Part 4 of the series The Cross: What It Says About God
You can listen to this sermon here.
God Is Love
If someone were to ask you, “What is love?”, how would you define it? The English word “love” has many different meanings. (For example, “love” can mean “a score of zero in tennis.”) When I was a kid, I occasionally watched the TV show Pee Wee’s Playhouse. On the show, if someone said, “I love that book,” Pee Wee Herman would reply, “If you love it so much, why don’t you marry it?” But, of course, love for a book and love for a person are two very different kinds of love. Love for a book means enthusiasm. But love for a person is something much deeper. (If I say, “I love cheesecake,” Marsha doesn’t get jealous.)
Love is the giving of oneself for the benefit of others.
When the NT refers to God’s love, it uses the Greek word agape. Agape love is the highest form of love. In his first epistle, the apostle John twice states that “God is love [agape]” (1 John 4:8, 16). “John is not saying that God is only love (he has numerous other attributes), nor that love is God (a statement for which there is no scriptural support). ‘God is love’ means that God continually gives of himself to others and seeks their benefit” (ESV Study Bible, p. 2435).
In his book The Cross of Christ, John Stott writes, “Just as human beings disclose their character in their actions, so God showed himself to us in the death of his Son” (p. 200). The cross reveals the love of God. If you want to know what love really is, don’t go to a dictionary; go to the cross.
The Revelation of God's Love
In Romans 5:6-8, the apostle Paul writes, “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
What does the cross reveal about God’s love? The cross reveals two truths about God’s love for us.
1. The cross shows that God’s love for us is immeasurably sacrificial.
The depth of an act of love can be measured by its costliness. “Christ died for us.” The love of God is so great that he gave up his own Son for our salvation. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). On the cross, Christ endured excruciating pain and unimaginable humiliation. But, even worse, because Christ was dying for our sins, he bore the wrath of God (cf. Rom. 5:9). “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:9-10).
2. The cross shows that God’s love for us is completely undeserved.
The depth of an act of love can also be measured by how unworthy the object of love is. “Christ died for us.” In these verses, we are described with three words: “weak” (v. 6), “ungodly” (v. 6), and “sinners” (v. 8). Paul says, “One will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die” (v. 7). “A ‘righteous’ person is one we might respect, but a ‘good’ person is one we might love. Rarely will a person give his or her life for someone they merely respect; but occasionally a person dies for the sake of someone they love…” (Douglas J. Moo, Romans, p. 172). But Christ didn’t die for righteous or good people. He died for sinners.
An Illustration of God's Love
In the book of Hosea, we find an illustration of God’s love for sinners. God told the prophet Hosea, “Go, take to yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom, for the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the LORD” (1:2). So Hosea married a woman named Gomer (1:3). Eventually, Gomer became unfaithful to Hosea and left him. (Hosea was probably not the father of Gomer’s second and third children, 1:6-9). But sometime later, God surprisingly said to Hosea, “Go again, love a woman [Gomer] who is loved by another man and is an adulteress, even as the LORD loves the children of Israel, though they turn to other gods” (3:1).
What Hosea did for Gomer, God did for Israel; what Gomer did to Hosea, Israel did to God. And we could also say, what Hosea did for Gomer, God did for us; what Gomer did to Hosea, we did to God. Sin is like sexual unfaithfulness. The more a husband or wife loves their spouse, the more deeply they are hurt when unfaithfulness happens. God loves us more than we can imagine, and we can’t comprehend how deeply he is hurt by our sin. Yet he is willing to forgive us. And not only that, but he gave his Son to die in our place in order to bring about reconciliation (cf. Rom. 5:10-11).
God Will Not Disappoint Us
There are no guarantees of happiness with human love. A woman who is engaged to be married might never get married. Her fiancé might have second thoughts. That has to be one of the biggest disappointments a person could experience. Like a bride-to-be awaiting her wedding day, we are waiting for the day when we will see Jesus face to face and experience the glory of heaven. This is our hope. And Paul says, “Hope does not put us to shame” (v. 5a). The NASB reads, “Hope does not disappoint.” God will keep his word.
But how can we be sure God won’t disappoint us?
If God has already given his Son to die for us, we can be sure that God will also make sure that our hope will be fulfilled.
God loves us and he will not disappoint us. We have objective evidence of God’s love: “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (v. 8). We also have subjective evidence of God’s love: “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (v. 5b). “The believer’s hope is not to be equated with unfounded optimism. On the contrary, it is the blessed assurance of our future destiny and is based on God’s love, which is revealed to us by the Holy Spirit and objectively demonstrated to us by the death of Christ” (ESV Study Bible, p. 1752). The word of God and the Spirit of God are constantly telling us, “God loves you.”
When you have doubts about God’s promises, remind yourself of the cross. Meditate on those words “Christ died for us.” He loves you with an incomprehensible love. He will not disappoint you.