"The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love." (1 John 4:8) "God is love." This sentence has been quoted over and over again, but have we ever considered what this actually means? Since God is love, the very essence of His being is love. If we do not love, we do not know God, for we cannot know God without receiving His love. We may know many things about God, but that does not prove that we know Him. Loving others is the proof that we know Him.
This love is not the love that does good to those who do good things to us, but the love that is described in 1 Cor. 13: 4-8a. It says, "Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails." With this wonderful description of love we have the promise that love never fails! If God would send the bulk of humanity to be tortured in hell for all eternity, then that would be the proof that love had failed. Therefore we know that God will not do that.
Since God is love, we know that everything He does comes from a heart of love. All His thoughts, words and actions have love as their source and motive. His goal for all humanity is rooted in love. He can do nothing other than love. His disciplines too are rooted in love.
God's love is not a permissive love. He doesn't say, "You can do whatever you please and I'll love you anyway." Responsible and mature parents train their children to be trustworthy, respectful, reliable, truthful and loving. God also trains His children. He does not withhold His love in the training sessions, but He shows us the areas in which we need to change. He is always right, and we do well to heed His voice. God is very thorough in His training, for He has committed Himself to change us into the exact image or representation of Christ!
We also know that God is absolutely righteous. How does the mixture of the two absolutes, love and righteousness, work towards unrighteous humanity? Does God love us just the way we are or does He love us in spite of the way we are? God's passion is against unrighteousness. Does God's hatred of evil obstruct His love for the sinner? Many theologians claim that God does not love the sinner, since He hates evil, and there is nothing good in unrighteous humanity. Others say that He loves the sinner but hates their unrighteous deeds. What do the scriptures declare?
In Romans 5:8 we read, "But God demonstrates His love towards us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." Sending Jesus Christ to this earth to die that horrible death on the cross is a demonstration of God's love for sinners - and that includes all of us, for at one time we were sinners. Our minds may wonder how this can be possible, but this is the declaration of scripture. God is always true to Himself.
The humanity that is generated from Adam does not have the knowledge of God. It is ignorant of the true God. The Athenians put up an inscription, "TO THE UNKNOWN GOD," for they feared they had missed a god. Humanity is very religious and very imaginative. These imaginations have resulted in the formation of many gods. But imaginations are not founded on truth. When imaginations become our truth, we do not know truth, and therefore believe the lie. So unregenerate humanity believes the lie, and is ignorant of the true God. Adam, the first man, was an earthy image of God. (1 Cor. 15:45-49) He was a living soul and he bore the image of the earthy. Adam's successive generations never change; they are unable to receive spiritual realities, for the flesh always opposes the spirit. All who are in Adam remain ignorant of the love of God.
The question then comes to us, "How can the unregenerate receive the love of God? In Romans 3:9-18 Paul gives us a description of that humanity - and it is not a pretty picture! He says that no one is righteous, no one understands, no one seeks after God, all have turned aside, all have become useless, no one does good, and there is no fear of God before their eyes. How can those who are dead in their trespasses and sins receive God's love? Adam's humanity has no way of receiving life and love through any ability of its own. It does not have the capacity to receive from God.
Our salvation begins with the love of God. His love for righteousness and for a man created in His own image is so great, that He gave his only begotten Son into the hands of unregenerate humanity, to torture Him on the cruel cross so that we could receive His righteousness. God had purposed in His heart to create man in His own image. When He formed Adam from the earth, He made an earthy image of Himself. By blowing His breath into man, man became a living soul. Adam was creative, very intelligent, and superior to all the animals. But he was ruled by his soul - his mind, emotions and will. Christ, the second man, the last Adam, became a life-giving spirit. (1 Cor. 15:45) Christ is the beginning of a new creation. (2 Cor. 5:17) This new creation is a spiritual image or representation of God. This is the high calling we have in Christ Jesus.
God wants to take us out of the Adam man and place us into the Christ man! Of course this was His purpose from the beginning, from the foundation of the earth. God did not want a creation that was innocent of evil, and did no evil because there was no opportunity to do evil. To have a creation that had God's nature, He needed a creation that knew evil, but would not yield to evil's tantalizing temptations. God wanted a creation that was in union with Him!
The old generation is dead in it sins and transgressions. It is unable to change itself; it is unable to bring life into its body. God has to awaken him to His love and life. It says, "Awake, sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you." (Eph. 5:14) "By grace you have been saved through faith' and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God." (Eph. 2:8)
God brought a true expression and demonstration of His love into the world by the offering of His Son. Jesus Christ came to awaken humanity out of its sleep of death. He came to bring life and righteousness; He came to put an end to Adam's unregenerate humanity by being the firstborn of a new humanity. By faith in Jesus Christ we are born again - not into the material world, but into the spiritual realm of Christ's rule and dominion! We receive Christ's pure mind that wants to do the will of God. We receive His love! "The love of God has been poured out within our hearts, through the Holy Spirit who was given to us." (Romans 5:5b)
We cannot know God without receiving Christ. It is in Christ that we learn to know God. "In these last days (God) has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the ages. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature…" (Heb. 1:2-3a) In Christ the love of God is manifested - it is made clear and understandable to us! "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." (Rom. 5:8)
Our new birth brings us into union with Christ! Read John 17 and notice the union we have with Him! "I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me." (Jn. 17:23) Paul writes, "Christ in you, the hope of glory." (Col. 1:27)
Repentance has to take place before we can be placed into the new man. Jesus began His ministry by preaching repentance. He also said that He had not come for the righteous, but for the sinners. Didn't He come that all should be saved? He did, but those who are righteous in their own eyes, have to recognize that they are sinners, and repent of their ignorance before they can be saved.
God's love does NOT rejoice with the behavior and unbelief of Adam's generation. God is passionately against all unrighteousness. His love wants the best for us, and His best is His thinking and His nature! That is why we are exhorted to put off the old man, and to put on the new. As Christ was in this world, so we are to be in this world. We are to walk in the Spirit, that is, to walk in Christ's divine nature. Our walk includes our everyday life experiences, our business dealings, our friendships, our pleasures, and all our interactions with people. All have to come under the control of the Holy Spirit.