Scripture says that God is love.
“Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.”
1 John 4:8
We know that there are three primary words for love in the New Testament that enrich its meaning in Scripture beyond what our English translation can provide.
First is Eros from which we derive erotic, or romantic love, sexual and physical; it is a love that desires to possess for personal benefit.
Second is Phileo from which we get Philadelphia and philanthropy, words that mean companionship and friendship.
Third is Agape love. This is the New Testament Greek word that describes God’s love for us. Agape love is the result of a decision that commits itself to the well-being of the beloved regardless of the condition or reaction of the one who is loved, and it is the type of love that comes from God.
God loves His creation, and more than the creation generally, God loves His people. Moses expressed it like this:
“It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the LORD loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.”
In other words, God’s love is not dependent on anything that we have or any action that we have taken. It is not dependent on our position in society or the status of our bank account. Indeed, we have nothing that God has not given us, and we can give Him nothing that he needs … He loves us because He is love.
The amazing aspect of this attribute is that it is complete, unconditional and everlasting love. A. W. Tozer (1897 – 1963) said this about God’s love:
God’s love is measureless. It is more. It is boundless. It has no bounds because it is not a thing but a facet of the essential nature of God. His love is something He is, and because He is infinite, that love can enfold the whole created world in itself and have room for ten thousand times ten thousand worlds beside.
The Apostle John elaborates on this incredible attribute of our marvelous God when he says:
“In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. … We love because he first loved us.”
1 John 4:9-11, 19
And now we come to the crux of the matter. John said it well – “God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him.” This week, known by many as Passion Week, we have prepared for Easter Sunday, the day we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. It is truly a day of joyous celebration for the Christian.
But, before we can properly arrive at Sunday’s celebration we need to ruminate upon the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary, the Friday night when sin thought it had triumphed over mankind. This is the supreme example of God’s Agape love.
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person–though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die, but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.
We, who were wallowing in our sin and were deserving of nothing but death and judgment from a holy God, were granted righteousness and full pardon from the judgment that our sin surely deserved when Christ died for us. His sinless life, His death on the cross, and His powerful resurrection from the dead provides us with His righteousness because He took our sin and paid for it with His precious blood on the cross.
That, Beloved, is Agape love. We don’t have to get clean before God will love us. We don’t have to do anything before God will love us. The Holy Spirit said it through Paul’s writing: “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” This is the example of divine, Agape, love for a being that can offer nothing … it is supreme love that is contingent not on the person being loved but on the nature of the One doing the loving.
This is the love that our Lord exhibited when He took our place on that cross. It is the love that is evident when Jesus, suffering mightily on the cross, prayed for the soldiers who, even as He spoke, were dividing His clothing among themselves:
“”Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments.”
Love is a principle of action rather than of emotion. It is a purpose of honoring and benefiting the other party. It is a matter of doing things for people out of compassion for their need, whether or not we feel personal affection for them.
J. I. Packer, Concise Theology, p. 182.
This love that has been extended to us deserves our response in love extended back to God and then to others.
Jonathan Edwards (1703 – 1758) was a Puritan theologian, pastor, and devout Calvinist, whose conversion centered on his coming to the realization that God is sovereign over all things. In the book Charity and Its Fruits, Edwards calls love the “sum of all Christianity”. And he renders the following exhortation:
A Christian should at all times keep a strong guard against everything that tends to overthrow or corrupt or undermine a spirit of love. That which hinders love to men, will hinder the exercise of love to God… If love is the sum of Christianity, surely those things which overthrow love are exceedingly unbecoming [to] Christians. An envious Christian, a malicious Christian, a cold and hard-hearted Christian, is the greatest absurdity and contradiction. It is as if one should speak of dark brightness, or a false truth!
May we relish in this glorious attribute of our holy God – Love. And may we honor and glorify the embodiment of that love in Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who endured unimaginable horror on the cross as He absorbed all our sin in Himself so that we could be called the children of God, all on the day we call Good Friday. And may we live in the power of the Holy Spirit so that we glorify God through compassion and loving kindness as we share the good news of Jesus Christ and the glorious message of hope through His resurrection which we celebrate on Easter Sunday.
Sovereign God, I praise You and glorify You as only You are worthy of adoration. Thank You for the love that has been expressed through the sacrifice of Your Son so that my sin has been paid for and my debt extinguished through His righteousness. I bow in humble obedience to You, my Lord and Master.