We hear today from many the words; Jesus loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life. Is this biblical and should Evangelical Christians utter such a phrase? The big question in Scripture is not does God love us but do we love God? Our love towards God and the things of God is the most important aspect of our spiritual life. Our love directed towards God does not come easy. We are by nature at war with God in our hearts. We are by nature opposed to God and in rebellion to His law. We do not naturally love God. It is only by God’s grace and enabling that we love him as our sinful nature does not permit us to love God. God grants this gift by his sovereign will.
Before I go into this article, I would like to confess that I have recently changed my position on the love of God. Before, I believed that God had grace and mercy on everyone regardless of their spiritual condition before Him and His love was exclusive to the Church (believers). As I searched the Scriptures, I was challenged by my former view of God’s love. I could see that God’s mercy and grace towards all mankind do come from His love for creation. I have recanted the unscriptural belief that God directs His love only to the Church.
The short answer to the question of God’s love is that God does not love everyone equally like a Father loves his child. However, we cannot address this topic lightly. This is not a trivial question. Love is just one of God’s attributes. It seems like God’s love is talked about, preached about and highlighted more than his other attributes. What about his holiness and wrath? What about his judgment and justice? The Bible clearly says that God is love. 1 John 4:8 says, He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. Scripture teaches us that God is love, but love is not God. It is important that we don’t make love a god. It is fundamental that we do not highlight one attribute over another, we must have a balanced belief. God is the very essence of love. If we are going to study this topic faithfully then we must get our view of God from God’s Word, not man’s view or our own personal opinion on the subject. Nor from what society views as love. The one true God has revealed himself to us in the pages of Holy Writ. He has told us what He is like.
If we fashion a god in our minds that is not in keeping with Scripture, we break the first commandment. Exodus 20:3, You shall have no other gods before me. If we create and worship a god other than the One of Scripture we commit the sin of idolatry and thus breach the holy law of God. For further reading about idolatry and the 10 Commandment read The Ten Commandment For Today by Brian H. Edwards.
Greek words for love.
In English, there is only one word for love. There are four Greek words for love. The four Greek words are agape, eros, philia and storge. Eros is the only Greek word for love that never appears in Scripture.
agape – This is the kind of love that is expressed in action, not feelings. A good example of this would be Christ going to the cross to pay the price for sinful men and women. In Matthew 5 we are commanded by God to love our enemies. We can love our enemies with agape love. We can do what is right for them. For example, we can help our enemy in need. We can share the Gospel with them. We can feed our enemy and take care of their physical needs. This kind of love is the one God has for his children. 1 John 3: 16 says, By this, we know love because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.
Eros – This is sexual passion. Eros is not mentioned in the Bible. It is very important to point out that our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ was never married and was never in a sexual relationship. He is the most full and complete person to ever walk the face of the earth. If we are saying that as human beings, we get our worth, identity and meaning from a sexual relationship what then are we saying about Jesus. We are in effect calling him subhuman. A sexual relationship is not the height of love nor is it the greatest form of love. Remember the Bible teaches us that the greatest form of love is Christ who not only laid down his life, but he paid the price for sin. Our identity should not find in a sexual relationship but in Christ. If we are saying the contrary, then we are saying that married people are of more value than single people or widows. I think it is interesting to note that every relationship Jesus had was a platonic one.
philia – This is the bond of friendship and that emotional connection to those closest to us. There is a city in the United States of America named after this Greek word. Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love. This Greek word for love is a dispassionate virtuous love between friends or equals. We would use this type of love to express our affection for our family.
storge – This type of love is used to express the affection parents show to their children. This is also the kind of love we have for our church family and fellow Christians. Romans 12: 10 says, Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honour giving preference to one another.
In the Gospel of John, the Lord Jesus Christ asked a very important question to Peter. In John’s last chapter and verse 15, Christ said, Simon, son of Jonas, do you love me more than these? I am sure you have read the account a number of times. Jesus questions Peter about his love for him three times. One thing you might not have realised is that there is a difference in the Greek words of love. Jesus asked Peter, do you agape me. Peter answers with a Philo love. Jesus asked Peter do you love me more than you love the other apostles and disciples. Three times did Jesus ask the question to Peter and three times did Peter deny knowledge of Christ. The same question is asked of us today.
In a world that is growing ever more secular and against the authority of Scripture, God commands us to affirm our love for truth and our faith in the Saviour. Do you love God? Do you truly love God? Do you love God more than anything? Christ said if you love Him, you, will keep His commandments. Can we say from the heart that we love God and His truth while committing sin or living a life of sin? There is nothing worse than a man who does not practice what he preaches. We must confront sin and repent of it. We must fight against sin and not tolerate that what sent Christ to the cross.
In Matthew 5 our Lord tells us to love our enemies. Christians who misunderstand this will find it very difficult to do. Jesus is not asking us to like our enemies. He is asking us to show a benevolent love to our enemies. For example, we can do what is right toward them. The Christian ought to show respect towards God by faithful following this commandment. We can give food and water to our enemies. We can show mercy toward them. The commandment to love our enemies does not mean we have to like them, but we do have to do good towards them.
Psalm 116:1, I love the LORD, because he has heard my voice and my supplication. This is the only place in Scripture where I love the LORD appears. The Psalmist writes he loves God because the LORD has heard his voice. God supplies the needs of the one who calls upon him. The covenant God of Israel hears the voice and answers the cry of his people. One cannot help but think of what the Apostle John wrote in his first letter, We love him because he first loved us.
C. H. Spurgeon wrote in his commentary on this Psalm A blessed declaration: every believer ought to be able to declare without the slightest hesitation, I love the Lord. If there is any doubt in your heart regarding your love or attitude towards God and His Word then confess that before Him. How can we say we love God and doubt His Word or attempt to justify our wrongs before him? Your attention is drawn to the above paragraph. Do you truly love God? Recently I have been thinking long and hard about my love for God. Is there any aspect of my life that needs to be confessed, repented over or even questioned by the Scripture? Remember there is no such thing as secret sins, as God sees and knows all things.
One of the worse sins we can commit is in private we live a life that is contrary to the one we live before the eyes of the world. Privately committing the most wicked of sins and then publicly presenting a persona of righteousness and godly living. Are we like the religious leaders of Jesus Christ day who were full of dead men’s bones? Are we a religious hypocrite? Are we really striving to be holy for the glory of God? Do we fight the battle against indwelling sin in the power of the Holy Spirit by the grace of our God? Or do we think that sin is no big deal, that it does not really matter if I keep it private? The eyes of the world might well be blind to your double-minded lifestyle, but the eyes of God see your lifestyle in the clearest of light. To love God means to obey his loving voice for our own good. To love God means to trust Him. To love God means to confess our sins before Him. To love God means to confess him before men. Do you really love the Lord with all your heart, soul and mind?
Scripture warns us, Be sure your sins will find you out (Numbers 32: 23). Many people have escaped earthly judgment and justice but make no mistake about it not a single soul will escape the divine and eternal judgment of the Almighty. This is good news, God is just. Wicked and evil men such as Adolf Hitler who escaped earthly judgment will face the consequences of their deeds and justice will be served in the afterlife. The Bible declares that every soul will give an account for the life they have lived on earth. We are accountable and one-day divine judgement will be executed. God has made one way to be declared righteous before Him. The blood of Christ which cleanse us from all sin. Christ is the sinner’s joy. Christ is the remedy of sin. Christ is the antidote for the sin-sick soul. If we repent and believe the Gospel we will be saved and counted among the citizens of Heaven.
The most well known and often misquoted verse in Holy Writ is John 3:16, For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. God’s love was shown at the cross, so all who trust in Him will not perish. This is what John 3:16 teaches. However, some have misquoted this verse as said, For God so loves the world… The verse says loved not loves.
God’s love is poured out on the entirety of mankind regardless if they are believers nor not. This love is shown in different ways and at different times. God’s love is manifest in his grace on all people. For example, God provides both the righteous and unrighteous with a place to live, money, a job, health, a family, wellbeing and other blessings. God’s grace is not just for those who trust in Him for salvation. Remember that God pours out grace on everyone at different points in their lives. The love mentioned in John 3:16 is a general love. I find it strange how many will quote loudly and proudly John 3:16, but will they have the same zeal, boldness of heart and confidence to quote John 3: 36 which declares, He that believes on the Son has everlasting life and he that believes not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.
Ezekiel 33:11 says, Say to them: As I live, says the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die, O house of Israel? It is the desire of God that men and women turn from their evil ways and live for Him. God has no pleasure in the death of wicked men and women, it is His desire that they live a righteous life and a godly one.
We are all by natural birth children of disobedience and thus children of the devil. By faith in Christ, we are born again to a new hope. Repentance and faith in the living Son of God make us a child of God. John 1:12 says, But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name. God grants the sinner the right to become a member of His family by faith in Christ. This is God#s saving love in action. When we become a believer the love of God changes to towards us. Now God loves us like a father loves his child. This is the most amazing gift we can be given by God, adopted into the family of God. Love is found at the cross, there is no greater love than this. True love cannot be found outside the cross.
In Scripture, the Church is referred to as the bride of Christ. Christ died for His bride and He loves His bride with an as everlasting love. There are conditions to this love, repent and believe the gospel. Hebrews 12: 6 testifies to this truth, For whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives. Due to the fact that God loves his own as a Father loves his child God will chasten and correct us when we go wrong and sin. It is God’s joy to teach us and discipline us and it ought to be our joy to receive His loving correction. If you have never experienced this chastening from God then serious questions need to be considered regarding your faith and salvation. Hebrews 12:8 teaches us, But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. Clearly, throughout the Word of God, there are distinctions of God’s love. God clearly does not love the uncovered in the same way as He loves the Church. 1 John 4 demonstrates this truth.
The first of the 10 Commandments teach us to love God. You shall have no other god before the One true God of Israel. Our love for God is based on His divine love for us. God’s love for us is not based on anything we have done. We haven’t earned God’s love. Titus 3: 3-7 says, For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy, He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
How we identify ourselves in the world is also very important. Are we known as one of Christ’s in the world? We ought to have the following in mind. I would rather be known by Him than this world, Known as His for His glory. I would rather have the love of Jesus than this world vanity. I would rather be led by His hand of grace than my own mortal flesh. I would rather have Jesus than anything man can offer me. I would rather be in full submission to His perfect will. I would rather lift up His most holy name than my own in the history books, for I know I can trust His glorious grace.
What does God love? In order to know God, we must read His word. God has revealed Himself to us in the pages of Holy Scripture. We cannot know the One true God outside of the Bible. Psalm 11:7 says, For the LORD is righteous, He loves righteousness; His countenance beholds the upright. The Bible teaches that God is a lover of righteousness and the righteous. God is against unrighteousness. Again in Psalm 33:5, this is repeated, He loves righteousness and justice; The earth is full of the goodness of the LORD. Psalm 45: 7 tells us that God loves righteousness and hates wickedness. Furthermore, in Psalm 37:28 David reminds us that the LORD loves justice and the wicked shall be cut off. There are many more passages to quote from the Book of Psalms that mentions God loves for righteousness. We can’t view God’s love without His holiness, goodness and righteousness.
By looking at the Bible I have established that God loves righteousness and holiness. Having said this what causes God to pour out His anger, wrath and judgment. The biblical text teaches that God is angry and pours out His wrath towards sin and those who commit sin. Psalm 5: 4-6 says, For You are not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness, nor shall evil dwell with You. The boastful shall not stand in Your sight; you hate all the workers of iniquity. Also in Psalm 7: 11, God is a just judge, and God is angry with the wicked every day.
If God is only love, He would never send sinners to Hell. In fact, God judging sinners and sin in an expression of His love as God cannot allow anything unholy into Heaven. The view that God is all and only love makes people think they can live however they please, even a life full of sin and God will still expect them. This is a lie. However, God is not all wrath because God has mercy and grace towards sinners. If God was all wrath then everyone would be thrown into hell, not a single soul would be spared the flames of Hell. All the attributes of God have to be viewed in the light of Scripture and understood as Scripture teaches.
God’s love towards His children is a special one. The Church is made up of the children of God. One of the tests of a true child of God is the Lord’s chastening and rebuke. I have mentioned this briefly above but I would like to go a little deeper. In Proverbs 3: 11-12 the Bible says, My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, nor detest His correction; For whom the LORD loves He corrects, just as a Father the son in whom he delights. This ties in with the verses from Hebrews. A loving parent will correct, teach and direct their child in the right way. A loving Father will discipline his child when the child has done wrong. Why? Because a Father loves the child and does not want the child to go down the wrong path, he will warn the child of the dangers and the consequences of wrong doing. Our Heavenly Father does the same. God will do all the things a loving Father should do. God has not given us the Bible to control us nor to take the fun out of things. Rather God has given us rules and commandments to live by because He loves his creation and does not want any harm to come to them.
In Revelation 3: 19 Christ is rebuking the lukewarm church of the Laodiceans. Our Lord said to them, As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. What Christ said to the lukewarm Christians can teach a great deal of good today. Read the whole account of the Lord’s rebuke to the Laodiceans (Rev 3: 14-22). Can you see that the Lord loves them so much that He does not want them to continue in sin. Christ calls them to REPENT! Is the Lord’s hand upon your life? Does Christ call you to repent today? Is there any sin in your heart that is preventing you from holiness and godliness? Is there anything need to confess to God today?
I will close with John 14: 23 – 24, Jesus answered and said to him, If anyone love Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make Our home with him. He who does not love Me does not keep My commandments; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father’s who sent Me. Is today the day you have realised that you do not love God as He deserves to be and commanded to be? I call on you today to reverence God, honour God, receive God and worship God.