Love. It is the foundational theme of the Bible, the defining attribute of its author, and the lens through which we can begin to understand God. His plan and His purpose for creation are rooted in His loving nature. Therefore, to understand love is to understand God and His methods. As human beings, we tend to oversimplify love as an emotion or a feeling. Yet it is much more complex, being the essential characteristic of the God of the Bible. Thankfully, there is no shortage of scripture about love or its relevance in our lives.
1 John 4:8
7Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. 8He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.
As the previous scripture explains, God is love, and love comes from Him. It is His desire, above all, that we walk and operate in His love as a reflection of Him. It continues by declaring that those who don’t love also don’t know God. However, those who know God are familiar with true love, demonstrating it through a consistency of behavior also defined by scripture.
1 Corinthians 13:4-8 (NASB)
4 Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, 5 does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, 6 does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; 7 [b]bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never fails;
A closer look at scripture’s definition of love reveals that it is not a casual notion or idea. It is signified by hope and endurance, so those who love are committed, trusting and loyal to God. Those who walk in such love and faithfulness are extremely valuable to Him, because they are instrumental examples of His own lovingkindness. The embodiment of these attributes is what makes Jesus the ultimate example of God’s nature and why His name is exalted above all others. As He demonstrated, love’s most powerful form is demonstrated through great sacrifice—the sacrifice of one’s own will, their reputation, their personal interests and even their life.
2Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. 3Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. 4Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. 5Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: 6Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 7But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: 8And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. 9Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: 10That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; 11And thatevery tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
Interestingly, in order for love to be observed, it must be in motion. Since love moves from a sender to a receiver, we learn of its power when it is shared and mutual. This is, quite possibly, the most supportive evidence for the existence of God in three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
The Bible describes His existence in these three forms, illustrating a relationship dynamic which allows love to be effectively and continuously exhibited. Between the Trinity, love remains kinetic, being generated and regenerated among them, and humanity has an open invitation to share the benefits of this exchange. Problems only arise when intended recipients of love reject it or take without returning it.
- God shows his love by “pausing” eternity
- Jesus reveals love by sacrificing His life
- The Holy Spirit reveals love by sacrificing his existence within perfection.
- What are you sacrificing? How are you regenerating love?
When all of this considered, it becomes obvious why the Lord develops an affinity for those willing to exemplify love just as He does. Those who are patient, kind, unselfish, humble, believing and giving, according to biblical standards, are affectively reflecting the character of God. They are also conduits for the continuation of His love. This is why Abraham is called a “friend of God” (James 2:23) and why He is also considered the father of those who walk by faith in Christ Jesus (Romans 4:16).
Abraham’s story was an earthly model of the love of God in amazingly specific ways. Known as Abram prior to God’s revealed plan to use him, Abraham surrendered to the will of the Lord in ways that no one had before him. As a result, the divine plan of God to redeem humanity began to take shape and become evident. He displayed a loving faithfulness to the Lord’s commands that brought his character into alignment with the character of God. He wasn’t perfectly sinless by his own merit, but he trusted God’s loving instructions toward him.
So, the Lord expressed a desire to birth nations from Abraham, and Abraham believed in spite of the abundant physical evidence against it. While Abraham was traveling alone in the foreign lands of Canaan, God told him that his descendants would occupy that land. He also continued by saying that his people would be as innumerable as the stars of heaven and the dust of the earth. Logically, this would have seemed a virtual impossibility, but he believed anyway, and the proof of Abraham’s faith was demonstrated by his obedience to God’s commands. Because he loved God, he had faith in Him. Because he had faith in Him, he did what God asked and trusted Him to carry out His promise.
Genesis 12:1-4 KJV
1Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee: 2And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: 3And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed. 4So Abram departed, as the LORD had spoken unto him;
“….Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward: 15For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever. 16And I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth: so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed also be numbered. 17Arise, walk through the land in the length of it and in the breadth of it; for I will give it unto thee.”
“6And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.”
Through Abraham’s faith and obedience, God supplied the grace to sufficiently enable him to fulfill his purpose, even with the odds against him [Romans 4:18]. Abraham was empowered to do the impossible simply because he believed God, and he was called righteous for it. If attaining righteousness is the goal of our lives, then Abraham’s story provides invaluable insight into how that is successfully accomplished. Abraham did many works, but it was his belief or faith in God that earned his righteousness. Therefore, it becomes critical that children of God are able to distinguish faith from works, and understand the relationship between the two.
“14 What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?
It is true that our physical works can’t earn eternal rewards, but a belief is not a work at all. Belief is a frame of mind, made possible by God through our created conscience [Romans 2:14-15], that allows us to accept and surrender to God’s work in us. It is a posture, not an effort. Belief is a position of surrender to cooperation with God’s will, that makes us beneficiaries of His power, capable of performing good works by His grace.
Romans 4:1-5, 18
“1What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found? 2For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. 3For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. 4Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. 5But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. “18…Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations; according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be.”
“For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment; that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him.”
Let’s take this a step further and consider the depth and profound implications of Abraham’s great faith. The Lord promised him that his descendants would be as great in number as the stars of heaven. At the time of the promise, Abraham and his wife were so old that having a single child was, in itself, a miracle. Then after such an inconceivable birth, God commanded Abraham to kill his only son, and thus the promised posterity designated to be birthed through him.
Immediately there are logical questions that Abraham must have asked. How can an innumerable amount of descendants come through a son who has been sacrificed? How can nations be born if the only son to produce them is dead? Why would a loving God ask him to kill his only son, knowing how much he loved him? This was a physically impossible situation, specifically orchestrated by God, yet Abraham still believed and obeyed. He walked his beloved son up the mountain and proceeded to obey until the angel of the Lord stopped him.
12And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me.
Abraham’s faith was extraordinarily remarkable in this way: Before Jesus came to the earth and demonstrated such a miraculous possibility, Abraham believed that God was powerful enough to produce a nation, even through the death of the only son predestined to birth them. In other words, Abraham’s actions exactly illustrated the perfect plan of God to redeem the world through the sacrifice of His only begotten son, Jesus.
Essentially Abraham demonstratively believed in the life producing death of Christ before there was proof or precedent to believe, and he looked forward to what we currently view in hindsight. Therefore, he is blessed as the father of the faithful. The magnitude of Abraham’s faith is subtly expressed through Christ’s words to Thomas:
Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.
Perhaps this infamous statement, spoken to Thomas by Jesus after finally believing the resurrection that he could see with his own eyes, didn’t refer to future generations, but those in the past. The greatest faith stands against the greatest odds. In his willingness to sacrifice Isaac, Abraham’s faith was the first to transcend his generation, prophesying of the great mystery that the crucifixion of Jesus would soon birth a kingdom nation. So, thanks to Abraham, the lineage that came from Him became the elect recipients of divine promise, and Jesus had a nation to demonstrate His saving power to all of mankind. God finally had a people, in the Hebrews, soon to become Israel, who He could incubate the covenant Seed that He had held secret since before creation, and He’d do whatever was necessary to protect it.