God is love

Discussion in 'Baptist Theology & Bible Study' started by JonC δοῦλος, Sep 24, 2013.

  1. JonC

    JonC
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    A.W. Pink notes that the love of God is uninfluenced. Three of his points are as follows: (1) His love is influenced by nothing whatever in the object of His love. (2) His love is sovereign – the cause of God’s love lies in God Himself. (3) His love is immutable – His love does not change.

    Barth (in Chruch Dogmatics II) holds that God loves us as one who loves in freedom – not out of any lack in his own being. But God has a desire for our love and this desire furnishes the capacity for pain and loss – but this desire is something contingent upon God’s willing to enter into such a relation in the first place. (Disclaimer – I am not a fan of Barth’s lifestyle or his theology, but I appreciate the Christ-centeredness of his understanding).

    Erickson, (Christian Theology): Does God love us for his sake, thus apparently jeopardizing the unselfish, giving character of his love; or does he love us for our own sake, thus apparently jeopardizing his status as the highest value? The former would seem to compromise the love of God, the latter his glory. There is, however, a third possibility. God loves us on the basis of that likeness of himself which he has placed within us, in creating us. He therefore in effect loves himself in us.

    The most difficult theology course I took was centered on exploring “the love of God.” I have never actually developed an understanding that I would consider satisfactory and decided to revisit the topic. I welcome any guidance, discussion, and thoughts on how we define the love of God. How do you define "God is love"? How does God love and is this a genuine experience on the part of God?
     
  2. Iconoclast

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    I would think to look right to the cross to begin any such study.The Incarnate God coming to be the Divine substitute for all of the Covenant children...

    11 For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren,

    12 Saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee.

    13 And again, I will put my trust in him. And again, Behold I and the children which God hath given me.

    14 Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil;

    15 And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.

    16 For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham.

    17 Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.

    18 For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted.


    29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.

    30 Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.

    31 What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?

    32 He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?

    33 Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth.

    34 Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.

    35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?

    36 As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.

    37 Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.

    38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,

    39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

    The love of God is tied to the object of His love by eternal covenant...

    3 The Lord hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.
     
  3. JonC

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    That would be a very much “Barth-like” answer. We understand the love of God (or God period) through the work of Christ. I tend to agree.

    But still, if the love of God is tied to the object of His love by eternal covenant…do you mean that this is not really love per se but rather a legal type of obligation? Is God obligated to love because of his promise? Is it a self-centered love (God loves us only because we are in Christ and Christ is God) or does God genuinely love the man while man was still unredeemed?
     
  4. JonC

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    I guess, more to my question - What do we mean when we say that God loves? If God is unaltered (emotionally) by external beings, then how can it be said that God is capable of love?
     
  5. Iconoclast

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    I do not do as well on this kind of question as I have been geared more into a systematic type of study over the years....The problem I have is I am one who is way more cautious in speaking of God.
    Let me offer one verse before I speculate on my own....
    11 And we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end:

    12 That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

    13 For when God made promise to Abraham, because he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself,

    14 Saying, Surely blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thee.

    15 And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise.

    16 For men verily swear by the greater: and an oath for confirmation is to them an end of all strife.

    17 Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath:

    18 That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us:

    19 Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil;

    20 Whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.

    I think this passage speaks of God revealing to us in terms we as created beings can understand.....a glimpse or a partial revelation as to God's mind on this.....I could offer more of these kind of verses let's say if we were in a SS class or bible study...
    3 Sing, O heavens; and be joyful, O earth; and break forth into singing, O mountains: for the Lord hath comforted his people, and will have mercy upon his afflicted.

    14 But Zion said, The Lord hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me.

    15 Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee.

    16 Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me
    .


    These passages are offered and I have read some speculation on it....but what God speaks to us....is more like we explain things to little children,as His thoughts are higher...as in Isa55.
     
  6. Iconoclast

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    Again...we are meant to have some idea, and some concept of it as in 1 cor13
    4 Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,

    5 Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;

    6 Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;

    7 Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

    8 Charity never faileth:

    As image bearers being renewed day by day...we grow even in this.

    All of God's attributes are Holy attributes. Some communicable,some that are incommunicable.
    I think there are many more things that are incommunicable at this time and perhaps in heaven we learn throughout eternity...that would be my speculation....in other words we get some knowledge now,and the rest later.
     
  7. JonC

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    I agree. This has just proved to be a hard topic for me – and so much of Scripture speaks of God’s love, that God is love, abiding in love, etc. So I though the topic worth revisiting (for my own edification if nothing else) – but there are so many aspects of the love of God it is difficult for me to begin.

    I understand Nygren’s view fairly well as this has been what I was taught and what I believe – to an extent anyway. God’s love is “gift love.” His love is uncaused and uninfluenced by the worth of man. But the idea that God loves man not because of any good in them but instead only because He chooses to love them also causes problems. It seems a disjunction between creation and redemption. God created man in His own image. The economy of salvation is, to a great extent, a restoration of what was lost in the fall. Man retains an image of God (e.g., the OT reason given for murder being wrong is found in this doctrine). I can reason that God’s love for man stems not from man himself but from the image of God in man – but this is wrong because man is created in the image of God (Imago Dei also forms the identity of man, without which man would not exist). If God desires the love of man (which Scripture indicates this to be the case), then would not God’s love also be a type of “need love?”

    I know that that would contradict the view of many concerning total depravity, but could God’s love for man also be connected to man himself being created in God’s own image?
     
  8. Yeshua1

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    Woudl say that First...

    Gods PRIMARY Love was and is among Himself, as the trinity has eternally loved each other in a perfect fashion...

    So God does NOT need/nor require ANYTHING outside himself to complete, to have Him realise real Love!

    he chose to create man, as to glorify Himself, by working out His plans to bring sinners and His wreaked creation to becoming eteranlly on display as evidence of His love towards us!

    that is why I don't agree with th notion that you are worth loving, as Jesus would have died "just for you as only sinner needingsalvation"

    Would say that he died due to His love towards us, not due to us "being worthty!"
     
  9. JPPT1974

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    Also God's love is Jesus dying and rising. Taking our place as we are sinners who have fallen beyond short of God's glory and will. As sinless and perfect Jesus, died in our place so that we would not have to, once and for all!

    That right there, is REAL LOVE! It only comes from God through Jesus Christ!
     
  10. preacher4truth

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    Why would God, who is eternally perfect in all His being need external influences to be the source of who He already is?
     
  11. JonC

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    Thank you for your comments and sharing your understanding.

    I agree that God did not and does not need or require anything outside himself to be complete.

    I am not certain that I agree with your statement that mankind is not “worth” loving (or that one individual is not worth loving). From a human standpoint, man is created in the image of God and therefore – perhaps – of some worth (if nothing else, simply because God created man). I think that this may also apply to the love of God. Not that we are “worthy” of God’s love, but that God loves us as our Creator and a creation that bears the stamp of his image. If I were to continue this line of thought, then it is because of this love that God sent his son to redeem us. I don’t know that taking depravity to mean that man is worthless in all regard is a biblical stance (again, Scripture seems to indicate that this is not the case: the example of murder previously mentioned, that we are to love others as Christ loves us, etc). I do agree that our righteousness is worthless.

    I believe that God does not need external sources in any way, manner or form. That is not what I am asking. What I am saying is that if God desires our love then this is a form of “need love” as opposed to “gift love.” It does not mean that God actually needs our love for fulfillment or any other reason. It does mean that God desires the love of those whom he created.
    If God loves man, who is worthless and void of any type of “good,” because that is what he chooses to do – does this not void the doctrine of creation and redemption - our understanding of the fall and restoration of that relationship which was broken?

    Maybe the starting point for me should be determining whether or not the image of God in man, even fallen man, is of any value in terms of love (not righteousness). Genesis 9:6 and James 3:9 seem to indicate that man retains the description of being made in God’s image. So I am not quick to dismiss Erickson’s conclusion (in my first post).
     
    #11 JonC, Sep 25, 2013
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 25, 2013
  12. preacher4truth

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    JonC,

    Yes, I am agreeing with you in my previous post by a question. I apologize that I was not clear.

    God bless. :praying:
     
  13. JonC

    JonC
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    I've said it before, but perhaps it's worth repeating: I'm not the sharpest tool in the shed. :eek:
     
  14. preacher4truth

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    lol...well I have a sledge hammer. It ain't very sharp either, but it gets the job done! :laugh: :thumbsup: :laugh:
     
  15. Iconoclast

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    I do not think this is indicated.

    that should be a caution that the idea is wrong as there is no contradiction in God's revelation.


    perhaps in the desire to restore the fallen image in multitudes,,, perhaps on behalf of the elect angels who desire to learn about redemption.
     
  16. JonC

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    Iconoclast,
    Thanks for the reply. I typically like your responses because you seem to be a patient man (and on this topic I need all the patience I can get). :smilewinkgrin:

    That God “desires” anything from man or that a love based on a desire is classified as a “need love”?

    That’s an erroneous assumption. While considering that God’s love for man could be connected to man being created in God’s own image may contradict the view of many concerning total depravity – it also would not be a contradiction for many. Total depravity is related to righteousness or the moral state of man. But there are several that take the term to simply mean worthless in all aspects and indicate our righteousness is like worthless rags – but here I am not speaking of our righteousness. But I do agree with you in principle. New answers to age old questions are typically wrong. That's just not the case here (they may be debatable, but certainly not new or uncommon).

    Perhaps it is a desire (which would constitute a “need love” based on a quality of man) to restore man’s fallen state. I know Scripture speaks of fallen man as still bearing the image of God, but I don ‘t know of any off hand that speaks of the effect of the fall on this “image.” What verses that speak of the “fallen image” in relation to the “image of God" would you consider relevant in examining God's love?
     
    #16 JonC, Sep 25, 2013
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  17. Iconoclast

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    Jon c



    8 But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.

    9 Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God.


    4 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.

    45 And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit.

    46 Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual.

    47 The first man is of the earth, earthy; the second man is the Lord from heaven.

    48 As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly.

    49 And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.





    20 Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word;

    21 That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.

    22 And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one:

    23 I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.

    24 Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world.








    . [/QUOTE]
     
  18. JonC

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    [/QUOTE]

    I’m not sure that those passages indicate that the “image of God” in fallen man is no longer present (your first verse seems to state otherwise); but I do agree that man is fallen. This is actually off topic (and I took it there, sorry) – unless you are stating that fallen man is not created in the image of God.

    If man is created in the image of God, and is a creation of God, then God’s love would still have man as its object due to something distinctly human – i.e., God’s own image and his unique creation. This would mean that God “choosing to love” based on no quality of man as a mere expression of God’s own self may not accurately describe the love of God. I’m not saying that God does not choose to love man – only asking about the type of this divine love. Is it truly and completely self-centered without regard at all of its object (does God love for his own sake), does God love our sake, or does Erickson have a point that God loves us on the basis of that likeness of himself in us? Is God’s love influenced by nothing whatsoever in the object of His love (and if so, can this truly be defined as “love”)?
     
  19. preacher4truth

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    Well I suppose that we ARE in fact where I thought Jonc was leading, that somehow God needs something from man. I agree with you here Icon, and also answered the same thing here:

    In other words, God needs nothing outside of Himself, as He is completely perfect in all of His being. We love because he first loved us, 1 Jn. 4:19.

    We also have this; The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man,
    nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. Acts 17:24, 25.


    All things come from God, He needs nothing from man, and is not in any type of need. That said there seems to be an agenda in theology to prove somehow God is needy, or needs something from man, 'conditional election' and other errors.
     
  20. JonC

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    I absolutely agree (except that where you ended up was far from where I was leading). I do see that it was a mistake to use the wording “need love” as it is apparently mistaken for actual need.

    I do not hold to a purely Platonic understanding of love – quite the opposite (but not entirely the opposite). The sense in which God’s love is viewed here as a “need love” is in terms of the act of creation – God has created other beings with who he involves himself relationally. God chooses to interact with mankind within a genuine relationship. Not that God is changed by the world or actually needs the world (that is not at all close to what I am saying). Scripture indicates that there are things which God desires of man. If this is true, then I do not see how Nygren’s position alone can sum up the love of God.

    Do you believe that because of God's sovereignty the cause of God's love lies in Himself and that His love is completely independent and not influenced by anything in or about the object of that love? (God is pretty much apathetic regarding mankind - He does not actually "feel" anger towards evil, He does not desire man's love or obedience, He doesn't sorrow at their rebellion nor does He rejoice at in their salvation - but instead his love is a pure "gift love" and an expression of His divine character and sovereign choice.)

    If so, how do you define this love just described? If not, then what exactly is meant by God's love?
     
    #20 JonC, Sep 26, 2013
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