Vol. 4, No. 4
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In 1 John 4:8 we read, "He who does not love does not know God for God is love." We find this to be a very interesting and compelling statement because it tells us something about the nature of the God whom we worship and for whom we live. The passage defines the very essence of God as being love. In order for us to understand the nature or character of God as it is defined in this passage of Scripture, we must come to a proper understanding of the word "love." This is especially true in the time in which we live because the word "love" is used to describe almost any positive emotion that a human being might have. We "love" everything from pets to pizza! We love certain movies and certain people. The word is used in such a broad sense that about the only thing that we come up with when we speak of God being love is a question mark.
The latter part of the verse says, for God is agape. Agape is the Greek word that is most commonly used in the New Testament for "love." This is the word that is used in such great passages as 1 Corinthians the 13th chapter. It would be hard to guess and interesting to learn just how many times this word is used in the New Testament. But what is more important than the number of times the word is used is what the word means. According to the Analytical Greek Lexicon, the word has many shades of meaning. These are set forth in the following definition taken from the same source. "To value, esteem, feel or manifest generous concern for, be faithful towards, to delight in, to set store by, to show generosity, kindly concern, devotedness toward." Notice, if you will please, that there is very little in this definition that is attached to the concept of sentimentality, and a great deal that is attached to intelligence, though these two things are not mutually exclusive.
In the verse preceding the one from which we quoted, the Holy Spirit said that love is of God. We understand this to mean that God is the source of all agape that is on the earth, both that which emanates from him and that which man has learned to show to his fellow man. This means that we have learned to value, esteem, show a generous concern for others, be faithful toward others, to find delight in others, to show generosity toward others, to be devoted to others and to God, and to show kindness toward others because we have learned all these characteristics of love from God. We have learned to experience this kind of love because we have had it given to us by God.
How have we learned this kind of love from God? There are, no doubt, many ways in which we have done that, but John told us in this passage that we love God because he has demonstrated that kind of love to us. Nothing is better than a demonstration, and one can learn twice as much twice as quickly from a demonstration than he can from a mere explanation. But how has God demonstrated his agape toward us? John, by inspiration, answered that question when he said, "In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be a propitiation for our sin"(1 John 4:9-10) (A propitiation is a sacrifice that is accepted as an atonement, that is, a sacrifice that brings about reconciliation between estranged persons or beings.)
The singular act of sending Jesus into the world to be the sacrifice, which God would accept in order for him to reconcile us to him, was the foremost act of love that anyone has ever demonstrated, or ever seen, since the beginning of the world. From that one act, man can learn more about the meaning of agape, love, than from any other. Nothing that could be thought, said or done could equal that one act of selfless giving. And perhaps that is one of the clearest definitions of agape to be found; it is selfless giving! So, when we say that God is love, we are saying that God is selfless giving of himself, and of his Son, for the benefit of mankind. No greater love can be shown than this (John 15:13).
God is not a sentimental, sugar-daddy kind of God, but the one who acts in history to demonstrate his love by the giving of his only begotten Son. Sometimes men ask, "If God is loving, why does he not pull our chestnuts out of the fire with regard to this, that or some other thing?" God is love, and he has pulled our chestnuts out of the fire with regard to the most important matter in the history of the universe and that is the salvation of the souls of humanity. We should be so thankful for that we would be ashamed to blame him for any other thing that might go wrong in our lives. These come from Satan, and not from Jehovah, anyway. I'm so thankful that God is love. Come let us all unite to sing -- God Is Love.