Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good. His love endures forever. PSALM 136:1
The statement “God is love” is often explained in terms of (a) the revelation, given through the life and teaching of Christ, of the endless life of the triune God as one of mutual affection and honor (Matt. 3:17; 17:5; John 3:35; 14:31; 16:13-14; 17:1-5, 22-26), linked with (b) the recognition that God made angels and humans to glorify their Maker in sharing the joyful give-and-take of this divine life according to their own creaturely mode. But, true as this seems to be, when John says “God is love” (1 John 4:8), what he means (as he goes on to explain) is that the Father through Christ has actually saved us formerly lost sinners who now believe. “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”—we didn’t—“but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins”(vv. 9-10).
As always in the New Testament, “us” as the objects and beneficiaries of redeeming love means “us who believe.” Neither here nor elsewhere does “we” or “us” refer to every individual belonging to the human race. New Testament teaching on redemption is particularistic throughout, and when “the world” is said to be loved and redeemed (John 3:16-17; 2 Cor. 5:19; 1 John 2:2), the reference is to the great number of God’s elect scattered worldwide throughout the ungodly human community (cf. John 10:16; 11:52-53), not to each and every person who did, does, or shall exist. If this were not so, John and Paul would be contradicting things that they say elsewhere.
This sovereign redemptive love is one facet of the quality that Scripture calls God’s goodness (Ps. 100:5; Mark 10:18), that is, the glorious kindness and generosity that touches all his creatures (Ps. 145:9, 15-16) and that ought to lead all sinners to repentance (Rom. 2:4). Other aspects of this goodness are the mercy or compassion or pity that shows kindness to persons in distress by rescuing them out of trouble (Pss. 107, 136) and the long-suffering, forbearance, and slowness to anger that continues to show kindness toward persons who have persisted in sinning (Exod. 34:6; Ps. 78:38; John 3:10-4:11; Rom. 9:22; 2 Pet. 3:9). The supreme expression of God’s goodness is still, however, the amazing grace and inexpressible love that shows kindness by saving sinners who deserve only condemnation: saving them, moreover, at the tremendous cost of Christ’s death on Calvary (Rom. 3:22-24; 5:5-8; 8:32-39; Eph. 2:1-10; 3:14-18; 5:25-27).
God’s faithfulness to his purposes, promises, and people is a further aspect of his goodness and praiseworthiness. Humans lie and break their word; God does neither. In the worst of times it can still be said: “His compassions never fail.... Great is your faithfulness” (Lam. 3:22-23; Ps. 36:5; cf. Ps. 89, especially vv. 1-2, 14, 24, 33, 37, 49). Though God’s ways of expressing his faithfulness are sometimes unexpected and bewildering, looking indeed to the casual observer and in the short term more like unfaithfulness, the final testimony of those who walk with God through life’s ups and downs is that “every promise has been fulfilled; not one has failed” (Josh. 23:14-15). God’s fidelity, along with the other aspects of his gracious goodness as set forth in his Word, is always solid ground on which to rest our faith and hope.
Title: Concise Theology: A Guide To Historic Christian Beliefs
Section: God Revealed as Creator
Author: Packer, J.I. (James Innell)
Index: Concise Theology index – CLICK HERE