God’s Glorious Attributes
By Rayola Kelley
One of the most popular attributes of God is His love. How many times have you heard John 3:16? I have always appreciated God’s love, but I’ve become very concerned that many people will hide or try to use God’s love to slide into heaven; but, it is not God’s love that saves a person. The Bible is clear we are saved by grace through faith. Faith comes from hearing and hearing from the Word of God (Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 17:17). The unique aspect of God’s love comes down to the fact that out of love God provided eternal life to whosoever will believe. In other words, God’s love was a motivation behind Him giving His Son. As Scripture clearly states IT IS BELIEVING UPON THE SON that will assure us that, instead of perishing in in our sins, we will be saved from them. It is because He loved us first and reached out with His love to whosoever will believe and receive it that it would be natural for recipients of His love to love Him back. (1 John 4:19).
Sadly, many people’s idea of love is sentimental, worldly, selfish, and unrealistic. Granted, as we enter into the season of remembering God’s great gift to mankind that came by way of a manger, we must discern the characteristics of God’s love to understand what it means for God to be love (1 John 4:8).
The idea that God is love tells us He can do nothing but act out of love. As you consider 2 Corinthians 13:14, you will see that love is associated with the Father, grace to Jesus, and communion to the Spirit. John tells us in his first epistle, “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God; therefore the world knoweth us not because it knew him not” (1 John 3:1). This means the Father bestowed love towards those who believe upon the great gift of His Son, while grace comes from Jesus’ act of redemption on the cross and now we can come into communion with the Lord because of the gift of the Spirit. It is important to understand that God’s love is available to all who will come and receive and embrace it but one must receive God’s love through His Son’s redemption in order to benefit from it. We may love someone, but if they do not accept our love, there is nothing we can do to help or be beneficial to them.
People talk about God’s love being unconditional. It is true you can’t earn it, but many people see unconditional love as God accepting them regardless of their unregenerate state and unacceptable conduct. God’s love is available to those who come by way of Christ’s cross but outside of the cross, man cannot, nor will He be able to experience the benefit of God’s love.
Giving His Son was not a matter of pity or merit but because God could do nothing else if man was to be saved. There is no silly sentiment in such love; rather, it reveals a commitment that will go to any lengths to right a matter or ensure that the opportunity is available for man to experience the benefits of such love. It is for this reason that love rejoices when truth wins out and does not rejoice in iniquity (1 Corinthians 13:6).
This is the great problem with today’s presentation of God’s love. Many act as if, out of love, God will give man a pass no matter what he does but this is the farthest thing from the truth and such a concept points to Universalism where everyone is going to be saved in the end. The Apostle Paul made it clear that grace does not allow man to do as he pleases for grace reigns only through righteousness (Romans 5:20-6:2). Scripture is also concise that the way to heaven is narrow and many will strive to enter in but will not be able to find the narrow passageway (Matthew 7:13-14; Luke 13:24). The reason the way to salvation is narrow is because it comes down to the person of Jesus Christ. There is only one Jesus that can save. He is the Christ, God who came in the flesh, the Son of God, and the Savior of the world (1 John 2:22-23; 4:1-3; 4:14-15). As I have stated, there is only one Jesus and if you do not get Him right, you will find yourself on the broad path leading to destruction.
Godly love is first of all honorable, secondly it is morally responsible, and third all of its desires toward a matter are pure. If we are going to understand God’s great love, the first thing we must do when it comes to discerning and recognizing it is to not dilute it by mixing it with the other loves that the world and the flesh operate in. When I was a new Christian I learned there was a difference between brotherly love, the love of a mother for a child, and God’s love. To explain these different words the Bible teachers would often show the Greek word for each type of love.
In my research for a chapter of a book I was writing, I looked up love in the Strong’s Concordance. I could not believe how great a list of words the concordance has to describe all the different types of loves a person can have from a love for different tastes, preferences, and etc. The main word that seems to tie all the different meanings together was the word “fondness.” In other words, I have a fondness for certain things or certain food. That which I am fond of can be aroused by smell, taste, memories, or notions.
We are all aware that it is not unusual for people to have “fondness” for someone or something and if such fondness becomes obsessive or possessive it is nothing more than lust that is out of control. Such lust will turn into unabated jealousies, disillusionment, contempt, or pure hate.
Fondness can be very sentimental. For example, at Christmas the baby in the manger conjured up great sentiment in me. Keep in mind, I have been around a lot of babies but the baby in the manger represented something special to me even though I could not explain it. As I considered that event, I realized that Christmas songs had a lot to do with the fondness I felt for the story of the Christ child being born in Bethlehem, but after Christmas the sentiment was packed up and put away with the rest of the decorations, leaving no real lasting effect on me.
Another aspect of fondness is that it is fickle. The right environment must be set up for fondness to be activated. For instance a movie theater or a movie will cause me to desire my favorite snack food—popcorn. I dearly love popcorn, but I don’t think about it unless the environment reminds me that popcorn would nicely fit into the activities. In fact, advertisers use this type of fondness to stir us up to buy certain products.
The other aspect of fondness is that it can be very conditional. If something is going to continue to receive my fondness, it must stir me up in some way for me to desire or pursue it. For example, selfish love is very conditional. If a person makes me feel a certain way, then I can in turn reciprocate. Selfish love is all about serving the whims of self and playing enough off of the egos and vanities of others to get the selfish demands of my self-serving love met.
Needless to say, I have witnessed a tremendous amount of fondness in my life that proved to be temporary, conditional, silly, and self-serving. I even struggled with what real, lasting, godly love was all about. It was when I became a Christian and understood what that babe in the manger represented and later as man what He did on my behalf that finally impacted and changed my life. One of the Scripture that brought such meaning to God’s love for me can be found in the prophecy of Isaiah 9:6a, “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given.” It took a few years for me to understand that God sent forth a child to be miraculously conceived in the womb of a virgin, in order to give the world His Son. The idea of God giving a child reveals that godly love only gives the best. It will not simply throw crumbs or leftovers or give some other noble gesture, but it prefers the person that love is being extended towards over any self-interests and preservation. The fact that God gave His Son reveals how sacrificial godly love is. To such love no price is too great to pay and as believers we are told in John 15:13, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” In John 13:34-35, Jesus made it clear that this love would identify those who are truly His disciples, “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”
I realized I did not have this love in and of myself. It had to be shed abroad in my spirit and soul by the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5). It became clear to me I was not a source of God’s love but I was to be an extension of it to others.
Isaiah 9:6 goes on to tell us, “and the government shall be upon his shoulder.” Jesus came out of love to establish an unseen, everlasting kingdom in the hearts of believers. God’s love always shoulders the greater burden. To set up the unseen kingdom Jesus had to first shoulder a cross. In other words, Jesus gave up His life so that He could establish the kingdom of God in hearts and lives. As we can see, the Father gave His best and out of love for the Father and for you and me the Son gave His all. In order for Jesus to give His all, He had to consecrate Himself. Godly love will come under a pre-ordained burden and will not let a person simply go part way in a commitment. It will compel the individual to go all the way because it is the right and honorable thing to do. That is why we are told in Galatians 6:2, “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” And, how do you fulfill the law of Christ? Romans 13:10 answers the question, “Love worketh no ill to his neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.”
To godly love any sacrifice is simply one’s reasonable service and reasonable service is the least any of us can do in a matter. Consider Jesus in regard to His consecration. He gave up the riches of heaven to become poor for us so we could be made rich in faith. He gave up His sovereignty to call the shots so that He could become a yielded instrument in the Father’s hand. He allowed His glory to be clothed in humanity so that He could walk as man among us. He became the Lamb of God on the cross so we could be made in the righteousness of God. Out of love Jesus paid a debt we could not pay and because of His love, we are to ever pay a debt of love to others (Romans 12:1-2; 13:8; 2 Corinthians 8:9; 5:21; Philippians 2:5-11).
The Son of God came by way of a virgin so He could take on a body. Hebrews 10:5 tells us why, “Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me.” God did not have pleasure in the burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin. It cost a lot of innocent animals their lives because of man’s sin and since there was no offering that could satisfy the Law once and for all, the Lord had to take on a body to become a pure Lamb of God to be offered up on the altar of the cross as our Passover Lamb. John the Baptist said as much when he saw Jesus and cried out, “Behold the Lamb of God who taketh away sin the sin of the world” (John 1:29). Jesus was lifted up in humiliation for the all world as a man of sorrows, stricken, smitten and afflicted of God. He was wounded for our transgression, bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was on Him and with His stripes we can be healed spiritually (Isaiah 53:1-5).
The next thing that Isaiah 9:6 tells us is this Son would be given a name. It is easy to wonder what is in a name but we know according to Philippians 2:9-11, “Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Compare Philippians with Isaiah 45:21-23; “Tell ye, and bring them near; yea, let them take counsel together: who hath declared this from ancient time? Who hath told it from that time? Have not I the LORD? and there is no God else beside me; a just God and a Saviour; there is none beside me. Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else. I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, that unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear.”
As we consider the Son of God’s full name, it is “The Lord Jesus Christ.” The word “the” is singular. It is not like the word “a” which can be one of something, one in the line of something, or part of something; rather, Jesus stands alone when it comes to who He is and His work on our behalf. The word “Lord” points to Adon (singular) or Adonai (plural) who is owner and possessor of all. We know that we have been bought with the price of Jesus’ blood and as the Apostle Paul reminded us in 1 Corinthians 7:23, “Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men.”
The Hebrew name for Jesus is “Joshua.” “Joshua” in Hebrew means “Jehovah saves,” or “Jehovah is our salvation.” Both Jesus’ step-father, Joseph and His mother Mary were instructed that His name was to be Jesus. This clearly signifies His mission. He came to save mankind from the consequences of sin upon their soul—that of death or separation from God. The Bible is clear there is only one Savior and 1 John 4:14 identifies that Jesus is the Savior of the world and for this reason we are also told this about Him, “Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.” This prophecy came from Isaiah 7:14 and it definitely identifies Jesus as Emmanuel, God with us.
The final part of Jesus’ name is, “Christ,” the Messiah, the Anointed One, the Promised One. The Christ identifies Jesus as the Son of Man who came from the lineage of David to serve as both king over all and as a High Priest of the Melchisedec priesthood. Both kings and priests were anointed and Jesus was anointed in His humanity by the Spirit of the Living God to preach the Gospel to the poor in spirit, heal the broken hearted, set the captive free, and heal those who have been spiritually bruised by sin (Luke 4:18-19; Hebrews 7:1-17). In essence, Jesus came to usher in the year of Jubilee where all those who are heirs of salvation will be set free from the tyranny of sin to claim their inheritance of eternal life.
We could go on about Jesus and all the volumes of the world could not capture His majesty, describe His glory, and reveal the depth of His work of redemption. But, what I do know is that His majesty was put aside, His glory veiled in a human body and His work lifted up on a cross and displayed to all mankind because of God’s great love. This Jesus was a gift of love given to the whole world by God. He was born in a stable to identify with humility and wrapped in swaddling clothes to remind us of the state of spiritual poverty we are in until we receive the gift of eternal life. The angels declared Him, the beasts witnessed His birth, lowly shepherds were the first who came to worship Him, and He was seen by those who faithfully served in the temple waiting for the consolation of Israel to appear, as well as sought after by the wise men. The innkeeper missed the opportunity to witness something great, Herod felt threatened by Him as a baby, the religious leaders quoted Scripture but missed the unveiling of the Living Word, and for the most part man slept through the great miracle of God manifesting Himself in the flesh so He could redeem His people (1 Timothy 3:16).
The message of what we consider the first Christmas seems lost, but the reality is that it becomes lost to mankind as man becomes lost to his Creator. Every Christmas we believers try to resurrect the real meaning of the first Christmas, reminding people that Christ is the reason for the season of great celebration.
This Christmas we need to make sure we put more focus on God’s great gift of love, knowing that this gift was wrapped in humanity, sealed by the Spirit, and identified and topped off with an old rugged cross that now points man upward towards the heavenly, the eternal, and the everlasting inheritance of life.