The Love of God: A Dispensational Perspective

But God commendeth His love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).

God loves and values all men; but the extent to which He loves them has not always been clearly revealed to mankind.

For example, it is important for us to compare what we see in Romans chapter five with this statement of our Lord Jesus Christ in the Gospel of John:

Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you (15:13-14).

Ponder for just a moment these two passages. The John statement is quite different from the one that we read in Romans. Do these statements contradict each other? No, of course not! These two passages are simply lessons in contrasts.

Earthly? or Heavenly?

First, it must be understood that the quotation of Jesus Christ in John is taken from His earthly teaching ministry (as a minister of the circumcision – Romans 15:8); whereas Paul (as the minister to the Gentiles – Romans 11:13) is revealing truths from the heavenly teaching ministry of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 3:1-12), which had been “kept secret since the world began” (Romans 16:25). The difference between the passages in John and Romans is a difference between the earthly and the heavenly.

Law? or Grace?

In the book of John, Jesus said that they were His friends if they followed His commandments … “if you do.” This was the basic principle of the Old Covenant: “if”–“then.” “If” one was obedient, “then” they would receive the blessing. “If” one was disobedient, “then” they would receive the “curse” (see the “if”–“then” of Exodus 19:5; comparing that with the entire chapter of Deuteronomy 28). In Romans, our Lord Jesus Christ is revealing through Paul things never before known. They are a part of the “much more” revelation of “the Gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24), for this “dispensation of the grace of God” (Ephesians 3:2). The full extent of God’s love is one example of these “unsearchable riches of Christ” (Ephesians 3:8). The difference between the passages in John and Romans is a difference between the law and grace.

Human? or Divine?

What Jesus Christ is discussing in the book of John is “greater love hath no man.” This is a record of the love of natural man. This is the extent of his value system. There is no “greater love” of man than sacrificing one’s life for their friends. However, Christ reveals through Paul that there is a Greater love than this: not a greater love known among man, but a Divine love – the love of GOD! See this contrast as we read portions of the passages together.

Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends But God commendeth His love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (John 15:13; Romans 5:8).

Human love can extend to friends, but Divine love extends to sinners, even to enemies!

For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son … (Romans 5:10).

It is Paul’s gospel that reveals this wonderful truth (Romans 16:25). The difference between the passages in John and Romans is a difference between the human and the divine.

Clyde L. Pilkington, Jr.
Bible Student’s Notebook

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