Is All Love, Love?
Probably one of the more common uses of 1 John 4:8 (ESV), “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love,” is in the realm of seeking self-justification in the area of sexual sin. Hence the “love” aspect as focused upon from such proponents. Don’t be mistaken, the world is hostile to the truth.
In an attempt to shut down an argument regarding the sin of homosexuality (or any sexual sin outside of a monogamous, heterosexual marriage between one man and one woman; see Genesis 2:24) you often hear something like this: “But God is love! And God loves love!” The point is: God is love, therefore, any act of love I desire to express or pursue or desire must be applauded by God. After all, God is love.
Love Defined by the Gospel
Here are the verses that surround this text in 1 John 4:6-11 (ESV):
“We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error. 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 on another.”
Being a Christian immediately requires discernment (1 John 4:1) and for us to think and to love and glorify God with our mind (Matthew 22:37). So if love is from God (4:7) and if God is love (4:8), what does it mean to love?
Love is the act of God the Father sending His only begotten and infinitely precious Son. Love is the act of the Son to desire to become a man, to absorb the wrath of God on behalf of sinners (i.e. propitiation), and to justify many (see Romans 5:12-21).
True love is God-centered. Any other deviation from the gospel is not love. If we are born of God, we love what God loves. And what does God love? His glory. Holiness. God’s love for sinners is a purifying, perfecting love.
Hebrews 1:9 (ESV) describes Jesus this way: “You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness…” There is a tremendous difference between God is love and love is God:
God is love: love finds its origination, meaning, and application in the Triune God’s eternal plan of redemption.
Love is god: love is defined subjectively, apart from the God of Scripture.
God is love — and in this is love, that He sent his only Son to be the propitiation for our sins that we might live through Him.