The Greatest Thing in the Universe

“God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.” —John 3:16,17

“Covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet show I unto you a more excellent way.” —I Corinthians 12:31

ALL WHO CLAIM to be followers of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, members in particular of his body, should be deeply grateful to the “Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning,” for his “every good gift and every perfect gift” (James 1:17), and particularly for the gift of his beloved Son. Because of this gift, and based on the merit of his redemptive sacrifice, consecrated believers can have hope in the promises of God pertaining to their own future inheritance, and for the recovery of humanity from the thraldom of sin and death.

Christianity is the only religion on earth which abounds in the glorious promises of the great God of the universe for those who here devote their lives to do his will as their Master did before them. No other religion, regardless how well-intentioned or idealistic in its appeal to those who have embraced it, can even remotely approach Christianity with its message of hope for the sin-cursed and dying race. And certainly other religions do not offer a day of deliverance for the human race from all its enemies, even death itself!. (Luke 4:18; I Cor. 15:25,26) The Christian religion alone outlines for us the pathway to glory, and also affords a preview of the history of the nations so that we might be able to determine where we are on the stream of time, and what the future holds for humanity,

Our theme texts indicate that the greatest thing in the universe is the love that is of God, for it was God’s love that provided the only means of escape from the bondage of sin and death. This provision is in his only directly created Son. (John 1:3; I Cor. 8:6; Eph. 3:9; Col. 1:16) “Covet earnestly the best gifts,” wrote Paul, “and yet show I unto you a more excellent way.” (I Cor. 12:31) Then the apostle explains just what he means by a “more excellent way.” It is the way of love. (I Cor. 13) He outlines its characteristics so that we can determine for ourselves whether this greatest thing in the universe is being manifested by us; whether we have cultivated it to the extent of our ability and thus reflect the Divine likeness, even as did Jesus, to whose image we are to be conformed.—Rom. 8:29

If it were not for God’s love for the rebellious and sin-cursed human family, there would be no Divine plan of the ages for their recovery and blessing. True, the other qualities of wisdom, justice, and power of his righteous and benevolent character must be employed to this same end. But it was his love for us, the church of Christ, and for all mankind, that provided the “unspeakable gift” of his only begotten Son, our Lord and Savior, as the “Way, the Truth, and the Life.” And this provision was made “while we were yet sinners,” without our first having shown a disposition and desire for reconciliation, for atonement with him.—II Cor. 9:15; John 14:6; Rom. 5:8

If our Heavenly Father were merely exercised by his justice alone, our lives would be forfeited, and we truly would be without hope in this world. His power we could not doubt, but knowing him to be a God of love supreme, what could we think of his wisdom in permitting us thus to have these innate desires for the right and the truth, and to exercise ourselves benevolently and sacrificially, only to be blotted out of existence? Our desire to know righteousness and truth would avail us nothing, and our personalities, our egos, our entities would be without meaning, could we not see and realize the fruition of our hopes and desires. What benefit would we personally derive if the only result of our living was to leave “footprints on the sands of time.”

One could ask the question: “For what am I grateful today and can give thanks?” The response could be such as being thankful for the truth of the Divine plan, or the privilege of service, or the fellowship with those of like precious faith, or even health and strength. But the best answer would be, “I am thankful for the love of God.” Surely that is a comprehensive, conclusive, and all-embracing answer.

Recently our attention was called to the fact that error can have no sanctifying effect on the called of God. Only the truth of God’s Word can have this effect. Hence, throughout the Gospel Age there were those who had God’s Word of truth with no admixture of error. Whether others of a darker past had the same opportunity for knowing the scope of the Divine plan that we enjoy today is unimportant; but there is one factor in that connection which is very likely to be overlooked. That is, that very few in the Early Church, and even until more recent times, could read and write; thus they were totally dependent upon those who did enjoy this advantage. That was a very fundamental reason why it was vitally important for them to assemble to gain knowledge and understanding.—Heb. 10:25

But lest some should suppose that because compulsory education is in effect nowadays, and most people can read and write, and therefore can find out things for themselves, it is now less important to assemble with others of like precious faith, the apostle adds to his exhortation to assemble, “and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” Do we see the day approaching? A person must be singularly blind spiritually not to be able to recognize these times of transition. And why is it so important that we assemble now? Because with these more or less chaotic times and all the various and sundry influences there are abroad, we need the help and encouragement which our coming together affords. Thus our confidence in the outworking of his purposes in us may be strengthened and fortified against the besetments of this “evil day.”—Eph. 6:13

Satan does not like to see God’s people strengthened and fortified and united in their “most holy faith.” (Jude 20) He would like to see them scattered and distraught, as many have been in recent times; and many are his agents, often unwittingly, to accomplish this end.

It might be reasoned, What has this to do with the greatest thing in the universe, the love that is of God? It has this to do with it: that in every period of the church’s experience, God, in his infinite mercy and wisdom, has arranged for the enlightenment and protection of his people if they will but heed the instructions he has provided through our Lord and his apostles. The Lord has given enlightenment and spiritual blessing to his people in these days when everything is being put to the test of survival in the light of this Day of Jehovah.


In harmony with our text in I Corinthians 12:31, the prophecy of Psalm 68:18, and the statement of James 1:17, the Early Church was given certain miraculous gifts, the purpose of which was to establish their own faith in God’s promises for them, and to convince the unbeliever—the latter being explicitly stated in I Corinthians 14:22. But while these gifts were essential and desirable for their day and time, the apostle points out that there was something vastly more important and desirable than even the best of those gifts; namely, the acquiring and manifestation of the Divine quality of love, not only by thinking upon it, but being controlled by it, manifesting it on any and every occasion. These gifts were to vanish away and to fail, but this kind of love would never fail. (I Cor. 13:8) Because the translators of the King James Bible could find no other word suitable, they translated the Greek word agape in this instance, “charity.”

As we have come to know, the love herein disclosed is not the ordinary love of human nature as at present constituted, with more or less of the earthly element of self-interest attached to it. No, not even the love of a mother for her child, self-sacrificing as that might be, could compare with it. The Prophet Isaiah raised the question of a mother forgetting her offspring, and wrote, “Yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee” (Isa. 49:15), referring to his people Israel and Zion. He did not forget them, but they forgot him. They cast aside obedience to his Law which promised life and blessings.

Although unable to keep the Law inviolate because of their weaknesses and imperfection, and by keeping it to gain the promised reward of life, as only the perfect man Christ Jesus was able to do, their endeavor to keep it brought them blessing and favor, while their rejection of it brought the penalties it prescribed, until, as it plainly showed, they would be dispersed among the nations. Had a sufficient number of them endeavored to keep the Law, and to have seen Jesus as its living fulfillment, then the Gentiles would never have had the blessed opportunity of running for the “prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”—Phil. 3:14

The love which is of God, disclosed by the Apostle Paul in I Corinthians 13, transcends all other loves, for it is the very nature and being of God. As the Apostle John puts it, “God IS love [Greek, agape].” (I John 4:8,16) As we are controlled by it, we, too, indicate our Godlikeness. That we could ever reach its fullness and perfection while still in these imperfect vehicles of expression—these frail, perishable bodies—is unthinkable; but we have it ever before us as the criterion, the standard toward which we are ever to strive. For if we do not thus strive to attain it, how can we expect to be in fellowship and association with our Heavenly Father and his now Divine Son, to share with him in “the dispensation of the fulness of times”?—Eph. 1: 10

The apostle suggests that we might have every proper gift, even all knowledge and mountain-removing faith, and a totally self-sacrificing disposition, and yet fail to achieve this goal of Godlikeness in thought, word, and deed. If we can succeed in attaining some measure of this Divine attribute of love, then we need not fear failure, but can have the full assurance of faith that God will supply our every essential requirement both now and forever.

In our desire thus to qualify for a place in the Divine kingdom of our Lord, we might be inclined to place the emphasis on study. Study is very essential, to be sure, but to what end is that study? Is it that we might be the most brilliant people of earth or to be able to overwhelm by argument the opponents of truth and right? No, surely not! The Apostle Paul makes it plain when he writes to Timothy: “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of truth.” (II Tim. 2:15) If approved of God, why need we be concerned about the trivialities of this fleeting human existence?


We might think to place the emphasis on self-sacrifice. Ah, yes, that is good indeed. But the Apostle Paul warns us on that score, for he says we might give our bodies to be burned, and we might give everything we possess in order to feed the poor and thus show our generosity, our benevolence, as God is benevolent, and still we may be found lacking. (I Cor. 13:3) Why does not such sacrifice alone qualify us for the Divine favor and blessing, and a place in the kingdom to come? Because, to recognize in connection with our self-sacrifice and our desire to use our means to a good purpose, it is the motive which prompts us that counts with the Lord. Is the motive a desire to make a good showing before our friends and relatives, or the world—in other words, to make a name for ourselves? Or, is the primary object the reflecting of the Divine likeness and love, appreciating the fact that when he gave his only begotten Son to die for us we were yet sinners, having made no effort at reformation, nor possessing any desire to seek and learn the “Way, the Truth, and the Life,” which reside in the Master and his words of “Spirit” and “life.”—John 14:6; 6:63

Then, too, this kind of love involves demonstration under trial and test, under suffering and adversity. We might be ever so willing to do good with our means and it might not cost us any more than the material loss involved. Even this, of course, if done with the proper motive as unto him, would be richly blessed in due time by our benevolent God and Heavenly Father, especially if done for the benefit of those in the Divine employ. But when this sacrifice entails not only material loss, but additionally, persecution, suffering, ignominy, and reproach because we are his and for his name’s sake and righteousness’ sake, then we can be happy indeed, as our Lord indicated in the last of the Beatitudes in his sermon on the mount.—Matt. 5:11,12

There is still another great objective we need to bear in mind in considering the development of this Divine attribute of love, and that has to do with a little four-letter word—S E L F. Surely, if we have reached the mark of perfect love, self should not enter into our consideration; but strive as we may, it will impose itself at times. Think how much is involved in this little word! All the besetments of our fallen humanity, the influence of the world and the wiles of the Adversary are focused on us. If we resist our natural impulses and bring all our thoughts into subjection to the new will in Christ, we are fortified and prepared for any contingency. Then, whatever pressure might be brought to bear upon us from without to overthrow our faith and our confidence in the outworking of God’s providences in our behalf, Satan will meet the same rebuff that he met when he tried to tempt our Lord after his forty-day fast at the beginning of his ministry.—II Cor. 10:5

If this Divine attribute of love [agape], the pinnacle of character development (II Pet. 1:7), motivates us in everything we think, say, or do—which is not impossible if we are set and determined to have it so—then whatever material loss we might suffer, or however intense the physical or mental pain we might be called upon to endure, will be seen to be a means to an enduring end: to refine, polish, and prepare us for “the glory that excelleth,” the “glory and honor and immortality, eternal life” beyond this veil of tears.—II Cor. 3:10; Rom. 2:7


We may not always be successful in maintaining this degree of perfect love that has no fear. At times we may become discouraged with ourselves, at the progress we have made along this line, with our environment, and with almost everything in general. (II Tim. 1:7) We may lose heart because the Divine purpose for this old earth and its inhabitants may appear to lag; the prophetic forecast for these days may appear to lack the complete fulfillment expected, and we may feel, as the wise man stated it, that “hope deferred maketh the heart sick.” (Prov. 13:12) Although we often hear this expression of Solomon, it is seldom in relation to the remainder of the passage, which reads, “But when the desire cometh, it is a tree of life.” This would tend to show that our desires have a very important bearing on our attitude toward life and its interests, and that God intends to fulfill all those legitimate desires of his people in harmony with his purpose for them.

If, while endeavoring to maintain our position at this mark of perfect love, thoughts contrary to our spiritual interests and desires obtrude themselves, then we may know that our patient endurance is being tested. We may recall with particular profit the statement of our Lord in his wonderful prophecy applying to the end of both the Jewish Age and the Gospel Age: “Because iniquity [unrighteousness, wickedness, lawlessness, vice] shall abound, the love [agape] of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.” (Matt. 24:12,13) Saved—Ah, yes—not only from the condemnation of sin and death, but to the highest form of life eternal—the Divine, with its glory, honor, and immortality.

Again the Apostle Paul, after showing wherein Israel of old failed, and warning us not to follow their example of wrongdoing, writes: Therefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.” (I Cor. 10:12) And then, to reassure us, adds, “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”—vs. 13

In II Corinthians 6:3-10, we have the indications of an approved ministry in the following: “Giving No Offense in any thing, that the ministration may not be not blamed; but in everything establishing ourselves as God’s Servants, by much patient endurance in Affliction, in Necessities, in Distresses; in Stripes, in Prisons, in Tumults; in Labors, in Watchings, in Fastings; by Purity, by Knowledge, by Forbearance; by Kindness, by a holy Spirit, by Love undissembled, by the Word of Truth, by the Power of God; through those arms of Righteousness, on the right hand and Left; through Glory and Disgrace; through Bad fame and Good Fame; as Deceivers, and yet true; as being ignorant, yet being duly appreciated; as dying, yet behold! we live; as chastised, yet not put to death; as grieving, but always rejoicing; as poor, but enriching many; as having Nothing, yet possessing All things.”—Wilson’s Emphatic Diaglott.

In the last expression, ‘possessing all things’, we are reminded of our Lord’s words in Luke 12:15: “Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.” Perfect love is not concerned with the possession of the ‘abundance of things’ of this earth, but with possessing the fruitage of the Holy Spirit. (Gal. 5:22) We note, too, that the sixth verse indicates that it is possible to be mistaken in this agape love, that it may be simulated and not the real thing.—II Cor. 6:6

A similar statement is made with regard to philadelphia or brotherly love, in I Peter 1:22, which reads: “Having purified your lives by the obedience of the truth [showing how the washing of the water by the Word (Eph. 5:26) is affected in obedience thereto] to unfeigned Brotherly love, love each other from the Heart, intensely.” (Wilson’s Emphatic Diaglott) Let us not hastily assume that this Divine attribute of love can be attained without continued and unremitting application and endeavor. Some may reach the mark of perfect love more quickly than others. Stephen, the first Christian martyr of record, reached it very early in his Christian life, and so can we if we make it the ruling factor of our lives.

The progressive manner in which the mark is reached is shown by the illustration of the Apostle Paul in I Corinthians 9:24-27, and Hebrews 12:1, of a racecourse divided into four quarters. After entering the race (no ‘outsider’ can run in it) by consecration to the Divine will, being baptized into Christ’s death, and being raised to newness of life, the first impulse or reaction is to reciprocate the love of God in making possible this way of life through Jesus’ sacrifice. It is a sort of duty love. We love God because he first loved us.

But we do not stop there. We go on to the halfway mark by loving the things that God loves. We love righteousness because it is now the principle of our new lives in Christ, and because it is the disposition of our Heavenly Father. It was because our Lord loved righteousness and hated iniquity that he was so highly exalted to the right hand of the throne of God, there to make intercession for us, his church.—Heb. 1:9; 7:25; 12:2

Upon reaching this second quarter, or halfway mark in the race for the prize of our high calling of God in Christ Jesus, we realize that our love must be shown toward our brethren and associates in the body of Christ, that we must love them even more than the Golden Rule demands, and that we must be willing to lay down our lives for them even as our Lord set us the example in laying down his life for us and all men. The Apostle John states that such a love indicates that we have passed from death to life. (I John 3:14,16) It also will lead us to cover their unintentional weaknesses and failings with the mantle of love and compassion. This is shown by the correct rendering of I Corinthians 13:7, which reads: Charity [love] “beareth all things, … hopeth all things, endureth all things.” The word ‘beareth’ in this text should have been rendered “covereth.” It would be repetitious to have it read, as it does in the King James Version, “Beareth all things … endureth all things.” Moreover, according to Strong’s Concordance, the primary meaning of the Greek word, stego, is “to roof over,” or “to cover.”

Passing on from this third quarter mark of ‘love [agapao] of the brotherhood’, the mark of Divinity is reached when we are able to love [agapao] our enemies. (I Pet. 2:17; Matt. 5:44) This love for our enemies is not in the same way nor to the same extent that we are to love the brethren, but it is with the desire to do them good should the occasion arise. “If thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.”—Rom. 12:20,21

Many who are now the enemies of the New Creation, the enemies of righteousness and truth through mental blindness and obstinacy, will have that blindness removed when once the work of regeneration begins, and they are raised from the dead, enlightened to a realization of what has been done for them in the sacrifices of our Lord and his church, and afforded the opportunity to attain human perfection in a worldwide paradise. All this will come to pass because God so loved a world of sinners lost, that he gave his only begotten Son to suffer and to die for them, that the way might be opened up both of “life and immortality” through the good news of the incoming kingdom.—Matt. 19:28; II Tim. 1:10

Let us then encourage and help each other in the Divine service, and in the cultivation of this greatest thing in the universe, the Divine attribute of “love Divine, all love excelling” (Hymn #165, Hymns of Dawn), making it possible for us now to be raised up together, and made to sit together in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus: that in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. And let us ascribe “blessing, and honor, and glory, and power, … unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.”—Eph. 2:6,7; Rev. 5:13

Dawn Bible Students Association
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