The Love of God


This is lesson 9 in the series "The Attributes of God."
 

The Love of God

The love of God is the most adored, most sung about, and most discussed attribute of God. It is probably the subject of more Bible studies than any other topic. And yet, when we are tested, when trials come, how quickly we doubt it.

The Father proved it by giving us His Son and yet we demand more proof.

He confirms it every day and yet we remain unconvinced.

Our goal is not to just know about God’s love but to believe it.

Three types of love

“I love you if…”

This love is conditional on what the other person does.

I love you if you love me back.

I love you if you cook me meals, do my laundry, and clean the house.

I love you if you make a lot of money and make my life comfortable.

“I love you because…”

This love is conditional on what the other person is or has.

I love you because you are attractive.

I love you because you are smart.

I love you because you are funny.

“I love you no matter what”

This love is unconditional. It does not depend on anything regarding the object but only on the source. God is the source and so as long as God is love we will be loved.

God loves us now, regardless of what we will become, regardless of what we are, and regardless of what we were.

The Gospel in John 3:16

 

For God

the greatest lover

so loved

the greatest degree

the world

the greatest number

that He gave

the greatest act

His only begotten Son

the greatest gift

that whosoever

the greatest invitation

believes

the greatest simplicity

in Him

the greatest person

shall not perish

the greatest deliverance

but

the greatest difference

have

the greatest certainty

everlasting life

the greatest time

life

the greatest possession

Four Greek words for love

  • Storge (στοργή storgē) Affection

It is natural affection, like that felt by parents for offspring. It is mostly used in the context of relationships within the family. It is considered the most natural because it is the result of familiarity rather than coercion.

  • Philia (φιλία philía) Friendship

This is a dispassionate virtuous love. It includes loyalty to friends, family, and community, and requires virtue, equality and familiarity. It usually develops between people who share common interests or activities.

  • Éros (ἔρως érōs) Romance

This is a passionate love, with sensual desire and longing; however, eros does not have to be sexual in nature. Eros can be interpreted as a love for someone whom you love more than the philia, love of friendship. It can also apply to dating relationships as well as marriage. It has a sense of emotional intimacy.

  • Agápe (ἀγάπη agápē) True, Unconditional Love

Agape is the highest form of love there is. This is an unconditional love for others in spite of their character flaws and weaknesses. It is a difficult love to obtain simply because we are usually concerned more with ourselves and how the world and people around us affect us. Agape is used in 1 Corinthians 13 and is described there and throughout the New Testament as sacrificial love. In the New Testament it describes, amongst other things, the relationship between Jesus and the beloved disciple. Its meaning and usage is illustrated by self-sacrificing, giving love to all--both friend and enemy. It is used in Matthew 22:39, "Love your neighbour as yourself," and in John 15:12, "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you," and in 1 John 4:8, "God is love."

All of God’s attributes affirm His love

 

Because God is eternal and so simultaneously exists in all of time He loves us now as much as He loved us when Jesus was dying on the cross for our sins and as much as He loved us in eternally past and will love us in eternity future. There has never been a point in time when God first began to love us.

Because God is omniscient and has always known everything about us there is nothing that we can say or do that will surprise Him and cause Him to pull away from us.

Because God is immutable He will never change and become bitter or resentful towards us because we are so sinful and foolish.

Because God is holy His love is pure.

Because God is just His love disciplines.

Because God is omnipresent His love is always with us.

Because God is omnipotent His love is inseparable from us.

Because God is infinite His love is limitless.

The cause of salvation

 

God does not save people because He has to. There is nothing in God’s character that forces Him to save anyone.

His patience may delay judgment but it does not and cannot eliminate it.

His mercy may cause Him to withhold the immediate wrath that we deserve but it does not and cannot withhold all wrath.

God saves people simply because He wants to. The gratification that God gets from saving someone is deeper and more complex than the benefits that even we receive. What we sometimes see merely as a fact, “I’m saved,” God cherishes.

Though God does not need us; nevertheless, we are the primary objects of His infinite love.

Song of Solomon 4:9, "You have made my heart beat faster, my sister, my bride;  You have made my heart beat faster with a single glance of your eyes.”

To be without sin is to be pure.

To be pure while having a deep hatred towards sin is to be holy.

To be holy and yet to die in order to pay for another’s sins towards you is to love.

John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.”

God did not die for us to prove His love, nor did He die in order for Him to love us. Rather, He died because He already did love us.

Ephesians 2:4-7

 4But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us,

 5even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),

 6and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,

 7so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

Notice what God’s love gets us in salvation:

We were dead in our sins -> His love made us alive

We were alone -> His love brought us to Christ

We were low -> His love raised us up

We were struggling on the Earth -> His love seated us in Heaven

Our destiny was eternal torment in Hell -> His love will show us the surpassing riches of His grace

God’s unwavering love

 

Romans 8:32, “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?”

If God cared enough about us at one point in history to send His only begotten Son to die a vicious death on a cross to pay the punishment for our sins then why when something bad happens do we think that we can suddenly accuse God of not loving us? That was the defining moment. That is the greatest proof of all. So why do circumstances suddenly trump that? When did our finances become more important than the nail driven into His hands? When did our health become more of a factor than the thorns pounded into His scalp? What in our lives counts more than the spear thrust into His side? It is perhaps one of the greatest blasphemies to define God’s love for us more by our circumstances than by the crucifixion. We are so shortsighted that we cannot see beyond the here and now and look back to the cross. God gave us His best demanding nothing in return.

God’s giving

 

When God blesses us He does not merely supersize what the world will give us.

God does not promise us a bigger house or a better job. He does not give us a better made car that never breaks down or a spouse that is a perfect complement to us in all ways.

Ephesians 1:3, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.”

So what are these blessings?

One list is Galatians 5:22-23

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control

Indeed, the great issue is not what God wants to give to us but will we receive it?

Psalm 81:9-11

    9"Let there be no strange god among you;
         Nor shall you worship any foreign god.
    10"I, the LORD, am your God,
         Who brought you up from the land of Egypt;
         Open your mouth wide and I will fill it.
    11"But My people did not listen to My voice,
         And Israel did not obey Me.

The cause of our obedience

 

We do not obey to get God to love and accept us. That is like putting the cart before the horse.

 

Because God already loves and accepts us, we should obey.

Psalm 116:12, “What shall I render to the LORD for all His benefits toward me?” Notice the order here: God already gives me wonderful blessings so what should I give back to Him in return?

This gives us great freedom. We can enter into God’s presence not to have to appease Him but to enjoy him.

Colossians 2:6, “Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him.”

How did we receive Christ Jesus the Lord? It was through faith and humility. There was no excellency in our life which won us to God; so why should we now think that it is our performance that will keep us there?

Thinking that we need to work to keep us in God’s good stead is perhaps one of our greatest barriers to fully loving and worshipping God. We will always be hindered in our love for God if we concern ourselves more with trying to win His acceptance rather than simply believing it. If our attention is focused more on the merit of what we do for God rather than on God Himself then we will love more the praise for our actions rather than love to praise the One for whom our actions were intended.

2 Corinthians 5:14-15

 14For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died;

 15and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.

What does God’s love mean to us?

Personalize God’s love

 

It is not enough to say that God loves people or that “God is love.” We must personalize it. We must say and believe that “God loves me.” “For God so loved me that He gave His only begotten Son” (John 3:16) “Because the love of God has been poured out within my heart through the Holy Spirit who was given to me” (Romans 5:5). “But God demonstrates His own love toward me, in that while I was yet a sinner, Christ died for me” (Romans 5:8).

Make a list of 30 ways that God shows that He personally loves me.

Discussion Questions

1)      In addition to the ones discussed above, what are some other assurances that God’s love mean to us?

2)      If God is so loving then why do so many people live in poverty or terrible suffering?

3)      If God’s love is unconditional then why do we have to confess our sins?

4)      What does the fact that God unconditionally loves you mean to you?

5)      Give some practical examples of God’s love in action in your own life.

6)      Give some practical examples of how you can love others with God’s love.

7)      Why do not trials and miserable circumstances prove that maybe God does not love us right at this moment?

8)      Why is it important to personalize God’s love for us? I.e., why is not it good enough to only claim that God’s loves everyone?

9)      Why do we sometimes doubt God’s love for us?

10)   Are there times when God does not love us? Why or why not?

Situation

Amy has a terrible problem with feeling like she has no value or worth. She hates her appearance and thinks that everyone looks down on her. She was picked on while growing up both in school and by her parents. As a result, she struggles in her Christian walk since she does not think that she can do anything that anyone or even God will find useful. What are some things that you can say to encourage her and give her a new and victorious outlook on herself all the while emphasizing God’s love?

 

 


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Copyright Bob La Forge 2011        email: bob@disciplescorner.com