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 also be argued that the attribute of God which is most often misunderstood is His love.
As we have already noted, God’s love is a holy love. It is also a self-sacrificial love of the will. It is not a love like human love which tends to be self-centered, emotionally driven and inconsistent.
God’s love is also a multi-faceted love. This means it is not a love which is singularly directed but rather has multiple objects. We will look for the next couple of days at four biblical examples of God’s love.
First, there is God the Father’s love for the Son. Four times in the Gospel of John the apostle speaks of the love of the Father for the Son: John 3:35; 5:20; 15:9-10; 17:26.
Second, there is God the Son’s love for God the Father. This statement of truth is found in John 14:31.
Thirdly, there is God’s providential love for all which He has created. While the Hebrew and Greek words for love are not specifically used, God’s act of creation, and His subsequent sustenance of the same, is an example of His love.
Dr. Don Carson explains the, “Lord Jesus depicts a world in which God clothes the grass of the fields with the glory of wildflowers seen by no human being, perhaps, but seen by God. The lion roars and hauls down its prey, but it is God who feeds the animal. The birds of the air find food, but that is the result of God’s loving providence, and not a sparrow falls from the sky apart from the sanction of the Almighty (Matt. 6). If this were not a benevolent providence, a loving providence, then the moral lesson that Jesus drives home, via that this God can be trusted to provide for his own people, would be incoherent.”
Fourth, there is the benevolent, magnanimous love God has for rebellious sinners. This is the love of which most frequently speak of knowing and which is taken from John 3:16. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
Dr. John MacArthur writes, ”John 3:16 may or may not be the most familiar verse in all of Scripture, but it is surely one of the most abused and least understood. The verse is so well known that the reference alone is thought by some to be a sufficient proclamation of the gospel. Arminians extract the phrase “God so loved the world” from its context and use it as an argument for universal atonement, meaning Christ’s death made redemption possible for all. More extreme Universalists push the same argument even further. They claim the verse proves that God loves everyone exactly the same, and that all will be saved—as if John 3:16 negated all the biblical warnings of condemnation for the wicked.”
Dr. MacArthur continues by stating, “To think like that is to miss the point completely. The immediate context gives the necessary balance: “Whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God” (v. 18). Surely, that is a truth that needs to be proclaimed to our generation with at least as much passion and urgency as the message of God’s love and mercy. Moreover, John 3:16 does not focus on the extent of the atonement; the verse is a statement about the magnitude of God’s love. Here is a profound wonder: God loved “the world”—this wicked realm of fallen humanity—so much that He sacrificed His only begotten Son to pay the price of redemption for all who believe in Him.”
Next time, we will see the final type of love which Scripture mentions: God’s love for the elect. Until then, ponder the various ways in which God has chosen to love you. Have a blessed day in loving and knowing God.
Soli deo Gloria!