Oswald Chambers (1874-1917) based his life on the unchanging truth that God is love. From his early years in Scotland to his final days as a YMCA chaplain in Egypt during World War 1, that truth anchored his soul when circumstances seemed to mock any belief in a loving God. One British soldier described Chambers as “the personification of the Sherlock Holmes of fiction, tall, erect, virile, with clean-cut face, framing a pair of piercing bright eyes . . . a detective of the soul.” To these men, many whose lives had been shattered by war, he said “Faith in God is a terrific venture in the dark; we have to believe that God is love in spite of all that seems to contradict that truth. Every soul represents some kind of battlefield. The great point for the Christian is to remain perfectly confident in God.”
Chambers died in Cairo on November 15, 1917 of complications after a ruptured appendix. His words, recorded in shorthand by his wife and published after his death, speak to us today in a world that seems more uncertain than ever. “Whatever and whoever you may lose faith in do not let this faith slip from you – God is love.”
David C. McCasland
- The Love of God
- Keep Yourselves in the Love of God
- If God Is Love—Why?
“He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” — 1 John 4:8
No one but God could have revealed that to the world, for we all see nothing but its contradiction in our own limited experience. From shattered and broken lives, from caverns of despair where fiends rather than men seem to live, come the apparent contradiction to any such statement. No wonder the carnal mind, the merely intellectually cultured, considers us foolish, mere dreamers talking of love when murder, war, famine, lust, pestilence, and selfish cruelty are abroad in the earth.
Paul reminds us that those without the Spirit of God cannot understand the things of God. “The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit” (1 Corinthians 2:14).
But, oh, the beauty of the Abraham-like faith that dares to place the center of its life, confidence, action, and hope in an unseen and apparently unknown God. Such faith says, “God is love,” in spite of all appearances to the contrary; it says, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” (Job 13:15). Such faith is counted for righteousness.
Look back over your own history, as revealed to you by grace, and you will see one central fact growing large—God is love. No matter how often your faith in such an announcement was clouded, no matter how often the pain and suffering of the moment made you speak carelessly, this statement has carried its own evidence most persistently—God is love. In the future, when trial and difficulties await you, do not be fearful. Whatever and whoever you may lose faith in, do not let this faith slip from you—God is love. Whisper it not only to your heart in its hour of darkness, but here in your corner of God’s earth and man’s great city. Live in the belief of it; preach it by your sweetened, disciplined, happy life; sing it in consecrated moments of peaceful joy; sing until the world around you is wrought to sympathy with hopes and fears it heeded not.
The world does not encourage you to sing, but God does. Song is the sign of an unburdened heart; so sing your songs of love freely, rising ever higher and higher into a fuller understanding of the greatest, grandest fact on the stage of time—God is love.
But, precious as their influence may be for the time, words and emotions pass. So when the duller moments come and the mind requires something more certain than the memory of mere emotions and stirring sentiments, consider this revelation—the eternal fact that God is love.
God and love are synonymous. Love is not an attribute of God, it is God; whatever God is, love is. If your conception of love does not agree with justice, judgment, purity, and holiness, then your idea of love is wrong. In that case, it is not love you conceive in your mind but some vague infinite foolishness, all tears and softness and utter weakness.
God is Love – In His Very Nature
Some exceptionally gifted people may derive their ideas of God from other sources than the Bible, but all I know of God I have learned from the Bible—and those who taught me got what they taught from the Bible. In all my dreams and visions I see God, but it is the God of the Bible I see, and I feel Him to be near me. I always see amid the mysteries of providence, grace, and creation “a face like my face” and “a hand like this hand,” and I have learned to love God who gave me such a sure way of knowing Him. He did not leave me to the useless imaginations of my own sin-warped intellect.
In Creation. The love of God gives us a new method of seeing nature. His voice is on the rolling air, we see Him in the rising sun, and in the setting He is fair. In the singing of the birds, in the love of human hearts, the voice of God is present. If only we had ears to hear the stars singing, to catch the glorious anthem of praise by the heavenly hosts!
In His Wisdom. God did not create humans as puppets to please a despotic desire of His own. He created us out of His overflowing love and goodness, and He made us able to receive all the blessedness which He had ordained for us. He “thought” us in the rapture of His own great heart, and lo, we are! Created in the image of God were we, innocent of evil, of great God-like capacities.
In His Power. The whole world moves to God’s great, inscrutable will. Animate and inanimate creation, the celestial bodies moving in their orbits, the globe with all its diverse issues and accompaniments, are all subservient to this end.
Yes, God is good, in earth and sky,
From ocean depths and spreading wood,
Ten thousand voices ever cry,
“God made us all, and God is good.” (John H. Gurney)
For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him (Colossians 1:16).
In His Holiness. God walked with man and talked with him. He told him His mind, and showed him the precise path in which he must walk in order to enjoy the happiness God had ordained for him. He rejoiced in the fullness of His nature over man as His child, the offspring of His love. He left nothing unrevealed to man; He loved him. Oh, the joy and rapture of God the Father over man His son!
In His Justice. God showed to man that compliance with His dictates would always mean eternal bliss and unspeakable joy, life and knowledge forever—but that failure to comply would mean the loss of life with God and eternal death.
In the world’s bright morning, the stars sang together and all creation leaped in joy. Then the wild desolation of disobedience, pride, and selfish sinfulness entered, opening a great gulf between God’s children and Himself. But, as always, love found a way—God came to us and for us. Now, with chastened hearts and quivering lips and glistening eyes, yet with love deep and strong in our hearts, we say again with deep adoration, God is love.
If God exhibits such glorious love in His nature, what shall we say of the glories of the giving of His grace? It is very likely that God would have walked this earth had sin never entered. Yet sin did not keep Him from graciously revealing himself in communion with humanity. No, He still came.
Genesis 3:8 tells us that Adam recognized the sound of God walking in the Garden. In a world without sin, God’s intention was to commune with his good creation. It was only the entrance and presence of sin that kept God from walking with his people in his creation.
The Gift of God’s Only Begotten Son
The gift of God’s only begotten Son surely reveals His love in an amazing degree—“He who did not spare His own Son” (Romans 8:32). It doesn’t matter how bad people are; if they will just lift their eyes to the cross, they will be saved. But yet so blinded and foolish have humans become by sin, they can see nothing in the life of Christ except a beautiful, good life. They see Him as the best of human beings, living misunderstood, suffering, and dying as a martyr. To meet this difficulty, love himself gave another gift—the gift of the Holy Spirit.
The Gift of the Holy Spirit
When the Spirit shines on the historic Christ, all the great, gray outlines spring into glorious relief and color and beauty, and the soul calls out in amazement, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28). When the Holy Spirit has begun His gracious work in your soul and heart, you see a new light on the cross—and the “martyr” becomes the Savior of the world. “Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:4–5).
It is too difficult—actually, impossible—to determine that God is love by mere, unaided human intellect. But it is not impossible to the intuitions of faith. Lift up your eyes and look over the whole earth. In the administration of God’s moral government, you will begin to discern that God is love, that over sin and war and death and hell He reigns supreme, that His purposes are ripening fast. We must by holy contemplation of all we have considered keep ourselves in the love of God—and then we shall not be able to despond for long.
The love of God performs a miracle of grace in graceless human hearts. Human love and lesser loves must wither into the most glorious and highest love of all—the love of God. Then we shall see not only each other’s faults but the highest possibilities in each other. We shall love each other for what God will yet make of us. Nothing is too hard for God, no sin too difficult for His love to overcome, no failure that He cannot make into a success.
“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears,[a] we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure” (1 John 3:1-3).
God is love—one brief sentence, short enough to print on a ring. It is the gospel. A time is coming when the whole world will know that God reigns and that God is love, when hell and heaven, life and death, sin and salvation, will be correctly read and understood at last.
God is love—a puzzling text, to be solved slowly, by prayer and joy, by vision and faith, and, at last, by death.
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.
The love of God! We have lost it today. We have turned our back on the ocean and are looking over barren, colorless hills for the ocean’s fullness. We need converting again—a turning around to see the ocean’s fullness, the waves sparkling and rippling on fathomless deeps.
We are too introspective today. We mourn and wonder, then lifted on waves of feeling, we glow and say we love God. But again our feelings ebb and flow and we mourn. Christianity, however, is not a thing of times and seasons but of God and faith. Drink deep and full of the love of God and you will not demand the impossible from earth’s loves. The love of wife and child, of husband and friend, will grow holier, healthier, simpler, and grander.
Before we come to Jude’s glorious exhortation, there are initial truths to be considered. The love of God is not revealed by intellectual discernment; it is a spiritual revelation. What ups and downs we experience because we build on feeling rather than faith, not on the finished work of Christ but on our own work and endeavor and experience.
Jude’s purpose for writing his brief letter that urges us to keep ourselves in God’s love is stated in verse 3. Keeping ourselves in God’s love is one of the ways in which we “contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people.”
“But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith . . .” Is that what you are doing every day? Do you have family worship? Do you have private devotions? Do you read your Bible more and more? Can you answer yes to these questions, or does your spirit give a hesitant no to God? Family worship is so far off, so remote; you remember your father and mother who prayed and talked of sin and righteousness and judgment to come, but you have other things to heed. You, of course, are more enlightened; you read skeptical, controversial books that attack the foundations of your faith.
If these things have crept into our hearts unawares, let us return with penitence and consider the foundation on which we build our most holy faith: the fact that “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Let us get down to the cross, to the broken heart of our God, down to the sacrifice that paid for our sins. Let us put away the books that have sapped our faith; let us cut off the interests and the relationships that have weighed our lives down to the dust. Then, looking to Jesus, let us build ourselves up in our most holy faith.
“…praying in the Holy Spirit . . .” That is the next step after laying the foundation of faith. Nothing is so hard as to pray properly. Do you pray for God’s servants till your heart glows? Do you ask for your minister to be set ablaze with divine fire? Do you pray Sunday after Sunday that souls may be converted to God? “Praying in the Holy Spirit”—have you ever asked for the Holy Spirit?
We can only keep ourselves in the love of God by building ourselves up in our most holy faith—by Holy Spirit praying, and by nothing else. If we try to fight God’s battles with our own weapons, with our own moral power, we shall fail and fail miserably. But if we use the spiritual weapons of implicitly trusting God and maintaining a simple relationship to Jesus Christ by praying in the Holy Spirit, we shall never fail.
“…keep yourselves in the love of God.” We know how to keep ourselves in health, how to keep ourselves in knowledge, and so on; but to keep ourselves in the love of God is a big order. Our minds are exercised to know what Jude means by this exhortation. Does it mean by relaxing all severity to slip into a broad, humanitarian spirit—as Robert Browning has said, “God’s in His heaven—all’s right with the world”?
No, it cannot mean anything so natural as that; otherwise, we would have no need of an inspired writer to tell us to do it. Besides, Jude strikes terrible notes of warning (see vv. 17–19). “Keep yourselves in the love of God” refers very clearly to something distinct and special, something revealed in the direct will of God; a spiritual endeavor that we must consider, and consider carefully with the Holy Spirit’s help.
Keep means work. It is not a lazy floating; it is work. Work, or you will depart from the love of God. Begin to trace the finger of God and the love of God in the great calamities of earth, and in the calamities that have befallen you. In sweat of brain and spirit, work—agonize at times—to keep yourself in the love of God. It is our wisdom, our happiness, our security to keep ourselves in the love of God.
How do I keep myself in any sphere but by using every means to stay there? If I wish to keep in the spiritual sphere of the love of God, I must use the great instrument of the spiritual realm, which is faith. “God loves me”—say it over and over and over, without thought to your feelings that come and go. Do not live at a distance from God; live near Him, delighting yourself in Him. Remove all barriers of selfishness and fear, and plunge into the fathomless love of God.
“Keep yourselves in the love of God.” The Bible does not say, “keep on loving God”—no one can do that. When once you have understood the truth about your own heart’s sinfulness, don’t think of it again. Instead, look at the great, vast, measureless magnificence of the love of God. May we be driven, further and further, into the ocean fullness of the love of God! And may we take care that nothing entices us out again.
Jesus often encouraged those to whom he ministered to leave their lives of sin. He called them forward instead of to a life of reflecting on their past.
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” Oh, the fullness of peace and joy and gladness when we are persuaded that nothing “shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:35, 39).
It is easy to say “God is love” when there is no war and everything is going well. But it is not so easy to say when everything that happens seems to prove otherwise; for instance, when a man realizes he has an incurable disease or a severe handicap in life, or when all that is dear has been taken from him. If that man says, as he faces these things, “God is love,” it means he has gotten hold of something the average person has missed.
Love is difficult to define. But the working definition I would like to give is that “love is the sovereign preference of my person for another person, embracing everyone and everything in that preference.”
Run your idea for all it is worth. People say they are materialists, or agnostics, or Christians, meaning they have only one main idea—but very few will run that idea for all it is worth. Yet this is the only way to discover whether the idea will work. The same thing is true in the idea of the Christian religion that God is love.
Nature of God’s Love
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).
The love of God is different from the love of everyone else. “God demonstrates His own love toward us”; it is not the love of a father or mother, or a wife or lover. It is of such a peculiar stamp that it has to be demonstrated to us. We do not believe God’s love
The Foundation of God’s Love
The foundation of God’s love is holiness—“without which no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14). God’s love then must be the justification of His holiness. Remember our definition—love is the sovereign preference of my person for another person, embracing everyone and everything in that preference. If God’s nature is holy, His love must be holy love, seeking to embrace everyone and everything until we all become holy.
We tend to think of holiness as being a strictly religious word, but the root word actually means “to be whole”. As such, holiness strikes at the heart of what God intends for us to be fully human.
The Features of God’s Love
The features of God’s love—that is, the way His love as revealed in the Bible shows itself in common life—are unfamiliar to us. The average, commonsense man is completely puzzled by such a verse as John 3:16. The revelation of Christianity has to do with the foundation of things, not primarily with actual life. When the gospel is proclaimed, it is proclaimed as the foundation. The features of God’s love are that if we will commit ourselves to Him, He will impart to us the very nature of His Son. “The gift of God is eternal life” (Romans 6:23, italics added).
The Fact of God’s Love
Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:18–21).
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