Summary: Many words describe God’s nature and character; one word encompasses them all -- love.


sermon ministry of


Thomasville, NC

a fellowship of faith, family and friendships


April 13, 2003

16“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. John 3.16 (NASB)

We have been studying the “omni” qualities of God. We have looked at omnipotence, omniscience and omnipresence, the all-powerful, all-knowing and all-present One the Bible calls God and Creator. It is a grand sweep to consider those parts of the God-nature. There’s nothing strength can do that He cannot do; there is nothing of which he is ignorant, past, present or future; there is nowhere to which you can ascend, descend or hide from His ever-watchful eye. He is God.

These characteristics of God are not an exhaustive list. We could add many more – faithfulness, truth, eternality, just, righteous, patient, longsuffering and much more. But, we will end the series with a quality that encompasses all of God’s nature, even His judgment…today we look at our God, the all-loving One.

John 3.16 has been called the greatest verse in the Bible. It is learned in Vacation Bible School, quoted often in sermons and even hung over guard rails in football stadiums during the Super Bowl. I even heard of a man who changed his name legally to John Threesixteen.

Many preachers have preached a sermon by taking the verse phrase by phrase. I read a thirteen-point sermon this past week using that method. I find it hard to beat this for clearly telling the gospel in a nutshell:

For God The greatest one

So loved The greatest degree

The world The greatest amount of people

That He gave The greatest generosity

His only begotten Son The greatest uniqueness

That whosoever The greatest invitation

Believeth in Him The greatest simplicity

Should not The greatest certainty

Perish The greatest possible loss

But The greatest difference

Have The greatest possession

Eternal The greatest length

Life The greatest gift (1)

Now, that’s a wonderful grouping of thoughts about love. Some are not so wonderful. A grandmother was going shopping with her daughter and two little boys. The children had discovered a new word to use when upset with each other. As they started for the stores they suddenly they became angry with each other. "I hate you!" and "I hate you, too!" they yelled back and forth. "That’s not very nice," their mother said. "I’m certainly not going to take two little boys who hate each other to McDonald’s for lunch." Five-year-old Jamie quickly backed down. "I don’t really hate you, Billy." But Billy, with the clear logic of three years, responded, "I still hate you! I’m not hungry." (2)

Elizabeth and I were coming home from a wonderful after-church meal some years ago. We had been to one of Jacksonville’s premier elite restaurants, The Piccadilly Cafeteria! I exited off the four-lane highway and as we approached the stoplight I could see an older brown Toyota already stopped at the light. There was a sign taped to the back window. As we came closer to the back of that car I could finally make out the crudely hand-lettered message, I HATE YOU!

I hate you; three words, so much a vitriolic picture of an embittered life. That sign made quite an impression on me that day. Human hatred has always been quite an enigma for me. However, an impression which has been stronger and longer lasting was the message of John 3.16, the day God said to my heart I love you.

The Meaning of Love

As with any word, people can perceive a different meaning. If I ask you to come to my house for dinner, some of you would show up at noon, others around 6pm. If you live in the North, they call it “scrapple”; here they serve “liver puddin’”.

There are different meanings for the word “love” as well. There is romantic love, the kind between a man and woman. There is brotherly love we have for friends. We also have parental love, and love for our pets. There is a whole host of uses for love when it comes to appreciating things, food, sports. I “love” my job. Some (not me) could say, “I love my car”. In the 60’s movie “Love Story” Ali McGraw turned to Ryan O’Neal and said, Love means never having to say you’re sorry. And The King [sic] Elvis wanted the ladies to Love Me Tender.

So, when it comes to talking about God, what kind are we talking about? Somehow Elvis and the rest fall short there. Here is a working definition of love (agape’ in Scripture):

God’s kind of love is an unselfishness which results in doing the best for another, even at the highest personal cost, without requiring or expecting payback.

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