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Most of the articles on these WebPages have been written by godly men with a central belief in the Lord Jesus Christ. However as with most of us, they may have different beliefs concerning some particular doctrines. These articles have been made available for the purpose of “gleaning the good” where good can be found. I do not necessarily endorse all that is written by others, anymore than I expect others to endorse all that I write.

   Morning Thoughts by Elder Philip Conley

I John 4:19, "We love him, because he first loved us."

This morning, many false ideologies and errant teachings spin large webs to cover their inconsistencies and holes. Error requires an elegant design to hide the ugliness, but truth in its pristine beauty is simple yet powerful as its foundation is sure and steadfast. Therefore, God's written word, our source of inerrant truth, is penned with guideposts (like our verse) that cannot be reckoned any other way. The language is too simple to misunderstand, yet too powerful to be ignored or cast aside. Jesus, as the embodiment of wisdom and truth, many times turned away His detractors with the simplest of statements. He needed not to explain for hours "what he was really trying to say," but all knew exactly what He said. Granted, some of His speeches (like the parables) and portions of the Bible (like the book of Revelation or Ezekiel) are not easily discernible, but we can study the simple, powerful statements of our Lord and His word to flesh out
false teachings.

This verse was the very first verse that I was taught to memorize by my parents at perhaps the age of three. My father always said, "I want my children to be instilled with the knowledge that God loves first not the other way around." The young ones know what this verse says, for the simple, powerful thought will not allow for any other order or sequence: God first - us after. John has laboured on the subject of love throughout this epistle, but, to me, this is one of the climaxes of the argument. John foreshadows our thought here back in verse 10, "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins." When people speak of their love for God or to God, it pales in comparison to His love. Beloved, our love should be manifested more and more every day, but the scope of our lives is not sufficient to compare with the love that He manifested for us by appeasing the wrath of a just and holy
God for us. By standing in our room and stead, He did what we could not. By His grace unto us, we have the ability, by His work, to show forth love. Therefore, our love is an effect and extension of His love. We could not do without the Head, even though He would have been just as much God (Love) having never displayed it. John iterates that "God is love," showing that He embodies it even if we never saw it.

Knowing that He is love and chose to extend that love to the unlovable, how could we glory in our love? Rather, we can glory in His love with thanks for giving us of the same. Arriving upon another peak of John's discussion on the subject of love in our verse, we find the sequence of it. Our love is always secondary (after) His. Even though men lived in the Old Testament before the legal offering was made by the first advent of Christ, His love still overarches and precedes theirs. By covenant agreement, the love of God was signed and recorded in the eternal portals before there was ever man. (I John 5:7, Ephesians 1:4) By that agreement and record, love in action was in motion extending from the very person of God's character.

Since God is love and the manifestation of it does not make it a reality with Him, how does that translate to us? Knowing that love is an attribute of His righteous character and being (whether or not He ever chose to save us), what does that say about His regenerate children here? Let us look at the language of the text for a moment to discover a very important truth. Do all of God's children have love? Do all of them show love? To the same degree? The text does not speak so much of manifestation as it is a plain declaration. All of God's children have love, stemming from the righteous character of the inner (new) man. As the new man bears the very image of Christ the hope of glory, yearning and desirous to see the manifestation of the sons of God (Romans 8:19), love is indwelling or instilled in us at the moment of regeneration. We love God (inwardly), because He first loved us. Without Christ the hope of glory, we would all be, by nature,
the children of wrath even as others with no eternal life abiding in us. (I John 3:15)

Notice the righteous character of the sheep in Matthew 25 at the final and glorious appearing of the King of kings and Lord of lords. They are commended by the King for showing Him favour: feeding Him, clothing Him, visiting Him, and ministering unto Him. Their answer is one of complete surprise, "When did we ever see you in such a state to do these things?" Their righteous character (law of God written in the heart) urged and impressed them to help those that are less fortunate (love), do for those that could not do for themselves (love), and do these things expecting no reward or praise (love). The Saviour declares to His people on that day not why they are going to heaven, but rather, what spurred them to do those actions: the fact that they had the love of God dwelling in them. All of God's children have the indwelling of the love of God just as they do joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance. As the
regenerate creature looks for that day (Hebrews 9:28) and loves His appearing (II Timothy 4:8), so also the regenerate creature has love abiding within us.

But, to drive the point home in the form of action, John's declarative statement is a catalyst of motivation for our manifest love. We do love Him, because He first loved us, but consider how much He showed it. He came into the world (verse 9), was our propitiation (verse 10), SO loved us (verse 11), and has given us of His Spirit (verse 12). Without any obligation to us (outside of His own purpose and pleasure), God chose to extend the love of His character in action to us in all of these things. His love is just as full and infinite as part of His being without having done any of these things. No third party can obligate Him to exercise His character any more than our actions could obligate Him to do anything for us. But, His purpose was to obligate Himself, through love, to do these things for us (by grace) and do things for us because of our actions (blessings in obedience).

Knowing that He is just as much God and Love without the manifestation, we understand that His work of love unto us makes us just as much children should there be no manifestation from us. But, consider how manifest His was! How manifest should ours be? He gave His all for us! How should we be? But, even the manifestation of our love is secondary in sequence to His. What exercise of love could we engage that He did not? Perfect sacrifice, perfect servitude, perfect submission, perfect humility, and perfect obedience are on display in every angle of the Saviour's life as set forth on the pages of Scripture. Any display we could show, He has shown first and so far brighter and more brilliant. Any pity we could have for our brother, He has had first. Any act of service and charity we have for our enemies, He has had first.

Therefore, the declarative, positional point that John makes (coupled with the context) gives the freshest zeal we could ever realize to redouble our efforts of manifesting our love to Him. Indeed, John further makes the point that manifesting love to our brother is in harmony with manifesting love to God. (verse 21) The answer to the sheep by the King was, "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." (Matthew 25:40) Therefore, may we manifest our love more and more, knowing that it stems from a righteous character (not to get a righteous character), and above all, knowing that He has done it first, stemming from His righteous character as well. Indeed, whatever circumstance of life that we encounter, He has been there as well (Hebrews 4:15), and in the subject of love, He is always there first.

In Hope,

Bro Philip