The Profound Connection Between Love and Knowing God

Love is significant in understanding God’s presence in your life and knowing God (1 John 4:8).

At the time of the writing of 1 John, many Christians were experiencing a crisis of faith because of persecution and false teachings. Some had returned to Judaism, and others were floundering, confused by messages that Jesus was perhaps not fully human or the actual Son of God.

1 John was written to encourage faithful struggling believers. 1 John chapter 4 explains the God’s love.

1 John 4:8 – God Is Love

If there isn’t real love for God’s people in your life, then your claim to know God and experience God isn’t true.

Part of the reason John felt compelled always to tell us to love one another is that he was constantly thinking about God. In the scriptural passage of 1 John 4:7-8, John combines both themes to show us that love is from God since God is love.

And when John says God is love, he means every activity of God is filtered through love. God can’t do anything unloving; loving is His very nature. Our God is unlike the gods of the heathen, who hate and are angry, and unlike the god of the philosopher, who is cold and indifferent. 1

In God, love is in all of His attributes. What God is, and all that He is, essentially and necessarily love. He cannot be otherwise. As God is loving, so also is He just, good, wise, merciful, etc. Or, if we want to express His attributes as nouns, God is justice, goodness, wisdom, mercy, etc., and He is love. Unlike human beings or angels who may be loving or unloving, good or evil, wise or foolish, merciful or cruel, God is necessarily loving, as He is necessarily “infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in His being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.” 2

When we say “God is love” we are not saying all there is to say about God. Love is an essential aspect of His character, and colors every aspect of His nature. But it does not eliminate His holiness, His righteousness, or His perfect justice. Instead, we know the holiness of God is loving, and the righteousness of God is loving, and the justice of God is loving. Everything God does, in one way or another, expresses His love.

When we say “God is love” we are not saying all there is to say about God. Love is an essential aspect of His character, and colors every aspect of His nature. But it does not eliminate His holiness, His righteousness, or His perfect justice. Instead, we know the holiness of God is loving, and the righteousness of God is loving, and the justice of God is loving. Everything God does, in one way or another, expresses His love.

Rev. Dr. Clarke wrote:
“He [God] hates nothing He has made. He cannot hate, because He is love. He causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends His rain on the just and the unjust. He has made no human being for perdition, nor ever rendered it impossible, by any necessitating decree, for a fallen soul to find mercy. He has given the fullest proof of His love to the whole human race by the incarnation of his Son, who tasted death for every man. How can a decree of absolute, unconditional reprobation, of the greater part or any part of the human race, stand in the presence of such a text as this?”3
Note: Most of what Dr. Clark wrote here is correct but, I, Rev. Dr. J. Mike Howington, have a mighty God for whom nothing is impossible – The Almighty Creator CAN do anything. What is impossible for man is possible for God (Matthew 19:26; Luke 18:27). It is in God’s nature that He chooses not to hate. Also note what God says about divorce in Malachi 2:16.

If we hold fast to these truths, we will not be led astray by teachings that put one attribute of God above another or put one in tension with another. Such ideas will lead us to distort the teaching of the holy Scriptures and perhaps to reject one part of the Bible in favor of another.

The love of God has sometimes been represented as if love were the primary attribute of God and the others somehow secondary, as if the full expression of God’s love somehow limits or even prevents the full expression of His justice. In extreme forms, the justice of God in the everlasting punishment of the wicked might be rejected because it is inconsistent with His love. Yet both are clearly taught in the Holy Scriptures. 4

Only God’s love can cover sin (Proverbs 10:12; 1 Peter 4:8) and ultimately remedy sin (1 John 4:10). 5

The cross dramatically demonstrates the perfect unity of God’s attributes.

John points to the cross as the supreme expression of God’s love: “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through Him” (1 John 4:9).

Yet the cross is also the supreme expression of God’s righteousness and justice, for God put forth His Son as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness because in His divine forbearance, He passed over former sins. It also shows His righteousness at the present time, so that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. (Romans 3:25–26)

In verse 8, we see that John equates God with love. This metaphorical statement takes on a literal meaning when we consider the evidence of the sacrifice of Jesus for humanity–an act of love (1 John 4:10).

1 John 4:10

Since the Garden of Eden, God has acted on behalf of humanity, showing His love and support for His followers. There have been consequences such as the banishment from Eden (Genesis 3), but God has maintained a relationship with people since the Fall. Why?

God’s love and support are evident in all the stories in the Bible that follow the banishment from Eden wherein God acts on behalf of humanity. These events culminate in the eventual Second Coming of Christ. As God has remained a constant in the lives of humanity, so too are we supposed to show love to one another on an ongoing basis. John states that we cannot love God and hate someone else (1 John 4:20). 6

Charles H. Spurgeon wrote:
Never let it be thought that any sinner is beyond the reach of divine mercy so long as he is in the land of the living. I stand here to preach illimitable love, unbounded grace, to the vilest of the vile, to those who have nothing in them that can deserve consideration from God, men who ought to be swept into the bottomless pit at once if justice meted out to them their deserts.” 7

The Bible also tells us that God is spirit (John 4:24), God is light (1 John 1:5), and that God is a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:29).

That God is love is certainly a truth to be shouted from the rooftops as well as to be treasured in our hearts. But that is the same with all of His attributes. One is not more beautiful than another; one is not primary over the others. None is in tension with the others, and all are essential. There is perfect harmony within the being of God, with all His attributes belonging essentially and necessarily to His glory. 5

Those who don’t demonstrate love have no fellowship with God, at minimum. Love is something God showed us first, by sending Christ.

If God has chosen to love us despite our fallen nature since the beginning of time, why would we choose not to love someone despite an offense in the present time? This is easier said than done, but John makes clear that “God is love.” And John drives this point further by stating that we remain in love when we draw close to God, and as we draw close to God, the love of God abides in us (1 John 4:16). The way God treats us with love, we should strive to treat other people.

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Consider the Daily Bread email message sent on 1/17/2002 and 11/27/2023 which says,

DB 1 John 4:8

1 John 4:8 – The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. (NASB

Only those who are to some degree like Him truly know Him.  In general, God’s love may be thought of as His eternal giving or sharing of Himself.  Give of yourself, then “We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” (1 John 4:16, NASB)

You Can Receive The Daily Bread, for FREE

To receive the Daily Bread email messages, free on Mon., Wed., and Fri., in your email inbox, just fill in the form below or send an email, and ask to be added, to jmikeh@jmhowington.com

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References:

  1. Henry C. Thiessen (revised by Vernon D. Doerksen), Lectures in Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1981), pg. 86

Note: Rev. Dr. Henry C. Thiessen (1934 -2015) was a Southern Baptist minister with orthodox, congregational, pre-tribulation, pre-millennial views.

2. Westminster Assembly, Westminster Shorter Catechism, (Chicago, IL: Thomas Vincent, 1652), question 4.

Note: Westminster Catechism is either of two works, the Larger Westminster Catechism and the Shorter Westminster Catechism. The catechism is used by English-speaking Presbyterians and by some Congregationalists and Baptists.

3. William Newton Clark, An Outline of Christian Theology (New York, NY: Scribner, 1901), https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/acc/1-john-4.htm

Note: Rev. Dr. William Newton Clark (1840-1912) was a Baptist theologian and famed professor of Colgate Theological Seminary, Hamilton, New York

Theological Stance: Calvinism      Church Affiliation: Non-Denominational

4. Dr. Mark E. Ross, https://tabletalkmagazine.com/article/2019/08/1-john-48/

Note: Dr. Mark E. Ross is professor of systematic theology at Erskine Theological Seminary in Columbia, S.C. He is author of Let’s Study Matthew.

  • 5. Stanley M. Horton, general editor, Systematic Theology (Springfield, MO: Legion Press, 1994)

Note: Rev. Dr. Horton (1916-2014) was an Assemblies of God (Pentecostal) minister and is recognized as Pentecostalism’s “premier theologian.”)

6. Aaron D’Anthony Brown, What Does it Mean That ‘God Is Love’ in 1 John 4:8? https://www.crosswalk.com/faith/bible-study/what-does-it-mean-that-god-is-love.html

Note: Aaron D’Anthony Brown is a freelance writer, hip-hop dance teacher, and visual artist, living in Virginia. He currently contributes work to iBelieve, Crosswalk, and supports various clients through the platform Upwork.

7. Spurgeon, Charles Haddon. “Commentary on Psalms 40:2”. “Spurgeon’s Verse Expositions of the Bible”. https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​spe/​psalms-40.html. 2011. These files are public domain.

Note: Rev. Charles Haddon Spurgeon (6/19/1834 – 1/31/1892) was an English Particular Baptist preacher. Spurgeon remains highly influential among Christians of various denominations, to some of whom he is known as the “Prince of Preachers”. He was a strong figure in the Reformed Baptist tradition, defending the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith, and opposing the liberal and pragmatic theological tendencies in the Church of his day. Theological Stance: Calvinism, Church Affiliation: Baptist

Charles Haddon Spurgeon is the most widely read and often quoted preacher in history. Spurgeon authored sermons, an autobiography, commentaries, books on prayer, devotionals, magazines, poetry, and hymns. A Pastors’ College was founded in 1856 by

Spurgeon and was renamed Spurgeon’s College in 1923. His weekly sermons, which sold for a penny each, were widely circulated and still remain one of the all-time best-selling series of writings published in history. Spurgeon’s works have been translated into many languages and Moon’s and Braille type for the blind. He also wrote many volumes of commentaries and other types of literature

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