“The Love of God” Bible Study
It is hard for many to comprehend how God can save them as sinners. As a result, most people are running away from God out of fear. This is one way the devil, the enemy of souls, veils the good news of the gospel from men and women. For this reason, it is important for all to realize that the ground of our salvation is God’s unconditional love for us, and not our goodness. Jesus Himself declared in that favorite text of the Bible: “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). The apostle Paul, once a persecutor of the Christian church, made this profound statement to young Timothy: “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the worst” (1 Timothy 1:15).
The reason why we sinners do not need to be afraid of God and can come to Him with full confidence is because God is love. In this study we are going to discover the true love of God that is the ground of our salvation. Once our eyes are opened to this fact, the gospel will become fantastic or incredibly good news. Let us see how this is true from the Word of God.
How God’s Love Was Perverted
In order to fully appreciate the good news of the gospel, it is important to be familiar with how Satan has perverted God’s love, in order to pervert the gospel. Here is a brief history of what happened. The Greek language, in which the New Testament was originally written, had four words for love. They were eros, storge, phileo, and agape. Of these four words, eros was considered to be the highest form of love. As Plato described it, eros was man seeking after God. It was the basis of all pagan religions.
The New Testament writers NEVER used this word, eros. This was unacceptable to some of the Church Fathers, who became the leaders of the Christian church after the apostles died. Some of these Church Fathers, who were all of Greek origin, wanted to substitute eros for the word agape, the key word used in the New Testament to define God’s self-emptying and unconditional love. This started the great battle in Church history between eros and agape.
It was Augustine, the great Church Father of the 4th century, who settled the issue. By using Greek logic, Augustine synthesized the concept of eros with the concept of agape and produced a new concept of love which he named caritas from which we get our English word charity. This new concept of love was accepted by the Christian Church and, as a result, caritas became the dominant word defining God’s love during the dark ages of Church history. Thus, by modifying the true meaning of God’s love, Satan managed to pervert the pure gospel from being “good news” to “good advice” — “I must do my best and God will make up the difference.” Below is an outline showing the contrast of man’s eros love to God’s agape love and how caritas perverted the gospel:
HUMAN EROS LOVE IS:
Depends on beauty or goodness and therefore needs arousing. When this love is attributed to God it perverts the gospel into conditional good news or good advice: Matt. 19:16-27; John 9:14-31
Fluctuates and is unreliable: Luke 22:31-34 (Divorce rate in U.S.)
C. SELF-SEEKING (U-turn agape)
Egocentric; therefore always ascending, socially, politically, academically, economically, and even religiously: Isa. 53:6; Phil. 2:21. (Satan is the originator of this self principle and infected man with it at the Fall.) Ezk. 28:14,15; Isa. 14:12-14
GOD’S AGAPE LOVE IS:
Is spontaneous, uncaused, and independent of our goodness. This is why God redeemed us: Rom. 5:6-10; Eph.2:1-6,8,9; Titus 3:3-5
Everlasting and never fails: Jer. 31:3; 1 Cor. 13:8; Jn. 13:1; Rom. 8:35-39
C. SELF-EMPTYING (agape)
Selfless; therefore will step down for the benefit of others: 1 Cor. 13:5; 2 Cor. 8:9; Phil. 2:6-8
Agape and The Great Controversy in Church History
The battle between Agape and Eros love resulted in Caritas love. These 3 loves have produced the 3 gospels comprising today’s world religions:
The Eros Gospel (Salvation by Works)
The Caritas Gospel (Salvation by Faith Plus Works)
The Agape Gospel (Salvation by Grace Alone)