Church Education Trust

Christian Belief

ST002/12 The Love of God.


The Love of God.

St.John is the New Testament writer who most clearly states the truth of love as God's nature and attribute, "God is love"; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in Him." (1 John 4:16). As we have already said the nature of God is holy love. "Both holiness and love are equally the essence of God. Holiness is descriptive of the purity, moral character, and excellence of the love of God.

The holiness of God requires that He always act out of pure love, and love must always win its object to holiness. The love of God is in fact the desire to impart holiness, and this desire is satisfied only when the beings whom it seeks are rendered holy." (Wiley Intro.pp,l04,105. Cf.also Rou.5:8 and 1 John 4:10).

Love, therefore, expresses God`s self-communication to men. It is His desire to impart His holiness and blessedness to mankind. Dr.Francis J.Hall calls love "the attribute by reason of which God wills a personal fellowship with Himself of those who arc holy or capable of being made so."

Dr.W.N.Clarke defines it as ''God`s desire to impart Himself and all good to other beings, and to possess them for His own spiritual fellowship". This loads us to the thought that however great may be the self-surrender and sacrifice in love, there is also a desire for the return of that love from the person loved, i.e, there is self-assertion.

Both must be there in true love and both must be equal. The love of true motherhood is an illustration of this. If self-assertion is not accompanied by an equal measure of self-surrender, the result is selfishness and not love. If self-surrender is too strong, then the result is weakness. God`s love is perfect, and the two fold desire to possess others for Himself and to impart Himself to others is properly balanced.

The source of divine love is in the nature of the Trinity itself. This point will come up again but sufficient to mention here that the communion and bond of love between the Father and the Son is vital and real and the organ of that love is a personal one, the Third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit Himself.

It is usually considered that love has two main forms, the love of benevolence and the love of complacency. A quotation from Dr.H.B.Smith will explain these, "The love of benevolence is that disposition of God or that form of modification of the divine love which leads God to desire to communicate happiness to all His sentient creatures, which leads Him to delight in all their happiness.

The love of complacency is that element in the divine love which leads God to communicate and delight in the holiness of His creatures. The love of benevolence may be considered as having respect to happiness, the love of complacency to holiness; but both make up the divine love, both together and not one alone. Complacency is taking pleasure in something. Benevolence is the disposition to do good to anyone." (System of Christ.Thool, p.38).

Two further ideas need to be considered in connection with love, the idea of blessedness and the idea of wrath. Blessedness is much stronger than happiness. It is akin to the peace and joy of our Lord which He promises to us (John 14:27; 15:11), and to the rest of faith (Heb.4:9).

Martensen says it is "expressive of a life which is complete in itself". It has been held that the idea of divine wrath is incompatible with divine love. The Scriptures however, speak clearly concerning the "wrath of God" and show likewise that it is not at variance with divine love.

Wrath is the obverse side of love and is absolutely necessary to the divine nature and even to love itself. It is the strong opposition that love must have to everything that is detrimental to the highest ends of God`s creation and to all that rebels against God`s holiness. If this rebellion is persisted in then God's wrath must be exercised against it just because God is love.

The Justice and Righteousness of God.

These two are usually taken together and the Scriptures do not seem to make a strong distinction. They are different, however, though both spring from holiness. Strong calls them transitive holiness.

Their relationship is shown in a quotation from Wiley, "The term holiness refers to the nature or essence of God as such while righteousness is His standard of activity in conformity with that nature. Righteousness is the foundation of the divine law, justice is the administration of that law. When we regard God as the author of our moral nature we conceive of Him as holy.

When we think of His holy nature as the standard of His action we conceive of Him as righteous. When we think of Him as administering His law in the bestownent of rewards and punishments we think of Him as just." (Intro.p.107). The following Scriptures refer to those attributes, Ps.19:9; 89:14; Isa.45:21; Zeph.3:5; Romans.2:6; Rev.15:3.

It is sometimes suggested that while God's holiness, righteousness and justice are unavoidable, love and mercy are optional. This is not so, nor is it true to God`s nature. Because of the very nature of God, He could do nothing alse than find a way of salvation for man, in the same way as He had to punish sin.

Truth as an Attribute of God.

Truth likewise is closely connected with holiness. There are two aspects of truth, veracity and faithfulness. "By veracity is meant that all of God's manifestations to His creatures are in strict conformity with His own divine nature." God is the God of truth, He cannot lie. He is committed in His very being to truthfulness and any deviation from such a standard would be impossible.

By faithfulness is meant "God`s fulfilment of His promises whether those promises are directly given in His Word or whether they are indirectly implied in the nature and constit- ution of man." He never fails to keep His promises. The following Scriptures refer to God's veracity. Ps.31:5; 117:2; 119:160 (R.V.); John J4:6; 17:17; Faithfulness is shown in Deut.32:4; Isa.40:8; 1 Thess.5:2L; 2 Thess. 3:3; 1 John 1:9.

Grace and its Related Attributes.

Grace and its related attributes can be considered as transitive love. John speaks of Christ as "full of grace and truth". Grace has been defined as "unmerited favour"; it is the outflow of all God's love and goodness to mankind.

All the other "graces" are but various forms of the love and goodness of God. They include mercy, forbearance and kindness or benevolence. (Sec Matt.9:36; Romans.2:4; Tit.3:4). The grace of God is universal and impartial, All may share it if they will (Ps.145:9; 103:11; 86:15).

A quotation from Augustine seems the best way to close this discussion of the attributes of God, It summarizes there in his own concise style, "Most merciful,yet most just; most hidden, yet most present; most beautiful, yet most strong; stable, yet incomprehensible; unchangeable, yet changing all things, never new, never old; renewing all things, yet bringing age upon the proud, though they know it not; ever at work, ever at rest; gathering, yet lacking nothing; supporting and filling and protecting; creating and nourishing and maturing; seeking, yet having all things. Thou lovest, yet Thou art not moved by passion; Thou art jealous, yet Thou art free from anxiety; Thou repentest, yet Thou dost not grieve; Thou art angry yet thou art calm; Thou changest the works, yet the design Thou dost not change; Thou receivest again what Thou dost find, yet thou hast never lost; Thou art never in need, yet Thou rejoicest in gains; Thou art never covetous, yet Thou exactest usury." (Confessions 1.4..)

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