This following entry is essentially an inspired work
in the public domain on the INTERNET at
LIFE, LOVE and LIGHT
The Gospel of John and
First Epistle of John
by Norman B. Harrison, D.D.
Pastor, Bible Teacher and Evangelist
edited for 3BSB by Baptist Bible Believe
in the spirit of the Colportage Ministry of a century ago
~ out-of-print and in the public domain ~
+ + +
“This is the distinctive mark of the Christian—the experience
of the cross. Not merely that Christ died for us, but that we died with Him.
‘Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him’ (Rom. 6:6)
“Abiding is the key to the Christian experience
by which the divine attributes are transplanted into human soil,
to the transforming of character and conduct.”
+ + +
I am recasting this work, reordering the three key terms—to Light, Life and Love,
as I begin to “flesh out” the concepts to the reality of a more abundant life—
the Fullness of Truth—the prism of Roman Catholicism.
THE GOSPEL OF ST. JOHN
In this our first study we will come to see that the Gospel of John is the Gospel of Light —mysteriously so, for in seeking enlightenment and resting on the bosom of Our Lord, on His Sacred Heart—the evangelist learns this deep mystery from its source. In his writings he endeavors to shine this Beacon of Truth into the darkness, that we may find He in whom our hearts too long to rest. In our second study we will see John’s opus as a Gospel of Life—remarkably so, as though that too were its one message and aim. We will culminate our work with a study of the Gospel of Love—marvelously so, as though Love (((that one virtue which remains for all Eternity))) were its one throbbing theme.
When we seek the Light in John’s Gospel we find that while the word occurs twenty-five times, it is in reality infused throughout the entire narrative. We cannot have Life or Love without Light, any more than we can have two persons of the Trinity without the third.
The dictionary defines light as "The essential condition of vision; the opposite of darkness." (It is, then, the revealer of that which we otherwise could not see; it is the enemy of darkness, which obscures and conceals.) Also, "An emanation from a light-giving body." (Light, then, requires a source.) Also, "The sensation aroused by the stimulation of the visual centers." (Light seeks to secure a response, its own purposed effect, in us.) Finally, "That form of energy which, by its action upon the organs of vision, enables them to perform their function of sight." (Light alone enables us to see and know).
These statements make it evident that light is essential to spiritual life, that it must have its source outside of us and find its response within us.
I. The Light of Creation
The opening words of John's Gospel take us back to the eternal Son of God, back yonder in a dateless "beginning" (John 1:1,2). He was the Creator—"all things were made by Him" (v. 3). Not only so, but "in Him was life" (v. 4a), and that Life, imparted and given its highest expression, became "the light of men" (v. 4b).
Creation ends there. Man is its intended culmination and climax. That "Life," in His likeness, places us at the top, with a "light" that differentiates us from all other created existence. Life made man to share the nature of God; Light enabled him to share His knowledge and wisdom. Thus lightened, man's eyes saw, and ever see, what the animal's eyes have never seen nor ever will see. Man is akin to God.
But the next verse (v. 5) introduces the element of "darkness"—a moral state that can not comprehend" the light. Here, then, is the great moral and spiritual struggle between good and evil, God and the Devil, life and death, light and darkness, as anticipated and portrayed in the majestic words—of which these in John are the counterpart—with which the Genesis account opens the Bible: "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light; and there was light" (Genesis 1:1-3).
II. The Light of Christ's Coming
As God spake in the beginning, dispelling darkness with light; so in the fullness of time God spake with His appointed "Word"—the living Word, His very Self, incarnate, sent among us as "bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh," to penetrate our spiritual darkness and bring back to us the light with which He had originally blessed us. Yea, the first light of creation with the added light of re-creation. (((Emmanuel)))
This is the story of John 1:6-14. Whatever other lights God sent us—all the prophets and now John, the forerunner and immediate witness to the Light-here is the "true Light which lighteth every man" (v. 9). Yet man's hopeless, helpless state in darkness is shown by the fact that "He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not" (v. 10). How much man needed Christ!
Note the next verse:
"He came unto His own, and His own received Him not" (v. 11). They were in such blinding moral darkness that they did not know the Light when it came. They would not have Him. And men today are in that same condition, unaltered. Their rejection of God's Light is the strongest proof we have of man's moral obliquity, darkness and death. Every day that man lives in continued refusal of the Light he is proving God's portrait of him, in a ruined estate, all too true. But when men do receive Him—what? They get back the "light of life." They have Him, and He is the "Light of Life."
Please read what happens as though for the first time: "But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God" (v. 12,13).
Now we see! See what we had not the power of perception to see before! We see, through the Incarnate Son, the glory of God. "And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth" (v. 14).
III. The Light of Conviction
With Chapter 3 we find Jesus stressing the need of the New Birth.
We hear Him say to Nicodemus:
"Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God…Ye must be born again" (v. 3,7). And this necessity is enforced by the declaration that for this purpose God in His love gave His Son and sent Him into the world, "that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish, but have eternal life" (v. 16).
Men, however, do not acknowledge their need of a New Birth; therefore they do not feel their need of Christ. So, while "God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world," but rather that it might be saved (v. 17), the practical result is condemnation, self-induced by their attitude of rejection. The Holy Spirit has taken great pains to make this doubly plain. Let us note carefully as we read:
"He that believeth on Him is not condemned; but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God" (v. 18-21).
The paramount need of today is that this very Light of Conviction break in upon men's souls. The fact that they need Christ, plus the further fact that they refuse to take Him as Savior, is prima facie evidence that they stand convicted and condemned.
IV. The Light of Conversion
It is this light of which Jesus speaks in John 8:12, "I am the light of the world: he that followeth Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life."
The light of creation was a bestowment of His life—"In Him was life, and the life was the light of men" (John 1:4).
The light of the new creation—redemption—is a new bestowment of His life. It is "the light of life"; life from the dead, from a state of spiritual darkness and inability to know spiritual things. This teaching of Chapter 8 is given vivid illustration in Chapter 9, when Jesus opens the eyes of the man "born blind." His first birth left him in darkness. Jesus brought to his eyes and to his soul the light of a new birth.
Today we have the spectacle of men who are spiritually blind discussing and judging spiritual things. College professors, scientists, once-born men, not acknowledging that they, equally with other men, were "born blind," are breaking into the realm of the spiritual and talking about things as much beyond them in their natural state as politics and finances are beyond a dog. The dog cannot know these things because they are above and beyond his sphere of perception. Just so are spiritual things to men until they receive their "second sight"—the light of life. (Read Paul's reasoning in point—1 Corinthians 2:11-16).
The noise that these men are making in their blindness reminds us very much of an incident related to us by an officer of our Church. It was a personal experience of his boyhood days.
Of it he says:
"Bathing one morning at a seaside resort at the entrance to Belfast Lough, known as Donaghadee, a group of us were about to dive off the harbour when we noticed a bank of fog about 200 yards long moving slowly past the harbour and going up the Lough in the direction of Belfast. As I remember it today, it would have reminded one of the shape of a giant dirigible. The sky was clear all around. While we were watching it, the Liverpool cross-channel steamer hove in sight on its way up to Belfast. As soon as it entered the fog it began blowing the foghorn and slowing down to the same rate of speed that the bank of fog was going. It was a remarkable sight. We watched for fully half an hour and the steamer failed to come out of the fog in all that time. However, had the steamer been going at a greater speed than the fog she would have passed through it in less than five minutes."
These men, surrounding themselves with the mists and fog of doubt and unbelief, often willful in its nature, are not only crying loudly with their foghorns that they cannot see, but are brazenly denying to others the right to affirm the reality of that which we (once in their state but now declaring with the born-blind man, "Whereas I was blind, now I see", know by our recovery of spiritual sight to be a glorious reality.
When we were resident in Alaska we had a striking illustration of the fact that what men need is not new truth or evidence so much as the ability to see the truth. Their difficulty lies with themselves. They need an ability to see that comes only with conversion, the result of an "inner light," wrought by the regeneration of God's Holy Spirit.
The town of Skagway is surrounded by mountains.
One is known as Face Mountain because it is surmounted by the face of a man. The features are in such clear, bold relief against the sky-line that tourists note it at once without the slightest difficulty. One beautiful day we met a long-time resident and remarked on how clearly the face, blanketed with snow, stood out that afternoon. He replied, "In all these years I have never been able to see the face they talk about."
We said, "What! You can't see the face? Why man, look with me." And with our finger we traced the forehead, nose, lips, chin, until he cried, "Why yes, now I see it; now I see." It had been there these thousands of years; all he needed was the ability to see it. That is all you need, my friend, to see God in the face of Jesus Christ. Once seeing, you will know.
V. The Light of Communion
Following conversion, in the possession of His life and nature we are capable of communion with Him as was not before possible. Into this communion of life Jesus leads us in the intimate teachings of John 15: "I am the vine, ye are the branches…Abide in Me, and I in you." It is a life lighted by His own immediate presence.
A life in which He bestows His own Spirit upon us, promising that "He, the Spirit of truth, will guide us into all truth" (John 16:13).
Thus He precludes the possibility of His follower coming under the darkening shadow of uncertainty, if only he will live in this provision of union and communion: "He…will guide you." And as though this were not enough, lest we think ourselves at any time left to our own resources, this life provides for direct access to Him through prayer. And it is prayer to Him at the right hand of the Father, the place of "all power." "Hitherto have ye asked nothing in My name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full" (v. 24).
VI. The Light of Consecration
The Light wrought in us, by communion with Christ, now becomes the Light shining out from us, by consecration to Christ. It is the step by which sanctification merges into Service.
This complementary truth is found in John 15.
Often we fail to recognize that the Vine and Branch teaching harks back to the imagery of the candlestick in the Tabernacle. The candlestick was designed with "branches" proceeding from the central stem or "vine," (((pilot light))) each branch carrying the representation of "fruit" upon it. The oil, the Holy Spirit, flowing through the branch, produced the fruit in the form of light. Thus it is we are to abide in Him, yield to Him, draw upon Him, that He may bear His own fruit, that is, show forth His own light, through us.
Brought to the service side of the truth we are now studying, how forcefully we are reminded that light is not for ourselves but for others. It lightens us only that through us it may lighten those about us. Busy bringing light to others, Jesus said, "As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world" (John 9:5).
These words, "as long as," anticipate the creating of new light centers, (((Churches which manifest this Light in the Real Presence of the Holy Eucharist, “I will be present with you until the consummation of this world"))) when, having gone hence and having planted His Spirit in our hearts, He could say of us, His candlesticks, "Ye are the light of the world."
Tracing this teaching on into the Epistles, where the appeal is based upon the fact of His abiding, candlestick relationship, believers find themselves pictured as being "in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; holding forth the word of life" (Philippians 2:15b, 16a).
Every believer should adopt as his life-motto the words, so beautifully suggestive, inscribed upon the famous Eddystone Lighthouse, on the coast of England: "To give light and to save life." Our Lord's call to consecration, enforced by conditions of darkness about us, makes this our imperative duty.
VII. The Light of Christ's Coming Again
It is most graciously significant that the Gospel narrative of our Lord's days in the flesh is not suffered to close without causing to shine upon the pathway of His followers the light of the promise that He will come again (((every Mass))). In that dark hour when the Cross was casting its shadow across the heart of Christ and His chosen company, begetting fears and forebodings—in that hour of gathering gloom Jesus reassured them with the prospect of a glory He was going before to get ready, only that He might return and receive them into it, a promise and prospect that was to become the pole-star of the Church's hope through the years, often long and weary, of the Savior's absence.
Then, as always since, those wondrous words dispelled the shadows from their hearts. "Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto Myself; that where I am, there ye may be also" (John 14:1-3).
And now the Gospel concludes with this light focused upon the heart and pathway of one individual disciple. Peter, (((Vicar of Christ))) having received the revelation of his prospective martyrdom, asked the Lord as to John's future. The reply burned itself into John's consciousness: "If I will that he tarry till I come" (read John 21:22,23). Through intervening years the now venerable Apostle (90 A. D.) had walked in that light, buoyed by the realization that the Lord Himself had intimated the possibility of His return within his very life-time.
And when exile for Christ's sake befell him, there on Patmos he saw His coming in glorious vision and the comforting reality of it broke as a sunburst of glory in his soul! (((that vision, in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day of MASS in Heaven, the Lamb’s Supper))) Just so for every child of God today; however dark the outlook of earthly circumstance, it is his privilege to walk facing the fadeless light of the Coming One and of the New Creation about to be wherein dwelleth righteousness and peace.
- How does our heart respond to our Lord's promise?
- Are we living daily in its pulse-quickening prospect?
- Does its light glorify the day-by-day round of drudgery?
Who is coming by and by,
And He'll find me hoeing cotton when
You can hear His legions charging,
In the regions of the sky,
And He'll find me hoeing cotton
when He comes!
When He comes! When He comes!
All the dead shall rise in answer to
And the fires of His encampment star
The firmament on high,
And the heavens shall roll asunder when He comes!
There's the Man they thrust aside,
Who was tortured till He died,
And He'll find me hoeing cotton when
He was hated and rejected,
He was scorned and crucified,
And He'll find me hoeing cotton
when He comes!
When He comes! When He comes!
He'll be crowned by saints and angels
when He comes;
They'll be shouting out "Hosannah!"
To the Man that men denied,
And I'll kneel among my cotton when He comes!
Shadwell, from a Negro Song
The Gospel of Life would be a very fitting title for our fourth Gospel; thirty-five times the word recurs, and the thought is everywhere present, even to the saturation point; yet it is likewise the Gospel of Light and of Love. The three, in fact, are inseparable. This is so for the simple reason that they have to do with the being, nature and activity of God Himself, and God is inseparably one.
The Trinity is a mystery; so also are many things within the realm of human observation and experience.
Man himself is such a mystery. Of a three-fold makeup, body, soul and spirit, no thought, word or act can find expression in the sphere of one without savoring of the other two; he is a three in one and one in three.
Take electricity, for illustration. We have it and make daily practical use of it. Yet we are compelled to confess that we know not what it is. It mystifies the men who "handle" it most. However, this is evident to all: electricity manifests itself as (1) energy, (2) heat, (3) light. When our appliances seek for power, to turn the wheels of industry, they minimize the light and heat; for heat, to cook our food or fire our furnaces, they minimize the energy and light; for light, to illumine our homes and streets, they minimize the energy and heat. Yet in either one of the three the other two are present. It is impossible to have one without the others; they are inseparable. So our Lord Jesus Christ came, He the Son, manifesting also the Father and the Spirit. His is a three-person ministry. His is a Gospel of Light x Life x Love.
I. The Source of Life
Let us now read John 1:1-4. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God All things were made by Him; and without Him was not anything made that was made." (Then man must trace his being back to Him, for, as we go on to read,) "In Him was life; and the life was the light of men."
Our Life and our Light!
He it was who purposed that we should be in His likeness, of an order superior to the beasts about us. The one authoritative account of our origin, the only account that explains, reads: "And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them" (Genesis 1:26, 27).
This it is that makes mankind in general, you and me as individuals, of a different order from the animal; He, the source of our life, "lighteth every man that cometh into the world" (John 1:9). The margin says, "every man as he cometh into the world," as though He had guarded against our being "deficient" by personal, individual attention at the time of our coming into being. Oh, how much we owe to Him! What have we that we did not receive, even to our very life?
II. The Nature of Life
What is Life? We do not know. With all our knowledge and research it remains a mystery. We experience it, but we cannot produce it or explain it. Why? Is it because God has the secret locked up within Himself? Doubtless. When we see Him we will know life—know it in all its secrets and in all its fullness.
Jesus had much to say about life and being. He spoke of Himself as the self-existent One, the "I Am," the One who exists independent of source, circumstance or sense of time. (God is the only being of whom this is true.) Then He gives a definition of life, life as man needs it. "This is life"—life eternal, unconditioned by time, such life as God's is—to "know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent" (John 17:3).
From this we get the thought that life is something dependent upon relation to that which imparts and sustains it.
- The electric lamp, for example, finds its life in relation to the power-house.
- The tree finds its life in relation to the soil and sunshine; the branches, in a continuous relation to the parent stem from which their very life and sustenance are drawn.
- The physical man finds his life in appropriating relation to food and air containing the elements essential to his existence.
Then—how can we miss it? The spiritual man finds his life in a like relationship.
III. The Value of Life
Life is the most valuable possession we have. Nay, it is more than a possession; it is our very self. Personality apart from life is in the very nature of things impossible. Existence hinges upon life. The dog ceases to be when life ceases. It was, but no longer is. Hence, if the life of man does not persist through death, then we ourselves cease to exist.
And for this present—what will a man give in exchange for his life? Pawn what he is for what he may have? To do so is to give up his very power to have. When he barters away his life and breathes his last he leaves it all, be it ten dollars or ten million. Life is the key to everything we are and have; it is our priceless possession; it is our very all.
IV. The Need of Life
Now we are prepared to go deeper. Jesus made it plain that He looked upon men as no longer possessed of the life bestowed in creation.
He declared that this fact, namely, their lack of life, was the whole point and occasion of His coming. "I came that they may have life" (John 10:10).
He reproached their unbelief, saying, "Ye will not come to Me that ye might have life" (John 5:40).
These and like deliverances from the lips of Jesus make evident that His teaching and redemptive work are based upon the fact that man in his natural (((fallen))) state is known to God as devoid of spiritual life.
Let us read carefully, fitting ourselves into the picture: "And you hath He quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. But God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)" (Ephesians 2:1-5).
Here we have sin's historical inception in Genesis 3 traced to its spiritual sequence of death in all men, plus God's gracious meeting of man's need with renewed life from Himself. Hence His declaration to Nicodemus, "Ye must be born again" (John 3:7)—born from above, a new accession of life from the Source, even God. And now He lays bare the Father's heart: "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish" (as we must in our natural, lifeless state), "but have everlasting life" (v.16).
And John states his purpose in writing: "That ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through His name" (John 20:31).
V. The Way of Life
Surely the Way of Life has now become plain to our minds and hearts. Jesus is Himself the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6).
Consider now these words of His: "For as the Father hath life in Himself; so hath He given to the Son to have life in Himself" (John 5:26). Having "life in Himself," He came, lived, died, rose again, and ascended, that we might have life through Him. Today, triumphant above, He has become "a life-giving Spirit" (1 Corinthians 15:45).
All we need is a believing, (((perceiving, and))) receiving relationship.
Hence we read, "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life" (John 3:36).
And the simple statement of the far-reaching result is this: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth My word, and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life" (John 5:24).
Wonderful! And simply by believing. How very wonderful!
Now go back to the first crucial statement of faith and its effect.
Mark well: "As many as received Him to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God" (John 1:12, 13).
A new start! A new birth! A new life! How? By receiving Him (((in the Holy Sacrament of the Mass))), who has "life in Himself," that He may impart life to us.
VI. The Needs of Life
But life has its needs, as inanimate things have not.
A stick we may leave lying at our door, unheeded for days—we have done it no harm; but a plant demands attention—it is alive.
Spiritual life has specific needs.
These needs He is prepared to supply.
- He is the Life-Giver;
- He is also the Life-Sustainer.
Not merely the "I Am," the self-existent Source of Life, in the abstract; but "I Am—the Bread, the Light, the Giver of Water (the Holy Spirit), the Way, the Door, the Vine to the branches, the Shepherd to the sheep."
What are these? The things absolutely indispensable to life, to its sustenance and guidance. Consider for a brief moment how essential to life are the things by which Jesus designates Himself.
- Who for a single day goes without bread, life's necessary food?
- Who passes a day without the benefits of light?
- without the refreshing of water, internally and externally?
- without walking a way marked out for the feet?
- without entering a door to the home or shelter to which it admits?
Evidently, then, by such language Jesus is saying to us, "I am your All; apart from Me ye can do nothing; daily, momentarily, draw upon My supplies of Life for your every need." The least that the follower of Christ can do, once he has sought and claimed the supreme gift of Eternal Life at His hands, is to meet the conditions for keeping that life vitalized, with its every need met day by day. The care that we see bestowed upon the physical man should shame the careless Christian for his neglect of the spiritual man. To keep the life in a state of fullness, to maintain the life abundant, the simple secret is to "abide" in Him, thereby continuously to draw upon Him (((as He draws us into Himself))).
VI. The Many-Sidedness of Life
Life is varied. Men are variously employed. Life comes to have, in consequence, a variety of viewpoints. We look out upon life through the familiar window of our daily occupation and circumstances. We are appealed to by conceptions akin to our daily round.
Now the amazing thing about our Lord Jesus Christ is that He fits into everyone's thinking. He is kin to every man in his day-by-day round of duty. He is so many-sided, each can find Christ in the mold of his own occupational life and daily experience.
The following is an expansion of the I AM's of John's Gospel to include other similar
designations of Scripture:
To the architect - the Chief Corner Stone (I Peter 2:6)
To the artist - the One Altogether Lovely (Song of Solomon 5:16)
To the astronomer - the Bright and Morning Star (Revelation 22:16)
To the baker - the Living Bread (John 6:51)
To the banker - the Unsearchable Riches (Ephesians 3:8)
To the biologist - the Life (John 14:6)
To the botanist - the Lily of the Valley (Song of Solomon 2:1)
To the bride - the Bridegroom (Matthew 25:1)
To the builder - the Sure Foundation (Isaiah 28:16)
To the carpenter - the Door (John 10:9)
To the doctor - the Great Physician (Matthew 8:17)
To the educator - the Great Teacher (John 3:2)
To the engineer - the New and Living Way (Hebrews 10:20)
To the farmer - the sower (Matthew 13:37); the Grain of Wheat (John 12:24); the Lord of
Harvest (Matthew 9:38)
To the florist - the Rose of Sharon (Song of Solomon 2:1)
To the geologist - the Rock of Ages (Isaiah 26:4)
("It is more important to know the Rock of Ages than the age of rocks" -Bryan)
To the horticulturist - the True Vine (John 15:1)
To the jeweler - the Precious Stone (1 Peter 2:6)
To the jurist - the Righteous Judge (2 Timothy 4:8)
To the juror - the Faithful and True Witness (Revelation 3:14)
To the king - the King of Kings (Revelation 19:16)
To the lawyer - the Advocate (1 John 2:1)
To the lover - the Beloved (Song of Solomon 2:16)
To the metaphysician - the Alpha and Omega (Revelation 22:13)
To the news gatherer - the Good Tidings of Great Joy (Luke 2:10)
To the philanthropist - the Unspeakable Gift (2 Corinthians 9:15)
To the philosopher - the Wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:24)
To the preacher - the Word of God (Revelation 19:18)
To the ruler - the Prince of the Kings of the Earth (Revelation 1:5)
To the sailor - the Anchor of the Soul (Hebrews 6:13)
To the sculptor - the Living Stone (I Peter 2:4)
To the servant - the Good Master (Ephesians 6:9)
To the shepherd - the Good Shepherd (John 10:11)
To the slave - the Redeemer (Galatians 3:13)
To the soldier - the Captain of Our Salvation (Hebrews 2:10)
To the statesman - the Desire of All Nations (Haggai 2:7)
To the student - the Truth (John 14:6)
To the theologian - the Author and Finisher of Our Faith (Hebrews 12:2)
To the traveler - the Guide (Psalm 48:14)
To the toiler - the Giver of Rest (Matthew 11:28)
To the troubled - the Comforter (John 14:18)
To the widow - the Husband (Isaiah 54:5)
To the sinner - the Lamb of God (John 1:29)
To the Christian - the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Thessalonians 1:1)
Many-sided indeed is our Christ, commanding the attention of all. Yet our Gospel ever carries us from a mere knowledge about Him, to the need of knowing HIM, teaching us that to know HIM—Jesus Christ the sent of God—this is life eternal (John 17:3).
Yea, this Gospel was written of purpose "that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through His name" (20:31).
Dear reader, do not allow yourself to think that you have no need of this life.
"A friend says to me, 'I have not time or room in my life for Christianity! If it were not so full!
You don't know how hard I work from morning till night. When have I time, where have I room for Christianity in such a life as mine?'"
- It is as if the engine had said it had no room for the steam.
- It is as if the tree had said it had no room for the sap.
- It is as if the ocean had said it had no room for the tide.
- It is as if the man had said he had no room for his soul.
- It is as if the life had said it had no time to live, when it is life.
It is not something added to life; it is life. A man is not living without it. And for a man to say, 'I am so full in life that I have no room for life,' you see immediately to what absurdity it reduces itself" (Phillips Brooks). Without Christ you have no life. Christ came that you might have life. It is yours for the taking.
CHAPTER THREE – THE GOSPEL OF LOVE
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son” (John 3:16)
“Having loved His own…He loved them unto the end” (John 13:1)
John's Gospel is, as we saw in our previous study, the Gospel of Light, of Life, and of Love.
We found the "true Light which lighteth every man," for "In Him was life" and from Him we have received life, first in creation, then in His new creation as we believed upon Him unto eternal life. (((believed, perceived, received in the Holy Eucharist)))
For the present study we view it as a Gospel of Love.
Love is back of the (((the passion that inflames))) Life, as the impelling power for its bestowment. Sixty times the word love occurs in John's Gospel. Then, to get the whole panoramic sweep of John's message, all athrob with a marvelous love, we should include a glimpse of his other writings.
He who leaned upon his Lord's bosom, drank deeply of His love, delighted to designate himself "the disciple whom Jesus loved," how wondrously he has written of love.
Here is a taster's sample, from the Apocalypse, the Epistle, the Gospel:
"Unto Him that loveth us" (Revelation 1:5).
"Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God" (1 John 3:1).
"For the Father loveth the Son" (John 5:20).
"For the Father Himself loveth you, because ye have loved Me" (John 16:27).
I. The Nature of Love
No one would think to describe or dissect love. Like the beauty and fragrance of a flower, when you have dissected it, you have spoiled it. It must be taken as it is.
We may say, however, that of the three: Light, Life, and Light—Love is the most personal.
It comes nearest to expressing the real person of God—"God is Love."
It is through love that we apprehend Him most intimately.
Through His Light we know; through His Life we live; through His Love we abide in intimate union with Himself.
Someone has sought to separate love into two constituent elements: desire and delight. Desire broods over us, longs for us, woos us and claims us as its own; but only that, when so claimed, Delight may rejoice in us and lavish upon us its richest treasures. Such is human love at its best. (((really four loves: Desire (eros), Parental (storge), Brotherly Compassion (philos), Charity, unto death (agape)))
Such preeminently is the love of God.
II. The Gift of Love
In the expression of its desire, love delights to give.
Hence the heart of the Gospel: "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish, but have eternal life." No one has ever fathomed that verse. All we can do is to contemplate its depths, as though looking into the very heart of God.
For the moment let us think of the one expression—"God so loved…that He gave" (John 3:16a). The one naturally follows the other. It is the one explanation of the Incarnation. God loved, so He gave.
What an anomalous thing it is that the people who tamper with the personality of Jesus
Christ as the Son of God talk so loudly and glibly of the Love of God. Yet they are denying the one great manifestation of His love, namely, the giving of His Son to be our Saviour—"Born of a woman, born under the law, that He might redeem them that are under the law" (Galatians 4:4, 5).
If the Incarnation is not a stupendous reality, if God did not take His very own Son from His eternal glory, and "give" Him as told in the Gospel, then the world is robbed of a priceless possession, and the Gospel is rendered insipid and impotent. But if indeed He did thus give His Son, such perversions of the truth malign the love of the God of love.
III. The Rescue of Love
Now we see love to the rescue, love in its desire. It yearns over its object. It will not see it perish. It will pay any price for its rescue. Hence, "God so loved, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish."
The case is well put in Ephesians 2.
Our estate as perishing ones is described in v. 1-3:
- dead in trespasses and sins
- separated from God
- children of disobedience and therefore of wrath.
But Love comes into the scene and "Charity [love] never faileth."
The whole outlook of life is altered with the next glorious statement: "But God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us" (v. 4).
If Love's gift required the Incarnation, the full extent of the gift, going all the way to meet our case and make the rescue, required the Crucifixion. Bethlehem involved Calvary. To rescue us from perishing, He must perish, the Innocent for the guilty. So the High Priest unwittingly prophesied: "It is expedient for us that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not" (John 11 :50).
To accomplish this purpose Love must give Himself in death. This He did, with the glorious result that we do not need to die.
The love of God to me.
It brought my Saviour from above,
To die on Calvary."
"Should not perish, but have eternal life" (John 3:16c).
Here is love delighting. "The Father hath given to the Son to have life in Himself" (5:26). The Son comes and gives up what He has, gives up His life that we may have it, the life that is eternal. It is Love's supreme bestowment. It could bestow nothing more.
Hence the great sin is unbelief, because it is a sin against God and His love, because it wounds Him at His heart. For God yearns to bestow eternal life upon men, if only they will let Him. The way they let Him is by believing. The way they prevent Him is by unbelief.
Our unbelief is sin against Love, against the gracious purposes of Love. It is sin against the remedy Love has brought, against the sharing of God's own nature and life which Love longs to bestow. Unbelief leaves us outside the pale of His love leaves us without a remedy.
V. The Demand of Love
Now that Love has offered itself and its gift—bestowment of Life has been accepted, Love turns to us, and rightly, with its demands.
This brings us over into John 13. Jesus has now turned from a public ministry of appeal to men to a personal dealing with those who, through acceptance, have become His own, within the circle of His love.
- we have His life, being "born again."
- we have His nature, Love itself. And
- we are His followers, those upon whom He must rely to perpetuate and propagate His life of Love.
So He that "loveth us" turns to us and says: "A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples, if ye have love one to another."
But He does not make this demand until He has Himself given us an exemplification of His own love, in the humility and self-forgetfulness of mind and heart and life required as love's vehicle. Let us bow our heads and hearts, His unworthy followers, as we read: "Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He was come from God and went to God; He riseth from supper, and laid aside His garments; and took a towel, and girded Himself" (John 13:3, 4). Then, having washed their feet, He said: "For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done unto you" (vs. 15).
But He had given us more than an example; He had given us a symbol of the power by which alone we can follow that example. The water in the vessel is the Holy Spiritin these poor vessels of ours, cleansing us from our sin, our pride and our selfishness, that we might answer the demands of His love, keeping His commandment with a real love, the one for the other.
VI. The Guarantee of Love
If Love makes its demands upon us, Love is itself the guarantee that that demand will be fully met. "Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love Me, he will keep My words" (John 14:23).
Not force, not coercion, not regulation from without; but a quiet, all-sufficient constraint from within—the love of Christ.
Of course love works this way.
The marriage altar hears the highest and holiest vows, most binding in character, but they are guaranteed fulfillment because sanctioned by an affection that will put them into practice. Go into a house of business and instinctively men are watching the clock as its hands draw on toward five. Their work is measured and regulated by set considerations from without; there's a limit they cannot forget. But go into a house that is a home and learn the workings of love. A meal must be prepared; a garment must be mended; a child is sick or needs help. Love works on heedless of the clock—nine, ten, eleven, midnight—unconscious of time, unstinted in sacrifice, unlimited save by its own strength to endure and power to serve. "Charity never faileth." Jesus rested His whole reliance right there. "If ye love Me, ye will keep My words."
No question about it. Jesus depends upon the love-bond He has woven around our hearts, uniting us to Him. Therefore our responsibility is to keep ourselves in His love. It is our one duty; all else follows. (((Our covenant …to be at Mass)))
Hence, Love being such a supreme thing, so at the heart of the Gospel, John fittingly closes with (((St. Peter’s confession.)))
VII. The Probing of Love
Self-reliant Peter has failed and fallen, and though graciously restored, somehow his life is not centered in his Lord. He has taken the others back with him to their fishing boats and nets. Jesus comes out to the lakeshore and instantly, with the miracle we all recall, turns their minds and hearts again to Himself. They gather about the fire as His breakfast guests. Then He begins to probe their love. He addresses Peter. The others listen and know full well that He means them also.
It is Love that does the probing: "So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou Me more than these? He saith unto Him, Yea, Lord; Thou knowest that I love Thee. He saith unto him, Feed My lambs. He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest Thou Me? He saith unto Him, Yea, Lord; Thou knowest that I love Thee. He saith unto him, Feed My sheep. He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou Me? Peter was grieved because He said unto him the third time, Lovest thou Me? And he said unto Him, Lord, Thou knowest all things; Thou knowest that I love Thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed My sheep" (21:15-17).
The Love that gave Himself supremely for us is now, with full right of search, saying to us: "Is your love for Me supreme? Does it command you? Has it supplanted 'these things'?
- Will it suffice to separate you unto Me the rest of your life?
- Will it prove the fountain of an untiring service the remainder of your appointed days?
- Will it keep you busy, with unmeasured effort, tending My lambs, feeding My sheep?"
If this probing of love comes home to our hearts today, showing us how superficial our reception of His love, how niggardly our response to His love, till we are shamefaced before Him (((in Eucharistic Adoration))), there is a remedy. (((The receiving the Holy Eucharsit))) Have we ever tried it?—"the love of the Spirit" (Romans 15:30), i.e., God coming to love in us, through His love poured into our hearts by His Spirit.
It is not for us to try to love God, any more than we try to love our wives or husbands, our parents or our children. This is not what He asks of us. He has provided for our loving Him, and therefore serving Him, in and through the Spirit He has Himself given us. What the world needs is a fresh sight of the sacrificial love of God in Christ. It needs to see it till its heart, hardened in sin, is broken before it.
Dr. Norman McLeod, the famous Scotch preacher, used to tell a touching story of a Highland mother and her boy, won by sacrificial love.
She was a widow. Taking her babe she started to walk across the mountains, some ten miles, to the home of a relative. A terrible snowstorm suddenly fell upon the hills, and little by little the mother's strength failed. Next day, when men found her body, it was almost stripped of clothing. Her chilled and dying hands had wrapped her own clothing about the child, which was found in a sheltering nook, safe and sound. Years afterward the son of the minister who had conducted the mother's funeral went to Glasgow to preach a preparatory sermon. Somehow he was reminded of the story he had often heard his father tell. Instead of preaching the sermon he had prepared, he simply told the story of the Highland mother's love. A few days later he was summoned to the bed of a dying man. "You do not know me," said the man. "Although I have lived in Glasgow many years, I have never attended a church. The other day I happened to pass your door as the snow came down. I heard the singing and slipped into a back seat. There I heard the story of the widow and her son."
The man paused, his voice was choking, his eyes were filling. "I am that son," he sobbed at last. "Never did I forget my mother's love, but I never saw the love of God in giving Himself for me before. God made you tell that story. My mother did not die in vain. Her prayer is answered." (((Abide in Him and be governed by Divine Providence)))
Two paths are before you, which one will you follow?
The one which leads upward to treasures on high,
Or the one which looks pleasant, alluring, attractive,
But leads to the things which must perish and die?
Two paths lie before you, and you have the choosing -
Oh, pause and consider, choose wisely, I pray!
The things of eternity claim your attention;
All others are fleeting - what seek ye to-day?
- A. E. R.
Mike Rizzio, SOLT
Become like Jesus
Live for the Triune God
Seek the Light of Our Lord Jesus Christ
See you on the High Ground!
O Beata Trinitas; St. Michael, St. Gabriel and St. Raphael