2020-12-20 “The Gift of Love”

Cornerstone EPC                                                                              Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 28734                                                                          December 20, 2020

“The Gift of Love”
John 3:16-17

We have seen, over the past three weeks, that the Lord gives us His hope, His peace, and His joy.  How precious these are in times that seem anything but hopeful, peaceful, and joyful.  Today we see that God, Who is love (1 John 4:8), gives us the supreme Gift of love—His Son, very God Himself, Jesus Christ.  Let us give our ears and our attention to the written Word of God—which testifies to the living Word, the Lord Jesus Christ (cf. John 1:1-14)—once again read and proclaimed in this place.

(HERE READ THE TEXT)

God loves the world; His Word says so, explicitly.  The love which God has for the world (Greek agapao [agapaw]) is the love characteristic of God for Himself.  It is also the love characteristic of God for His elect covenant people—gathered into His covenant society and family, the Church.  Today’s passage also declares that this love—this high, other-centered, sacrificial love—is the love characteristic of God for the world.

This text’s use of the word world indicates two things.  First, it indicates a system (of thinking, of doing, of organizing and arranging, and the lie) estranged and alienated from God—and, moreover, hostile to Him.  Second, it indicates people—individually and in the aggregate—ensnared by this system.  How can God love such a system and such a people—from which we who are in Christ once were?  We shall marvel, to all eternity, both at the fact that God loves such a world and at the degree to which He loves it.

God loves the world so much that He gave the world a gift.  He, in His infinite love, gave the world His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, Whose birth we celebrate in these days.  This Gift is exceedingly rare, for there is only one of its kind, and it is precious beyond expression—as we shall see presently.  First, let’s look at the rarity of this Gift.

Jesus is sui generis.  That is, He is one of a kind; there is none other like Him.  Jesus is not only merely unique, but He also is unique in a unique way—He is the Only-begotten of the Father.[1]  Jesus is born of God, and of woman, in the manner that the angel Gabriel declared to Mary, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore, the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God” (Luke 1:35).  Hence, Jesus, being fully human, because born of Mary, identifies with us to the uttermost—and, therefore, subjects Himself to all the pains endemic to our mortal condition.  Yet Jesus, born of God, and God incarnate, is able to save to the uttermost those who trust in Him—because He is perfect in every way, to include His perfect active obedience to the moral law of God and His perfect passive obedience unto death on the cross.  Jesus, then, is an exquisite, rare Gift given to us—and that not because of our deserving, but solely because of God’s grace.  We now have noted the rarity of the Gift of love.  Now let’s look at how precious it—that is, He—is to our souls.

Receiving the Gift—that is, believing in Jesus as Lord and Savior—results in much good.  Receiving the Gift results in us not perishing.  By receiving God’s gift of Jesus as Savior and Lord, we avoid condemnation—and, thus, we are no longer subject to eternal death.  Eternal death entails eternal misery in the unending presence of Satan, the great hater of our souls—and, by receiving Jesus as Savior and Lord, we avoid this eternal misery as well.  This Gift, hence, already proves a great gift to our souls.  Yet there is more to this Gift.

Receiving the Gift also results in eternal life—that is, salvation—for our souls.  Receiving the Gift guarantees eternity in the presence of our Almighty, triune God, the great Lover of our souls.  Rescue from sin’s penalty, presence and power, not to mention healing from sin’s ravages, flow to us because we receive the Gift of God’s love in Christ Jesus.  Not only do we receive life eternal, but life abundant inheres as well.  That is to say, in Christ we have an abundance (as God defines abundance) of life inexpressible—and, again, we have life unending as well.  Truly God’s gift of love to us, Whose birth we celebrate at this time of year, is precious beyond all expression.

I hope for you gifts this Christmas—under your tree, or at whatever place you use: gifts delightful to your soul, helpful to your life, and testimonial to the giver’s great affection for you.  I pray also for you this Christmas a special sense of the Gift of Love—the supreme Gift given to men and to women, and to boys and to girls.  By receiving the Gift, we receive abundant, eternal life with Him.  He, the Lord Jesus Christ, is the Gift from Whom our Christmas gifts—and gifts at any other time—derive their meaning and significance.  Let us remember this as we present and receive gifts later this week.  Finally, upon this final Sunday morning before Christmas 2020, may you and yours have a truly blessed Christmas, in Jesus’ Name.

AMEN.

[1] These are the two senses that I can discern of the Greek word monogenes (monogenhV).  See Johannes P. Louw and Eugene A. Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1989).