Many have thought that the opposite of love is hate, but in reality it is selfishness. “God so loved the world, that he gave…” (John 3:16). Love is demonstrated by giving. Anyone in the world, regardless of race, culture or religion, takes notice when someone unselfishly does an act of kindness. The world longs to see genuine love manifested. “For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain…” “For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God” (Romans 8:22, 19). Jesus explained how “the sons of God” will be manifested. He said, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:35). What the world needs is genuine, unselfish love.
To get a greater understanding of love, we must look at some history. Before the beginning of this world, God created angelic beings, endowing them with free wills; the ability to choose to be loyal to Him or not. God could have created robots that have no choice but to do what they are programmed to do, but how satisfying would that be? Would you be happy with a robot that is forced to say, “I love you, I love you, I love you”? God wanted to have fellowship with beings who love because of their own choice. Yet, to create beings with a free will is a big risk. Eventually someone could turn away from Him. That is exactly what happened with one of God’s angels, called Lucifer, the devil, or Satan. He was created perfect, but he decided to go astray.
We read about this history in Ezekiel chapter 28, where God says to him, “Thus saith the Lord GOD; Thou sealest up the sum, full of wisdom, and perfect in beauty. Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God;… Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so: thou wast upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire. Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee” (Ezekiel 28:12-15).
Satan was once a perfect and highly-exalted angel (cherub). At this time, he was “full of wisdom, and perfect in beauty.” He loved God with all of his heart, because he knew that God loved Him. “We love him, because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). Unfortunately, iniquity (evil or sin) was found in him. He decided to turn away from God and go his own way. God continues His message to Satan, “Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty, thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness: I will cast thee to the ground, I will lay thee before kings, that they may behold thee. Thou hast defiled thy sanctuaries by the multitude of thine iniquities, by the iniquity of thy traffick; therefore will I bring forth a fire from the midst of thee, it shall devour thee, and I will bring thee to ashes upon the earth in the sight of all them that behold thee. All they that know thee among the people shall be astonished at thee: thou shalt be a terror, and never shalt thou be any more” (Ezekiel 28:17-19).
Here we find that Satan’s heart was lifted up because of his beauty. Have you ever met a really beautiful person who has let their beauty go to their head? This type of person is usually proud and unkind. This is exactly what God said happened to Satan. In this process, his wisdom became corrupt. He started seeing things differently than they really were. He started looking at God as selfish and unfair. He even decided that he could do a better job than God at ruling the universe (Isaiah 14:12-14).
Thus began a campaign by Satan to convince others that God is no good, that He is selfish and unfair. He was so successful in his mission that one third of the angels joined him in his rebellion (Revelation 12:9, 4). Satan then tricked the human race to accept his new corrupted view of God. “Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die” (Genesis 3:1-3).
At this time, Eve understood that the forbidden fruit was harmful for her and that God was good to withhold it from her. Satan that fact. “And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat” (Genesis 3:4-6).
When Eve saw that the fruit of “the tree was good,” her view of God was changed. While she saw that the fruit was bad, she knew that God must be good to withhold it from her, but as soon as she saw that the fruit was “good,” she perceived that God must be bad for withholding it from her. This was Satan’s goal: to get Eve to look at God as unkind and selfish. This has been the great controversy ever since; it is over the character of God. Does He really unselfishly love us, or is He selfish and unkind?
God’s Amazing Promise
The new view of God’s character that Satan introduced to the universe is an incredibly big problem to deal with, and it requires an incredibly big solution. God could have just wiped Satan out of existence at the first sign of rebellion. But what would that have accomplished? Some would see this as proving Satan’s charges correct. They would wonder if God was right to deal with it so drastically. It would have allowed for sin to come back, through someone else. But God is going to make sure that this will not happen ever again. He promised, “What do ye imagine against the Lord? he will make an utter end: affliction shall not rise up the second time” (Nahum 1:9). He also promised that He will make a new earth where He will “…wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away” (Revelation 21:1-4).
For God to ensure that sin will never come back, that no one will ever again question His love, His methods, or His laws, He has to deal with the problem very carefully and completely. Satan’s accusation is that God is no good, that He is selfish and unkind. To answer this charge, God had to do something incredible that would leave no chance for that accusation to ever arise again. He had to do something that would prove forever, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that there is no selfishness in Him at all. Here is how He did it: “In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him” (1 John 4:9).
The Bible also says, “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:32). Here we find that the gift of God’s Son was the greatest gift He could have possibly given, and we can be certain He will freely give everything for us.
The Gift of a Son
God tested Abraham’s love by saying, “Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of” (Genesis 22:2). Why didn’t God ask him to give up his favorite cow, or his riches? Abraham could still be selfish and give up a cow or even all his riches. God asked Abraham to give what was most important to him, to demonstrate clearly that He loved God with all of his heart. God intervened to stop Abraham from taking the life of his son, saying, “Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me” (Genesis 22:10-12).
This was the ultimate test of Abraham’s loyalty and love. It removed all possibility of him being selfish. Abraham’s son was on the top of the list of his treasures. It proved, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Abraham would have freely given up everything else. Any lesser gift would have allowed him to still be selfish. This is a picture of what God did for us, and nothing less would have completely answered Satan’s accusation.
Right after explaining God’s love in giving His Son, John wrote, “For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:4, 5). Here we are told that the only way we can overcome the world is if we believe that Jesus is the Son of God. This is true because this is the key to understanding the depth of God’s love for us. If Jesus was anyone other than the Son of God, then God’s gift would fall short of answering Satan’s accusations, and it would fall short of transforming our lives so that we love God with all of our hearts (Mark 12:29, 30). It is impossible to love God with all your heart unless you know that He loves you with all of His heart. Our love for God is proportionate to how we see His love for us (1 John 4:19). If we think that God loves us a little, then we will love God a little. If we think that He loves us with all of His heart, then we can love Him with all of our hearts. It is impossible to love God more than we see that He loves us.
The Identity of Jesus Christ
“When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets” (Matthew 16:13, 14). Jesus wanted to focus the attention of His disciples on His identity as someone more than just a human. “He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:16-18).
Jesus was thrilled with Peter’s answer about His true identity. He assured him that this revelation came directly from God, His Father, and then He said that upon this truth He would build His church. The identity of Jesus Christ as the Son of God is the foundation of His church. This is the key to understanding God’s love, enabling us to be transformed into His image (2 Corinthians 3:18).
John wrote near the end of his book, “And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name” (John 20:30-31). John claimed that the number one point he was trying to get you to believe through his book is that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. This is the foundation of Christ’s church, the key to overcoming the world, and the only way to appreciate the love of God in its fullness.
A Real Son
When did Jesus become the Son of God? Some have claimed that it was when He was born on earth, but that is when He became the Son of man. He was already the Son of God before. “God sent His only begotten Son into the world” (1 John 4:9). Hundreds of years before Jesus came to earth, the Bible said, “Who hath ascended up into heaven, or descended? who hath gathered the wind in his fists? who hath bound the waters in a garment? who hath established all the ends of the earth? what is his name, and what is his son’s name, if thou canst tell?” (Proverbs 30:4).
In the same book, the Bible also says, “When there were no depths, I was brought forth [born]; when there were no fountains abounding with water. Before the mountains were settled, before the hills was I brought forth [born]” (Proverbs 8:24, 25). Here someone claims that they were born before the hills. Continuing, “While as yet he had not made the earth, nor the fields, nor the highest part of the dust of the world. When he prepared the heavens, I was there: when he set a compass upon the face of the depth: When he established the clouds above: when he strengthened the fountains of the deep: When he gave to the sea his decree, that the waters should not pass his commandment: when he appointed the foundations of the earth: Then I was by him, as one brought up with him: and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him” (Proverbs 8:26-30). This is Jesus Christ speaking of Himself, and He claims that He was born before anything was created.
Jesus also said, “For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself” (John 5:26). According to Jesus He received life from His Father. He is really “the only begotten [born] Son of God” (John 3:18).
Some have supposed that God was just using the word “Son” to express a divine relationship that we could never understand. However, God is the one who invented the arrangement of humans having a father and a son. He did this long after He had a divine relationship with His own Son. If He meant for us to understand something different about Him and His Son, He could have made us differently, or used a different word to describe it. Instead, He made us in His image, with the ability to have a father and a son, and then He declared about Jesus, “This is my beloved Son” (Matthew 3:17; 17:5). If He wanted us to believe anything else about Jesus Christ, He did a very poor job explaining Himself. In fact, the Bible says that Jesus is “…the Son of the Father, in truth and love” (2 John 1:3). How and when He was begotten is not for us to know, for that was not revealed, but God said that it happened and that Jesus is really His Son. We can be sure that He was begotten before anything was created, for “God… created all things by Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 3:9). “…all things were created by him” (Colossians 1:16), and “…without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:3).
The Bible says, “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high; Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they. For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee? And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son? And again, when he bringeth in the firstbegotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him. And of the angels he saith, Who maketh his angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire. But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom. Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows” (Hebrews 1:1-9).
Paul was showing the exalted nature and identity of Jesus Christ in comparison to created angels. Over and over, his reason for claiming Christ is superior to the angels is that Jesus is the Son of God. He did this by using the words, “His Son,” “heir of all things,” “express image of His person,” He received a name “by inheritance,” the Father has “begotten” Him, “Father… Son,” and “firstbegotten.” The most exalted view of Jesus Christ that we can have is when see Him as the divine, “only begotten of the Father” (John 1:14). This understanding remains true to the Bible and vindicates God’s character of love that He demonstrated by giving His beloved and only begotten Son.
God has completely responded to Satan’s accusation that He is selfish. He demonstrated this in such a way that throughout all the ages of eternity no one will ever bring up such a charge again. The gift of His Son was to demonstrate God’s unselfish love, and to redeem all those who will accept Him.
The magnitude of God’s love is only appreciated when we understand Christ’s true identity as the only begotten Son of God. As Satan’s number one goal in life is to misrepresent God’s love, it is to be expected that His number one attack against our understanding of God’s love would be to misrepresent the gift of God’s Son. This is done through a multitude of unbiblical teachings about Jesus. Some claim that He was just a human, others that He was an angel, while still others claim He is the same person, or being, as the Father, or that He is a coeternal (same-aged) partner of God, the Father. All of these attacks against the true identity of Jesus Christ as the actual Son of God are attempts to hide the magnitude of God’s love in giving His Son to die for us. Any of these theories would allow God to still be considered selfish. They minimize the gift of God and fall short of answering Satan’s charges against His character.
The world needs to see that God loves them absolutely and unconditionally. God loves you so much that He would give up anything for you. He is actively pursuing a relationship with you. He is selfless in His interests for your salvation and peace. He said, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil,…” (Jeremiah 29:11). David expressed, “How precious are your thoughts concerning me, O God! How vast in number they are! If I try to count them, there would be more of them than there are grains of sand. When I wake up, I am still with you” (Psalms 139:17, 18 GWV).
God doesn’t stop thinking about you. He is more determined than a man pursuing a woman whom he loves. You are the object of God’s affections, and He will not stop seeking to have a relationship with you. All of His thoughts concerning you are peaceful. Jesus said, “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:44). God, the Father, sent His own Son “…to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10).
Do not despair if you recognize your own unworthiness. Rejoice, because you are just the type of person that Jesus came to save. “For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:6-8). Jesus promised, “…him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37).
A couple weeks ago my Brother Tim and I were visiting a juvenile detention center and met a young man from a gang. He had tattoos all over his arms, hands, and even on his face. He was drawing pictures depicting his life in gangs, but his face was lighted by a peaceful smile. He told us that seventeen days earlier a jail minister had been passing by and stepped in his cell to tell him, “God still loves you. He has not forgotten you.” He had been feeling rejected by God, but that short message was a sign to him that God still loves him. He said he broke down into tears and then gave his life to the Lord. The short time we visited with him made it clear that his conversion was genuine. He was so excited that God cared for someone as sinful as him. He was also confident that God would be with him when he was transferred to an adult prison.
The world needs to know that God loves them. This can change their lives. “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God” (1 John 3:1). Jesus said, “At that day ye shall ask in my name: and I say not unto you, that I will pray the Father for you: For the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God” (John 16:26, 27).