The necessity of setting aside a secular and humanistic understanding of the love of God is reflected in the fact that the Bible teaches that God is love, but He is also the God that hates.
Unless God is understood through the lens of Scripture, the darkened mind of man will change Him into the likeness of Fallen humanity. God will be “just like us”, with our perverted passions and whims. All the gods of pagan mythology reflect this fact to be true.
The main Roman and Greek gods and goddesses included the famous Greek Olympian gods whose names were Zeus, Athena, Hestia or Dionysus, Apollo, Hera, Poseidon, Demeter, Artemis, Ares, Aphrodite, Hephaestus and Hermes.
These gods and goddesses were filled with hatred, and jealousies. They engaged in deceitful behavior, and filled heaven and earth with war and intrigue.
If care is not taken, the Lord God Omnipotent will simply take His stand on a pedestal among the others gods of the universe.
A good place to start a biblical study of the love of God is 1 John 4:7-11.
“Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. 8 He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. 9 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. 10 Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another” (1 John 4:7-11).
The love of God comes from the essence of God Himself. Love is not something outside of God. God is love. This agape love is not a natural love which is found in man. This is a love which has its origin in God Himself.
In matchless grace, God does convey His love to others. It is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith” (Gal. 5:22).
One of the gifts of salvation is a capacity for love that is not natural. It is not natural because it comes from God. “And every one that loveth is born of God,” (1 John 4:7).
This does not mean that every person who has experienced storge (familial love), eros love, (romantic love), or philia (friendship love) is born of God. It does means agape love, of which John writes, only comes from God.
Any person who finds they cannot, or wills not to love with agape love should repent of this sin, pray, and seek this fruit of the Spirit. God will give His agape love to all who are born again.
“Heavenly Father, I have not loved with agape love. My heart is filled with bitterness, anger, and hatred. There are times when I cannot feel anything but rage. Your Word stands in judgment on my spirit, my words, my actions, and my heart. I am wrong. I want to change my mind, and behavior. I want to be different. I want others to know I am born again. I seek now the fruit of the Spirit which is apape love. Please grant my request as I make it in the name of Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior. Amen.”
Without the transforming power of the Holy Spirit, no person can live the Christian life. No Christian, on their own, can model agape love.
A person who does have the capacity to manifest agape love can be assured they have been born of God, and regenerated by the Holy Spirit.
To press the importance of seeking, obtaining, and manifesting agape love, John continues to write. “He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love” (1 John 4:8).
John has already said that love is of God. Now, he goes on to state that God is love.
John is not saying that love equals God. John is not saying love equals God so that any person has affection for someone, or has enjoyed a romantic notion has God. That is not what John is saying.
The apostle is using a literary expression to say that God is so loving, love is an intricate facet of His essence.
The expansive language John uses was familiar to the Hebrew people.
Jesus used transcendent language when He said “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6).
Christ knows the way of salvation so well that it can be said He is the way. Christ is so united to truth, and so removed from falsehood, that it can be said Jesus is truth. Christ is the giver of life “For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: 17 And he is before all things, and by him all things consist” (Col. 1:16-17). Therefore, it can be said that Jesus is life itself.
Any view of God that neglects to manifest His great love would be a distortion, and unworthy of the Holy One.
In like manner, it is wrong to present a view of God that misrepresents His love as being cheap, and humanly sentimental. Such a caricature of God’s love is unbalanced, because it neglects His truth, justice, and righteousness. These other attributes of God cannot be removed from His character, or overshadowed by the one attribute of love.
People have no right to diminish the sovereignty of God to order the universe, and ordain whatsoever comes to pass, including salvation and damnation, by saying, “But my God is a God of love.” The love of God is not incompatible or contradictory to His sovereignty, holiness, justice, or eternal decrees.
People have no right to exchange the biblical truth of God into a lie which distorts His love, and makes God a conflicted sentimentalist who loves the world so much He gave His only begotten Son that all men shall be saved. And if they are not saved, it is not because God did not try to save them.
In 1981, conservative Rabbi Harold Kushner published his book, When Bad thing Happen to Good People. A central theme of that book is that God created a universe that He cannot control. God loves, but His love is insufficient, for bad things still happen to good people, and while that is tragic, God is not to be blamed. He has tried. God has done the best He can.
It is the diminishing of God’s love that is unworthy of Him. When God is made in the image of man, it is a form of idolatry, for the glory of the true God is exchanged for a lesser god, either made out of stone, or wood, or made out of a person’s vain imagination, the principle is the same.
Christians are not children of a lesser God than the One revealed in the Bible.
The God of love, is the God of Scripture who demands people repent, and say they are sorry when they wound and violate other people. The world tells us that love means you never have to say I am sorry. That is a lie, and the truth is not in the world, but in the Word of God.
What the Word of God reveals is that God is love. Love is not a part of God, for God has no parts, as we would understand individual parts. God is a simple being. God is sovereign, immutable, truthful, omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, eternal, love.
Because God is simple, because God is unified in His essence, there must be understanding of all of His attributes and how they relate to one another, for none can be separated. The love of God is not divorced from His wisdom, justice, or righteousness.
Therefore, let the word go forth that the love of God is a sovereign love, it is an eternal love, it is a benevolent love, it is a selective love, it is discriminating love, it is a decreed love, is an immutable love, the love of God is a holy love. Is God justice? Then there is a loving justice. Is God righteous? There is a loving righteousness. Is God omnipotent? There is a loving omnipotence.
Love must not be extrapolated, or separated from the other attributes of God, and given an emphasis and pre-eminence that is unwarranted in divine revelation.
When dealing with humans, love can be extrapolated and exalted. Paul teaches that of the three main virtues, faith, hope, and charity, charity, or love, is the greatest, which the Christian is to “follow after”, or pursue (1 Cor. 14:1).
Once the concept of the love of God is understood biblically by the Christian, there will be a deepening of understanding. Again, God’s love is not sentimental, and separate from His essence, but an iatrical part of who God is in His essence.
If special attention is to be given to the subject of God’s love, then let the Church learn of His holy love, and proclaim that truth.
To speak of God’s holy love will distinguish it from the love of Secular Humanism, which teaches that even the vilest behavior can be justified, as long as the motive is love. That philosophy is called, “situation ethics.”
“Joseph Fletcher says: . . . Whether we ought to follow a moral principle or not would always depend upon the situation. . .. In some situations, unmarried love could be infinitely more moral than married unlove. Lying could be more Christian than telling the truth. . . stealing could be better than respective private property . . .no action is good or right of itself. It depends on whether it hurts or helps people. . .. There are no normative moral principles whatsoever which are intrinsically valid or universally obliging. We may not absolutize the norms of human conduct. . .. Love is the highest good and the first-order value, the primary consideration to which in every act . . .we should be prepared to sidetrack or subordinate other value considerations of right and wrong” (Situation Ethics, Joseph Fletcher and John Warwick Montgomery).
The Church must vigorously protest every teaching of Secular Humanism. God’s love is holy. In Scripture, that which is holy is “different”, “apart”, “other.”
To say that God is holy, is to say that God is different from everything else. He is different from the angels. He is different from man. He is different from animals. He is different from His creation. God is a higher order of being. God is transcendent. He rises above all else and all others. God’s love is not common. It is not ordinary. It is not like human love, but it is majestic.
To say that God is holy, is to say God is pure. God is without moral or physical blemish. He is wholly without evil. God cannot lie. God cannot sin. God cannot look upon sin with favor or approval. There is no shadow which covers the brightness or purity of His love.
The love of God is not mixed with selfishness, wickedness, or compromise. Nor is God’s love conditioned on who or what His creation is, or does. But it is a love which He shares with others so that we too can love in some way.