The Love of God
A Love Beyond Comprehension
The love of God is beyond human comprehension, yet is in many ways accessible to us. We will never fully comprehend God’s love, as it passes knowing (Ephesians 3:10); yet we can know its character and enjoy its benefits.
The love of God is so great that John exclaimed, “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.” (1 John 3:1, AV) John is declaring that God’s love is foreign. It is other worldly. It is not a mere human sort of love. The love of God, that makes us sons of God, can be recognized and known; yet it cannot be fully comprehended.
Why is God’s love so great? It is because God is love (1 John 4:8), and God is eternal. Therefore love is eternal in both duration and character.
Love Is of God
One of the most familiar verses of all Scripture is, “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.” (1 John 4:7–8, AV) Even small children often know, “God is love.” Notice that we are told that love is from God, because God is love. God is the source of love, and He is love.
What this means is that there is no true love apart from God. There can be ungodly and unholy love; but true love is from God. It also means that God defines love. Today the idea is that God is love, and therefore conforms to our ideal of what love is. Since God is eternal and holy, and being love, God defines what love is. He does not conform to our ideal of love, but He tells us what love is, what it does, and how it appears. Others like to say, “Love is love.” Not only is that a tautology and circular reasoning, it is also unrighteous. It is both incorrect and sinful. Let us always remember that God is love.
If you and I are to show love, it is because that we know God. Paul’s desire for the Thessalonians was that “the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you: To the end he may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints.” (1 Thessalonians 3:12–13, AV) The way of practical holiness is that of love; and it is because the Lord causes us to grow in love. You and I grow in love and show love as God enables us. It is He who teaches us to love one another (1 Thessalonians 4:9). God is love and is the source of all true love.
Free And Unmerited Love
God’s love is free and unmerited. There is nothing that man has ever done or ever can do to deserve it. Moses told Israel, “The LORD did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people: But because the LORD loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers, hath the LORD brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.” (Deuteronomy 7:7–8, AV) God did not love Israel because of what was in Israel. Nor did He love Israel for any reason other than the fact that He chose to love them. God’s love is free and unmerited.
When the LORD wanted to show Israel His free love, He commanded Hosea to take a harlot to be his wife. When Hosea’s wife, Gomer, was unfaithful to him and wound up as a slave on the auction block, the LORD told Hosea, “Then said the LORD unto me, Go yet, love a woman beloved of her friend, yet an adulteress, according to the love of the LORD toward the children of Israel, who look to other gods, and love flagons of wine. So I bought her to me for fifteen pieces of silver, and for an homer of barley, and an half homer of barley: And I said unto her, Thou shalt abide for me many days; thou shalt not play the harlot, and thou shalt not be for another man: so will I also be for thee. For the children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice, and without an image, and without an ephod, and without teraphim: Afterward shall the children of Israel return, and seek the LORD their God, and David their king; and shall fear the LORD and his goodness in the latter days.” (Hosea 3:1–5, AV) Not only did Hosea freely love Gomer and buy her as a slave, but he also committed to be faithful to her as her husband. The LORD then continues to explain that His love for Israel is similar. God’s love for Israel was not for any good within themselves, but all because of the good that is in God. He said, “I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely: for mine anger is turned away from him.” (Hosea 14:4, AV) God promised to love Israel and to forgive them freely, because His love is free and unmerited. Israel was very unfaithful, but God is love.
God’s love to us today is the same: He loves us freely. Paul described us to Titus as being wicked, unloving, hateful, obnoxious, rebellious, and of bad hearts and minds. Then he said, “But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:4–7, AV) When did God’s saving love come to us? How did God’s saving love come to us? It came while we were yet in our sinful rebellion, and it was in no manner deserved by us; but God freely loves us, and freely saves all who trust Him. We see this again as Paul said, “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.” (Romans 5:6–8, AV) When we were impotent, helpless, unrighteous, irreverent, and unholy, Christ died for us. We were the enemies of God, living in rebellion against Him. We did what we wanted to do, and we followed the world, the flesh, and the devil (Ephesians 2:1-4); yet God loves us so freely that He gave His only begotten Son to be crucified for our sins, so that we can be freely saved. Is it any wonder, then, that John exclaimed that this love is foreign to us? It is a love far beyond human comprehension!
God’s love is not only free and unmerited, but it is sacrificial: it is giving. “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.” (John 3:16, AV) “Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” (1 John 3:16, AV) This is how God loves us, in that He has given His Son; He has laid down His life for us. Even when we were enemies, God gave His Son to die for our sins, that we might be reconciled to God (Romans 5:6-11;2 Corinthians 5:17-21).
When Paul would counter the self-righteous and legalistic doctrine and lifestyle that was troubling the Galatian churches, he argued that Christ’s sacrificial love is what we should trust. “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.” (Galatians 2:20–21, AV) As of late I have encountered a group of seemingly well-intended, but unlearned and misguided people whose teaching is that of being saved by God’s power, yet maintaining salvation by our own righteousness. Their idea is that love is something soft and permissive. God’s love is not that at all. God’s love sent Christ to the cross to confirm God’s righteousness (Romans 3:21-28). Sin has to be punished, and God punished the Lord Jesus Christ in our place because He loves us. God’s love is sacrificial, and it is this love that saves us and keeps us. If I can save or keep myself, Christ died a useless death, Paul says. I, for one, thank God for the unspeakable gift of God’s sacrificial love in Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 9:15)!
Forgiving, Saving, And Life Giving Love
Paul spoke to the Ephesians and reminded them of the depths of their depravity, which is the depravity which is common to us all, and then He said, “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;)” (Ephesians 2:4–5, AV) God has a great love to us, and it is saving love. God, because of His great love, saves us by His grace!
Hezekiah would speak about how he was near to death and the LORD delivered Him: “Behold, for peace I had great bitterness: but thou hast in love to my soul delivered it from the pit of corruption: for thou hast cast all my sins behind thy back.” (Isaiah 38:17, AV) Why was Hezekiah forgiven, delivered from death, and saved? Because God had love to his soul.
Paul exulted in the saving love of God by telling Timothy, “And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.” (1 Timothy 1:14–15, AV) The chief of sinners was saved because of God’s love and grace. Let us remember that the Lord does not change (Malachi 3:6), and that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). This being so, all the redeemed will be saved because of God’s great love; and we shall all give Him glory, saying, “Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.” (Revelation 1:5–6, AV)