Through the apostle John, the Holy Spirit draws our attention to the kind of love God has for us. He says to “behold,” to see, be aware of and understand the nature of God’s love that blesses us to be called God’s children. John will go on to proclaim, “God is love” (1 John 4:8). Today, let us behold and understand the depth and breadth of God’s love from three vantage points. (1) God’s love is sacrificial. He “so loved the world” that He gave His Son to be lifted up on a cross to deliver sinners from death (John 3:14-17). Love gives of itself to serve others (see the example of Jesus, Eph. 5:25-27). (2) God’s love is merciful. God’s “great love” is adorned by His “rich mercy” (Eph. 2:4). Love acts out of mercy to relieve others. With tender compassion, God saw our sin dilemma (death, Rom. 6:23) and graciously saved us through faith in Christ (Eph. 2:5-8). (3) God’s love is purposeful. “In this is love, not that we love God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10). Love takes the initiative; it is neither negligent nor apathetic. As we behold God’s love for us, may we follow John’s appeal, “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 John 4:11).
6 For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6–8, NKJV)
We “love” everything from ham sandwiches, ice cream, and chocolate, to cars, sports teams, friends, and family. The English language does not do a very good job of differentiating the meanings and usages of the word love. People generally use “love” to describe a strong affection, attraction, warm attachment, enthusiasm, or devotion. But these meanings do not begin to approach the biblical meaning and practice of love (agape). “God is love,” and He has shown us what love really is by giving His Son to die for us unloving, unlovable, “ungodly” sinners (see 1 John 4:8-10). God’s love is active goodwill toward us (“demonstrates”). It is unselfish in its scope (“toward us”), and sacrificial in its depth (“Christ died for us”). God’s love toward us is the pattern Jesus teaches us to follow in loving God, our neighbors, our brethren, and our enemies (Matt. 22:37-39; 1 John 4:7, 11; Matt. 5:44-45). And, since Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments,” to love Jesus we must demonstrate active goodwill toward Him by obeying Him unselfishly and sacrificially (John 14:15). When we love as God has loved us, we know the love of Christ and are filled with all the fullness of God (Eph. 3:17-19).