God is Love but Love is Not God

Christian author A.W. Tozer once wrote, “To magnify one phase of God’s unitary character and diminish another is always wrong.” He goes on to explain how if we magnify only God’s love, then we are left with “a sentimental, spineless god.” He continues, “We’ve magnified the love of God without remembering that God is just.” This is precisely what is happening in the postmodern age of Christianity. Some, perhaps even many remove anything about God they don’t like such as His righteous judgment and wrath against sinful humanity and instead create for themselves a kind, loving, merciful—albeit powerless god—who must bend to the will of the individual rather than the individual being required to submit to the will of the true Sovereign God.

When the apostle John wrote those famous words, “God is love” (1 John 4:16), I’m sure he had no idea how that simple phrase would be so abused two thousand years later. Even John Wesley appeared to claim that the primary characteristic of God is love when he wrote in his explanatory notes, “God is often styled holy, righteous, wise; but not holiness, righteousness, or wisdom in the abstract, as he is said to be love; intimating that this is his darling, his reigning attribute, the attribute that sheds an amiable glory on all his other perfections.” Wesleyan theologians have been running with this presumption ever since.

In the postmodern feel-good age, many have taken this notion to an extreme far beyond a biblical understanding by reversing the order to say “Love is god.” They won’t say it so succinctly; instead, they will meander around a bit and eventually come to that conclusion. And quite recently, God has all but been erased from the equation with the phrase, “Love is love.” But love is not God and love without God is not love. While it is true that God is infinitely loving, He is also infinitely holy and infinitely just and infinitely righteous and good and merciful and faithful and sovereign. How could anyone possibly suggest that God’s infinite love is greater than God’s infinite holiness or even the other way around? No attribute of God’s character can be greater or lesser than any other attribute of God. If that were true, He would not be eternal because something of God that is lesser cannot be infinite.

God and everything about God is unitary. He is not made up of parts like humans are. Every characteristic of God functions as one. Tozer writes, “All that God says or does must accord with all His attributes… Every thought that God thinks, every word that God speaks, every act of God must accord with His faithfulness, wisdom, goodness, justice, holiness, love, truth, and all His other attributes.” When Jesus was asked, “What is the greatest commandment?”, His answer was, “Hear, Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one” (Mark 12:29 NASB). Isn’t that interesting? Before we get to the commandments about loving God and loving neighbor, we are commanded to recognize God’s sovereignty, His holiness, and His unitary nature. And that is because until we surrender to the Lordship of God, we cannot recognize the experience of being loved by the All-Powerful, Sovereign Creator of the universe. For the unsaved, God’s love is like light to the blind or sound to the deaf. They have no frame of reference to even imagine it.

God’s love permeates every aspect of His being, as do holiness and justice also permeates every aspect of His being. God’s love, holiness, and justice all functioned as one in the atonement when Christ chose to suffer and die on the cross for us. Because of God’s holiness, His justice required that the sinner be condemned. But because of God’s love for us, He established a way for us to be reconciled to Him that is holy and just. Romans 5:9 says, “And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation.” The atonement of Christ was the payment for our sinfulness. So now God’s justice requires that those who are marked as belonging to Christ be brought into the kingdom of Heaven, no longer condemned, but justified in Christ. Only the love of a holy God could save us in such a way as this.

2 thoughts on “God is Love but Love is Not God”

  1. Love is not God because God is not actually love, nor loving in any genuine way towards us. Displays of love are performed by God, to God, using us, not to us. God does not love us for us as his creations, in fact he hates us. He shows love to some of us who benefit when he wants to glorify himself (Romans 9:18-23). That’s grace.
    Love is benevolence. God is not benevolent. Holiness and benevolence are mutually exclusive.

    1. Hi Gordon. Thanks for reading my article. Romans 9:18-23 explains the sovereignty of God. He has every right as Creator and Ruler of all creation to do what He wills with all that He has created. And in the case of humanity, He chose to love us because we were created in His own image (Genesis 1:27). We lost the moral image of God but retain the capacity for that image to be restored in us (Colossians 3:10). Only God could do that, and so God, the Son, came in the form of a man named Jesus Christ to sacrifice Himself in order to fulfill the requirements of the Law so that the righteousness and holiness of Christ could be imputed to us (2 Corinthians 5:21). God, the Holy Spirit, then came to dwell in us so that we could be not only declared holy, but actually transformed into holy persons (1 Corinthians 6:19-20; Romans 12:1-2). God has no need of us. He does not need us to glorify Him (Acts 17:24-25). We do it for our own benefit because He invites us to share in His glory (Romans 8:17). His act to save us is entirely motivated by His benevolence for us (Ephesians 2:4-5). I pray that you can come to realize how much God loves you and desires for you to be reconciled to Him through Jesus Christ.

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