Knowing God, chapter 12: The love of God

In his first epistle, John states, “God is love” twice (1 John 4:8, 16). Paul says, “God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us” (Rom 5:5). God’s love has been poured out, suggesting a free flow and a large quantity. God’s love has been poured out, implying a completed action. By the Holy Spirit—an undervalued ministry of the Spirit, as many today seek the extraordinary and spectacular ministries of the Spirit, neglecting the ordinary, general ones.

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Packer makes two comments on John’s statement:

  • ‘God is love’ isn’t the complete truth about God so far as the Bible is concerned. John also wrote ‘God is spirit’ (John 4:24) and ‘God is light’ (1 John 1:5).
    • God is spirit: Jesus said this to disabuse the Samaritan woman of the idea that there could only be one right place of worship. God isn’t physically confined, and so acceptable worship doesn’t depend on your geography but on the state of your heart.
    • God is light: Light=holiness and purity, as measured by God’s law. God’s love isn’t an indulgent, benevolent softness dissociated from moral standards (Matt 5:48). God’s love expresses holiness in the lover and seeks holiness for the beloved.
  • ‘God is love’ is the complete truth about God so far as the Christian is concerned. To say ‘God is love’ means that His love finds expression in everything that He says and does. Gal 2:20—the Son of God… loved me and gave himself for me. Therefore, the Christian can rejoice even when things seem to be going wrong.

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Packer sums it up as follows:

“God’s love is an exercise of His goodness toward individual sinners whereby, having identified Himself with their welfare, He has given His Son to be their Saviour, and now brings them to know and enjoy Him in a covenant relation. ”