Small Group Resources
Attributes of God – God’s Love
God’s love is the divine attribute that indicates God’s disposition to be self-giving and for the good of the other.
Suggestions for Individual Study
1. As you begin each study, pray that God will speak to you through his Word.
2. Read the introduction to the study and respond to the personal reflection question or exercise. This is designed to help you focus on God and on the theme of the study.
3. Each study deals with a particular passage—so that you can delve into the author’s meaning in that context. Read and reread the passage to be studied. The questions are written using the language of the New International Version, so you may wish to use that version of the Bible. The New Revised Standard Version is also recommended.
4. This is an inductive Bible study, designed to help you discover for yourself what Scripture is saying. Write your answers to the questions in the spaces provided or in a personal journal. Writing can bring clarity and deeper understanding of yourself and of God’s Word.
5. It might be good to have a Bible dictionary handy. Use it to look up any unfamiliar words, names or places.
Suggestions for Members of a Group Study
1. Come to the study prepared. Follow the suggestions for individual study mentioned above. You will find that careful preparation will greatly enrich your time spent in group discussion.
2. Be willing to participate in the discussion. The leader of your group will not be lecturing. Instead, he or she will be encouraging the members of the group to discuss what they have learned. The leader will be asking the questions that are found in this guide.
3. Stick to the topic being discussed. Your answers should be based on the verses which are the focus of the discussion and not on outside authorities such as commentaries or speakers. These studies focus on a particular passage of Scripture. Only rarely should you refer to other portions of the Bible. This allows for everyone to participate in in-depth study on equal ground.
4. Be sensitive to the other members of the group. Listen attentively when they describe what they have learned. You may be surprised by their insights! Each question assumes a variety of answers. Many questions do not have “right” answers, particularly questions that aim at meaning or application. Instead the questions push us to explore the passage more thoroughly.
When possible, link what you say to the comments of others. Also, be affirming whenever you can. This will encourage some of the more hesitant members of the group to participate.
5. Be careful not to dominate the discussion. We are sometimes so eager to express our thoughts that we leave too little opportunity for others to respond. By all means participate! But allow others to also.
6. Expect God to teach you through the passage being discussed and through the other members of the group. Pray that you will have an enjoyable and profitable time together, but also that as a result of the study you will find ways that you can take action individually and/or as a group.
7. Remember that anything said in the group is considered confidential and should not be discussed outside the group unless specific permission is given to do so.
John 3:16 (NIV)
16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
For many, God’s love is considered his central attribute in that all other divine attributes are but expressions of his love. Others consider God’s holiness or sovereignty to be his central attribute. Still others argue that there can be no single primary attribute. Regardless of whether one views divine love as the central description of God’s being, there is no doubt that every divine attribute is in harmony with every other. Each attribute expresses God’s superabundant love. This means that God demonstrates his love not only in his goodness, mercy, grace, compassion, and faithfulness, but also in his holiness, justice, jealousy, and wrath. His love is holy, just as his holiness is loving.
1. What do you think? Based upon your understanding now, is God’s holiness his dominant trait? Or, is it his love? Or, is neither dominant? Explain your answer.
God’s love toward humanity is salvific, meaning that he seeks reconciliation with all whom he loves. God wills the good of his creatures from eternity past and into eternity future. God loves all his creatures (John 3:16), though he bears a special love and commitment toward his believing children (Deut 7:7–8; Mal 1:2–3; Eph 5:25).
John 3:16 (NIV)
16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life
2. How would you explain to someone who has not surrendered to Christ this aspect of God’s love? What would be the most common objection? How would you deal with that objection?
God is love (1 John 4:8). God’s love is a communicable attribute in that it God should not be conceived of as living under some independent standard for what counts as love; rather he himself is to be imitated by humanity. As recipients of divine love, believers return love—albeit in a limited human fashion—both to God and to others. By his own actions, God teaches the world to love actively and sacrificially, not just those within one’s own family or tribe but every neighbor (Matt 22:39–40)—even one’s enemies (Matt 5:44).
1 John 4:7–11 (NIV)
7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
Matthew 5:43–48 (NIV)
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
1 John 3:16 (NIV)
16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.
3. Does the way God loves us through the sacrifice of Jesus truly change us? Why?
Three theological tensions related to the doctrine of God’s love are the following:
• The difficulty of reconciling a God of love with a broken and suffering world: the problem of evil.
• The relationship between God’s love and his justice: can God be said to be loving when he eternally punishes those who rebel against him?
• The tension between God’s love and the doctrine of divine impassibility: can God be said to be loving if he does not “suffer” with his creatures?
4. How do you understand the problem of evil? Have you had someone bring that up to you as to why he/she doesn’t believe? How have you tried to overcome the objection?
5. How can a loving God punish those he loves? How does a loving God condemn someone for eternity (either eternal punishment, or eternal separation from God)?
6. Does God suffer with his creatures? How? Explain.
1 John 3:1 (NIV)
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.
Ephesians 3:17–19 (NIV)
17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
John 3:16; 1 Co 13; Mt 5:43–48 (God’s love for the world.); Jn 3:16 (God’s love for the world.); 1 Jn 4:14 (God’s love for the world.); Dt 7:7–8 (God’s love toward his people.); Dt 12 (God’s love toward his people.); Jn 15:13–14 (God’s love toward his people.); Ro 5:8 (God’s love toward his people.); Re 1:5 (God’s love toward his people.); Dt 7:9 (God’s covenantal faithfulness.); Ne 1:5 (God’s covenantal faithfulness.); Ne 9:32 (God’s covenantal faithfulness.); Mic 7:20 (God’s covenantal faithfulness.)
Ex 34:6–7; Dt 10:15; Ps 32:10; Ps 36:7; Ps 106:1; Ps 136:1; Ps 145:8; Joe 2:13; Ro 8:38–39; 2 Co 13:11; Eph 2:4–5; Tt 3:4–5