Belovedness Engenders Love

In his book 2000 Years of Amazing Grace: The Story and Meaning of the Christian Faith, Paul Zahl autobiographically recounts what happened to him many years ago when he discovered the indispensability of grace to produce the good works toward our neighbor outlined in the Bible:

My doing of the good deeds [Jesus] taught actually hinged on Him saving me-I, who had found myself paralyzed and blocked from doing those good deeds.When I felt myself loved in my chains, in my paralyses, that feeling of being loved seemed to trigger the very motivation and strength that had failed me before. Being treated forgivingly in my faults and fears freed me up. The faults themselves lost some of their binding strength. The confining fears ceased to restrict so tightly. There was an empowering connection between Jesus’ saving me (who he was for me) and the fuel to do what he said I should do (what he taught).

I take this connection between saving and the response to being saved that results in morally good actions (loving service to our neighbor), to be the heart of Christianity. It is the relation of being loved to loving. Being loved creates an environment inside a person by which the works of love begin to take place naturally. Loving is born from being loved…”Love to the loveless shown, that they might lovelier be” is a seventeenth-century way of saying it.

As I’ve said on numerous occasions here, the motivation and fuel to do good (which the Bible always describes horizontally in terms of loving service to others) comes from being moved by the completed work of Jesus for us. The impulsion to “do” comes only out of this undomesticated declaration that everything has already been done. Those who obey more are those who increasingly “get” that their standing with God is not based on their imperfect obedience to Jesus, but Jesus’ perfect obedience for them. The secret of grace is that we actually perform better as we grow to understand that God’s love for us is based on Christ’s performance, not our performance.

Another way to put this is to affirm that grace, not law, produces love-the love for God and neighbor that Jesus teaches (Luke 10:27). His love for us begets love from us.

  • st jean says:

    Dr Zahl is the consummate gentleman a.d scholar

  • anonymous says:

    Being loved creates an environment inside a person by which the works of love begin to take place naturally.

    amen – because He has given us a NEW nature, right

    Sorry to keep ’harping’ [the spirit within me compels me; inside I am like bottled-up wine, like new wineskins ready to burstob 32: 18b-19]but it doesn’t seem this truth is always so clear here – not just what Jesus done for us but IN us.

    “the motivation and fuel to do good” = Christ in us, the hope of glory

    if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 2 Cor 5 17

    it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; Gal 2: 20a

    for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God. 1 Peter 1: 23

    Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 1 Peter 1:3

  • Great insights … inspired. “We love (Him) because He first loved us” (1 Jn. 4:19).

  • Tullian Tchividjian says:

    Hi Anonymous!

    Indeed the Spirit is at work in us. Thank God! And, according to Jesus in John 15:26, the Spirit’s job inside of us is to continually convince us of Jesus’ work outside of us.


  • Here’s my correct website.

  • st jean says:

    Amen T.T.

  • Paul ST Jean says:

    The Liberate conference was great and I am so glad to be home again. I enjoyed meeting with Steve Brown and Paul Zahl at the book signing. I hope and pray everyone gets home safely.
    I have so much info to process. I almost left Sat. but decided to stay for Sunday morn. service. The Sermon was very good. and i can’t wait to listen to it on line. God Bless you all at Liberate and CRPC for a wonderful time in Ft Lauderdale. I made at least one new friend At CRPC.

  • Chris says:


    Is there room for other types of motivation in how we encourage others towards holiness

    I guess I feel like your statement, “The impulsion to “do” comes only out of this undomesticated declaration that everything has already been done” simply doesn’t do justice to the full Biblical pattern for holiness that we see in the NT.

    For example, how does a passage like 2 Corinthians 6:16-18, 7:1 fit in all of this? In that passage, Paul uses an OT promise to fuel NT living and holiness. It’s an imperative, but I don’t think it’s an imperative that brings us low or exposes our inability; I think it’s one that motivates us.

    Eager to hear your thoughts about that.

    God bless.

  • Mitchell Hammonds says:

    A truly “good work” is one in which the “right hand knows not what the left hand is doing.” It is completely lacking in self awareness. So the “good works” are produced by the Holy Spirit and you/I will be unaware of them… at least according to this passage of the Bible.
    But I also think what this tells us is we are utterly unable to do anything in and of ourselves that actually measures up to this idea. It will not be our good works that we are judged… but those of Christ’s on our behalf. It is gift pure and simple.

  • Chris says:


    Thanks for your thoughts. I must say I disagree with your last few sentences. What do you think about passages like 2 Corinthians 5:6-10, where Paul writes:

    “So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. For we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.”

    From this passage, it seems that we will all stand before Christ and will “receive what is due…whether good or evil.” I am *not* saying that this is the basis for our justification; I know that our justification is only by faith in Christ’s finished work on the cross. But, we cannot ignore passages such as 2 Cor. 5:6-10.

    Furthermore, what do you make of 1 Corinthians 3:14-15?

    “If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.”

    Doesn’t this second passage clarify the first? It sounds like Paul is writing that will be judged according to our works, and (praise the Lord!!) we will be saved even if our “work” is “burned up.” There will be some sort of loss we will suffer if this is the case. Yet, we will be saved.

    I suppose in the end, what I’m ultimately suggesting is that the paradigm that is often espoused, which, Mitchell, you are describing and which Tullian wrote about in this post, may not be one that takes into account the full revelation of God in the NT. I want to encourage us to delve into the whole counsel of God, all of what He has revealed to us, and not just the bits that fit nicely into our paradigm; I am also worried that we often bring foreign frameworks and impose them on the text, rather then letting certain passages, like the ones I’ve mentioned, speak clearly and for themselves.

    God bless.

  • the Old Adam says:

    We don’t work towards ‘holiness’…that is Roman Catholicism.

    We are declared righteous and holy…for Jesus’ sake.

    Isn’t that a liberating idea?

    It always happens to be truer than rain.

  • st jean says:

    @the Old Adam
    I am so free this week after listening to all the great speakers @ Liberate2013. Speaking into my being the announcement that it is all done for Christs sake.
    I can rest assured knowing that in spite of my self and my old training in Works righteousness. I can be free and liberated.

  • the Old Adam says:

    st jean,

    Thanks be to God!

    You ARE free.

    Without the grace of God, there isn’t a one of us who stands a chance of salvation.

  • John Dunn says:

    What we need in this grace movement is a robust Biblical theology where Belovedness Engenders Spirit-Wrought Goodness.

    The idea that we simply rely on Christ’s external work to motivate sinners does not at all allign with the NT description of the Saint’s new life *in Christ*.

    The NT church was indeed enflamed with the Gospel, but they were also filled with the indwelling/internal life and power of the Holy Spirit after Christ’s resurrection. This Life was not merely sacramental – not merely mediated to the saints through partaking of the the “mystical” external means of the institution called church. Christ’s life descended upon the Saints with power and fire from Heaven Christ took up personal and permanent residence withing the Saint; they were His Church, His Temple.

    Christ’s cross AND resurrection work is still being completed *in the Saints* by His ongoing internal sanctifying work of the Spirit. The Saints are now the new redeemed humanity of the Lord. A good humanity. A humanity that has become the Temple of the Living God – redeemed, washed, sanctified, holy, elect, beloved, made alive, saved out of darkness into His marvellous Light.

    Therefore, a theology that does not allow for the *new* alien goodness of the Saints by virtue of their regeneration by the Spirit of God is NOT Biblical. To continue to call the Saints vile and unworthy sinners, and still totally depraved, is not in keeping with how the NT describes the Spirit-filled “goodness” of the Christian community of the Saints.

    (Acts 6:3, Acts 9:36, Acts 11:24, Rom 15:14, Gal 5:22, Gal 6:9-10, Eph 2:10, Eph 5:8-10, Eph 6:7-8, Phil 1:6, Col 1:10, Col 2:5, 1 Thess 3:6, 1 Thess 5:21, 2 Thess 1:11, 2 Thess 3:13, 1 Tim 3:13, 1 Tim 4:6, 1 Tim 5:10, 1 Tim 6:18, Titus 2:7).

  • Brian says:

    “When I *felt* myself loved in my chains, in my paralyses, that *feeling* of being loved seemed to trigger the very motivation and strength that had failed me before.”

    I love PZ and read/listen to anything and everything I can get my hands or ears on. But, and I’m not being sarcastic, how/where does one get this “feeling”? I don’t think I have ever *felt* loved. Sometimes I *believe* that I am loved but I honestly cannot recall a time when I ever *felt* loved by God. Am I deficient in something? Am I looking in the wrong direction? All my life I’ve looked on (with envy) at other people who appear so capable and confident with this topic but I can’t find it myself.

  • Mitchell Hammonds says:

    Feel free to disagree… I do it quite often.
    1. I am in no hurry to “be with the Lord” – to die in other words. You may be, I’m not and will readily admit I’m extremely comfortable in my skin.
    2. I am sure what I do “in the body” will be turned into an ash heap according to that verse. That’s why I needed saving in the 1st place.
    3. I am a new creation completely created by God – in Christ. I have no worries.
    4. If your “doing” something for some personal gain later on – I think that disqualifies it as a “good work” by definition and worthy of withstanding the fire of “God’s judgment.” Don’t let your right hand know what the left is doing.
    5. I simply don’t take my own effort as seriously as you do. Again, feel free to think more highly of yourself than you ought. There was a reason I needed saving in the first place and continues on to this day.
    6. Because everything has been accomplished on my behalf – I’ll simply go and live a life today and tomorrow and the next.

  • st jean says:

    don’t knock *feelings* God uses our emotions also. When my grandmother was near death I did feel the Spirit of God in the room with her but could not see Him. And I did not really know god as I do now.

  • Mark B. says:

    I agree with John Dunn above. It seems that there is a misunderstanding of what sanctification actually is.

  • st jean says:

    @the Old Adam
    I like what Steve brown in his book “Three Free Sins” He said: that running around being a police officer for other Christians was exhausting.
    then again I don’t want to be a cigar store indian while my neighbor needs to ministered to.

  • the Old Adam says:

    st jean,

    We are free. Free from worrying about our own religious project. Free from condemning our neighbor’s religious projects or lack thereof. And free for our neighbor.

  • anonymous says:

    being reminded too of the remaining OLD nature – ought we not continually reminds ourselves of the WAR

    For if the bugle produces an indistinct sound, who will prepare himself for battle? 1 Cor 14:8

    For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Rom 7:22-23

    the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, 2 Cor 10:4-5

    Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Heb 12:1-3

  • Mitchell Hammonds says:

    I’ve never felt God enter a room before… though I once had a gas attack that I sure felt. I got goosebumps at a Van Halen concert and at a Steven Curtis Chapman concert. Which one was God?

  • anonymous says:

    Dear Mitchell, while ridiculers and revilers are hurtful..a prayer,for us all,that more and more we could just turn these things over to the Lord.
    If you have time:

    Be blessed.

    The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the defense of my life; whom shall I dread? Ps 27:1

  • Tom says:

    “As I’ve said on numerous occasions here, the motivation and fuel to do good (which the Bible always describes horizontally in terms of loving service to others) comes from being moved by the completed work of Jesus for us.”
    No, I believe it comes from Jesus (“Apart from me, ye can do nothing” – John 15:5

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