Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church. Ephesians 5:25
What has been your greatest experience of love? What has been your greatest disappointment?
Think about the love of a husband for a wife, or the love of a mother for a child, or the love that binds people together in friendship. Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).
Where love flows, hearts are filled. Where love is withheld, hearts are broken. Some of you grew up surrounded by love. Loyalty and affection were modeled for you. Your life was shaped by that experience. Others had a different experience. The question in your mind and heart is, “How can I give what I did not receive?”
Some of you are blessed to enjoy a happy and loving marriage. Others wish that gift would be given to them. Some, whether married or single, find themselves asking the question, “Am I the kind of person who is able to love another person well?”
This is not a series about marriage. It is a series about love. We need to recover the lost art of loving well – loving well in friendship, loving well in family, loving those who have hurt us well, and loving God well. So, how can I learn the art of loving well? Here’s the place to begin: “We love because [God] first loved us” (1 John 4:19).
“God is love” (1 John 4:8). If you know God, you know love. If you have God, you have love. If God filled you, love would fill you. So if you want to love well, you need to find God.
How is God’s love known?
This is how you can know that God loves you. Here is where that discovery is found, “God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him” (1 John 4:9).
We live in a fallen world of sickness and death. Where do we look to see this love of God, how do we know that it is true? “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him” (1 John 4:9).
John gets more specific about what that involved: God “loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10). Here is how that love reaches us and gets inside us, “We have come to know and believe the love that God has for us” (1 John 4:16).
So a Christian is a person who is able to say, “I know that God loves me. I know this; I believe this. I see it in his Son. The love of God for me is clear every time I look at Jesus.”
When you believe the love of God, made known in his Son, Jesus Christ, then you will experience this love of God in your heart. I’ve often had a conversation where a person will say, “Well, I know about the love of God in my head, but I don’t experience it in my heart.”
So I’ll say to them, ‘Tell me about the love of God that you know in your head.” Usually the person does not have much to say. But sometimes a person will say, “Well, you know, Jesus died for our sin and all that.”
And then when I ask, “Do you have any sins?” The person will say, “Well, nobody’s perfect.” So I say, “‘No, do you have any sins that would damn you to an eternal hell where you are separated from God and from his love forever and ever?”
If you have never felt that you have sins that would damn you to hell, it will be very difficult for you to feel that what Jesus did at the cross was significant for you.
Here’s how you come to know the love of God. “God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him… God loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins… We have come to know and believe the love that God has for us” (1 John 4:9-10, 16).
I want you to be able to say, “I know that God loves me. I know this. I believe this. I don’t see it in God’s world, which is full of trouble, because of its rebellion against him. But I do see it in God’s Son! The love of God for me is clear every time I look at Jesus.”
Paul speaks about the love of God being known (manifest) in two ways.
“God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5:5).
How are these two things connected? When people believe that God’s love is poured out in his Son, then the Holy Spirit pours out God’s love in their hearts. This is why John says, “We love because [God] first loved us” (1 John 4:19).
Here’s where developing the capacity to love begins. The Love of God poured out in Jesus gets poured into you. We love because he first loved us. That’s what this series is about: Loving and Being Loved by Christ.
The more you experience the love of Christ filling your heart, the more you will be able to love others well. The more you are filled with the love of God, the greater your capacity to be a good friend. The more you are filled with the love of God, the more you will become a good church member who builds up the body of Christ. The more you are filled with the love of Christ, the more you will be able to love your spouse, your children, your friends, and your colleagues well.
Here’s the aim of this series: I want you to experience the love of God more deeply so you can love God and love others more fully. This is the great prayer of Paul for Christian believers: I want you to know the breadth, length, depth, and height of the love of Christ. I want you to know this love that surpasses knowledge. I want you to be filled with all the fullness of God. That is what I am praying for (Ephesians 3:14-19).
The Analogy of Marriage in the Bible
The title of today’s message is: The Bride and the Bridegroom. I want to draw your attention to the fact that throughout the Bible, God uses the analogy of marriage to describe his relationship with his people.
In the New Testament
The Pharisees complained that the disciples of Jesus were not fasting, and Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast” (Matthew 9:15).
Another time Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast” (Matthew 22:2-3).
The book of Revelation takes up this theme. The great marriage of Christ and his bride is the moment of joy to which we are pointed:
Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, ‘Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready.’ Revelation 19:6-7
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I 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 the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. Revelation 21:1-3
In the Old Testament
That’s the New Testament. In addition to this, two entire books of the Bible are devoted to showing the love of God through the analogy of marriage in the Old Testament.
The first is the Song of Solomon, which portrays the joy of love. Solomon is in love with a beautiful woman. He comes to claim her as his bride.
Why is the Song of Solomon in the Bible? One reason is that it teaches us about love and marriage. But another reason it is in the Bible is to impress upon us the intensity of God’s love for us.
Here is the relationship God has with you in Jesus Christ. Here is how God regards you in Christ: “As the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you” (Isaiah 62:5).
It’s that personal. It’s that intense. It’s that wonderful! If you know what it is to find joy in loving another person with great intensity you have a glimpse into the heart of God.
The other example of showing the intensity of God’s love for us in the Old Testament is the book of Hosea. Hosea portrays the pain of love.
Hosea was a godly man. He walked with God. He was a prophet. But his wife, whose name was Gomer, was not a godly woman. Gomer left Hosea and threw herself into a lifestyle that nearly destroyed her. Hosea’s heart was broken. He loved his wife and he could not stop loving her.
Why is this book in the Bible? The reason it is in the Bible is to impress on us the intensity of God’s love for us. If you have experienced a broken heart; the pain of love that is not returned, you have a glimpse into the heart of God. God knows the joy of love and God knows the pain of love.
What You Believe Most Deeply about God…
…Will Shape Your Experience of Him
Some people see God as a kind of referee
Some people think of God, running up and down the field, watching all of us as we play the game of life, making sure we play according to the rules. If we break the rules he calls foul. If it’s serious he will show us a yellow card. Two yellow cards make a red card and that means you are out.
If you see God as the referee in your life, it may help you to be a moral person, but it won’t do anything to increase your capacity to love. The Pharisees played by the rules. They were moral people, but often they were entirely lacking in love!
Other people see God as a kind of gatekeeper
Think of the officer on passport control. The officer checks your passport. If everything is in order, the officer stamps your passport and lets you in. If there’s a problem it is his job to keep you out.
If you see God as the officer at passport control, it may motivate you to live a religious life: I want to go to heaven. I don’t want to go to hell. What do I have to do to go to heaven? Believe in Jesus. OK, I believe in Jesus. What else can I do? Read the Bible and pray and go to church. Get involved and serve. OK, I will do these things. I don’t want to leave anything to chance when I get to the gates of heaven.
If you see God as the gatekeeper, it may help you to be a religious person, but it won’t do anything to increase your capacity to love. It is possible to be very religious and to have very little love.
Other people see God as a kind of servant
God is there to give me the life I want. God, here’s the list: I want health, work, marriage, children, money, etc. I want each item delivered on time and in good condition. You owe it to me. I deserve it. And I am watching the list, so if anything is missing we will have to talk.
If you see God as your servant, you will become a selfish and bitter person. You will know very little about love.
There are many people in church who see God as the referee, the gatekeeper or the servant. What do you know about Christ as the lover of your soul? God says, “If you want to know what I am to my people, think love, think marriage.”
How Christ Loves His People Well
Cleansed: A love that forgives you
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word. Ephesians 5:25-26
A believer who comes to Christ and asks for forgiveness will never hear the answer no. “Whoever comes to me, I will never turn away.” When you say “Please forgive me,” you always get a yes from Christ, because he loves you.
Christ never turns a cold shoulder towards his people. He does not hold a grudge. He does not open old wounds or pick at old sores. Christ loves us well with a love that forgives. “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loves the church.” But it’s not just husbands. Jesus said, “Love one another as I have loved you” (John 13:34).
Sanctified: A love that makes you flourish
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her. Ephesians 5:25-26
The love of Christ always causes a person to grow. Christ will make more of you than you will ever make of yourself. Give yourself to him and see what you become through him.
Nourished: A love that brings you strength
For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church. Ephesians 5:29
The love of Christ will build you up and give you strength to face the toughest circumstances of life. Paul says, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long” (Romans 8:36). That’s about as tough as you can get. But then he says, “in these things we are more than conquerors.” Why? Because nothing can separate us from the love of Christ.
Cherished: A love that values you
For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church. Ephesians 5:29
Brother, sister in Christ, there is never a moment when you are not the object of the conscious affection of the Son of God. Others may say, “Nobody really cares about me,” but you could never say that. You are cherished by the Son of God!
Presented: A love that endures forever
Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her… so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. Ephesians 5:25, 27
Every time we have a wedding we hear these words, “Till death do us part.” Why do we remind the bride and the groom of their dying day on their wedding day? We want them to value every day of their marriage because it will not be forever. Value your children, your friends, your colleagues, and the people God places around you because none of this will be forever.
But Christ pledges a love to you that will never end. He does not say, “I will love you, till death do us part.” He says, “I will love you in life, I will love you though death, and then I will present you in splendor, in glory, faultless, with all the draining, wearing, wrinkle-causing effects of your life on earth gone and behind you completely; I will welcome you in glory and I will love you forever.”
The church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord. She is his new creation through water and the Word. From heaven he came and sought her to be his holy bride. With his own blood he bought her and for her life he died.
To every believer
Think about how happy you can be since you are blessed with this love.
The love of Christ cleanses you. The love of Christ sanctifies, nourishes, and cherishes you. Here’s the future for you: In love Christ will present you to himself.
Think how well you can love God and others in the light of this love he has lavished on you.
We love because he first loved us. To anyone here today who does not yet know this love… Jesus Christ offers himself to you. He holds his hands out to you. Jesus Christ is willing to be yours
Why would you not come to him and give yourself to him. If you will leave your sins and your unbelief and come to him. If you will leave living for yourself and give yourself to him, he will welcome you. He will not turn you away
Christ will be yours and you will be his and all that he came in love to accomplish will be yours forever.
© Colin S. Smith
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