“This Is How God Loved Us”
“If this is how God loved us, then we are ourselves under obligation to love one another.”—1 JOHN 4:11.
1. On March 23 after sundown, why will millions of people be gathering in Kingdom Halls and other meeting places around the globe?
ON Sunday, March 23, 1997, after sundown, there will no doubt be over 13,000,000 people worldwide who will gather in Kingdom Halls and other meeting places being used by Jehovah’s Witnesses. Why? Because their hearts have been touched by God’s greatest expression of love toward humankind. Jesus Christ focused attention on that magnificent evidence of God’s love, saying: “God loved the world so much that he gave his only-begotten Son, in order that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life.”—John 3:16.
2. What questions could all of us beneficially ask ourselves regarding our response to God’s love?
2 As we consider the love that God has shown, we do well to ask ourselves, ‘Do I truly appreciate what God has done? Does the way that I am using my life give evidence of that appreciation?’
“God Is Love”
3. (a) Why is the displaying of love not unusual for God? (b) How are power and wisdom manifest in his works of creation?
3 Displaying love is not in itself extraordinary on God’s part because “God is love.” (1 John 4:8) Love is his dominant characteristic. When he was preparing the earth for human habitation, his raising the mountains and gathering water into lakes and oceans was a breathtaking display of power. (Genesis 1:9, 10) When God put into operation the water cycle and the oxygen cycle, when he designed countless microorganisms and varieties of vegetation to convert chemical elements of the earth into a form that humans could assimilate in order to sustain their lives, when he set our biological clocks to correspond with the length of days and of months on planet Earth, this manifested great wisdom. (Psalm 104:24; Jeremiah 10:12) Yet, even more outstanding in the physical creation is the evidence of God’s love.
4. In the physical creation, what evidence of God’s love should all of us see and appreciate?
4 Our palates tell us of God’s love when we bite into succulent, ripe fruit that obviously was made not only to sustain us but also to bring us pleasure. Our eyes see unmistakable evidence of it in breathtaking sunsets, the star-filled heavens on a clear night, the varied forms and vibrant colors of flowers, the antics of young animals, and the warm smiles of friends. Our noses make us aware of it when we breathe the sweet scent of spring flowers. Our ears sense it as we listen to the sound of a waterfall, the songs of birds, and the voices of dear ones. We feel it when a loved one gives us a warm embrace. Certain animals are endowed with abilities to see, hear, or smell things that humans cannot. But humankind, made in the image of God, has the capacity to sense God’s love in a manner that no animal can.—Genesis 1:27.
5. How did Jehovah show abundant love toward Adam and Eve?
5 When Jehovah God created the first humans, Adam and Eve, he surrounded them with evidence of his love. He had planted a garden, a paradise, and caused trees of all sorts to grow in it. He had provided a river to water it and filled it with fascinating birds and animals. He gave all of this to Adam and Eve as their home. (Genesis 2:8-10, 19) Jehovah dealt with them as his children, part of his universal family. (Luke 3:38) Having provided Eden as a pattern, the heavenly Father of this first human pair set before them the satisfying assignment of extending Paradise to cover the globe. The entire earth was to be populated with their offspring.—Genesis 1:28.
6. (a) How do you feel about the rebellious course taken by Adam and Eve? (b) What might indicate that we have learned from what took place in Eden and that we have benefited from that knowledge?
6 Shortly, however, Adam and Eve faced a test of obedience, a test of loyalty. First one and then the other failed to show appreciation for the love that had been bestowed upon them. What they did was shocking. It was inexcusable! As a result, they lost their relationship with God, were expelled from his family, and were ousted from Eden. We today still feel the effects of their sin. (Genesis 2:16, 17; 3:1-6, 16-19, 24; Romans 5:12) But have we learned from what happened? How are we responding to God’s love? Do the decisions we make each day show that we appreciate his love?—1 John 5:3.
7. In spite of what Adam and Eve did, how did Jehovah show love for their offspring?
7 Even the gross lack of appreciation our first human parents showed for all that God had done for them did not stifle God’s own love. Out of compassion for humans not then born—including those of us alive today—God allowed Adam and Eve to raise a family before they died. (Genesis 5:1-5; Matthew 5:44, 45) If he had not done that, none of us would have been born. By progressive revelation of his will, Jehovah also provided a basis for hope for all those of Adam’s offspring who would exercise faith. (Genesis 3:15; 22:18; Isaiah 9:6, 7) His arrangement included the means whereby people of all nations could regain what Adam had lost, namely, perfect life as approved members of God’s universal family. He did this by providing a ransom.
Why a Ransom?
8. Why could God not simply have decreed that although Adam and Eve must die, none of their obedient offspring would have to die?
8 Was it really necessary for a ransom price in the form of a human life to be paid? Could not God simply have decreed that although Adam and Eve must die for their rebellion, all of their offspring who would obey God could live forever? From a shortsighted human standpoint, that might sound reasonable. However, Jehovah is “a lover of righteousness and justice.” (Psalm 33:5) Only after Adam and Eve became sinners did they produce children; so none of those children were born perfect. (Psalm 51:5) They all had an inheritance of sin, and the penalty for sin is death. If Jehovah had ignored this, what sort of example would that have set for the members of his universal family? He could not ignore his own righteous standards. He respected the requirements of justice. No one could ever legitimately find fault with the way in which God dealt with the issues involved.—Romans 3:21-23.
9. According to the divine standard of justice, what sort of ransom was needed?
9 How, then, could a suitable basis be provided for delivering those of Adam’s offspring who would demonstrate loving obedience to Jehovah? If a perfect human was to die sacrificially, justice could allow for the value of that perfect life to provide a covering for the sins of those who would in faith accept the ransom. Since the sin of one man, Adam, was responsible for causing the entire human family to be sinners, the shed blood of another perfect human, being of corresponding value, could balance the scales of justice. (1 Timothy 2:5, 6) But where could such a person be found?
How Great Was the Cost?
10. Why were Adam’s offspring unable to provide the needed ransom?
10 Among the offspring of sinner Adam, there was no one who could provide what was needed in order to buy back the life prospects that Adam had forfeited. “Not one of them can by any means redeem even a brother, nor give to God a ransom for him; (and the redemption price of their soul is so precious that it has ceased to time indefinite) that he should still live forever and not see the pit.” (Psalm 49:7-9) In the place of leaving humankind with no way out, Jehovah himself mercifully made provision.
11. By what means did Jehovah provide the perfect human life that was needed for a suitable ransom?
11 Jehovah did not send an angel to earth to pretend to die by laying down an incarnated body while he lived on as a spirit. Instead, by performing a miracle that only God, the Creator, could have devised, he transferred the life-force and personality pattern of a heavenly son to the womb of a woman, Mary the daughter of Heli, of the tribe of Judah. God’s active force, his holy spirit, safeguarded the development of the child in its mother’s womb, and it was born a perfect human. (Luke 1:35; 1 Peter 2:22) This one then had at his disposal the price needed to provide a ransom that would fully satisfy the requirements of divine justice.—Hebrews 10:5.
12. (a) In what sense is Jesus God’s “only-begotten Son”? (b) How did God’s sending this one to provide the ransom emphasize His love for us?
12 To which of his myriads of heavenly sons did Jehovah give this assignment? To the one described in the Scriptures as his “only-begotten Son.” (1 John 4:9) This expression is used to describe, not what he became when born as a human, but what he was prior to that in the heavens. He is the only one whom Jehovah created directly without the cooperation of anyone else. He is the Firstborn of all creation. He is the one who was used by God to bring into existence all other creatures. The angels are sons of God, as Adam was a son of God. But Jesus is described as having “a glory such as belongs to an only-begotten son from a father.” He is said to reside “in the bosom position with the Father.” (John 1:14, 18) His relationship with the Father is a close, confidential, tender one. He shares his Father’s love for humankind. Proverbs 8:30, 31 expresses how his Father feels about this Son and how the Son feels about humankind: “I came to be the one he [Jehovah] was specially fond of day by day, I being glad before him all the time, . . . and the things I [Jesus, Jehovah’s Master Worker, the personification of wisdom] was fond of were with the sons of men.” It was this most precious Son that God sent to earth to provide the ransom. How meaningful, therefore, is Jesus’ statement: “God loved the world so much that he gave his only-begotten Son”!—John 3:16.
13, 14. What should the Bible record of Abraham’s attempting to offer up Isaac help us to appreciate about what Jehovah did? (1 John 4:10)
13 To help us grasp in some measure what that means, long before Jesus came to earth, God instructed Abraham, some 3,890 years ago: “Take, please, your son, your only son whom you so love, Isaac, and make a trip to the land of Moriah and there offer him up as a burnt offering on one of the mountains that I shall designate to you.” (Genesis 22:1, 2) In faith, Abraham obeyed. Put yourself in Abraham’s position. What if that was your son, your only son whom you dearly love? What feelings would you have as you split the wood for the burnt offering, make the trip of several days to the land of Moriah, and place your son on the altar?
14 Why does a compassionate parent have such feelings? Genesis 1:27 says that God created man in His image. Our feelings of love and compassion reflect in a very limited way Jehovah’s own love and compassion. In Abraham’s case, God intervened, so that Isaac was not actually sacrificed. (Genesis 22:12, 13; Hebrews 11:17-19) However, in his own case, Jehovah did not stop short of providing the ransom, though it was done at great cost to both himself and his Son. What was done was, not because of any obligation on God’s part, but, rather, as an expression of extraordinary undeserved kindness. Do we fully appreciate it?—Hebrews 2:9.
What It Makes Possible
15. How has the ransom affected lives even in this present system of things?
15 That loving provision made by God has a profound effect on the lives of those who accept it in faith. They were formerly alienated from God as a result of sin. They were, as his Word says, ‘enemies because their minds were on works that were wicked.’ (Colossians 1:21-23) But they became “reconciled to God through the death of his Son.” (Romans 5:8-10) Having changed their course of life and having accepted the forgiveness that God makes possible to those who exercise faith in Christ’s sacrifice, they are favored with a clean conscience.—Hebrews 9:14; 1 Peter 3:21.
16. What blessings are granted to the little flock because of their faith in the ransom?
16 Jehovah has extended to a limited number of these, a little flock, the undeserved favor of being associated with his Son in the heavenly Kingdom, with a view to carrying out God’s original purpose for the earth. (Luke 12:32) These have been taken “out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation . . . to be a kingdom and priests to our God, and they are to rule as kings over the earth.” (Revelation 5:9, 10) To these, the apostle Paul wrote: “You received a spirit of adoption as sons, by which spirit we cry out: ‘Abba, Father!’ The spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are God’s children. If, then, we are children, we are also heirs: heirs indeed of God, but joint heirs with Christ.” (Romans 8:15-17) In being adopted by God as his sons, they are granted the cherished relationship that Adam lost; but to these sons will be granted the added privileges of heavenly service—something that Adam never had. No wonder the apostle John said: “See what sort of love the Father has given us, so that we should be called children of God”! (1 John 3:1) To such ones God expresses not only principled love (a·gaʹpe) but also tender affection (phi·liʹa), which is characteristic of the bond that exists between genuine friends.—John 16:27.
17. (a) To all who exercise faith in the ransom, what opportunity is given? (b) What will “the glorious freedom of the children of God” mean for them?
17 To others too—all who exercise faith in God’s generous provision for life through Jesus Christ—Jehovah opens the opportunity to gain the precious relationship that Adam lost. The apostle Paul explained: “The eager expectation of the creation [the human creation descended from Adam] is waiting for the revealing of the sons of God [that is, they await the time when it becomes clearly evident that the sons of God who are heirs with Christ of the heavenly Kingdom are taking positive action in behalf of humankind]. For the creation was subjected to futility [they were born in sin with the prospect of death, and there was no way in which they could liberate themselves], not by its own will but through him that subjected it, on the basis of hope [given by God] that the creation itself also will be set free from enslavement to corruption and have the glorious freedom of the children of God.” (Romans 8:19-21) What will that freedom mean? That they have been liberated from bondage to sin and death. They will have perfection of mind and body, Paradise as their home, and eternal life in which to enjoy their perfection and express their appreciation to Jehovah, the only true God. And how was all of this made possible? Through the ransom sacrifice of God’s only-begotten Son.
18. On March 23 after sundown, what will we be doing, and why?
18 On Nisan 14, 33 C.E., in an upper room in Jerusalem, Jesus instituted the Memorial of his death. The annual commemoration of his death has become an important event in the lives of all true Christians. Jesus himself commanded: “Keep doing this in remembrance of me.” (Luke 22:19) In 1997 the Memorial will be held after sundown on March 23 (which is when Nisan 14 begins). On that day, nothing could be more important than being present for this Memorial occasion.
How Would You Answer?
□ In what ways has God shown abundant love for humankind?
□ Why was a perfect human life needed to ransom Adam’s offspring?
□ At what great cost did Jehovah provide the ransom?
□ What does the ransom make possible?
[Picture on page 10]
God gave his only-begotten Son