Attributes paper #2
As threatened, here is number two in the “not-so-award-winning” series of my papers written for my attributes class. This one is the paper I wrote for week 2 of the class, and is titled “God is Love”
GOD IS LOVE
First John 4:8 “He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” According to 1st John chapter four, God is love. If this is true, then everything God says and does is an outgrowth of His being love. Because God is Love, it makes sense that the two greatest commandments as listed by Jesus involve love (Matthew 22:37-39) — Namely, the love of God and the love of others. It is by loving that we are most like God, because God IS Love. First John 4 is very clear that if we truly know God, we will love Him and one another. Unless we are fulfilling the two greatest commandments, the apostle tells us that we do not actually know God (1 John 4:20,21).
Many are quite familiar with 1st Corinthians 13 as the “Love Chapter”. It gets preached at marriage seminars, it gets used in arguments with loved ones, and it even makes appearances in youth groups when the youth pastor is preaching about sexual purity. This is all well and good, but it seems to be forgotten that all of the descriptors of Love in 1st Corinthians 13 are equally descriptions of God. To put a new spin on a familiar passage, we could say that “God is patient, God is kind, God does not envy and is not puffed up. God does not behave rudely, does not seek His own, He is not provoked, and He thinks no evil. God does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth. God bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things. God never fails.” The best part is that not only are all the descriptions of Love applicable to God, but because God is infinite, all of these descriptions of Love are infinitely true of Him. Because God is Love, He is infinitely humble, He is infinitely patient and infinitely kind.
God is Love, and God is jealous. God declares of himself in Exodus 20:5 that He is Jealous. He put it this way, “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.” (Exodus 20:4-6). So the question becomes, how can we reconcile the jealous God with the “God is Love” persona of 1 John? They are quite obviously the same person, so the difficulty must be in the description of Him. We know God is Jealous because He declares it of himself 5 times and Moses, Joshua, and Nahum all affirm this description in their own words. (Exodus 20:5 , 34:14; Deuteronomy 4:24, 5:9, 6:15; Joshua 24:19; Ezekiel 39:25; Nahum 1:2). As already stated, we know that God is love because John declares it of Him in 1st John 4.
The reconciliation of this difficulty is found in Song of Solomon 8:6-7, “Set me as a seal upon your heart, As a seal upon your arm; For love is as strong as death, Jealousy as cruel as the grave; Its flames are flames of fire, A most vehement flame. Many waters cannot quench love, Nor can the floods drown it. If a man would give for love All the wealth of his house, It would be utterly despised.” Jealousy and love are one and the same in this instance. It is because of the intense Love that God has and is that He can be Jealous without contradicting Himself.
Consider now the cross of Christ. In talking to Nicodemus, Jesus lets out a tremendous secret about the Cross, recorded in the John 3:16. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, so that whosoever would believe in Him would have everlasting life.” When you tag this together with God being Love according to First John 4, we find that the first Advent, torture, death, and resurrection of Christ were a natural outgrowth of God’s character. It wasn’t done grudgingly; rather, it was because God is Love that it “pleased the Lord to crush Him” (Isaiah 53:10). There was no dilemma in the Godhead about whether or not it was the right thing to do to send Jesus to die a brutal death for the sins of the world, because God is Love.
In the canon of Scripture, there are precious few times that God is described with a noun. Many times over He is described using adjectives (e.g., God is merciful), but the only times He is ever described with a noun is when He is named as being Love (1 John 4:8) and when He is describing His own eternal nature as being “The Alpha and Omega, Beginning and the End.” (Revelation 1:8, 1:11, 21:6, 22:13). It is because of this that I believe that Love is the quality of Himself that God wanted to stress the most. In fact, it could be accurately stated that His mercy, humility, and justice are all products of His being Love. According to 1st Corinthians 13 love does not think evil (v. 5), love is not puffed up (v. 4), and love does not rejoice in iniquity but truth(v. 6). If this is true, then a vital understanding of God’s Love is essential to understanding the rest of His attributes, actions, and words.