Proper and meaningful relationships are based on knowledge. The deeper your understanding of someone, the more meaningful the relationship will be. If we are to pursue an intimate and worshipful relationship with God, we must know him. Jesus said, “This is eternal life that they know you, the only true God and Jesus Christ whom you sent” (John 17:3). One attribute of God that is often doubted and believers need to grow in our understanding of, is his love.
If we are to pursue an intimate relationship with God, we must know him.
The love of God is a subset of his goodness. His goodness refers to his excellence and benevolence (see especially Psalm 145). His love is the benevolent disposition or posture that moves him to sacrificially and faithfully grant and seek the highest good for his creation. However, this love is ‘reasoned-out,’ not driven by emotions. Simultaneously it is not devoid of emotions. God graciously loves sinful and rebellious mankind, because of his goodness.
The Different Ways That God Loves
While the concept love is commonly used and misused in our time, understanding the love of God can be complicated. There is a reason Paul prayed for the Ephesians to grow in the knowledge of the love of God, which surpasses all understanding (Ephesians 3:14-19). The Bible speaks of the love of God in at least five ways:
- The love shared between the Father and Son (John 3:35; 14:31)
- God’s disposition towards his creation (Genesis 1; Matthew 6)
- The saving action of God for the lost (John 15:13; 1 John 2:2)
- His particular love for the elect (Deuteronomy 7:7-8; Malachi 1:2-3)
- Conditional love for his obedient children (Jude 21; John 15:9).
Characteristics Of His Love
The love of God reflects his character and nature. It cannot be understood apart from the entirety of his being, thus it is eternal (Psalm 118:1; Ephesians 1:4-5; Jeremiah 31:3). God determined ‘before the foundations of the world’ to love and adopt us as his children. Not only does it stretch back into eternity; it will endure forever. It is both eternally determined and irrevocable. Nothing can separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:35-39).
Not only does his love stretch back into eternity; it will endure forever.
The love of God is perfect. A perfect God loves perfectly. His love does not increase or decrease. He cannot love us more; he cannot love us less. And he demonstrated his love towards sinners by sending his Son to be a propitiation for sin (1 John 4:9-10; Romans 5:8). One psalmist writes, “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him” (Psalm 103:11; also Isaiah 63:7).
An Unfathomable And Sacrificial Love
As one Old Testament prophet asks: “Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever because he delights in steadfast love” (Micah 7:18, 20). This love does not come without a cost. It is sacrificial. For, as that most famous verse reads, “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
This love does not come without a cost. It is sacrificial.
Reflecting on God’s love, as is the case with all of his attributes, enlarges our view of God. Such a view leads to personal holiness, worship, evangelism, and service. On the other hand, when we have a poorly formed view of God, it shows in our lives. Properly appreciating the love of God will always move us to a greater love for him and our neighbour.