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Description: God’s Steadfast Love
God’s Steadfast Love
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
This is a rare moment when we come to the end of a book and we are at that with Ephesians 6. Let’s
look at Ephesians 6:23, “Peace be to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the
Lord Jesus Christ.” I think it is the subjunctive tense in that verse and so it would be, “May peace
be to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
And so it is a prayer or a wish stated by Paul. “May there be peace to the brethren and love with
faith from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” I am surprised how God is constantly bringing
those things home to us. The prayer is a good prayer and is constantly answered in our lives —
peace and love with faith.
Peace about everything came to me in an incidental way when I began to think through this whole
business of predestination and especially statements like, “Before a word is on your lips, lo I know
it altogether.” And when I saw that every day of my life has been written in his book it struck me,
you mean that person saying that sarcastic thing to me — you knew that would happen? Why did you
let such a thing happen? Or why did you let such a thing happen as the drive shaft going out on this
car? Or why did you let such a thing happen as me losing my money at this time when I most need it?
It gradually dawned on me, that God did it and he might even have caused it. After all he is the
sovereign Lord of the whole universe. You can’t say they chance caused it. Surely he knew about it
and therefore willed it. And if he willed it, he must have a purpose for it. And if he has a purpose
for it he must be able to bring me into that purpose and reveal it to me.
And that strangely enough brought a peace to me. It brought a sense that God had foreseen not only
all the good things that have happened but all the bad things. I don’t know how much you know about
the whole Armenian , Calvin controversy. The Armenians emphasize the human part of salvation whereas
Calvin emphasizes the sovereign God’s part. When you are on the Armenian side you have to deal with
predestination in some way. So you say God foreknew. He would never make a Hitler. He would never
make someone suffer. We have difficulty with the verse, “that it pleased the Lord to bruise him” but
we brought the permissive will of God into the picture.
But peace began to dawn upon me when I began to see how maybe they are right. Maybe it’s not right
to make the distinction between permitted will and ideal will. That is probably a bit unreal. If God
permits it then he wills it. It was then that I began to see, God’s whole goal for us is that we
would become free will children – children who are free to love him or free to reject him. If we
were not free will children then we were in some way little robots or protected creature that he had
created. We therefore had no choice in the matter. Therefore in a strange way we could NOT love him.
In order to love you have to be free to love or hate. Love is a choice of the will. It began to dawn
on me that God knew all this. He saw that he had to provide a clear choice for us and a clear view
of what life without him was like.
In a way he had to make nothingness. If there is God then there is something that isn’t God. And he
had to be prepared for that to exist in some sense. Therefore in a real way he is behind everything.
If there is God then there is something that isn’t God. And he had to be prepared for that to exist
in some sense. Therefore in a real way he is behind everything. It’s like when the Old Testament
people would say, that God sent a mighty wind or God did this or God did that. But we would always
interpret it that it didn’t really mean that God did it but it’s just the activity of the creation.
Of course if God isn’t in charge of creation then who is? We had better find out who is. Maybe we
had better all start to go to Las Vegas because it’s chance. So you know it began to come clear to
me that our dear Father wants so much to have children like his own son that he is prepared to
provide for us to see what nothingness is. And therefore if we’re going to have any chance of life
he had to put us in a place that could survive that choice. And he chose his son. He put us in his
son and made us in his son. Only his son could bear that nothingness and live. And that’s what is
happening in our lives.
It’s strange that it brought a peace to me that we were not dealing with a wild, evil thing out
there that had its own will and that was outside of God’s control. But that in a real way, all of it
was due to his desire for us to have nothingness or him – to have a real choice and be able to
choose him and therefore be able to love him. So, God’s will is for us all to come into peace, into
real deep peace about all that is happening in our lives.
It affected the way I began to see things in my own life. I stopped resenting them. I stopped
worrying about them. The moment I saw anxiety, I knew there was no sense in that because the Father
has this under control. He has a purpose for it. He will bring you through it. Most importantly if
he knew it was going to happen, if he made it happen, then he made the antidote. He made what will
counteract it and what will bring it all into accordance with his will.
And so it brings a great sense of ease. I always saw it that you were going from there to there and
this terrible mistake was the detour. And that detour was all wasted time. Instead, God knew and
allowed it so that you would rest there in things that didn’t seem to be under his control and have
real faith in him that he would bring us back into line.
And so when Paul says, “Let peace be in the brethren” he meant that God is working to bring that
about in their life every day. God is working to bring peace in you – a deep sense that everything
has been reconciled and works accordance to the counsel of his will and that everything does work
together for good to those who love God.
So this peace that is mentioned in this kind of benediction is remarkable. That’s what God is doing
in our lives and he’s bringing the answer to these things much the same way as love.
I don’t know where you are with love but certainly love for many of us is something we distribute
according to our own wishes, likes, or dislikes. And it’s a slow process if you look at your
attitude to each other even through these years. It’s a slow process by which God gradually makes
you aware not only of his love but of how much others need to experience that love through you and
how much of God’s generous, merciful love he wants to express through you to people who are not
naturally people you would like or have affections for. It seems to me God has a way of working love
I suppose both Irene and I see how as the years go by you do mellow and see things in a more
balanced way. It seems to me that God is always working to bring that into us. And that’s why he
also allows us to come into touch with people who are not naturally our choice, not naturally our
associates or like us. But God allows that to come.
I could not believe His love for me as the years went by. We sing, “Oh love that will not let me
go…” But as the years go by you are set back on your heels by how he continues to be merciful to us.
God brings this benediction into your life whether you know it or not and whether you want it or
not. He brings it into your life, he brings love in.
Sometimes it comes to you through a revelation of scripture and sometimes through the events that
take place such as I described. But it was through revelation of scripture that it came to me. I’d
seen the verse so often but it startled me the same as the verse in Lamentations that says, “The
steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end.” I did a double take
because I had not seen those words “never ceases” – NEVER CEASES! And all my concern about hell came
up because I am the guardian of hell as are all evangelicals.
No protestant liked purgatory but it made you wonder that maybe the old guys weren’t so stupid.
Certainly it is something deeper than we can understand. The steadfast love of the Lord NEVER
ceases. I think Barth was pretty close to wondering about the whole thing of eternal punishment.
And you certainly have to give credence to a verse like “the steadfast love of the Lord never
It brought to me a sense of his everlasting and merciful love. A picture of Jesus comes to you. To
think of the Father looking upon his son being treated that way and not only looking upon him but
knowing what would come about. Not only would that come about but that he in some way would bring it
about. That it pleased the Lord to bruise him — not in the sense that he delighted in torturing
his son but he was willing for that to take place if that was the only way he could bring us into
the same reality that his son was.
So God has different ways of bringing us all into real love and into real peace. Then he says, and
love with faith because you can love a person, you can love the people we have prayed for but the
work will only be done by faith, by our confidence in God that He alone can do it. And I think
that’s the key to what we are involved in with praying for the world at this present time, in
praying for our loved ones and friends, in praying for our business associates — that it’s love
with faith. Without faith it is not only impossible to please God but it’s impossible for anyone to
come to God. And so it’s vital for us to see with all our talk and with all our witnessing which is
important – the only thing that will move their hearts is God himself and that depends on our faith
And that’s why he brings us into situations where we have disease that we cannot deal with – a
sickness, a pain, a weakness in our bodies or in our minds that we cannot cure ourselves. Or we come
into business situations also or relationships where we see that only faith in God can bring this
In a real way the benediction is fulfilled in our lives in a way that we don’t realize. But there is
coming into us peace and love with faith in God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. And that’s the
wonder of it that God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ are working on this every moment. Every
second they are both looking down on each one of us and they have peace and love and faith to impart
to us the moment we open ourselves to them and they will bring that about. They will bring into us
love and faith and peace and that’s the purpose of our lives. Let us pray.