The world is filled with love songs. Romantic novels and movies entertain us. The pornographic version of love has never been more popular. It is so popular that pastors are filling Christian bookshelves with their own philosophical versions of how to do it better. Tabloids are filled with tales of betrayed love. Divorce rates tell us that love is languishing. Couples forsake marriage at an ever-increasing rate because young people have learned from their parents that love is temporary. The news is filled with obstreperous lovers’ spats that end with one dead and the other imprisoned. We are obsessed with love. Sadly, we gladly accept cheap imitations. Money can’t buy me love, but it sure appears that love is costly.

Love is the most voluminous subject in the Bible. With biblical illiteracy burgeoning, love has grown cold. This is not for lack of trying. Christian pastors have spent decades telling the world and the church that God is love…only. By creating a one-dimensional knowledge of God, the world and the church are now more ignorant of God’s love than we probably have been in centuries. We need a wholistic view of God, and that can only come from the whole Bible. I cannot do that here, but I might offer some points to get us thinking about true love…God’s love, from hesed to agape.

First, God is love (1 John 4:8). Before we fall into the one-dimension trap, please remember this statement is not in isolation. Our God is a consuming fire (Heb 12:29). God is true (Jn 3:33). God is Spirit (Jn 4:24). God is the architect and builder of all things; therefore, love is sourced in God Himself.

Second, love emanates from God, its source. Love is from God (1 Jn 4:7). God so loved the world (Jn 3:16); and Christ, who is God, demonstrates His love for us, by dying on the Cross (Rom 5:8). It is manifested in us (1 Jn 4:9), by His indwelling Spirit (Col 1:8; Gal 5:22), who pours out God’s love in our hearts (Rom 5:5). We have a Spirit of love (2 Tim 1:7). Love never originates from man, for we did not love God, but He first loved us (1 Jn 4:10, 19). God set His love upon Israel in a special way (2 Chron 9:8), as a husband sacrificially and exclusively loves his wife (Hosea; Eph 5:25). Christ is a one woman Man, and He loves His bride, the church, the Israel of God (Gal 6:16).

Third, love is costly. Christ bore our sins in His body on the Cross (1 Pet 2:24), in payment of the penalty for the debt of sin we owed (Col 2:14). This debt kept God’s love for us at bay. Christ’s love for His people is a sacrifice (Eph 5:2), allowing us to draw near to God. The redemption currency was precious blood (Eph 1:7; 1 Pet 1:19). He gave His life in death, so that from death we might have life abundant and eternal (Jn 10:10, 28; 17:2). In love, Christ paid our ransom, to free us to enter God’s glorious presence.

Fourth, there is no greater love than one lay down his life for his friends (Jn 15:13). Here is the pinnacle of love, and it is Jesus Christ who displays it perfectly. Hollywood’s vagaries try to resemble this through redemption plots. The Hollywood hero saves the hopeless world under siege and gets the girl at the end (see James Bond, et al). Christ saved the world, and He gets His holy and blameless bride at the end of the final battle (Rev 19). Truly, God’s love for His people is great (Eph 2:4).

Fifth, the love of God in Christ is inseparable (Rom 8:35–39). Once God sets His love upon a person, it is forever (Dt 10:15; 1 Kgs 10:9; Jn 3:16). God’s love is in the disciple of Jesus (Jn 17:26). This gives God’s people blessed assurance (2 Thess 2:16). Without this assurance, one lives insecure about the power and intention of God’s love (Arminianism). “I will never leave you nor forsake you (Heb 13:5),” is whispered in the ears of the beloved (Eph 1:6). God has given us His Word. His Word is truth, and He is love. Lovers do not lie to one another, but they bask together in the garden of naked truth.

Sixth, love has a perfect future (Eph 1:4). Man’s love is twisted in this world, but there is a perfect love (1 Jn 4:18). God’s love is pure, but our love is tainted, until it fully reflects trust. Until people trust Christ they only know the fear of God’s punishment (1 Jn 4:18). This is the reason people avoid discussions about God. They do not trust Him, and because the church has taught them a Cross-less love, they do not understand how God’s justice has been satisfied. Without Christ as their Mediator, people remain under God’s judgment, awaiting His wrath to come. With Christ there is now no condemnation (Rom 8:1), for God has not destined His people for wrath (1 Thess 5:9).

Seventh, the world hates Christ (Jn 7:7), but His church loves Him (Song of Songs). We demonstrate our love for Christ, by being obedient to what He has commanded us (Jn 15:10), and He has commanded us to love one another, in the same manner in which He has loved us (Jn 15:12). He sacrificed His life for us, and we have become living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God (Rom 12:1). Our hearts have been opened to those in need (1 Jn 3:16–17). It even extends to enemies (Mt 5:43).

Christians tell the world about Christ’s love for His people, but it can produce jealousy in them (Rom 11:11). Lovers naturally speak of the one who loves them and with whom they frolic in love (Song of Songs). Christ loves the church, and the church loves Christ; therefore, she proclaims His excellencies (Heb 2:12). To love one’s neighbor, we must share the greatest love the world has ever known, God’s only begotten Son, sent to us with the love of His Father in Him. Christ’s Cross is God’s love displayed.

Eighth, Christians love one another in obedience to Christ’s command, and as a display of God’s love to the world (Jn 13:34–35). Without this love for the brethren, it is inconceivable that one’s love for God is legitimate (1 Jn 4:20–21). This was Jesus’ emphasis on His final night with His disciples in the garden (Jn 14–15). It is reiterated by Paul in 1 Corinthians 13, ‘the love chapter.’ John, the beloved apostle, writes most on this subject in his Gospel and in his epistles. Here is where Jesus’ answer to the Law is found, “love the Lord your God with your whole heart, soul, mind, and strength…and love your neighbor as yourself.” Who is my neighbor, that I might love him? He lives in your house. She occupies her place in your extended family. The folks next door qualify under this title — and so on.

Ninth, the revelation of God’s love brings His people joy (Jn 15:11). God’s love for His people is the same eternal love He has for Jesus Christ, His Son (Jn 17:23–24). Love is described, in part, in 1 Corinthians 13. It is patient, kind, self-less, right, true, enduring, faith-based, immoveable, comely, humble, and unfailing. It is a gift of God (Gal 5:22). God’s love is the greatest (1 Cor 13:13).

Tenth, God’s love in Christ constrains us (2 Cor 5:14), and motivates our desire to teach Christ to others (1 Tim 1:5). We need to stimulate love (Heb 10:24), but it is the Lord who directs our hearts into the love of God (2 Thess 3:5). Love is to be pursued (1 Cor 14:1). Love is not to be wasted on the world system (1 Jn 2:15). Love is done in deed and truth (1 Jn 3:18).

Finally, in order to know true love, truly, one must be born of God (1 Jn 4:7). See how great a love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called children of God and such we are (1 Jn 3:1). Children of God practice righteousness and love other Christians who have been born again of the Spirit of love (1 Jn 3:10; Jn 3). God’s adopted children (Eph 1:5) love Jesus Christ, their elder brother, and they call Yahweh, “Abba, Father.” God’s love is familial.

By this compendium of love, we have been reminded that God’s love (agape) is far different from the world’s versions (phileo, eros, etc.). It starts with our God, who is love. It emanates like rays from the sun to us. We see its beauty. We feel its warmth. We know the life it gives. God’s love has taken up permanent residence in our hearts. It grows inside of us. It flows out from us. It was predestined (Eph 1:4). It is being rooted and grounded in us (Eph 3:17). It is our destiny (Eph 1:10–11). To know this love surpasses knowledge and is valued as unfathomable riches for those who are in Christ.

Do you know this love? Have you experienced this love for yourself? Do you love Christians? Do you speak the truth of Christ in love for Christ? Is Jesus your all in all? Do you walk daily in love for Him? Has His love covered the multitude of your sins? If His Spirit lives in you, then, without hesitation, you know the answers to these questions.

If you remain in the shadows of doubt, unsure of His goodness and love, then you must turn from your love for sin, your love for the world. Cheap perversions of love can never satisfy your want of love. You must come into the light of His love. He will love you with an everlasting love, if you forsake the made-in-the-world imitation, in favor of Emmanuel. He summons you as your loving King. Do not be afraid. His love endures, forever. It is vast beyond all measure. His love never fails.

David E. Norczyk

Spokane Valley, Washington

December 16, 2020

Some random theologian out West somewhere, Christian writer, preacher