By Alfred Bouter
God is eternal, for He is “from eternity to eternity” (Ps. 90:2 JND) or “from everlasting to everlasting” (NKJV). Furthermore, “God is love” (1 Jn. 4:8,16). Combining these two aspects of God we see that He always was, is and will be love. God’s love is therefore eternal (“everlasting love,” Jer. 31:3 KJV). In His prayer to the Father recorded in John 17, the Lord Jesus mentioned that the Father loved the Son from “before the foundation of the world” (v.24).
The love of God is a topic that cannot be exhausted. While I was meditating on this, three passages came to mind: one in Romans 5, another in 1 John, and one other in Jude. Before we briefly consider these portions, let us ponder a few general thoughts about the love of God.
Love is God’s nature, and it cannot be separated from what God is in Himself, namely that “God is light” (1 Jn. 1:5) and that He dwells “in the light” (v.7). God is invisible to His creatures (see 1 Tim. 1:17, 6:16)1, yet He has revealed Himself in the Son: “Jesus said … ‘he who has seen Me, has seen the Father’” (Jn. 14:9 NKJV). When He became Man, “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (Jn. 1:14).
The Son, Jesus, came into this world to do God’s will (Ps. 40:7-8; Jn. 4:34), which He always did (8:29). In contrast, man, who had been created for God’s glory, dishonored Him – first in Adam and Eve’s fall (Gen. 3) and then ever since (Rom. 5:12). Jesus’ sinless perfection showed how corrupt we are, with no exception, because “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (3:23 KJV).
However, in His love the Lord Jesus gave Himself to be the Sacrifice through which we were redeemed, as the blood of Jesus, God’s Son, cleanses (purifies) us from all sin. In doing this work, the Lord Jesus displayed the truth of the marvelous statement that “God is love.” It is unfathomable, profound and immeasurable. In perfect love the Father gave the Son and the Son gave Himself to save us from God’s wrath, so we might forever have fellowship with the Father and the Son in the power of the Holy Spirit (1 Jn. 1:3).
As believers, therefore, we walk in the light and have fellowship with one another (v.7). We have received a new nature which is of God, and He has poured out His love into our hearts – the center of our being – to be able to respond to His love. Even though we are living in a wicked world, we are here for His glory and for doing good – representing our God, who is love.
God’s Love Poured Out
The Lord Jesus spoke to the woman at the well about “the gift of God” and His giving of “living water” (Jn. 4:10). Then speaking about those who receive the living water, He said, “The water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life” (v.14 NKJV). In other words, what He pours out into the believer goes back to its Source. The chapter shows later that this last point implies a response because what God pours out in His love goes back to Him in worship.
Here is the background: When the Lord Jesus accomplished His work on the cross, He died and then was buried, but on the third day He rose again from among the dead. After forty days He ascended to heaven, and ten days later He sent from there the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:2-4). On that day Peter spoke to the multitude in Jerusalem and said that God had made the same Jesus to be Lord and Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed (v.36). As Lord He is in perfect control, and God anointed Him with oil of gladness above His companions (Heb. 1:9). Now, before He reigns as Messiah on earth, He shares with the believers this anointing, or “unction” (KJV), for which reason they are called Christians and represent Him, being intimately linked with Him.
The apostle Paul wrote that “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Rom. 5:5 ESV). In addition to God giving us a new nature that is able to respond to His love, He has poured out His love into our hearts. The Holy Spirit enables us to give a response, implied in the above quote from John 4:14, that this love may return to God in thanksgiving, praise and worship.
Relying On God’s Love – Romans 5
In Romans 5 Paul linked all that we have already considered with lessons we need to learn in God’s school, where tribulations, sufferings and trials are used by God to build His character in us. As we learn to rely on God and expect help from Him we put our confidence in Him, rather than depending on our selves and efforts. Relying on Him through faith, we learn to appreciate His provisions as the Holy Spirit leads us to worship and adoration. Thus, God’s Spirit causes the living water poured into us to go back to its Source.
How is this possible? The apostle explained it as follows: God saved us, according to His mercy, “through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior” (Ti. 3:5-6). The Holy Spirit is involved in our salvation by means of the water of God’s Word (Jn. 3:3-5). Using the Scriptures, He enables us to properly respond to our God and Father, and to the Lord Jesus (Jn. 4:24; Heb. 13:15). Therefore, in Paul’s second prayer in Ephesians,2 he expressed his desire that Christ may dwell in our hearts and that we may know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge (Eph. 3:16-19). God’s love – the love of Christ – is so wonderful and great that we will never come to the end of it. Yet He wants us to know that love which surpasses knowledge!
“God Is Love” – 1 John 4:8,16
This amazing and profound statement is really beyond our grasp. It is closely linked to a few other points made in the same chapter. This agape3 love “is of God” (v.7 NKJV) since He is its Source, for “God is love.” The same verse goes on to say that everyone who loves is born of God and knows Him. That is to say he or she has a relationship with Him, for this love is enjoyed in the context of a relationship with its Source – God, the great Giver.
|Some Intimate Links Between The Lord Jesus And Believers Found In First John|
• “He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as Hewalked” (2:6).
• “Everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure” (3:3).
• “Little children, let no one deceive you, He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous” (3:7).
• “Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world” (4:17).
For us to receive and enjoy this love, the Son needed to accomplish His mission of fully satisfying God as to our sins – the “propitiation” (v.10). The Son achieved the work of redemption, and on that basis God could show favor towards us that we might live through Him. What He has done demonstrates the love God has for us.
This is then connected with our love towards one another as children of God (v.11). If we love one another while God abides or remains in/with us, this proves that His objective has been realized (v.12). This is also linked to a true confession of Jesus as Savior and to the enjoyment of God’s love in us, as we remain (“abide” or “continue”) in Him and in love (vv.14-16). In this context the statement that “God is love” is repeated once more (v.16).
There is also a link with the future: love made perfect “with us.” “Herein has love been perfected with us that we may have boldness in the day of judgment, that even as He is, we also are in this world” (v.17 JND). In other words, this whole paragraph in 1 John 4 speaks of God’s love – past, present and future!
Keeping Ourselves In The Love Of God – Jude 21
We conclude with the matter of our responsibility, which does not contradict this amazing topic of the love of God. “Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life” (Jude 21). We are living in the age of grace in which God’s amazing love is displayed and experienced in many different ways. At the same time the enemy attacks what is precious to God and tries to rob Him by assaulting the believers. God, however, is and remains in control.
Yet we have our responsibility. First, we are encouraged to build up ourselves on our most holy faith (v.20), once delivered (entrusted or committed) to the saints (v.3). God’s foundation does not change, although everything else does. We need to keep building on this right foundation. Second, we need to keep praying in the Holy Spirit, in tune with Him and depending on Him as the Lord Jesus always did. Third, we need to keep4 ourselves in the love of God, namely that we remain or abide in it, which is John’s major theme. This implies that we cultivate our relationship with Him in prayer, reading and obeying God’s Word, and putting it into practice. Fourth, keeping ourselves goes together with waiting, looking forward to our Lord’s coming. His coming again will be an act of mercy to us, by snatching us away from this wicked world. We may look forward to that, for then He will usher us into eternal life.
We received eternal life the moment we believed (Jn. 3:16), along with the new nature, which is “His seed” in us (1 Jn. 3:9). We cultivate this special treasure in us by properly responding to God’s love in our daily lives. At the same time we are on the way to eternal life where He dwells and where we will dwell with Him and with each other forever. Praise God!
1. God is love and He loves: the Father loves, the Son loves and the Holy Spirit loves. This love will never contradict what God is, namely light. This balance was demonstrated in the Lord Jesus’ life on earth, “full of grace and truth” (Jn. 1:14).
2. This prayer (Eph. 3:14-21) is addressed to the Father. He is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ even though He is called the God of our Lord Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:17), the glorified Man at God’s right hand. The triune God is called the Father of Glory. In Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 3, the emphasis is on the eternal relationship of the Father and the Son, for which reason many manuscripts omit the words “of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
3. The Greek text has different words for love, such as agape, which emphasizes God as its Source and ultimate Object. Along with other places, this term is used in 1 John 3-4. The new nature we received when we repented and believed is in tune with this love and cannot sin (1 Jn. 3:9). God uses it to display His love to where we are. In a world of hatred, we may display love; in a world of darkness, light; and in a scene of death, life.
4. The New Testament uses this verb (Gr. tereo) 70 times, a study in itself, of which 36 are in John’s writings.