John 3:16; Romans 5:5-11; 1 Corinthians 13:1-8; 1 John 4: 7-12
The answer to this is quite simple yet so complicated. It is simple in that God plainly and clearly tells us what Love is. In these descriptions He gives us from His Word form various passages we can get who He is. We can understand that He is a God of love from what He tells us of His character and attributes. And then we know who He is more, we can grasp His love deeper, what love is and what He calls us to do within the meaning, submission, purpose, function, relevance, treatment and application of love. Such as that love is patient and kind and we are told what love is not, such as it does no brag nor is it rude. Love is as important what it is not as what it is. These are the parameters we have, knowing more about Christ and what He has done for us and what He asks of us in love.
Simple, yes it is. But it is complicated because we complicate it with our tendency to not see His love, or not willing to understand it. Perhaps we have been hurt or jilted or never seen it expressed the way we wanted it to be. So we complicate it, and love for us becomes lost or stagnate in our understanding and application of love. Including how we worship Christ, run His church, treat our family and friends and even how we see ourselves and exhibit maturity and character. God is love and what us to see it and trust in Him for it and then model it and not be imprisoned by our false ideas or fears of love.
Love is seen by the world as earned or dependant on how the other person teats or sees us. Love is defined by “The American Heritage Dictionary” as “an intense affection for another person based on familial or personal ties”. The world sees love as an emotional state or a favored relationship or somthing we have via incommon or euphemistic. The world even sees love as some form of perversion of sexuality or lust. But none of these are a biblical definition. For God, His love is not based on feelings or emotions or subjective ideas, it is not even earned because we could not do it. This is demonstrated by the fact that He gives love to us who are sinful who are unlovable. Because unlike our ideas of love, God’s love for us is purely unconditional and undeserved. Unlike the worlds love, God does not love us because we warrant it or we merit it or because in some way shape or form we are lovable or we make Him feel significant or satisfied. God simply loves us because it is His nature to do so.
Jesus tells us in the Gospels that love is the greatest commandment, that we should love Him will the entirety of our being then we are called to apply that love to others around us (Lev. 19:18; Duet. 6:5; Matt. 22:37-40; Mark 12:29-32; Luke 10:26-27). What does this mean for us? Basically the veracity of love is it must be the prime factor why we are to function and thus must be the preeminence of all we do in life. Love is even the reason why we were created. Love in the Greek verb is agapao, not phileo! Phileo means, brotherly love, as in friendly affection; but, agapao means a deep commitment and devotion that comes from our willingness and our realization that it is a duty (1 Cor. 13). It is also a response of our gratitude for the love God gave us (1 John 4:19-21)!
The purpose of love and God’s love for us is to encompass us, our mindset, feelings and actions, how we connect with Him, others and ourselves. We are to love with all we are—our entire personhood. Love is not just a part, or an aspect of who we are to be or what we should be—it is all. Loves meaning is to submit to His love and pass that love onto our entire personality—our thoughts, behaviors, and goals.
Even in the Old Treatment, we are told that God is love by His actions and His call to us. The passage that resounds this is best is in Deuteronomy, it is called the “Shema;” Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one (Deut. 6:4). This is the Jewish “confession of faith,” and sets the theme for life and our worship of our Lord Jesus Christ. That love is paramount and covers all we are and all that we should do in life, in service to God and others. Love is who we are and who we are to be. Because God loves us, we should have the motivation to love others (Rom. 5:8; 8:1-4; 13:8-10)!
Love comes down to the question of, Who is our Lord (Psalm 110)? If Jesus is our Lord, love should not pose a problem for our life, as we will be centered on Him, be filled with purpose and meaning, and will benefit all those around us! When we grasp the real Truth, our private faith will become more real and more impacting; then, our public activities will be a blessing to others (Rom. 13; Phil. 2:1-11; Col. 2:2-3). When we love God, we will love our neighbor. If we do not love others, it is highly likely that God is just a convenience, we have not been really or fully convicted and our love for Him is not sincere! Our “truth” is made up, or misdirected; it is not real Truth and thus we have not real love!
But consider this, God’s love is amazing when we conceder how we are as sinful beings and who He is as His Holiness! That we do not deserve His love yet we receive it anyway. We do not earn it or achieve it in any way or merit what so ever, yet it is there for our taking, only by what Christ has done in our behalf.
How is God Love?
Many people have said that God Himself is pure love, to the point that all of God is, is love. Leaving out the rest of His characteristics. All of humanity in all cultures and time have sought out the meaning of love and wondered is there a God and if so does he love and care for me? They have sought this truth through experience, emotionalism, experimentation, seeking desires to name a few. But without a real understanding, all we have is speculation. Then, a common excuse and objection I get so often for why I teach and promote doctrine, if God is love why do we need to know any more of Him. And others say isn’t all God is, is love? So I always refer people to the Scriptures as our source of absolute truth and the passage in First John that says, “God is love”. First it says God is of love (1 John 4:7-16), a love that comes from God. A love that goes beyond human love and understanding and proved by how he sent us His Son do live and die for us. God’s love and its meaning is pure unnatural sacrificial love that we are incapable of understanding or exercising, this is the love of grace of what Christ has done and given us. So for us to have/ receive this love we have been born and regenerated by God Himself, it is given to us, again without merit or earning!
The Bible itself tells us that God is love, as said by so many people over the centuries. But the Bible does not say all God is, is love. There is a difference, love is one of His many “essences” or “attributes” or sometimes called “substances” that He personifies. His love does not need to be attained nor does He need to attempt to attain as we do, nor do they reverse or regress as our understanding and application of love does. For us love is a possibility, for God it is continual, actual and real. His attribute of love is very important one, but it does not stand alone as that He is only love. His love is codependent upon His other attributes and nature such as His Sovereignty, justice, wisdom, spirit, consuming fire, righteousness, holiness, purpose and the countess others (Lev. 11:44-45; Deut. 4:24; 19:2; Psalm 7:9; Isaiah 6:3; John 4:24; Heb. 12:29; 1 Pet. 1:16; 1 John 1:5).
Each of His attributes are important and not subcategories of His love. At the same time, because He is love it is His activity and how He creates, Judges and rules the universe including His action for how He knows us, deals with us, and saves us which is unselfish on His part and unmerited on our part (Ex. 20:6; Deut. 5:10; 7:9; 10:18; 33:3; 2 Sam. 12:24; 1 Kings 8:23; 10:9; Psalm 89:28; 106:45; Isa. 43:4; 48:14; 54:10; 63:9; Jer. 31:3; Hos. 14:4; Zeph. 3:17; John 3:16-17; 14:24; Rom. 5:6-11; 15:30; 2 Cor. 5:14; Eph. 5:2, 25; 6:23; 2 Thess. 2:16; 1 John 3:1, 16; 4:10). And what this means for us is twofold. First we have a God who does sincerely, purposefully and constantly loves us, so we can trust Him and realize our election in Him and grow in our faith in Him. Second, we have a model for love that we can learn, imitate and seek to apply as He calls us to. God indeed is a God of love, the question is do we understand this and if so are we practicing this in our Christian life especially how we are towards others. We should be overwhelmed by His love as John was when by God’s inspiration penned the words that “God is love!”
So when John said God is love, the verb “to be” which in English is: is, is the bridge between the subject and the predicate which can be an equal sign in some contexts, but in this context it is that it is saying God is so loving He is linked and overshadowed by His love. Remember we always examine Scripture in its context and to other passages that say the same or similar thing. His character is love but that is not all who He is, if so it is a big distortion to His other characters. It would limit Him to be a puppet on our behalf, a controllable God that we do not have to worry about holiness, wrath, judgment or His sovereignty. God is not made up of factions or schizophrenic where He is one part love and one part judgment and so forth, where His attributes are antagonistic to each other. Since God is pure His attributes are harmonious and equal in their scope and relevance to one another.
God’s characters all have love flowing from them, so when He judges in His sovereignty He is doing it in love. We may not fully understand this until we are called home; nevertheless, all of God’s actions and motivations are based in love. God’s love is holy, which means set a part and different form everything else in the universe. His majesty rises above all things; which keeps Him pure and separated from sin and evil. God cannot be contaminated, by us or any other fallen thing. This is why Christ was needed, to take His purity and impute it, place it on us, so God sees us as pure, that is the work of the cross.