God's love is revealed through his Message: the Logos. Whether in creation, our conscience, scripture or in the coming and life of Jesus Christ, this Message is the same. Through his Message, God reaches out to man to call him to repentance and to the gift of eternal life, by the shed blood of his Son. His love comes to us individually in the baptism of the Spirit in new birth, and eventually takes over our life as we share his gospel love with the church and with all others in missions.
This books looks at issues related to the love God and shows the continuity of God's love and character between the Old and New Testaments: One God, One Message!
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Just LoveGod's Plan in Both Testaments
By Kent Hodge
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2011 Dr. Kent Hodge
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe Character of God
Beloved, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 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. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Beloved, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. 1 John 4:7-12
Apostle of Love
He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. 1 John 4:8
John was writing about true worship. He said the love of God has clear marks in the lives of those who truly worship him. John is sometimes called the apostle of love. He wrote, "For God so loved the world that he gave his only born Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life". (John 3:16) John also spoke extensively of the love of Jesus for his church.
A new commandment I give you, That you love one another as I have loved you. (John 13:34, 15:12)
John presents God's love to us, not in a new-age/universalist vein, but in Jesus Christ. In John 3:16 he claims the world is perishing. He says whoever believes on Jesus Christ will not perish, but have eternal life. Even in John, the apostle of love, there is only one way not to perish: by believing through the Son of God.
When John wrote "God is love", he was shepherding the church in respect to false ministers who claimed to be from God, but did not have God's nature. He said we should look at the lives of these ministers, and our own lives, to see if God's love is working and reflected. "God's love" is a summary of the new life in the gospel. When we love God we also love his Son, and we love one another, and this love is seen in righteousness.
Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ in born of God; and everyone that loves him that gives birth, also loves him that is born by him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments, and his commandments are not grievous. 1 John 5:1-3
When we love the Father it follows we will love the Father's Son. We cannot say we love God while calling him a liar, rejecting his gospel about his Son. But this love also extends to all God's children. If we love the Father we also love one another. John claims this is part of true worship. Loving God's children would include forgiving them, but also maintaining honesty in our relationships: walking in the light. (1 John 1:7) This is part of how John defines love.
This passage of John also tells us what the love of God is. It is not just a feeling. It is the keeping of his commandments. John says we know we love God's family when we keep God's commandments. This would be the same with our immediate family. If we love our family we will keep God's commandments, for this is the best protection, care and leadership we can give to those we love. If we walk in a lie, we do not love others.
There is robustness to God's love. It means that we follow the Lord, which in turn means we keep his commandments. If we do not keep his commandments we do not love him. "If you love me, keep my commandments." (John 14:15) When Jesus laid down his life he said, "That the world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father has given me commandment, even so I do". (John 14:31)
Keeping his commandments does not mean ticking boxes in a legalistic way. It comes from a heart that has been touched by the love of Christ and which seeks to follow the example Jesus gave to us. Keeping the commandments is not a condition we must meet for God to love us, but a result of his love: a result of receiving his faith and being born again.
By this we know God's love, because he laid down his life for us: and we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 1 John 3:16
God's love is selfless. It reaches out to others in a redemptive way, forgiving and restoring. God's love is rugged: there is personal cost involved. This is seen in the cross of Christ and his sufferings. We do not celebrate receiving God's love without also following his example. So John said if we have love we will share our goods with those in Christ. (1 John 3:17)
God's love means a commitment to truth. "This is the message ... that God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all." (1 John 1:5) If we are truly in God's love we will walk in truth. A message of the "love of God" that is not united with truth is not from God. "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth." (3 John 4)
The purpose of God's love coming to us is that we are transformed to keep his word, i.e. walk in and obey his truth. This is the true love of God. John said these things are the marks of the love of God coming to us in Jesus Christ: "But whoever keeps his word, in him the love of God is truly perfected (brought to completion); by this we know that we are in him". (1 John 2:5)
John was saying the worship of God is not mere sentiment; the love of God is not mere emotion. We know we have received God's love when we keep his word. There is an objective measure to his love working in our life, which is his truth seen in us, and in what we do in our daily life. It is making the right decisions: that which is honest, pure, of good report, virtuous. (Phil 4:8)
John said the love of God is contrary to the love of the world: "Do not love the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him". (1 John 2:15) When we love the world we value its affirmation more than God's affirmation. When we love the things in the world we put them ahead of truth, ahead of God and ahead of what is best for other people.
Love starts with God, not with us: "Here is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the payment for our sins". (1 John 4:10) By loving us first he brings us to love him and transforms the way we live our lives: "We love him because he first loved us". (1 John 4:19) Maybe this is what returning to our "first love" means. When we first meet Jesus we realise we are saved by grace, because he loved us first. Remembering this keeps us from self-righteousness.
The love of God is the most impacting thing to ever happen to us. It turns our world upside down, affects our values, transforms our heart, and all the choices we make. When this happens the world will think we have gone nuts. Keep loving them. This is when we know the love of God has come to us.
As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. John 15:9-16
The Character of God
If we take God's love alone, apart from all of God's attributes, we get a skewed idea about both love and God. The scriptures speak of God as being loving, merciful, just, righteous, compassionate and wrathful in judgement. They speak of both his goodness and his severity. If we take "love" alone, and do not see these other characteristics as a part of what true love is, we get a wrong concept of love. It is important for us to understand the true or full character of God.
It's like anything in the scriptures: if we just take a part of what the scriptures say on a certain topic, we get a lopsided view of it. So Paul said, "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man (or woman) of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished for all good works". (2 Tim 3:16-17) To be fully furnished in our knowledge of God we take all scripture says about him.
Reproof and correction form part of God's love, because as Paul said above, these are profitable for us as God fashions us into his image. Discipline, though it seems grievous, is part of God's love for us. God has designed it for our benefit, because without it we would be untaught and bring ourselves to irreversible harm. Love has to be "strong enough" to ensure it does what is needed. Impotent "love" is not love, but is in fact uncaring.
For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives. As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as his own children. Whoever heard of a child who is never disciplined by its father? If God doesn't discipline you as he does all of his children, it means that you are illegitimate and are not really his children at all. Heb 12:6-8
Love has backbone, related to the guidance of God's people. Psalm 23 tells us an attribute of our Good Shepherd, as he leads us into green pastures, is that his rod and staff comfort us. This is the aim of discipline. It produces a change of path that leads to peace and prosperity (wholeness) in God. This is the purpose of godly discipline in children and why it is important for their future well being. It is contrary to "love" to undermine biblical discipline.
God's characteristics are many. Isaiah 9:6 says his name is wonderful, counsellor, mighty God, everlasting Father, the Prince of peace. Rev 19:11 calls him faithful and true and in righteousness he makes war. Here war is part of his character, when it is by his judgement appropriate for goodness to prevail. Ex 34:6-7 describes him as merciful, gracious, patient, abounding in goodness and truth, forgiving transgression and sin, but by no means forgiving the guilty, but punishing iniquity upon generations who disobey him. It is wrong to take one of these attributes and deny the other.
Moses beautifully describes him:
He is the Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are judgement: a God of truth, and without iniquity, just and right is he. Deut 32:4
This verse reflects his different attributes. Together these describe his love in its full measure. Humanism fails to understand God's love in regard to the full truth. Love without truth is not love: "whom I love in the truth". (2 John 1)
Call to Repentance
John sets love in the context of redemption, meaning a transformation of our life. God loves the sinner, meaning he calls us to repentance and life. John said faith, or the love that God brings to us through Jesus, without this transformation, is inconsistent with the character of God:
This then is the message ... that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanses us from all sin. 1 John 1:5-7
God's love is seen in an uncompromising manner. He lives in light, meaning no trace of dishonesty or anything hidden in darkness. With God there is no variableness or shadow of turning. (James 1:17) He is perfectly upright, with no hint of corruption or deception. God's love is not to be taken for granted, where Jesus isn't transforming us into his image, or we are misrepresenting God's characteristics, his person, and his love.
John's message is that we can't separate God's love from the rest of his image. We cannot take one of his characteristics without the others. If we do we have lied. We cannot take God's love without taking repentance. Without repentance we remain outside God's love.
In Jesus all of God's characteristics meet together and are satisfied and fulfilled:
Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other. Ps 85:10
It is only in Jesus, full of both grace and truth, that this union between justice and mercy comes to our lives and cultures. (John 1:17) God's saving love meets us in Jesus. Outside of Jesus there is no hope of this love being known. Outside of Jesus truth speaks against us, without mercy to appease it; and righteousness judges us, without atonement to bring peace. In Jesus' atonement God's love and justice are brought together.
Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Rom 5:1
We sometimes see both justice and mercy even in human government. At its best it is merciful and patient with human weakness, but in the end it punishes and curtails wickedness. Not to do so would be contrary to integrity and an abandonment of the well being of others.
Any mercy that ultimately fails in regard to justice also fails in meeting the qualities of love. Love is reflected in judgement, as well as in mercy. Any notion of love that erodes another characteristic of God diminishes God and attempts to refashion him in our own image.
We must resist redefining God in terms of cultural view. If, with an inaccurate emphasis on "love", we undermine the biblical concept of "the fear of God" and the role it plays in our lives, we have done ourselves and others a great disservice. This is not love.
It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. Heb 10:31
The fear of God does not only mean to respect God. It also means to fear punishment for unrepentant sin. Denying this fear leads to a familiarity with Godly things, which is unsafe for individuals and for our societies. The above text from Hebrews is speaking to believers and warning them about becoming familiar with and then turning away from God's revealed truth.
The fear of the Lord is reconciled with his love for us. When you fear the fire you keep your hand away from it. This fear comes from a God who loves us. The purpose of the fear of the Lord is our safety. In our zeal to express the love of God, we should not shy away from warnings about consequences of shunning his call to safety. These consequences are very real.
For if we sin wilfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there remains no more sacrifice for sins. Heb 10:26
The scripture itself does not shy away from all the truth: neither then should we. It is not love to deny the consequences of sin. It is love to warn each other of them, and to turn away from sin.
Those Who Haven't Heard
What about those who haven't heard the gospel? Does God love them?
The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament shows his handiwork. Day to day utters speech and night to night shows knowledge. There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard. Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world . . . Ps 19:1-4
There is no person in the world that does not have a witness that God exists, and in this all men are without excuse (Rom 1:20). From this witness in creation, every person alive can call upon God to reveal himself. God will respond and ensure they have the knowledge of the gospel.
Down through the ages the knowledge of God has always been spread through the world's civilizations. Before the flood, during Abraham's time, during Israel's day, and in the first millennium of the church, the gospel went out to the whole populated world, and today it is in reach of every person—God is able to get the knowledge of his gospel to any person by his perfect intervention.
In the Old Testament we see even Gentile nations were held to account by God by his prophets. These nations all had revelation of God and they all knew better than the atrocities they were committing.
Excerpted from Just Love by Kent Hodge Copyright © 2011 by Dr. Kent Hodge. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Contents Inheritance, Image, Mission....................ix
The Character of God....................1
Apostle of Love....................1
The Character of God....................5
Call to Repentance....................6
Those Who Haven't Heard....................9
What About Evil?....................12
What About Election?....................17
Pacifism and Government....................21
Continuity Between Testaments....................27
Joshua's Conquest of Canaan....................35
The Evil of Canaan....................37
The Language of Joshua....................41
The Offer of Repentance....................43
The Offer of Peace....................43
The "Ban" Against Idolatry....................45
God's Love in the Law....................49
The Fruit of Grace....................49
Interpreting the Law....................52
The Sermon on the Mount....................55
The Meaning of the Law....................61
Principles in the Law....................64
The Ceremonial Law....................74
Ceremonial Law Fulfilled....................83
Jesus & the Law Reconciled....................86
The Teaching of Jesus....................89
The City of God....................89
The Kingdom Breaks Through....................108
Preserve & Witness....................115
Mission In & Outside the Church....................130