We’ve heard the words of our title many times. They were part of President Lincoln’s great Gettysburg Address, honoring soldiers who had died on that battlefield. These words occurred in a sentence suggesting that he and his hearers should be dedicated to the task before them as they took “increased devotion” to the cause for which the soldiers had given “the last full measures of devotion.”
Our text speaks of another, Jesus Christ, who also demonstrated that full measure of devotion, in giving his life for the church. From contemplation of that gift we also take increased devotion to his Cause. We can refresh our memory of his sacrifice by regular observance of the Lord’s Supper, by listening to gospel sermons and singing songs about the event, and by continually reading the Bible and discussing it with one another.
There is an important difference between Christ’s sacrifice and that of soldiers who die in warfare. While soldiers know they may die, or even probably will die, in battle, there is still room for hope that they won’t have to make the supreme sacrifice. Jesus had no such hope, since it was part of the divine, eternal purpose that he would die to atone for our sins. His humanness cringed at the thought, but he went through with it.
“Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command,” said our sacrificial Lord (John 15:13-14). May he bless us with constant memory of his devotion, and increased dedication to obeying his commands.