Since God’s love is the highest love possible we need to look to him and see how his love is revealed. All God does, he does out of love, initially love for his own glory, which includes love for his people. Since all he does flows from love, then his work in the natural world of creation expresses love towards his creatures as he reveals through his actions his love for sinners. For example, out of his love he provides food and clothing, out of his love he bestows natural talents and abilities, and out of his love he gives a measure of peace and safety. Great although that expression of divine love is, it is not the highest manifestation of it. Instead, the most wonderful display of God’s love took place at the cross and John refers to this in verses 9 and 10.
John reminds his readers that the heavenly Father sent his only Son into the world. Sometimes the impression is given that the loving Son through his actions on the cross changed the outlook of the Father who was determined to punish us. Such an idea is wrong. The truth is that the Father loves sinners as much as the Son does, and while we cannot explain what it means we can see that a great cost was paid by the Father as well as by the Son at the cross. But why did the Father send his Son there?
John gives the answer to this question as well – the Father sent the Son so that ‘we might live through him’. This is a reminder that we were spiritually dead, that we needed spiritual life. We were dead in sins, alienated from the life of God. Further, Jesus came to give eternal life – those who believe in him not only have spiritual life now, they also have the assured promise of resurrection and glory ahead when they will experience life in its fullness.
In verse 10 John defines love and we should note what he says. First, it does not ignore the love of Christians. Instead he reminds us that the love of Christians is not the highest expression of real love. Love has cost many Christians a great deal – we can think of the countless number of martyrs and also the sacrifices made in other ways by Christians. Yet the costliest of those sacrifices is not the highest expression of love.
Nor is the combined total of all the ways Christians have expressed their love for God and one another. If we could put together all the love that there has been, all the ways that true love has been shown, we still would not have the highest expression of love. One reason for that is obvious – a Christian may come along and perform greater expressions of love than has been shown in the past by Christians. What we need to see is a display of love that cannot be bettered in the future, and when we go to Calvary we see such a display.
The loving Father sent his dear Son to the cross in order that he would endure the Father’s wrath against our sins. The price was high for the Father, but he lovingly paid it. An earthly father may be forced to send his son on a dangerous mission, but the earthly parent can hope that his son may avoid the dangers. The heavenly Father knew all the dangers of the cross and he also knew his Son could not avoid them. Yet out of love for us he paid the price of love and gave his Son to suffer this unbearable burden. Every stroke of wrath that the Son endured at the Father’s hand cries out to us that the Father loves us greatly.