Thinking About Love

Bible Book: John  3 : 16
Subject: Love; God's Love

Thinking about love should not be limited to one day per year. Edith Schaeffer (1914-2013) shares the following in A Way of Seeing: “Love is a much misused word and misunderstood even by Christians whose ‘mark’ is to be love shown in a variety of ways. At present, many valentine cards are flying about the country. . . . ”[1]

“Says ex-humanist D. R. [David Richard] Davies [(1889-1958), author of On to Orthodoxy], ‘So long as a man [still[2]] nurses the belief that he can save himself, salvation will escape him.’” After sharing this statement, Dr. Paul S. Rees (1900-1991) comments, “And it might be added, when he reaches the place where, beaten and humbled, he admits that he can’t save himself, there will not be half a dozen saviors standing around, waiting to save him. There will be just one, and His name will be Jesus—Jesus Christ our Lord!”[3]

Dr. J. Sidlow Baxter (1903-1999) writes, “What the sun is to our solar system, John 3:16 is in its relation to the Christian message.”[4] John 3:16 reads, “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.”

Notice three movements related to love in John 3:16.

I. First, note the Motivation of Love.

John 3:16 begins, “For God so loved the world. . .” God the Father and God the Son have the highest and purest motivation. 1 John 4:8b and 16b reads, “. . . God is love.”

A politician used to say, “I done it for love.” Was it selfish love or selfless love? We must know his definition of love before it makes a difference. Merely assigning motivation to words and deeds does not make it so. Paul the Apostle writes about a selfless love in 2 Corinthians 5:14-15, “For the love of Christ compels [motivates] us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.”

According to C. S. Lewis (1898-1963) in The Four Loves, there are four shades of meaning to the word “love” described in Greek thought, for example, “familial or affectionate love (storge); friendship (philia); romantic love (eros); and spiritual love (agape) in the light of Christian commentary on ordinate loves.”[5] It is the last of these loves, agape, that is the focus of Jesus in John 3:16.

II. Second, note the Manifestation of Love.

John 3:16 continues, “. . . that He gave His only begotten Son. . .” 1 John 4:9-11 reads, “In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. 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. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”

The incarnation of Jesus Christ is somewhat mysterious to the carnal mind. Philippians 2:5-11 reads, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

D. R. Davies writes, “In the Gospel, the Living Person of Christ operates both as a Revealer and as a Redeemer. He reveals God as Love, and at the same time, He reveals the sin of man. The revelation of God as Love is also the revelation of the sinfulness of man. It is an experience of opposites. To see God as Love is at the same time to see ourselves as sin. To see what God is is to see oneself as what one is not. It is the supreme thesis and antithesis of spiritual experience. Love is the nature and essence of divine being.”[6]

Romans 5:6-9 reads, “For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.”

Romans 5:18-19 reads, “Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous.”

Dr. Dennis Phelps, Director of Alumni Relations and Church - Minister Relations, occupying the J.D. Grey Chair of Preaching, at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, shares the following, “Dr. Nikolai Alexandrenko was a 92 year old graduate of NOBTS who died this week [February 3, 2015].[7] He was in the Russian army during World War II, but was captured an imprisoned in a Nazi prison camp. When freed, he was left homeless and in poverty. One day, when he was at the bottom of the barrel. . .”[8]

Dr. Phelps further shares, “My memory is ... he realized he could not return to Russia or else he would be executed for allowing himself to be captured. He was trying to light a fire for heat but the scrap of paper would not burn. He threw it down and found another piece. Once the fire was lit, he picked back up the first scrap of paper to learn why it would not burn. It was a single small page from a gospel tract. It had John 3:16 on it. He read it ... as an atheist ... and cried for the first time in his life. He found some missionaries (Southern Baptists) who could explain what it meant. Thus began his gracious and amazing redemption through Jesus.”

He went to America, earning degrees from Louisiana College, New Orleans Seminary, and Tulane University. Alexandrenko founded a seminary in Odessa, Ukraine, then joined the faculty of Louisiana College, where he taught for many years. His Christian testimony is in this book, Grace then Freedom. What a great testimony of the grace of God!”

Dr. Phelps recounts, “He was my minor professor at LC and the first to introduce me to New Testament Greek ... with a Russian accent. A truly devoted, humble, intelligent, compassionate, and faithful servant of Jesus.”[9]

III. Third, note the Mediation of Love.

John 3:16 ends, “. . . that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Note the contrast between “perish” and “everlasting life.” The word “perish” points to a place called hell. D. M. Panton (1870-1955) writes, “The truth of an eternal hell, when really accepted, has a far deeper sanctifying effect than is ever realized. The horror of it, which completely outweighs our fiercest anger, is a horror so unspeakable that our entire attitude is entirely revolutionized. As fellow-sinners saved by grace we sink back into utter silence, all anger gone: the wickedest man we have ever known becomes solely an object of pity: hate dies, and love is born. This appalling truth is also, naturally and inevitably, the source of more saved souls than will ever be known.”[10]

D. R. Davies asks, “How many sermons a year does the average minister devote to the subject of hell? Very, very few, if any.
That is one of the fruits of Christian Liberalism which ‘liquidated’ the idea of hell. It dismissed it as a theological survival of medieval barbarism. Hell is regarded as anthropomorphic sadism. Christian Liberalism telescoped eternity into time, but dropped the idea of hell altogether. It transformed Christianity from a religion of tragedy and depth into a sentimental optimism. Of all the shallow nostrums that masquerade as religion none was so shallow as the Christianity that came from Christian Liberalism.”[11]

The words “everlasting life” point to a place called heaven. Revelation 21:1-8 reads, “Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.’ Then He who sat on the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new.’ And He said to me, ‘Write, for these words are true and faithful.’ And He said to me, ‘It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son. But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.’”

Dr. J. Vernon McGee (1904-1988) writes, “Ruth has only four brief chapters, but it is a mighty midget with a mighty message. . . . the primary purpose of the Book of Ruth is the presentation of an important phase in the doctrine of redemption. Redemption is possible only through a Kinsman-Redeemer. God could not redeem apart from a Mediator. Since only God could redeem, it was necessary for Him to become that person. Boaz furnishes the only figure for the Kinsman-Redeemer aspect of redemption which is so essential for any proper theory of the Atonement. This little Book of Ruth comes down to our level and tells the commonplace story of a couple who love each other. They were ordinary folk, average folk, and their love story is a mirror in which we can see the divine love of a Savior for you and me. As we proceed into the Book of Ruth, we see this wonderful love story unfold before us.”[12]

1 Timothy 2:3-6 reads, “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.”


In his early life, D. R. [David Richard] Davies “embraced Socialism as a substitute for Christianity. He became, in his own words, ‘a slave to the social gospel’”.[13] Davies provides an exposé on theological Liberalism in his book cited earlier, titled, On to Orthodoxy. He writes, “Let me begin my apologia with a confession. I find it difficult to be objective and dispassionate about a philosophy which I feel has let me down. . . I belong to a generation which imbibed theological Liberalism from the mental air of the time. Its basic and unspoken assumptions were accepted without challenge or criticism.”[14]

He further explains, “Christian Liberalism has had four consequences in the social and religious life of our time:

(1) A false estimation of human nature.

(2) The practical banishment of the other-worldly element in Christian Ethic.

(3) The denial of the uniqueness of Christianity.

(4) The secularization of life and religion.”[15]

Davies laments, “. . . how profoundly the Liberal school has misunderstood Christ’s theology.”[16] He further laments, “. . . Liberal Christianity institutionalized what was essentially and intensely personal. In other words, it tended to present the Christian virtue of love merely as a law of social co-operation. This was not accidental. It became necessary for the whole Liberal philosophy of history. If man is fundamentally good; if sin is simply a survival of animal origins; if society is gradually evolving into perfection, then Christian love is merely the personal aspect of an automatic, evolutionary process.”[17]

Theological Liberalism quite often refers to love. In theological Liberalism, Davies warns, “The Love of God was sentimentalized. It became all velvet and no iron.”[18]

Jude 1:3-4 and 20-23 reads, “Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ. . . . But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. And on some have compassion, making a distinction; but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh.” (Emphasis mine)

Ephesians 5:1-7 reads, “Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma. But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them.”

Ephesians 5:22-33 reads, “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.”

Remember, biblical marriage, between a man and a woman under the Lordship of Jesus Christ, is a picture of Christ and the church to a lost and dying world. No wonder biblical marriage is under such attack. Stand firm on the clear words of scripture, take them literally and seriously. Hebrews 13:4 reads, “Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge.” God really does care about your love life.

Let me encourage you to keep thinking about love.

[1]Edith Schaeffer, A Way of Seeing, (Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1977), 80.

[2]D. R. Davies, On to Orthodoxy, (New York, NY: The Macmillan Company, 1949), 139.

[3]Paul S. Rees, Stand Up In Praise To God, (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1960), 48.

[4]J. Sidlow Baxter, For God so Loved: An In-Depth Look at the Bible’s Most Loved Verse, (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1995), 30.

[5]Study Guide to The Four Loves, C. S. Lewis Foundation, © 2001, Accessed: 02/06/15, .

[6]Davies, Orthodoxy, 139.

[7]Dr. Nikolai Alexandrenko, Accessed: 02/06/15, .

[8]Dennis Phelps, Remembers his former professor, Dr. Nikolai Alexandrenko, (02/05/15).

[9]Phelps, Remembers, (02/07/15).

[10]Baxter, Loved, 81.

[11]Davies, Orthodoxy, 153

[12]J. Vernon McGee, Ruth, Accessed: 01/31/15, .

[13]Dictionary of Welsh Biography, Davies, David Richard (1889-1958), The National Library of Wales, 2007, Accessed: 02/08/15, .

[14]Davies, Orthodoxy, 15.

[15]Davies, Orthodoxy, 19.

[16]Davies, Orthodoxy, 22.

[17]Davies, Orthodoxy, 25.

[18]Davies, Orthodoxy, 153

Dr. Franklin L. Kirksey, pastor First Baptist Church of Spanish Fort 30775 Jay Drive Spanish Fort, Alabama 36527

Author of Don’t Miss the Revival! Messages for Revival and Spiritual Awakening from Isaiah and

Sound Biblical Preaching: Giving the Bible a Voice [Both available on in hardcover, paperback and eBook] & / / (251) 626-6210

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