By Mike Willis
For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead (2 Cor. 5:14).
There are several things which motivate men to obedience to Christ, several of which are mentioned in 2 Corinthians 5. Paul mentioned this things: (a) The expected inheritance of the house not made with hands which is eternal in the heavens (5:1-9); (b) The fear of judgment (5:10); (c) The terror of the Lord (5:11); and (d) The love of Christ (5:14). None of these motivators should be eliminated in our preaching, although in this article, I shall only discuss the motivating power of Christ’s love for us.
The Power of Love
Each of us has seen the motivating power of love on purely human terms. When a young man falls in love with a young lady, his life begins to change. That young man who did not care whether or not he tucked in his shirt or washed his face all of a sudden begins to take baths every time he goes out, pays careful attention to combing his hair, and borrows his dad’s best after shave lotion before leaving home. Although he has no interest in flowers, he will spend the money he made mowing yards to buy a bouquet. He is anxious to go to a movie that you would have had to drag him to just a few months before. He will sometimes act foolishly just to win and keep the attention of his girlfriend.
This same love will cause the young man to marry his lady, get a job, buy a family car (instead of a sports car), and do the duties expected of a husband. Their love for each other will bind their hearts together throughout life and into old age. Then when one becomes ill and unable to care for himself, his mate will dutifully minister to his needs until they are separated by death. This is the motivating power of love. It is stronger than threats of physical violence and inducements based on selfish desires. “For love is strong as death . . . Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it: if a man would give all the substance of his house for love, it would utterly be contemned” (Song of Sol. 8:6-7).
God induces men to obedience based on his love for us. He could have used only the threat of eternal damnation to motivate us. He could have appealed only to the bliss of heaven to move us. However, God has sought to win our hearts by his own self-sacrificing love. The love God has for us causes us to understand that all of his commandments are imposed for our own good; hence, they are not grievous and his yoke is not galling (1 Jn. 5:3; Matt. 11:28-30).
Christ’s Love For Us
We are told of God’s great love in John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Christ’s love for us is demonstrated by his willingness to leave heaven and to take upon himself the form of a servant (Phil. 2:5-8). Paul said, “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). Christ’s love for us is shown in the incarnation.
Christ’s love for mankind is also shown in his life. Luke tells us that Jesus “went about doing good” (Acts 10:38). When we read of Jesus’ kindnesses to mankind, we are impressed with his love for man.
His death on the cross displays his love for us. He willingly sacrificed his own life in order that we might be saved from sin. Paul marveled about Jesus’ love as he wrote, “. . . because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holly Ghost which is given unto us. For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:58).
Dottie Rambo wrote this beautiful tribute to Christ’s love for us.
If That Isn’t Love
He left the splendor of heaven,
Knowing his destiny
Was the lonely hill of Golgotha,
There to lay down his life for me.
Even in death he remembered
The thief hanging by his side;
He spoke with love and compassion
Then he took him to Paradise.
If that isn’t love the ocean is dry,
There’s no star in the sky,
And the sparrow can’t fly!
If that isn’t love then heaven’s a myth,
There’s no feeling like this
If that isn’t love.
Christ’s love for us kindles in our hearts the flame of love for God. “We love him, because he first loved us” (1 Jn. 4:19).
The Constraining Power of Christ’s Love
The love of Christ “constrains” us. The word sunecho means “to urge, impel.” In what ways does Christ’s love motivate us to action?
1. It restrains us from sin. The young man who falls in love with the young lady soon learns that some of his actions cause his girlfriend pain. If he truly loves her, he will quit doing those things which hurt her. Similarly, the Christian recognizes that his sins “grieve” the Holy Spirit (Eph. 4:30). Because of his concern for his relationship with God ‘ his godly sorrow will move him to repentance (2 Cor. 7: 10).
2. It impels him to action. The young man’s love will cause him to do those things which please his girlfriend, whether it be buying her flowers or holding her hand in public. In the same way, Christ’s love for us, which causes our love for Christ, will move us to do those things which please Christ. Even Christ himself did those things which pleased God (Jn. 8:29). The Christian will learn the will of God and do those things which please him, such as worshiping God, teaching the gospel, praying, etc.
3. It causes him to live a life of service to God. Christians are determined to present their bodies as a living sacrifice to God (Rom. 12:1-2). Paul said, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). He also said that “they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again” (2 Cor. 5:15).
Because of his life being devoted to Christ’s service, the Christian is willing to go out on Monday nights to visit the new move-ins, to gather to paint a member’s house, to use his Saturdays to visit sick and shut in folks, to meet together for a work day at the church building, and to use his money to assist someone who is needy. His life is devoted to the service of God.
4. It causes him to sacrifice for the Lord. Christians are willing to make sacrifices for the Lord’s work to prosper. They are willing to suffer the persecution of social ostracism and ridicule (2 Tim. 3:12). They are willing to give up some legitimate pleasures for the greater good of Christ’s kingdom. These sacrifices they gladly make because of their love for Christ.
The World Does Not Understand
Those who have never experienced the constraining power of Christ’s love do not understand why Christians are willing to forego the new car or larger house which they could afford if they did not contribute so much to the church or why they go to worship four services every week and every night during a gospel meeting. They cannot understand why we would believe and teach that there is only one reason for divorce that allows the person the right to remarriage. They cannot conceive that we would be opposed to the lotteries and other forms of gambling. Indeed, they may think that we are crazy. The world did not judge Paul much better. Paul said, “For whether we be beside ourselves, it is to God: or whether we be sober, it is for your cause” (2 Cor. 5:13).
Christ’s love is a powerful, driving force in the lives of God’s children. The world is amazed that we would willingly accept the demands of this love. We Christians stand amazed, not at what some of us are willing to give in love to Christ, but that the world can read of Christ’s love for us and then walk away unaffected by his love. Something is truly wrong in the lives of men who witness such wondrous love for us and never reciprocate.
Guardian of Truth XXXVI: 6, pp. 162, 182
March 19, 1992