************ Sermon on Belgic Confession Article 1k ************

By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman

This sermon was preached on May 26, 2019

Belgic Confession Article 1k
1 John 4:7-21
1 John 4:16b
"God is Love"

In the sound doctrine of the Belgic Confession of faith we have confessed God is eternal, incomprehensible, invisible, unchangeable, infinite, almighty, completely wise, just, good and the overflowing source of all good. But this list is not exhaustive. Theologians have identified 30 or more attributes of God. This evening I want to look at one not mentioned by the Belgic Confession: namely, God is love.

I A Mistaken Definition of God
A Our text says "God is love." Don't confuse God's attributes with God's definition. The Belgic Confession defines God for us in the first part of Article 1:
We all believe in our hearts
and confess with our mouths
that there is a single
and simple
spiritual being,
whom we call God.
How do we define God? He is a single, simple spiritual being.

"God is love." This is not a definition of God. Rather, it is one of God's attributes. It is most important to understand this. Too many crackpot poets and simple people think that love defines God. They say God and love are equal and identical to each other. In studying for this sermon I came across an article that has "God" in brackets every time it mentions love:
Love (God) shows kindness to all.
Love (Jesus) went about doing good to everyone.
Love (Jesus) did not covet what others had.
Love (Jesus) did not brag about who He was in the flesh.
Love (Jesus) is always looking out for the interests of others.
Let's carry this to its extreme: if love is God then we can worship love. Which means we are worshiping an attribute of personality and not the Person Himself. Can you imagine worshiping the eternity of God, or the wisdom of God, or the goodness of God, or the infinitude of God?

"God is love." This is not a definition of God. This does not tell us what God is in His metaphysical being. Rather, it is an attribute of God.

B We know God is eternal in all His attributes. Likewise, God is incomprehensible in all His attributes. And, God is almighty in all His attributes. This is true for everyone of God's attributes. So, when the Bible says "God is love," it means God is loving in all His attributes. Love is an essential attribute or characteristic of God's being.

We don't see it now, or have a hard time seeing it now, but someday it will be clear that everything God does, He does in love. We think salvation is an expression of God's love; but did you know that the damning of a man to hell is also an expression of God's love? Whether God redeems a man or damns another man, He is not contradicting Himself. God does not separate Himself into parts. He does not do one thing with one attribute and another thing with another attribute. This is what we mean when say God is a "single simple spiritual being." We don't cut and divide and separate God into different parts and different attributes which act differently from each other.

"God is love." Love conditions all that God does. Nothing God does or has ever done or will ever do, is separate from His love. Every time God thinks about you, He thinks about you lovingly. Even if He must discipline you, or allow hardships to come to you, it is love that allows it to come and love that sends it.

II Agape Love
A In the Greek the word for love is "agape." The use of agape is very significant because the Greek language has four different words for love that John could have used: stergo, eros, philia, and agape.

"Stergo" is a caring love. It is the feeling of affection we have toward familiar people and things: like a neighbor or a puppy dog.

"Eros" is a getting love. It has to do with sexual desire and satisfaction. Eros exists because it sees something desirable in the other person that it wants to possess.

"Philia" is a sharing love. It is the love between friends. It is based on common interests, attractions, and a close sharing of many things.

"Agape" is a giving love. It is a love that seeks the other person's good. It is a love that makes sacrifices for the sake of the other person. It is a love that gives without asking for anything in return. Agape love is boundless and unconditional. This is the word used by John in our text when he tells us God is love.

B God is love. God is agape love. What does this mean? Consider the first three Greek words for love: stergo, eros, philia. All of these loves are conditional. We have these loves for others because we are attracted to them or because they make us feel good. How many times have you heard or said, "I love you because you are cute;" or, "I love you because you take good care of me;" or, "I love you because you are fun to be with"? So what happens when you are not cute or not fun?

Our love is not only conditional, it is also liable to sudden unpredictable change. We love based on feelings and emotions that can change from one moment to the next. The divorce rate is extremely high in today's society because husbands and wives supposedly stop loving one another; they "fall out of love". They go through a rough patch in their marriage, they no longer "feel" love for their spouse, so they call it quits. Evidently, their marriage vow of "till death do us part" means "till death of love do us part."

God is love, agape love, and His love is very different from human love. Much that is called "love" in modern society bears no resemblance or relationship to the holy, spiritual love of God. Nothing conditional about His love. Nothing changeable about His love. God's love is not based on feelings or emotions. God's love is NOT some nebulous, warm, fuzzy feeling of love. God doesn't love us because we're lovable or because we make Him feel good; He loves us because His character is love. He created us to have a loving relationship with Him, and out of love He sacrificed His only Son to restore that relationship.

God is love, agape love. The closest thing to it in this life and on this earth is the love parents have for their children. We continue to love our children through good times and bad, and we don't stop loving them if they don't meet the expectations we may have for them. We make a choice to love our children. This is why the mother of an accused killer can say on national TV, "He is a good boy." She will defend him and love him to the end. This is similar to God's love for us: unconditional, boundless, never ending, unchangeable.

C God is love, agape love. We see this unconditional, boundless, never ending, unchangeable, giving, sacrificial love in the Lord Jesus Christ:
(Jn 3:16) For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

(1 Jn 4:10) This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
Love, agape love, is seen at the cross and the grave of Jesus.

III Love Drives Out Fear
A We are born into a world where there are a great many things against us: sin, Satan, accidents, and many other things. To be in the hands of accidents, the devil, or sin is something to fear.

People have written books on how to conquer fear. "Face your fears," you are told. Or, "you have nothing to be afraid of." And about that time, you suffer a heart attack, or are diagnosed with cancer, or a police officer comes to the door and tells you a loved one has been killed on the freeway, or you see some natural calamity on the news. How do you think Christians in India are feeling right now? India has just re-elected Prime Minister Modi for a second five-year term. He won by a landslide that President Trump can only hope for. During Modi's first term, persecution against Christians in India increased; Christians there can only expect this to worsen. So don't tell me we have nothing to fear. That is simply ridiculous. When I am in the hands of men or the world or the flesh I have plenty to fear.

I have not mentioned our biggest fear. Our biggest fear is God. Hebrews tells us "it is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God" (Heb 10:31). If you have not repented of your sin you have "a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God" (Heb 10:27). If you have not repented of your sin, you should fear God.

B God is love. "There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives our fear, because fear has to do with punishment" (1 Jn 4:18). When we by grace are in God's love, then we have nothing to fear. When we by grace are in God's love, we are no longer in the hands of men or the world or the flesh. When we by grace repent of our sin, then by the power of the cross and the grave the love of God takes over. Fear goes out when love comes in.

The Apostle Paul knew this and rejoiced in this. I think of the comforting and challenging words he wrote to the church at Rome:
(Rom 8:38-39) For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, (39) neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
There is no fear if we are in the love of God. So I say to you, repent and believe. Repent and believe and you go from the hands of men to the loving hands of God.

IV Love One Another
"Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another" (1 Jn 4:11). God is love, agape love. We are made in God's image. So love, agape love, should be present in our life.

What does this love look like? God expects us to have the same love as Jesus has -- a love so strong that we lay down our life for others.

All that some people know about Christianity is that it won't let you do things: it won't let you swear, lie, steal, or commit adultery; some add alcohol and tobacco and dancing to this list. But that is not Christianity. Monks and nuns locked up in monasteries don't do much. None of that is Christianity. There is a love content in Christianity. A willingness to serve, to make sacrifices for others.

It is Memorial Day tomorrow. So this weekend we think of those who -- out of love of country, love of comrades in arms, love of friends -- have made the ultimate sacrifice by laying down their lives for others. An article in the Wall Street Journal tells us that those who receive the Medal of Honor get an award for the worst day of their life.

There are countless untold examples of other people who have also laid down their life: police officers, fire fighters, people who rush into rivers or fires or dangerous situations to rescue others.

Now, does such a sacrifice prove that these people all have godly love, agape love? Not necessarily. Paul states that you can sacrifice your life for others and not have the love of God:
(1 Cor 13:3) If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Something more is needed. You need to be born of God. We use the phrase "born again." You need to know God. You need to repent and believe that Jesus is the Son of God. Then you have the agape love of God and can show the agape love of God. True love comes only through a relationship with Him. "We love because he first loved us" (1 Jn 4:19).

God is love. You need the love of God in your heart.

In the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, the poor man didn’t go to Abraham’s bosom because he was poor, and the rich man didn’t go to hell because he was rich. Abraham’s bosom was the place Lazarus belonged, because Lazarus had the love of God in his heart. When he died, the love of God took him where he belonged. The rich man didn’t go to hell because he was rich and ate sumptuously and lived in a mansion. He went to hell because he did not have the love of God in his heart. When he died, he went to his place.

God is love, dear brothers and sisters. God is love. And, you need the love of God in your heart. So let me ask: Do you have the love of God?
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