God Is Love
2 September 2016
God is love, but not according to our way of love. Love flits in and out of our minds, hearts, souls, and actions. Despite all our talk about it, love is hardly a permanent feature of either our interior lives or our outward activities. At best, we are continually battling to actualize love in our lives. It is always easier to say that God is love and has loved us, than it is to say that we love (1Jn 4:10). Because of the fall, love has become a "thing" that comes and goes, it is something we pursue, it is not "ourselves." Love is not us, and we are not love.
However, there is no distinction between love and God. For God there is no distinction between His attributes and Himself. This attribute is part of the unity of substance that exists in God. In this way when God loves us, He is really giving us Himself. God does not "think about" love, He is it. His love for the world is never a "back burner" issue sent to the edges of the divine consciousness, because there is no distinction between consciousness and Himself in God. Love is joined with all the other attributes of God, such as wisdom and knowledge, in a single inseparable unity of essence or being. You can see how we are groping to speak of the unspeakable, know the unknowable, and fathom the unfathomable.
Despite this unity, in the divine self-revelation God has also condescended to reveal specific attributes through the persons of the Trinity in such a way that their offices are tied to those attributes. Augustine of Hippo especially thought of the third person of the holy Trinity as the bond of love between the Father and the Son, but not in such a way that the Father and the Son is not also love (note the singular verb). God is love. There is no distinction between essence and attributes in God. When it is said, "God so loved the world," this is the love of which Jesus speaks. How certain is God's love toward us? It is His person. What could be more certain?
God's love is also pure act. God is not looking to actualize love, His love is not a process or a matter of becoming. It is because He is. Thus He sees to our need by loving us in Christ's work, who in time dies for us while we were still His enemies (Rm 5:8).

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

Augustine of Hippo
"'God is love' (1Jn 4:8); but in regard to this statement the question is, whether this is predicated of the Father, or the Son, or the Holy Spirit, or the Trinity itself; because the Trinity is not three Gods, but one God. The Trinity, which is God, is not so to be understood...so that the Father should be the memory of all three, and the Son the understanding of all three, and the Holy Spirit the love of all three, as though the Father should neither understand nor love for Himself, but the Son should understand for Him, and the Holy Spirit love for Him...
"Nor that these things should differ in them, as in us memory is one thing, understanding another, love or charity another, but should be something that is equivalent to all, as wisdom itself; and should be so contained in the nature of each, as that He who has it is that which He has, as being an unchangeable and simple substance. If all this, then, has been understood, and so far as is granted to us to see or conjecture in things so great, has been made patently true, I don't know why both the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit should not be called Love, and all together one love, just as both the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit is called Wisdom, and all together not three, but one wisdom. For so also both the Father is God, and the Son God, and the Holy Spirit God, and all three together one God.
"Yet it is on purpose that in this Trinity the Son and none other is called the Word of God, and the Holy Spirit and none other the Gift of God, and God the Father alone is He from whom the Word is born, and from whom the Holy Spirit principally proceeds. And therefore I have added the word principally, because we find that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Son also. But the Father gave Him this too, not as to one already existing, and not yet having it; but whatever He gave to the only-begotten Word, He gave by begetting Him. Therefore, He so begot Him as that the common Gift should proceed from Him also, and the Holy Spirit should be the Spirit of both.
"This distinction of the inseparable Trinity is not to be merely accepted in passing, but to be carefully considered. For this reason it was that the Word of God was specially called also the Wisdom of God, although both Father and Holy Spirit are wisdom. If, then, any one of the three is to be specially called Love, what more fitting than that it should be the Holy Spirit? Namely, that in that simple and highest nature, substance should not be one thing and love another, but that substance itself should be love, and love itself should be substance, whether in the Father, or in the Son, or in the Holy Spirit; and yet that the Holy Spirit should be especially called Love." 

Augustine, On the Trinity, 15.17
1 John 4:7-21

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 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. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.
By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 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. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother. (ESV)
Come down, O Love divine, seek out this soul of mine, and visit it with Your own ardor glowing. O Comforter, draw near; within my heart appear, and kindle it, Your holy flame bestowing. Amen. (LSB 501)
For Joyce Murray, who will be celebrating her 80th birthday with family this weekend, that they might rejoice in all of God's gifts showered down upon one of his children
For the shepherds of Christ's church, that the kingdom of Satan might be torn down and destroyed by the power of Christ's cross
For Ken Hennings, the district president of Texas District, that the Lord would support him in the work of supporting pastors and congregations
For all retired servants of the cross, that they might find peace and joy in the service that God brings into their lives until the perfect Sabbath comes
Art: Durer, Albrecht  The Adoration of the Trinity (1515) 
Memorial Lutheran Church
© Scott Murray 2016
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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