When my dear wife prepares dinner for me, it is very appropriate that I respond with a word of thanks and appreciation. To do otherwise reveals that something is terribly wrong with my heart.
“We love, because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). Here is a very simple yet profound expression of the kind of appropriate response each one of us should have toward God’s “first love” for us. God first loved me, thus I love God, my brothers and sisters in Christ, my neighbor and all men.
In what sense is God’s love for man “first”? It is “first” in the sense of sequence. Before any man loved him, God chose to love his people. He chose to love them even before he created the heavens and the Earth. God speaks of his “first” love in this way: “I have loved you with an everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3).
His love is also “first” in the sense of plan of action. “In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself” (Ephesians 1:4-5). God’s “plan of action” to adopt us into his family has many steps: the Messianic prophecies of long ago; the virgin birth and sinless life of Jesus Christ; the death-burial-resurrection-ascension of the Messiah Savior; the pouring out of the gift of God the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost; the preaching the Gospel of Christ; and conviction of sin, repentance and confession of Christ as Savior.
However, the first step in this plan of God to adopt us into his family through faith in Christ is his love toward us.
God’s love is “first” in the sense of initiative.
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
“In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (I John 4:10).
His love is “first” in the sense of quality. It is of the highest quality because of its sacrificial nature in the face of flagrant opposition, as Romans 5:8 declares: “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
Finally, God’s love is “first” in the sense of finality. From eternity past to eternity future God loves his people. His faithful love is the final word and work — nothing has the power to change it!
“Who will separate us from the love of Christ ... For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels … nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the loved of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:35-39).
God first loved you! How are your responding?
Do you love God, your spouse, your children, your neighbor, your colleague? To do less reveals that something is terribly wrong with your heart.
Drew Fenstermacher is pastor at Faith Baptist Church of State College. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.