The Love of God Conclusion
This article continues our study of God’s love as expressed in the New Testament.
God’s Philanthropia Love of Man
In Titus 3:3 the apostle Paul presented a graphic description of unsaved man’s fallen disposition. He wrote to Titus, “We ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another.” In essence, he said that fallen, unsaved people are self-centered. They want every circumstance of life to please them and every human being to treat them the way they desire. In light of this fallen disposition, unsaved people deserve God’s judgment.
In Titus 3:4 Paul contrasted unsaved humanity’s self-centered disposition with God’s disposition toward unsaved humanity. Using a Greek word that emphasizes contrast,1 he wrote, “but when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared…” Paul’s point was that unsaved people deserve God’s judgment because of their self-centeredness, but God is kindly disposed and loving toward them.
The word translated “kindness” also means “goodness” and “generosity.”2 The Greek word translated “love” (philanthropia, literally meaning “love for mankind”3) refers to “benevolent condescension,” “help in time of need,” and “what is ‘useful’ to man.”4 In Paul’s statement it refers to “favour of God to man.”5
In Titus 3:4 Paul also referred to the time “when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared.” The word translated “appeared” belongs to a family of Greek words that sometimes refer to “a visible manifestation of a hidden divinity, either in the form of a personal appearance, or by some deed of power by which its presence is made known.”6 Consequently, Paul indicated that there was a time when God, who is invisible to mortals (Jn. 1:18; 1 Tim. 1:17; 6:16), revealed His kindness and love for them “through some wondrous act that awes and impresses.”7 That act was God’s sending of His eternal Son from heaven to Earth to become incarnated in human flesh so that He could die as the substitute sacrifice for mankind and be resurrected from death. Through that act, God provided for man salvation from eternal judgment and the gift of eternal life.
Paul indicated this is so by referring to God as “our Savior” and declaring,
Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life (Ti. 3:5–7; cf. 2:10–14; 1 Jn. 4:9–10).
God’s Agapao Love of Believers
Scripture indicates God loves people who have placed their faith in Christ His Son and that no person, thing, or event will ever be able to break God’s bond of agapao love for His believers. Paul emphasized this fact in Romans 8:37–39:
Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
The fact that Paul used the Greek word agapao for God’s love for believers instead of philanthropia, the love He has for unsaved man, indicates that these are different types of love. Therefore, God’s love for believers has distinctive characteristics that His philanthropia love for unsaved man does not have, as indicated by the family relationship that exists between God and believers.
The apostle John wrote to believers, “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!…Beloved, now we are children of God” (1 Jn. 3:1–2). John also declared, “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God” (5:1).
Paul told believers in Galatia, “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, ‘Abba, Father!’…and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ” (Gal. 3:26; 4:6–7).
He told believers in Rome, “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God….You received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ” (Rom. 8:14–17). And he called Thessalonian believers “brethren beloved by the Lord” and referred to “our God and Father, who has loved us” (2 Th. 2:13, 16).
Thus John and Paul indicated that God, on the basis of His agapao love for believers, established a family relationship in which He is the Father and they are His children. Good parents have a special love for their children that is different from the love they have for others. So, too, the apostles imply that God’s agapao love for believers is different from His philanthropia love for unsaved man. Believers belong to God’s family; unbelievers do not.
Paul indicated that God loves not only Jewish believers but also Gentile believers so that
He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory,…He called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles….As He says also in Hosea: “I will call them My people, who were not My people, and her beloved, who was not beloved. And it shall come to pass in the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not My people,’ there they shall be called sons of the living God” (Rom. 9:23–26).
The participle translated “beloved” is in the Greek perfect tense, which indicates that, once something takes place, it continues into the future. Thus, once Jews or Gentiles place their faith in Jesus Christ, they become objects of God’s agapao love and remain so forever.
Paul’s concluding words to the church in Corinth were as follows: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen” (2 Cor. 13:14). This was the apostle’s expression of wishes for this congregation plagued with conflict and problems. Some people associated with the church were living contrary to how they should have as believers. Since believers are special objects of God’s agapao love, Paul’s expression “the love of God be with you all” may have been a wish that every person associated with that church be a genuine believer in Jesus Christ.
God’s Agapao Love of a Cheerful Giver
In 2 Corinthians 9:7 the apostle Paul declared, “God loves a cheerful giver.” Paul described a cheerful giver as one who gives “as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity.”
The word translated “purposes” means “determine, decide, make up one’s mind”8 concerning a situation that involves more than one option. The word translated “heart” refers to “the center and source of the whole inner life” involving thoughts, emotions, and the will.9 The word translated “grudgingly” refers to “grief, sorrow, pain of mind or spirit,” and in Paul’s statement can mean “reluctantly.”10 The word translated “necessity” refers to “compulsion of any kind, outer or inner.”11 Paul’s description indicates that God has agapao love for believers who give gladly without coercion.
God’s Agapao Love of Believers Whom He Chastens
God also loves believers whom He must chasten and scourge. Hebrews 12:5–6 declares, “My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lᴏʀᴅ, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; for whom the Lᴏʀᴅ loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives.”
The words translated “chastening” and “chastens” refer to corrective discipline that may involve punishment.12 The word translated “rebuked” means “to show someone his sin and to summon him to repentance.”13 The word translated “scourges” figuratively refers to “torment, suffering (sent by God to men).”14
God does these things to His believing children for their profit, that they may be partakers of His holiness (Heb. 12:10).
- William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich, eds./trans., “de,” A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, (1952: translation and adaptation of Walter Bauer’s Griechisch-Deutsches Worterbuch zu den Schriften des Neuen Testaments und der ubrigen urchristlichen Literatur, 4th ed.; Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1957), 170.
- Ibid., “chrestotes,” 894.
- Ibid., “philanthropia,” 866.
- Ulrich Luck, “philanthropia,” Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (hereafter cited as TDNT), ed. Gerhard Friedrich, trans./ed. Geoffrey W. Bromiley, translated from Theologisches Worterbuch zum Neuen Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1974), 9:107.
- Ibid., 111.
- Arndt and Gingrich, “epiphaneia,” 304.
- Webster’s New International Dictionary of the English Language, 2nd ed., unabridged (Springfield, MA: G. & C. Merriam, 1939), s.v. “revelation,” 2131.
- Arndt and Gingrich, “proaireo,” 709.
- Ibid., “kardia,” 404.
- Ibid., “lupe,” 483.
- Ibid., “anangke,” 52.
- Ibid., “paideias, paideuo,” 608.
- Friedrich Buchsel, “elengcho,” TDNT, ed. Gerhard Kittel, trans./ed. Geoffrey W. Bromiley (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964), 2:474.
- Arndt and Gingrich, “mastix,” 496.