Tag Archives: The Love of God

The Danger of Isolating the Love of God

It has been an extremely busy few weeks for me and I’ve been unable to post blogs as regularly as I would like.  In addition to helping raise our 1-year old while also remodeling a house my wife and I recently bought, the Lord has placed me in an interim Youth Director position at my local church.  Between preparing for that and a Bible study that I’ve been fortunate to lead, much of my Bible preparation time goes toward that, rather than here.  I hope that once we get moved this month I can return to a more regular posting schedule.  I apologize to those of you who are regular readers, but I pray that you bear with me during this transition.  Having said that, I do have a backlog of posts prepared that I hope to begin publishing in the next few days, beginning with this one.

 “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” 1 John 4:8

It’s likely that those of you reading this are familiar with the passage above.  If not with the Scripture passage from the Apostle John, then certainly with the statement “God is love”.  Perhaps second only to John 3:16, this statement has been frequently quoted, oft out of its original context in the passage and has been declared the final word the Bible has to offer about who God is.  Is the love of God all the Bible says about the character of God?  Is that all that the unbelieving world needs to hear?  As Christians, is God’s love our primary focus?  Similar questions like these are what J.I Packer tackles in a chapter from his book  Knowing God, entitled “The Love of God”, which we discussed in detail in Lady Gaga, Rob Bell and Misunderstanding the Love of God.  As we saw, Packer concludes that “God is love” is not the final word that the Bible offers concerning who God is, but that for believers it should be our primary focus.  As believers we should rejoice in the love of God, resulting in worship, praise, and adoration to the glory of God, for God is love. 

Here is where I think today’s modern evangelical world has become so confused.  Due primarily to a lack of biblical knowledge and an immature understanding of who God is, they simply take God is love in isolation and spread it like a blanket over everything and everyone regardless of sin, situation, or circumstance.  Instead of being properly placed as an attribute, among infinite others, intrinsic to God’s nature, God’s love is placed directly at the center and all other attributes must then be subordinate to love.  God’s justice, must follow God’s love.  His wrath, again subordinate to His love.  Is God first holy, no they would say God first is love.  What this view actually does is distort the character and nature of who the Bible tells us God is.  It creates a god who is unable to uphold His own righteousness and holiness because He must love.  It says that a god who is love cannot, nor would not, send any person to hell as punishment for offending His holiness.  The reality of this is that it actually strips away God is love and skews it to say “Love is god”.  As should be familiar to all of us, the LORD clearly states, “Thou shall have no other gods before Me”, to do so would be idolatry.  Yet this is precisely what so commonly happens when people take an attribute of God in isolation and fashion a god out of it, all the while rejecting the rest of what the Bible has to say about who God is.  In essence, an image of God is created in the mind that is inconsistent with the God of the Bible and this is idolatry.  This is not to say that we cannot individually study an attribute of God, nor does it say that we cannot meditate on or thank God for His love, mercy, grace, etc.  But it is certainly saying that biblical knowledge of God is of the utmost importance.  There is a reason why Jesus states in John 17:3, “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom  you have sent.”

As we’ve seen the past couple of weeks with the controversy surrounding Rob Bell’s new book Love Wins, an improper view of the character of God leads to confusion and quite simply heretical beliefs.  God’s love does win, first for Himself and secondly for those who are His children.  But it is not the end of the matter, because God also must be just and as such His wrath must reign down on all those who have rejected Jesus as Savior.  Romans 3:25-26  It is a difficult truth, but nevertheless, God’s love for His children is complimented by His wrath towards unbelievers as He is glorified both in His giving of salvation to believers and in the eternal punishment of unbelievers. Romans 9:22-24

God is equal in all of His attributes.  If one were to be out of balance, then God would be less than perfect.  Because our minds are so finite, we have a limited understanding of the nature of God’s love.  We know of only a love that, let’s face it, is mushy and sentimental.    Human emotions generally run hot or cold, are imbalanced, and are usually dictated by situations.  This makes it difficult, nigh impossible, to love and hate at the same time or to grant mercy yet give justice simultaneously or to put our wrath on display and be justified and glorified for doing so.  Yet God can.  When Jesus died on the cross for the sins of all those who believe, God poured out His wrath on His Son, yet He didn’t stop loving Him.  He was perfectly capable of displaying both His wrath, in His punishment of sin, and His love by offering His only Son as a sacrifice for sinners.  Again, His love was complimented by His wrath, yet in His wrath His love was displayed.  This is why the Apostle John can say with confidence, “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that He loved us and sent His son to be the propitiation for our sins.”  1 John 4:10 Simultaneously, the fulfillment of God’s love and the satisfaction of God’s wrath.

God is love on the surface is a simple, yet profound statement, the depth of which we will never know (Ephesians 3:19).  But unless we take the due diligence necessary to understand what the Apostle John is talking about in 1 John 4 and who he is talking to, then there is an imminent danger of isolating the love of God from His true nature.  If you are a believer in Christ, then rest firmly in the infinite depth and riches of God’s love.  But, dear friend, if you are yet without Christ, then you must know the “wrath of God remains” on you (John 3:36).  Repent of your sin and Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ!

Below are several follow up blog posts by Pastor/Teacher Dr. John MacArthur on the saga of Rob Bell’s new book Love Wins.  I introduced you to the first post in his series here:

Rob Bell: “Evangelical and orthodox to the bone?” Hardly

Rob Bell: A Brother to Embrace or a Wolf to Avoid

Bell’s Inferno

Rob Bell’s Unbelief in His Own Words

The Benevolence of God

Yesterday we covered quite a bit in discussing the common misconceptions and misunderstandings of God’s love.  Just as we learned of God’s wrath toward the unrepentant sinner, we must also look at what the Bible says regarding the benevolence, or kindness, that God shows toward all of His creatures, whether they be redeemed or lost.  The classic passage for this subject can be found in Matthew 5:44-45, “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.  For he makes his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”  In the context of love in this passage, here we have Jesus describing the very benevolent nature of God who shows not only kindness towards the just, i.e. believers, but also the unjust.  It’s important for us not to confuse the source of God’s kindness with His salvific, redemptive love that He has for His children.  Described here is a general benevolence that has led many theologians to use the phrase “common grace”, meaning that God shows grace, without distinction, to all.  This can be seen in the blessings, happiness, even life that both believers and unbelievers experience.

In Psalm 145:9 we read, “The LORD is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made.”  Again, let us not assume that God’s mercy here is contradictory to His justice, because He stated to Moses in Exodus 33:19, “…And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.”   Later in Psalm 145 the psalmist writes, “The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season.  You open your hand; you satisfy the desire of every living thing.  The LORD is righteous in all his ways and kind in all his works.”  Psalm 145:15-17  We see the kindness of God toward the unbeliever again in Luke 6:35-36, “But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.  Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.”  Finally, in the context of the “other nations” (aside from Israel, which we discussed yesterday) Paul is quoted in Acts 14:16-17 as saying, “In past generations he allowed all the nations to walk in their own ways.  Yet he did not leave himself without witness, for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.”

God is a gracious and good God.  He not only blesses believers, but also unbelievers.  It should not be left unsaid that believers face just as many trials, struggles, and hardships, just as the unbelievers.  But we must ask why.  Why would God, who is holy, have a righteous anger with the sinner everyday, but likewise show them kindness?  Just as we saw yesterday, God’s love is not incompatible with His wrath.  He is not emotional like we are going from anger to love and back to anger.  God shows forth kindness towards the sinner so that they may see He is a good God, repent of their sins, and turn to Him.  “Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?  But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.” Romans 2:4-5 In God’s kindness and benevolence, He also puts His patience with sinners on display.  “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”  2 Peter 3:9 God in His benevolence, flowing forth from His goodness has shown kindness to unbelievers.  He has been patient in withholding His wrath and longsuffering in delaying justice, but make no mistake about it dear reader, His wrath will not be withheld forever.  For those who do not repent of their sin and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, judgment awaits.  Don’t ignore the kindness and goodness that God has shown towards you, repent and believe the Gospel!

The Love of the Lord

By Charles Spurgeon

Hosea 3:1 KJV “…The love of the Lord….”

Believer, look back through all thine experience, and think of the way whereby the Lord thy God has led thee in the wilderness, and how He hath fed and clothed thee every day – how He hath borne with thine ill manners – how He hath put up with all thy murmurings, and all thy longings after the flesh – pots of Egypt – how He has opened the rock to supply thee, and fed thee with manna that came down from heaven.  Think of how His grace has been sufficient for thee in all thy troubles – how His blood has been a pardon to thee in all thy sins – how His rod and staff have comforted thee.  When thou hast thus looked back upon the love of the Lord, then let faith survey His love in the future, for remember that Christ’s covenant and blood have something more in them than the past.  He who has loved thee and pardoned thee, shall never cease to love and pardon.  He is Alpha, and He shall be Omega also: He is first and He shall be last. 

Therefore, bethink thee, when thou shalt pass through the valley of the shadow of death, thou needest fear no evil, for He is with thee.  When thou shalt stand in the cold floods of Jordan, thou needest not fear, for death cannot separate thee from His love; and when thou shalt come into the mysteries of eternity thou needest not tremble, For I am persuaded, that neither death; nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Now, soul, is not thy love refreshed?  Does not this make thee love Jesus?  Doth not a flight through illimitable plains of the ether of love inflame thy heart and compel thee to delight thyself in the Lord thy God?  Surely as we meditate on the love of the Lord, our hearts burn within us, and we long to love Him more.