Drawing Near

A Pastoral Perspective on Biblical, Theological, & Cultural Issues | The Personal Website of James B. Law, Ph.D.



December 2008



The Biblical Doctrine of Love

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Over the last four months my life have been incredible: Richmond, Alabama, Florida, Nashville, China, Pensacola, and New Orleans. The Lord has been good and I have seen Him do some wonderful things in many different ministry settings. After a four month break, my first post back is on the biblical doctrine of love. Think with me for a moment…..

Our culture loves to talk about love. We love movies and pizza and vacations and on and on it goes. We use the word “love” for every mundane experience in life. This, coupled with the biblical ignorance of God that is rampant in our post-Christian culture, makes the doctrine of love one of the most challenging truths to communicate to those without Christ.

D. A. Carson entitled one of his books, The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God. The title struck me as odd. We might call the doctrine of the Trinity or the doctrine of predestination a difficult doctrine, but love? Love is like a “no-brainer”, right? Well, not so fast, listen to Carson’s explanation:

If people believe in God at all today, the overwhelming majority hold that this God—however he, she, or it may be understood—is a loving being. But this makes our witness more difficult because often the love of God is set in some matrix other than biblical theology….

We live in a culture in which many other and complementary truths about God are widely disbelieved. I do not think that what the Bible says about the love of God can long survive at the forefront of our thinking if it is abstracted from the sovereignty of God, the holiness of God, the wrath of God, the providence of God, or the personhood of God…to mention only a few nonnegotiable elements of basic Christianity.

In sum, when Christians talk about the love of God, they mean something very different from what is meant in the surrounding culture.

I believe one of the strongest challenges before believers is for us to understand and communicate clearly the biblical doctrine of love. That is my prayer this Christmas season.

Of all the statements we could make about Christmas, I John 4:10 is at the top of my list,

“In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”

This verse contains massive truth:
1. Love does not originate from us, but from God. We are not the generators of benevolence and goodness and righteousness…He is, and therefore worthy of our worship.
2. God does love. He loves righteously and magnanimously and unconditionally.
3. God has a Son, and He sent Him from heaven to earth to do the incredible….redeem a people with His blood.
4. He became the propitiation for our sins. He absorbed the wrath of God which rightly rested upon us (John 3:36) by taking our sins to the cross. There on Calvary’s beams He paid it all, so I would not have to pay for my sins in hell for eternity.

This truth is appalling to many because the love of God has been redefined by those who, as Carson noted, widely disbelieve other attributes of God. Many believe everyone is going to heaven….and their pets are going too! Everybody will be there.

However, if the teachings of Jesus mean anything, we know a universal salvation is not true. I think one of the greatest challenges and privileges for the believer in Jesus Christ is to declare to a perishing world, “The Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the World.” (I John 4:14b) To know Him is to know life, and it sure gives meaning to ‘Merry Christmas.’

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