The Love of God
1 John 4:16
And we have known and believed the love that God has to us. God is love; and he that dwells in love dwells in God, and God in him.

All men believe in the existence of God. But what is God or what God is, is a question differently answered. As many words are substituted for the predicate as there are systems, if not men.

I. AN EXPLANATION OF THE TEXT. "God is love," says John. John does not mean that love is the essence of Deity — the substratum of all His moral character; or that all the attributes of God are simply modifications of His love, as the different colours of the rainbow are simply modifications of the pure sunray, or as light itself and heat and sound are simply modifications of the same material element. He does not mean that God is love, to the exclusion of justice, holiness, or truth. I take the text to mean that the love of God is manifested in a most striking manner in the history of our world; but most of all in the subject which the apostle has been discussing — the salvation of the lost and sinful through the mediation of Christ.

II. A DEMONSTRATION OF ITS TRUTH. The first development of individual character is thought. Thought ever precedes action, or a mental act is prior to a physical one. To understand, then, the Divine character, we are led first to the Divine thoughts or plans, and then to the Divine actions or the development of those plans. God's actions may be momentary or continuous. The momentary is seen in creation, and the continuous in the government of the world or Providence. In all these various manifestations of the Divine character, we find evidence of the text, "God is love." Consider, then — First: The plans or thoughts of God. God's works were known to Him from eternity. He never had any need to plan or contrive. He ever knew what was best, how He should act, and what He should do, without any previous meditation or thought. We cannot see these thoughts or plans in the Divine mind; we see them as they are developed, in time. Secondly: The actions or works of God. What could have been the primary object which the Creator had in view in the works of creation? The replies to these questions are three —

(1) That God's chief end in creation was the securing of His own glory. The great objection to this solution of the question is, that it exhibits the Divine Being as more selfish than many human creatures. Besides, this supposition exhibits God in a way in which He was not exhibited by Jesus. Our Saviour never did, or said, anything to show His own greatness as a purpose. But, granting that this was the chief purpose of creation, the showing of God's glory, and the securing of His praise, it still follows that the works of nature must be a manifestation of His love. The glory of God is inseparably connected with His love. Take away the love of God, His disposition to make His creatures happy, and what does He become? Could any moral creature give Him praise? If the Divine Being had no love He could not care whether they were happy or miserable. He would thus regard pain and pleasure, happiness and misery, with indifference at least; or, maybe, identical. So that if the Governor of the universe be devoid of the attribute of love, He cannot be depended upon for the execution of justice; and a character in which justice and love form no essential elements cannot be esteemed glorious by any intelligent being. Glory and love are inseparably connected.

(2) Take the next view of the chief purpose of creation, viz., that it was to secure the exhibition of moral good, or the development of genuine virtue. The question then is, What is moral good — genuine virtue? It is justice, truth, holiness, love. Take away any, and you have destroyed the symmetry and beauty of the whole. Take away love, and a body without a soul is left behind. The glory has departed, and the very life is gone.

(3) The next supposition is that the chief end of creation was the production and supply of creature happiness. The Divine Being was so happy in Himself that He made this vast universe. A miserly, yet happy, being is an impossibility. A happy soul is necessarily communicative. But creation generally shows the love of God. It shines on every gleaming page. But the body, with all its senses, is only a means to an end. It is only the medium of conveying impressions to the mind within, and thus secure the development of the soul and the gradual expansion of its dormant powers. But as an instrument it is without its equal. Every change in the external world is faithfully conveyed to the mind within, and body and soul can participate in the joys and sorrows of each other. Every pleasure is thus doubled to man. He enjoys it first as to his body, his animal nature, and then as to his soul. Light and colour are pleasant to the eye, as sound is to the ear, as mere sensations in reference to the organisms which they affect, and apart from the perception of them by the intellect and the feeling of them by the heart. It is thus that the freshness of the gale and the fragrance of the flower can be enjoyed by the soul as perceptions as well as by the body as sensations. But look at the mind as an entity apart from its special relation to a material form. Mind! Is not this the glory of the universe, the image of God? The mind can study the material and the spiritual, the creature and the uncreated. Creation without mind is a body without soul, a dead form without vitality. Matter cannot think or study. One nebula cannot see the glory of another as it is resolved to its constituent stars. But mind can study all, and in all find pleasure and enjoyment. We are often told of the "verdant earth," the "azure sky," the thundering crash of the Niagara's falls, the beautiful plains of Italy. Is this true information? The beast of the field sees not the beauty of the flower. Where is the difference? nature is the same to all. The beauty and the glory of all are in the soul that looks and feels and is enraptured. The mind of man has been so wonderfully constructed, too, that he can find true enjoyment in the moral and the religious, in holy living and in praising God, and that, too, when his day of earthly toil is ended, and the frail body which was so useful to him is mouldering in the dust. Government in every case implies two things — punishment and reward. God planned the world; He also made it and governs it. Let us consider them in order. First: That the love of God is manifested in the exercise of justice, or in the punishment of sin. It has been proved that where there is no love there can be no justice. Is it equally true that where there is no justice there cannot be love in its highest form? Partiality or favouritism, without reference to personal merit, is a mark of weakness, which is common in the human, but impossible in the Divine. True love, or love in its highest or Divine form, excludes all partiality. Men must be treated according to their actions. If the thief and the honest man, the murderer and the philanthropist, were all treated alike, I ask what would be the impression made upon the mind of any rational being? Would not every man took upon such a ruler with contempt, and turn from him with disgust? Apart from justice, goodness is impossible. If, therefore, the Supreme Ruler of the universe is to be respected by intelligent beings, and loved for His wisdom and moral excellence, He must vindicate the right and banish the evil-doer. The conclusion is evident, viz., that the love of God is as truly seen in the punishment of the wicked as in the salvation of the good, as truly in the pains of hell as in the joys of heaven. Secondly: That the love of God is manifested in the exercise of His mercy, or in the salvation of the godly.

(Evan Lewis, B. A.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.

WEB: We know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and he who remains in love remains in God, and God remains in him.

The Love of God
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