THE ATTRIBUTES OF GOD Lesson #14
“God Is Love” 1 John 4:16
The Bible specifically tells us three things about the nature of God and we must form all our thoughts about God in the light of these three things.
1. “God is Spirit” (John 4:24). In the original text there is no corresponding word for the indefinite article “a”. And really our King James translation here, “God is a Spirit,” is horrendous. The text should read “God is Spirit.” To say that God is a Spirit is to suggest that he is one among many. Our Lord’s words to the woman at the well were, “God is Spirit” - God is Spirit in the highest sense of the word. This distinguishes him from all his creatures. An angel is a spirit. Satan is a spirit. And man was created with a spirit. But God is Spirit. That means that he has no physical, visible substance, or body. If God had a body, as we do, he could not be omnipresent and infinite, he would be limited to one place. But because “God is Spirit” all who worship must worship him in Spirit and in truth.
2. “God is Light’ (1 John 1:5). “In him is no darkness at all.” Light is the exact opposite of darkness. In the Scriptures, “darkness” represents sin, evil, and death. Light represents holiness, truth, and life. When John says, “God is light,” his meaning is, God is the sum and essence of all that is good, righteous, and excellent. God is holiness, is truth, and is life, because “God is light.”
3. “God is love” (1 John 4:8, 16). It is true that God loves. But John is not here describing an act of God. He is describing an attribute of God. “God is love.” As his nature is Spirit and Light, so in the essence of his nature “God is love.”
Most of what has been said and written about the love of God reveals how utterly ignorant the world is of God and his love. The love of God is commonly regarded as an amiable, but helpless and frustrated passion in God, a sort of good natured indulgence. God’s love is usually reduced to a sentiment, subject to change, like the human emotion we call love. Such love is below our God. And such love produces no ground of comfort for our souls. Whenever we think about the love of God we must understand that God’s love is altogether like himself, for “God is love.”
THE LOVE OF GOD IS UNINFLUENCED (Deut. 7:7-8). When I say that the love of God is uninfluenced, I mean that there was nothing in us, and nothing foreseen in us, that caused God to love us or attracted his love to us. This kind of love is totally foreign to mankind. Any love we have for others is caused by something in them. God’s love is totally free, spontaneous, uncaused (I John 4:10, 19).
Our minds must be clear about this if we would honor God in our hearts. The love of God for us in uncaused by us. There was nothing in us to attract God’s love. There was everything in us to repel God’s love. And God knew that his love for us, though fully manifested and revealed to us, would produce very slight love in return, and even that love would have to be produced in us by his gracious operations upon our hearts and souls. Yet, he loved us from himself, “according to his own purpose.”
THE LOVE OF GOD IS ETERNAL (Jer. 31:3). This is indisputable. God himself is eternal. And God is love. Therefore, the love of God must be eternal. As God has no beginning, so his love has no beginning. Eternal love transcends the thoughts of our finite minds. We cannot comprehend it. But we can rejoice in it. We can adore it. How blessed it is to know that the great and glorious God loved us before the worlds were made! He set his heart upon us from eternity. Long before we had any being, almighty God loved us, chose us, and predestinated us unto the adoption of sons (Eph. 1:4-5). God’s eternal love for us should evoke constant praise from our hearts (Eph. 1:3). And his eternal love for us should fill our hearts with comfort and quieten our souls.
“Since God’s love toward me had no beginning, it can have no ending! Since it is true that `from everlasting to everlasting’ He is God, and since God is love, then it is equally true that `from everlasting to everlasting’ He loves his people” (A. W. Pink).
THE LOVE OF GOD IS SOVEREIGN (Rom. 9:13). This too is a self-evident necessity, altogether beyond dispute. God is sovereign in all things. He is under obligation to no one. He is a law unto himself. He always acts according to his own, imperial, sovereign pleasure. Because God is God he always does as he pleases. Because God is love, he loves whom he will (Rom. 9:13-18).
This is a blessed fact that needs to be clearly understood. God is totally uninfluenced by anything in his creatures. He is infinitely above, independent of, and sovereign over his creatures. God’s love is not for sale. His love cannot be bought. His grace cannot be won. His salvation cannot be earned. He says, “I will love them freely!”(Hos. 14:4). And his free and sovereign love is the basis of all his works of grace (Rom. 8:28-31).
THE LOVE OF GOD IS INFINITE (Eph. 3:17-19). Everything about God is infinite, beyond measure calculation, or comprehension. His essence fills the universe. His knowledge comprehends everything, past, present, and future. His power is uncontrollable. Nothing is too hard for the Lord. And his love is without limit, indescribably infinite (Eph. 2:4; John 3:16).
There is a depth to God’s love which no line can fathom. There is a height to God’s love that no mind can scale. There is length to God’s love that no heart can comprehend. There is a breadth to God’s love that no imagination can reach.
The love of God reaches down to the lowest dregs of fallen, humanity and lifts guilty sinners up to the very height of God’s glorious throne. The love of God stretches across the length and breadth of this sin cursed earth and gathers his elect from afar. The hymn writer captured the meaning of Paul’s words.
“Could we with ink the oceans fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade -
To write the love of God above
Would drain the oceans dry;
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky!”
THE LOVE OF GOD IS IMMUTABLE.
“His love no end nor measure knows,
No change can turn its course;
Eternally the same it flows,
From one eternal source!”
Like God himself, with his love there is “no variableness, neither shadow of turning” (James 1:18). His love does not change. It never increases. It ever decreases. It never ends.
Poor, shifting Jacob is an illustration of God’s immutable love (Mal. 3:6). Jacob’s great uncle, Lot, is another example of the immutability of God’s love (Gen. 19:16). Our Lord’s disciples were all examples of God’s immutable love (John 13:1). Philip said, “Show us the Father.” Peter denied him with an oath. All forsook him. Thomas doubted his word of promise and his resurrection. Nevertheless, “having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end!” The love of God is immutable, indestructible love. Above all, the man writing these lines is an example of the immutability of God’s love. I have proved that his love is as stronger than death (Son of Sol. 8:6-7). Let every believer, knowing the love of God in Christ, give praise to him that nothing can separate us from it (Rom. 8:34-39).
THE LOVE OF GOD IS SAVING. The love of God cannot be separated from the grace of God. And the grace of God cannot be separated from the salvation of God’s elect. That love of God from which we cannot be separated is clearly set forth in Romans 8:28-39. The love of God is the commitment of his holy Being to the salvation of those sinners who are loved by him. And that commitment is seen in these four things.
1. His sovereign providence (v. 28).
2. His saving purpose (vv. 29-30).
3. His substitutionary provision (vv. 32-34).
4. His steadfast preservation (vv. 35-39).
“If God be for us, who can be against us?” God is for the people whom he loves! And every sinner loved of God has been predestinated to eternal salvation, redeemed by the precious blood of Christ, and shall be born again by the irresistible grace of the Holy Spirit, be preserved blameless to the end, and be saved at last (Jude 24-25)!
THE LOVE OF GOD IS FRUITFUL (1 John 4:7-20). The love of God produces the fruit of grace in all who know it and believe it. What does it produce? It produces faith in Christ (vv. 9-16), brotherly love (vv. 8-20), confidence in the promise of God (vv. 17-18), and love for God himself (v. 19).
“We have known and believed the love that God hath to us” (v. 16). We know it and believe it by the revelation of his love in the sacrifice of Christ (vv. 9-10) and by the revelation of Christ in our hearts by the Spirit (vv. 13-14).