Boundless in knowledge and power; perfect in goodness, love, wisdom, and justice, God does all things with holy excellence. Indeed, holiness constitutes the beauty of His every attribute and action. We see God’s excellence most clearly in the person and work of Christ in love to the unlovely, goodness to the corrupt, mercy to the guilty, and grace to the ungrateful. Freely suffering infinite wrath to uphold the requirements of divine justice, He purchased a people to cherish and bless forever.
We see God’s glory dimly, even as He reigns as the supreme love of our hearts. We struggle with leftover corruption in and around us. We run and stumble, we suffer bruises, fatigue, and discouragement. We play in the streets of Laodicea, even as the splendor of Zion glitters in the distance. Our zeal to serve Christ languishes when choked by worldly weeds.
So, where do we turn if we find ourselves and our fellowship in a funk of apathy? More worldly devices? Enthusiastic pep talks, clever speeches and personalities, programs devoid of truth about God, more volume and antics in the pulpit, things which any reprobate can do at will?
In search of fire for listless souls, we’ve tried most everything, often looking for remedies in all the wrong places. In his exposition on 1 Corinthians 13, however, Jonathan Edwards gets to the heart of the matter.
Love to God will dispose a man to give honor to God. Love will dispose to worship and adore him, heartily to acknowledge his greatness and glory and dominion. So love will dispose to all acts of obedience to God. The servant who loves his master, and the subject who loves his prince, will be disposed to proper subjection and obedience. Love will dispose a person to behave towards God as a child to a father. Under difficulties, to resort to God for help and to put their trust in him. It is natural for persons in cases of need or affliction to go to those whom they love for pity and help. They who love God will be disposed to give credit to his work and to put confidence in him. Men are not apt to suspect the veracity of those for whom they have entire friendship. So love will dispose men to praise God for the mercies they receive from him. Men are disposed to gratitude for any kindnesses they receive from those they love. Love will dispose the heart to submission to the will of God. Persons are more willing that the will of those whom they love should be done than that of others. They naturally desire that those whom they love should be pleased, and things should be agreeable to them. A true love and esteem of God will dispose the heart to acknowledge God’s right to govern, and that he is worthy of it; and so will dispose it to submit. Love to God will dispose to walk humbly with God. For he that loves God will be disposed to acknowledge the distance there is between God and him. It will be agreeable to him who loves God to exalt him and set him on high above all, and to lie low before him. A true Christian delights to have God exalted in his abasement, because he loves God. He is willing to own that God is worthy of this; and it is with delight that he casts himself in the dust before God, because he loves God.
As love perseveres, climbs any mountain, and fights to the death for the object of its affection, so love to God obeys, serves, submits, and worships. Its flame spurs service to Christ.
Love of God must be lit and fanned by the knowledge of God, for to know Him is to love Him. The greater our understanding of the beauty of God’s infinite excellence and love, the more we will adore Him for who He is and for the greatness of the gifts He has lavished on us. “For God, who said, ‘Light shall shine out of darkness,’ is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6), the glory of the beauty and magnificence of His attributes. When knowledge of God fuels love to God, we serve and honor Him.
In fact, the entire Christian life flows from the knowledge of God: “Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence” (2 Pet. 1:2-3).
In our testimony as “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession,” we “proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called [us] out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Pet. 2:9). Nothing can so move the heart of God’s child to faithful and zealous service than sight of the beauty of His perfections revealed in the person and work of Jesus. And as our cup overflows from the spring of God’s endless love and goodness toward us in Christ, we will actively love God and our neighbor. Such is Christianity. When the temporary and trivial distractions of the world drain our time and vitality, we need not resort to ingenious devices. Rather, we need seek and more clearly display the One who dims the things of the world in the light of His infinite excellence.
 Charity and Its Fruits, in Works of Jonathan Edwards, Volume 8, Freedom of the Will, ed. Paul Ramsey (New Haven, Yale University Press, 1989), 134-135.
Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE, © Copyright The Lockman Foundation 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1988, 1995. Used by permission.
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