Okay, short blogging stint here. I was listening to a sermon today and I heard, for the upteenth time, one of what I call “Biblical Ideas that are Not In the Bible” (BINIB). What I mean by that is basically one of those ideas that *appears* in the Bible in some way, but then people take that idea and twist it to mean something that it never meant.
The #1 BINIB, of course, is found in Matthew 7:1 – “Judge not, that you be not judged”. Boy oh boy, have I heard that one thrown out in conversation more times than I can count. That verse is the official text to stop anyone from saying anything biblical that one doesn’t like or agree with. Here’s a rough idea of the common way I encounter this:
*random person* – So what do you think about (insert sensitive issue)?
*Biblically minded believer* – Well, the Bible talks about that issue. It says (insert scriptural reference and coherent, careful explanation).
*random person* – The also Bible says “judge not lest ye be judged”! You’re such a hypocrite!
The BINIB that I heard today was another common one, found in 1 John 4:8 – “…God is love”. This is the scripture thrown out to suggest that God has one attribute that is his main attribute, and it’s almost always used as part of a logical argument to suggest something that is questionable, or simply unbiblical (i.e. goes against the clear teaching of scripture).
The standard example of this is, for me, is the logical argument that goes like this:
1. Mr. X is living in obvious sin (and should be confronted/disciplined)
2. God is love (and confrontation/discipline seems unloving)
3. Therefore – Mr. X is not confronted and remains in his sin (in the name of “being loving”).
I’ve seen that basic argument used in numerous occasions:
Mr. X is an elder who does something horrible (i.e. steals from the church) but the church does nothing because they “want to be loving”.
Mr. X is an associate pastor who teaches clear heresy (i.e. universalism) but the church does nothing because they “want to be loving”.
Mr. X is a congregant who is a out-of-control alcoholic (and everyone knows) but fellow believers do nothing because they “want to be loving”.
So, I would like to point out a clear and obvious fact.
God is not love.
Woah. Wait a minute. 1 John 4:8 says “God is love”. Am I suggesting that isn’t true?
No. Not for a second.
What I mean is that the phrase “God is love” doesn’t mean that “God is only love”, or “God is mainly love”, or “God is ultimately love”.
What I mean is that God has numerous attributes, and love is among them.
Consider what else God “is”:
1. God is merciful – Deut. 4:31
2. God is God of gods and Lord of lords – Deut. 10:17
3. God is mighty – Job 36:5
4. God is great – Ps. 70:4
5. God is righteous – Dan. 9:14
6. God is true – John 3:33
7. God is Spirit – John 4:24
8. God is one – Rom. 3:30
9. God is faithful – 1 Cor. 1:9
10. God is light – 1 John 1:5
That’s not a complete list, but the idea is clear enough. God isn’t just love, and love isn’t his main attribute. Some readers might also wonder why I didn’t include an obvious one; God is holy – Ps. 99:9. It’s true that if one word were used to describe God, it would be “holy”.
God describes himself as “holy” – Lev. 11:44, 19:2; Is. 43:3; Hos. 11:9
Those who know him best, the cherubim/seraphim that surround his throne both night and day, describe him as “holy, holy, holy” – Rev. 4:8
God’s not “love, love, love”. He’s “holy, holy, holy”. The triple repetition of “holy” is emphatic, meaning basically “among all that are holy, God is holy. Then, among those holy ones, God is holy among them.” He’s the holiest one out of the holiest ones out of the holy.
That’s pretty holy.
But, holiness isn’t actually an attribute in the common adjectival sense. It’s actually a term that qualifies his attributes. To be “holy” means to be “set apart/categorically separate” or “to be in a completely different category”. So, when we say that “God is love”, we can also say “God is holy in his love”. This means that God does not possess the attribute of love in the same way that anyone else would possess love. When it comes to love, God is completely in a league of his own; he’s holy in his love. Comparing God’s love to the love of anyone else is utterly absurd.
The Bible says that God is “holy in righteousness” (Is. 5:16), which would be an example of holiness qualifying one of his attributes. So God is primarily holy; he’s holy in his love, patience, justice, wrath, wisdom, power, etc.
So God is love, but God is equally a whole bunch of other things.
Until Next Time,
Lyndon “Is it weird to say I love lexicography?” Unger
P.S. – If you like the idea of the BINIB, you can remember it and share it with your friends with this following ditty:
Not in the book, you see!
I think they’re true but they’re not found in