The Love of God
In the previous chapters we have looked at a few of the attributes of our awesome God. We have learned that He is unchanging and faithful. We’ve discovered that He is holy and righteous. We have also looked at the solemn truth of the wrath of God. And yet, we have only scratched the surface of these attributes. In writing these chapters I have felt like I’ve tried to grab hold of a star high up in the heavens. I’ve stood on tip-toe and stretched with all of my might, but I have not grasped the star. I cannot fully explain to you the greatness of our God. I can only point to Him, like pointing toward a star.
Now our subject is the love of God. I stand before this glorious truth as if I were standing before a vast ocean. I can see it. I can put myself into it, but I cannot grasp all of it. The wondrous love of God is too wide, too deep. I can only stand on the shore line of God’s love, point to it and say, “This is it! Look at how awesome it is!”
In this life we may never fully grasp all of what it means to say that “God is love” (1 John 4:8). But we can know enough to let it change our lives forever. Although our lives may be filled with trials and challenges, when we know the love of God, we know that we will triumph in the end. The love of God is the healing medicine for every wound of the human heart. Love is a distinctive characteristic of God. True love has no existence apart from Him. Our awesome God produces no work apart from His passionate and holy love. Love is not just something God does, it is what He is.
Here is a definition of love that we need to keep in mind as we study the love of God. Love is a decision to desire and delight in someone else and to reach your highest joy by being with and fully giving oneself to the loved one. In our world love is not like this. It is often a very selfish thing. We love because of what another person has done for us or will do for us. Our love runs hot and cold. It is inspired by one thing and killed by another. But the love of God is so vastly different. In this chapter we are going to look at four specific points on the love of God.
- One: the love of God is uninfluenced by any outside force
- Two: the love of God is abiding, unfailing and everlasting
- Three: the love of God is proved by the cross of Christ
- Four: the love of God compels us to live for Him
One: the love of God is uninfluenced by any outside force
For you are a holy people to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth. The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples; but because the LORD loves you, and because He would keep the oath which He swore to your fathers, the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of bondage, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. (Deuteronomy 7:6-8)
In Deuteronomy, Moses reiterates the law of God to the people of Israel. In this passage, he declares the love of God for His people. Moses points out that there was nothing at all in the people of Israel that prompted God to love them. God didn’t look out of heaven’s window one day and say, “Now, there are a great and grand people. They sure are worthy of a God like Me. I think I’m falling in love with them!” On the contrary there was no special quality in Israel that inspired God to love them. God didn’t love Israel because of who they were or what they did. He loved them by choice, by decision, and to keep His promise to Abraham. 21 So often we love because of some attraction we find in another person.
Someone does something kind or their physical looks attract us, or we have similar interests. But there was nothing in Israel that caused God to love them. He loved them because He made a decision to love them. His love was free, uninfluenced except by His own purposes and promises. One of the most amazing things about the love of God is that He offers it to us when we least deserve it. And it continues steadfast and strong even when we do not respond to it correctly. God’s love is uninfluenced by anything outside of Himself. This same truth is proclaimed in the New Testament.
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, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will. (Ephesians 1:3-5)
Before the foundation of the world we were chosen to receive every spiritual blessing in Christ. God determined on His own that we would be holy and without blame, secure in His love. What influenced God’s decision to love us? Was it something in me or you? No! There is not one good thing in any of us that merits God’s love. 22 We cannot do anything to make ourselves worthy of God’s love.
This is certainly different from common human love. We have a tendency to show love to the people who please us. And we often show more love to the people who please us more. We express our love to people who perform up to our expectations. And we withhold it from people when they displease us. But God loves us “according to the good pleasure of His will.” The truth is that God loves you because He decided to love you! This is a tremendous truth to understand.
If God’s love for us comes from something we do, then it is an influenced love. And if our actions can cause God to love us or to love us more, then our actions can cause Him to love us less or to even stop loving us. But God’s reasons for loving us spring from within His own mind and heart. He, in His sovereignty, has decided to love us and He will never love us less than He does or love us more than He does right now. Psalm 136, tells us that God’s love for us endures forever.
Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! For His mercy [steadfast love] endures forever. Oh, give thanks to the God of gods! For His mercy [steadfast love] endures forever. Oh, give thanks to the Lord of lords! For His mercy [steadfast love] endures forever: (Psalm 136:1-3)
The word translated “mercy” comes from the Hebrew word hesed. It would be better to translate this word as “steadfast love” or “faithful lovinkindness” or “loyal love”. 23 God’s love for us is steadfast, loyal and enduring forever! You and I are loved by God not because of who we are but because of who He is—faithful and steadfast.
Two: the love of God is abiding, unfailing and everlasting
The LORD has appeared of old to me, saying, “Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you.” ( Jeremiah 31:3)
Since our God is eternal, having no beginning and no end, so His love is eternal. God’s love for us is everlasting. God set His heart and love upon you before all creation, and His passion for you has not diminished. God has desired and delighted in His people from all eternity. And He will never fail to love them throughout all the ages to come. God will never forget us, though sometimes we may feel differently.
But Zion said, “The LORD has forsaken me, And my Lord has forgotten me.” “Can a woman forget her nursing child, And not have compassion on the son of her womb? Surely they may forget, yet I will not forget you.” (Isaiah 49:14, 15)
How unthinkable it would be for a mother to forget her nursing child, or to feel no compassion for her baby! There is such a strong bond between a mother and her child that we can hardly imagine such a terrible thing. Yet, we know in this world that it does happen, on rare occasions. But God emphatically states that His love for us is more secure than the strongest human love. He promises unconditionally, “I will not forget you.” God will never forget you, never forsake you, even when it may seem otherwise. His everlasting love compels Him to search for the lost and to cherish the saved. 24 Look at how the Psalmist declares the unfailing love of God.
When my father and mother forsake me, Then the LORD will take care of me. (Psalm 27:10)
For the LORD loves justice, And does not forsake His saints; They are preserved forever, But the descendents of the wicked shall be cut off. (Psalm 37:28)
There is nothing in life that can make us feel insecure when we understand the abiding, unfailing, everlasting love of God. No force can ever separate us from this love.
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him freely give us all things? Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: “For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors Through Him who loved us.
For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:31-39)
God’s love has no weakness. No circumstance can ever change it. God’s relentless and passionate love will never leave us nor forsake us. We are forever secure in His abiding love.
Three: the love of God is proved by the cross of Christ
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish But have everlasting life. (John 3:16)
Those who love much, give much. You can measure the depth of someone’s love by what they are willing to give or sacrifice for the well-being of another. God’s love not only motivated Him to give us good things, it caused Him to sacrifice His Son for us.
We hesitate to do anything for others that will cost us too much in one way or another. But God’s love for us cost Him dearly! God gave His only begotten Son for a hopeless, spiritually dead and sinful world. He gave His Son to face the intense cruelty of mankind’s hatred of all things holy. He gave His Son to bear the full weight of His wrath for the forgiveness of our sins. God counted the cost and in love sacrificed freely. The sacrifice of Christ in the cross proves the love of God.
For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:6-8)
When we were neither righteous nor good, God proved His love for us through the sacrifice of His beloved Son for our salvation. The supreme proof of the love of God is that God freely sacrificed His Son for those He loved and desired to save. God’s love for us is so deep, so sacrificial, and so beneficial to those in whom He delights. The apostle John takes up this same theme in his first letter.
In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, 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 4:9, 10)
The love of God for us was demonstrated to all through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. We did not reach out to God; He mercifully and lovingly reached out to us. God’s great love compelled Him to save those who were naturally unlovable. If we desire to understand the depth of God’s love, if we wish to see the proof of it, we must focus our hearts on the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ.
There was nothing we could have done to make God love us. We were sinners through and through. God chose to love us sovereignly and graciously. And now nothing can ever separate us from this love.
Four: the love of God compels us to live for Him
By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. (1 John 3:16)
Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. (1 John 4:11)
It is extremely difficult to focus on the love of God and not be motivated to live for God and love all of His people. Do you remember the definition of love that I gave you earlier? Love is a decision to desire and delight in someone else and to reach your highest joy by being with and fully giving oneself to the loved one. When we understand that God loves us this way, we want to love Him and His people in the same way.
It has been said that love is the badge of Christianity. It is how people know that we are disciples of Jesus Christ. 25 Sometimes that badge has been tarnished and it has not shined as it should. But when you truly understand the love of God, it changes you forever. You cannot but love.
For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus; that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again. (2 Corinthians 5:14, 15)
Do you feel constrained to live for God and Christ? Do you delight yourself in the Lord? Do you desire to be with Him and to give Him your all? Most of us long to be loving people. But we find it difficult. It is nearly impossible for us to love others unless we are convinced that they love us. But when you are convinced that God loves you, unconditionally and faithfully, you can feel secure in His love, and can love Him and others in the same way. May our hearts come to fully know this wonderful, awesome love of God. And may that love cause us to live according to the words of this old hymn.
When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss
And pour contempt on all my pride.
Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ my Lord.
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.
See, from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down;
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?
Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far to small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all. 26