GOD IS LOVE
1 John 4:7-12. [v8]
Love is probably one of the most talked about Christian characteristics. At Christmas time the awareness of God’s love is heightened. We sometimes sing the little song “Love came Down at Christmas”.
Stickers appear on cars and various other places “God is Love” “Smile God Loves you”.
The Love of God is probably one of the most misunderstood aspects of the gospel by nominal and non-Christians and possibly even by some Christians.
“God wouldn’t send anyone to hell he is too loving”. God’s love is seen as a kind of Father Christmas type benevolence.
Another misconception is that we see God as loving because he does/has done loving things. Rather it should be that God does loving things or the things God does are loving because God is Love.
This passage is a high point in scripture, in fact it is a Mt. Everest – a pinnacle of revelation.
How do we begin to understand, let alone describe in words, the Love of God.
Many have tried:
“How good is the God we adore
Our faithful unchangeable friend
Hid love is as great as his power
And knows neither measure nor end”
“Could we with ink the ocean fill
And were the sky of parchment made
Were every reed on earth a quill
And every man a scribe by trade.
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry
Nor could the scroll contain the whole
If stretched from sky to sky”
GOD IS LOVE – But what God is can only be known through his self-manifestation.
It is not enough to SAY that God is Love “… let us not love in word or in tongue …” [3:18] nor is it enough to point to the works of nature ” … the stars declare his handiwork …” This is true but it is not enough.
“This is how God showed his love amongst us:
He sent his one and only son into the world
that we might live through Him” [v9-10]
To list the aspects of God’s love would be impossible – the list would be endless. Let us consider a few of these.
1. Divine Love’s Gift.
Often an illustration of a reality is easier to understand than the reality itself.
ILLUST: Remember Abraham in Gen.22 when God asks him to sacrifice his son, Isaac; his only son for whom he had waited so long. God was testing Abraham’s love for him. Imagine if after Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son God said to him, “Well, I’m still not sure if you really love me, I want you to give me your sheep and goats too”
To give his son was the ultimate; the sheep and goats were simply tokens. God has given many gifts but they are simply tokens. Jesus, his only Son, is the ultimate gift.
The crucial point that John is making here is not so much that God sent Jesus but that Jesus whom was sent is God’s ONE and ONLY UNIQUE Son. There have been and still are many tokens of God’s love but Christ is the supreme gift.
“He who did not spare his own Son but delivered him up for us all,
how shall he not also with him freely give us all things.”
2. The Giver of Divine Love.
God’s love is shown in the magnitude of who he is. He gives according to his greatness.
If God had given something that was created it would have cost him nothing. He created everything out of nothing. But he gave the thing / person that was most precious to him. The one that is eternal, unique and uncreated, His Eternal Son.
God is infinite and he gives according to his infinity. How do you put a price on a son? Our view of God’s love is very limited.
ILLUST: Picture a freshly felled tree. The rings on the cross-cut are simply the ends of the lines that run back up the full length of the tree but are hidden from view by the bark.
In a similar way the cross is a visible sign of God’s love – a Love that stretches to eternity.
3. The Purpose of Divine Love.
What is the purpose of God’s gift to us in Christ? Was it simply the removal of sin so that we would “not perish”? NO! It is that but it is much more, it is also to impart life. Did God do this for his own benefit as some suggest? i.e. that God created us in order to have something to love. Again NO! God doesn’t need us in order to love or beloved. He didn’t create the universe in order to have something to love. That would make God dependent upon the universe but that is contrary to scripture – rather it is to universe that is dependent upon God.
God loves us because he wants to love us and not because he is deficient in anyway.
God’s Love exists within Himself – not because it is self-love or selfish love. God is Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – he therefore lives in community with himself. God’s love is purely altruistic – it is purely a giving love.
4. The Means of Divine Love.
“This is Love: not that we loved God but that he loved us
And sent his Son to be an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” [v10]
God does not shrink from the utmost cost of redemption. It is not that he is laying down his life to defend his own; there are many heroic stories of people dying while trying to save others.
We can understand a person laying down their life to protect their own. But to sacrifice your most precious possession for those who are filled with hatred and hostility towards you is another matter. Jesus was not an unwilling victim of a capricious God; He willingly gave his life for us.
“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless,
Christ died for the ungodly.
Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man,
though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die.
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this:
While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” [Romans 5:6-8]
It seems incredible that the means of God’s love should be the death of his Son yet at the same time it is impossible that it could be any other way.
5. The Objects of Divine Love.
It would not be surprising if we loved God – not that we are by nature capable of loving God – God is great and worthy to be love. But that he loves us is a mystery beyond all mysteries.
“The point is not that the world is so big that it takes a great deal of love to embrace it, but that the world is so bad that it takes an exceedingly great kind of love to love it at all.” [R.B.Kuiper]
Natural love needs to be flamed by some quality in the object of love. We fall in love because we are attracted to something in the object of our love. Divine love, unlike human love is not dependent upon its object. God’s love shines upon the most unlovely, unattractive and unworthy – and we all fit into those categories.
Any love that we show is purely because of God’s love for us and we are capable of showing love because God has enabled us to do that. “… love comes from God …” [v7]. There is no room for boasting – if we love each other it is because God has been gracious to us.
Love for each other is something we need to pursue – it does not come naturally. It is a duty, a command calling us to act in a way that is contrary to our nature.
“Dear friends, since God so loved us,
we also ought to love one another” [v11]
We speak of Christian brotherhood (family) but it is not the brotherhood (family) that creates the love but the love that makes the brotherhood.
ILLUST: Biological links don’t make one part of a family – family is when there is a loving relationship.
So it is with God’s family. God loves us – not because we deserve it but because he is gracious. If we are his children he will always love us and be with us in joy and in sorrow. He will never let us go.
“God loved us when there was nothing good to be
seen in us and nothing good to be said for us” [Anon.]
“God loves each one of his people
as if there was only one of them to love” [Anon]
“The true measure of God’s love is that
he loves without measure” [Anon.]