Last post we saw that when we say “God is love” we must mean more than that he simply has nice feelings towards us, or that he is some benevolent force in the
universe, because the book where we find the idea to begin with is the Bible, and the Bible means something very different than those ideas when it says “God is love.” We continue…
What Jesus has to do with it.
With that realization, we can start beginning to understand what the rest of the Bible says about how God is love. The New Testament tells us that when Jesus showed up, lived among us, and began to teach, he wasn’t just another prophet calling people back to God; he was also revealing new dimensions about who God is. One of the most shocking things he revealed was this new understanding of (get ready for a college word) plurality in God. What does that mean?
Well, as you read the gospel accounts, you see that Jesus was always talking about his “Father,” and it’s very clear that when he said that he meant “God.” But then he also referred to himself as “the Son” in a very unique way that showed that he thought of himself as much more than just another “child of God.” You really get this when you read the account of Jesus’ life that John wrote. He’s always pointing out how different Jesus was when he spoke. Here’s just one quote among many:
“As the Father raises the dead and gives life to whom he will, so also the Son gives life to whom he will. The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment into the hand of the Son, that all may honor the Son as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.” (John 5:21-23)
Then there was the time Jesus said, “I and my Father are one.” That one almost got him killed on the spot. His enemies knew exactly what he was saying, and they accused him of blasphemy—of making himself God. (John 10:30-33)
So back to that word plurality. What Jesus was showing us with all of this “Father-Son-One” talk was that God is not simply a big ONE—a solitary, unitary mono-God.6 No, he has plurality in himself—specifically, Jesus shows us that God is Father and Son in perfect unity.
Maybe you’ve never thought about it like this before, but there’s just no other way to understand what Jesus was talking about, and who he was, without seeing what the first followers of Jesus saw. As they walked around with him, they came to this startling discovery: while they had long understood that there was only one God, they now realized they needed to include Jesus in their concept of God.
Amazingly, Jesus revealed that his relationship to his Father was one of intense personal love between the two of them. These statements Jesus made are very easy to miss, until you start noticing them, and seeing how frequently he spoke this way. “The Father loves the Son,” is a direct quote from Jesus, and he said things like this a lot.8 The night before he was crucified his disciples overheard him praying this to the Father: “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.” (John 17:24) In fact, earlier that same night, he said that he was going through with his arrest, his suffering, and his death on the cross, all so that the world would know that he loves the Father. (John 14:31)
Late in his life, Jesus revealed one more crucial thing about God’s nature when he spoke to his followers about another who he clearly equated with God, just like himself and his father. Jesus called him “The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name.”11 The Holy Spirit, as Jesus teaches about him, shares all the same attributes of God, and exists in the same kind of total unity with the Son and Father that they share with each other. In other words, the three are one.
What we can see from all this is what Christians have traditionally named “The Trinity.” This is the name for the idea in the Bible that God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, loving each other in an eternal bond of perfect unity.
This is a big enough, world-shaking-enough truth to say it again from another angle. There is only one true God, and the only God that exists is Father, Son, and Spirit loving each other.
This is the way God is God.
And this is how God is love.
God is not love because he has good feelings towards us, or smiles when he sees us coming his way, or wants to date us, or approves of us just the way we are. All of those ideas might be nice from a fellow human, but they fall far short of what John meant all those years ago when he wrote “God is love.” They’re small and weak compared to what Jesus revealed about himself, the Father, and the Spirit as God.
No, God is love because he exists forever in a bond of love so strong, that the Three bonded by that love are totally and fully One.
No other god people believe in shares this characteristic—this three-in-oneness—so this sets the God of the Bible completely apart from any other contenders. He’s totally unique. And since this is the only way that God could be love, by existing as God in this bond of love, then we can see that no other god who’s ever been promoted can truly be called “Love.” Unless you’re the Trinity, you’re not love.
[If you want to download the entire booklet to read, without waiting for the next posts, you can get it here.]