Love stories are very popular, as we can see by the fact that they’re such big business. Countless books, movies, articles and songs have been created about love stories. People obviously enjoy those themes.
This time of year we should be reminded of the greatest love story of all: “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” (John 3:16 John 3:16For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
American King James Version×).
Millions of people have memorized this verse, the most popular one in the entire Bible. And rightfully so, because it’s a wonderful message.
How much do we understand and appreciate what it tells us? Let’s consider a few thoughts.
Who and what is God? He is the Almighty Maker of all things, including each and every one of us. He is eternal, immortal, without beginning or end. His ways and thoughts are infinitely higher than our ways and thoughts. But how does His Word, the Bible, reveal who and what He is? “God is love,” it tells us (1 John 4:8 1 John 4:8He that loves not knows not God; for God is love.
American King James Version×, 16, emphasis added throughout).
Let that sink in. Of all that God is, the one word that summarizes it is this—love.
And what is love? For all of mankind’s writing, thinking, singing and composing about love, we really don’t understand it all that well. We think of love in emotional terms, how we feel toward someone else or how someone else makes us feel. Those often-confusing emotions and feelings lead to confusion about what love really is, which is ultimately our actions that result from our mindset.
Love, as the word is used in the Bible, is primarily about action—how we treat others, motivated by a mindset that considers others better than ourselves, that wants the best for them, that puts their needs ahead of our own. It’s an outgoing, outflowing concern for others that takes precedence over our own wants and needs. The Bible’s “love chapter,” 1 Corinthians 13, beautifully illustrates this and shows how this kind of love should be our primary motivation in life.
John 3:16 John 3:16For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
American King James Version×tells us that this God of love loved all of humanity so much that He gave—in an act of personal self-sacrifice —that which was most valuable to Him, His only begotten Son. The two had existed together for all eternity outside the bounds of time and space. The character and nature of both are summed up as love. This is what They are and what They do. And in an act of supreme sacrifice for all of mankind for all time, One gave His beloved Son and the other gave up His glorious existence to become one of us and to give His life for us.
On the evening before His arrest and execution, Jesus Christ expressed to His disciples His motivation for what He was doing: “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (John 15:13 John 15:13Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
American King James Version×). And He did exactly that, laying down His life not just for that handful of followers then, but for everyone He wanted a close relationship with—all mankind throughout all time.
What followed that evening and most of the next day was appallingly bloody and brutal. The Creator of man experienced one of the most horrifying deaths man could create.
How did He endure that agony? Hebrews 12:2 Hebrews 12:2Looking to Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
American King James Version×tells us that Jesus “for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God” (New Revised Standard Version).
What was “the joy that was set before Him”? No doubt part of it was returning to the divine glory He had shared with God the Father before He came to earth as a human being (see John 17:5 John 17:5And now, O Father, glorify you me with your own self with the glory which I had with you before the world was.
American King James Version×). But there was even more to look forward to—the reason He descended from that glory in the first place. The context of what precedes and follows Hebrews 12:2 Hebrews 12:2Looking to Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
American King James Version×refers to the other faithful servants of God who, like Jesus, experience severe trials in this life but will, also like Jesus, be raised to immortality to share eternity with Him in the Kingdom of God.
As “the firstborn among many brethren” (Romans 8:29 Romans 8:29For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
American King James Version×), He kept Himself focused on that glorious future when, as made possible by His sacrifice, many others can become part of the immortal, glorified, divine family of God!
God’s promise to us given in 2 Corinthians 6:18 2 Corinthians 6:18And will be a Father to you, and you shall be my sons and daughters, said the Lord Almighty.
American King James Version×is clear: “I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty” (2 Corinthians 6:18 2 Corinthians 6:18And will be a Father to you, and you shall be my sons and daughters, said the Lord Almighty.
American King James Version×).
God is creating a family—His own divine family. And as the great loving God that He is, He wants to see you and me and every human being be a part of that family and share in that great future He plans for us.
You can learn more about God’s plan and our future in the articles in this issue. Discover how it’s part of the greatest love story of all time!