“to the praise of His glorious grace with which he has blessed us in the Beloved One.”
In the absolute sense, who is the beloved of God? Jesus. Does that mean that Christians are not beloved by God? Not at all; we are regularly called God’s beloved within the Scriptures (e.g. Romans 9:25; Ephesians 5:1; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; Jude 1). Yet, why is it that Christians are beloved of God? It is because believers are in his Son, Jesus. From beginning to end, the love of God is intimately tied and bound to Christ and to His glory alone.
As a result of this notion of us being beloved because we are in the one who is ultimately Beloved in the most absolute sense of the term, the word “beloved” has taken on rich meaning within the Christian church. Repeatedly, the New Testament authors refer to their audience or to their fellow Christian workers as being “beloved.” In fact, the New Testament authors address the church or individual Christians as “beloved” about 50 times, which is about a third as often as the term “brothers” is used in the epistles to speak of fellow believers.
As a result of this frequency, we must recognize that this term is more than just a phrase that we use; it ought to also guide us in the way we relate toward one another. Yes, the true church is beloved of God, but within the true church, true Christians ought to be beloved of one another. Sadly, how often that is not the case. How often sects and rivalries develop within a church body where people vie for influence rather than treating one another as beloved. How often the body gathers, beloved is anything but the term that they would use to describe one another or that the pastor would use to describe them.
And in cases where there is so much dissension and division within a given church body, Paul’s language here ought to call us to terms. Why have we been blessed in the beloved one? Paul writes that it is to the praise of God’s glorious grace. In other words, the aim of God pouring out his love upon us has nothing to do with us and has everything to do with his Son and driving us to worship. And so, perhaps the next time you are inclined to begrudge the beloved in your midst the love and affection that ought to be shown to them, ask yourself, “is God being praised by my attitude?” If not, then repent; you, who are beloved of God, repent.
“It is vain for you to get up early and go late to your dwelling,
Eating the bread of toil;
For he gives to his beloved sleep.”
It may be granted up front that there is some discussion as to how to interpret the last line of this verse. Commonly it is rendered as I have done so here, but some would argue that it ought to be rendered, “for he provides for his beloved during their sleep.” Though the nuances of the psalm are changed within that translation, the essential meaning of the text remains the same. God provides for the needs of his beloved — and he does so in an abundantly wonderful way.
In the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), Jesus speaks in much the same way. It is expected that the pagans will lay awake worrying all night, working long and thankless hours to provide bread for their families. Their idols are false creations of their own hands and imaginations. What benefit can a chunk of wood give me apart from helping to heat the house when I burn it in the fireplace? If I create something with my own hands, it contains no power to do anything but sit there. It has no life. One can draw no hope or assurance from such things.
But we worship a true and living God — one from whom we can draw assurances. He lives and is the God of the living (Matthew 22:32; Luke 20:38) and not of the dead; he gives us new life (1 Peter 1:3) and he gives us that life abundantly (John 10:10). And thus Jesus says to us, “why do you sit home and worry about what may or may not happen this week or even tomorrow?” Do we forget whom we serve? Our worry seems to betray that we do, yet to the beloved, God gives rest and peaceful dreams at night.
How often my dreams have been haunted by the cares of countless anxieties—anxieties that are projected in nightmarish ways. Yet, in prayer, there is rest for the soul. How often there has been tossing and turning rather than restful slumber; again, trust in God’s provision, believer, and you will find that rest will come. There is no need to fear what may transpire; our God is sovereign over all events (Ephesians 1:11) and has promised to work them all out for our good (Romans 8:28). What comfort there is in those divine promises to us! What rest we can find in that context!
For the believer, rest means more than sleep during the evening hours. Rest also includes rest from one’s enemies—the greatest of which are the spiritual powers of wickedness that roam this world like a roaring lion. They may roar, but we are held secure in the hands of our loving Savior (John 10:28-29); of what shall we fear? No, we are loved of God and true love casts out all fear (1 John 4:18).
Loved ones, sleep well and dream well of the glory of our God. He will provide for your needs because he loves you (Matthew 6:31-34); the pagans eat the bread of their sweat and toil—enjoy the restful sleep that your Father provides.
“But you, beloved, remember the things that were foretold by the apostles of our Lord, Jesus Christ. For they said to you, ‘In the end times there will be mockers chasing their own desires and impiety.’ It is these who cause divisions. Natural ones, they do not have the Spirit.”
A third time Jude uses the word beloved to refer to the people in this church. It is a reminder to us that Jude is not writing here as an angry schoolmaster reprimanding unruly children. Rather, Jude is writing as a faithful brother in Christ, seeking to preserve his family from the dangers that surround it. Jude reminds us that false teachers will abound, which should be a constant reminder to us today. And we should not be surprised by their arrival, but ever watchful to keep our fellowship pure. Then Jude offers us two kinds of exhortations: inward and outward.
It is important for us to remember all of the things that the Apostles and Prophets have said. All of scripture is God-breathed and profitable to prepare the believer for every good work (see 2 Timothy 3:16-17). It is our only guide and standard for life and faith. It will keep us from error and a faithful study of it will prevent us from being seduced by the false teachers who fill the world. The problem is that though we have the Bible available to us in a different translation for every day of the month, we don’t take time to read it or to study it. We see that as the pastor’s job. Yet, who will police the pastor that he does not fall into error and lead others in the same direction? It must be the men and women sitting in the pews who are always seeking a clearer understanding of the truth. Recognize that mockers will come and that they will wreak havoc in the fellowship, but be prepared to deal with them when that happens. That preparation comes by the careful study of scripture.
“I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine—shepherding in the lilies.”
(Song of Solomon 6:3)
Beloved. That is a name that is given by God to his own people, and as a reflection of God’s use of that word toward us, we use that term to refer to one another. Beloved… The word literally means “the one who is loved,” that is simple enough, but oh, what connotations that word carries for us in life. Believer, do you recognize that you are the beloved of Christ? When you think of yourself in relationship to God the Father, do you think of yourself as the object of his love? So often, we talk a great deal about what God did for us and of the love that Jesus demonstrated for us on the cross, but sometimes we don’t let those words sink home. Do you really know that God loves you personally, individually, deeply, and passionately?
I remember what it was like when my wife, Denise, and I were first courting one another. Her simple presence in the room was enough to make my heart skip a beat. The excitement of the fact that this beautiful woman loved me was something that I found to be overwhelming. And though the dynamics of that relationship have changed dramatically over the past decade, there is a peace and a confidence that I get as a result of knowing that I always have a safe place to return to and loving arms to hold me. And Christ wants us to understand that this is the kind of relationship that he wants to have with his people. It is not enough that he redeems us, but he wants us to have a love affair with him as well. He wants us to know the excitement that comes from a relationship with one who loves us so deeply and unconditionally that pretenses have no place—there is no dark spot of our lives that we can hide from him, yet he chooses to love us anyway.
And though, over time the initial excitement of this relationship to Christ may wane some, there still should be the wonderful peace that comes from knowing that no matter where you happen to go or what trials that you happen to experience, you will always have Christ at your side, loving you, holding you, strengthening you, carrying you… And knowing this peace—knowing that you always have a safe place to retreat to in the arms of Christ and a promise that you cannot be plucked from his hands—knowing this peace should give you the confidence to take chances for the gospel. When you know you are loved so fully and deeply by Christ, you can risk the rejection of the world because you are never without a safe place to retreat to—a place that we are never separated from, for Christ will never, no never, leave the side of his loved ones.
Part of our problem is that we often do not or have not stopped to experience and enjoy the love that Christ has for us. We do not dwell in it or on it; we do not rest safely within his arms. Friends, think of the peace and security that you enjoy resting safely in the arms of your parent or your spouse. No words need to be exchanged, but when words are spoken they are both calming and assuring. Can you say this about the times when you rest in Christ? Do you deliberately take time dwelling in meditation on God’s word, prayerfully reflecting on a given passage of scripture, that you can draw your security out of such a relationship? Beloved, how stale a marriage is where parties to not communicate with one another or rest in each other’s arms—how stale our faith grows—how stagnant it gets, when we do not rest in the security that comes from knowing that we are the beloved of God. And that security comes from spending time in prayer and meditation upon God’s word.