1 John 4:8b-10 … for God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
John 3:16, 34-36 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life…. 34 For he whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God: for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him. 35 The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand. 36 He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.
We have learned about many aspects of the gospel so far, and, last week, we specifically learned that God planned the gospel before He created anything. Then, why did God plan the gospel? What was the motivation behind His grand plan of redemption? Today’s texts tell us that it was love that compelled God to decree and execute the program of the gospel.
God Is Love
The apostle John boldly proclaims that “God is love.” D. A. Carson remarks on this brief but profound statement in the following way:
The truth of the statement is one of the glories of the Bible’s picture of God. It rules out impersonal pantheism [which equates the universe itself as god]; it denies the cogency of the deist vision, in which God is no more than powerful and distant. The God of the Bible is a person, and love, like holiness, is so much bound up with who he is as a person that John can make this stupendous claim. Many have pointed out, rightly, that the statement cannot be reversed: ‘Love is God’ would depersonalize God as effectively as deism, for it would elevate ‘love’, an impersonal affection or impersonal willed sacrifice, to divine status. The reality is far more stunning: God is not only sovereign; he is a person, in whom love is so much constitutive of his being that he can no more abandon love than he can turn away from holiness (“Love,” in New Dictionary of Biblical Theology, 646).
God’s Love for Us Is Displayed in the Gospel
What motivated God to plan the gospel before the creation of the world? It was love. Because God is love, He graciously chose to love us despite our unloveliness. In fact, even though God created humans, He was not obligated to love them because they defiled themselves with sin. What sinners deserve is eternal damnation. Yet, out of His infinite grace and wisdom, He decreed a plan of salvation in the gospel and executed it by sending His one and only Son to the world. The kind of love we find in the gospel is a Trinitarian love, and this truth is explicit in John chapter 3.
The Father’s love. God the Father loved the world and did not want to see them perish without a help (John 3:16). So, He sent His Son to the world so that He may bear the sins of the world (1 John 2:2). Stuart Townend praises God for His love for sinners in sending of His son in his How Deep the Father’s Love for Us:
How deep the Father’s love for us,
How vast beyond all measure,
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure.
How great the pain of searing loss –
The Father turns His face away,
As wounds which mar the Chosen One
Bring many sons to glory.
The Son’s love. The Father loved the Son and gave all things into His Son’s hands (John 3:35). This verse implies that it was not only the Father’s will for the Son to die on behalf of sinners, but also the Son loved the world and willingly came to lay down His life for sinners. In another setting, Jesus said, “Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father” (John 10:17-18).
The Spirit’s love. The Spirit’s love is not as clear as the love of the Father and the Son in the text, yet His role between the Father and the Son is crystal clear (John 3:34). While the Son was on the earth, the perfect bond between the Father and the Son was sealed by the Holy Spirit. With the help of the Holy Spirit, the love of the Father and the Son for sinners could be displayed to the world.
God’s Love in the Gospel Brings Tremendous Benefits to Us
For those who experience His love in the gospel, God has tremendous gifts in store.
Eternal life. God’s one and only Son laid His life for us so “that we might live through him” (1 John 4:9b). The horrifying, eternal death that is waiting to destroy sinners is now removed. We now share the eternal life that Jesus enjoys!
Atonement for our sins. God “loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10). The eternal life is now ours because the Son of God became the ultimate sacrifice for our sins. There is no more sacrifice that is necessary. When Jesus said, “It is finished” on the cross (John 19:30), every requirement for the forgiveness of our sins was met. The Son bore the eternal condemnation for us so that we who believe in Him “should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
Union with God/reconciliation. Now, we are reconciled with the Father in the Son. Therefore, “we have peace with God” (Rom 5:1) and enjoy perfect communion with Him. We now dwell in God and He in us (1 John 4:13a, 15-16).
The indwelling Spirit. This perfect union with God is possible “because he has given us of his Spirit” (v. 13b). The Holy Spirit eternally indwells us and guides us to the Father and the Son.
Boldness. Because there is no condemnation in Christ, we have boldness in the day of judgment (1 John 4:17b). We no longer fear death and punishment because “there is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18). The idea that a sinful man/woman can stand before the holy God without fear sounds impossible. However, it becomes possible in God’s Trinitarian love.
Motivation to love each other. So what now? We must ask this question as we feel so blessed with these tremendous benefits in the gospel of the loving God. What should we do now then? Of course, we must love God. But how? The apostle John makes it clear that we love God by loving our brothers and sisters in Christ (1 John 4:7-8, 11-12, 19-21; see also 3:15-18). The apostle reasons, “How can you say that you love God whom you cannot see with your eyes when you do not love your brothers and sisters whom you can see with your eyes?” We cannot love others with words only. We must love others with actions. Love cannot be expressed without a sacrifice. It is because, in order for the Father to bring the amazing benefits to us, He paid the amazing price—His one and only Son. In order for the Son to bring the tremendous blessings to us, He Himself offered His life for us on the cross. It is now our turn to serve God by offering our life for our brothers and sisters in Christ.
- How is God’s love displayed?
- Read Romans 5:6-11. Who were we like before meeting Jesus Christ through the gospel? (*focus on the 1st person, plural pronouns, such as “we” and “us” in the text.)
- In light of Romans 5, when did God love us? Before or after we decided to live for God? Why is this timing so important for one’s faith, works, and salvation?
- What are the benefits of God’s love in the gospel? (consult the 3rd point in the outline.)
- How can you prove that you have experienced those benefits of God’s love in the gospel? (see 1 John 3:15-18; 4:7-8, 11-12, 19-21)