“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” (John 3:16).
I imagine that this was one of the first Bible verses, if not the very first one, learned by most of you. I’ve given it in the version in which I learned it as a child, the beloved King James Version. Why is the verse so popular? Because it sums up the Gospel message perfectly: God loved, God gave, we believe, we receive.
Yesterday my family and I read in our after breakfast Bible reading time the section on God’s love in Chapter 12, “The Character of God: ‘Communicable’ Attributes (Part 1),” of Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology (Zondervan, 1994).
Grudem begins his account of God’s love by considering the eternal love between the members of the Trinity, citing the following things said by Jesus:
– “…you loved me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:14; all Bible quotations except John 3:16 are from the ESV).
– “The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand” (John 3:35)
– “I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father” (John 14:31b).
However God’s love is manifested most clearly in His love for mankind, especially sinful ones. I opened this post by quoting a verse that describes that love, John 3:16. Here are a couple more:
– “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
– “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10).
Because love is a communicable attribute of God, we can and should display it too. When Jesus was asked which of God’s commandments was the most important, he replied: “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:29-31). Jesus was quoting from Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18. Thus God has always expected His people to display love towards Him and others just as He displays it to them.
In the great message that Jesus gave to his disciples between their eating the Last Supper and leaving for the Garden of Gethsemane, he told them, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for another” (John 13:35). My prayer is that my love for God and others will be such that others will know that I am a follower of Jesus Christ.