We have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and the one who remains in love remains in God, and God remains in him…. We love because He first loved us.
1 John 4:16,19
DEFINITION: God’s love is His freely given, intense affection, actively showing delight and goodwill toward the objects of His pleasure. Grace is His love expressed to those who don’t deserve it; mercy is His love shown to those in need.
If contemporary people believe anything at all about God, they believe that He loves. Yet this is often thought of as a kind of vague indulgence, like a forgetful but sentimental grandfather distributing treats. Such a view strips God of His holiness, forgetting that God’s wrath and His judgment of evil are also included in His character.
From before the ages began and apart from the creation, God’s love has always found perfect expression in the pleasure of the Father, Son, and Spirit for each other. Jesus noted, “The Father loves the Son and has given all things into His hands” (Jn 3:35; see also Jn 14:31). God chose to create, however, and because of His love He cares for His creation providentially. No bird falls from the sky without His concern (Mt 10:29). “The young lions roar for their prey and seek their food from God” (Ps 104:21).
A Christian understanding of God’s love focuses on His grace (love expressed toward sinners), and the heart of the gospel is that God in love sent His Son to the world. John 3:16 has become the best known Bible verse with good reason. Although in holiness He cannot overlook evil, in love God invites all humans to repent and believe the gospel. Sinners in rebellion against Him—the world—are the objects of His love.
In yet another sense God’s love is directed to His chosen people. He told the Israelites, “The Lord was devoted to you and chose you, not because you were more numerous than all peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But because the Lord loved you and kept the oath He swore to your fathers, He brought you out with a strong hand and redeemed you from the place of slavery” (Dt 7:7-8). This is God’s electing love. The New Testament equivalent is Christ’s love for His bride, the church (Eph 5:25). This love resembles the particular love a husband has for his chosen wife, which differs from the general concern he ought to have for other women. God “predestined us to be adopted through Jesus Christ for Himself, according to His favor and will, to the praise of His glorious grace that He favored us with in the Beloved” (Eph 1:5-6).
For His people, God’s love is unconditional, but the experience of loving fellowship with Him depends on obedience to His will. Jude 21 exhorts believers to “keep yourselves in the love of God.” Jesus Himself declared that obeying His commands was the way to remain in His love (Jn 15:10). “From eternity to eternity the Lord’s faithful love is toward those who fear Him… [and] who remember to observe His instructions” (Ps 103:17-18).
REFLECTION: Why is it essential to see that God’s love was perfectly expressed before creation? How have you experienced God’s unconditional love? How does obedience relate to God’s love?
PRAYER: Great God of love, You loved the world of undeserving sinners by sending Christ. I praise You because “You are love.” Help me to remain in Your love by obeying Your word and seeking to please You in all I am and do. Thank You that Your love lasts forever. Amen.