What does it mean that God is Love?
Oh, boy! Everyone says it, "God is Love!" But what does this really mean?
So, what does it mean that God is Love? God's love is a wholehearted giving of oneself to others (Romans 5:8; John 15:3). This love is a choice (Hebrews 12:2; John 3:16). The choice is always accompanied by emotion and followed by an action (Luke 22:39-46). The actions of love are the acts of the free selfless giving of oneself to others despite the emotions and feelings attached. His love is seen and demonstrated fully in Jesus Christ's sacrificial death on the cross (Romans 5:8).
This is a big topic, let's look closer at what it means that God is love.
What Love is this?
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:7-10, bold added)
For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:6-8, bold added)
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. (John 3:16, bold added)
Perhaps the attribute of God that is most focused on in American culture is love. Seemingly every professing Christian and many who aren't can quote John 3:16 from memory. It is one of the first verses that children are taught. Yet, most of the Christian world doesn’t know what this verse means.
They cannot understand it because they don’t understand who God is. Even if there is a correct understanding of what the verse is saying, then the weight or the gravity of what it is saying is missing. We quote this verse repeatedly as if it is some trite phrase or creed.
Yet, to truly grasp what this verse is saying we must do so in light of the character of God and the full counsel of Scripture. If we truly understood what an amazing declaration is being made here we wouldn’t be able to say it or think of it without tears in our eyes, joy in our heart, and our face on the ground.
God does not love in the way that we humans define love. He is not love in some erotic infatuation sense. It is not as if God is so infatuated with the world that He in some way couldn’t help Himself but to love sinful man. On the other hand, He also isn’t going to just throw sinful man aside because He is no longer infatuated with us. Because this is not love and thus not a part of the character of God.
When I say God's love is wholehearted, I mean that nothing is withheld from those who are being loved. With God, it is said that He loved the world. The world and all that it contains, all of sinful humanity. We are the object who would receive God’s love. He loved the world by giving His Son. This is done despite the cost that was paid on the cross.
This truth is displayed in Romans 5:8,
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
While created men and women were enemies of God because of their sin. God demonstrated His love towards sinful humanity by imputing sin onto His beloved Son and pouring out all the wrath that was reserved for the sinner on Jesus. When it is said that Jesus was made sin in 2 Corinthians 5:21 it is not saying that Jesus became a sinner.
Rather sin and its punishment was laid upon Jesus and He incurred the guilt for it. Jesus Himself always has been and always will be sinless and free of any stain of sin. At the cross on Calvary God the Father put the stained robes of sinful humanity upon the spotless beloved Son. Who willingly took them, the penalty, and wrath associated with them. All to reconciling sinners to God. The love of God is not reckless. It is a clear and concise choice that God had made to save sinners. He made the choice to love sinful humanity when we were still enemies of Him. While we were still spurning His name, and living according to our lusts and pleasures. While we were living in denial of the very one who created us and who is willing to save us. You see, love isn’t a feeling although it is most certainly accompanied by feelings. It is an action. An action that always moves towards the benefit of the other individual or individuals. Jesus most certainly did not want or desire to have the stain of sin upon Himself. Nor did He desire to have the wrath of His Father directed at Him because of it. But He did it. He agonized over this in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus said, “My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me” (Matthew 26:38). Jesus had really intense and real emotions. He was distressed and in agony to the point of sweating great drops of blood (Luke 22:44). Yet, despite these emotions for the joy that was set before Him He endured the cross, despising the shame (Hebrews 12:2). He didn’t endure the cross with a begrudging attitude toward us sinners. Rather with joy in His heart, He endured the cross. He despised or loathed the shame that came with it but was happy to do it for God and for us. This is something that I cannot fathom. I can only say yes and amen to it all. It is important that we don’t take our understanding of words from the culture and impute the definition onto the God of the Scriptures. The love of God is far more deep, wide, high, and long than our little petty definitions of love. I hear the love of God and the sovereignty of God abused all the time. It needs to stop.
God is Love
God is love. I am so thankful that this is true. That He chose to love sinful men whilst we were at our worst. God had nothing to gain by saving us. We could offer God nothing then and cannot offer God anything now. He has everything He needs in Himself. Yet, the beautiful truth of the glorious gospel is that God chose to save sinful men. He chose to save us because He is a savior and He is love. If God were not a savior but only love then we wouldn’t have salvation. Likewise, if God were only a savior but not love we wouldn’t have salvation. But He is both and all His attributes must be upheld in unity. Sinful men can now be reconciled with the All-Powerful King because God as the Loving Savior has given us His Son as a propitiation. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 1 John 4:10 Before you move on from this beautiful truth. Let me plead with you to sit a while alone with the Lord. Both praising Him for this and asking Him for a greater understanding of these truths. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Hebrews 12:3) (Some of the content on this page is taken out of my book: Knowing the God We Proclaim) (To discover more about God, see our page, Who is God?)