This article first appeared in the February 15, 1963 issue of the Standard Bearer (vol.39, No.10), and was written by Rev. John A. Heys.
The Love That Conquers
The love of God is a favorite subject in the church world of today.
Hundreds upon hundreds of hymns are written that speak of the love of God. There is one in particular that expresses the idea in our theme, be it from the negative point of view. Its first line is addressed to that love of God in the words "O Love that will not let me go." That is a love that conquers. And that is the kind of love that has value and comfort for the child of God.
Sermons by the thousands are preached to extol that love of God; and the texts in Scripture that speak of that love of God are used over and over as the basis for such sermons. Everyone knows John 3:16. One is not at all surprised to find it on billboards along the road, on the trunk of the automobile ahead and in almost any corner where the public may see it.
Missionaries use it as their word of approach to the unchurched. "God loves you," they will say to all whom they meet. "We preach a God Who loves all men." And those churches which will discipline the wayward, insist that the doctrinal I's be dotted and T's be crossed are rebuked for their lack of that love of God.
But, O! how often is that love of God sold short!
So often it is presented as a love that WILL let me go.
A loving Savior stands at the door pleading in love to be let in. In His wonderful love He wants to save us, to save everybody. And yet He turns away after we have repeatedly turned Him away. His love was not great enough to stay there and make us let Him in. He loves, but our hate has overcome His love. He loves, but His love cannot conquer our rebellious hearts. He loves, but it is a powerless love. He loves, but it is a love that can and does after our death change to hate and put us in hell. It is a love that lets us go to our ruin. O, indeed, it is a love that sent Christ all the way to hell, but still after all this sacrifice and grief it lets us go, if we do not accept it before it is too late.
Such is not the love of God of which the Scriptures speak.
Pray tell me, which is the greater love of God, the love of the Arminian which a man can lose, which can frustrate and make void? or the love of the Scripture that conquers the proud heart of man and will not let him go but flows into that heart and makes it will salvation? Who is it really that preaches the love of God? Who really understands the beauty and wonder of John 3:16? Is it that man that maintains that God wants to save all and loves all men head for head and soul for soul but is not able to do so until man lets, Him do so? Or the man who preaches a love of God that leaves nothing to chance, that will not let us go and conquers us before we can so much as will that salvation? Who preaches a love that is sweet and tender and wonderful? The man who proclaims a well-meant offer, an invitation, a tender plea and a lbve that begs you to let it save you? Or the man who speaks of a love that calls irresistibly and takes hold of that door of our heart, opens it and enters it before we have the desire to be saved? Who loves more deeply? the Savior who merely offers to save you, who promises to save you upon the condition that you declare yourself willing to be saved? Or the Savior who reaches down and saves you even from your stubborn, wicked heart that does not want salvation?
That love of God is wonderful! Let us say it again a little differently to appreciate that fact! That love of God is full of wonder! That love of God causes a wonder to take place. It pierces the hardest heart. It softens the heart of stone. It never takes no for an answer, for it does not ask us whether we want to be saved until it has already put the desire for salvation in us. "It is God," Paul writes to the Philippians, "that worketh in you to will and to do." Philippians 2:13. GOD works in us to will. God works in us to WILL. The will for salvation does not come from us. It is not in that heart to accept a Jesus Who stands outside knocking to get in with His love. Listen! By nature we are spiritually dead! DEAD we are by nature. The man inside that heart on the other side of the door where Jesus is supposed to be knocking is DEAD. Will he open the door? Will he even hear the call of Jesus to let Him come in and save? A love that desires to save the dead but lets the dead go because they do not hear and open up, is a love that does not conquer and is quite worthless to the dead sinner. But so great and so wonderful is that love of God that it performs the wonder of making us alive spiritually by entering it before we even hear the call.
We said that "Jesus is supposed to be knocking" at the door of the heart of a dead man, because Revelation 3:20 does not speak of Jesus knocking at the door of man's heart but at the door of the lukewarm church at Laodicea. And men are urged to repent and be zealous. Jesus is not speaking here to a group of heathens who never heard of Him before. This is an established church. He is speaking to church members. O, it is a corrupt church. It is a spiritually indifferent church. Christ is not preached there anymore. And the congregation is no longer fed with Christ, the bread of life. People cannot sup with Christ there; and He does not feed His people there because the "angel"—that is minister who is supposed to be God's messenger—does not preach the Word of God but instead men's philosophies. But there are some of His elect people even in that church, regenerated children of God whom Christ loves. For note that He states in verse 19, "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten." To these He calls as He stands out side of that church—for He will not fellowship with evil doers or come into a gathering where men are not gathered in His name, that is, He will not come there to sup with His people and feed them with the truth. And because by far and large the bulk of those church members are spiritually dead and therefore cannot even hear Him call, He calls, "If any man hear my voice and open the door (of the church), I will come in to him and will sup with him, and he with me." It takes living men to hear and living men to open the door. It takes men whom the love of God has already conquered and not men that this love of God would like to conquer. God's love is not frustrated and hindered by and dependent upon the whims and fancies of totally depraved men. And- opening the door then means casting out that false teacher, denying him the pulpit, deposing his carnal office bearers who have no interest in the things of Christ and His kingdom, whom neither the corruption in the church disturbs nor the truth as it is in Christ delights but are lukewarm on all spiritual matters. The door of the church has been closed to Christ. The Consistory has made it plain that Christ is not to come into their services. That is, a Christ with a virgin birth, with an atoning death, with a divine nature, with a call to spiritual separation and an holy walk of consecration to God may not get in. He is never preached but ridiculed and called an impostor. The fear of God is not in that church. And some have kept that door closed by not demanding that this modern, blasphemous, God-insulting so-called social reformer, friend of the masses, social mixer be cast off the pulpit and out of his office in the church of Jesus Christ.
Christ, according to Rev. 3:19, in His love rebukes and. chastens. How would you explain that part of the text when you speak of Christ standing at the door of the heart of man pleading to get in? Does He rebuke before He knocks or after you open the door? Or does He rebuke you for not opening the door? What relation is there between that rebuke and His love? And what does the repenting and being zealous have to do then with the whole picture? It is so easy to pick a sentence at random, isolate it from the context and from the rest of Scripture and prove any point of false doctrine you prefer that way. Without giving any exegesis and simply quoting this very text of Revelation 3:20, "proof" can be given that the power of the Risen and glorified Christ is not equal to that of the sinner. "Proof" can be given that Matthew was in error when he quoted Jesus as saying, "All power is given me in heaven and in earth." Or even that Jesus misspoke Himself when, after His resurrection, He claimed that all this power was given to Him in heaven and on earth. Matthew 28:18For surely if He has not the power—either strength or authority—to enter the heart of one He loves and loves to save, His arm is shortened and His power too little. He knocks because He has no right to enter. He wants to save but He cannot because of mighty man! The love of God in Christ will let a man go. It will let him down. It will meet him halfway and perhaps a little farther, but it is not a love that will go all the way and save to the uttermost. It will come all the way to the heart but will not enter it. He is not after all the alpha and omega, the first and the last in our salvation. We are first. We are before that love of God. O, that love may be eternal. God had it in His heart long before the foundation of the world, but my desire for salvation was and must be in my heart before His love could save me!
Why does a man want to believe that kind of a "gospel"? which is no gospel. What good news is it to me to be told that God's love will let me go? What comfort do I find in being told that although God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, God's love for me can do me no good until I let Him? God does not love me enough to overpower my carnal will. He loves me enough to offer salvation, to promise it conditionally, to invite me to His kingdom, to coax and plead with me, but it will let me perish, if I ado not find in my soul enough love for Him to give Him the green light to go ahead and save me. Why does a man want to believe that and then call that the gospel, good news?
Nay, Arminianism presents a God Who makes salvation possible but does not save. Calvinism presents a God whose love is so great that He supplies every single bit of the salvation He has decreed for His elect. The will to be saved HE supplies. He provided the Christ, the cross, the Spirit, the pardon and glory. But He also provides that will in His elect whereby they become the "whosoever" that will and the "whosoever" that believe in this Son that God sent to save us. The angel said .to Joseph, "Thou shalt call His name Jesus for He shall save His people from their sins." He did not say that He would like, would try, would offer to save. As God's messenger he said that Jesus would save. Which, I pray tell me, which is the greater love? Which is the better news, the gospel? That God's love is so great that He wants to save but leaves it up to the individual whether he will open the door of his heart and receive this salvation? Or that God's love is so great that it never takes "No" for an answer and fills the elect child of God with the desire to be saved? Is it a love that will not let me go? Or is it a love that lets go after a period of fruitless pleading and begging? Is it a love that can and does terminate the moment of man's death? Or is it a love that knows no end? The Arminian of every hue must believe in a changeable God and must admit that there is a limit to the love of God. It is powerful and strong and gentle till the man dies; and then suddenly in all the hate of a righteous God He inflicts all the torment of hell! Can you really of such a love sing—
The love of God is greater far
Than tongue or pen can ever tell:
It goes beyond the highest star,
And reaches to the lowest hell.
Jesus says, "No man can come unto me, except the Father draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day." John 6:44. Ah, but that is love that conquers! That is love that will not let me go and does not leave it up to me! The Father, in a love that leaves nothing to chance, leaves it not for a dead man to open the door of his heart, drawsfrom within in an unfathomable love. For as the rocky tomb did not hold the glorified Savior, the stony heart of the elect sinner will be pierced as those on the day of Pentecost were "pricked" in their hearts. He enters and works IN that heart and not simply upon the outside of it. God's love conquers.
Rejoice in this good news! God's love will not let His people go!
Rev. John A. Heys was born on March 16, 1910 in Grand Rapids, MI. He was ordained and installed into the ministry at Hope, Walker, MI in 1941. He later served at Hull, Iowa beginning in 1955. In 1959 he accepted the call to serve the South Holland, IL Protestant Reformed Church. He received and accepted the call to Holland, Michigan Protestant Reformed Church in 1967. He retired from the active ministry in 1980. He entered into glory on February 16, 1998.