To Know the Love

The love of God is certainly a mystery; He loves in ways which are quite foreign to us. He loves His enemies (Mt 5:44-45), offering forgiveness and reconciliation (Ro 10:21), while allowing immense suffering in His own children when He could easily prevent it; to the most faithful and obedient He even bestows pain and suffering as a gift. (Php 1:29) It’s not the kind of love we’re familiar with.

The goal of God’s love, the guiding principle, is evidently not our temporal pleasure or comfort, but that we might be partakers of His holiness. (He 12:10) This truly is ultimate benevolence and merciful kindness, to align us with Himself and His nature, with truth and light; anything less would be unloving and malicious.

God knows all, including what we would do, left to our own devices, in every situation we could possibly encounter, and what we would become without His intervention and aid in every conceivable circumstance. He also knows the absolute best way to reveal Himself in and through us, and how to work holiness in us for His own glory and pleasure. (Php 2:13) His love, both for Himself and for us, ensures He will do so perfectly, in the perfect way and in the perfect time (Jud 24), working everything for ultimate good in and for those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose. (Ro 8:28)

The primary manifestation of God’s love is in sending His Son into the world that we might live through Him. (1Jn 4:9) It’s here we find the ultimate expression of love: God sending His Son to be the propitiation for our sins (10), to redeem us from all iniquity and purify us unto Himself. (Tit 2:14)

In order to save us God became sin for us, that we might be made perfectly righteous in Him. (2Co 5:21) God suffers inexpressibly in order to be in relationship with us, laying down His very life for us. (1Jn 3:16) In other words, God is all in; He holds nothing back (Ro 8:32), and He can rightly require no less of us (Ro 12:1) — this isn’t about comfort: it’s about holiness, without which no one will see God. (He 12:14)

The full experiential knowledge of this love is priceless; we should study it and meditate on it, asking God to open our eyes (Ep 1:16b-17), praying for ourselves and for each other, that we might be filled with all the fullness of God. (Ep 3:14-19)

How well we understand God’s love is revealed in how well we’re obeying Him. (1Jn 2:3) How thankful are we? (Ep 5:20) How joyful? (Php 4:4) Are we abounding in hope? (Ro 15:13) Are we seeking the welfare of our enemies, in God and for Him? (Mt 5:44-45) Do we see God’s love in all He does? (Ro 11:36) This is the Holy Ghost revealing the love of God in us, and shedding it abroad through us. (Ro 5:5)

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Through All

In describing God, we might begin by saying He’s all powerful, infinitely so, as we say — omnipotent (Re 19:6): He does as He pleases (Ps 115:3); nothing is too hard for Him. (Ge 18:14) He’s the Creator, fashioning time and space ex nihilo, and gives us no indication that this was the least bit challenging for Him; it’s hard to imagine a more immensely powerful act.

Kerid Crater Lake, Iceland

We might also describe God as all knowing, omniscient: He is aware of and understands all things. (1Jn 3:20) He’s intimately familiar with all His works (Ac 15:18), not just that they exist, or will exist, but every detail about each one of them: every word that will ever be spoken (Ps 139:4); the number of hairs on every head (Mt 10:30), the names of all the stars (Ps 147:4), He might as well know every grain of sand by name. If He knows such things, it’s hard to conceive of something He might not know.

We might also claim that God is omnipresent, that He’s everywhere all the time. This may seem obvious, given the above; if God created time and space itself, perhaps it stands to reason that He’s ever present throughout all Creation.

Yet this doesn’t appear as easy to prove from scripture; a quick internet check reveals that the many scriptures offered to support this concept don’t quite get us there. What if God created everything to be self-sustaining and then stepped away to let it run all on its own? What scriptures apply here, not just that God is everywhere we are, but that He occupies every space, every possible location?

Scripture describes God the Father as above all, and through all, and in you all. (Ep 4:6) The idea of through all, as in permeating and surrounding everything in existence, seems to get at this idea, as well as above all, which appears to convey transcendence, beyond everything, higher than the highest, lower than the lowest, farther than the farthest, etc. How can one be above all and through all and not also be everywhere — omnipresent? Trying to decouple these phrases and what they convey seems academic at best.

This above all and through all is consistent with the idea that Christ holds everything together: by Him all things consist (Col 1:17), He upholds all things. (He 1:3) To be holding everything together, God must be present in some way, sustaining everything and giving it substance to continue to exist, beholding and observing (Pr 15:3), engaging everything and sovereignly controlling it all. (Ep 1:11)

Yet some might argue that God can’t be in Hell, that Hell must be the absence of God because God is Love. (1Jn 4:16) This may be the strongest argument against the omnipresence of God. What do we say?

What should we expect to happen if love and mercy actually are freely offered in Hell, with open arms and a tender call to repent? (Ro 10:21) Wouldn’t God’s love be continually and vehemently rejected by those suffering there? Wouldn’t the wicked continue to willfully choose their fiery end rather than repent and submit to God? (Re 16:11) and do so every moment for all eternity? (Pr 27:22)

Perhaps the problem in Hell isn’t God at all; perhaps the problem is Man. And perhaps the key to resolving many mysteries we see in God’s character and behavior lies here as well, in the Depravity of Man. (Je 17:9)

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God is Love

God is love, and those who know Him are like Him (1Jn 4:7-8); we love God, and our neighbors as ourselves (1Jn 3:14), even our enemies. (Mt 5:44)

Love isn’t about liking everyone, or even anyone; it’s about seeking the welfare of others, wanting their ultimate good (Ro 13:10); it’s being longsuffering, benevolent, kind, unassuming, unselfish. (1Co 13:5)

This is the essence of the character of God: benevolent concern for others. He doesn’t need us to make Himself feel good; He is perfectly complete in and of Himself; we can add nothing to Him. Every aspect of His dealings with us is for our own good, not His. He isn’t trying to keep us from having fun, or bully us into following a set of arbitrary rules. God’s Law is the perfect expression of what it means to care. Everything God does is aligned with love, both for Himself and for His creatures.

What makes God’s love profound, in my opinion, is the magnitude of it, its depth and breadth and length and height. (Ep 3:17-18) This is known by who God loves, us, His enemies, desperately wicked people, and how He loves us, sacrificially, willing to suffer infinitely for us, to become our sin so that we might be made His righteousness (2Co 5:21), enter into His rest, and become part of His immediate family. (1Jn 3:1)

This is infinite love – only known against the backdrop of sin. Without God allowing sin, and without us knowing how holy He is, how much He hates sin, how He suffers by allowing sin, much less becoming sin for us, we can have no clue of His love, of His essential character and nature.

As God calls us to walk in His steps, to live as He does, we must know God’s own love as the source of our love. (1Jn 4:19) As we begin to realize what He is like, and comprehend the depth of His concern for us, we can begin to care for Him and others in the same way, trusting Him to care for us (1Pe 5:7), and be filled with all His fullness. (Eph 3:19)

We can experience many different facets of love: romantic, brotherly affection, neighborly concern. In the end, what defines our own attitude as love or not is whether we genuinely have another’s best interest in mind, or whether we’re trying to use them to promote ourselves and make ourselves feel good. Perhaps there’s very little love in this world (1Jn 5:19); either way, it could always use a little bit more.

As we grow in love, increasing and abounding yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment (Php 1:9), we begin to see that all our desires and affections, what we’ve been wanting for ourselves, can’t be satisfied in those we’ve been trying to use, but only in God Himself. Every craving, every longing … is a shadow to remind us to behold the beauty of God, to rejoice in Him as the ultimate fulfillment of all we could ever want.

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