Attributes of God: Lesson 7: God is Loving

What is Love?

Love is one of the most misunderstood words in the English language. According to most people, love is the warm, fuzzy feeling you get when you’re with someone you really like. According to Scripture, however, love is something altogether different. Rather than a feeling, love is a choice; rather than an emotion, it is an act of the will (Hos 14:4, Matt 5:44). In other words, love is not some passive feeling that suddenly and inexplicably comes over you. Rather, it is an active choice that is purposefully and thoughtfully made. Love is not something you “fall into”; instead, it’s something you “jump into.” All of this does not imply, however, that love is devoid of feeling. Feelings are a natural by-product of the choice to love, but they are not love itself.

God’s Love Declared

God is love (1 John 4:8, 16).


Love is part of God’s very nature or essence. It is essential to His being. It is impossible for God to be unloving. If he was, He wouldn’t be God. Everything God does can be characterized as loving.

God’s Love Described

God’s love is unconditional. God’s love for the believer comes with “no strings attached.” He does not love us only if or when we meet certain criteria. He loves us regardless of who we are or what we do. He loves us because He has chosen to love us. Period. This was the basis of His election of the nation of Israel: The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but because the LORD loved you (Deut 7:7-8; cf. Hos 14:4). It is also the basis of His election of believers (Eph 1:4-5). God’s love cannot be earned, nor can it be forfeited.

God’s love is unstoppable. There is nothing you can do, believer, to cause God to stop loving you. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom 8:35, 38-39; cf. Ps 103:17a and Jer 31:3).

God’s love is unusual. After Christ stilled the storm in Matthew 8:26, the disciples exclaimed: What kind of a man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him? (Matt 8:27). The same Greek adjective, translated “what kind of” in Matthew 8:27, is used to describe God’s love for believers in 1 John 3:1: See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God. The love of Christ for us “surpasses (literally “to throw beyond”) knowledge” (Eph 3:19). “The New Testament writers had to introduce what was virtually a new Greek word, agape, to express the love of God as they knew it” (Packer, p. 124). What makes God’s love so unusual is that He showed it not to the lovely–His “friends” (John 15:13), the “righteous” (Rom 5:7a), or the “good” (Rom 5:7b), but to the unlovely–the “ungodly” (Rom 5:6), “sinners” (Rom 5:8), His “enemies” (Rom 5:10), those who didn’t love Him (1 John 4:10). “God loved what is the antithesis of himself; this is its marvel and greatness” (John Murray, quoted in Storms, p. 144). No wonder why Ephesians 2:4 calls God’s love “great,” and Charles Wesley (in his beloved hymn, “And Can It Be?”) called it “amazing!”

God’s Love Demonstrated

God demonstrates His love for us in a variety of ways. The supreme expression (Rom 8:32) of His love, however, was the sending of His Son to die for our sins. For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son (John 3:16).  But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Rom 5:8).  Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13). See also Galatians 2:20, Ephesians 5:2, 25, and 1 John 4:9-10. “Almost invariably the New Testament Epistles expound God’s love for us by reference to the cross. To eliminate the death of Christ for sinners would eviscerate the very heart of divine love as portrayed in the New Testament” (Carl F. H. Henry, quoted in Storms, p. 132). “[Christ] was bound to the cross not by the nails of the military executioner, but by the >cords of love=” (John Eadie, quoted in Storms, p. 141). “Calvary is the supreme demonstration of Divine love. Whenever you are tempted to doubt the love of God, Christian reader, go back to Calvary” (Pink, p. 81).

Not only was God’s love demonstrated in the accomplishment of redemption, but also in its application, as Ephesians 2:4-5 attests: But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved).

God’s Love Defined

Love is that in God which moves Him to do what is best for His creatures. Because God is loving, He does (action) what is best for us (selfless). “>This is true love to any one,= said Tillotson, >to do the best for him we can.= This is what God does for those he loves–the best he can” (Packer, p. 126).

Some Implications of God’s Love

Because God is loving, we should praise Him. Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, My lips will praise you (Ps 63:3).

Because God is loving, He disciplines us. “FOR THOSE WHOM THE LORD LOVES HE DISCIPLINES” (Heb 12:6; cf. Prov 3:11-12 and Rev 3:19). Contrary to popular thinking, love is not permissive[1]; rather, it is protective. A permissive parent (one who tends to avoid disciplining his child for sinful behavior) does not truly love his child (Prov 13:24). A parent who truly loves his child will discipline him for sinful behavior in order to prevent that child from persisting in such behavior and suffering the consequences that go along with it (Prov 19:18, 23:13-14). Likewise, God disciplines us in order to protect us from sin and its consequences. Though painful, divine discipline is for our ultimate good (Heb 12:10-11).

Because God is loving, we ought to be loving. This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you (John 15:12). Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another (1 John 4:11). See also Matthew 5:43-48, John 13:34, Ephesians 5:1-2, 25, and 1 John 4:19. Because they are the only ones who truly understand what love is, Christians ought to be the most loving people on the face of the earth (John 13:35). Our lives must be characterized by love–doing what is best for others.

Because God loves us, we can rest secure in His love. If God has chosen to make you a special object of His love, nothing (nothing you do or anyone else does) can prevent Him from loving you, nor stop Him from loving you. God is Afor@ you (Rom 8:31).  Meditate long and hard on Romans 8:31-39.

[1]God=s love is not permissive. The heresy of universalism (the belief that, when all is said and done, God will give everyone a free pass to heaven) misunderstands God’s love. God’s love is a holy love. Holiness is the track on which the engine of love must run” (A. H. Strong, quoted in McCune, p. 109). God punishes every sin–the sin of the unbeliever in Hell, the sin of the believer on the Cross.

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