“When understood in its true Biblical sense, love as a divine attribute is unique to the Christian concept of God” (God the Redeemer, Cottrell, p. 323). Love, after all, is the Christian specialty. Love is the greatest expression of our innate spark of divinity – “But now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of them is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13). Love is our commandment. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35). It is interesting to see the relationship between our love and God’s love. By loving each other, we prove how Christian we are. It is the truest form of living in the path of God.
“For God is love”
1 John 4:8,16 is “the most daring statement that has ever been made in the human language. The fact that God is love is the quintessence, the central word of the whole Bible” (The Christian Doctrine of God, Brunner, p. 183). And there are some marvelous practical applications to this verse:
· First, the fact that God is love must not be interpreted to mean that God is only love. The same book also claims that God is light (1 John 1:5). In the same way, a large red box can be described as a box, but also has the attributes of size and color. God is love, but He is also vengeful (Romans 12:19), jealous (James 4:5), and a righteous judge (Colossians 3:23-25). He is a spirit (John 4:24) and a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:29).
· So anybody who wants to assert that there is no actual God, but only that love is God, fails to realize that there is more to the Lord than just one side. The terms “God is love” and “love is God” are not interchangeable.
· The fact that God is love tells us that everything He does – all of His dealings with us – proceed from Love. God always has our best interests in mind.
· His commandments, therefore, are always good for us (Deuteronomy 6:24), and it is simply best for us to obey them (Deuteronomy 10:12-13).
· Since all of God’s dealings with mankind originate from His love, we have to realize that He will treat us all with unwavering fairness (Matthew 5:45).
· This concept also refutes the idea of Deism – which teaches that God simply created the universe and does not interact with it any longer. He is a force that is immaterial to our lives, and indifferent to our condition. But if God is love, then that true love springs forth in an abundance of concern, care, and interaction. He will not only protect and save the righteous, but also protect them from sinners who refuse to repent. God’s love steps in every time a righteous judgment is made, a sinner is cleansed through belief and baptism, a prayer is offered in humility, etc.
· There are also some qualifiers that must be considered with God’s love. It is great (Ephesians 2:4), infinite (Ephesians 3:18-19), eternal (Jeremiah 31:3, Ephesians 1:4-5), and dependable (Romans 8:35).
“By this the love of God is manifested…”
“By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him” (1 John 4:9). God’s love is self-giving, unselfish, and concerned with the well-being of His creation. People often love themselves, or perhaps love others to the brink of self-sacrifice, but nobody has loved us as freely, openly, and fully as God. By virtue of our creation God loves us – after spending the time and energy to design us and put us in this universe, He is now doubly concerned over our spiritual well-being. “He would not have made us only to ignore us or treat us with indifference… He is concerned not only to give us positive blessings of His good creation, but to remove the negative consequences of sin. Thus in terms of concern, God does not love us less now that we are sinners; He loves us even more” (Cottrell, p. 337). It should impress us that God loves us so much in spite of our sin. It goes to show that even if I have nothing in worldly terms (because of hardships) and even less in spiritual terms (because of my sins), God still loves me. He loves us even when we are stripped of everything. Even though we are nothing more than sinners in our world, the love with which God loves us is incomparable (Romans 5:8).
“Love is from God”
1 John 4:7 tells us that “love is from God,” which means that the concept of the most beautiful of all emotions has its origin from God. It flows from Him, originates from Him, springs forth from Him. Love is such a strong part of the nature of God that we cannot trace it back to any root or source but Him. Therefore, to love is to be like God. Since we are created in God’s image (Genesis 1:26), every expression of sacrificial and unselfish love is tied back to God. Even when the unbeliever does something that is a momentary expression of unselfishness, he is demonstrating that he is made in the image of God. What is so fascinating is that all of our society’s most profound expressions of love – basically, our understanding of it – comes from the Word of God. We probably would not even know what love is if not for the revelation of God and His influence. After all, just look at what the postmodern world defines as love: homosexuality, adultery, pedophilia, etc. We throw around the word “love” so casually that we cannot help but see that without God’s instruction, we would be at a loss in truly defining love.
Not only that, but God’s love was demonstrated most profoundly by His willingness to sacrifice Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son (1 John 4:9). “Only begotten” denotes “Single of its kind, only. Used of Christ, denotes the only Son of God or one who in the sense in which He Himself is the Son of God has no brethren” (Thayer, p. 417). Not even Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac could be compared wholly to the death of Jesus. At least Abraham got to keep Isaac, and he had other sons too. None of us has ever had opportunity or ability to love to the same degree, though it is a goal to strive for. “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. 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 you” (John 15:12-14). We are not required to die for our sins – Christ did it for us. All God asks in return is obedience. Fair enough?
“Not that we loved God, but that He loved us”
1 John 4:10 gives us evidence of the utter error in the theory that Jesus came to appease the wrath of a vengeful, angry God. It is not that Jesus and the Father were two different sides of the same coin, either. There is no “good cop, bad cop” with God – there is just God. In every sense of the word, God loves us, even to the point that He holds nothing back. He was prepared to give His dearest one, to make a sacrifice beyond any other, and give salvation to people who rejected His love. In this sense, 1 John 4:10 is so very true: compared to how much He loves us, we cannot even begin to say we have enough love. That is why Paul exhorts the Thessalonians to “love still more” (1 Thessalonians 4:9-10). We must devote ourselves entirely to the pursuit of self-improvement, increasing our love, learning more, sacrificing more, giving more. In light of all this, how can any man be stingy with God?
· How can you not devote more time to Him?
· Why complain so much when He asks so little?
· Do not consider Bible study or prayer bothersome chores.
· Why do we work so hard at finding excuses not to help others?
· We need to take the first step in being unselfish (Matthew 4:46-48, Titus 3:3-5).
· A good example of godly love is the Samaritan of Luke 10:30-37.
We need to see that there is a very affectionate side of God. He will always have a soft spot for His creation, which is why He was always there for the people of Israel in the Old Testament. There is a very soft tenderness that pervades God. “But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared…” (Titus 3:5, John 16:27). There are some great analogies that follow this idea:
· Father and child (Psalm 103:13, Matthew 6:9, Romans 8:15, Galatians 4:1-7).
· Mother and infant (Isaiah 49:15).
· Husband and wife (Hosea 2:1-20, Ephesians 5:25, 2 Corinthians 11:2).
· Shepherd and flock (Psalm 23, Isaiah 40:11, John 10:11).
· A mother hen and chicks (Matthew 23:37).
When we consider these analogies, we need to remember that whatever emotions, feelings, and tender affections are associated with these relationships in a human sense are infinitely multiplied in the divine mind. How much do you love and cherish your wife? How much do you love your children? How much do you sacrifice for your family? How devoted are you to the church? Now take all of that and imagine it from God’s perspective. God is reaching out to us always with His love and tenderness. But the same God who loves also is just and righteous. He will not only welcome the sheep into His fold on the last day, but will also expel the unrighteous and ungodly (Matthew 25:31-46).