Understanding God's Love: Exploring the Essence of Love - Love Bible Study 1

Love Defined: The Nature of God’s Love – Love Bible Study #1

Pastor Duke Taber

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Introduction

The Bible teaches us that love is not just an emotion or a feeling, but it is the very essence of who God is. In 1 John 4:8, we read, “He who does not love does not know God, for God is love” (NKJV). As Christians, it is crucial for us to understand the nature of God’s love, as it forms the foundation of our faith and shapes our relationships with God and others. In this Bible study, we will explore the depths of God’s love as revealed in 1 John 4:7-12, focusing on its unconditional nature and how it should impact our lives.

The apostle John, known as the “disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 13:23), had a profound understanding of the love of God. In his first epistle, he dedicates significant attention to the theme of love, emphasizing its centrality to the Christian life. John’s words in 1 John 4:7-12 provide a beautiful and powerful exposition of the nature of God’s love and its implications for our lives.

As we delve into this passage, we will discover that God’s love is not a mere sentiment or feeling, but a fundamental aspect of His character. We will see that love originates from God and that He has demonstrated His love for us in the most tangible and sacrificial way possible through the person and work of Jesus Christ. We will also explore the unconditional nature of God’s love and how it should transform the way we love others.

Through this study, may we gain a deeper appreciation for the incredible love God has for us and be inspired to respond to that love by loving Him and others more fully. May our hearts be opened to the transformative power of God’s love, and may we experience its life-changing effects in every aspect of our lives.

Love Defined: The Nature of God's Love - Love Bible Study #1

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A 13-week Love Bible study course perfect for Mid-Week services, home groups, or personal growth!

Part 1: God is the Source of Love (1 John 4:7-8)

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” (1 John 4:7-8, NKJV)

In these verses, John establishes that love originates from God. It is not a human invention or a product of our emotions. Love is an integral part of God’s character and nature. When we experience and express true love, it is evidence that we are born of God and have a personal relationship with Him.

The phrase “love is of God” in verse 7 comes from the Greek phrase “hē agapē ek tou Theou estin,” which literally means “love is from God.” This emphasizes that love is not something we generate on our own, but rather it is a divine attribute that flows from God Himself. As 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 beautifully describes, the love that comes from God is patient, kind, not envy, not boast, not proud, not rude, not self-seeking, not easily angered, keeps no record of wrongs, does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth, always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres. This is the kind of love that God embodies and that He enables us to express through His Spirit.

John also makes a strong connection between loving others and knowing God. He states that everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The word “born” in this verse comes from the Greek word “gennēthē,” which refers to a spiritual birth or regeneration. When we experience the new birth through faith in Christ, we are born into a relationship with God and become partakers of His divine nature (2 Peter 1:4). This new nature is characterized by love, as love is the essence of who God is.

On the other hand, John also states that those who do not love do not know God. This strong statement emphasizes the importance of love in the life of a believer. It is not possible to truly know God and be disconnected from love, as love is the very essence of who He is. To claim to know God while failing to love others is a contradiction in terms. As Jesus Himself said, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35, NKJV).

It is important to note that the love John is speaking of is not a mere feeling or emotion, but a sacrificial, unconditional love that seeks the highest good of others. This love is exemplified in the life and teachings of Jesus Christ, who laid down His life for us and commanded us to love one another as He has loved us (John 15:12-13).

Reflective Questions:

  1. How does understanding that love originates from God change your perspective on love?
  2. In what ways have you experienced God’s love in your life?
  3. How can you cultivate a deeper understanding of God’s love?

Part 2: God’s Love Demonstrated Through Jesus Christ (1 John 4:9-10)

“In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (1 John 4:9-10, NKJV)

God’s love is not just a theoretical concept; it has been demonstrated in a tangible and profound way through the person and work of Jesus Christ. These verses highlight the ultimate expression of God’s love: sending His only begotten Son into the world to die for our sins.

The word “manifested” in verse 9 comes from the Greek word “phanerōthē,” which means to make visible or known. God’s love was made visible and known to us through the incarnation and sacrifice of Jesus Christ. This selfless act is the supreme demonstration of God’s love for humanity.

The phrase “only begotten Son” in verse 9 is a reference to the unique and eternal relationship between God the Father and God the Son. Jesus Christ is not a created being, but is the eternal Son of God who shares the same divine nature as the Father. The fact that God sent His eternal, beloved Son to die for us is a staggering display of His love.

Verse 10 emphasizes the unmerited nature of God’s love. It is not based on our love for Him, but rather on His love for us. God took the initiative to love us, even when we were undeserving and unlovable due to our sin. The word “propitiation” in this verse refers to the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ, which satisfied God’s righteous wrath against sin and made it possible for us to be reconciled to Him.

The concept of propitiation is central to understanding the depth of God’s love for us. Our sin had separated us from God and placed us under His just condemnation. We were helpless to remedy the situation on our own. But in His great love, God provided the solution by sending His Son to bear the penalty for our sins. As Isaiah 53:5 says, “But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed” (NKJV).

Through Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross, God’s love and justice were perfectly satisfied. Jesus took upon Himself the punishment we deserved, so that we could be forgiven and reconciled to God. This is the essence of the gospel message – that “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16, NKJV).

Reflective Questions:

  1. How does the sacrifice of Jesus Christ demonstrate the depth of God’s love for you?
  2. In what ways does understanding the unmerited nature of God’s love impact your relationship with Him?
  3. How can you express gratitude for the love God has shown you through Jesus Christ?

Part 3: God’s Love is Unconditional (1 John 4:10)

“In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (1 John 4:10, NKJV)

One of the most remarkable aspects of God’s love is its unconditional nature. God’s love for us is not based on our performance, worthiness, or even our love for Him. It is a love that exists independently of our actions or feelings.

The phrase “not that we loved God” in verse 10 highlights the fact that God’s love for us precedes our love for Him. It is not a reactive love that depends on our initiation or reciprocation. Instead, it is a proactive love that flows from the very nature of God.

This unconditional love is demonstrated most clearly in the fact that God sent His Son to die for us while we were still sinners. Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (NKJV). God’s love for us is not based on our goodness or righteousness, but on His grace and mercy.

The unconditional nature of God’s love is a source of great comfort and security for believers. We do not have to earn God’s love or worry about losing it based on our performance. His love for us is steadfast and unchanging, anchored in His very nature. As the psalmist declares, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-23, ESV).

This does not mean, however, that God’s love overlooks or condones our sin. Rather, His love is a holy love that seeks our highest good, which includes our redemption and transformation. God’s love compels Him to confront our sin and call us to repentance, not to condemn us, but to restore us to a right relationship with Him. As Hebrews 12:6 says, “For whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives” (NKJV).

Understanding the unconditional nature of God’s love also has profound implications for how we view ourselves and others. We can rest in the assurance that God’s love for us is not based on our worthiness or performance, but on His grace. This frees us from the tyranny of self-condemnation and the need to prove ourselves to God or others. It also enables us to extend unconditional love to others, recognizing that God’s love for them is not based on their worthiness, but on His grace.

Reflective Questions:

  1. How does the unconditional nature of God’s love differ from the conditional love we often experience in human relationships?
  2. In what ways do you struggle to accept or believe in the unconditional love of God?
  3. How can a deeper understanding of God’s unconditional love transform the way you view yourself and others?

Part 4: Our Response to God’s Love (1 John 4:11-12)

“Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us.” (1 John 4:11-12, NKJV)

Having explored the nature of God’s love, John now turns his attention to our response. If we have truly experienced the unconditional, sacrificial love of God, it should transform the way we love others.

Verse 11 contains a powerful exhortation: “If God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” The word “ought” in this verse comes from the Greek word “opheilomen,” which conveys a sense of moral obligation or debt. In other words, the love we have received from God places us under a moral obligation to extend that same love to others.

This is not a burdensome obligation, but a joyful response to the love we have experienced. As Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15, NKJV). Our love for God is demonstrated through our obedience to His command to love one another. This love is not a matter of mere sentiment, but of concrete actions that seek the good of others. As 1 John 3:18 says, “My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth” (NKJV).

John goes on to say in verse 12 that no one has seen God at any time. However, when we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us. The invisible God becomes visible through our love for one another. Our love for others is evidence of God’s presence and work in our lives.

The word “abides” in this verse comes from the Greek word “menei,” which means to remain, dwell, or continue. When we love one another, God takes up residence in our lives, and His love finds expression through us. This is a profound mystery – that the unseen God makes Himself known through the visible love of His people.

The word “perfected” in this verse comes from the Greek word “teteleiōmenē,” which means to be brought to completion or maturity. As we love others with the love we have received from God, His love is brought to maturity and finds its fullest expression in and through us.

This does not mean that we love perfectly, as only God loves perfectly. But it does mean that our love for others should be growing and maturing as we abide in God’s love. As we experience more of God’s love, we will be better able to extend that love to others, even in difficult or challenging circumstances.

Loving others with the love of God is not always easy. It requires self-denial, patience, forgiveness, and grace. But as we depend on God’s Spirit and abide in His love, He will enable us to love others in ways that we could never do in our own strength. And as we love others, we will experience the joy and blessing of being channels of God’s love to a hurting world.

Reflective Questions:

  1. How does God’s love for you motivate and empower you to love others?
  2. In what practical ways can you demonstrate God’s love to those around you?
  3. How have you seen God’s love made visible through the love of other believers?

Conclusion

In this Bible study, we have explored the nature of God’s love as revealed in 1 John 4:7-12. We have seen that love originates from God and that He has demonstrated His love for us in the most profound way possible through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. We have also learned that God’s love is unconditional and that our response to His love should be to love one another.

As we conclude, let us be reminded of the transformative power of God’s love. It is a love that reaches into the depths of our souls, healing our wounds, and setting us free from the bondage of sin and self. It is a love that enables us to love others with a love that is patient, kind, and selfless. It is a love that gives us hope, joy, and peace, even in the midst of life’s trials and difficulties.

May we not only bask in the reality of God’s love for us but also allow that love to flow through us to others. May we be known as people who love with the love of Christ, reflecting His grace, compassion, and truth to a world that desperately needs it. May our love for God and others be the distinguishing mark of our lives, pointing others to the source of all love, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Let us commit ourselves to abiding in God’s love daily, through prayer, worship, and meditation on His Word. Let us ask God to fill us with His love and empower us to love others as He has loved us. And let us trust that as we do so, God will work in and through us to accomplish His purposes and bring glory to His name.

As the apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians 3:17-19, “That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (NKJV). May this be our prayer and our experience as we seek to know and share the love of God.

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