February 25, 2014


The Bible is God’s love letter.

John 3:16 is a favorite text for many: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son.” Yet it’s so easy to depersonalize the love of God.

We may think, God loves the world. But does He love me, or does He simply love humanity in general? We may see God as distant, who does not often enter into a direct, personal relationship with us. And when He does, we may see His interaction as judgmental, demanding, cold, precise, and detached.

Just as the disciples missed the nature of Christ’s messianic kingdom, so we may also miss the major theme of the Bible: God’s love for us—for you, for me! We may fail to understand that God created us for fellowship, and that His desire to restore a personal relationship with us individually is intense. This is the theme of the Bible. John said that recording it would fill the whole world. We have space for only a few illustrations.

The setting of the book of Isaiah is the sin of Judah, Israel, and the surrounding nations. These sins call for harsh judgment. “The faithful city has become a prostitute! . . . I will turn my hand against you” (Isa. 1:21-25).

Yet God does not leave His people in despair. He brings wonderful assurance. We hear the passion of a loving parent for a wayward child: “I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. . . . Do not be afraid, for I am with you” (Isa. 43:1-5).

The message of God’s love is repeated again and again. Jeremiah spoke for God, saying, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness” (Jer. 31:3).

Paul addressed the believers in Rome: “To all in Rome who are loved of God, . . . Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 1:7).

The book of Hosea illustrates God’s love for Judah in the marriage of the prophet to Gomer, an adulterous woman. Gomer repeatedly wandered in her harlotry from Hosea’s love, even bearing children from those relationships. Still, Hosea woos her and her illegitimate children back to himself; and restores them to all the privileges of a faithful family.

Likewise, Judah deserted the true God for pagan gods and all their licentiousness. Yet God says:

“I will betroth you to me forever;

I will betroth you in righteousness and justice,

In love and compassion.

I will betroth you in faithfulness,

And you will acknowledge the Lord” (Hosea 2:19, 20).

John proclaims: “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!” (1 John 3:1).

The prayer of Christ in John 17 is filled with declarations of an intimate, personal love that both the Father and the Son have for us.

God’s love was manifest most transparently in the substitutionary death of Christ, who took our sins so that we might receive His righteousness. This love was demonstrated while we were without strength, while we were still sinners, while we were enemies; we were reconciled to God (Rom. 5:5-11). Paul assures us that “God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ”
(2 Cor. 5:19; cf. Titus 3:4, 5; 1 John 4:8-19). Isaiah wants us to know that God has cast all our sins behind His back (Isa. 38:17). John emphasizes that Christ “loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood” (Rev. 1:5). No wonder the psalmist declared, “Your lovingkindness is better than life” (Ps. 63:3, NKJV).*

God’s love is so intense that He wants us to dwell where He is. He wants to receive us to Himself and abide with us forever in the new earth (John 14:1-3, 23; Rev. 21:3).

Let’s rejoice in the love of God that brings reconciliation. Christ invites us to abide in the joy that results from the love of God. For no one can snatch us out of His hand (Rom. 5:2-11; John 15:9-11; 10:28).

* Texts credited to NKJV are from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.