God's Love in the New Testament
by Gini Crawford, MSW
A love we long for
It would be foolish to think women don't enjoy and appreciate gifts that express love - roses, a meaningful card, chocolates, or the dishes being washed; yet to be loved unconditionally, unselfishly, and sacrificially is the love gift we all long for. It is a kind of love we all look for, but can never quite find in humans. This is because who can love so totally? I know I can’'t. However, God can and does.
So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 1 John 4:16 ESV®
God does not just love, He is love. Everything God does flows from His love. (Psalm 33:5; Galatians 2:20b; 1 John 4:7-11). God is all-powerful, but every act of His power is done through love. God's act of creation was an act of love, which resulted in life for all things.
Do you long for unconditional love?
God's sacrificial love - agape
God's love in many ways defies definition, so to use any word, even agape, to describe God's love falls short. However, in the New Testament the Greek words agape(n) and apagao(v) are used to best describe the love that is of and from God. Why is this? The New Testament writers needed a word to express God's sacrificial love, and in the Greek language there wasn't a word for self-sacrificing love. So the New Testament writers, I am sure through the Holy Spirit's leading, realized the word agape love would work if they took the classical meaning of a valuable/precious object and enriched the word by adding a selfless and self-sacrificing meaning (1 Corinthians 2:13).
Agape love is an unselfish, unconditional, and sacrificial love. It's a love that springs from realizing-comprehending the object of love is valuable and precious. It highly values or esteems the one it loves, even if the one loved is unlovable. It is not based on feelings or motivated by emotions, but it can find a joy in that someone. Agape is an act of the will (intentional, a conscious choice) that puts the welfare of the one loved about the one loving. It's a compassionate act - selflessly giving of oneself to meet a need of another, even an enemy. It is also a love that compels the one loving to give by self sacrifice for the good of the one loved. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7). Jesus Christ literally lives out agape love.
But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. / ...looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy (us) that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. / In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Romans 5:8; Hebrews 12:2; 1 John 4:10 ESV®
What are your thoughts on agape love?
Agape love brings life from death
After a forest fire in Yellowstone National Park, a ranger was checking out the damage to the forest, when he came upon an unusual sight. He found a dead bird under a tree - statuesque among the ashes. Overwhelmed by the destruction all around him, and feeling heartbroken, he gently nudged the dead bird with a stick. To his surprise, three chicks very much alive scurried out from under their dead mother's wings. The caring mother knew the flames of death were going to overtake her chicks, so out of sacrificial love she carried her precious babies to the base of a tree and instinctively gathered them under her wings as the toxic smoke and heat took her life. We all know she could have flown to safety, but her chicks could not, so she suffered death because of her love for her chicks. What a beautiful example of Jesus' agape love for us in creation.
Jesus said... "How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!" / How precious is your steadfast love, O God! The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings. Matthew 23:37b, Psalm 36:7 ESV®
To ponder: Jesus Christ is God, so to die on the cross for us, He had to temporarily surrender His eternal nature to the worst possible death - crucifixion. Jesus is the Creator (Colossians 1:15-17), yet He allowed Himself to become vulnerable to His creation, humans, as He suffered on a cross. His willingness to stay on the cross for us took the flames of death from us, who believe in Him. (John 3:16, 10:15-18, 27-30; Philippians 2:6-8). Jesus so highly values us - His agape love endured the cross for us.
How do you feel about Jesus' agape love for you?
Jesus Christ modeled agape love for us throughout the New Testament. He highly values us no matter who we are or what we have done. We are His precious people, His joy. His love for us is unconditional. He works as well as sacrifices for our wellbeing, our good; and has a joyful resolve to put our interests above His. Glorious love isn't it, from our loving God!
These verses are a sample of agape in the New Testament. Quickly explain each passage:
- John 3:16
- Romans 5:8-10
- 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
- Ephesians 2:4-5
- Ephesians 5:2
Can you ever truly agape love someone? That's a hard question to answer realistically. I think we could say, we will never completely agape love anyone like God does us, because His love is a supernatural phenomenon coming from the God of love! But God does want to empower us to come as close to His love as possible. (1 John 3:16-17). Ask Him to empower you to love others unselfishly, even sacrificially if need be. Read John 13:34-35.
Reflect on John 3:16 today.