A little over two years ago, I asked this question at church: “How many times does the Bible say ‘God is love’?” One of the senior members said, “Hundreds of times.” That concept reflects the popular teaching of our age. We Christians have been more influenced by the media rather than by actually reading the Bible. The Bible only uses the phrase “God is love” twice. Both passages are found in 1 John 4. Verses 8 and 16 say “God is love.” But those are the only two times that phrase occurs in the Bible.
Listening to many people today, one would think that the Bible is replete with the phrase “God is love” as though it appeared on every page of the Bible. While it is true that God is love, the focus on this characteristic of God to the exclusion of all the rest gives an idolatrous view of God. That is creating the kind of God we want him to be rather than the kind of God based on what the Bible says about him.
So, many believe that since God is love, he just looks the other way when people sin. He is loving and forgiving; and he would never send anyone to hell. Those are just scare tactics left over from the Middle Ages. We now know better. As one person commented on my Facebook post, “Jesus is the most tolerant person who ever lived.” Obviously, I asked her to cite a chapter and verse that taught that. On Wednesday, another person commented on a link I had on YouTube that Jesus told us to be “nice.” Again, I asked for chapter and verse. No response.
This view of God portrays him more as Barney the Dinosaur than the Almighty God of the universe. When Isaiah the prophet envisioned God exalted on his throne, the seraphim did not fly around God’s head saying, “God is love, God is love, God is love.” They said, “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty.” (Isaiah 6:3).
The Bible does say many times that God is holy. Several times in the book of Leviticus, God said, “I, the Lord your God, am holy.” Due to his nature, he has also commanded us to be holy. Several times in Leviticus alone, God says, “be holy, because I am holy.”
Peter repeated this theme in 1 Peter 1:15-16, “But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’” God expects us to live holy lives. That means set apart for him, not to live for ourselves. If we claim to believe in Christ, our lives should be different from those who do not believe. 2 Corinthians 5:15 says, “And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.”
Because God is holy and we are not in ourselves, God must punish sin. “The wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). Because God is holy, he cannot tolerate what is not holy. Because God is holy, sin must be paid for; it cannot just be excused or overlooked. Hebrews 9:22 states, “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” You and I must die (shed our blood) for our sins; but because God is love, he does not want us to die.
So, there had to be a substitute. For you to be forgiven and become holy as God demands, you need to receive Christ’s payment on the cross for your sin. For your sin he was beaten by Roman soldiers. They beat him with their fists. They spat on him and beat him with rods and whips. The drove a crown of thorns into his scalp and nails through his hands and feet. Finally one soldier thrust a spear through his lung into his heart puncturing the pericardial sac. Jesus did not simply “swoon” on the cross or just pass out. He suffered massive trauma for you. He died to satisfy God’s holiness, justice, mercy, love, grace and wrath against sin so that you and I could be free from sin and death.
Jesus did not die a horrible death on a Roman cross just so that you and I could drive new cars. He did not die just so we could be more successful and live in big houses. He did not die just so we could have nicer clothes and an expensive watch. He died so that we could be cleansed from sin and made holy. The price was his blood poured out on Calvary. There is no other way to come to God. Peter preached, “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
God is more concerned about your holiness than your happiness. God wants you to have true riches, not just the baubles of this world. Don’t miss God’s real, eternal home while you camp out on this temporary one.