What is the Love of God?

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. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:9-10)

I recently found Robert Law’s commentary on 1 John, called the Tests of Life, available online (pdf). In reading through it I enjoyed how Law dealt with 1 John 4:9-10 and wanted to share it.

there are five factors which here contribute to the full conception of Divine Love

  1. The Gift: the magnitude of its gift is set forth. “His Son, His Only Begotten.” … The essence of the manifestation is in the fact, not that God sent Jesus, but that Jesus, who was sent, is God’s Only-Begotten Son.
  2. The Giver: the magnitude of the Love is exhibited in the person of the Giver. It
    was a father who thus sent his only-begotten son; but that father was God.
  3. The Mission: the Love of God is manifested in the purpose of the mission of the Son. This purpose is that we might live through Him, in which is implicitly contained the “should not perish” of John 3:16.
  4. The Cost: the Love of God is manifested in the means by which this purpose is achieved, God shrinks not from the uttermost cost of Redemption. His Son is sent as a “propitiation for our sins.”
  5. The Objects: the Love of God is manifested in the objects upon which it is given. “Herein is Love, not that we loved God, but that God loved us.”

God’s love to man and man’s love to God form the opposite poles, as it were, of the universe of Love, the one self, created and owing nothing to its object, the other entirely dependent upon and owing everything to the infinite perfection of its object; the one the overarching sky, the other merely its reflection on the still surface of the lake. And it is, as the Epistle insists, not in our love to God; but in our Christian love to our fellow-men, that the Divine Love is reproduced, with a relative perfection, in us.

In this entirely spontaneous, self-determined devotion of God to sinful men, this Divine
passion to rescue them from sin, the supreme evil, and to bestow on them the supreme good, Eternal Life: in this, which is evoked by their need, not by their worthiness, which goes to the uttermost length of sacrifice, and bears the uttermost burden of their self-inflicted doom—in this, which is for ever revealed in the mission of Jesus Christ, God’s Only-Begotten Son—is Love.

Love is no merely passive, involuntary emotion awakened in one person by
another. In the Epistle, as everywhere in the New Testament, it is a duty (4:7-11) a subject of commandment (2:7-8; 3:23; 4:21), and is, therefore, a moral self-determination
which, in man, must often act in direct opposition to natural instinct and inclination. And this is a self-determination to do good, good only, and always the highest good possible (4:9), without regard to merit or attractiveness in the object (4:10) and that even at highest
cost to self (4:10).

All text in italic are quotes taken from The Tests of Life by Robert Law (p 72-77)

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