Responding to God's Love

God's love for humanity is, without question, one of the great themes to be found in the pages of Scripture. Most of the religious world is acquainted with John 3:16, and its emphasis on the love of God for the world as a whole, and by implication, each one of us individually. "For God so love the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." While that love is seen in the physical blessings we are offered, this passage emphasizes the greater blessings found spiritually, in Jesus Christ. As a matter of fact, Paul can emphatically tell us that all spiritual blessings are in Christ (Ephesians 1:3). What does that say to us about how we should respond to God's love for us?

 There are those who believe God's love is of such a nature that He would never condemn anyone to eternal punishment, that the salvation procured through the sacrifice of Christ on the cross ensures everyone eternal life. Certainly, the offer of eternal life is available to everyone, as God is no respecter of persons (Romans 2:11). "For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men"(Titus 2:11). No one has to die lost, but that does not mean there are not those who will. As Jesus said, He came so people "should not perish." All spiritual blessings are "in Christ," so it follows, one must be in Christ to gain His spiritual blessings.

 How should humanity respond to the love of God in Christ, to have a relationship with Him that includes the blessings He offers to those who belong to Him? Just as Jesus obeyed the Father, so we must obey Him to have eternal life (Hebrews 5:8-9). That means one must be immersed into Christ (Mark 16:16). Paul told the congregations in Galatia, "For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:26). But what kind of faith? He answers in verse 27; "For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ." It is here we contact the cleansing blood of Christ that washes away our sins (Romans 6:3-4; Hebrews 9:14; 1 Peter 3:21). Being immersed is not earning one's salvation, but faith responding to the will of God, as is repentance and confession.

 Once one obeys the gospel, there is a particular kind of life God desires those who are His to live. Jesus clearly said, "If ye love me keep my commandments"(John 14:15).Paul reminds us, "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them" (Ephesians 2:10). The purpose of this is that if we might reflect the image of God instead of the image of sin, as we must walk in His image today, if we are to be in His image in eternity (1 John 3:2-3). "Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ (Ephesians 4:13). The consequences of living otherwise are sobering indeed. "For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins" (Hebrews 10:26). Christ's sacrifice, meaning His shed blood, does not apply to those who persist in a sinful lifestyle. One must be willing to repent (Acts 8:22), to confess such sins to God (1 John 1:9), and seek once more to live by the righteousness of God (Acts 26:20).

 God's love for us is undeniable, but so also is His desire for us to live faithfully to His will, that His blessings in Christ can be ours (Romans 12:2). Jesus tells us, "Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life"(Revelation 2:10). May our response to God's love be such that we have the assurance of His blessings today, and of life eternal tomorrow.

 Robert Johnson, Longview, TX