The Love Of God

Title: The Love Of God

Bible Book: 1 John 4 : 7-15

Author: James O. Coldiron

Subject: God, Love of; Love of God



From Genesis to Revelation, from earth's greatest tragedy to earth's greatest triumph, the dramatic story of man's lowest depths and God's highest heights can be couched into a condensation of twenty-five beautiful words: "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."

Love has been rightly called the greatest thing in the world. In this section John tells us that "God is Love". This is the heart of the New Testament and the Christian Gospel. Christianity is the only religion, which can claim that its God is love. When you say Mohammed is love, Allah is love, or Zeus is love, it just does not sound right. Because none of the so-called gods of the religions of the world can be called love, this is one of the distinctives of Christianity "Philosophy can speculate that God is love. It can attempt to infer a divine love from the meaning of human love, or magnify human love into an absolute, or posit a benignant, divine being whose nature responds to man's mystical desire, somewhat as pagan and Gnostic thought conceived human love (Eros) to be projected toward God....In contrast to the claims offered by these areas of human experience that God is love, Christian faith says with John.(The Interpreter's Bible, p. 280) that God manifested (made know, revealed) His love to us" (3:9).

John is addressing the need for love. The Gnostics felt superior. They taught that people "know God by teaching of Gnosticism."

God is love, but we should remember that the only way it is possible for us to share in that love is by the new birth. God's love is a filial fact that requires a family relationship before its benefits can be realized. There can be no practical knowledge or experience of the love of God except through the son of God in whom that love is revealed, and the word of God in which that love is recorded. The love of God was never fully known until Christ revealed it and the Bible recorded it.

This love of God is not simply an expression of God towards us; it is God's very nature and character. Human love is reciprocal - we love because we are love. Divine love is not a response to something outside. It is the response to someone inside. He loves because His nature is the nature of love.

I am not going to go into the philosophy of the love of God. I do not have time to express and trace the love of God as man progressed to know it. I want to emphasize three facts that are set forth in the New Testament and are pinpointed in this passage.

I. The Purpose of the Love of God 1 John 4:9

If I understand the Bible rightly and know the love of God at all, God did not have to have man to be complete. Because God is complete in himself, he does not need you or me to be complete. God is self-sufficient.

A. Revelation of the Love of God

Because God is love He manifested himself in many ways and finally in Christ He completely revealed Himself. God loved that we might live. Twice God brought life into the world. Once at the creation when He "formed man out of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul." Once again at the redemption when He brought eternal life through his Son. Physical life came through God's breath and spiritual life through Christ's blood. In the creation the pattern was "God's Image." In the redemption it is the "image of his Son." In every respect and in all relationships there never has been and never will be another like the Lord Jesus Christ. He defies definition and description. He transcends all human categories and classifications. He is as unique in the annals of history as He is necessary to the experience of every human being, for there is no life apart from the love of God manifested in him.

"The coming of Christ is, therefore, a concrete, historical revelation of God's love, for love (agape) is self-sacrifice, the seeking of another's positive good at one's own cost, and a greater self-giving than God's gift of His Son there has never been, nor could be." (The Letters of John, pp. 164-165, William Barclay, Westminster Press 1958)

B. Redemption of the Love of God

It was not God's purpose to make man and then redeem him because He had to have someone worship Him as God. Being God He did not need anything. Because it is His nature to love, He provided everything for man he needs. One exegete has suggested that God is love is a bad translation because it is not true. He says, "God is not an abstraction. "The word "God" has the article, the word "love" does not, which construction in Greek means that the two words are not interchangeable. The absence of the article emphasizes nature, essence, and character. A good translation would be "God as to his nature is love." So because it is the nature of our God to love, He purposed to love man to the extent of providing for his every need. When man fell and cast from Eden, then, in redemption, it was God's purpose through Christ to bring many sons to glory. If God has been only law and justice, He would simply have left men to the consequences of their sin. The moral law would operate; the soul that sinneth would die; and eternal justice would inexorably hand out its punishments. But the very fact that God is love meant that He had to seek and save that which was lost. He had to find a remedy for sin." (The Letters of John and Jude, p.99, William Barclay, Westminster Press, 1958)

The purpose of the love of God is that we "might live (zesomen) through Him (Christ)."

II. The Provision of the Love of God 1 John 4:10

The love of God provides a propitiation for our sins. When man had sinned against God who loved him, he deserved to pay the price of his disobedience through all eternity. He made himself at enmity with his God by willful disobedience. He deserved the worst but God provided him with the best. Only God with a nature and character of love would do this.

I want to call to your attention two of the three words that we have in the Greek to explain or define love. In English we have only one word for all kinds of love. Very often it puts us in the position of the boy from India who was going to the University of Michigan. When I was a pre-law student at Miami University, one of the ambassadors from India spoke to us on one language for the one world. He told us of the young boy going to the zoo with some of his fellow students from the university. He asked the fellows the name for [the covering on the bear] in English. They told him it was hide. That night he had a date with one of the co-eds. When about half the evening was over, he noticed she was even more beautiful than he thought. Wanting to express himself to her, he said, "You have beautiful hide." She slapped him, turned around, and left. All the fellows laughed at him. The next day he went to church. The minister in his morning prayer said, "Father hide our sins from thy face." The poor boy was really confused," said the ambassador but he felt the English language should still be the universal language.

We have a hard time expressing the love of God in English but I think it can and should be done. The first word I want you to notice is Eros. Eros is the desire for that which we do not possess, but which we ought to have, or would like to have. Eros is, thereafter, directed towards a particular value; we love something because it has value; because it is worthy to be loved. Thus Eros is that love which is derived from, and evoked by the beloved. Eros loves only that which contains value.

The love of God, the other word, Agape, is quite different. It does not seek value; it does not desire to get but to give; it is not attracted by some lovable quality, but it is poured out on those who are worthless and degraded; this kind of love is "unfathomable," and "passeth all understanding." This love seeks to benefit the one He loves. This love is self-surrender, self-giving to the other, to whom the love is directed (John 3:16). He did this while we were sinners and enemies Paul says. The love of God breaks down all the barriers between God and man through Jesus Christ.

A. The Action of the Love of God

Because God's nature is this agape, he has provided a Savior in his Son for our sins. Saving love is not an abstract thing wrapped up in some religious philosophy. It is not love as a principle which saves, but love in a Person. God did not save us by His love, but by his Son. God did not say to the world, love me and be saved. God came down to the world in love personified. Thus salvation is not man's search for God; but rather God's search for and approach to man.

We are not saved because Jesus lived a lovely life. It is because He died. We are not saved by his teachings, but because of His suffering. It is not because Jesus preached the love of God, but because He propitiated the sins of man. Propitiate means to atone, and atonement means a covering. Atonement meant the death of the sacrifice through shed blood.

"The word "expiation" (hilasmon) in the biblical usages conveys the idea of removing that which separates a person from God. When Jesus died for human beings, He was removing the alienation, which existed between God and people. It was people who need to be reconciled to God, not God to people. In the atonement, we get an insight into what God's love has done. He has made possible the forgiveness of sin." (Increasing The Joy, p. 109, Faith is the Victory, E.M. Blaiklock, Grand Rapids, William Erdamans Publishing Co.)

B. The Answer of the Love of God

Calvary proves even to the most skeptical that God was not blind to man's plight, but that He was willing to suffer with him. Compassion comes from two Latin words meaning "to suffer with," and his all consuming love for mankind was best demonstrated at the cross where His compassion was embodied in Christ, where God was in Christ redeeming the world. "He that hath the Son hath life" (1 John 5:12). "And all Faith which does not look up to Love as its end, which does not look down upon Love as its root, is a mere phantasy or contradiction. (The Epistles of St. John, p. 257, Raymond E. Brown, Doubleday Publishing, 1982)

III. The Product of the Love of God 1 John 4:11

A. We Should Reflect the Love of God

When we have been the recipients of God's love we should love like Him. We should love those who are His and we should also love those who are unlovely as He did us. Since God loved us without our loving Him, we ought and must love those who do not love us. It is human to love those that love us. It is divine to love those who do not love us. Here is a high standard of life and a new ideal of love. It is only possible through the new nature we have from God. It is only through the power of Christ living through the new nature that we can rise to the exalted standard of being the product God would have us to be. "The governing principle of life between Christians is love. Not beneficence only, but the affection of a vital blood kinship." (Eternal Life in Action, p. 154, Raymond E. Brown, Doubleday Publishing, 1982)

B. We Should Release the Love of God

We should focus His love through us on those who need Him. We are living in a world that hates. Even the Christian church in America is being gripped by a certain form of hatred that is paralyzing evangelism and quenching revival. It is very hard in some places to preach the gospel and try to win souls without being attacked by extreme groups in the church. Certain of these men are far more interested in controversy, in putting people in categories, trapping God's servants or trying to hang them on the horns of a dilemma, than they are in the souls of men. These men are the authors of confusion and have become modern day Pharisees whom Christ severely condemns. The Bible clearly teaches that Christians as the product of God's love are to love each other. They are to love  the stranger as well. The kind of God we serve loves the Russian people and the American people at the same time. One who has the mind of Christ will do the same. "Because God is love supremely, only those who are partakers of the Divine nature by faith can truly love." (Faith is the Victory, p. 54, E.M. Blaiklock, Grand Rapids, William Erdamans Publishing Co.)

Christian Life magazine reported the account of Pastor Son, father of two young Christian men who were murdered by a fellow student during the Communist uprising in South Korea, before the war broke out. The assassin was captured, court-martialed, and was about to be sentenced to death, when Pastor Son went before the court to plead for the life of the murderer of his sons. Arguing that the Communist had killed his sons only because he did not know Christ as Savior, Pastor Son asked the court to discharge his sons' killer into his care in the hope that he could lead him to Christ. Moved by this unusual request, the court granted it. The Communist, overwhelmed by this demonstration of Christian love, received Christ. Later his entire family was converted, and he entered into training for the ministry.

However, there is a sequel to this story; North Korean forces, fleeing from the town of Yosu, as the United Nations army broke out of its Southeast Korea beachhead, carried with them 128 captives, including Pastor Son. On a lonely road near Kwangju, the captives were all bayoneted and shot to death. Bayoneted in the abdomen, Pastor Son pleaded with his captors to turn to Christ until he was beaten in the face and unable to talk. Then he died as one of the martyrs whose blood is the seed of the church.

You will agree, that this was a true product of love.

"The life of love is not only generated by God, but it is also sustained by Him." (The Epistles of John, p. 109, Raymond E. Brown, Doubleday Publishing, 1982) "The motivation for our love for one another is grounded in God's love for us." (The Gospel and the Epistles, p. 231, F.F. Bruce, Pickering and Ingles, 1978)

How glorious it is to know the purpose of God; to have his love provide for our sins, and to become the product of His divine love. Greater love hath no man than this.

The love of God is greater far

Than tongue or pen can ever tell;

It goes beyond the highest star,

And reaches to the lowest hell.

Oh, love of God, how rich and pure!

How measureless and strong!

It shall forevermore endure

The saints and angels song.

Yes truly the greatest thing in the world is the love of God. "Love so amazing, so divine, demands my heart, my life, my all."

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