7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. – 1 John 4:7-8 ESV
9 God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. – 1 John 4:9 NLT
3 “I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love.
With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself.” – Jeremiah 31:3 NLT
O love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure
The saints’ and angels’ song – Frederick M. Lehman, The Love of God, 1917
God doesn’t just express love, He is love. It is His very nature. Love is not some feeling or outward expression that he conjures up in response to something or someone that is lovely or loveable. No, what sets God apart from humanity is His lovingness (if that is even a word).
God is the very definition of love. And all His other attributes are infused and closely intertwined with His love. His power is always displayed in love. And His love never lacks the strength or energy to express itself. God’s holiness is directly linked to His love. Without love, His holiness or set-apartness could make God unapproachable and unknowable. But because God is love, He has made Himself available to and knowable by mankind.
For since the creation of the world his invisible attributes—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, because they are understood through what has been made. So people are without excuse… – Romans 1:20 NLT
Luke supports Paul’s conclusion when he writes that God “did not leave himself without witness, for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness” (Acts 14:17 ESV). And he goes on to describe how God, the all-powerful creator of the universe, has lovingly and graciously made Himself known to mankind.
From one man He made every nation of men, to inhabit the whole earth; and He determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their lands.
God intended that they would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us. – Acts 17:26-27 BSB
God desires that men might know Him. Why? Because it is through a knowledge of God that men recognize His love for them. It is the love of this all-powerful, holy, and transcendent God that caused Him to send His Son as the payment for mankind’s sin.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” – John 3:16 ESV
Jesus, the Son of God, was the greatest expression of His Father’s love, having taken on human flesh and come to earth that He might be Immanuel – God with us.
No one has ever seen God. But the unique One, who is himself God, is near to the Father’s heart. He has revealed God to us. – John 1:18 NLT
Jesus even made the bold claim, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father!” (John 14:9 NLT). God’s love was manifested or made visible through the birth, death, and resurrection of His Son.
God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. – Ephesians 1:4 NLT
Love is invisible to the human eye, but that doesn’t mean it is unperceivable. And while God Himself cannot be seen, His love can be experienced and appreciated. It can be felt, enjoyed, relished, and returned. When we understand just how much God loves us, it creates in us a desire to love Him in return.
This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. – 1 John 4:10 NLT
And it is when we understand that the God of the universe loves us that we are able to express love to the rest of humanity, whom He has made.
We love each other because he loved us first. – 1 John 4:19 ESV
But our love will always pale in comparison to that of God. His love is infinite and holy, while ours is limited and marred by selfishness and self-centeredness. We tend to love, expecting love in return. Ours is a conditional kind of love, while His is unconditional, demanding nothing from us in return.
No tongue can fully express the infinitude of God’s love, or any mind comprehend it: it “passeth knowledge” (Eph 3:19). The most extensive ideas that a finite mind can frame about divine love, are infinitely below its true nature. The heaven is not so far above the earth as the goodness of God is beyond the most raised conceptions which we are able to form of it. It is an ocean which swells higher than all the mountains of opposition in such as are the objects of it. It is a fountain from which flows all necessary good to all those who are interested in it. – John Brine, 1743
What makes God’s love so remarkable is that He showered it on us in spite of us. He didn’t demand that we get our spiritual act together. He didn’t require that we stop sinning and start living righteous lives before He would love us. No, according to the apostle Paul, God loved us while we were mired in the midst of our sinfulness and rebellion against Him.
When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. – Romans 5:6-8 NLT
We have a difficult time relating to that kind of love because we tend to love the lovely and loveable. We put conditions on our love. And we demand that those we love show us love in return. But, fortunately for mankind, that is not how God operates. God’s love is a purely holy love. “God’s love is not regulated by caprice, passion, or sentiment, but by principle. Just as His grace reigns not at the expense of it, but “through righteousness” (Rom 5:21), so His love never conflicts with His holiness” (A. W. Tozer, The Attributes of God).
God’s love is always sacrificial and constantly beneficial. And while it may sometimes take the form of tough love, it always results in our good. As the proverbs states, “the LORD corrects those he loves, just as a father corrects a child in whom he delights” (Proverbs 3:12 NLT). His love is never smothering or manipulative. It is not a controlling kind of love. At no time does God preface His love with the thought, “What am I going to get out of this?”
In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul lists the qualities associated with godly love. “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7 NLT).
That is the love of God spelled out in terms we can understand and even emulate. But unlike God, we are incapable of expressing this kind of love perfectly and selflessly this side of heaven. Yet, as we grow to understand the incredible nature of His divine love for us, we can better appreciate how undeserving we are and turn that unmerited affection into tangible expressions of love for others.
God loves you. How much? He sent His Son to die for you. And there are not enough words in the human vocabulary or days on the calendar to fully describe just how great His love truly is. Frederick M. Lehman put it so eloquently in his great old hymn, The Love of God.
And were the skies of parchment made
Were every stalk on earth a quill
And every man a scribe by trade
Would drain the ocean dry
Nor could the scroll contain the whole
Though stretched from sky to sky
English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.