“THE LOVE OF CHRIST”
Second Corinthians 5.14
1. I contend that “love” is a word that is bandied about by those who usually do not understand the concept. As I mentioned in my sermon last week, most of the time people make reference to “love” they are actually referring to “lust,” which has to do with strong feelings of desire.
2. Sometimes the lust that is confused with love shows itself as sentiment, such as when there are strong emotional feelings toward some person or toward some pet or toward some institution. We hear the drumbeats of patriotism and are willing to credit some act of bravery that ends the life of a soldier, of a police officer, or of a fireman, to love of his country or love for his fellow man.
3. But the apostle Paul quickly dispatches such as sentiment when, in First Corinthians 13.3, he writes, “though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity. . . .” This shows that when someone gives his life for another, even to save the life of someone he does not know, it is no necessary indication that charity, which is to say love, is the motive for his act of heroism. In many cases it is as simple as a grab for personal glory.
4. At other times the lust that is confused with love shows itself as a strong romantic sexual attraction for someone, hopefully someone of the opposite sex. This, of course, is constantly portrayed in contemporary culture as love, when it is nothing of the kind.
5. What you must understand is that a sinner seeks to justify his wicked deeds by legitimizing his actions in some way. And how does a wicked man legitimize his actions? By labeling them to be something more noble than they really are. Label it love when it is really sinful lust and it seems somehow cleaner, nicer, and more respectable.
6. But the topic of interest in this series of messages is not lust, but love. Last week we spent some time in consideration of God’s love. God loves His Son, Jesus. God loves His chosen people, the Jews. God loves believers in Jesus Christ, those who are genuine Christians. God loves the world. But there are some He may not love, such as those who sew discord among brethren. That would be those who interrupt harmony and unity in the congregation.
7. I intentionally omitted Esau last week, the brother of Jacob. Remember, God said, “Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated,” in Romans 9.13. So, what was Esau’s chief characteristic? In Hebrews 12.16 he is labeled a profane person.
8. The 19th century Bible commentator, Albert Barnes, writes on this, “The word profane here refers to one who, by word or conduct, treats religion with contempt, or has no reverence for that which is sacred. This may be shown by words; by the manner; by a sneer; by neglect of religion.”
9. It could be that among those who God does not love, among those who God hates, are those profane men and women who treat the things of God with contempt, and who have no reverence for that which God declares to be sacred.
10. But our consideration of the love of God took place last week. Today our consideration is the love of Christ. If the love of God the Father is shown by His willingness to send His Son to die on the cross an atonement for our sins, and to raise Him from the dead on the third day, so that He could then ascend to the Father’s right hand in heaven, where He is now enthroned until His second coming in power and great glory, what can then be said about the love of Christ?
11. This morning I want to focus your attention on one specific aspect of the love of Jesus Christ. Passing up the opportunity to consider Jesus Christ’s love for the Father, in perfect obedience to the great commandment to love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength, Mark 12.30, we shall consider Christ’s love for His creatures.
12. Let me further narrow the focus of your attention, this morning, also passing by the Savior’s love for those who are Christians. Christ’s love for His Own is so strong that nothing shall separate us from the love of Christ. Not “tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword,” Romans 8.35. “Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.”
13. Today we shall consider the love of Jesus Christ through us, rather than the love of Jesus Christ to us. Please turn in your Bible to Second Corinthians 5.14. When you find that verse in Scripture, please stand for the reading of God’s Word: “For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead.”
14. My text is really the first phrase of this verse: “For the love of Christ constraineth us.” Three comments before my sermon this morning:
1A. First, A COMMENT CONCERNING “THE LOVE OF CHRIST”
1B. There are two ways in which this phrase could be understood. Either this phrase refers to love which has Jesus Christ for its object, which would be our love for Jesus, the Christian’s love for Jesus, someone’s love for Jesus, . . . or love that originates in the bosom of Jesus Christ for others.
2B. My understanding of this phrase has always been that what Paul is referring to here is not the Christian’s love for Christ, which wavers and ebbs and flows, but Christ’s unchanging and eternal love for others, specifically His love for the lost.
3B. That great old Baptist theologian, John Gill, wrote these words in commenting on this phrase: “Nothing more effectually keeps ministers, or other believers, in the work and service of their Lord, or more strongly obliges and constrains them to a cheerful discharge of their duty to him, and one another, than his love displayed . . . .”
4B. To reiterate, then, this phrase “the love of Christ” refers to the love that Jesus Christ has for others, specifically, the love that Jesus Christ has for the lost, for those who are not Christians.
2A. Next, A COMMENT CONCERNING THE CONSTRAINT OF CHRIST’S LOVE
1B. This word “constraineth” translates a Greek verb that is pronounced, “sunecei.” It refers to, in ongoing fashion, the act of the process of holding together or pressing together. The most widely used of Greek lexicons defines the word in this context as meaning, “to hold with bounds so as to manage or guide, direct, control.”
2B. Now, it is obvious that Christ’s love does not bind the lost, does not manage the lost, does not guide or control or direct the lost. The lost have no sense of Christ’s love. The lost have no concern for Christ’s will for their lives, or they would come to Him for salvation in short order.
3B. Who is managed, guided, directed, controlled as an instrument of Christ’s love to the lost? The Christian, specifically the church member. You see, it is within the congregation, under the preaching of God’s Word, subject to the teaching of the Bible, and the encouragement and exhortation of God’s people, that the child of God learns what the Lord Jesus Christ wants of His disciples, and learns how to serve effectively the One Who died on the cross and shed His blood for their sins.
3A. And This Is Confirmed By The Last Word In Our Text, “US”
1B. Putting ourselves in Paul’s shoes, and applying this word to our own situation as Christians in a gospel preaching church, we are the ones who are most affected by Christ’s love for the lost. We are the ones who are moved to action by Christ’s love for the lost. And this is because we are the ones who are desirous to please our Lord with obedience to His commands.
2B. And what has our Lord Jesus Christ commanded us? “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you,” Matthew 28.19-20. “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature,” Mark 16.15. “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth,” Acts 1.8.
1. I contend that most so-called Christians are profoundly ignorant when it comes to this subject of love. I am convinced that at their bottom, evangelical Christians, Charismatic Christians, and even fundamentalists in Baptist churches who have the same core beliefs as evangelicals and Charismatics about such things, are wrong in their views about love, what it is, and how it behaves.
2. But compare the lifestyle and the behavior of folks, who subscribe to such nonsense, to our text for this morning. This phrase, and most of this entire chapter in Second Corinthians when rightly considered, shows that it is Christ’s love for the lost that moves a Christian’s behavior, not the believer’s feelings or sentiments.
3. Think about this for a moment. Are Christians constant and unwavering in their love for Christ, or in their love for the lost? Are we constant and unwavering in our love for each other? No, we are not. So, it is a very good thing that our Lord Jesus Christ loves the lost through us, that He constrains us, binds us up, works in our lives by various means, to accomplish His will of getting the Gospel out to those He loves.
4. Of course, this requires some answers to some troubling questions. Let me ask only one question, before brother Isenberger comes to lead us in a song as we prepare for this morning’s sermon: What would be the most obvious way the love of Christ for the lost is shown in a Christian’s life?
5. My opinion? Backed up by this text that we have considered, and the greater passage it is associated with? I think it is pretty obvious that if the love of Jesus Christ for the lost is being channeled through your life, it will be most evident in your efforts expended to evangelize the lost.
6. How, then, can any Christian in our church separate his efforts to bring the lost under the sound of the Gospel from our evangelism time on Saturday evenings? I don’t think you can. That time each week is the love of Christ constraining us corporately to reach out for Jesus’ sake.
7. The love of Christ is translated, on Saturday evenings at our church, from an abstract concept in the Bible to a reality in the Christian’s life, by putting forth effort to bring the lost under the sound of the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ. “For the love of Christ constraineth us.” His great love is why we do what we do.
8. Please stand as brother Isenberger comes.
1. “For the love of Christ constraineth us.” The “us” Paul literally refers to in our text was Paul, himself, and his co-laborers. We connect the word “us” to ourselves by application. And it’s a valid application, to be sure.
2. But an application that is even closer to the actual interpretation of the verse occurs when pastors and preachers apply the word “us” to their own lives and ministries. Allow me to make that application in front of you this morning.
3. My goal is to show you how “the love of Christ constraineth” a gospel preacher who rightly divides the word of truth, who correctly understands the task that is set before him by his call to the ministry and the directions found in God’s Word for implementing that call.
4. There is much confusion in this great apostasy we are in about what a pastor should be and do in bringing the lost to Jesus Christ. There are many who are terribly confused, even though they are well-intentioned and profoundly ignorant, who think you can show the love of Christ to a sinner and bringing him to genuine salvation by majoring on being nice to him and preaching positive and uplifting sermons to him.
5. How popular is this approach to pastoral ministry? Listen to this excerpt from an article I recently received: “Ted Haggard, president of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), believes churches should ‘focus on essentials like salvation’ and should try to ‘love people into heaven rather than scaring the hell out of them’ (RNS Weekly Report, Aug. 6). Haggard praises Billy Graham for preaching a positive message and not ‘talking about the evils of liberalism.’ Haggard is the pastor of the 9,000-member New Life Church in Colorado Springs, which is charismatic in doctrine and practice. He claims that God spoke to him in 1984 and told him to ‘start a church where people could freely worship, whether that meant dancing, jumping, banging on a tambourine, or standing silently with eyes closed.’”
6. In the United States of America it’s the numbers that do the talking. So, if a guy has 9,000 people in his church he must be right. Amen? Those who are pragmatists would say “Yes.” Those who are really new evangelical or Charismatic in their heart of hearts would also say “Yes.”
7. And this is because there is the profoundest kind of misunderstanding of such Bible verses as Romans 2.4, which reads, “Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?”
8. There are so many people who think that since it is “the goodness of God” that leads to repentance, it is therefore necessary for the loving servant of God to always be nice in his preaching and teaching, to never be harsh, and to never scowl or be accusatory in his manner or style. Above all, the spiritual idiot believes, you must never be negative if you really want to get hardened sinners to Christ.
9. I’m sorry. I really shouldn’t refer to folks as spiritual idiots, I suppose. But there are people who have never made a study of the issue, who have never brought a sinner to Christ, who are most probably not genuinely converted themselves, who suggest that a preacher must appear to them to be loving in order to be constrained by the love of Christ. And dirty dog hireling preachers will go along with that nonsense.
10. They actually think, if you could call that process that takes place in their craniums thinking, that a preacher who condemns sin, who rails against unbelief, who stands on God’s side in pointing the finger of accusation at wicked sinners, is somehow not loving and is not being constrained by the love of Christ for the lost.
11. To counter that erroneous opinion, and to show in undeniable fashion that a preacher who does not vigorously preach against sin, who does not rail against unbelief, who does not warn and threaten with God’s judgment, is not constrained by the love of Christ . . . I want to quickly pass four samples by you.
1A. First, A SAMPLING OF JOHN THE BAPTIST’S PREACHING
Please turn to Matthew 3.7-12, where we are shown just a bit of what John the Baptist’s ministry was like:
7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?
8 Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance:
9 And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.
10 And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
11 I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire:
12 Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.
1B. Would you deny that John the Baptist was a Spirit-filled man of God? He was predicted to be Spirit-filled from his mothers womb, according to Luke 1.15. Can a man be filled with God’s Spirit and not love Jesus, and not be useful to Jesus, and not be used by Jesus? Would anyone here suggest that the love of Christ did not constrain John the Baptist to do what he did and how he did it?
2B. Yet he called upstanding members of society, religious leaders, “O generation of vipers.” When they showed up to observe him baptizing, he as much as demanded of them, “Who told you to flee from the wrath to come?” He went on to say, in effect, “Don’t think to yourselves that Abraham is your father. God could make these rocks Abraham’s children if He was of a mind to.” From that he went on to warn them that they were in danger of being cast into the fire.
3B. Excuse me, but how does John the Baptist’s style and message fit in with those naive notions that you stand a better chance of persuading the unconverted to come to Christ by being nice and mannerly with them? You don’t think John the Baptist didn’t know what he was doing, do you?
2A. Next, THE PENTECOSTAL SERMON OF THE APOSTLE PETER
1B. We don’t have the time to read Acts 2.14-40 this morning, but there are a couple of statements Peter made that show us the general tenor of his anointed approach to evangelizing that large crowd of men who had gathered in Jerusalem that day:
1C. Acts 2.14: “Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words.” I paraphrase: “You men of Judea and Jerusalem. Listen up. I have something to tell you.” Authoritative. Direct.
2C. Acts 2.23: “Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain.” “Even though God had decided it would happen, and knew every detail of the events as they unfolded, you and those Romans are still guilty of crucifying and killing the Son of God.” Not very loving or positive, was he?
3C. Listen to this. Acts 2.36: “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.”
2B. My friends, we know that Simon Peter is filled with the Holy Spirit of God as he speaks. He and the others have just received the baptism of the Holy Spirit they had waited and prayed for. Yet Peter seems quite harsh to these men, does he not?
3B. So, what are we to think about the opinions of those who believe there is an inherent lack of love being exhibited by those whose preaching style and message seems to them to be harsh? They are wrong. Only a fool would deny that the love of Christ was working in Peter to preach that great Pentecostal sermon that day so long ago.
3A. Third, We Briefly Consider THE FINAL SERMON OF STEPHEN
1B. Stephen, of course, was one of the seven deacons chosen in Acts chapter 6. He was “a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost,” Acts 6.5, who “did great wonders and miracles among the people,” Acts 6.8.
2B. But if you read Stephen’s sermon in Acts 7.2-60, you will discover some interesting facts:
1C. First, you will find his sermon to be the very best concise history of the Jewish people in existence.
2C. Second, you will find that his sermon climaxes at the very end, with a stinging rebuke and a scathing denunciation of the Jewish nation. I read Acts 7.51-53: “51 Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye. 52 Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers: 53 Who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it.”
3C. The way in which Stephen’s audience took his sermon is seen by their response. I read excerpts from Acts 7.54-59: “When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth. . . Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord, And cast him out of the city, . . . And they stoned Stephen . . . .”
3B. So, you see, Stephen’s anointed sermon produced a result that was opposite to Peter’s anointed sermon, though both preachers had common features in their sermons.
1C. Both were Spirit-anointed sermons that were ringing indictments leveled against their audiences, strongly castigating them and roundly condemning them.
2C. But whereas the one sermon resulted in 3,000 getting saved in one day, the other sermon resulted in the death of the man of God.
3C. But in either case, could anyone who rightly divides God’s Word deny that both Peter and Stephen were compelled by the love of Christ to preach as they did? No.
4A. Finally, I Want You To Sample PAUL’S THEOLOGY OF EVANGELISM
1B. We do not have the time necessary to thoroughly treat Paul’s letters to the Romans and to the Galatians, those two letters containing the best explanations of Paul’s inspired approach to getting the lost saved. But there is one verse in Romans and a short passage in Galatians that give us needed insight.
2B. Please turn to Romans 3.20 and look, please, at the final phrase of that verse: “for by the law is the knowledge of sin.”
1C. A sinner does not know sin except by the law. And how is the law pressed upon a sinner? By softly and tenderly teaching him? If you think that you have no experience in dealing with sinners. The law is pressed upon a sinner by strong, by forceful, by energetic preaching.
2C. You can tell a sinner that the wages of sin is death, but it will have no effect on him most of the time. It is when you preach to him that the wages of sin is death, when you show him that the wages of sin is death, when you persuade him of the justice of the wages of sin being death, that it will begin to affect him.
3C. Then he may begin to see his sinfulness, his need to be converted, his helplessness in the face of God’s judgment, and his defilement in the face of God’s holiness.
4C. Folks, when you teach pleasant lessons to folks in a nice setting, being careful to never offend them or provoke them to deep thought or introspection, they will not (because of their own heart’s depravity) see their sinfulness, and you will not reach them for Christ.
3B. Now turn to Galatians 3.19-24:
19 Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator.
20 Now a mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is one.
21 Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law.
22 But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.
23 But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed.
24 Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.
1C. That last verse, “Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ,” shows the importance of preaching the law, of driving home the law, of impressing upon sinners the demands of the law.
2C. Can you preach the law properly without being forceful, without being direct, without being confrontational, without rebuking, without accusing sinners of wrongdoing?
3C. John the Baptist didn’t think you could. Simon Peter didn’t think you could. Stephen didn’t think you could. Paul didn’t think you could.
1. So, these brief samples from God’s Word show that contemporary preachers who refuse to castigate, who refuse to indict, who refuse to rebuke, who refuse to press upon sinners the coming judgment and wrath of God, are simply wrong.
2. The love of Christ for sinners is manifested in a manner that is somewhat different than many today imagine to be the proper way. But they forget that God knows who He is dealing with, and He knows that someone who is depraved, whose heart is deceitful, must be confronted a certain way. And that way is not necessarily softly and tenderly.
3. Those of you who claim to be converted know this already. Those of you who are not converted need to understand that it is love that prompts me to preach tough, strong sermons. Not my love, alone, but Christ’s love for you.
4. The purpose of all this? The purpose of strong preaching? The purpose of fearsome rebukes? The purpose of pointed accusations? The purpose of applying the law to you? To bring you unto Christ.
 Romans 8.37
 John Gill, The John Gill Library, (Paris, AK: The Baptist Standard Bearer, Inc., 2000)
 Fritz Reinecker & Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key To The Greek New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Regency Reference Library, 1980), page 469.
 Bauer, Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, (Chicago, Illinois: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), page 971.