6. Love

Love (Charles C. Ryrie, Basic Theology, Victor Books, 1986,) p. 39.

  1. Meaning. Like many Christian terms love is more often discussed than defined. Even the dictionary offers little help. Love consists of affection and also of correction. Babies are cuddled and corrected and both are true expressions of parental love. Furthermore, both are done by parents in the belief that they are doing the best thing for the child at the time. Love seeks good for the object loved. What is good? In God it is perfection of holiness and all that that concept implies. Love in God is seeking the highest good and glory of His perfections. This implies no selfishness in God as it would in human beings.
  2. Scripture. The Bible directly states that “God is love” (1 John 4:8. The absence of the article before “love” (the verse does not say, God is the love) indicates that this is the very nature of God. The presence of the article before “God” (literally, the God is love) shows that the statement is not reversible: it cannot read, “Love is God” (as Christian Science asserts).
  3. Applications. a. Since all the attributes are possessed by each Person of the Trinity, there must be some loving interaction (inconceivable to humans, to be sure) within the Trinity. God who is love allows Himself to love sinful people. That is grace (Eph 2:4-8).
  4. b. That love of God has been poured out into the believer’s heart (Rom. 5:5).
  5. c. In trials God shows His love toward His children (Heb. 12:6).
  6. Some related words. Closely related to love are goodness, mercy, long-suffering, and grace. While distinctions are made, they are not exact. Goodness may be defined as God’s benevolent concern for His creatures (Acts 14:17). Mercy is that aspect of His goodness which causes God to show pity and compassion (Eph. 2:4; James 5:11). Long-suffering speaks of self-restraint in the face of provocation (1 Peter 3:20; 2 Peter 3:15). Grace is the unmerited favor of God shown to man primarily in the person and work of Jesus Christ. All of these concepts are related and stem from the love of God who is love.
  7. A heresy. The heresy of universalism grows out of an unbalanced concept of the attributes of God. It teaches that since God is love He will ultimately save all people. But God’s perfection of love does not operate apart from His other perfections including holiness and justice. Therefore, love cannot overpower holiness and save those who reject Christ and die in their sins. Furthermore, universalism in reality does not have a proper definition of love since it sees only the affection aspect of love and not the correcting aspect. Finally, universalism contradicts direct statements of Scripture (see Mark 9:45-48).