Put on Love
Reformed Free Publishing Association
Chapter 42 of Communion with God, by Herman Hoeksema.
“And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.” —Colossians 3:14
Love above all.
Love is meant in the text by the word charity, which in the course of time gradually came to denote what originally was only one of its connotations.
Above all put on love. You are the elect of God, holy and beloved. Thus the word of God had addressed the church of Christ in the near context. As the elect of God, they were chosen to the praise of his glory. Now, in this present evil world, they are ordained that they may be children of light in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation. Presently, when time shall be no more, it is their glorious election that they may be partakers of the glory that the Father gave to Christ Jesus, the firstborn of every creature, the beginning, the first begotten of the dead, in the new heavens and the new earth, the incorruptible and undefiled inheritance that never fades away. As holy and beloved they have put off the old man with his deeds and have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him who created him.
Therefore, they still must put off the deeds of the old man. Having put off, they must put off always, by constant watching and praying and fighting the good fight, all uncleanness, fornication, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, covetousness (which is idolatry), anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication, and lying to one another. Having put on, they still must put on daily, continuously, bowels of mercy, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering, assuming an attitude of forbearance and forgiveness toward one another, remembering that Christ forgave them. And above all put on love! Not, over and above all the other spiritual virtues put on love. Not, after you have put on all the other graces, add love to them. But, love is the greatest of all, the root and fountainhead of all spiritual virtues. Without love, outside of the sphere of love, none of the other graces can possibly adorn your life. Therefore, put on love as the principal thing.
Above all, love!
Love—what is it?
Always it is a bond, a power that irresistibly attracts, draws, seeks its object, cannot and will not rest until it has found and embraced its object.
A reflection of what the text means by love you may find in the natural attraction that results from the organic oneness of the human race, and that is strongest where the kinship is closest. Just watch a mother by the bedside of her babe, when the latter is consumed by a burning fever, hovering between life and death. Day and night she watches over her darling. She cannot surrender him to death. She fights to the last to keep the object of her affection. Though growing ever so weary, she scarcely notices her tiredness; though she be utterly exhausted, she neither slumbers nor sleeps. The strong will to snatch her babe from the clutches of grim death sustains her, and she cannot rest until she is assured that she may keep her priceless possession.
Yet this natural affection, be it ever so strong, is no more than a reflection of what Scripture denotes by love, for love is the bond of perfectness.
It is, therefore, not a bond that has its source in kinship or blood relationship or in the organic unity of the race. It is a matter of the heart, out of which are the issues of life, whether they be good or evil; a matter that never issues forth from the evil heart; it is not a natural gift, but a spiritual-ethical virtue. It is the bond of perfection.
Love is the bond that is characterized by perfection, that is found only in the sphere of perfection, and that unites the perfect only. Perfection is ethical, spiritual goodness. It is an inner and outward harmony with the will of God, a harmony of the heart and the mind and the will and all the desires with God himself, manifesting itself in the word of our mouths, the look of our eyes, the works of our hands, in all our walk and conversation. It is God’s image in us, a reflection of his infinite goodness, righteousness, truth, holiness, and all the spiritual perfections of his glorious being. Love is the bond that operates only in the sphere of that perfection, the strong and irresistible attraction that draws the perfect to one another, that causes them to seek one another and to delight in one another’s fellowship.
Love is the bond of perfectness. There is in the world no love. There may be natural affection and natural bonds of kinship and blood relationship. There may even be bonds and alliances of iniquity, for sinners will unite in sin and to sin, and the devil’s house cannot afford to be a house divided against itself.
Bonds of sin and subservient to sin are they. Issuing forth from the carnal mind, or made subservient to the purposes of the carnal heart, which is enmity against God, they are bonds not of love but of hatred, the antithesis of love. But love is perfection’s bond, uniting the perfect. Put on, therefore, holy and beloved, elect of God, love.
Love above all!
Love is of God.
Always of God. Wherever you may find love, whether it be among God’s people in the world, or among the saints in glory, or among the holy angels who are always ready to do his commandments, always it is but a stream, the source of which may be traced to the very heart of God.
It is of God, in God, and to God. For God is love!
He is good, the infinite implication of all perfection. Such is his very essence. He is a light, and there is no darkness in him at all. He is truth, righteousness, holiness, and there is no lie, unrighteousness, or corruption in him whatsoever. In that inaccessible light of infinite divine perfection, the Most High lives the eternal life of love. For he is the triune. And as the triune God he is the living one. Out of the Father, through the Son, in the Spirit there rushes a fullness of divine life eternally. That life is a perfect love-life. For Father, Son, and Holy Spirit eternally behold and know one another in the sphere of divine perfection, the perfection of the glorious divine essence; eternally they are attracted to one another, seek one another, and have their infinite and absolute delight in one another.
As the triune God he loves himself. With him love is the bond of infinite perfection.
Love is of God. Not only is it of him as it is in him and to himself, but it is also out of him as it is eternally directed to his people, his elect in Christ, the holy and beloved from before the foundation of the world. For it pleased him to manifest his own glorious love-life, and in the revelation of his love-life to glorify himself forever. Eternally he willed to form a people who should be partakers of the divine nature, who in a creaturely measure should be perfect even as he is perfect, righteous as he is righteous, holy as he is holy, and who should know him even as they are known. Hence, he ordained his Son to be the first begotten of every creature, the beginning, the firstborn out of the dead, the glorious head over all things in heaven and on earth, in whom all the fullness should dwell.
To this first begotten of the dead he gave his church, that all the fullness of God’s love-life might out of Christ radiate and vibrate through all the millions upon millions of glorified elect. That this church might be led into the highest possible realization of the love-life of God, he ordained that Christ should lead them through the awful way of sin and death, of atonement and the resurrection, that out of the depth they might cry unto God and seek him, and know him, and taste that he is good, and find him, and be received into the divine family and its blessed fellowship.
Love is of God, a divine stream, forever flowing from his heart to that church of his eternal election, engraved in both the palms of his hands.
Out of God’s heart love becomes manifest in time, an irresistible power that cannot rest until it has found and embraced its object; manifest in the manger of Bethlehem, where he came to us in the likeness of sinful flesh; manifest in the awful darkness of the accursed tree on Golgotha, where his love sought us and found us, reconciling us unto himself; manifest in the resurrection and in the exaltation of the Lord Jesus Christ, in which he glorified us and received us into his own bosom.
Love is of God, always.
It is of God even as it is a love to us and in us. For he not merely causes his eternal love to be proclaimed to us in his blessed gospel of peace and reconciliation, then waits until we might behold it and recognize it and acknowledge it as his love toward us; but he spreads it abroad in our hearts, by the Spirit whom he has given us, the Spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ. He cuts the bonds of sin that hold us prisoner; he renews our hearts that are under the dominion of enmity against God by nature and fills them with his own life; he opens our eyes that we may see him in all the glory of his love toward us; he opens our ears so that we may hear his word, proclaiming in the death and resurrection of the Lord his unchangeable love while we were yet sinners; and he gives us to taste that he loved us with an eternal love, even though all things that are seen testify against it. The love of God to us is spread abroad in our hearts!
Yes, love is of God, always.
Of him it is that we love him. For our love of God, of God who is really God, the infinitely good, the overflowing fountain of all good, is not in us by nature. By nature, oh awful folly of sin, we hate God and love the devil, we hate righteousness and love iniquity, we flee from the fountain of good and seek death. Neither is our love to God our own response to his love to us, a love wherewith we meet his love. But it is the vibration of his own love to himself, which by his grace he causes to pass through our hearts, the divine love-current, in which we are caught up, returning to its source.
Love is evermore of God. Even when, having the love of God in our hearts, we are united by the bond of perfectness as brethren in the Lord and we may love one another, it is still of him. For it is the love out of God in us toward him that is now also directed to the brethren who walk in the light, so that we evermore seek one another in the sphere of perfection. Wherever love is, it may be traced to the triune God as its source.
Love is ever of God.
Put on, therefore...
Holy and beloved, elect of God, above all put on love.
How strange an exhortation. How apparently paradoxical an admonition. How utterly impossible it appears to heed it.
For how shall we put on love? Can a man put on love as he puts on a garment? If he should attempt it, would it not result in that awful caricature of true love that is “put on” indeed? Is not love exactly, above all things, that which can never be put on?
Yet this is not the word of Paul, not the admonition of mere man, but the word of God that cannot lie, exhorting, warning, admonishing, drawing, and leading the holy and beloved in the way of life, of the love-life of God. It behooves us, then, just to be silent, to repress every opinion of the flesh, of mere man within us, that we may truly hear the word of God and do it. Put on, therefore, elect of God, holy and beloved, above all love!
In that spiritual attitude we hear and understand.
For, first, this word of God does not address the natural man, dead in sin and misery, whose carnal mind is all enmity against God and whom to admonish to put on the love of God would be quite absurd and impossible, but it addresses the elect of God, the holy and beloved. This signifies that they were chosen unto love. Such is God’s purpose with them. He chose them in order that they might be holy and unblameable before him in love. And this purpose of God was realized in them when he revealed his love to them, when he spread it abroad in their hearts, when he caused them to taste that he loved them eternally in the Beloved, and when he caused his own love to himself to vibrate in their hearts that they might also love him and love one another.
Second, this love of God was not poured out in their hearts as one pours water into a dead and earthen vessel that is utterly passive and in no way affected by the contents it receives; but as conscious and rational and willing children of God they tasted this love of God. They became co-workers of God, his imitators. God’s eternal purpose of love became their purpose by his grace. They will to love God and to walk before him unblameably in love, to manifest themselves in the light of love, that he may be glorified. And this manifestation of the love of God that is in their hearts, this walking in love in the midst of the world, in every relationship of life, is the putting on of love.
Put on, therefore!
Yes, put it on as a garment, but as a garment that is but the outward manifestation of the love of God that was realized in your hearts. Put it on in the word of your mouth, in the look of your eye, in the work of your hand, in the direction of your foot. Put it on in your thinking and willing, in your every desire, and in the expression of them all in your whole life, individually, in the midst of the brethren, in the midst of the world.
Through the power of his marvelous grace, let his love dominate all the manifestation of your life as a co-worker with God.
Unto that end fight the good fight. For you are still in the world, and in the world you still have the operations of sin and death in your members, while you have but a small beginning of the new obedience. These operations of sin in your members are of the old hatred and enmity against God. And they have their strong allies in the powers and temptations of this world and its prince. You have put them off in principle; put them off, therefore, constantly.
You have put on the new man of love.
Put on, therefore, through the grace of God within, and by this word of God calling you, love.
Love above all!