“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 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. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” (I John 4:7-11).
Thus far in our study of Knowing God, we have stipulated that to know God is to know His attributes, which are His personal characteristics. These are those qualities which make God, God. Some of God’s attributes He has chosen to share with His creation. Some of His attributes, He alone possesses.
We have seen that God is self-existent, He makes decisions and is glorious, omniscient, omnipresent, sovereign, holy, and wrathful. If, of all of God’s attributes, the one which often solicits the most controversy and debate is God’s wrath, then it could be argued that the attribute of God which is most often misunderstood is His love.
One book I discovered by a noted biblical theologian is entitled The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God. The author, D.A. Carson, is concerned that the love of God is so often distorted in order for people to make it something less offensive to the fallen and sinful human mind.
Dr. Carson writes, “We live in a culture in which many other and complementary truths about God are widely disbelieved. I do not think that what the Bible says about the love of God can long survive at the forefront of our thinking if it is abstracted from the sovereignty of God, the holiness of God, the wrath of God, the providence of God, or the personhood of God—to mention only a few nonnegotiable elements of basic Christianity. The result, of course, is that the love of God in our culture has been purged of anything the culture finds uncomfortable. The love of God has been sanitized, democratized, and above all sentimentalized. This process has been going on for some time. My generation was taught to sing, “What the world needs now is love, sweet love,” in which we robustly instruct the Almighty that we do not need another mountain (we have enough of them), but we could do with some more love. The hubris is staggering.”
The Bible teaches that God’s love is a holy love. It is not a sentimental emotion which turns a blind eye or a deaf ear to sin and the sinner’s rebelliousness. Rather, in I John 4:8, which is in harmony with John 3:16, God’s agape love is a self-sacrificial love of the will. It is not a love which denies the reality of sin but rather recognizes it, calls it for what it is, and has done something about it in and through the person and work of Jesus Christ.
God’s love is in keeping with what the Apostle Paul mentions in I Corinthians 13:4-8a. “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.”
God’s love for sinners is a patient love. It is a kind love, while never being envious, boastful, arrogant or rude. God does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but He rejoices in the truth.
God demonstrates this love by loving sinners who deserve His wrath. Romans 5:7-10 says, “For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.”
But is God’s love for sinners, as under attack as this truth is nowadays because not many believe in sin anymore, the only example of the love of God? Is there more to be found in the Scriptures? I believe so!
Take time today to thank God for His love for you. Take time to express your love for Him based upon His love for you.
Soli deo Gloria!