A Love That Surpasses All Knowledge
Originally posted September 18, 2008 on Facebook
God has many attributes which are revealed in scripture. Likewise, there are many attributes of God’s love. After all, God is love, and he has many attributes. We can not ignore one attribute to the benefit of another or stress one to the detriment of the other, but at his very nature, “God is Love.” Love is often cited as an attribute of God, but it is so much more than just that. I like the quote from the article Definitions of Doctrine:
“Without love His justice would cut us off; His holiness would put us out of His sight; and His power would destroy us.” Love is the one hope of sinners, and our great concern should be to discover God’s love to us. The love that bought us also sought us and brought us to the place of safety.”
When talking about the attributes of God’s love, I think it’s important to keep in mind some frame work of the type of love we are talking about. I like this summary from the article, “How Has God Loved Us?” which calls us to remember that:
“He is not only love. He loves according to the counsel of His wisdom, His goodness, and His eternality. His love is not blind, or indulgent, or shortsighted. His love is tough, it’s tender, it’s on His terms rather than ours, and it’s for the sake of His glory rather than our desires.” (De Haan, Martin R.. How Has God Loved Us? RBC Ministries. David Sper. 1994. 7/14/2006)
Let’s take a look at some of God’s attributes and see how those attributes are manifested and/or reflected in God’s love. The following is not intended to be a comprehensive listing of the attributes of God’s love, but it’s a good place to start.
God’s love is eternal – a comment not only on the quantity or length of God’s love but also on the quality of it. God’s love is infinite in length and immeasurable in terms of quality.
God himself is infinite – a concept which is hard for us as human beings to get our head’s around. It’s best summarized in Revelation 1:8 where John records the words of God:
“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.” (Revelation 1:8)
Because God is love, it follows that if God is infinite, his love must also be infinite. In the book of Romans, the Bible tell us that nothing can separate us from the love of our creator and savior. This is perhaps the strongest and clearest verse in the Bible on this subject.
35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:35-39)
What a reassuring promise this is! Nothing in all of the universe or beyond can ever separate us from the eternal love of our almighty God. Nothing we can ever do will increase God’s love for us, and nothing we fail to do will ever decrease God’s love for us. Is it any wonder that our enemy, the devil, seems to spend most of his time either 1) trying to convince us that God really doesn’t love us at all, or 2) trying to cheapen God’s love by convincing us that God loves everybody and accepts them all no matter what they do.
In fighting these deceptions perpetrated by the evil one, we need only remember that God’s word is a double edged sword and find comfort in the truth of his word. So, what else does God tell us about his love? Psalm 103:17 tells us that God’s love is from “everlasting to everlasting.” The Lord himself tells Israel that his love is eternal:
The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying:
“I have loved you with an everlasting love;
I have drawn you with loving-kindness. (Jeremiah 31:3)
God loves us despite the fact that he knows everything there is to know about us. He invites us to continue to draw from his inexhaustible supply of love.
God’s love is infinitely better than anything we can even imagine in this world. It is not an emotional love that fades with time but an intelligent love which is eternal. It is unbounded, unlimited, unsearchable, immeasurable, incomparable, and incomprehensible.
Any attempt to explain the fullness and depth of God’s love is destined to fall far short. Indeed, trying to comprehend God’s love, it is critical that we imagine the greatest love possible then realize that God’s love is so far greater than that that we can not even fathom it. The Psalmist echoes the unfathomable nature of God’s love:
Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise;
His greatness no one can fathom. (Psalm 145:3)
Paul tells us that we will only truly understand it when perfection comes:
but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. (1 Corinthians 13:10,12b)
We are no more capable of seeing heaven than understanding the extent of God’s love for us.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us. (Psalm 103:11-12)
God is not bound by space, therefore he is everywhere. God, in his holiness is so far apart from us that the Bible tells us no one has ever seen God. However, he is also everywhere. He does not just sit in some celestial viewing room and watch as the events of this world unfold. He is everywhere, and his love is everywhere. There is no escaping from God’s love. David realized this when he prayed to God:
7 Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast. (Psalm 139:7-10)
There is no escaping from an omnipresent God. When we are hurt, his love is our bandage. When we are in despair, his love lifts us up. When we are lost, his love guides us. And when we were dead in our sins, his love gives us life. So, what does it all mean? How should we react to the truth that God and his love are everywhere? We should do what David did at the end of this Psalm and ask God:
23 Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting. (Psalm 139:23-24)
When it comes to love, we should pray for God’s guidance and then pray that he would give us the strength to follow the guidance.
There is an old song that goes “What the world needs now is love.” On the contrary, the world is full of love because God’s love permeates everything.
The earth is filled with your love, O LORD;
teach me your decrees. (Psalm 119:64)
What the world really needs is to tap into that real love, and the only way to do that is to get right with God.
While we are in the Psalms anyhow, there is a beautiful Psalm, written by David, which really captures the omnipresence of God and God’s love with some beautiful imagery.
5 Your love, O LORD, reaches to the heavens,
your faithfulness to the skies.
6 Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains,
your justice like the great deep.
O LORD, you preserve both man and beast.
7 How priceless is your unfailing love!
Both high and low among men
find refuge in the shadow of your wings.
8 They feast on the abundance of your house;
you give them drink from your river of delights.
9 For with you is the fountain of life;
in your light we see light. (Psalm 36:5-9)
God’s love reaches all the way to the heavens, and he faithfully displays that love to those who follow him. His holiness in his justice and his righteousness are compared to the greatest heights and depths known to man. We exist out of God’s great love and mercy. All men, no matter what their position in life or how successful they are in the view of the world, are equal under the comforting shadow of our loving God. God provides for our every need when we allow him to, and his light should guide us in our journey.
I think the key point is to be found in the middle of this passage. “How priceless is your unfailing love!” There is no treasure worth more, or more worth pursuing, than God’s love. We are reminded once again that God’s love does not change. It is immutable. It is unfailing. In our lives, people will come and go, careers will change, finances will ebb and flow. Loved ones will dies, and we, God willing, will grow old and wither ourselves. Seasons change, allegiances change, and feelings change. The one constant in our lives is our awesome God and his unfailing love. It should be the thread which binds together the fabric of our lives.
3. Immutable (does not change, not diminished)
We’ve already touched a little bit on the immutability of God and his love. James reaffirms the providence of God we saw in Psalm 139:
Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. (James 1:17)
This truth, and applying it to our lives, will change the way we view everything in this world. Every good thing we have, or ever will have, has been given to us by our loving God out of his grace and mercy – not because we deserve it, but because he loves us. And, our loving God does not change his mind or shift his opinion “like shifting shadows” as people often do.
We see in both the Old and the New Testaments the confirmation that the Lord does not change.
“I the LORD do not change. So you, O descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed. (Malachi 3:6)
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8)
“Yesterday and today and forever,” the character of Christ has always been, and will always be, the same. The verse from Malachi reminds us that the immutability of God keeps us from destruction.
In a changing world, Jesus never changes. There is a lot of peace and comfort in that knowledge. We do not trust in a God who tells us one thing then does another. We do not hope in a God who promises one thing then delivers another. Our faith is placed firmly in a loving God who had a plan from the beginning and knew the ending before time ever existed.
God’s love is not fleeting, and he does not remove it from us. He may discipline us out of his love (indeed he promises to do that to those adopted as sons), but he will never take his love from us. In Psalm 89, God says of David,
I will not take my love from him, nor will I ever betray my faithfulness. (Psalm 89:33)
God created us for good works from the beginning of time, and it is his will that we fulfill them.
For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10)
God can make anything happen on his own, but in his love he gives us grace to accomplish the tasks he has laid before us.
Psalm 136 captures fully the immutable nature of God’s love. Psalm 136, in speaking of God, says 26 separate times that, “His love endures forever!” Each verse ends with this brilliant confirmation of God’s enduring love. This liturgy was likely recited by a Levitical song leader with the chorus answering each statement with the beautiful chorus, “His love endures forever!” In a wonderful model of praise, this Psalm first offers thanks, then recounts the awesome nature of God (in this case as it relates to creation), the deliverance of God (in the Exodus), the power of God (in conquest), the salvation of God (who remembers us), and the provision of God (who gives food to every creature).
At its very core, God’s love is sacrificial, and the greatest expression of that love is also the most sacrificial action in human history:
9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. (1 John 4:9-12)
The full extent of God’s love is demonstrated in the cross of Christ.
It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love. (John 13:1)
God made the biggest sacrifice in the history of humanity when he took on human form to die for our sins. He gave up majesty to be born in a manger. He came to earth to be shunned by his own creation. And, he was obedient to the father unto death:
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death—
even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:8)
The question remains, why? Was it really necessary for God to come to earth in human form to die on a cross and for our sins? And, if so, how should one react to that act of sacrificial love?
The simple truth is that we have all sinned.
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23)
No matter how hard we try, we all sin both in acts of commission and omission. Because of the fall of man, we are all born with a sin nature, and nothing we can do in our own power changes that.
Furthermore, the Bible tells us that the consequence of sin is death
For the wages of sin is death, (Romans 6:23a)
That death takes a physical form, as in the only two things in life that are certain are death and taxes. More importantly than our physical death though, the death resulting from sin also includes a spiritual aspect. Our sin alienates of from the perfect, holy and righteous God who created us for all eternity. The entire old testament sacrificial system was a picture of the idea that the only payment for sin involves death.
Fortunately for us though, God through his grace and mercy provided a substitute to pay for our sins:
but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23b)
Salvation, and the eternal life that results, can not be earned.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
Salvation is a free gift from our gracious and loving God. Through his sacrificial love, God sent his son to take the penalty for all of our sins – past, present, and future. Jesus paid the price for our sins so that we don’t have too. God asks only that we acknowledge our sin and cry out to Jesus to be saved:
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)
That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. (Romans 10:9-10)
It is not a sacrifice to give up that which costs us nothing. David provides a classic example of this sacrificial spirit. When plaque was besieging Jerusalem, and David went to the threshing floor of Araunah to offer a sacrifice to God.
22 Araunah said to David, “Let my lord the king take whatever pleases him and offer it up. Here are oxen for the burnt offering, and here are threshing sledges and ox yokes for the wood. 23 O king, Araunah gives all this to the king.” Araunah also said to him, “May the LORD your God accept you.”
24 But the king replied to Araunah, “No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.” (2 Samuel 24:22-24)
As discussed above, the ultimate expression of God’s sacrificial love is in the death of Christ on the cross in payment for our sins:
16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. (John 3:16-18)
God’s love is not just some distant and removed love. It is also a very personal love. When we accept Christ as Lord and savior, we are given the Holy Spirit who comes and lives inside of us. In theological terminology, we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit. How much more personal of a relationship could we have with God than to have him living inside of us?
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)
When we are adopted into God’s family, we become co-heirs of the kingdom with Christ. Romans 8:15 tells us:
For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” (Romans 8:15)
The closest English equivalent to the word “Abba” is “Daddy.” It is a term of personal intimacy. This is the same name used for God the Father by Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane:
“Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” (Mark 14:36)
We are also told this is the name the Holy Spirit uses for the father:
6 Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir. (Galatians 4:6-7)
Abba was a very personal and loving term for father in Greek. As for our father, our Abba, God doesn’t require much of us. In the words of the prophet Micah:
He has showed you, O man, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8)
We are to walk humbly with the Lord. Whenever I read this verse, it conjures up images for me of a four-year-old walking hand-in-hand with his or her Daddy and smiling ear-to-ear just to have this moment to spend time with him, comforted by the strong grip of his oversized hand, in awe of this giant man they call Daddy, and longing to grow up to be just like him. This is a picture of our intimate relationship with God.
So, the Bible tells us that our relationship with God is like that of a loving parent with their child. There are other verses in scripture where God compares his relationship to us to the relationship between a husband and a wife.
For your Maker is your husband—
the LORD Almighty is his name—
the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer;
he is called the God of all the earth. (Isaiah 54:5)
The idea of the marriage relationship, an institute created by God as a picture of his relationship with us, speaks to the intimacy and transparency of his relationship with us. Keep in mind that when God compares his relationship with us to a marriage, he is talking about his ideal marriage – marriage as he created to be before the fall of man. We should never let our image of God be distorted to conform to the mangled image of marriage in our culture today.
God’s is a relational being. Our God is a trinity, three persons in one God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It is because of this that God says, “let us make men in our image.” A discussion of the trinity is well beyond the scope of this study which is fortunate because it’s also beyond the realm of my understanding. But, the important point here is that God is relational, and he created man in his own image – so man is also relational. After God created Adam, he exclaimed “it is not good for man to be alone,” and he created woman. God decided even he was not enough for Adam. Humans require companionship with other humans. From the very beginning, God created us in his image to display his love which is relational.
God’s love does not exist in a vacuum. No love could so exist. Love requires an object, and for God that object is us. His love is not distant or removed; it is not merely spoken. God’s love is relational. God’s desire is that we share in the same type of perfect love that has existed since eternity past between Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
God’s love is shown through our relationships with others. God calls us into love relationships similar to the love relationship he has with us.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. (John 13:34) (MSG)
It is through these relationships that we grow towards complete unity.
20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: 23 I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. (John 17:20-23)
We serve a perfect God. He does not make mistakes. He is perfectly holy, perfectly judging and perfectly loving. Everything God does is perfect. As the Psalmist wrote:
As for God, his way is perfect;
the word of the LORD is flawless.
He is a shield
for all who take refuge in him. (Psalm 18:30)
God’s love is perfect. Unfortunately for us, the truth of God’s perfect love is not always consistent with what we want in our lives. God’s love is perfect; it is not pampering. He is not interested in letting us do whatever we want. To do that would be the least loving thing he could do. No, God’s love is interested in perfecting us because he loves us. God sanctifies us. His ultimate goal is to make our love perfect like his, and being perfect isn’t about what we want. Only God knows how to love perfectly. As his creation, we have to accept that even those things which we feel are cruel, unfair, or unbearable are born ultimately out of God’s love. He calls us to love others like he loves us. He calls us to be perfect like him.
46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:46-48)
God’s impossible calling is for us to be like him and to love like him. I’m reminded here of the lyrics of a song from one of my favorite Christian artists – Chris Rice. The song is “Love Like Crazy” and lyrics are:
I heard a rumor that love will make you crazy
Well is it true?
Well that’s no rumor, look at the crazy things that love made Jesus do
The friends he chose were thought to be outrageous
And you could even find him touching the contagious
And the craziest is how he chose to save us
He gave his life away
Then he had to go and say
“Gotta love the same way that I love you!”
Love like crazy
We gotta love like crazy
We gotta love like crazy
The way he loves you and me
‘Cause if the world’s ever gonna change
We gotta love like crazy
God does not call us to a standard of love beyond what he has already shown to us. Imagine what kind a change that kind “of crazy” love would bring to the world if we practiced it. So, God calls us to this ridiculously high standard (by human reasoning) knowing full well that we can never attain it.
We will look in significantly more detail later at what Paul had to say to the Christians in Corinthian, but Paul recognizes that we will never attain the perfect standard of God this side of heaven when he writes:
when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. (1 Corinthians 13:10)
Fortunately for us, God does not just set an impossible standard and leave us to have at it. Rather, once we turn our lives over to him, he begins to transform us from inside out, and he works with us to move us in the direction of fulfilling this lofty goal. He judges us based on our obedience in moving towards that goal and not on whether we achieve it. The truth of the matter is, God knows we will never achieve his standard. That is why Christ had to come and die on the cross for our sins.
God’s love is merciful and supportive. The Psalmist writes:
When I said, “My foot is slipping,”
your love, O LORD, supported me. (Psalm 94:18)
It is probably useful to pause for just a moment to define some terms. Grace is giving someone something they don’t deserve. Mercy is not giving someone what they do deserve. God’s love exhibits both characteristics of love and mercy. He is the God of love (2 Corinthians 13:11), the God of peace (Romans 15:33), and the God of all grace (1 Peter 5:10).
God’s grace is sufficient. When we turn to God in our weakness, he supplies our strength. The Lord is our strength and our refuge. Proverbs tells us:
The name of the LORD is a strong tower;
the righteous run to it and are safe. (Proverbs 18:10)
God’s love should be the foundation of our lives. In Matthew 7:24-27, Jesus tells the parable of the wise and foolish builders who built there houses on the foundations of rock (following the words of Jesus) and sand (no following the words of Jesus). The builder who built on the solid rock foundation weathered the storm, but the builder with the flimsy foundation saw his house destroyed. Likewise, our lives must be built on the solid foundation of God’s love. If we do that, we will not be swept away by the storms of this world. God, and his love, really is all we need.
The Psalmist tells us, in speaking of God,
My soul clings to you;
your right hand upholds me. (Psalm 63:8)
The power of Jesus holds the entire world together (Colossians 1:17). It is no surprise then that God’s love supports and sustains us.
Our encouragement and strength come from God. Through his grace and mercy, God’s love comforts us.
16 May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, 17 encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word. (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17)
Jesus expressed God’s desire to comfort us in his lament over the city of Jerusalem.
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! (Luke 13:34)
These words, spoken to the Israelites, reveal how God’s wish is to comfort us and our natural tendency is to push him away.
Focusing on the reality of God’s love keeps us from seeking our security elsewhere. When we accept and comprehend the breadth of God’s love, we no longer look elsewhere for our comfort and security. In a world that seeks its comfort in jobs, investment accounts, houses, husbands, wives, friends, health, status and more, the reality of God’s love is revolutionary which leads nicely into our next section. Our strength comes from God. We will never be truly content until we realize that true contentment comes only from one source – Jesus Christ.
10. Life Changing
The reality of God, and God’s love, is an absolutely life changing reality. We were created by God in his image, and when we accept Christ as Lord and Savior, he begins to transform us from the inside out to return us back to his original image for humankind. The Bible tells us that:
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! (2 Corinthians 5:17)
22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:22-24)
It is God’s love that created us a certain way, it is God’s love that saves us, and it is God’s, through his power, that turns our love upside down and begins the process of transforming us from the inside out to return us to the way we were originally created.
God’s love is better than life. It is because of, and through, God’s love that we are transformed. The change God’s love creates in us should lead us to a life of praise and service.
3 Because your love is better than life,
my lips will glorify you.
4 I will praise you as long as I live,
and in your name I will lift up my hands.
5 My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods;
with singing lips my mouth will praise you.
6 On my bed I remember you;
I think of you through the watches of the night.
7 Because you are my help,
I sing in the shadow of your wings. (Psalm 63:3-7)
True Christians are changed by God’s love. Their hope, their outlook, their feelings, their motivations, their relationships and their actions are all changed, and they are changed by God’s love.
In Daniel 6, we read one of the most famous stories of the Old Testament – Daniel and the Lion’s Den.
Daniel worked for King Darius during his exile in Babylon. King Darius ruled over the Medo-Persian Empire which had displaced the Babylonian Empire. King Darius appointed 120 men to rule over his kingdom. These men reported to three other men (one of whom was Daniel) whose job was to see that the King’s interests were protected. When two of Daniel’s co-workers became jealous of him, they searched desperately for a way to discredit him before the King. Much to their chagrin, Daniel was above reproach so they hatched an underhanded and sinister plan. They used Daniel’s love and faithfulness to God, and King Darius’ pride, to concoct a plan to do away with Daniel. Knowing full well that Daniel would remain faithful to his God, the two wise men approached the King and played to his ego and pride. They convinced the King to issue an edict which forbid anyone in the kingdom from worshipping any God other than the King for a period of 30 days. When Daniel continued to pray to the one true God, he was arrested and sentenced to spend the night in the lions’ den. Under Medo-Persian law, the King could not reverse the edict he had previously issued, and the Bible tells us that the King was severely grieved the night Daniel had to spend in the lions’ den. Even though he loved Daniel, King Darius’ love was ineffectual. Despite being the King of the most powerful kingdom on Earth, there was nothing King Darius could do to save Daniel. The NIV reads:
When the king heard this, he was greatly distressed; he was determined to rescue Daniel and made every effort until sundown to save him. (Daniel 6:14)
God’s love, on the other hand, is effectual. As the creator and ruler of the entire universe, he has the power to do whatever his loves dictates. In Daniel’s case, God’s love muzzled the mouths of those lions and kept him safe. Where human love had failed Daniel, God’s love never fails.
We love our kids, but there are circumstances where we are powerless to help them. God’s love doesn’t have this problem. He loves us completely and he has the absolute power to do something about it.
12. Sovereign / Omniscient
When we, as Christians, accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, God adopts us as his children. However, before we ever accepted Christ, God chose us.
4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5 he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will (Ephesians 1:4-5)
Before God created the world and started the hands of time, we were chosen to be part of his family.
All of creation was made by God and for God to bring glory to his name.
For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. (Colossians 1:16)
God rules over everything. He is absolutely sovereign. It is because of his love that he rules over us by his benevolent monarchy.
For from him and through him and to him are all things.
To him be the glory forever! Amen. (Romans 11:36)
God chooses what to do based on his total and complete knowledge of us, and not based on what we want him to do. He loves us in spite of the fact that we are unlovely.
Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden. (Romans 9:18)
It is arrogant of us to think that we could in any way influence our creator and the ruler of the whole earth.
But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’ “ (Romans 9:20)
God alone chooses the object of his love. Take for example the case of Jacob and Esau in the Old Testament. In the following verses we see that God chose to put his love on Jacob and not on Esau.
2 “I have loved you,” says the LORD.
“But you ask, ‘How have you loved us?’
“Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?” the LORD says. “Yet I have loved Jacob, 3 but Esau I have hated, and I have turned his mountains into a wasteland and left his inheritance to the desert jackals.”
Just as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” (Romans 9:13)
God has the choice, and he chose Israel in the Old Testament as the object of his love.
6 For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession. 7 The LORD did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. 8 But it was because the LORD loved you and kept the oath he swore to your forefathers that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. 9 Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands. (Deuteronomy 7:6-9)
God did not choose Israel to be the children of God because he loved them. He loved them because he chose them. The fact of the matter is, God chooses who to love.
God loves us perfectly and completely regardless of how we perform or what we do. His love continues even when, and in spite of the fact that, we don’t respond to it. The Old Testament is replete with examples where the Israelites turned from God. The Israelites had not even crossed the Red Sea yet when they lost faith in God and complained to Moses;
Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!” (Exodus 14:12)
Over and over, Exodus recalls the Israelites’ grumblings against God, and God’s forgiveness of his chosen people. From manna to quail to water from the rock to the spies, we read about God’s choice to continue to love his people. The book of Judges, years after the Exodus, tells the cycle of the Israelites falling away from God and doing evil, only to have God save them by raising up a judge. 1 Samuel 8 tells us about how the Israelites insisted on having a King as a result of their lack of faith, and the Books of Kings and Chronicles tell of the wicked acts of the Israelite kings. Through it all, God continued with his ultimate plan for salvation. He loves us perfectly and completely regardless of how we perform.
God does not love us because we are worthy. On the contrary, our worth comes only through God’s love for us.
13. Holy / Righteous / Just / Pure
The holy nature of God’s love is one we would just as rather ignore if given the choice. The truth of the matter is that God’s love can never conflict with his holiness. God disciplines us to make us perfect as he is perfect. He does not discipline us because he is disgusted by us, even though our actions certainly warrant disgust. He disciplines us because he is holy, and in his love, he desires us to be holy like him.
God’s happiness is found in holiness. God’s love is not sloppy or soft or indulgent. God doesn’t just give us what we think we want and turn away. The holy nature of God’s love is underemphasized in today’s church. Many people think of God as a jeanie in a bottle – there to answer our every wish and command. However, a holy and true love must encourage holiness in its object. Our holiness is found in our obedience to God’s commands. Love and obedience are consistently grouped together in scripture. Here is a sampling of those verses:
Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands. (Deuteronomy 7:9)
Love the LORD your God and keep his requirements, his decrees, his laws and his commands always. (Deuteronomy 11:1)
If you love me, you will obey what I command. (John 14:15)
Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.” (John 14:21)
23 Jesus replied, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24 He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me. (John 14:23-24)
And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love. (2 John 1:6)
Other such verses include:
- Exodus 20:6
- Deuteronomy 5:9-10
- Deuteronomy 6:5-6
- Deuteronomy 7:12
- Deuteronomy 10:12-13
- Deuteronomy 11:13
- Deuteronomy 11:22
- Deuteronomy 30:6-8
- Deuteronomy 30:9-10
- Deuteronomy 30:16
- Joshua 22:5
- Psalm 119:47-48
- Nehemiah 1:5
- Daniel 9:4
- John 15:10
- 1 John 2:5
- 1 John 5:3
In the world today, it is much more fashionable to talk about a God who accepts any behavior because what loving God could condemn a person to hell? In reality, God is so pure, so perfect, so holy, that absent his love and grace, we could never even enter his presence. This seems like the appropriate time to talk about God’s unconditional love.
To say God’s love is unconditional is a bit of a misnomer. Based on the Bible, God’s love seems to have two separate expressions. God does love everyone, as in:
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)
God does love everyone, but certain people are selected, and of their own free will, enter the kingdom of God. I do not pretend to understand the doctrine of predestination. To me, trying to understand how we can both have free will and be pre-destined is slightly harder than comprehending the concept of trinity (one god, three persons). A discussion is way beyond the scope of this study. Regardless, God’s love for the sovereignly chosen elect is unconditional. There is no doubt that, in God’s sovereign wisdom, those chosen to be children of God are treated differently than those who are not. So, God’s love cannot truly be said to be conditional. It is conditional upon our acceptance of him into our lives as Lord and Savior. God’s love is holy and because of his holiness he demands the same from us. Fortunately, through his great mercy, God has provided a way for us to be washed clean of our sins through the blood of Jesus Christ. Once we have accepted the gift of God’s salvation, he, in his love, begins the process of making us more like him.
In the world, there is a common expression that says, “Nobody’s perfect.” From a biblical perspective, there has only ever been one perfect human being, and that is our Lord Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, in this world, the mantra “Nobody’s perfect” has often become an excuse for not even trying. As Christians we must understand that, even though we will never be perfect, we must continue to strive for that goal.
Because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy. (Hebrews 10:14)
Only once we get to heaven and are perfect, made so by the cleansing blood of Christ, are we able to enter the presence of a perfect God.
Why is that? Why is the standard for getting into heaven set at the level of perfection?
Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:48)
Imagine, if you will, a system where God allowed a little imperfection, just a little sin, into heaven. Let’s put the bar just below whatever you’ve done in your life. Everyone as good as you or better gets in, anyone who has done worse than you goes to hell. What’s the problem with such a system? Well, first, you could never know exactly where the bar was set until you die. Suppose the bar was set based on your neighbor’s life instead of your life, and he spent one more weekend helping a friend move than you did in your life? What a travesty it would be to get to the gates of heaven and find out this wasn’t your stop – you JUST missed it! If only you hadn’t cheated on that biology test in 8th grade! If only you had called your mother last weekend to wish her Happy Birthday instead of going to the game! If only you hadn’t cut that older woman off in traffic because you were late for work! Yes, in this system, you could never have any assurance of your salvation, but let’s get back to our hypothetical.
In this example, you know your ticket has been stamped “paradise” because your life sets the bar – you’re in! So, what’s the problem? The problem is, now there is imperfection in heaven, and the problems that beleaguered this world start to show up again in heaven. You’re a little bit proud, right? So pride finds its way into heaven and starts growing and multiplying like a weed. You’re a little bit self-centered, we all are, right? So, people in heaven start to look out for themselves and their loved ones, and others are left out in the cold, in heaven! God, who is holy, could not exist in such an imperfect heaven. He would be forced to create some new Heaven, a Heaven 2.0 if you will, to save us from the 1st heaven, and so on and so forth into perpetuity. Let us not forget, that God designed the world we live in now to be perfect. Turn on the news tonight and see how far we have fallen because a little sin found its way in.
We’ve all, in our own way, eaten the fruit of the forbidden tree. We’ve all, in numerous ways, chosen our own path over God’s. Why would we think that a heaven with a little sin would end up any differently than the world we’re living in today? It just makes sense that the standard for getting into heaven is perfection because perfection can not exist alongside imperfection. Fortunately, through God’s love and grace, we are made perfect by the blood of Christ.
This should be our sole desire in life – to follow the path of our creator and savior. This desire was aptly expressed by the Psalmist:
My steps have held to your paths; my feet have not slipped. (Psalm 17:5)
Oftentimes, the means God uses to perfect us is discipline. God’s discipline is an outgrowth of his love. We shouldn’t hope for God’s punishment, but we should relish it. And, we should learn from it when he is gracious enough to discipline us. It is in his love that God uses discipline to help us grow in our relationship with him.
5 And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons:
“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,
and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
6 because the Lord disciplines those he loves,
and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.”
7 Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? 8 If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. 9 Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! 10 Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. (Hebrews 12:5-10)
In today’s world where, “God is my best friend!” and “Jesus is my homeboy!” it is easy to overlook the holiness of God’s love. Let us never forget that it is the holiness of God’s love that works to perfect us and make our lives conform to the image of God.
So there we have it – 13 attributes of God which manifest themselves in his love. Perhaps the most important thing we need to remember about God’s love is the following:
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)