11 March, 2017

I John 4:8, 16—“God is love”

He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love (I John 4:8).

And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him (I John 4:16).

According to these texts, not only is love said to be an attribute, perfection or principle of God, but these texts also teach that He is His attributes. This is an essential element of the Reformed doctrine of God’s “simplicity.”

It is often supposed, however, by Arminians, Romanists, “Free Offer” men, and many others, that “God is love” therefore means that He is therefore naturally or necessarily inclined (aka, obligated) to love all humans, bar none.

But does God love those who are in hell? Does God love the devil? or the Antichrist? …


Arminianism argues that for love to be free, we must be able to respond; yet God is “obligated” by His own nature to love … So God is not “free” to love or have mercy on whom He will have mercy (cf. Rom. 9), but the creature is free to love or not to love God as he chooses? ... Arminians need to be reminded that God is God.



Rev. Angus Stewart

[Source: “God is Love!”]

“God is love”—this is the ringing and heart-warming affirmation of holy Scripture (I John 4:8, 16)!

God is love because God is Triune, subsisting in three eternally distinct Persons: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. God did not start to love with the creation of men and angels. He has always loved for He is love in Himself eternally. In the Godhead, the Father and the Son love each other fervently in the Holy Spirit, the divine and personal bond between the first two Persons of the Trinity. The Son is eternally cherished “in the bosom of the Father,” as His “only begotten Son” who bears “the express image” of His Father (John 1:18; Heb. 1:3). What joy and security the Father and the Son have in their loving communion and friendship!

Since this love is God’s love, it is characterised by all the divine perfections. God’s love is not limited, temporal, changeable, unholy or weak. God’s love is an infinite, eternal, unchangeable, holy and all-powerful love—to echo Westminster Shorter Catechism 4.

Colossians 3:14 describes love as “the bond of perfectness.” This bond is absolutely perfect in the Trinity, for the two who love each other, the Father and the Son, are infinitely pure and beautiful, and the personal bond of love they have for each other is the wholly divine Spirit. What a perfect union consisting of covenant love and delightful fellowship!

But how does Jehovah love His chosen people who have fallen into iniquity and misery in Adam? How can a perfect bond of love exist between sinful and very imperfect humans and the thrice holy God who is possessed of all perfections?

The answer is that the Most High loves us in Christ alone. Only in Christ are we elected, redeemed, regenerated, called, justified, adopted, sanctified, preserved and glorified. Only in Christ can, and does, God love us with that perfect bond of divine love. In Christ we even share (in a creaturely way) in the eternal and blessed love of the holy Trinity! No wonder the apostle exclaims that nothing is “able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:39)! This is the absolutely indestructible and unbreakable love of the almighty and gracious God for His covenant people, sealed in the blood of Jesus.

This is the wonder of the cross of Christ, for “having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end” (John 13:1)! Right through His life and death, and our lives and deaths, and through the endless ages of the world to come, the Son of God loves us unto the end!

Believing the Father’s particular and powerful love—supremely demonstrated at Calvary—the child of God turns from his sins in repentance and lives out of gratitude to his Creator and Redeemer for so great salvation. He loves the Triune God revealed in His Word, he loves the Lord’s people and he loves his neighbour for Christ’s sake. For remember, “He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love” (I John 4:8).



John Owen (1616-1683)

[Source: Works, vol. X, p. 227]

That God hath any natural or necessary inclination, by his goodness, or any other property, to do good to us, or any of his creatures, we do deny. Everything that concerns us is an act of his free will and good pleasure, and not a natural, necessary act of his Deity, as shall be declared.



John Kennedy of Dingwall (1819-1884)

[Source: Sermon on Ezekiel 33:11]

‘God is love;’ but when you hear this you are not told what must imply the declaration that He loves all, and that, therefore, He loves you. This tells us what He is, as revealed to us in the cross, and what all who come to Him through Christ will find Him to be. It is on this that faith has to operate. You have no right to regard that love, which is commended in the death of His Son, as embracing you if you have not yet believed. It is only with the character, not at all with the purpose, of God that you have in the first instance to do. What right have you to say that He loves all? Have you seen into the heart of God that you should say He loves you, until you have reached, as a sinner, through faith, the bosom of His love in Christ? ‘But may I not think of God loving sinners without ascribing to Him any purpose to save?’ God loving a sinner without a purpose to save him! The thing is inconceivable. I would reproach a fellow-sinner if I so conceived of his love. Love to one utterly ruined, and that love commanding resources that are sufficient for salvation, and yet no purpose to use them! Let not men so blaspheme the love of God. ‘But may I not conceive of God as loving men to the effect of providing salvation, and to the effect of purchasing redemption for them, without this being followed out to the result of His purpose taking actual effect in their salvation?’ No, verily. For the love of God is one, as the love of the Three in One. The one love of the One God is the love of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. If that love generated in the person of the Father a purpose to provide, and in the person of the Son a purpose to redeem, it must have generated in the person of the Holy Ghost a purpose to apply. You cannot assign one set of objects to it, as the love of the Father, and a different set of objects to it, as “the love of the Spirit.” And there can be no unaccomplished purpose of Jehovah. ‘My counsel shall stand,’ saith the Lord, ‘and I will do all my pleasure.’ ‘The world,’ which the Father loved and the Son redeemed, shall by the Spirit be convinced ‘of sin, righteousness, and judgment,’ and thus the Father’s pleasure shall prosper, and the Son’s ‘travail’ be rewarded, through the efficient grace of God the Holy Ghost. You have no right to attempt to look in on the relation of Divine love to individuals till first you attain, through faith, to a place among His children. ‘Secret things belong unto the Lord;’ do not, then, try to share them with Him. In considering the doctrine of the text you have nothing to do with the question—‘Does God love the wicked?’ It is on the character of God that you are called to look, as He hath revealed this in the cross of His dear Son. You have no right to be influenced in judging of Divine procedure by preconceived ideas of Divine counsels, or of God Himself, but by the glory of His name, as He hath been pleased to reveal it. He does not tell me that He loves the wicked; but I am assured, when I look on Him as ‘He is love,’ that He hath no pleasure in his death. The fullest exhibition of His character, and the overwhelming proof of His having no pleasure in the death of the wicked [Eze. 33:11], are given to us in the cross of Jesus Christ. ‘Yes,’ you say, ‘but it is in fulfilling a sovereign purpose of grace that He has revealed Himself there.’ True, but it is infinite love which He has revealed. It is by this display of His love that you are to judge of the way in which it shall fare with you, if you come to Him in response to His call. Faith has infinite love on which to operate, in order to your encouragement. For, whatever be His purpose, it is abundantly evident that ‘God is love.’ That is the character of Him to whom you are called to return. That is the view presented to you of Him to whom you are called to return, and it is with this that you have to do. And when you think of the special purpose in fulfilling which He has so revealed Himself, you may be all the more encouraged to return; for it is this which assures you that a salvation both free and sure awaits you when you come. The ‘purpose according to election, while casting no shade on the infinity of the love, is a guarantee for the certainty of the salvation which you are called to accept. For a people, whom, in providing salvation for them, He accounted worthy of death, He gave His only begotten Son, that, buying them by His blood, He might save them by His power. You are called to meet that love in the Son as Jesus the Christ, and to present yourself on His blood as a suppliant for all the blessings of the covenant of grace. What more can you desiderate? What element of encouragement is wanting, in this form of doctrine, which any of the systems of evangelical theology, or all of them together, can supply?



More to come! (DV)

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