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God’s Love: Three Motivations

By Dr. Jack R. Hodges, Jr.

Burke CountyJack and Shawn Hodges Burke County Pleasant Hill Baptist Church


The New Testament church emerged out of the shadow of Judaism, whose theological underpinnings were rooted in the law of Moses and the verbal covenant that was laid down in Deuteronomy 6:4-5. Called the “Shema,” this statement of faith declared, Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” When God sent His Son, Jesus, as Messiah and Lord, God the Father accomplished what the law nor any declaration of faith could not do—redeem lost humanity from sin and offer us a new relationship based entirely on a relationship with Jesus as Savior and Lord. The New Testament church, the Body of Christ, continues to declare this great covenant statement of faith in the one true God and testifies that Jesus Christ is Lord of all! Adopted as spiritual children and reconciled to Him by faith in Christ, we belong to Him! And so, each and every time the church gathers together, she presents herself to the Lord, falls down and worships the King of kings and Lord of lords, and prostrates herself before the Lord proclaiming, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” The church of the living God lives and functions to know God, love God, and serve only Him. And our complete devotion must be to lift up, honor, and glorify the One who came to save us.

The last three letters that we have from the hand of the Apostle Paul were three pastoral epistles written near the end of his life. Two of the letters were addressed to Timothy; while the third was to Titus. These two young men were disciples of Paul, who regularly traveled with him as he followed the mandate and call of Christ to take the gospel to the Gentiles (i.e., to the whole world). These two disciples were appointed the Lord, and confirmed by Paul to carry on the work of preaching and teaching the gospel, as well as to lead the church as pastors/elders. Paul wrote to these two young church leaders to exhort and encourage them in their ministry of building up the churches of Ephesus, Crete, and beyond. In his first letter to Timothy, Paul challenged young Timothy to fulfill the work that was before him. He is to (1) combat false teaching with sound doctrine; (2) develop qualified leadership; (3) teach God’s Word; and (4) encourage the body of Christ to live in Christ Jesus. He reminds young Timothy that the goal of spiritual leadership and instruction is love. In 1 Timothy 1:5 Paul wrote, “But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.”

What an amazing description of both the goal and purpose of the church and its leaders, as well as its motivation. The entire purpose of Christ’s fellowship of believers is love. Not any kind of love; but His kind of love. That kind of love is described as agapé love—or God’s kind of love. God’s kind of love is only produced by the presence of God’s Spirit, the Holy Spirit, alive in a follower of Christ. And when the Holy Spirit is given the freedom to manifest God’s love in our lives, the Lord can and will save, reconcile, set free, redeem, heal, etc. In short, to accomplish the perfect will and purpose of God.

Paul reminded Timothy that if God’s love is to be effectively lived out so that the Holy Spirit accomplishes the plans and purposes of God in and through His church, then that love will come from three motivations: (1) a pure heart; (2) a good conscience; and (3) a sincere faith. Only a pure heart, made pure by the shed blood of Jesus and surrendered to the Lordship of Christ, can be a conduit through which God’s agapé love can flow. Only a pure, good conscience, which has been set free from the guilt and penalty of sin by faith in the finished work of Christ on the cross and has been filled with the Holy Spirit of God, can exist as a platform to allow the power of God’s love to be delivered. Only a sincere faith, which intentionally chooses to die to self and put God first, can allow God’s agapé love to be seen, felt, and experienced by those walking in the darkness of sin and rebellion against God.

What does God’s church look like? Love! What kind of love? God’s love! We, the Bride of Christ are instructed and equipped by the Lord to love. It is a love that is genuine, empowered, and directed by the Holy Spirit. It is a love that sees what God sees in another. It is a love that is willing to die to self and any self-interests; so that the name and testimony of the grace, mercy, and love of Jesus will be elevated. There is no place in God’s church for me! That is, the kind of me that is seeking nothing else but what I can get from God and others. That kind of self has been put to death with Christ on the cross. That old self has died and a new creature has miraculously been formed by the power of God’s grace. It is a love that emerges out of a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith. And that love, God’s love, is the kind of love that changes people’s hearts and changes the world.


Dr. Jack Hodges is the Senior Pastor at Pleasant Hill Baptist Church in Morganton, NC. He has served as a pastor, a biblical counselor, and an International Mission Board missionary.

Read more from Dr. Hodges here.