Tag Archives: The Love of God

Considering the Love of God

In the first epistle of John, much like his gospel account of our Lord’s life and ministry, the apostle of love rightly earns this familiar title through his expositions on the love of God.  In many respects, several of these verses have become the most recognizable, most recited verses on the love of God in all of Scripture.  Surely a testimony to their simplicity, but moreso to the truths behind them.

One such passage is found in 1 John 4:10

“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.”

In order for us to comprehend and feel the weight of a passage like this one, concerning the love of God for us in Christ, we need to first understand the love of God for His Son.  If we are to properly appreciate the love that God has for His adopted children, and similarly the love that Christ has for those for whom He died, and subsequently avoid a man-centered understanding of these truths, then we must begin with the love between the Father and the Son.

When we consider the love that the Father has for the Son, we have only limited, imperfect examples from which to draw upon.  For instance, the Father’s love for His Son far exceeds the love that a husband has for his bride.  A husband may care for his bride, love and cherish her, protect her, but this is an incomplete, finite love when compared to God the Father’s love for God the Son.  Additionally, the love that a parent has for a child, closer in relationship, but again inadequate.  God the Father’s love for His Son far exceeds both that of a husband for his bride and a parent for their child.  In fact, if you consider anything in this world that you love, so much that you would die for it, you have but a pale shadow in comparison to the love that the Father has for the Son.  It is an infinite, everlasting, and eternal love.  It knows neither beginning or end.  It cannot be exhausted nor measured.  Our language fails to properly describe it, though we may begin with the word, perfect.  The love of God, this intra-trinitarian love, infinitely exceeds any example of love that we could possibly imagine.

To draw our minds to even an initial comprehension of the love that the Father has for the Son, Puritan John Flavel offers the following

How this gift of Christ was the highest, and fullest manifestation of the love of God, that ever the world saw: and this will be evidenced by the following particulars:

(1.) If you consider how near and dear Jesus Christ was to the Father; he was his Son, “his only Son,” saith the text; the Son of his love, the darling of his Soul: His other Self, yea, one with himself; the express image of his person; the brightness of his Father’s Glory: In parting with him, he parted with his own heart, with his very bowels, as I may say. “Yet to us a Son is given,” Isa. ix. 6. and such a Son as he calls “his dear Son,” Col. i. 13. A late writer tells us, that he hath been informed, that in the famine in Germany, a poor family being ready to perish with famine, the husband made a motion to the wife, to sell one of the children for bread, to relieve themselves and the rest: The wife at last consents that it should be so; but then they began to think which of the four should be sold; and when the eldest was named, they both refused to part with that, being their first-born, and the beginning of their strength. Well, then they came to the second, but could not yield that he should be sold, being the very picture and lively image of his father. The third was named, but that also was a child that best resembled the mother. And when the youngest was thought on, that was the Benjamin, the child of their old age; and so were content rather to perish altogether in the famine, than to part with a child for relief And you know how tenderly Jacob took it, when his Joseph and Benjamin were rent from him. What is a child, but a piece of the parent wrapt up another skin? And yet our dearest children are but as strangers to us, in comparison of the unspeakable dearness that was betwixt the Father and Christ.——Now, that he should ever be content to part with a Son, and such an only One, is such a manifestation of love, as will be admired to all eternity.

Now, considering this love that the Father has for the Son, consider that He gave, out of love, His son to be the propitiation, literally the wrath-absorbing-atoning sacrifice, for us, disgusting and vile sinners.  Stained not only with the guilt of sin, but filled to the core with rebellion against this same God that loves His Son without measure.  Consider that this same God, loving His Son as He did, freely offered Him up for sinful man.  As we are told in the passage above, this free offering of His Son was because God loved us.  This is the manifestation of the love of God, in Christ, for sinners (1 John 4:9; Romans 5:8).  This is what it means that God so loved the world (John 3:16).  When the Apostle writes, God is love, this is the starting point towards untangling the complexity of this divine attribute (1 John 4:8).

In comparison with both the love of God for Christ and the love of God, in Christ, for us sinners, how weak and feeble are our own declarations of love for our Heavenly Father.  It is not that we loved God, but that He loved us (1 John 4:10).  Yet despite this, one of the very evidences of the love that God has for us in Christ, which we share in and experience upon being born again, is that we love one another, “if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.” (1 John 4:12)  An evidence of the indwelling nature of God’s Spirit within us is love, for one another.  This outward, horizontal expression of love can only come from a heart that is oriented vertically with love from God and love for God.  As the Apostle exhorts,

19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.”

Therefore, dear readers, come often to the fount of God’s love and consider, meditate, draw upon the love that God has for His own Son.  Allow this to frame your understanding of the love that God has for you, in giving His only Son to die in your place.  If after contemplating the magnificent reality of God’s love, your heart is not drawn to love Him more, hardly moved closer to Him by increased affections, then perhaps the love of God does not abide in you.  Perhaps you have not come to either  be born of God or know God.  In that case, repent of your sins, turn to Christ for forgiveness with a genuine desire to love God and be loved by Him.

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!