ISSUE: 2018, Volume 15, Issue 1
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As I explained in the introduction to the first article, it is impossible to discuss a subject as vast as ‘The Love of Christ’ without writing a series of books, let alone a small article. What it may do, however, is fuel a desire that should be within all believers, to learn more of our Saviour. We shall now continue to look at some more verses which highlight this wonderful truth.
‘For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead’, 2 Cor. 5. 14
In the Second Epistle to the Corinthians Paul is defending himself and his preaching of the gospel. His apostolic authority was being questioned by some, and warnings were given to those who did not accept it. In the early chapters, Paul had to defend his sincerity and his handling of God’s word. Yet we know that his motives were genuine, ‘for out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote unto you with many tears; not that ye should be grieved, but that ye might know the love which I have more abundantly unto you’, 2 Cor. 2. 4. In John Heading’s1 commentary on First and Second Corinthians he describes chapter 5 verses 12 to 17 as the ‘motivation of the minister in his service’. In verse 12 Paul describes how some were glorying in their outward appearance and not in heart. Their motivation for service was misplaced. On the other hand, Paul’s zeal for God was evident, and is apparent in verse 13, as he describes himself as a fanatic. His deep-seated devotion to God was for the good of his fellow believers. He was asking if his critics could provide evidence of such devotion to God.
‘The love of Christ constraineth us’
To constrain means to ‘hold together’. It is this unity that Christians enjoy, one with another, in the bond of fellowship. Whatever external pressures are influencing our Christian living it is this constraining love, coupled with close communion through prayer, that will keep us firmly on the pathway of selfless service.
The last two lines of the hymn ‘O teach me what it meaneth’ come to mind. ‘Because thou dost accept me, I love Thee and adore! Because Thy love constraineth, I’ll praise Thee evermore!’
‘And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God’, Eph. 3. 19
In this chapter, Paul marvels at the mystery of Christ that was previously hidden. He is humbled by the responsibility placed upon him who was ‘less than the least’, Eph. 3. 8, to ‘preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ’, v. 8. As a result of this, he can now do nothing, apart from be in awe and ‘bow [his] knees’, v. 14. As if these wonders are not enough, the Holy Spirit chooses to reveal to Paul a further insight into the love of Christ.
Paul writes ‘to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge’. When first reading this statement it sounds almost contradictory, if not paradoxical! How can we know the love of Christ if it passes knowledge? The word ‘passeth’ is huperball? (from huper [more/beyond] and ball? [cast]) which means ‘to transcend, surpass’.
It goes without saying that, while on earth, we will never understand the complexities of God who expresses His love toward us. It does surpass our knowledge. We can live enjoying the knowledge we glean through our daily reading, but how much more precious to ‘know’ the love of Christ in our daily living. What this will do is augment our appreciation of Christ. The love of Christ is not unknowable, but surpasses knowledge. What is the result of this effort? ‘That ye might be filled with all the fullness of God’.
Despite there being only three direct references to the saying the ‘love of Christ’ that relate to the believer, John’s Gospel gives us some other references. These statements do not express the love of Christ for the believer but Christ’s love for the Father. The Lord Jesus said, ‘the world may know that I love the Father’, John 14. 31. This love is reciprocated: ‘As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love’, 15. 9. The greatest example of the Father’s love is seen in the remarkable act of the Son’s sacrifice on the cross, ‘But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us’, Eph. 2. 4.
I once asked someone how they would differentiate between the love of Christ and the love of God. The off-the-cuff response I received has stuck with me ever since. The love of Christ is the outworking and outpouring of the love of God. The former being a sacrificial love that you and I can never fully understand while on earth, the latter being a sovereign love of a God who has an interest in you and me.
We can rest in the knowledge that love is synonymous with Christ, ‘We love him, because he first loved us’, 1 John 4. 19.
1 J Heading, First and Second Corinthians, John Ritchie Ltd, pg. 315.