1950 Synod Convention
“We love him” is the Apostle’s description of the believer’s feeling towards his God. The reason for loving God is given too, “because he first loved us”. 1 John 4,19. Yes, if there is any one thing an earnest seeker for the truth can glean from the Bible, it is the fact that God loves him, has loved him from eternity. “I have loved thee with an everlasting love”, says the Lord through His prophet Jeremiah. Jer. 31,3. He can be certain of that fact from the way in which God has manifested His love for him, a sinner.
How God Manifested His Love
Because of his sins, man deserved to be punished with tribulation and anguish here, and with everlasting pain and torment, weeping and gnashing of teeth in the hereafter. But then we read that glorious word in the Gospel which Luther has rightly called “the little Bible”: “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life”. John 3,16. Not only did He give His Son to the world, but as it is written: “God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us”. Rom. 5,8.
And Jesus, whom God gave into death for our sins, loved us with the same divine compassionate love, so that Paul can by inspiration say of Him that He “loved me and gave himself for me”. Gal. 2,20. Again, the same apostle shows how Christ manifested His love for our salvation when he declares, that “Christ also loved the Church and gave himself for it”. Eph. 5,25. Though the price He had to pay for our redemption was great, beyond all possible human calculation, when we consider the agony of body and soul which He had to endure during His Passion as our Substitute, we nevertheless read: “Having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them to the end”. John 13,1.
Besides prompting Him to sacrifice Jesus for our redemption, God’s love moved Him to acquaint us by nature spiritually dead people of that fact, too, and made us alive spiritually by bringing us to faith in Jesus as our personal Savior, for His chosen apostle testifies: “But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he hath loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus”. Eph. 2,4–6. And, having given us His Spirit so that we would believe in Jesus for our salvation, He now calls us His children. Small wonder, then, that the apostle John should in holy admiration and awe give expression to this sentiment: “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should he called the sons of God”. 1 John 3,1.
Loving Equals Giving
Thus, if anything is as clear as the summer’s noonday sun, it is this, that loving cannot he separated from giving. The whole story of our redemption, from the issuance of the first promise for our redemption in the first Paradise to the bestowing of the crown of life in the second and eternal Paradise, is one continued story of giving prompted by love that knew no bounds, of a love that was willing to sacrifice itself to prove its genuineness. To what the holy writer says, every Christian will add his joyful, grateful “Amen”: “In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins”. 1 John 4,9f. Rightly does the same apostle therefore say: “God is Love”.
We Love God
It is but natural that we Christians love our Lord, “because he first loved us”. How could it be otherwise? — Redemption from sin at a tremendous price, but without cost to us, — brought to the knowledge of that redemption, without any effort or initiative on our part, — and the promise of an everlasting inheritance, again, freely, as a gift. What Peter writes of Jesus is therefore 100% true for every believer: “Whom having not seen, ye love: in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory”. 1 Pet. 1,8. Yes, where would we be, if God had not loved us?
Showing Our Love
Of a truth, we love God and our Savior Jesus Christ, who first loved us. And sinee that is true, we will also manifest our love to God in a very tangible way. This manifestation of our love for God will as a matter of course take the same form as did God’s love for us, in giving. Also on our part “to love” means “ to give”. One may give without loving, but he cannot love without giving.
Giving Our Hearts
And what will we give? First and foremost, our hearts. We will let Jesus make them His dwelling place by giving heed to His Word, just as Jesus has told us: “If a man loves me, he will keep my words, and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him and make our abode with him”. John 14,23.
Giving Our Whole Self
Then, will we not also give Him our lives, that is, so conduct ourselves that God’s love toward us will be reflected in all that we say and do, that His saving name will be spread ever farther among men? Of the believers in Macedonia Paul declares that they “first gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God”. 2 Cor. 8,5. In other words, we will serve the Lord with all that we have and are, our talents and gifts, doing what we can with what we have for the preservation among us, and the ever wider proclamation elsewhere, of the Sweetest Story of love ever told. Just as surely as be has been converted and brought to see that Jesus is his Savior, so surely will every Christian ask with the newly re-born Saul: “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do” Acts 9,6.
Giving In Connection With Praying
In this connection, we Christians, in the Queen of all prayers, implore Jesus, “Thy Kingdom come.” If we really mean what we ask, that God’s Kingdom of grace should continue to come to us and be extended throughout the entire world through the work of missions, we will also personally have to do all we can to make that prayer come true. Not to do anything to bring that about, would be like asking the Lord to give us daily bread but not lifting a finger to attain it by our own industry, or, like asking the Lord to restore our health but not seeking the help of a physician to get rid of an acutely infected appendix. If we mean what we say in this petition, we simply will have to do something, and not just a little, but everything we can, to promote His Kingdom in our midst and elsewhere. Otherwise — and note this well — otherwise our prayer becomes sheer hypocrisy.
A Christian loves as God loves. And why? Because the Spirit of God rules in his heart. “As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God”, says Paul. Rom. 8,14. And what does God love most of all? Is it not the souls of men? Thus a Christian loves such souls too, that is, he desires their salvation, and is going to do what he can so that they can be saved.
We say we love God, and we mean it, but we must not forget that as with God’s love toward us, so our love towards Him will just naturally show itself in a very concrete way. We show our love for our dear ones by giving to and for them. Think how much we give in time, money, and at the cost of much personal convenience, for our children, how much we give and do for a dear friend; we are willing even to give our life for such, if need be. But, God is, or should be, our first love.
Giving Of Our Means
All Christians serve the Lord Jesus Christ in everything, as the inspired apostle enjoins upon them: “Whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.” Col. 3,17. Some of us are devoting our lives as “ambassadors for Christ” by preaching and teaching the story of God’s love for fallen mankind. This should not be looked upon as a sacrifice, but rather as a precious privilege which God has given us. However, as has just been said, a Christian serves God in everything he does, and with everything he has. Since the work in God’s Kingdom entails certain expenditures, money is needed. In this respect, all who have means can serve their Lord, whatever their earthly calling may be, namely, by giving of their means toward the very same work, that of preaching the Gospel.
Our means, then, can he used in seeking “first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.” Matt. 6,83. That is in reality the easiest form of giving, for it requires much, much, more to give one’s self for such work, to devote all one’s energies, all one’s time, and all one’s talents to it. Yet, we will gladly do that, give of our means, and generously too, because we love Jesus so much, who gave, not what He could spare, not just part of Himself, not just most of Himself, but His all, for us. “The love of Christ constraineth us”, says Paul, 2 Cor. 5,14, that is, His love for us makes us want to serve Him also with our means.
And that is the only kind of gift that is pleasing to God, a willing one, as His word testifies: “Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.” 2 Cor. 9,7.
How Much Should We Give
How much we should give of our means is left to us, except for this general rule, that we give as God hath prospered us. 1 Cor. 16,2. There should, however, be as much system to our giving to the Lord as there is to our financial transactions otherwise. Not give Him what is left over, but regularly reserve a certain definite percentage of our income for Him and His work. We cannot rest satisfied with giving the Lord a mere pittance of the means with which He has entrusted us in the first place, or to give on a sort of “hit and miss” basis.
The believer of the Old Testament had no choice — he had to give one-tenth of his net income, and more, in special offerings. We of the ew Testament, with our many more advantages should be willing out of gratitude for being delivered from the burdens of the Ceremonial Law (which the Old Covenant people had to observe scrupulously), for being delivered from the curse of the Moral Law — to do as much freely as the Israelite of the Old Covenant was compelled to do.
We are not saying that we must all become “ten per centers”, or tithers, but is there anything wrong with striving to come somewheres near that figure which we know was pleasing to God, since He Himself set it for believers under the Old Covenant. Perhaps we cannot give 10% of our net income, but we can try to make it 6, 7, or 8%, or even 5% to start with, and possibly we shall some day find that we can come quite close to a full 10% or even more. Many a believer finds it possible out of gratitude to God to give that much, 10% of his income, to the Lord, and it gives him so much pleasure that he would not give less for anything.
The important thing for us to remember is, that we give in proportion to the way the Lord blesses us in material goods. This much is certain that what we out of love give to the Lord we but lend to Hirn, and He out of His generous grace will see to it that we are repaid with rich dividends.
We Cannot Afford Not To Give
We never get rich by withholding from the Lord more than is proper. One may think he can get by, but the Lord has a way of collecting that can be disastrous. He also warns us, when speaking of giving: “He that soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly.” 2 Cor. 9,6. Further, we have the example of the miserly rich farmer who was told: “Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” Luk. 12,20f.
People may think they are gaining materially by not giving liberally, but actually they are making themselves poorer and poorer. The Rich Man was poor long before he found himself in the torments of hell. He was poor already on earth, when in the midst of plenty he would not give some of his more than necessary means to relieve the suffering of the beggar Lazarus. The reason why he was poor was that there was no love in his heart — he had love neither for God nor man.
We Want To Give
But we are Christians, — we do not want to have God accuse us of robbing Him as God had to accuse Israel in the days of Malachi (Chap. 3); rather, we remember what the inspired apostle has to say of Jesus and His love for us: “For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.” 2 Cor. 8,9.
Therefore we, just as surely as we love God, will give, give all we can in every way. Look at God’s love for us and how He manifested it to us! Consider the needs of the Church! Think of how much we can do if we only have the means in our treasuries! And remember that ours is a Church of the pure Word! Truly, we have a compelling motive.
Yea, we can and will give — regularly, gladly, generously — for the work of the Church. There is need, a great need, when souls are famishing for want of the bread of life. We have that pure manna from heaven; and we have more than enough in earthly means, over which God has made us but the stewards, not the owners. We are going to bring that word to our perishing fellowmen so that they too might learn to love Him Who first loved them as well as us, and we are willing to pay the cost of that most noble work on earth. For, if our love to God and for the souls which He and we love be stopped up, be kept from expressing itself, it will be smothered and die. And where there is no love, there can be no saving faith in the God of Love.
In fact, no one will be able to dissuade us from showing our love to God by giving bountifully, because we have a most glorious promise with respect to our giving: “And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work.” 2 Cor. 9,8. We have the assurance that we shall not suffer materially; rather, the more we give for the work of the Lord, necessary work, the more we shall be enabled to continue to give — and all, so that we and our fellowmen might hear and continue to hear the story of His redeeming love. “WE LOVE HIM BECAUSE HE FIRST LOVED US.” We give to Him because he first gave to us.
Now “Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, And hath made us kings and unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.” Rev. 1.5.
SOLI DEO GLORIA!