As Valentines’ day quickly approaches, love is in the air. How are we to think about love? As 1 John 4:8 makes it very clear, love is not just one of his attributes it is his very nature. Many people like this attribute of God the best and speak of it often. The tragedy remains in the local church that many people receive lousy teaching on the topic of God’s love.
I have often heard it taught that God loves in a unique way, and there was a word invented to talk about this type of love, the Greek word "agape." This is not the case. "Agape" is the transliteration of the Greek word for love. Agape simply means love. It is not from the word itself that we can gather any particular information, but from the context of the Word of God. I would like to draw out three essential aspects of this attribute of God.
First, God’s love is uninfluenced. By this, I mean that there is nothing in the objects of His love to call it into exercise, nothing in the creature to attract or prompt it. God's love is unique from our love. By comparison, we love others because of different reasons: physical attraction, the other person thinks like us, the other person is our opposite, they're complimentary to us, etc… In each case there is something that prompts us to love someone else. We see in Deut. 7:7-8, one sees that God chose to love Israel in spite of who they are, the fewest in number.
Second, God’s love is sovereign. That is since God himself is sovereign (meaning under obligations to none, a law unto himself, acting always according to his own pleasure.) God is God and He does as He pleases. Since God is sovereign and since he is love, it follows that his love is sovereign. So God loves whom he pleases. We see this in passages like Romans 9:13 where is says “Jacob have I love, but Esau have I hated”. There is no more reason to love Jacob over Esau. Both were born at the same time to the same parents and the prophecy given before either had done anything good or bad.
And finally, God’s love is holy. The fact that “God is light” (1 John 1:5) is mentioned before “God is love” (1 John 4:8) in 1 John. God’s love is not regulated by impulse, passion, or sentiment, but by principle. His holiness overshadows all his attributes. God does not wink at sin, even in His people (Heb. 12:6). If God did wink at sin, Christ died for no reason. God continues to manifest or show his love for us.
Let’s not forget that God’s love is also eternal (Jeremiah 31:3), infinite (Eph. 2:4), immutable (James 1:17), and gracious (John 3:16 & 34). I recommend The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God by D.A. Carson for further study on this matter.