Love: Part A
God’s Love: 1 John 4:7-12
Love is a common, simple, four-letter word that is so misunderstood. The culture talks about lovers when referring to fornicators and adulterers. Objects of love may be people, animals, activities, and objects. The idea of the word love carries the idea of attraction, desire for, wanting, and feelings – often warm and fuzzy ones. So often a term is used without defining it. Many would say that everyone knows what love is. If that is your starting point, you will miss God’s definition as given in the Bible.
Too often, Christians have bought the culture’s concept and brought it into their understanding of God and themselves. God’s love is unconditional is a common refrain in some areas of the Christian community. Most don’t know what the phrase means. In fact, it is difficult to track down the origin of the phrase. The term is not used in the Bible so it has an extra-biblical origin. But words and terms do matter. Christians must be careful when they use terms that convey a low view of God and His Word and a high view of man.
Actually the term is a selfish one because it suggests that the “lover” does not care about the condition of the one receiving love or affection or overtures or interest. This raises the issue of the purpose of love and loving. Unconditional love carries the idea of giving with no strings attached. Rather as we shall see, God’s love has one sole purpose: it loudly and clearly proclaims His glory. By loving an unlovely and unlovable people by human standards, he saves a people who don’t deserve to be saved (Rom. 5:6-10; 2 Cor, 5:18-21). God loves to show His glory by bringing about a change in people – from His enemies to becoming His family members. God love is supernatural. The noun and verb are linked and at times are inseparable.
Many wrongly interpret God’s love as unconditional. The idea that God loves in spite of himself and in spite of the one loved is unbiblical. God’s love is informed – it is intelligent. God knows himself fully and completely. God knows His creatures. We need to unpack the idea that God’s love is conditional or unconditional or perhaps both depending on one’s definition by searching the Scripture. Scripture has much to say about God and love. One defining text is found 1 John 4:7-12:
v.7: Dear friends, let us love one another for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.
v.8: Whoever does not love does not know God because God is love.
v.9: This is how God showed his love among us; He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.
v.10: This is love; not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
v.11: Dear friends since God loved us we ought to love one another
v.12: No one has ever seen God; but if we love another God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
Sometimes it is hard to distinguish love as a noun and as a verb. The phrase God is love defines love as a noun and God as the supreme Lover. As such, He loves; here love is a verb. From John, we learn that God is love – a noun (v.8). It is of His essence, His nature, and His Being. Therefore, to correctly understand the concept of love, one must begin with God. Most theologians consider love as one of God’s moral perfections. It is included under the heading of God’s goodness. The fundamental idea of God’s goodness is that God is, in every way, everything that he as God should be. We might call this perfection. God is Perfect. God is good in and for himself. He is also good for His creatures. He is the only and highest good. Goodness and love are linked. Because God is good he is love and he loves. Rightly understood the word love is a mini-definition of God. He is love and He defines love.
Love at the very least involves relationships and action. In this sense we can and should say that biblical love is conditional. Love and loving rests and begins with the Triune God. Love is conditioned by the character of God. If there is no God, there is no love either expressed as a noun or as a verb. From John’s first letter we learn that love is Intratrinitarian. All persons of the Godhead are Lovers. Consequently, there is love within the Godhead. What this love looks like we do not know. We were not there in eternity past.
We do know that there is perfect knowledge, harmony, and functionality within the Godhead. Love involves knowledge and it is conditioned by God himself. Therefore love is conditional. He can’t help but love! It is an absolute necessity for him to love. That fact is a relief for sinners!
Intratrinitarian love is impossible for man to comprehend. John makes this point in verse 12. The Church and the world get a glimpse of God and His love of Himself by His love of others – both His children and enemies. Again love and loving is conditional. They are dependent on the very nature of God. Since love is an action there is evidence of it. Notice that the term or concept of feelings has not entered into the discussion. Generally and properly it is taught that the ultimate demonstration of God’s love to mankind is the sending of Christ, the Messiah and of Christ himself. It is interesting that the Bible emphasizes the evidence of God’s love to mankind. This in itself is a loving action. Trying to comprehend God’s love of himself may be near impossible for man, fallen or unfallen. Therefore God would have believers look at the cross.
- Contemplate the Triune God’s love of Himself. What are your thoughts and how do they influence your love of others?
- How do you define love? What is the significance of the fact that God is love?
- Consider mankind’s fallen state: why should God love a rebel?
- How is it possible for Him to do that very thing?
Love: Part B
God is Love
Our subject is God’s love and its conditionality or un-conditionality. We began with God because the Bible begins with God (Gen. 1:1-2). God is love (1 John 4:8). He is the eternal God. God’s love of himself is eternal, complete, relational, perfect in knowledge, and active. God loves himself and his creatures because he is love.
God is known by mankind but not as he ought. This limitation is in part due to effect of sin on man’s thinking and wanting and because of who God is. Therefore, God’s love of himself is beyond human comprehension. We know from nature and the Bible that God is the Revealer and that he has created man as his image bearer. Therefore, man is a revelation receiver, interpreter, and implementer. God desires that he be known and accurately. If God’s love of himself is beyond human comprehension, how then will mankind know God and love? John gives the answer in 1 John 4:8: v.12: No one has ever seen God; but if we love another God lives in us and his love is made complete in us (see John 13:34-35). Jesus gives a similar answer in another venue: John 14:8-9. He tells Philip that if the disciples have seen Jesus they seen the Father which is one reason for Jesus’ coming (John 1:18).
Why would God spend so much blood and effort proving to sinful mankind that God is love? Number one, as we have noted, the love of God for himself is beyond human comprehension. Number two, the love of God is conditioned by the very nature of God and the nature of fallen man. Number three, love of enemies is counter-intuitive and counter-cultural. It is humbling. God loves himself, the perfect Being. How do we grasp that truth as finite and fallen creatures? In a sense, God stacked the deck. To say that God loves his friends seems palatable and reasonable. To say that God loves his enemies will get a Whoa. The person will ask how that is possible. It gets better and deeper: in some way, God loves his enemies with the same love that he loves himself. That seems impossible but it is a reality. It is a reality only because God is love and his love is conditioned by who he is and who man is.
God’s love is conditional because it depends on his very nature and does not depend on man. Salvation is a reality only if God loved hell-bound, self-loving, and self-pleasing rebels. There would be no salvation if God was not love. Again, God’s love and loving acts are conditioned on God’s nature. No other love or Lover could save man let alone desire to save man.
Fallen man is in danger, lost in guilt, and condemnation. Misery awaits him in this life and the next unless God supernaturally intervenes. We speak of God’s supernatural intervention as salvation and redemption. So we should. We must remember that God is love and He loves independently of man’s fallen condition and estate. It is as if mankind was placed in the worst condition possible so that salvation would be a WOW activity. God’s love is conditioned by his very nature and nothing in man. In fact, sober judgment would say don’t love the unlovely. Yet God does. This is in stark contrast to the Triune God’s love of himself.
To say that God’s love is unconditional is imprecise if not incorrect. God himself conditions love. His nature is to love and the clarity of his love is shone most clearly when the object of his love is an enemy. The phrase, God’s love is unconditional, misses the point of God’s nature. The word suggests that God is a love machine and that it is his job to love with no strings attached. It emphasizes that God’s love as unselective. He loves everybody without distinction because of something inherent in the person and not in God. That is precisely the opposite point! Everything in fallen man points to leaving him alone. In contrast, there is something in God (his nature is love) that demands him to love. Loving himself perfectly, completely, and eternally does not seem to motivate fallen man to praise and humble fallen man. Apparently God’s love of himself had no impact on the fallen angels.
It is true that God’s love is conditioned by his nature and is highlighted by the state and character of fallen man. There is no condition that any one person can bring to bear on God in order to force him to love that particular person. The person is the recipient of God and his love. He does so because God is love and not because he deserves it. He has nothing – he has no bargaining chip to force God to redeem him.
Once loved by God, there are conditions on the one loved in terms of duty, privilege, and blessings (2 Cor. 5:14-15; 1 John 5:3-4). The loved one is expected to change in his thoughts, desires, and action toward God, self, and others. The personal cost to be loved by God is zero. God saves. Once a person is saved, there are costs. God expects a return on his investment. He gave his all-in-all and the believer is to give himself daily, 24/7. Growth in love of God and others (neighbors and enemies) is part of the believers spiritual DNA.
- Clarify the terms conditional and unconditional love.
- God’s love is conditional: agree or disagree and why?
- God’s love is unconditional: how is that a dangerous concept? What truth may it carry?
Love: Part C
God’s Love: Conditional
From 1 John 4:7-12, we learned that God is love. Because He is he loves. God loved and loves himself eternally and perfectly. There is no defect within the Trinity. God’s love of himself is beyond human comprehension. The New Testament speaks of the Father’s love of the Son and the Son’s love of the Father and by implication the Holy Spirit’s love of the Father and the Son. Simply, there is a love fellowship between the three persons of the Godhead (The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all (2 Cor. 13:14 ESV).
As a consequence or a fruit of Intratrinitarian love, God loves his people. God expresses a common goodness to all his creatures (Matt. 5:43-48; Acts 14:17). But He loves his own in a salvific way. It is a wonderful truth that God’s love is conditional: it is dependent on His very nature. It is good that the condition for God to love does not rest with man.
From man’s perspective one may say that God’s love is unconditional. There is nothing in man to warrant God to love him. The fact that man is made the image of God is his only claim for God to exert kindness to mankind. As Creator, God does extend kindness to men for a time. The fallen angels have no salvation or offer of it. Post-fall there is much about and in man to warrant God’s wrath and never to be loved by God. However, God’s love is conditional: it is conditioned by God himself.
God loves simply because He is love. Thank God that he loves his enemies. One object of God’s love is unlovely people. By man’s standards they are un-loveable. Yet God loves his enemies. There is nothing in a person that forces God to love him or her (Rom. 5:6-10; John 17:9, 14, 20-24). Yet God loves them with a purpose – to bring a people to himself. God’s agenda is for them to become like his Son. There is nothing in man to force God to think and act in a certain way. There is much in man that requires God to act in judgment on mankind. Yet God loves his enemies. Therein is love that God loved first (1 John 4:19). John was speaking to believers. God loves his people in a saving way.
Christ demonstrated Triune love by his perfect obedience before the cross and his perfect death on the cross (John 3:16-21). In addition, we don’t see God but we see others. When self-pleasers, even believers, are kind to others, the world and especially the Church is presented with an insight into God’s love of himself (John 13:34-35; Matt. 5:43-48). Love is more than kindness but love includes kindness.
The ultimate expression to the world of God’s love is the estate of humiliation of his Son which includes the cross. In that way God loves those who don’t deserve to be loved. Rather they deserve wrath and condemnation. This act of sacrifice on the part of the Triune God points to God as the true Lover. The cross defines supernatural love and pushes the believer toward heaven. There he gets a glimpse of Intratrinitarian love. Seeing Jesus and witnessing his teaching and miracles does not match the cross in terms of revealing the nature of God (John 14:6-9). But even the cross must be seen from eternity past and the love that the Triune God has for himself. Humanly speaking love can be defined as God gives, as He meets a need, no matter the cost, with the correct motive, and by His standard (John 3:16; Gal. 2:20; Eph. 5:2, 25). God’s love of himself is displayed as He loves the unlovely (Rom. 5:6-10).
It is on the basis of God’s very Being that John tells his congregation that they are to love one another – it is a necessity (v.11). Moreover, believers are to love one another because love comes from God (v.7). John sets forth several non-negotiable truths: God is love and he is the fountainhead or source of all love. Several corollaries follow. First, only believers can love. Unbelievers cannot love because they are not born of God; they are not regenerated. Second, loving one another is not a suggestion; it is rooted in who God is and who the believer is in Christ. Third, loving one another is a testimony that God is love, that His love is radical and supernatural, and that the true lover of others is one who is loved by God and loves God (1 John 4:12, 19).
- In your thinking, clarify where God’s love originated. What significance does that have?
- What are the conditions on God to love?
- What are the conditions on man to love? How is it possible for man to love?
- Loving others is an expression of being loved by God.
- What did it cost you to be loved by God?
- What did it cost God?
Love: Part D
God’s Love: Conditional and Unconditional
John told his congregation that God is love (1 John 4:8). Since God‘s nature/Being is love, love characterizes all aspects of God’s Being: His holiness, justice, righteousness, mercy, and goodness. Again love must begin with the Trinity. Salvation is an Intratrinitarian activity that is steeped in the very Being of God. In eternity past, only the Godhead existed. He existed in perfect wisdom, harmony, and functionality. When we speak of God’s holiness, anger, righteousness, and justice, we are to understand that God, in and through love and holiness, placed His righteous judgment and wrath on Christ at the cross. He poured out his anger on Christ. He judged Christ and all believers.
In love, Jesus took the anger every believer deserved. In that sense, sin as a noun, has been given its due: at Jesus’ expense God punished and destroyed sin – its guilt and condemnation. In love, an angry, righteous God was working for each believer as well as himself. Christ went to hell on the cross. God loved his enemies through his Son. In his anger, God lovingly placed Jesus on the cross as a substitute for each one of his people. Moreover, the Holy Spirit indwells the Church and the believer to disarm the sinful disposition of self-pleasing through personal lawkeeping – one aspect of sin’s power. The unbeliever is too busy with self: self-pleasing, self-grasping, and self-exaltation (Rom. 8:5-8; Gal. 5:16-18; Eph. 2:1-3; James 4:1-3). The Holy Spirit is at work enabling God’s people to become more like Christ. The work of the Holy Spirit brings about changes in a person: his desires, attitude and actions and his belief and behavior. In contrast to the unbeliever, the believer is able to please God rather than self. Therefore a believer loves both God and others because he has first been loved (1 John 4:19).
Let’s consider again the term unconditional love. Is God’s love unconditional? From John, we learned that God is love. His love and its expression are conditioned on that which he is – he is love. We rightly expect God to love – it is his nature. However, too often, we begin with ourselves as recipients of God’s love. We must begin in eternity. As discussed in earlier blogs, the first evidence of the fact that God is love is within the Trinity. He loves himself totally and perfectly. Who else was there to love? One can only be amazed that He moves outside of the Trinity to find objects of his love. In marked contrast to himself is perfect, he loves those who are undeserving and unlovely (Rom. 5:6-11). Therefore God’s love is not conditioned by anything in man, about man, or what man can do. There is nothing inherent in fallen man that makes him lovely. Although he is still the image bearer of God, he is lost until saved/loved by God.
God’s love is based on the simple and profound fact that God is love. Although this fact is expressed most clearly within the Trinity, God would have us look to the cross for a clear picture of Intratrinitarian love. God loves himself because of himself. Therefore, God loves fallen men in spite of themselves and in part, because they are the image of God. As mentioned in other blogs, God meets man where he is. The creature, fallen or not, does not comprehend God and the fact that God is love. God meets mankind at his level. Fallen man does not deserve God’s love – he deserves God’s wrath. Yet God, in His holiness, justice, righteousness, goodness, wisdom, and power, loves unlovely people. Contrast the two objects of God’s love: the Triune God and fallen sinners, rebels. What a contrast! God presents himself as the Lover par excellence. God’s love of his enemies does not simply point to the cross but to him. If God was not love, there would be no cross.
Look to the Trinity, then to the cross, and then to your love of others, friends and foes alike. You will begin to discover that God is love, conditioned by His very nature and independent of man’s condition. In fact to love “good” people requires very little (Matt. 5:39-42, 43-48; Luke 6:29-30).
John 14:8-9 records Jesus’ short conversation with Philip. Philip wanted Christ to show (demonstrate) the Father to them. Perhaps Phillip wanted a theophany or a spectacular revelation. As all Israel claimed to want, Philip asked for a sign. Jesus was the Sign – a living Sign. The Messiah was standing before Phillip. If Phillip had seen Jesus with spiritual eyes, the Father and the Triune God would have been seen as well. Christ revealed the Triune God and the true nature of love. Do you see Him?
- Meditate on God, His love, and the object of His love. Write out your response.
- How does the fact that God is love and that you have been loved as a believer influence your relation to God and others?
- What is the big deal about having a loving God such as yours? Be specific.
- Think through the fact that you have been loved to and through death: Christ’s death and your spiritual death to self, sin, and Satan. By virtue of the fact that God is love, He has invested more in you than you have invested in yourself or in him.
- What significance do those facts have in your life; why and why not?
- Now, as one loved, you are called to love as you have been loved. Consider this working definition of love: give of self to meet a need in order to please God. Write out specific ways that you have been or can be a true lover.
Love: Part E
Is Self-Love God’s Way?
The movement of self-love, self-image, self-worth, and self-esteem has been in the rave reaching a climax even within Church in the 1970’s and 1980’s. The concept was touted as Self Esteem: New Reformation by Robert Schuller. The one common denominator in the terms is self. The key was to look to self for a better view of self based on a subjective standard of worth chosen by the person and verified by his feelings. Maslow’s need theory and self-actualization are based on self, self, and self. The concepts are still around but have lost some of their steam. However, it is proper for Christians to ask if there is a godly way to love self. In addressing the issue of self-love, consider these five facts:
- The Bible’s presupposition that man loves himself (Matt. 22:37-40)
- God loves Himself (1 John 4:7-8);
- Man is the image of God and therefore was initially designed to love himself God’s way (Gen. 1:31);
- The fall and God’s judgment corrupted man and man’s capacity for biblical self- love (Rom. 1:18-20; 8:5-8);
- John brings love of God, neighbor, and self together in 1 John 4:7-12, 19.
In this blog, I will address the first two truths.
- Matthew 22:37-40, Mark 12:28-34, and Luke 10:25-37 summarize the dynamic of love by including a twofold exhortation which summarizes the Law and the Prophets. In each case Jesus summarized the essence of the Christian duty and privilege with the words: love the Lord your God and your neighbor as yourself. Sadly, the teaching of Jesus has been misunderstood and misinterpreted. This misunderstanding has led to the false teaching that Jesus gave three commands; that without love of self, one can’t possibly love God and others; and that love of self precedes any other activity (Maslow’s jargon). In essence, self takes center stage and self-pleasing and getting becomes the lens by which the person interprets God, self, others, and life (actually those events that God brings into a person’s life).
In each portion of Scripture mentioned above, Jesus gave only two commands. Jesus presupposed that man already loves himself. The Holy Spirit reinforced that presupposition in Ephesians 5:28-29, 33. The husband is to love his wife as he loves himself and his own body. Jesus and Paul highlighted the intensity, fervency, constancy, and quantity of love which was considered a verb. An object of love is assumed. By design God is that object. He deserves and demands to be loved. He is the only being with the credentials to justify those facts. God has designed man to glorify Him by loving him in his presence forever. Biblically, love as a verb is the act of a person giving himself to another out of welfare for, loyalty to, and respect for another. It is a devotion word. In contrast, self-love is giving self to self for self. This activity can take many forms.
- In 1 John 4:7-8, John writes that God is love and the Lover. Intratrinitarian love teaches the believer how he is to love God, others, and self correctly. Whom did God love? He loved himself from all eternity! Love involves knowing, giving, and enjoying. God gave Himself to Himself. He withheld nothing. Intratrinitarian love focuses on each person of the Trinity. Each person has revealed Himself completely, totally, and comprehensively so that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit know and are known by the other. God holds nothing back from Himself. Therefore, God’s love is exhaustive, knowledgeable, revelational, and relational. Love of man by man is to follow the Intratrinitarian pattern. Man is to move outside of himself to the other person. Being known by God and knowing God are prerequisites for properly loving God and thereby loving self.
Love is considered an aspect of the goodness of God. A fundamental idea of the goodness of God is His worthiness. God in every way answers in all parts to the ideal which he is in himself. God sets the standard because he is the standard. God is in every way all that God should be. There is no part of God that is lacking; there is no part of God that is not good. Since God is good in himself and for himself, He is good for and to his creatures. He is the highest good and the fountain of all good (1 John 4:7-8). His goodness is revealed in his common kindness to both friend and foe alike; in the salvation and sanctification of his people; in his mercy, and in His long-suffering. God out of and from love graces his people.
The love of God is a specific aspect of His goodness in which God eternally communicates himself not only to himself but to his creatures. He gives himself in word, deed, and person. He The Triune gave himself in Christ, the living Word (John 14:6). God through the Son, the Scripture, and the Holy Spirit is the Revealer of himself (John 17:17). Motivated by love, God desires His creatures to know Him and to enjoy him, now and eternally. God moves from the Trinity toward fallen creatures. God has a proper self-focus. God loves himself but that love moves from him to others. He is best honored and served when his enemies become his children and serve and honor him.
- How are love of God and love of self linked?
- How is it possible for any being including God to love?
- What was one effect of Adam’s sin and God’s judgment regarding th dynamic of love?
Love: Part F
Is Love of Self God’s Way?
In last blog I considered two foundational truths in the study of self-love. The first consisted of the command to love God and neighbor even though every person is steeped in self. A second truth focused on God the Lover and source and model of love. In this blog I consider a third foundational truth.
III. Adam and Eve were created as image bearers of God and very good (Genesis 1:26-28, 31). They were designed to live in God’s world his way for his glory and for their own good. Their good was linked to God’s glory and the benefit of all mankind. They were designed to properly love self. Pre-fall they were properly related to God and to each other. Love of self was proper because they were in proper relationship to God. Proper relationship with each other and self logically followed. Love of self was based on a true knowledge of and a proper orientation to God, self, and others. It was proper and best for Adam and Eve to love themselves and each other. The way to properly love self was by loving God which led to loving each other.
Proper love of self requires a person to view himself from the same perspective as God did and does. Man is the image of God and as such God loves man. God loves man for His own sake. One theologian wrote: God loves in mankind Himself. God loves himself first and most, completely and perfectly. That is a source of comfort and joy for all believers. Since God loves himself as part of his very nature, so, too was man designed to love self because man is an image bearer of God. Pre-fall, man was in proper relationship to God, others, and self. Therefore, he was able to imitate love of self as modeled by God’s love of himself. Adam had a right concern about himself and Eve as they were in proper relation to God. A denial of these pre-fall facts distorts is actually is self- hatred which has drastic consequences (Proverbs 8:32-36).
Biblical love is factual, relational, and revelational. Therefore self-love involves proper knowledge of self as a whole person – body and soul, and proper application of biblical truth. The goal for man is to return himself to God daily as he prepares for eternity. God calls all mankind to give an account of who they are and how they have responded to the duty and privilege of rightly loving self. Rightly loving self will be demonstrated in proper love of God and others. Proper self-love looks away from self to God. Every person is to return to God that which is due God. That something is the person – all of him. The believer is equipped to please God. This is what Jesus did (John 4:31-34; 5:19-30)! He calls the believer to do the same when he exhorted the disciples to deny self, take up his cross, and follow Jesus (Matthew 10:32-38; 16:24-28; Mark 8:31-9:1; Luke 9:22-27; 14:25-27; John 12:25-27). Self-pleasing can be ONLY be equated with biblical self-love when love of self considers God and others first and from God’s perspective. In pleasing His Father, Jesus was practicing and modeling Intratrinitarian love. He was modeling biblical self-love. Jesus was consumed with pleasing God and therefore loving himself. He had a proper view of self-love because He had a proper of self and God.
In eternity past the Triune God covenanted to save a people for himself which was a most loving activity (John 6:35-43; Eph. 1:4; Rom. 8:28-30). The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are self-lovers and God-pleasers par excellence. Proper self-love is linked to pleasing God. In fact, proper knowledge of self leads to proper knowledge of God; a proper knowledge of God leads to a proper knowledge of self. If there is no God, there is no love. There is only selfishness and misery follows in this life and the next.
- What is the significance of the truth that God is love for you?
- Love is factual, relational, and revelational: explain.
- Properly loving self is first focused on the Triune God, His nature and commands and secondly on your neighbor. How should you and will you apply these truths to you?
Love: Part G
Is Love of Self God’s Way?
In this final blog I cover two additional truths that help to clarify the biblical doctrine of self-love.
- Jesus understood the effects of the curse of sin. Post-fall, the two underpinnings of love – proper relationship and proper knowledge of God and self – were lost. As a result of the fall and God’s judgment, man was and is out of proper relationship to and with God, others, and self. As a result, man suppresses and resists the truth of God and self (Rom. 1:18-20). He then functions as a truth exchanger and an idolater (Rom. 1:21-25). This mindset and lifestyle continues unless God supernatural intervenes.
Self-love and idolatry are almost synonymous. The capacity to properly love – God, others, and self – has been corrupted. Proper self-concern was eliminated and replaced by selfishness. Self takes center stage. Following satanic counsel became mankind’s modus operandi which took the form of self-pleasing via self-worship. Man became an idolater! He served and serves himself at the expense of pleasing and serving God. Proper biblical love of God and neighbor became non-existent. Consequently, the sinner used God and others to get for self.
- 1 John 4:7-12, 19 is a summary of God’s explanation for reversing the effects of the fall in the area of self-love. It builds on Matthew 22:37-40 and the parallel accounts in the gospels. John presupposed sinful self-love and highlighted God’s solution. He began with God as the fountain of all love – God is love and he loves (v.7-8). God is Lover par excellence. In response to God’s love of him, the believer truly loves. Only the believer can properly love. He is and will grow in loving God, others, and self God’s way.
Man’s capacity to love is derivative and initially it was properly directed toward God and others. Once God judged Adam and with him the whole human race, the capacity to love was directed toward self for self away from God and others. Upon regeneration (born of God – v.8), the believer can truly loves because he has been loved by God (v.19). The believer was regenerated, in part, so that he could love God and love others God’s way. As a result, self-love begins not with self but with God and others. The biblical view of love including self-love destroys the validity of all psychological theories. Proper self-love looks away from self to God and others. With that, we have come full circle and are back to a Matthew 22:37-40 and a proper understanding of love.
- Define love.
- How does your love model God’s love of Himself?
- How is it possible to self-love?
- What does godly self-love look like and from what does it spring?