Why’d He do It? Love!

(Please read Ephesians 5:1-2 from your preferred version of the Bible.  I cite the NIV in the following article.)

Love motivated Jesus to sacrifice His life o/t cross.

Americans Turn to Scripture in Search for Love                         February 10, 2016

By Aaron Earls

“As it turns out, many are looking for love in the perfect place — the Bible.

“More people searched for ‘love’ at Bible Gateway, an online Bible search site, than any other word in 2015. It remained consistently at the top of the rankings throughout the year.

“In addition, ‘love one another’ and ‘love is patient’ were also among Bible Gateway’s 25 most searched words and phrases last year. Both of those became the second and third most searched terms immediately before Valentine’s Day in 2015.

“Those two phrases, along with ‘God is love,’ spiked on Google searches last year in mid-February as well. People also began searching more for ‘Bible love’ and ‘Bible verse love.’ All those phrases have already begun trending upwards again this year as popular searches.

 

“Love was also found in the top verses searched at Bible Gateway. The most popular verse, John 3:16, describes God’s love for the world, while the fourth verse, Romans 8:28, speaks of God’s promises to those who love Him.

“Eight verses from the so-called ‘Love Chapter’ of the Bible, 1 Corinthians 13, also show up throughout the 100 most popular Scripture verse list, with 1 Corinthians 13:7 hitting ninth place.”

<Retrieved from http://factsandtrends.net/2016/02/10/americans-turn-to-scripture-in-search-for-love/#.Vr4jxcsUXct on 2/12/16.>

  1. Jesus gave His life on the cross because He loved us.

These verses are part of a long section that compares righteous living with unrighteous living in a way that is familiar to Star Wars fans: the “light” side versus the “dark” side.  The phrase JUST AS CHRIST LOVED US in verse two is the key to the whole thing.  The defining element is love.  The defining moment of love is when Jesus surrendered His life on the cross.

[Jesus] GAVE HIMSELF UP FOR US (v. 2) develops the sacrificial aspect of the Crucifixion with two expressions that hearken back to the Old Testament and the sacrificial system it set forth.  For Christians, the sacrificial system is no longer required, but it is still useful for illustrating and understanding what God has done for us in Jesus Christ.

The first is A FRAGRANT OFFERING (v. 2).  In the Old Testament, when a sacrifice was offered to God, it was burned on the altar outside the tabernacle/temple.  The smoke rose from the fire and God declared it smelled sweet in his nostrils.  (See Noah’s sacrifice after the Flood in Genesis 8:21.)

This is a symbolic way of saying that a sacrifice rightly made and with a sincere heart was pleasing to God.  When He died on the cross, Jesus was not burned up, but His sacrifice was rightly made and with a sincere heart, so He pleased God the Father.  The word translated as OFFERING was very familiar among the Jews of the time and appears over 40 times in the first five books of the Bible.

The second phrase is A SACRIFICE TO GOD (v. 2).  From the Genesis to Revelation, God revealed that sin is death.  To be saved from the death penalty, a life had to be sacrificed.  God made it clear that any creature’s life is in its blood and only the shedding of blood was the means of salvation.

– In the Old Testament, it was the blood of animals that provided the solution to sin.

– In the New Testament, it is the blood of Jesus, the perfect and once for all time sacrifice that provided the ultimate and final solution to sin.

William Barclay wrote, “What was that sacrifice?  It was a life of perfect obedience to God and of perfect love to men; obedience so absolute and a love so infinite that they accepted the Cross.” (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series, 1976, Vol. 10, p. 161.)  The word translated as SACRIFICE was used by the Jews of the time o refer specifically to the “peace-offering;” blood that was shed to restore peace between God and people.

  1. In response, we are to imitate that love.

Paul’s command, BE IMITATORS OF GOD, (v. 1) is rather stunning.  Just stop and think about that for a moment.  What more impossible task could you set for a human being?  We’re not trying to BE God, we’re just trying to IMITATE God and yet His power and perfection are way beyond us.

It looks like a set-up to fail.  However, it is not and it makes a world of sense.  It is the most ambitious spiritual goal God could set for us.  As we have all learned, if you aim higher, you accomplish more.  Spiritually speaking, God did not leave us to accomplish this on our own.  He has given us His word and the Holy Spirit to empower us for divine imitation.

Why should we BE IMITATORS OF GOD?  Here are several reasons.

One, AS DEARLY LOVED CHILDREN (1), we are to be motivated to love by the fact that we have been loved.  We ought to act in gratitude that God the Father loved us so much that He adopted us and made us His children.  On a more familiar level, we’ve experienced how a child learns by imitating one’s parents.  It’s cute when our children imitate our good points, not so cute when they imitate our bad points! Having and demonstrating our love is one of the ways we prove to ourselves and others that we truly are God’s children.

Two, the Gk word translated as IMITATORS was commonly used by Gk philosophers to refer to the method by which great teachers trained their disciples: the learner simply did as the teacher did, repeated what the teacher said, and accepted what the teacher presented as the truth.

Three, the practice of imitating God is well-supported in the Bible.

– Through Moses, God commanded, “Be holy, for I, the LORD your God am holy.” (see Leviticus 19:2)

– Through Jesus God commanded, “Be perfect, even as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (see Matthew 5:48)  Additionally, “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.” (see Luke 6:36)

– Through Paul, God commanded, “Forgive one another, just as God, in Christ forgave you.” (see Ephesians 4:32)

Fourth, and most importantly “God said so.”  That is simple enough and all the reason any follower of Jesus should need to obey His commands.

A fifth motive for imitating God is that it is by imitation we make God known in our world.  Yes, our words matter, but only to the degree that they are backed up by our deeds.

How are we to BE IMITATORS OF GOD?  Paul offered two ways.

One, to LIVE A LIFE OF LOVE (v. 2).  Love is an essential characteristic of God.  So, logically, as imitators of God, we need to be increasingly characterized by love.  “Living a life of love” means having love as the center of our character.  It’s not an act we put on or something we do in some situations; it’s an essential expression of who we are.

Two, following Jesus’ example: JUST AS CHRIST LOVED US (v. 2).  There’s a whole sermon here, isn’t there?  We are to imitate the love Jesus showed us on the cross.  Obviously, obedience to God and sacrifice to benefit others are the ways that kind of love appears in us.

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