God is Love…for WHAT?

“ὁ θεòς ἀγάπη ἐστίν” ó theòs agape estín (Greek; trans. “God is love”) on a stele in Mount Nebo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Pastor Rob Bell has recently written a controversial book asserting that “Love Wins”. In it, Rob seems to paint a picture that could lead one to believe that there really is no Hell, or that in the end everyone will be saved from Hell because Love wins. So, why does he assert that Love wins? Why, because God wins, and the Bible declares that “God is Love”. God is Love, God wins, so Love wins. That sounds very good. YET, I think we need to ask something further…God is Love for WHAT?

Whether we realize it or not some of us may read 1 John and think “God is Love…for people”. That is true, but I believe it is a whole lot more than that. The statement “God is Love” seems to encompass much more than God just being love for people. Can we limit God to just being “love for people? The statement “God is Love” is an eternal statement. God didn’t just become Love when He created mankind. God never became Love, God is Love. I believe that “God is Love” means that God has always been Love, God is Love now, and God will always be Love. God was Love BEFORE He ever created people. Before people existed, God was Love. The fact that God is Love has never been dependent upon man. God was Love, and God is Love regardless of people. God is eternal and God was love and demonstrated love before the creation of man. While it is true that Love is creative, God didn’t need us to somehow validate to Himself that He is Love. The fact that “God is Love” is not dependent upon the existence of mankind, but the existence of mankind is completely dependent upon the fact that God is Love. Because God is Love and has always been Love, we were created to fit into the things that God already loved before we existed.

What? Some of us may be tempted to think that everything was created to fit around God’s love for us. That is simply not true. We were created to fit and conform to what God had already loved before our creation. We were created to fit into God’s purposes and pleasures, and into the framework of things that God already loved. We were created to fit into His will (Rev. 4:11, Eph. 2:10, Col. 1:16). God is Love, and while He does love people, the essence of God is much larger than love for people. The infinite love of God is not solely focused and contained in the finite realm of mankind. Can you fit an Adult Blue Whale into an ordinary sardine can? God’s love for people is just one component in the “Big Picture” of all things known and unknown that are incorporated into the statement “God is Love”. He was Love, and loved other things before the creation of man.

What Did God Love Before The Creation Of Mankind?

What did God love before He ever created man? More things than I care to list. But I want to concentrate on one thing for this writing. God loved truth before He ever loved mankind. God and truth go way, way back…All the way back. The Father, Son, and Spirit are, and have always been, identified and aligned with the standard of truth. The Father is called the God of truth (Deut. 32:4, Ps. 31:5). Jesus is called the truth (Jn. 14:6). Don’t forget that the Spirit is also expressly identified in this manner, “The Spirit IS truth” (1 John 5:6, John 16:13, Jn. 15:26, Jn. 14:17). God never did anything without truth (Ps. 33:4, Dan. 4:37) Truth was reality long before Man became a reality. Before man ever existed, God was Love; and God loved truth. God’s identity was “married to truth” long before man was created. Many of our nation’s Founding Fathers lost their homes, wives, children, fortunes and lives for a value called freedom. God feels that way and more about the standard of truth. God will never abandon the standard of truth. God and truth have an inseparable love-bond. God and the standard of truth will never separate. God cannot lie.

Here’s a bubble-buster: No man will ever come between the love-bond that God has for the standard of truth. Again, God cannot lie. But truth will come between the relationship of man with God. If a man rejects truth, God will reject the man. If a man yields under and submits to the truth, that man is received. God will not abandon the standard of truth under any circumstance. When Christ became Sin for us, God poured out His Wrath upon His own Son. God chose to sacrifice His own Son rather than abandon the standard of truth and its requirements. This is what is so utterly mind-boggling about the love that the Father and the Son have for us. At this point you may be asking, “What is so important about the standard of truth that the Father would choose to sacrifice His Son (the person of Truth Jn. 14:6) instead of abandoning the standard of truth??? We will answer that shortly.

God Drowned The Lost, And God is Love

While it is true that the Father sent Jesus to seek and to save the lost, it is equally true that the same Father drowned entire multitudes of the lost that rejected truth. This same Father will take the lost that reject the very truth that is revealed to them, and He will place them under His Wrath (Rom. 1: 18-25). God will allow man to disassociate from Him before He will ever sacrifice His association with the standard of truth. God will never compromise or abandon His love for the standard of truth in exchange for the affections of man. People have asked for centuries, “How can we say “God is Love” when He drowns people, scorches cities, and sends people to Hell?” I wonder if the clearest answer is that God loves truth without wavering. The standard of truth is not here to conform to man, but man was made to conform to the truth. As a result of this prevailing, immense love for the standard of truth, we can clearly say that God is Love. The Bible points out that all of God’s love flows from His love for truth.

Does God Really Adore Truth?

Have you ever noticed that I Corinthians 13 describes Agape Love without ever assigning it towards a person, a group, or anything specific? It never says things like, “Love is kind towards Jesus” or “Love suffers long for the body of Christ. The chapter solely talks about the quality of Agape Love without ever directing it towards anything other than “things”. The strange thing about this is that Love cannot exist for its own sake (“seeketh not her own”). BUT WAIT!!! Agape actually does direct itself in this chapter towards ONE VERY SPECIFIC ITEM ONLY…”LOVE REJOICES IN THE TRUTH”. Wow! This is fascinating! “Rejoices” in the Greek is a combination of two words “Suvn” which is a preposition denoting union, and “Caivrw” which is a verb for exceedingly glad. Agape gets excited about the truth! Agape deliriously celebrates in union with the truth. Agape is united and “in love” with the truth. Truth is the only assignment given to Agape in the entire chapter. Truth is the only thing that Agape points itself towards in this chapter. This is deliberate. Without truth, Agape surrounds itself around nothing. Truth is central to Agape. Truth is utterly vital to the existence of Agape Love.

Why Does Agape Love Absolutely Need Truth?

Therefore, there is no Agape Love without truth. Agape doesn’t exist without truth. The scriptures referenced earlier told us that all of God’s works are done in truth. Agape has to have a standard. Agape has to have an anchor. Agape has to wrap around something that is unmovable. Without truth as its standard, Agape would be like the Kamikaze pilots who “gave their bodies to be burned” believing that Emperor Hirohito was God. It would be false, vain, a lie, and meaningless. Instead, Agape rejoices in the truth like the man in Proverbs rejoices in the bride of his youth. They are joyfully united. On the other hand, Agape deliriously and zealously HATES sin. “Rejoices not in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth”. Holiness develops as the protector of Love. Anyway, Agape Love flows out from a centered love of truth. Without truth, Agape would fall apart. Why does Agape Love need truth as its core? Because Love without truth is a love you can’t trust.

God’s Prevailing Motive: Is It The Forgotten Purpose Of Christ?

So, what is so important about the standard of truth that the Father would choose to sacrifice His Son instead of letting go of the standard of truth? Abandoning truth would be like blowing up the only ship in the ocean in order to provide a single floating board for a drowning man to hold. Everything would become hopeless if you blow up the ship. Instead, you dispatch a smaller boat or throw out a life preserver, but you don’t abandon and blow up the ship called truth.

Does Love win? Yes, but only when the truth prevails. What is the love of God? The same New Testament book that told us that “God is Love” tells us this answer: “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous—1 John 5:3.  The love of God is to hold to the truth. This includes loving others, and loving our enemies but not at the expense of the whole truth.

We need to be careful of how we define the statement, “God is Love”. God is Love and what defines this the most is God’s love for truth. God loves us with an unimaginable love, yet I’m starting to believe that God’s love for the standard of truth is His prevailing motive above all else, and that love for truth is what makes Him Agape. In the end, it seems the motive of God’s love for the truth prevails (or at least it will not bend) in the light of God’s desire that all be saved. The motive of God’s love for the truth prevails over His motive of seeking to save the lost.

Sometimes we “highlight” Christ’s purpose of coming to seek and to save the lost. Yet, at the very end of His life when He stands before Pilate, He makes His final declaration of His earthly purpose by saying, “…for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth hears my voice”–John 18:37. This is the purpose of Christ that is sometimes overlooked. People may go to Hell, but God will never break the standard of truth. God has gone above and beyond and has demonstrated unimaginable love towards us. Still, unless we submit to Him there is no other recourse. Here is a truth that will not be abandoned by God: “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them”–John 3:36.

Without truth, there is no Agape Love to be found anywhere and none of these motives would exist. Do not abandon the truth for the sake of what you may think or feel is love. Love apart from truth isn’t God’s love at all.

Wondering Aloud,

Defrosting Windows

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Husband, Father, Salesman, Veteran, Real Identity: Child of God
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23 Responses to God is Love…for WHAT?

  1. Craig M says:

    Wow’ what a great first blog. Look forward to more. I agree with everything. This is much more in depth than I could have realized. Thanks!

  2. Elmo Shangnaster says:

    Interesting post, with some good insight.

    John R.W. Stott’s book, The Cross of Christ, points out the “tension” between God’s love and His justice. At one point in the book he mentions sin “is not only the attempt to be God; it is also the refusal to be man, by shuffling off the responsibility for our actions.” In some way, I believe this is what Bell is doing. God will not violate His own sense of justice. As you’ve said, “God will never compromise or abandon His love for the standard of truth in exchange for the affections of man.” Yet He freely gives Christ to satisfy it. We can only marvel and wonder at such love.

    I think what Rob Bell is missing is, as you say, “the motive of God’s love for the truth prevails over His motive of seeking to save the lost.”

    Very good. Glad you’ve thought about this.

    • defrostingwindows says:

      I really like the line you just wrote, “Yet He freely gives Christ to satisfy it.” That expresses the balance of it all.

  3. David Ziegler says:

    Great words Dan. On my blackberry so I will comment with more later. Thanks. For doing this. Your gift (to communicate in writing) is making a way for itself

  4. Jack Elder says:

    Good sound biblical argument. I haven’t seen Rob Bell’s theory but I suspect he thinks it to be the truth. God’s truth is absolute. We might see it less than absolute, but when there is biblical evidence that is hard to refute like your last scripture in John 3:36, I think he may not see the truth of the whole Word. Very good work.

    • defrostingwindows says:

      Thanks Jack! Although I may not agree with Rob Bell on everything, I do like to ponder his questions. He has great questions which cause me to think, ponder, and pray. God’s truth has the final answer.

  5. Troy Petee says:

    Dan,
    Great rebuttle on Rob Bell’s book. I agree 100%. It is unfortunate that a large percentage of the messages coming from the pastor’s of mega church’s is nothing more than motivational speaking with a few scripture referances. Perhaps that is why the mega church’s are so popular. I recently read an article that suggested the main reason that mega churchs have become so popular is a sense of aninimity. Interesting thought.

    • Troy Petee says:

      Sorry, should be anonymity.

    • defrostingwindows says:

      Thanks! I just wish that I could remember the conversation that we had on the way to Joey’s funeral. You and I both said “theological things” in that discussion that I wanted to research more.

  6. Benjamin J. McClelland says:

    I enjoyed that and agree with this truth. Universalism to me does not make sense.

  7. Terry Keith says:

    Why “defostingwindows?” What does it mean to you?

    • defrostingwindows says:

      I think about the verse “For now we see through a glass darkly…” In my mind’s eye I see frosted window panes. However, with the Spirit’s help (who leads us into truth) and with God’s lamp unto our feet, we are allowed to see what we need to see. I desire to see more clearly, and I hope to stir that desire in others.

  8. Amy says:

    I have not read Rob’s book so I can not intelligently comment on that part. I really think that man has a twisted idea of what “love is” from man’s own perspective so I’m sure that it is projected onto what God’s love is in our tiny minds.. Truth? Well, there is a reported 38000 different Christian denominations today,, yikes.. For me, if it’s not simple “like a child” it just ain’t true. I’m loving the search for “truth” about God for myself, after all, we are each responsible to search, ask and ponder it all. When I want to understand truth, I sit and watch children interact with eachother. They know more about truth than us grown ups for sure!! They are simple. Great blog Dan!! You are such a deep thinker!

    • defrostingwindows says:

      Thanks Amy. 38,000 different denominations…oh my! I suppose that’s a plus if your in the Church Sign Design business. Then again, I wonder how many designs a company has to present before the Deacon board can find one they all agree on!

      • Amy says:

        I was also thinking that we have a very skewed view about what God’s blessings are today. This is the first generation to have only 1 or 2 children and consider ‘things’ as God’s blessings. From Gen to Rev God blessed people with children, lots of them, as many as the stars in the sky and the sands of the ocean in some cases. We don’t even know our own heart’s desires anymore..

  9. Amy says:

    The center core truth about God is Jesus. Jesus came to serve, he got below us to lift us up, got down and washed our feet and hardly anyone of the time recognized Him as God, or would accept Him as Son of God…. hummmm, some are still in the same boat! So I wonder why we make God out to be some glory demanding, vending machine in the sky when He cleary sent His Son and we are to be transformed into the image of Christ, by His doing, not ours. He sent Jesus, that’s the truth I rejoice in. I like thinkin about this stuff 🙂

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