Christians: What does the Bible mean when it says that God is love?
Perhaps the best-known statement about the Trinitarian God of the Bible is found in 1 John 4:8, which simply states, “God is love.” When plumbed to its depths, this definition of God is unprecedented.
Loveis spoken of roughly eight hundred times throughout the totality of Scripture. In stating that “God is love,” the Bible also reveals that the Trinitarian God of the Bible is simultaneously the definition, example, and source of true love.
In other words, to declare that God is love is to confess that God is Trinitarian. In the very nature of God there is a continuous outpouring of love, communication, and oneness because God is a relational community of love. For example, during his earthly life, Jesus frequently spoke about the deep love between him and God the Father:
- The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand.1
- The Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing.2
- I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the3
In the Old Testament the most sacred name for God is Yahweh. Yahwehis a distinctly proper name for the God of the Bible. Because it is sacred, it is never used to refer to any pagan gods; neither is it used in regard to any human. It is reserved solely for the one true God alone. The name Yahweh appears some 6,823 times in the Old Testament, as he is the focus and hero of the Scriptures. The third commandment warns us not to use his name in vain or thoughtlessly.4 The name of Yahweh is so sacred that Leviticus 24:16 commanded that anyone who used it in a blasphemous manner was to be put to death. The severe consequences associated with misuse of the name Yahweh caused God’s people such great reverence that they were exceedingly cautious to write or speak his name. Consequently, when reading the Old Testament Scriptures, Jews did not speak the name Yahweh but replaced it with ‘Edonai (“Lord,” often transliterated from the Hebrew as “Adonai”). The ancient Hebrew Bible had only consonants, so the name of God was written as YHWH. When your translation has the word “LORD,” in all capital letters, you know this is the personal name of God, YHWH.
Sometime between AD 600 and AD 900 the rabbis put dots and dashes around the ancient consonants so people would be able to see the vowels. When they came to the divine name YHWH, they added vowels from ‘Edonai. This was transliterated as JeHoWaH. There is nothing wrong with the name Jehovah, but we are sure it is not the name God gave Moses and his people.5 All of this was done in an effort to ensure that God’s name was treated with reverence and honor.
Do you ever use God’s name in an irreverent and/or dishonoring way? If so, what needs to change in your use of God’s name?