The Mustard Seed
In our last installment of this series on God's attributes, we looked at two characteristics of God which appear to be opposites of each other -- God's justice and His mercy. However, we also saw that without justice, mercy is meaningless. And we saw that both God's justice and mercy were satisfied by Christ's sacrifice for us on the cross.
God's justice is an expression of His holiness. In the same way God's mercy is an expression of His love. The Bible says, "God is love" (1 John 4.8 & 16), and the Bible describes other attributes which flow from His love: God is gracious, kind, patient, good, etc.
The English word LOVE can mean many different things:
(1) romantic or sexual attractionThe Greek language -- the language in which the New Testament was written -- offers distinctly different words for each of these four kinds of love. When the Bible talks about God's love, it uses the Greek word AGAPE, which we pronounce as "ah-GAH-pay".
(2) a parent's love for his/her child
(3) the love between friends
(4) God's love for us
When I ask couples who are "in love" to tell me what the word "love" means, most of them describe their warm feelings. The chief problem is that feelings come and go. When feelings fade, that shallow kind of love dies. However, true love shows itself in action and in commitment, no matter how we feel. Jesus Christ did not experience warm feelings while He suffered on the cross for us. But, the Bible says, He endured that torture because He loved us. "This is how God has shown His love for us. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5.8)
The Bible describes God's love as unconditional. This means His love is one-way, from Him to us. He loves us no matter how we respond back. "What is love? It is not that we loved God. It is that he loved us and sent his Son to give his life to pay for our sins." (1 John 4.10 NIrV) The Bible says that Christ died for all people, including those who reject Him. In rejecting Him, they also reject His free gift of forgiveness and eternal life -- how this grieves Him! Once, while Jesus was looking over the city of Jerusalem, He said, "Jerusalem, Jerusalem! You kill the prophets and stone to death those who are sent to you. Many times I wanted to gather your people as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you did not let me.' (Matthew 23.37 NCV)
Another expression of God's love is His GRACE. The most popular definition for "grace" is "God's unmerited favor," i.e. His love which we don't deserve. Dr. D. James Kennedy offered this definition as an acrostic:
Here is my definition:
Grace is what you get from God, that you wouldn't give if you were God.
We can better understand God's attributes of justice, mercy, and grace when we look at them together like this:
JUSTICE -- We get what we deserve.
MERCY -- We don't get what we deserve.
GRACE -- We get what we don't deserve.
For a deeper study on God's agape love, read John chapters 13-17 and the letter of First John.
Next month: God is eternal.
~~ Pastor Ron
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Pastor Ron Friedrich