every spiritual blessing. This enjoyment as granted by our gracious God, certainly produces love to him. "We love him — because he first loved us." Hence the argument of the Apostle, Romans 5:1-5.
3. Love to God produces obedience. "If you love me, you will keep my commandments." Love teaches us to recognize the relation in which we stand to God — as children to a parent, and as subjects to a prince.
Love is an active operative principle, studious of manifesting its acquiescence in the will, and of testifying its submission to the authority of its great object. Hence it is not merely an empty profession, but practical, James 2:14-17. Love produces obedience to all the precepts of Christ, Psalm 119:6; 1 John 5:3. It produces brotherly love, 1 John 4:7, 8, 11, 20, 21. It leads to active exertions for the prosperity of Christ's kingdom on earth. It produces love to immortal souls. It pants to "save souls from death, and to hide a multitude of sins."
To this end, if the love of God abides in us, we shall be assiduous . . .
in the cultivation of our talents and abilities,
in the improvement of our time,
in the acquisition of knowledge,
in devoting ourselves, our property, our influence, and our all — to the service of the great Redeemer.
4. True love to God . . .
produces sweet submission to His will,
does not rebel at His difficult dispensations,
does not resist the appointments of His wise and holy providence,
will not permit us to call into question any part of His government,
will not indulge a doubt respecting the rectitude of His proceedings.
True love to God says, "This trial, this affliction, this bereavement, this piercing cross--has been arranged by my Father in Heaven! He is infinitely wise, and infinitely good--He does all things well--I submit."
Like Job, it says, "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave--and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised." Job 1:21
"Father, if You are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from Me. Yet I want Your will to be done, not Mine!" Luke 22:42
5. Love to God is necessary to Christian communion; 1 John 1:3. All true Christians love God, and one another. Communion consists in a joint participation of the same views and feelings. How then can any one, who does not love Christ, relish the society of his disciples, or enjoy communion with them, or unite in their religious services? How unpleasant would be the situation of such a man when surrounded by a circle of lively Christians! He would feel like a deaf man at a concert of music, or like a blind man in a gallery of pictures, surrounded by others whose senses are gratified, and whose admiration is excited.
6. Love to God is necessary to the enjoyment of Heaven. If the society of the pious, if their praises, their pious duties, their privileges and pleasures — cannot, by the sinner, be relished on earth, they cannot be in Heaven. He loves the world and its vanities — but these will not be in Heaven. He would, therefore, feel like a stranger there — he would wish to return to this poor earth.
"You doubtless recollect the unhappy man who was executed in this town for murder, about ten years ago. While in his dungeon, after listening to the description which Scripture writers give of Heaven, he told me that he would rather remain in that dungeon through eternity, than go to such a Heaven as he had heard described. Now I appeal to those of you who do not love the Lord Jesus, whether your feelings are not, in some degree at least, similar to his? If you hesitate to admit this, permit me to make the following supposition. Suppose some town in our country should be made, as nearly as possible, to resemble Heaven. Suppose all the inhabitants, without exception, to be not only pious, but eminently so. Suppose all worldly amusements, all political discussions, all commercial transactions, all secular conversation, to be banished from among them — while the presence of Christ should be enjoyed in a peculiar manner, and all the employment would be to love and praise and serve him. Would you joyfully choose that town, in preference to all other places, for your earthly residence? Could you, while retaining your present character, while destitute of the love of Christ, cheerfully leave everything behind, and live happily in such a place? If you reply, "No" then it is much more evident that you could not be happy in Heaven. If you reply, "Yes I could be happy in such a situation" — I ask, why then do you not, so far as is possible, live such a life of devotion here? Why are not those who appear to love Christ most sincerely, and to praise him more ardently, your chosen companions?" Edward Payson
II. The Divine Approval of Such Characters:"The same is known by him."
1. He is made to know — that is, he is taught of God. This sense is given by several commentators. The love of God which rules in his heart, is the result of the Spirit's teaching. And he shall know more experimentally of the doctrines, the privileges, the joys, and the hopes of God's salvation.
2. He is approved and accepted of God. Job 23:10; Psalm 110; 138:6; Nahum 1:7. The Psalmist appeals to God, Psalm 139:23, 24. It is God's prerogative to know and understand the inward state of Christians. He infallibly ascertains the principles by which the saint is actuated. We are obliged to judge of men's motives by their actions — but God judges of actions by their motives. God discerns and dissects the intents of the heart, and determines with infallible precision, the the inmost motives. "The LORD searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts!" 1 Chronicles 28:9
"The same is known by him" — the Creator, the Governor of the universe, the Lord of all, the God of infinite grace and mercy! What an honor — an earthly worm to be approved by such a Being!
"The same is known by him" — though he may write bitter things against himself, and his spiritual attainments may be very low.
"The same is known by him" — though ignorant, though poor, and base in the estimation of the world. "Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." 1 Samuel 16:7
"The same is known by him" — in all his troubles and sorrows, when he dies, when God judges the world. Oh, what a glorious privilege — to be known of God!
Encouragement — to the weak but sincere believer. Their spiritual condition is not to be judged by their intellectual powers or natural acquirements. Many Christians doubt of their eternal safety because they possess so little light, are so weak in understanding, and deficient in recollection. Light is good as the medium of action, but only so when sanctified by the Spirit, or impregnated with love.
It teaches us to aspire after the Divine approbation. Mere speculative knowledge will avail nothing, but love which is "the fulfilling of the law."
It is alarming to the sinner. "If anyone does not love the Lord, that person is cursed!" 1 Corinthians 16:22