THE LOVE OF GOD
We stand in awe when we read the many scriptures which speak of the power and greatness of God. When we read of His holiness, we acknowledge our inability to grasp all that is meant by that. And when we come to talk about the love of God, we are overwhelmed to think that God, the sovereign creator, the one before whom the angels sing “Holy, holy, holy,” would love us. But He tells us it is so!
The Characteristics of His Love
His love is unmerited. Man in his fallen state is unrighteous. He doesn’t fear God, love God or seek God. The sinner will not and he cannot turn things around on his own. There is no work he can do, no sacrifice he can make to lift himself up from his sinful condition. It requires God’s love to rescue him. In Ephesians chapter two, man is described as being dead in trespasses and sins, and fulfilling the desires of the flesh. And then we come to verse 4, “But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved).”
“But God...” Here is divine intervention. Man has been ruined by the fall, is justly condemned, and would be on his way to destruction, “But God.” It is God who interrupts this dark scene. He loved us and it is described as great love. What great love that He would not only deliver those who were His enemies, but actually graciously love them! His love is eternal. There was never a time God did not love His people. “The Lord hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with loving kindness have I drawn thee” (Jeremiah 31:3). This love is not initially bestowed because of human effort, neither is it maintained by good works; it is an everlasting love. We are prone to worry and have doubts but Romans 8 raises the question, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” Then a list of things about which one might worry follows, but finally we come to this great declaration in verse 39, “Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” God’s love is great, it is everlasting, it is immutable.
The Manifestation of His Love
God did not just declare that He loves us; He demonstrated it. “In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (I John 4:9-10). There could be no greater display of love than for God to send His Son to endure suffering and wrath at the cross that justice might be satisfied and grace bestowed on unworthy sinners. His love is further manifest by the spiritual birth. “And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us” (Romans 5:5). What a blessing that the Holy Spirit is given to us and abides with us. He teaches us and guides us. And what a comfort to read, “Likewise the Spirit helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what to pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groans which cannot be uttered” (Romans 8:26). And though it might sound strange to some, His love is manifest by the chastening rod. I have heard parents say, “I love my children too much to apply the rod.” God says, “I love my children so much I will apply the rod.” “My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth” (Hebrews 12:5-6). God’s love is so comprehensive that He wants the best for His children and is willing to inflict the pain of chastisement to bring about positive results.
The Effect of His Love
We are made to view His love in amazement. “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God…Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be; but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is” (I John 3:1-2).
To think that He not only pitied us and spared us; but loved us and has taken us into His family should fill us with joy and move us to praise Him every day. Furthermore, one of the effects of this love is to humble us. When by the convicting work of the Holy Spirit we have been made to see our sin, and then find that God loves us, we are amazed by it. We have to say with Jacob, “I am not worthy of the least of His mercies.” Surely, we are humbled to contemplate His love and realize that one day we will be like Him and be with Him forever! Finally, we are motivated by this love.
We love Him because He first loved us and because of His love are moved to serve and obey Him. “Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another” (I John 4:11). “My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue, but in deed and in truth” (I John 3:18). Surely considering this unfathomable love should move us to do more than talk about loving God, but to prove our love by our deeds.
Come ye that know and fear the Lord,
And raise your thoughts above;
Let every voice and heart accord
To sing that “God is love.”
This precious truth His word declares
And all His mercies prove:
Jesus, the Gift of gifts, appears
To show that “God is love.”
Behold His patience bearing long
With all those who from Him rove,
Till might grace their hearts subdue,
To teach them “God is love.”
The work begun is carried on
By power from heaven above;
And every step, from first to last,
Declares that “God is love.”
Oh, may we all while here below
This best of blessings prove,
Till warmer hearts, in brighter worlds,
Proclaim that “God is love.”
—Gospel Hymns, London
Lasserre Bradley, Jr. is the Director of the Baptist Bible Hour and one of the pastors of Cincinnati Primitive Baptist Church, Cincinnati, OH.