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Author:Rev. Pete Van't Hoff
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Congregation:Bethel United Reformed Church
 Brockville, Ontario
 www.brockville-urc.com
 
Title:The Manifestation of God’s Love
Text:CD 1 Art. 2 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Election
 
Preached:2022-07-24
Added:2023-01-07
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Bible Translation: NKJV
Song Book: Trinity Psalter Hymnal
Welcome and announcements
Silent Prayer (respond w/♫ 558 “Hear Our Prayer, O Lord”)
Call to Worship
Confession of Dependence & God's Greeting
♫ Psalm 104-A:1,10,11 "Bless the LORD, My Soul!"
Congregational Prayer
Offerings
♫ Psalm 145-C "I Will Extol You, O My God"
Scripture: 1 John 4:7-11
Text: Canons of Dort 1:2
Sermon: The Manifestation of God’s Love"
Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us,
1) In His Will
2) In His Work
3) In His Wonder
Prayer of Thanksgiving
♫ Hymn 351 "How Deep the Father's Love for Us"
Confession of Faith: The Apostles' Creed
♫ Hymn 181 "Now Thank We All Our God"
Benediction
♫ Doxology: Psalm 84-B:1,5 "O LORD of Hosts, How Lovely"
* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Pete Van't Hoff, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Dear Brothers and Sisters in our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ,

Just this week, I was engaged in conversation with a good friend and student of the ministry, speaking about using, as an introduction, the contents of the verses leading up to the selected sermon passage. There is always a time and a place for context. Context is king, when examining and exegeting God’s word, no doubt. But in my humble opinion, building an introduction completely upon words and verses that only lead up to your passage, has robbed you of future sermons and future passages and may lead to lazy thinking. Every sermon must stand on its own, I was taught, even if you’re preaching verse-by-verse, chapter-by-chapter.

That said, having preached (2 weeks ago) on Article 1 of the Canon’s of Dort’s First main point of Doctrine, which comes with the title, God’s Right to Condemn All People, I was anxious to get to Article 2, which comes with the title, The Manifestation of God’s Love. The Creator, and no other, carries the right to condemn all people. Thankfully, no sooner have we proclaimed as much, the writers of the Canons declare that our Creator is one of love.

And we are relieved!? Yes? Just think about it. A creator god, with the right to condemn, who carries no love, what reason has he to redeem from humanity, from a humanity who walked away from him, from a fallen humanity, what reason has he to draw back a people unto himself? Why would a god who doesn’t love you, redeem you? We, beloved, don’t have to answer that question. Today, in light of the God, who carries the right to condemn all people, we shall understand that this God, is the God of Love. And He manifests His love in many different ways and in one particular way as well.

Dear fallen sinners, who shall save you from your sins? Every human has to answer this question. I declare to you that triune, Reformed Christianity has the answer. The answer is not, that I am in need of no such salvation. The answer is not, you or I. The answer is not, you for me or me for you, but Christ for us. Such has been declared and fulfilled, according to the Father’s love. Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us, 1) In His Will 2) In His Work 3) In His Wonder.

Firstly, behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us, in His will. Article 2 of the 1st Main Point of Doctrine, of the Canons of Dort begins with a standard and a firm thought. We don’t argue as to whether or not God is a god of love. God is the God of Love. Having discussed His right to condemn all people, upholding even, humanity’s free will to reject Him, that is, in garden—in light of such rejection, it was foreordained or divinely degreed according to His great love, to choose from the prison of our sins, a certain number of fully condemned inmates unto Himself.

“But this is how God showed his love,” begins Article 2. To grasp such a thing, we need to think upon the mind of God before time began. The Creator of time itself, stands outside of it. For me, such a thought is difficult to comprehend. We are creatures of time. Time marches on and we march along with it. Our thoughts and actions lead to other thoughts and actions. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Such a statement is true in physics and in the heart. Every step forward is beyond the step just taken. When building a house or God’s house, we begin with a foundation, then the walls then the roof. But God’s love was always. God’s love is eternal. Even before time began, God’s love was. And in time, God’s love is. And in glory, God’s love forever more shall be.

Articles 1 and 2 of the Canon’s 1st Main Point of Doctrine are closely linked. We don’t want to separate them. In order to better understand God’s rights, we need to understand His love. No sooner have we understood His displeasure towards how His image bearers responded to a creation made in love—yes, we learn there are consequences to our actions—God’s love determines redemption and salvation from rightful condemnation. If you are offended of God’s right to condemn, simply put, you do not or have not known His love.

In every attribute of God, God is love. His love is not just one part of who He is. His love is every part of who He is, along with every other attribute He possesses. In this we say that God is simple. To expand, God is all of His attributes all of the time. In our hearts and in our minds, such must be established.

We are not simple creatures. The fall into sin has messed up all our attributes putting each one against each other. Where love can be added to each of God’s attributes (eg. loving righteousness, loving wisdom, loving goodness, loving wrath) all we can add to each of our attributes is sin. Our love, is sinful. Sin has ruined our righteousness. Sinful wisdom is flawed at best. Sinful goodness cannot redeem and sinful wrath is always self-centred. Even sinful love prevents us from loving as we should. And we could go on and on. Today we need only see our need. And know that in God’s perfect love, redemption from my fallen state has always been on His mind.

With such a perfect and eternal love, as God possesses, John begins our passage today, speaking to church of Jesus Christ, (7) “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God.” If love has been the defining factor of God’s will, and if we are of God, then should not love be the defining foundation of all that we think and do? John says that “love is of God.” If we have known any form of it, at all, the goodness in it, the compassion in it, the forgiveness in it, we are to proclaim, declare and finally believe that such love belongs to God, comes from Him, is of Him.

Are you of Him? Now you have the opportunity, as love has always been part of God’s will, to make God’s love the defining part of your will. Yes, you do get to decide, each day, even when you wake up, how your day will run. Did you know that God’s love leads towards His glory? Does yours? Does your love lead towards God’s glory? Did you know that God is saving more than just you? Which means that God’s love is congregational? Have you experienced God’s love congregationally? Have you passed such experience to the other objects of His love here, and elsewhere, where ever else, God’s people congregate?

Lastly for this point then, having established such a love amongst us, let us think of the great commission calling of Jesus Christ. Has the world seen God’s love in you? Now, I don’t know all of your gifts, but you do, and so does God. Each of you are particularly gifted to show God’s love to the world, particularly, your neighbour. Has such love, been particularly set towards your neighbour? Has such been your will? John continues at Verse 7, “and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” Feeling ill-equipped? Me too. Let us move on.

Secondly, behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us, in His work. We often attribute the work of God, to that of the Son. When thinking upon the Father’s will, we think of the Son’s work. His human life was a righteous one. No sin can be attributed to Him. He honoured His Father in all things, and particularly, in common love, for the lost amongst the fallen. It was out of pure love—that same love shared with the Father—that the Son came to work a righteousness on behalf of His people. Children, what did the angel say about the name of Jesus back in Matthew 1:21? “[A]nd you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” Such was the Son’s work. But we may also speak of the Father’s work. Such was His will. Just as it is the Spirit’s work to work in us all that Christ has done for us.

Article 2 of the Canon’s First Main Point of Doctrine, continues, “But this is how God showed his love: he sent his only begotten Son into the world.” There was an eternity, outside of time, where the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit existed in perfect love. We cannot fully understand it, but of what we can, we can declare that where the Triune God is, and was, and forever more shall be, a perfect and eternal love exists between them. Again, we creatures cannot fully fathom what kind of ultimate cooperation, continuation or collaboration exists between our God, whose Persons exist apart from one another and yet are never separate from one another. But from such love and communion, because we are loved, from such union, the Son is sent to do for humanity what God knew we could not do for ourselves.

The Son is sent. John continues at Verse 9, “In this the love of God was manifested toward us.” In this we understand that God’s love is more than just an attribute. This word, “manifest.” Understand it to mean as something made. Like the thoughts in our hearts are manifested in the works of our hands. The love present in trinitarian unity, is manifested toward us, in the incarnation of the Son of God, by the Holy Spirit in the womb of Mary, according to the Father’s will. This is how God’s love is manifest towards us. God’s love is personified. Jesus, is God’s love personified. God’s love is given human form. The same love that was present at creation, the reason for the creation of all things, is manifested towards us in the incarnation and real human life of Jesus Christ, God’s Son.

Many have called and know of John 3:16 as the most well-known verse of the Bible. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” From such a verse we see the fruit of God’s love, that there is life in it. To partake of this fruit means only life eternal. To partake in the body and blood of the Son is to be one with Him. This means, where the Son goes, we go too.

Where has He been? Where has He gone? Where shall He go? He, along with the Holy Spirit, has been with the Father for an eternity before His incarnation. For a moment of time, compared to that eternity, He was with us, to do for us, what we are not able to do for ourselves. We became His in His suffering and particularly at His death. For then, payment for the sins of His people (Remember children, what the angel said? His name is Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins?) for then, payment for the sins of His people was made. Once the work was done, He returned to the Father to await fulfillment. From there He will come to judge the living and the dead.

Being made part of Christ in this matter then, out of pure love, and according to the Father’s unbiased choice, we are joined to the Christ and made Christ-like. The full purifying effect of such shall be realized when the Holy Spirit completes His sanctifying work in each of the lives chosen by the Father for redemption. In one justification, the process of sanctifying us shall be made complete. It shall be manifested in us. In this the thoughts of the Father are manifested through the bloody hands of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, (9) “that we might live through Him,” concludes John at Verse 9.

What a complicated wonder. Thirdly, behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us, in His wonder. Knowing the love of God then, we no longer have to wonder why we’re here. God’s glory has been made known to us and has been manifested towards us in His love through the sending of His Son into this world.

Let us just dwell for a moment upon what incarnated love looks like. This is why the Gospels are of particular importance to us. They open with His incarnation and birth. I know, not all of them do (Matthew and Luke, not Mark and John). Generally speaking, they begin with the beginning of His life and ministry. Matthew and Luke carry genealogies professing the Line of Promise from Abraham and from Adam. In this we see God’s covenantal promises being fulfilled. Jesus, even as a boy (Luke 2) is aware of the work set out of love for Him. And He increases “in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men” (Luke 2:52).

And then He begins His walk and ministry amongst us. Love Personified gathers disciples amongst them and teaches them. Love Incarnated heals the sick, raises from the dead, and forgives many sins. The Son of God prays much. He loves the little children. Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight. (Children, do you know the song?) He teaches and guides and defends. He summarizes the law that humanity has been trying to explain for thousands of years. He tells us to love the Lord our God with all our hearts and with all our souls and with all our minds and with all our strength, and He tells us to love our neighbour as ourselves. That’s it. That’s all you need to do. At John 13:34-35 He makes it even simpler.

34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.

And then, having taught His own, you and me included, everything we need to know for good living and for life, He goes on, in love, to give His up. He is betrayed by one of His own. He is arrested and goes willingly and silently. He is examined and unjustly condemned. Fallen humanity doesn’t want a Savior and so they string him up, between heaven and earth, signifying the curse of God, but He is more than just a symbol. For what an ignorant humanity did against him, the worst of the torture they possessed towards Him, the hate, the jeering, the mockery, the spit and the whips, no human pain given, compares to the weight of God’s wrath placed on Him, so that it would never be placed on you. Rejected by man? Big deal! Compared to being rejected by God so that you never will be!

Can you fathom the wonder of it all? What kind of love does God have, that He would will His Son—what kind of love does God have, that the Son would go willingly to bear for you, the wages you have earned—what kind of love does the Holy Spirit possess to restlessly work Christ in us, to the bitter end of this life, or shall I say, to the very beginning of eternal life in you? Are you not amazed? Are you not full of wonder? Can you fathom the extent of the manifestation of God’s love towards you?

Where are your tears? Salvation is as simple as knowing God’s love towards you! Paul says that when you hated Him, He love you. (Romans 5:8) “But God demonstrates His own love towards us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” There was no work of ours that was found worthy. Before time began God knew of our failures. And He loved us any ways. And He made a salvation based on faith and not of your works but upon the belief based upon Christ’s works.

Let us call that out for a moment. I would get in trouble with my elders if this is taken out of context. Christianity is a works-based-faith. But it is based upon Christ’s works and you are called to believe it! “[S]o that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life,” concludes Article 2 of the First Main Point of Doctrine of the Canons of Dort.

If you read the entire gospel of John, you will see that of all the apostles, the love that John and Jesus shared was profound. I want to say that if Moses was the prophet of God like no other, and spoke to Him face-to-face, as a man speaks to a friend (Ex. 33:11), then John, was truly the Son of God’s good friend. If any man knew of the profound love of God, manifested in the Person Jesus Christ, it was this John, brother of James, a Son of Thunder (Mark 3:17). I say to you, that if John declares the love of God present in your salvation than we would do well to pay attention to it. He knew it like no other.

Thinking like him then, we hear his words at Verse 10, “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” Note the transaction. Note the deliverance. Note the love. And if such love was present for your salvation, if this is who we are, knowing who we have been formerly, (11) “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” Can you see the wonder in it?

And we are relieved!? Yes? Just think about it. A creator god, with the right to condemn, who carries no love, what reason has he to redeem from humanity, from a humanity who walked away from him, from a fallen humanity, what reason has he to draw back a people unto himself? Why would a god who doesn’t love you, redeem you? We, beloved, don’t have to answer that question. Today, in light of the God, who carries the right to condemn all people, understand that this God, is the God of Love. And He manifests His love in many different ways and in one particular way as well. In Jesus Christ, love is personified and you are loved therefore, love one another. Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us. Amen.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Pete Van't Hoff, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
The source for this sermon was: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sYMJZVb-NoE

(c) Copyright 2022, Rev. Pete Van't Hoff

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