Love is of God -- God is Love
There is something within each rational being that creates an insatiable thirst for knowing the unknown. To the pagans, the unknown was controlled by what they thought to be supermen and superwomen, even sometime super animals. Their thirst to know these unseen forces led them into idolatry, creating icons by which they could somehow visualize their gods. But to those whose faith is settled in the one true and living God all such visible representations are totally unnecessary and wrong. In fact the one true God has forbidden the creation of some visible image -- He created one of His own.
But what is the true and living God like? How are those who follow Him and believe in Him to think of Him? What mental images do they conjure up in their minds? In this installment of our continuing study of John’s letters we will notice some of the things John says about God.
“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, Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another” (1 John 4:7-11). The beloved apostle gives us more information about what God is than any other inspired writer. In his gospel record of Christ John reported Christ’s words, “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). But there are a number of verses telling us what God is. Here is a list.
Matthew 22:32 “I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.”
Mark 12:29 “And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord:”
John 3:33 “He that hath received his testimony hath set to his seal that God is true.”
John 4:24 “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.”
Acts 10:34 “Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons:”
1 Corinthians 1:9 “God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.”
1 Corinthians 1:25 “Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”
1 Corinthians 10:13 “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it”.
1 Corinthians 14:33 “For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.”
2 Corinthians 1:18 “But as God is true, our word toward you was not yea and nay.”
Galatians 6:7 “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.”
Hebrews 12:29 “For our God is a consuming fire.”
1 John 1:5 “This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.”
1 John 3:20 “For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things.”
1 John 4:16 “And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.”
Special attention needs to be given to John’s expressions of God. God is Spirit, God is Light, God is Love. The first tells us of the basic substance of God. He is Spirit -- a personal, conscious Being of unlimited intellect and power. The second tells us of His nature -- absolute purity and perfect holiness. God is light and light is always applied to that which is pure and good. The third tells us that God is benevolent and kind. But lest we think that is all there is to God we are firmly reminded by the Hebrew writer that “Our God is a consuming fire.” It was Paul who spoke the “goodness and severity of God,” explaining, “on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness” (Rom. 11:22).
The outstanding scholar, C. Clemance wrote: “These three words contain more information about God than all the sacred books of the East put together. They are a revelation. We are taught how to think about God, and if we keep within the lines marked out by these three words, we cannot go far wrong.” (Pulpit Commentary). We can never go wrong on anything as long as we confine our concepts of God to what God has revealed about Himself. The same goes for our concept of His word -- the Bible. The same is equally true of our concept of His cause here on earth. Far too often our emotions sway us away from a sound understanding of what is true and right. We are pulled off into the commons of humanism. Those who are misled lean on a broken reed, but those who put their full faith and trust in the truth God reveals are save and secure.
Focus for a moment on the expression God is love. John says “love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” To say that “love is of God” means that love originates with God. The preposition “of” can also be translated “from.” “Of God,” is an often used expression in John’s letter. The phrase in the original language is ek tou Theou. Ek is ordinarily used in the send of “out of, or from.” You might say that one comes out of a certain city or country, which has reference to his place of origin. But here John deals with qualities ant emanate form God Almighty. Love emanates from God. And it is a love that is not natural for humans. It is a love that comes as a natural part of one who, as a saved person, is also out of God, or from God.
Love is of God because God is love. Love is not God -- love is from or of God. Just as John had earlier affirmed that God is light and God is truth, one cannot reverse that to say light is God or truth is God. John does not say love is God -- but God is love. The love God constantly shows is basic to everything He has ever done. Even when punishment is meted out, God is love. Love never overlooks the negative or the ugly but seeks to bring it to a proper state or condition. God, through His love, looks at the weak, the ignorant, the sinful, the ungodly things in this world and seeks to repair whatever may be repairable. Someone said, “The statement, ‘God is love,’ is the gospel in its most condensed form.” That means that God demonstrated His love for man in ways beyond human comprehension. Often God’s great love is not even properly comprehended. Some of us right now are alive solely because God loved us, yet somehow we do not offer Him our gratitude in return for what He does.
God’s love is not the normal kind of love humans seem to know naturally. God’s love is always giving -- never acquiring. Man’s love is generally self-centered. What we learn to love naturally are usually those things that make our lives more pleasant. Two people fall in love because there is an attraction or something desirable. But God’s love is just the opposite. What do you think there is in the world that could ever have attracted the selfish love of God?
Read carefully. “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” (Rom. 5:6-9). It was not because mankind was attractive -- just the opposite. All who sin become the very opposite of the sinless and holy God Almighty.
God’s love is also emphasized by the historical fact that until Jesus Christ came into the world, died for our sins, was raised from the dead and ascended back to the heavens there was no word that could describe such love. A new word was coined. It was the word Agape. The late F.F. Bruce wrote of this word: “The love which the New Testament enjoins involves a consuming passion for the well-being of others, and this love has its wellspring in God.” (The Epistles of John, Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1970, page 107).
The purpose John had in saying “God is love” was to urge men to love each other. Again, the love that is ordered is not one that comes naturally -- it is one that comes from or out of God. God’s people must duplicate His love for them and direct it toward all that God loves. God loves the world -- His people must love the world in the same way. God loves His Son -- His people must love His Son in the same way. God loves sinners -- His people must show love for sinners in the same way. God’s love is giving -- so must the love of His people be. God’s love is sacrificial -- so must the love of His people be. Anything that is said of God’s love must be the guidelines for how His people love.
We are to love each other as God loves us and we are to love what God loves. God’s love that comes into our lives does not ignore the bad that is in the world. Love is the opposite of hatred. All hatred is not wrong. Some time ago, a writer in Better Homes and Gardens wrote, “You can always know how much people love roses by the intensity of their hatred for weeds.” Those who love each other hate anything that threatens their mutual welfare and security. If it comes in the form of a life-threatening disease, they hate the infectious and contagious germs others may spread. That is why the child of God cannot have anything but hatred toward religious error. The Psalmist wrote, “Through Thy word I get understanding, therefore I hate every false way” (Psa. 119:104). Also he wrote, “Thy word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (verse 105).
Earlier in the chapter John warned, “Beloved do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (I John 4:1). Was not this John’s expression of love? He was truly concerned over the devastating consequences of false concepts of Jesus Christ. There are false prophets that arise in every generation of man’s existence. There are several still alive and well in our generation. They take the pulpit, the microphone, or the television camera and peddle false and erroneous doctrines. Our own fair city is no exception. We have our own fair share of these culprits. Many of them offer nothing more than their own speculations. They shout and scream their speculations each time they come before an audience. They play upon your emotions -- but do not appeal to your sense of what the Bible teaches to be right or wrong. Human emotions and human wisdom are the worst kind of substitutes anyone can have for what is plainly written in Bible language adapted to our common understanding. But sadly, some are not content with just what is written.
Please understand dear friend, this article is an expression of our genuine love. When we call in question some of the things men are preaching that cannot be found in the Bible, we are concerned over the evil effects they have. Don’t forget (or allow someone to mislead you) sin causes a separation from God (Isa. 59:2). That separation exists as long as sin is unforgiven. It will eventually consign the unforgiven to the infernal regions of everlasting torment. Error misleads. It causes one to err from the truth. There is no other destination error reaches than eternal punishment in hells. Please understand -- our love is expressed in preaching positively what is true and just as positively calling in question and opposing all that is false.
We will gladly submit everything we teach, preach, and practice to the closest kind of scrutiny from anyone who listen to us. If what we believe and teach is not in accord with Scripture we will give it up. If there is something the Bible teaches that we do not, we will begin instantly to believe and teach it. All anyone needs to do to put this to the acid test is call it to our attention. Truth has never had any reluctance to be examined. On the other hand, those who rely on their feelings and emotions, on traditional doctrines and on their own opinions are the ones who demonstrate fear of open examination of their religious convictions. May God, who is truth, light, and love, help each of us to be open to His truth, walk in His light, and bask in His love.
If you have a question about this study today, please let us hear from you. Contact us at [email protected]
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