From Charles Spurgeon’s “Herein Is Love” (February 18, 1883)

“In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 John 4:10-11 ESV).

“Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought, also, to love one another” (1 John 4:10- 11, KJV).

“But that He loved us.” I have nothing new to say, nor do I wish to say anything new. But I would like you to meditate on each one of these words—“He loved us.” Three words, but what weight of meaning! “He,” who is infinitely holy and cannot endure iniquity—“He loved us” “He,” whose glory is the astonishment of the greatest of intelligent beings—“He loved us.” “He,” whom the Heaven of heavens cannot contain, “loved us.” “He” who is God all-sufficient and needs nothing of us—neither can, indeed, receive anything at our hands—“He loved us.” What joy lies sleeping here! Oh, that we could wake it up! What hope, too, for hopeless sinners because, “God loved us.”

If a man could know that he was loved of all his fellow men, if he could have it for certain that he was loved by all the angels, doted on by cherubim and seraphim, yet these were but so many drops and all put together could not compare with the main ocean contained in the fact that, “God loved us!” Now ring that second silver bell—“He loved us.” I do not think the Apostle is, here, so much speaking of God’s special love to His own elect as of His love to men in general. He saw our race ruined in the Fall and He could not bear that man should be destroyed. Lord, what is man that You visit
him in love? Yet He did so visit him. The Lord’s love made Him lament man’s revolt and cry, “I have nourished and brought up children and they have rebelled against Me!” And He bade Heaven and earth witness to His grief. He saw that sin had brought men into wretchedness and misery and would destroy them forever, but He would not have it so. He loved them with the love of pity, with the love of sweet and strong benevolence and He declared it with an oath—“As I live, says the Lord, I have no pleasure in the death of him that dies, but that he turn unto Me and live.”

“Herein is love.” But if you and I are reconciled to God, we can lay the emphasis, each one for himself, upon this word, “love,” and view it as special, effectual, electing love. Let each Believer say, “He loved me, and gave Himself for me.” Then what force is in my text, “He loved us”—it is not enough that He pitied us, or spared us, or helped us, but, “He loved us.”

It has often made me rise from my seat to think that God loves me! I could not sit still and hear the thrilling Truth! Such knowledge is too wonderful for me! It is high, I cannot attain unto it. It is sweet to be loved even by a dog. It is sweet to be loved by a babe. It is sweet to be loved by a friend—it is sweet to be loved by God’s people—but, oh, to be loved by God and to know it! This is paradise! Would a man need any other Heaven than to know for certain that he enjoyed the love of God?

Note the third word. “He loved us”—“us”—the most insignificant of beings. There is an anthill somewhere—it is no matter to you where it is. It teems with ants. Stir the nest and they swarm in armies. Think of one of them. No, you do not need to know anything about him! His business is no concern of yours, so let him go. But that ant, after all, is more considerable to you than you are to God. “All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing.” What are you, even, in this great city?—One man, one woman in London, in England, in the population of the world—what a cipher you are! Yet what is the population of this world compared with the universe? I suppose that all these stars which we see at night, all the countless worlds within our range of vision, are but as a little dust in a lone corner of God’s great house! The whole solar system and all the systems of worlds we have ever thought of, are but as a drop in a bucket compared with the boundless sea of creation! And even that is as nothing compared to the infinite God! And yet, “He loved us”—the insignificant creatures of an hour!

What is more, He loved us though in our insignificance we dared to rebel against Him! We boasted against Him. We cried, “Who is this God?” We lifted up our hand to fight with Him. Ridiculous rebellion! Absurd warfare! Had He but glanced at us and annihilated us, it would have been as much as we could merit at His hands! But to think that He should love us—love us, mark you—when we were in rebellion against Him. This is marvelous!

…Remember yet again that the Lord actually did what Abraham, in obedience, willed to do—He gave up His Son! “It pleased the Father to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief.” Christ’s death was, in fact, God in human form suffering for human sin! God Incarnate bleeding because of our transgressions! Are we not, now, carried away with the streams of love? I speak my best, my Brothers and Sisters, but if my words were what they ought to be, they would set your souls on fire! Is not all Heaven still astounded at the death of the Only-Begotten? It has not recovered from its amazement that the Heir of all things should bow His head to death! How can I fitly tell you how much God loved the world when He gave His Only-begotten to die that sinners might live?

…What seems to me the most wonderful thing of all is that the Lord Jesus should deal, not only with our sorrow, but with our sin, for, “He is the propitiation for our sins.” That God should deal with us as to our virtues, if we had any! That He should deal with us as to our love, if we had any, might not seem so difficult. But that He should send His Son to dwell with us as sinners—yes, and to come into contact with our sins, and thus to take the sword, not only by its hilt, but by its blade, and plunge it into His own heart, and die because of it—this is a miracle of miracles! O Friends, Christ never gave Himself for our righteousness, but He laid down His life for our SINS! He viewed us as sinners when He came to save us. “Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners.”

If I had not found Christ till this very minute, I hope I should find Him, now, as my mind drinks in this doctrine! By God’s Spirit there seems to me to be such a window opened that even despair may see the light, for if the thing which God sent His Son to deal with was the sin of man, then I, even though I am nothing but a mass of loathsomeness and sin, may yet enjoy the infinite love of God! Oh, guilty ones, hear these words which are more sweet than music and more full of delight than all poetry! Even the harps of angels never rise to higher measures than these which I do so poorly and simply rehearse in your ears! Hear these glad tidings, that God, who made the heavens and the earth—whom you have offended—wills not that you die, but loves you so greatly that He opens up a road of reconciliation through the body of His own dear Son!

There was no other way by which you could be reconciled to God, for had He reconciled you to a part of Himself and not to His justice, you had not been, in very truth, at all reconciled to God. It is now to God completely just, holy, whose anger burns against sin! It is to Him that you are reconciled by faith in Christ Jesus, through the laying down of His life for men! Oh that God would bless this to all who hear the glad tidings!