Attribute n. - a quality or feature regarded as a characteristic or inherent part of someone or something.
The subject of the love of God is such a vast one that I have been hesitating to actually write about it. One could write many articles, even books, and still barely scratch the surface. As I mentioned at the beginning of this series, this is not a theological study, so I’ve decided to just share some thoughts that came to mind on the subject of love.
1 John 4:8 …God is love.
Love is a little hard to define. The definitions I read didn’t impress me overly much, especially when considered in relation to God’s love. Some people view love as strictly a feeling. Others have defined it as a choice. Personally, I think there is something of both about it. Since it is so hard to define, I think we should consider some aspects of love as we find it in scripture. These are given in no particular order as to importance.
Love is giving and generous.
John 3:16-17 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
Real love gives good gifts. It gives itself. It gives its best possessions. This is the love that God has shown to us. In particular, He gave us His best beloved – His only begotten Son. In Jesus Christ, God has given us many wonderful things as well. Ephesians 2:4-6 But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.
2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace, Comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work.
He has also given us His Spirit. 1 John 4:13 Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit.
Love is not blind.
From John 3:16-17 we also see that true love is not blind. God loved us, but He also saw the problem. He saw our sinful, lost condition. He loved us while we were still sinners, when we were unlovely and ungodly.
Romans 5:6-9 For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.
Love is sacrificial.
So continuing on from the verses in Romans 5, we also see that love not only gives, but that it is sacrificial, even unto death. God gave His Son to die, and Jesus Christ was willing to die for us because of His great love for us, even when we were still sinners. There is nothing that we could ever do to earn a love like that. It had to be given to us by God when we still didn’t understand it or the extent of our need.
John 15:13-14 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.
We are His friends if we are born again and walking after His Spirit, but Jesus died for us while we were yet sinners, as Romans 5 tells us. This is beyond our human comprehending. We can only receive it by faith because it is past understanding.
Without the forgiveness of God we cannot ultimately benefit from His love. His love, and the sacrifice He gave to save us, can only be applied through His forgiveness of our sins which separated us from Him. This forgiveness comes to us through grace, repentance and faith, and ultimately through the drawing of His Holy Spirit.
Acts 20:21 Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.
One of the most beautiful examples in scripture that we have of this is the parable of the prodigal son. The father, though he didn’t go out and drag his wayward child home against his will, was watching for the first small sign of repentance. He saw his returning child “a great way off” and ran to meet him. That means his father-heart was watching constantly for his son’s return. This is such a moving picture of God’s love for us. It is wonderful how the father met him with love and forgiveness, not with accusations. The father knew that the son’s repentance was real and he accepted it without rebuke. This is a God-like forgiveness, and it stems from His amazing love.
Luke 15:17-24 And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father's have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants. And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son. But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.
1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Love begets love.
1 John 4:19 We love him, because he first loved us.
One of the wonderful aspects of God’s love for us is that when we accept it, it causes us to love Him in return. This is not always true of human love, it seems to me.
How could we help but love God considering all He has given us in His love?! And yet, there is this mysterious thing about it because, if we don’t accept His love and believe He loves us, we can’t love Him in return. We must acknowledge His love for us first, and we must receive the free gift that His love offers us – His Son the Lord Jesus Christ.
John 13:34-35 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.
Not only will God’s love for us teach us to love Him, but it will cause us to love our fellow believers. We are commanded to do so, because to some degree love is a choice, as this verse indicates. But, if we truly love the Lord, we will want to obey His commandment to us.
1 John 5:1-3 Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.
1 Peter 1:7-8 That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory:
Love is safe.
1 John 4:18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.
One of the most mind-boggling aspects of God’s love is its immense safety. In some instances human love can be intensely safe, but we all know that it can fail us too, for all flesh is grass (1 Peter 1:24-15). But, with God’s love this is impossible. We may not always understand what He is doing or why He is doing it (Rom. 8:28), but the promises that He has given us about His eternal love are so sure, so unnegotiable, that it is only our own human weakness that ever causes us to question His love for us.
Romans 8:35-39 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. 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.
Regarding human love we read in Song of Solomon 8:6-7, Set me as a seal upon thine heart, as a seal upon thine arm: for love is strong as death; jealousy is cruel as the grave: the coals thereof are coals of fire, which hath a most vehement flame. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it: if a man would give all the substance of his house for love, it would utterly be contemned.
If this is true about the love between a man and woman, it is infinitely more so with the love of God. His love is stronger than death. (Jesus arose from the grave for our eternal life, so that we need not fear death.) God’s love cannot be quenched; it cannot be drowned, as it were. And, most truly, we cannot buy God’s love. …[A]ll our righteousnesses are as flithy rags before Him (Isaiah 64:6). He would condemn all our efforts to earn His love.
Jeremiah 31:3 The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.
Love serves the beloved.
The Lord Jesus Christ showed us His love, not only by dying for us, but by living for us! He willingly served His disciples, and He told us to follow His example.
John 13:13-16 Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him.
Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 12:15, And I will very gladly spend and be spent for you; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved. In the spirit of God’s love for him and for us all, Paul was glad to spend and be spent for other believers, even when he knew that they might not appreciate it.
Galatians 5:13 For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.
Luke 16:13 No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.
I can’t conclude with anything better than this:
1 John 4:7-12 Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we 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 ought also to love one another. No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.