The Bible defines God this way: “God is love” (1 John 4:8). In his simple but sublime statement, John reaches the height of Christian belief. The attribute of love is a veritable part of God’s essential nature; without it He would not be “God.” His nature never changes (James 1:17); love has been His dominant quality in the past and will continue to be in the future.
The statement that God is love is essential for understanding the plan of salvation. Only Love would give free will to His creatures and run the risk of incurring the suffering that sin has brought to the Godhead. Only Love would be interested in gaining the cheerful voluntary service of those who were free to go their own way.
And when sin came, only Love could have the patience and the will to devise a plan that would enable the universe to come to a full understanding of the basic facts in the great controversy between good and evil, and thus ensure against any further uprising of self-seeking and hate. In the warfare against sin, God, being truly love, can use only truth and love, whereas Satan employs cunning lies and cruel force.
Only Love could inspire the plan that would permit the Son first to redeem the human race from the guilt and power of sin by His earthly life, death, and resurrection, and then to become the Head of a new and sinless race. By His very nature God was impelled to carry out this amazing plan “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). “Greater love hath no man than this that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).
There are six different ways in which the Lord manifests love for His people. He is “merciful and gracious, longsuffering, abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin” (Exodus 34: 6-7). Even when the Lord must punish us for our sins, He does it in love. Like the surgeon, God may use the cutting knife of sorrow to effect the healing of the soul’s disease or injury that has resulted from sin (Heb. 12:5–11; Rev. 3:19). It is God’s mercy that moderates His judgments and makes Him “longsuffering” (Lam. 3:22; Rom. 2:4). Thus, His loving-kindness is infinite (Isa. 55:7-9; Rom. 5:20).
In His service,