God is Love

(RE)UNION STUDY 4 OF 10 – Read chapter 7 of (re)union

God is love.
~ The Apostle John (1 John 4:8, 16)

I believe these are the three most beautiful words strung together in the English language: God is love.

However, to say “God is love” only communicates accurately if we know what love is. Is love an emotion? A sentimental sensation? A philosophical value? The Greek word used for love in 1 John 4 is agape (the Hebrew near equivalent would be hesed), which means an unconditional, honouring, and active engagement with a person. Agape is the will to work for the good of someone. One chapter before John says “God is love,” he makes sure his readers have the right idea of what love is. John defines agape like this:

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. (1 John 3:16)

Two things worth noting: first of all, John breaks the expected grammatical logic structure, which we would expect to be “Jesus laid his life down for us, so we ought to lay our lives down for him” and instead says that because Jesus loved us, we ought to love other people. That is the repeated flow of New Testament ethics – when you are wondering what is the right way to treat someone in any given situation, first ask, how has God treated me?

Secondly, Jesus is love embodied. He not only teaches us about love; Jesus shows us what true love is.

Now back to those three beautiful words – God is love. On Sunday we walked through most of 1 John 4, the Bible passage that twice states the essence of God as pure, unadulterated, 100% love. The apostle John is the only writer of Scripture who dares declare the essence of the Almighty, and he does so three times:

  1. God is SPIRIT, says Jesus in John’s gospel (John 4:24)
  2. God is LIGHT (1 John 1:5)
  3. God is LOVE (1 John 4:8, 16)

The Bible describes God as having other qualities, expressions, attributes, such as being holy, sovereign, and righteous, but these qualities are never described as God’s essence. The essence of God is the spiritual light of love.

Now catch this: To say God is spirit, light, and love is to describe the same essence in three ways, not to say that God’s essence is made up of three different substances or parts. There is not a”spirit” part of God attached to the “light” part of God next to the “love” part of God. God is 100% spirit, which is 100% light, which is 100% love.

This is worthwhile establishing since sometimes some Christians try to play one description of God’s essence off of another. They say things like, “Sure God is pure love, but he is also pure light” as though they have just pointed out something else in God that balances out his love. Most of the time they then go on to argue that the “light” of God refers to his holiness and white hot wrath against sin. Now they have set themselves up to argue that God is love AND wrath at his very core. But the text of Scripture simply can’t support this. God is not love + anything. The spiritual light of God is love. God’s love is light. God’s light is pure spirit, which is pure love. No matter how we slice it, God is all spirit, all light, and all love.

Consider the graph at the top of this page. We are talking about the essence of the Almighty, the DNA of the Divine, the actual guts of God. God is not the sum total of many qualities, but God is love – a love that is expressed in different ways. This means that every expression, everything that God does, is love because everything that God is, is love.

So God’s “guts,” the actual “stuff” of God, must be what God is in and of himself, apart from anything or anyone else. To say “God is love” is to describe:

  • Who and what God was before God created anything.
  • Who and what God is now in our lives.
  • Who and what God will be forever in eternity.

As we said on Sunday, to say that God is love is to acknowledge that this is what God is and not just how God behaves or feels or thinks. And what God is cannot be altered. This is really encouraging because it means that God’s love cannot be diminished in even the slightest way, for that would be the diminishing of God’s own self.

Think about this, if we try to say that God is “holiness” in his essence, we are actually saying something that is not only unbiblical but something that is nonsense. To be “holy” means to be set apart from other things as special. God is holy and forever will be because, among other reasons, he alone is the Creator and therefore is set apart from all else that exists because everything else is creation. But before the creation of all things, to say that God was “holy” would make no sense. Before the creation of all things, God was not set apart from anything else. There was only God. Holiness depends on other things existing for it to be a true quality of God.

So yes, forevermore throughout an eternal future we will properly relate to God as “holy” precisely because there is a “we” to relate to God. As God is to the angels forever, so is God to us forever – the eternal three times holy God:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty;
    the whole earth is full of his glory.” (Isaiah 6:3; also see Revelation 4:8)

Even more obvious, God was not a “just judge” who was “wrathful” before the creation of all things. To be a judge is to be a judge over something or someone else. God was never a judge over himself. And he was certainly never wrathful about anything within his own being, and before God created all things, there was never anything external to himself to be wrathful about. God’s judgement of wrath is a concept that only makes sense after God created us, and after we went astray.

But wait. What about Bible verses that say God “hates” some people?

It’s true, sometimes we read that God hates specific people. Here are two examples:

 “I have loved you,” says the Lord.
“But you ask, ‘How have you loved us?’
“Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?” declares the Lord. “Yet I have loved Jacob, but Esau I have hated, and I have turned his hill country into a wasteland and left his inheritance to the desert jackals.” (Malachi 1:2-3; also see Romans 9:13)

There are six things the Lord hates,
    seven that are detestable to him:
        haughty eyes,
        a lying tongue,
        hands that shed innocent blood,
        a heart that devises wicked schemes,
        feet that are quick to rush into evil,
        a false witness who pours out lies
        and a person who stirs up conflict in the community. (Proverbs 6:16-19)

In Proverbs, at first we are told that God hates the body parts of a person that does evil. Then we learn that God actually hates the person who does evil. And what about poor Esau in Malachi and Romans – was he “hated” by God from birth?

First of all, we don’t deduce from these passages that God is partially love and partially hate. God is love. What the Bible calls “hate” is, in God’s case, an expression of divine love. In Hebrew thought, if love (hesed or agape) is a choice to bless, then hatred means to not be chosen for that blessing or that special honour. Esau was not chosen for the mission that God chose for Jacob. Likewise, a sinner is not chosen for blessing, but is opposed by God. Yet, that act of opposition, of judgement, of discipline is always an expression of love, because God is love.

My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline,
    and do not resent his rebuke,
because the Lord disciplines those he loves,
    as a father the son he delights in. (Proverbs 3:11-12; also see Hebrews 12:6)

Everything God does is love, because everything God is is love.

Jesus helps us see that, in biblical language, “hate” is not the opposite of love but a potential expression of love. When Jesus instructs his followers to make him their sole priority, to choose him above all others, including our own families, he puts it this way:

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26)

We are instructed by Christ to hate those closest to us, and even our own lives. And yet we know that Jesus also says,

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:40)

Jesus calls us to love all people – our friends, our neighbours, our enemies, and ourselves. So again we see that “hating” our families and our own lives does not mean that we are being unloving in those instances, but that we are loving Jesus first and foremost. God himself loves everyone, even the sinners that Proverbs says he “hates”:

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! (Romans 5:6-10)

God loves everyone, including the ungodly, the sinners, God’s enemies – because God cannot do otherwise. God is love. In the most well known Bible verse, God’s love for everyone is identified as the preceding motive behind God giving his son:

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. (John 3:16)

God is love. And this means that every experience we have of God is an expression of love (James 1:17). Now keep in mind, not everything we experience comes from God. But everything that does come from God is an experience of love. Sometimes that love will be experienced as an encouraging embrace. Other times, when we are fighting back against God’s best for our lives, that love will feel like hot coals poured upon our heads (see Romans 12:20). Our experience of God’s love will be determined by whether or not we embrace or reject it, but everything that comes to us from God will always be love.


“But don’t we have to balance out our picture of God?” No! We never “balance” God’s love with some equal but opposite quality, a yin to the yang. The yin-yang is not a Christian God concept. God is love!



So now what? Do you want to embrace, even as you are embraced by, the radically imbalanced, lopsided love of God? Jesus is the key. Jesus is God with us, come to SHOW US God’s love, the essence of the Almighty (Hebrews 1:3). Jesus is love incarnate, love in history, pure love walking and talking. This cannot be said of anyone else. There is no higher reality to study, teach, talk about, sing about, or meditate on than God seen in Jesus.

Jesus said:

“If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” (John 15:10-11)

Jesus is teaching us how to remain, abide, live, dwell in the amazing love that is the essence of God, and the way to do this is following, obeying, practicing the teachings of Jesus. When we not only read and listen and sermonize about God’s love, but really soak up, meditate on, discuss, and apply Jesus’ will and way of being in this world, we are living in and not running away from God. Jesus, his teaching lived out in our lives, is the key for us to see and experience the love that is the essence of God. And that experience is pure joy.







PS: For more on “God is love” in relationship to the idea of the Trinity, see this post… God’s Love Life: You, Me, & The Trinity



Q & EH?

  1. How do you define “love”?
  2. Recall the beautiful image of God’s instinctual love for us in Isaiah 49… God loves us like a mother loves her newborn baby. Is this a helpful picture of God’s love for you? Why or why  not?
  3. Do you find it easy or difficult to really accept and say, like the apostle Paul, that “God loves me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20)?


  • Read: Romans 5:6-10 and 1 John 4:7-21.
  • Think: God loves you because it is his nature to love, not because you have done something spectacular to gain his love. Why is this such good news?
  • Meditate: “Perfect love casts out fear.” (1 John 4:18)


THANK YOU for interacting with this blog! I’d love any feedback you have to offer. Comment away!


Tags : God is loveLovereunion


  1. An excellent clarification of God’s essence that helps strip many of our own impressions of who God is, to see what he really should be. Thanks!

  2. Good stuff! In answer to your first question, I define love as acting intentionally, in response to God and others, to promote overall well-being. If you like details on what that means, see a few of my books.

    Thanks again for your good post!

  3. This is really helpful! I study theology and often feel frustrated because of all “Yes, God is love… but- arguments”, often coming from my young evangelical class mates… I know they really want to be true and dedicated, but it’s hard to find ways to connect… but this will really help me… so Lots of THANKS from Sweden and God bless you!

  4. I like the message here, but I am at a loss as how to understand passages such as 2 Th. 1.5-10 in light of your teaching here. I wonder if Paul was simply not having a good day. If God is love, as I believe, how does vengeance fit in? Judgement OK, but vengeance?

  5. Hi Drane,
    In light of your questions on the verse of the return of the Jesus and his “taking vengeance” in 2nd Thessalonians Chapter 1:
    “7 … when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels,8 In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ:”
    I have been living in the Middle East for over 25 years, and I can say that many Christians and Muslim believers of Christ’s 2nd coming long for the day when Christ returns to bring His Everlasting Peace. I think to understand this verse, you have to put yourself in the shoes of a mother who watches his teen son be beheaded for not closing his shop during prayer times, or the families of the Christians who have died recently in Egypt, or the Christians slaughtered in Libya on the shores of the Mediterranean. The people who carry out these atrocities and find joy in them (Proverbs 2:14) —as a human, I don’t think hell could be hot enough for them! (Sorry, that is my “Irish” side coming out here.) I cannot understand how God can be so merciful. If God doesn’t eventually intervene and take vengeance upon these people, then I don’t think He is a righteous God. Yet, He seems to slowly wait till their cup of iniquity is filled, and with tears longs for someone to reach them with the Gospel before He demonstrates His Love through His wrath. He sends the sun upon them every day, and tries to reach their “seared consciences.” (1 Timothy 4:2) There must come a time when God says “enough” and with tears, as a loving Father, steps in and puts an end to man’s inhumanity to man.
    In Isaiah 26:9, it seems to indicate that his judgments are what will finally teach all of us the lessons we need to learn:
    “With my soul have I desired thee in the night; yea, with my spirit within me will I seek thee early: for when thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness.”
    Maybe Paul wasn’t having a bad day when he wrote those verses, but had just heard news of Christian woman and children being used as burning torches in the Roman arena to satisfy the blood lust of the sick Roman rulers, and the Lord showed Paul that one day I will return. And the Lord used Paul to comfort us by saying “if we suffer with Christ, we shall also reign with him.” 2 Tim 2.12 John echoed the same when he said in Revelation 20:4 when John saw the souls of them beheaded for the word of God and witness of Jesus living and reigning with Christ a thousand years.
    Anyway, when I look at the verses you mentioned in 2 Thessalonians Chapter one, I see them through this lens. And from my own personal experience, I can say that I know God is a God with seemingly unlimited patience with our frailties and is always there to assist us when we try and make things right. And I am sure He would do the same for ISIS or those in the West who thrive off the war business, if we turned to Him as Paul did, and David and other great sinners / murderers who found that you can never be too bad for God.

  6. As I read this, I thought “He needs to say something about God’s own declaration of his identity to Moses”. I receive John’s witness and your witness of John, and I think God’s testimony in Exodus 34:5-7 has a place in this article as well.

    5The LORD descended in the cloud and stood there with him as he called upon the name of the LORD. 6Then the LORD passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; 7who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations.”…

  7. I am not sure that your interpretation of God’s essence is correct. I haven’t heard it before and I’ll need to ponder it for a while. There are some things which you haven’t answered…

    In this post you choose love, light, and spirit as the three integral quantities. Why those 3? Why not a different set of 3? Love, purity, omnipotence? Why not 2 or 4? How can it be shown that these 3 are the elemental ones? I don’t think that these ideas are actually in the Bible. Rather they result from philosophy, looking at the Bible and theology, but it is not stated clearly per se in the Bible.

    It seems that to support or further your argument, you seem to be using a false dichotomy argument. You talk about how needing to “balance” God’s attributes is silly, therefore God’s fundamental essence is love. Or show that God’s hating is not the opposite of love, but an expression of love … and then conclude that love is God’s essence (post hoc ergo propter hoc).

    Another thing that is not addressed, that needs to be if one is to say that God’s essence is love and that all other attributes flow from this is the following. How are God’s omniscience and omnipotence derivatives of his being pure love? How is his eternal nature, unchanging, infinite something that is solely a result of being love and not equally an intrinsic part of his nature?

    I do love theology and philosophy, but also how it applies to our humanity, and how it affects our daily lives, walking with Jesus. Thank you for providing thought provoking ideas. I also REALLY love your exegesis of a book of the Bible (e.g. Exodus: Chosen One) and am eagerly awaiting for the next time you do a series on some book of the Bible.

  8. “God is love”. I’ve heard it, read it and believe it a thousand times and yet Bruxy those three words are penetrating deep into my being. Thank-you for voicing God’s words.

  9. It seems to me that Bruxy has a fundamental misunderstanding of the doctrine of divine simplicity. Check out this quote from John Frame:

    “[It] is certainly tempting to say that love is
    God’s fundamental attribute, because 1 John 4:8, 16 says that “God is love,” and because a love that imitates God’s loves is central in biblical ethics (John 13:34-35; Phil. 2:1-11; 1 John 3:16; 4:10). But does “God is love” describe anything more fundamental to God than “God is light” (1 John 1:5) or “God is spirit” (John 4:24)? Or does it describe God’s nature more perfectly than the exposition of God’s name (in terms of both love and wrath) in Exodus 34:6-7? What about “the LORD, whose name is Jealous” in Exodus 34:14 (cf. 20:5), or “Holy One of Israel” (Pss. 71:22; 78:41; 89:18; Isa. 1:4 and often in Isaiah; cf. Isa. 6:3), or almightiness, the attribute given to God in the patriarchal name ‘el shadday?
    Of course, I am tempted to make lordship the fundamental attribute. Certainly, Lord is the fundamental name of God in Scripture, and all biblical revelation expounds it. It is the attribute most often mentioned in the Scriptures, by the constant use of yahweh and kyrios. For pedagogical purposes, and for purposes of edification, it makes good sense to start where Scripture starts and emphasize what Scripture emphasizes, especially since lordship leads so easily to a consideration of other topics. Yet I would not want to say that lordship is metaphysically central to God’s nature in a way that holiness, love, eternity, and righteousness are not. These other concepts can also be central in specific biblical contexts. They can also name God, even define him, as in 1 John 1:5 and 4:8.
    So instead of yielding to the temptation to make lordship fundamental, I yield to my other temptation, namely, to make all the attributes perspectival. That is the implication of the doctrine of simplicity… That conclusion is confirmed by the attempts of theologians, often very persuasively, to make this or that attribute fundamental. Perhaps they are all correct in seeing their favorite attribute as the essence of God and trying to derive the others from it. Perhaps all of God’s attributes can be derived from his holiness, aseity, love, jealousy, omnipotence, or any number of others. If all of the attributes describe God’s simple essence from various perspectives, then any of then can be taken as fundamental in a given context. All of them, after all, involve all the others. Ultimately, all of them, identical to God’s simple essence, are identical also to each other.”
    John Frame, The Doctrine of God, p. 392-393

    Simplicity simply means that God IS his attributes; every attribute is who he essentially is. The minute you start to say that some of the essential attributes of God have existence prior to creation, outside of him, you run smack into the face of dualism the personal God and the impersonal attribute exist with equal ultimacy for all of eternity. God is not like us, having an essence that is derivative of things that exist outside of us. For more on this sort of thinking I highly recommend Scott Oliphint’s wonderful book, God With Us.

    1. Hi Michael. Thanks for reading my blog. I appreciate your comment.

      I don’t think this is a matter of me misunderstanding the doctrine of divine simplicity; rather a matter of me disagreeing with some renditions of it, which I have found needlessly complex.

      And I am fairly familiar with Frame, by the way. I’ve been using his systematic theology text since it came out. In his “Systematic Theology: An introduction to Christian Belief” he wrestles with this doctrine admirably, in my opinion, even if we don’t arrive at an identical conclusion. In his section on God’s simplicity, he says:

      “God does, however, enter into relationships with creatures, as we have seen. These relationships are not essential to his being, for he would be God even if he had not chosen to create the world. I am assuming, therefore, that it is possible to distinguish between God’s necessary or defining attributes (essential to his being) and other predications that describe God in his relationships with creatures.” (p. 429)

      Amen. It is these “necessary attributes” that I am addressing in this post: God is spirit, light, love. I don’t think it is biblical or sensical to say that God is “anger/wrath” in the same way, for instance. The Triune God is always love, even apart from any relationship external to himself, but he is not angry in the same way, within himself toward himself. God’s anger is in that second category of qualities that Frame is talking about – “predications that describe God in his relationships with creatures.” I’m suggesting that God’s anger, judgement, mercy, etc. are manifestations of God’s simple essence of love toward sin and sinners.

      I think that is more simple than the sometimes complex articulations of the doctrine of divine simplicity.

      Thanks again for posting. Wishing you all the best.

  10. Hey Bruxy,

    I guess I’ll concede your point that it is right to draw the same distinction that Frame draws between essential and what I’ll call, following the lead of Scott Oliphint, covenantal attributes. The “relational attributes” of God cannot be part of his essential being else we run the risk of defying the creation, thus destroying the Creator/creature distinction and running headlong into dualism (or even pantheism, depending on how you conceive of it). I agree that the wrath of God and anger, though undeniably an attribute of his, (this point is far too often neglected) is a covenantal attribute of God and a free display of his essential nature. In the same way, his grace exists by his free condescension most clearly seen in Christ. You see, as an attribute love is kinda tricky. It is both and essential part of the being of God and a free condescended expression of that being most commonly experienced as grace, especially on this side of the fall, which happens to be John’s point. Right after John declares, “God is love” (1Jn. 4:8), he states that this love “was made manifest” by the condescension of his Son (v.9). In this case, God condescension points us toward something true about his essential being. Quite often, I’ll hear people speak of God’s gracious condescension as if it were ontologically necessitated when is reality it isn’t, else it wouldn’t be free. So, it is better to think of the attribute of wrath as a condescended manifestation of God’s holiness, this side of the fall. I’ve never met any level headed theologian who would say otherwise.

    However, this doesn’t appear to be the issue between us. My primary concern is that you have reduced the whole of God’s being down to simply one attribute, which happens to be love. You speak of simplicity in a reductive way where the only attribute of God is love. Wouldn’t it be better to feel out our understanding of God’s love by relating it to the other attributes essential to his being (as Frame does) instead of speaking of those things as mere “expressions” of the one attribute of love? There’s the rub! Even holiness and justice, according to your graphic at the top of your post don’t seem to make the list, despite the fact that even John himself says that God is light (1Jn. 1:5) and just (1:9) in the same letter in which he speaks of God as love. Was God not holy from all eternity, or just for that matter? If not I should be afraid of what he would have been? Is God not essentially omnipotent, or good, or omniscient, or immense, or immutable? I could go on, but I think you get the point. I think your list of essential attributes is far too small and thus runs the risk of speaking of a God who is essentially different from the God revealed in Scripture. In a sense all the attributes are all of who God is; he’s not a composition of various things (thing upon thing) as some say. So, his holiness is a loving holiness, and his goodness is a loving goodness, and his immensity is a loving immensity etc… But, his love is also a holy love and at the very least that means the eventual eradication of or pacification of all that is evil or wrong, including those who continue in their sin and walk in rebellion. It is loving for God to pour out the full cup of his wrath on sinners isn’t it? If holiness exist from all eternity it must be predicated of God’s essential being. If it isn’t than we are simply in the grasp of dualism once again. And if we say it exists in eternity as something external to God yet somehow possessed by him, we have made God a composite being and thus misunderstood the doctrine of simplicity.

    I think Berkhof speaks well of simplicity, especially as he relates it to other doctrines:

    While the unity discussed in the preceding sets God apart from other beings, the perfection now under consideration is expressive of the inner and qualitative unity of the Divine Being. When we speak of the simplicity of God, we use the term to describe the state or quality of being simple, the condition of being free from division into parts, and therefore from compositeness. It means that God is not composite and is not susceptible of division in any sense of the word. This implies among other things that the three Persons in the Godhead are not so many parts of which the Divine essence is composed, that God’s essence and perfections are not distinct, and that the attributes are not superadded to His essence. Since the two are one, the Bible can speak of God as light and life, as righteousness and love, thus identifying Him with His perfections. The simplicity of God follows from some of His other perfections; from His Self-existence, which excludes the idea that something preceded Him, as in the case of compounds; and from His immutability, which could not be predicated of His nature, if it were made up of parts. This perfection was disputed during the Middle Ages, and was denied by Socinians and Arminians. Scripture does not explicitly assert it, but implies it where it speaks of God as righteousness, truth, wisdom, light, life, love, and so on, and thus indicates that each of these properties, because of their absolute perfection, is identical with His Being. In recent works on theology the simplicity of God is seldom mentioned. Many theologians positively deny it, either because it is regarded as a purely metaphysical abstraction, or because, in their estimation, it conflicts with the doctrine of the Trinity.

    Berkhof, Systematic Theology, p.62

    I guess, when it’s all said and done, all I want to say is that God is not less than love, but he is so much more! We must all be careful of how we speak of God and handle his holy word.

    1. Thank you Michael. I agree, we must all be careful of how we speak of God and handle his holy word. Amen.

      I wonder if we are saying the same thing using different words? Paul wrote to Timothy, a young pastor to “Keep reminding God’s people of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen.” (2 Timothy 2:14) Is that us right now? I don’t know. But I want to be sensitive to this possibility.

      For instance, I really resonate when you say that God is “not a composition of various things (thing upon thing) as some say. So, his holiness is a loving holiness, and his goodness is a loving goodness, and his immensity is a loving immensity etc… But, his love is also a holy love and at the very least that means the eventual eradication of or pacification of all that is evil or wrong, including those who continue in their sin and walk in rebellion.”

      Amen! It sounds to me like we are on the same page. His love is holy and his holiness is love. There is no distinction. This is why I say that God’s wrath, for instance, is an expression of his love, and not an entirely different thing within his being.

      As for the chart at the top of my blog post being incomplete – it is far from complete. It is representative. I thought that much was obvious. I’ve used this chart for years and I’ve never had anyone miss that point, so I am wondering why that is happening with you.

      Lastly, you said “If holiness exist from all eternity it must be predicated of God’s essential being.” Maybe we’re just using our words differently again, but in what way was “holiness” an essential attribute of God for all eternity past? Doesn’t holiness mean to be set apart? And how was God set apart from anything or anyone before he created? I’m curious how you understand the concept of holiness. Certainly we can say that God has always been spirit, light, and love. But in what way can we say God has always been “holy”, even before he created anything? I would instead say that holiness is one of the amazing ways that divine love is made manifest, once God creates that which is not God.

      Ah, words. They draw us together AND give us reasons to divide. I just want to make sure that the division, if there is division, is real and not just linguistic. If merely linguistic, I’m sure we can find lots of other real things to divide over. 🙂

      Thanks for your engagement brother.

  11. “His love is holy and his holiness is love. There is no distinction. This is why I say that God’s wrath, for instance, is an expression of his love, and not an entirely different thing within his being.”

    So, since all of the attributes of God are one, why could one not say that God is wrath and his love is an expression of his wrath? This would technically be true too from what you said. Correct? If every attribute is then an expression of every other attribute, then the actual words become meaningless. If we say all colours are equal and we can use any colour to name any other colour, then the words become indistinguishable and meaningless. It seems to me that reducing God down to one attribute is “reductio ad absurdum”.

    I find that thinking of God as transcendent and with distinct attributes, as in “The Knowledge of the Holy” by A.W. Tozer, each of which affects the others (not balances!), greatly aids my worship and deepens understanding of Him. Emphasising God’s love, as you are teaching us, is also very valuable. This viewpoint is A good way of looking at God and not THE only way to consider God.

    “But in what way can we say God has always been “holy”, even before he created anything? I would instead say that holiness is one of the amazing ways that divine love is made manifest, once God creates that which is not God.” When you say this, that holiness is only evident after Creation, it seems that you have redefined holiness, put a unique spin on it that other theologians do not. C.S. Lewis, R.C. Sproul, John Piper and many others have a different definition of holiness – one that does not require God to have created something in order for it to exist. Piper seems to equate holiness with transcendence – there is only one God and no other being even remotely like him. I don’t have exact quotes from C.S. Lewis, but people who write about him say that God’s perfect holiness is his utter purity and perfect righteousness. ( God cannot sin or do wrong. That’s not part of his nature. He is holy and always was and always will be.

    I think that it’s good for your readers to hear various views, so thanks for your teachings and insights and thanks for allowing people to post comments that challenge what you say.

  12. I think that your argument about God’s essence would be better if it did not rely exclusively on quotes from John.
    If you included God’s goodness along with His love I think that would be good. There are lots of OT quotes which say God is good eg Ps 119: 68 Many of them link His goodness and His everlasting love – eg 1 Chron 16:34 Give thanks to YHWH, for He is good; His love endures forever. When Moses asks to see God’s glory, what he gets is that God causes His goodness to pass in front of Moses Exod 33:18,19. Jesus is reported to have done much, but said little about love in His public ministry – but he stated that only God is good. Peter’s thumbnail account in Acts 10:38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how He went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, becuase God was with Him.
    Another reason to be clear what God’s love is – and is not – is that some, eg Bp Michael Curry of TEC preached at a recent royal wedding on how all we need is LOVE without any reference to the difficulty of practicing agape love without God’s Holy Spirit. Our own Scottish EC Primus also has a related phrase “Love is love” which seems to me to be a bit short of the full Good News.

  13. You left out the fact that God is also a consuming fire – another essential predicate of God’s being.

    1. Excellent observation. This fits well with the observation that “God is light” and our reaction should be “reverence and awe” (Hebrews 12:28-29).

      Pure love will consume what is unloving, destroying sin in the fire of judgement.

      Hmmm. I wonder if this could suggest that Hell is not a separate place or realm God created but rather the experience of judgement that happens in the presence of the God who *is* (not who created) a “consuming fire”.

      Anyway, thanks for reading!

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