Summary: God is loving, holy, wrathful, and sovereign.
Characteristics of God Part Three
We have seen many of God’s characteristics: he is a spirit, he is a person, he is independent, he is immutable, he is good, he is eternal, he is omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, and he is merciful. In this lesson, we will look at four more characteristics of God, which are probably his most controversial characteristics. God is love, God is holy, God is wrathful, and God is sovereign.
God Is Love
Since love is a difficult concept to define, Grudem’s comments are helpful. He says: “God’s love means that God eternally gives of himself to others. This definition understands love as self-giving for the benefit of others. This attribute of God shows that it is part of his nature to give of himself in order to bring about blessing or good for others.” In fact, Scripture defines God as love, meaning he is the expression of love and all his characteristics flow out of this. Listen to what John said, “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love” (1 John 4:8).
This means that it is impossible to truly know what love is unless we know God for he epitomizes love. This is part of the reason that, looking at the world today, nobody has a good definition of love. For some, love is an emotion. If you watch any romantic comedy, without a doubt, there will always come the big question, “Do you love him?”
What does that mean?
Does it mean having butterflies in one’s stomach? Does it mean two people have a good time together? We can only know what love is by looking at God. Moreover, since God is love, he was living out this love even before he created the world and everything in it. In John 17:24, Jesus says this: “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world” (emphasis mine).
Before God created the world, he was living in a loving relationship with the Son and the Holy Spirit. In the Trinity, there has always been a perfect loving union between the members of the God-head.
We must ask the question then, “What is love?” We must know the characteristics of love in order to better understand God, and also to better love one another.
Scripture declares that since believers have experienced love, they naturally should demonstrate it to one another. John, who is often called the Apostle of Love and in his Gospel was identified as “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 13:23), said this in 1 John 4:11: “Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” Similarly, Jesus said this: “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35).
Supernatural love should mark believers. The world will know us by this love. In the New Testament, God’s love is the word “agape.” Because this love is so otherworldly, it was rarely used in secular Greek. However, this is the type of love that the world should see in Christians. They should see a love that doesn’t make sense. It is sacrificial; it is forgiving; it blesses one’s enemies; it is unconditional. It is a phenomenal love by which the world should be able identify a believer by.
What does this love look like—this agape love that defines God?
As the Trinity demonstrated love toward one another throughout eternity, Christians should also demonstrate this love. Its characteristics are as follows:
Agape Love Is Practical
God’s love is practical. Listen to John again: “Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth” (1 John 3:18).
Love is not just words, and it certainly is not just feelings. It is an act of the will. It is practical. Scripture does not say, “For God so loved the world that he felt all gushy inside.” No, he so loved that he gave his only Son. It was practical. Look at what else the Apostle of Love says: “If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?” (1 John 3:17).
Can this be true love John questions? How can a man love someone and not meet their needs? Surely, the love of God does not live in a man such as this. The fiancée of Solomon said something similar. Look at what she said: “He has taken me to the banquet hall, and his banner over me is love” (Song of Songs 2:4).
The fiancée of Solomon declared that when they went out to eat, everybody could tell Solomon loved her. He pulled out the chair for her; he listened to her; he took care of her needs. She was the most important person in the room. His love was like a banner that everybody could see.