*Pastor’s Note: These lessons MAY be Scripture “heavy,” and though I am forewarning you I cannot apologize because it is the Word of God that brings things into the light. Remember that the Word says in the mouth of two or three witnesses, let everything be established. This is a spiritual principle that applies to the Word as well. (Matthew 18:16, 2 Corinthians 13:1). Also because of the need to explain, the lessons will have to be divided up into parts.
In the last lesson we left off with the Moral Attribute of God’s Holiness. Just as a reminder now I want to reiterate the characteristics that make up God’s Moral Attributes are within our ability to manifest and demonstrate. God created us in His likeness and image and these are some of the characteristics with which we can imitate God, through Jesus Christ.
Also remember that the Apostle Paul wrote this in his letter to the Ephesians in which we would do well to take to heart:
“Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.” – Ephesians 5:1-2.
Before pressing on with the next attribute, that of love or Agape, Godly Love, I would like to point out that through my study and Biblical research, many scholars both past and present rank the moral attribute of love far lower on the list of God’s attributes. However, and I will add I’m no scholar, just a teacher, but I have found that many of the attributes that are attributed as characteristics of God’s Nature actually DERIVE from His attribute or nature of Love! Therefore, I have included that just under His nature of Holiness if you happen to keep a list or have studied His attributes for yourself.
With that in mind, let us continue with the following attribute of (God) Love:
LOVE: As I stated above, I have found that Love, as a moral attribute of God’s Being and Nature, is at the top of my listing due to the fact that so many other attributes seem to stem from God’s Nature of Love. I want the reader of this to understand something right from the start concerning God’s Nature and Character or His Being. It is not enough to say that God is loving or is a loving God, for rather the truth of the matter is that God IS Love. In other words you cannot have Love without God and there is no God without Love. They are synonymous, they are the same!
God can be no other way than loving. It is not just Him manifesting or demonstrating love, though He surely does that, but rather, love makes up Who and What He Is! Remember, God is Spirit and cannot be seen outside of Jesus Christ. When you see Jesus, you see God, you see the Father, because the Father is Spirit. So it is with love. Love can’t be seen. Only its results can be seen. Its effects on the object of its nature that is loved can be seen. It that regard it is much like the wind rustling through leaves on a tree and so in every way it is very much like the Holy Spirit manifesting His presence. God’s Spirit, His Holy, pure, undefiled Spirit can be seen in the effects He has on mankind, but much like the wind, that is all you see; the effect. That is how you know beyond a shadow of a doubt He is very much real. You have the testimony of those who have come before us, but you have your own accounts of watching what takes place after He moves across yours and other’s paths. So it is with Love.
Now understand this; Christianity, following the examples, teachings and precepts of Christ Jesus, is the ONLY religion (I’d rather say spiritual lifestyle) that sets the object of its adoration and worship, in other words, a Supreme Being, as Love. Only Christianity can claim that their God IS Love! God’s Love, the fact that God IS Love, is the heartbeat of the gospel.
Now remember, we are talking about moral attributes that belong to God in which we ourselves can be imitators of. Yes, we CAN imitate Godly love because as I stated earlier we were made in His image AND likeness. We, however can only imitate it and that ONLY with the power, help and anointing of the Holy Spirit. Because God did create us with the ability to choose, the ability to surrender our will to Him, with His Spirit’s help we can CHOOSE to move past selfish, self-centered desires and love as He does. But it takes a heart and spirit that has been changed through the restorative and redemptive saving power of Jesus Christ and acceptance of the offering He so freely made for each of us individually.
To many people believe that hate, which is an emotion, a feeling, is the opposite of love, when in fact the emotion of hate is just that, a feeling but it is based in a person’s self-centeredness. They would rather appease their own wants and desires over anyone else’s needs and that includes God Himself. Adam and Eve exemplified that in the Garden of Eden, even though they were tempted, they had a choice. They could either follow their own willfulness or obey God Who gave them everything they could ever desire EXCEPT that one thing. Despite God’s echoing words in their ears about not touching that particular tree, the Bible states:
“So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.” – Genesis 3:6.
So if Love, Godly agapē Love, is unconditional, not expectant of rewards or gain of anything for oneself, then hate is based in selfishness, desiring one’s will over anybody else’s wellbeing or needs. Hate in actuality is the manifestation, or demonstration of one’s selfishness.
So, because love is a choice that we can avail ourselves of, through the practice of it, we can rise above our own pettiness and be imitators of Jesus Christ and thus the Father, Who created us with that ability.
I love how the Apostle John relates love to God’s Nature. “He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. . . . God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.” – 1 John 4:8, 16.
I need to clarify something here before we go on. The Bible uses the word love for several different words in both the Hebrew and the Greek. Most common are Eros, Phileō, and Philadelphia.
By far the most frequent word is agapē, generally assumed to mean moral goodwill which proceeds from esteem, principle, or duty, rather than attraction or charm. Agapē means to love the undeserving, despite disappointment and rejection.
Agapē is what we are here to discuss because that is the purest form or essence of (God) Love. So, in agapē God loves us despite the fact that we are sinners and prone to sinfulness. God’s very act, His demonstration of Him loving us, makes us valuable to Him and to ourselves. Now notice I am not saying God loves us because of who we are, that we are admirable and awesome. On the contrary I stated that God loves us DESPITE our shortcomings.
There’s a famous quote by Martin Luther who once stated that “Sinners are loved not because they are beautiful; they are beautiful because they are loved.”
Because God created us with the ability to imitate the Love nature of Himself, in imitation of Christ, we are therefore called to love others as God loved us:
“This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. . . . These things I command you, that you love one another.” – John 15:12-14, 17.
Therefore, it is true that the more we love and imitate God’s Love, His Nature of Love, the more we forget ourselves in our service to one another.
In closing I want to reiterate this fact; God is Love fully and essentially. In other words, the concept, the attribute, the character of (God) Love cannot be removed or apart from God Himself. It is an essential aspect of Who He is. Most other aspects or attributes proceed from Him and so they are in a way all united to His being as we will see as we go along. Everything He does or has done, no matter what it is, is based and derived from His Love, His Being.
The Love of God, therefore God Himself, is eternal and unchangeable and it does not depend on any merit or reciprocation from that which He demonstrates or manifests His Love upon. God’s Love is unfailing and overflowing without end. Nothing can diminish His Love, thus nothing can diminish God Himself.
Remember this concerning God’s Love in relation to His creation; our goodness or merit did not and could not call His love forth, so in turn evil and wickedness cannot cause it to cease. We can have repercussions based on our actions, whether righteous or corrupt, but God’s Love will never cease. Since we DO have free will and the ability to choose, God’s Love actually demands that whatever our choices, out of Love He will abide by our choices even if it means eternal separation from Him. This is why it is so very important to recognize and realize that the decisions we make in this natural life, will have repercussions into the spiritually eternal life ahead.
Because God IS Love, He will never force anyone to make a choice against their own will! That is a depth of love that is truly incomprehensible and unfathomable. That is why, what happens to us in eternity depends on our choices we make today!
God’s Love, God IS Love, is a topic that can go on and on and it is one that I personally love to teach on. However, there are many other moral attributes to discuss. Just remember that without the nature of God/Love there wouldn’t be anything else to discuss. So with that in mind we will continue to move forward.