THE MULTI-FACETED LOVE OF GOD
Christianity today is fixated on “love”, this “love” being God’s love for men and how men ought to love one another. Indeed, Jesus Himself declared, “The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31) 1 John 4:16 further adds that “God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.” Love will be manifested in him who is truly born-again. On the other hand, a loveless church is a lifeless church!
Sadly, the tragic saying, “As how the world goes, so goes the church” is so often true today. Rather than turning to the Holy Scriptures, the church has been infiltrated by individualism, consumerism and relativism of this age. This has resulted in an understanding of God’s love that is far divorced from God’s truth/what is taught in God’s Word. The Christian’s understanding of love has become sentimentalised and purged of anything that does not commend to his own soul. Anything that makes him feel good is love! On the other hand, if something makes him feel uncomfortable or judges his conscience, that cannot be love! The love of God has thus been separated from God’s truth, holiness, justice and sovereignty. As a result, the church has become devoid of true godliness and holiness. What is left is just but a show of religion, pandering to the culture and taste of this age!
This malaise has also affected those who claim to hold true to God’s Word. Very often, our understanding of the love of God is restricted to his love for us, as well as that for lost sinners as taught in John 3:16. This is true also of our hymnals. Many of the hymns often praise God for His love to sinners, as well as His love for His saints in the manifestation of His daily care and sustenance. However, when one delves further into the Scriptures, he will find that God’s love is far more amazing and comprehensive than one can ever imagine.
The following are some facets of God’s love as taught in the Bible:
1. The Scriptures teach about God’s love for His only begotten Son, Christ Jesus.
“The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand.” (John 3:35)
“For the Father loveth the Son, and sheweth him all things that himself doeth: and he will shew him greater works than these, that ye may marvel.” (John 5:20)
The Scripture also teaches about the Son’s love for the Father, and is thus fully submissive to the will of the Father.
“But that the world may know that I love the Father; and as the Father gave me commandment, even so I do. Arise, let us go hence.” (John 14:31)
2. The Scriptures teach about God’s love for the world of mankind, including His enemies. This love is manifested in:
a. God’s general providence for all men.
“Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” (Matthew 5:43-48)
b. God’s provision and offer of salvation to the entire world.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)
“Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (1 John 4:10)
3. The Scriptures teach about God’s love for His elect:
a. God’s love for Israel.
“Behold, the heaven and the heaven of heavens is the LORD’S thy God, the earth also, with all that therein is. Only the LORD had a delight in thy fathers to love them, and he chose their seed after them, even you above all people, as it is this day.” (Deuteronomy 10:14-15)
“The LORD did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people: But because the LORD loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers, hath the LORD brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.” (Deuteronomy 7:7-8)
b. God’s love for His saints.
“Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;” (Ephesians 5:25 KJV)
“The LORD openeth the eyes of the blind: the LORD raiseth them that are bowed down: the LORD loveth the righteous:” (Psalm 146:8)
The love of God for His saints is also expressed in His chastitive hand in our lives when we stray from Him, for it is God’s way to restore us to holy living and a right fellowship with Him.
“For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.” (Hebrews 12:6)
c. A love which desires obedience.
While God’s love for His elect is unconditional with respect to election, it nevertheless demands us to obey His Word. Those who truly love God will obey His commandments, and are kept in His love.
“And now, Israel, what doth the LORD thy God require of thee, but to fear the LORD thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the LORD thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul,” (Deuteronomy 10:12)
“If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.” (John 15:10)
“Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.” (Jude 1:21)
4. The Scriptures teach us about God’s love for righteousness and judgment.
“For the righteous LORD loveth righteousness; his countenance doth behold the upright.” (Psalm 11:7)
“For the LORD loveth judgment, and forsaketh not his saints; they are preserved for ever: but the seed of the wicked shall be cut off.” (Psalm 37:28)
“For I the LORD love judgment, I hate robbery for burnt offering; and I will direct their work in truth, and I will make an everlasting covenant with them.” (Isaiah 61:8)
Indeed, as we study the Bible, are we not astounded by the depth and comprehensiveness of God’s love? Therefore, our understanding of love must not be one that is shallow, nor rooted in pure sentimentalism or lust. May we truly learn to love God, just as how He is love.
Lovingly in Christ,
Preacher Clement Chew
Credit: Tow and Khoo, Theology for Every Christian, Singapore :
Far Eastern Bible College, 283.