If you had to provide a concise, yet complete definition of who God is, what would your response be? One might argue that God is the Supreme Being, and still others may venture to say that it is impossible to know who God is definitively. Either of these responses view him as Creator, or as those in Athens labeled him, “The unknown God” (Acts 17:23). In stark contrast, the Nicene Creed begins, “I believe in one God, the Father almighty.” This highlights that before we can understand God as supreme, powerful, or even creator, we must understand him as Father. The Westminster Confession helpfully defines this Father as, “Most loving.” Shockingly, the one, true, and living God, who is infinite, eternal, and holy is also most loving.
Who is God?
In his epistle, the Apostle John answers the question “Who is God?” He writes, “God is love” (1 John 4:8, 16). God is not simply loving but is love. Love, then, is not merely what God does but who God is. From eternity past, through each eon of human history, and throughout the infinite and endless eternity that awaits, the Triune God has, is, and will exist in infinite, immeasurable, and eternal love. This is revealed in the words of Christ’s high priestly prayer in John 17. He prayed, “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24). Prior to this prayer, Jesus informed his disciples that the reason he obeyed the Father was “so that the world may know that I love the Father” (John 14:31).
While there is no specific Scriptural reference to the Spirit’s love relationship within the trinity, theologians and reformers have long suggested that he is the love shared between the Father and the Son. While remaining careful not to think of God the Spirit as a quality of love but maintaining the truth that God the Spirit is equally God as both the Father and the Son, yet acknowledging that because he is God, he shares in all the infinite perfections of God and is therefore, love. Augustine argues that the Spirit is principally or especially called love. He writes:
If, then, any one of the three is to be specially called Love, what more fitting than that it should be the Holy Spirit?—namely, that in that simple and highest nature, substance should not be one thing and love another, but that substance itself should be love, and love itself should be substance, whether in the Father, or in the Son, or in the Holy Spirit; and yet that the Holy Spirit should be specially called Love.
These magnificent words invite us into the eternal fellowship of the Triune God. Because He is love, the trinity has dwelt together in eternal love relationship. The Father loving the Son, the Son being beloved of the Father and loving the Father, both loving and being loved in the Spirit, who is himself the love they share.
The Manifestation of Love
What does this mean, that God is love, for you, believer? God’s love is his infinite perfection that motivated him to reveal himself and indeed, give himself to others. Specifically, God’s love moved him to make himself known by revealing himself most fully and giving himself most completely to sinners, in Christ. This makes the gospel news gloriously and infinitely good news. The God revealed in a bloody, crucified, and dying Savior is a God who is love and this revelation was not motivated by anything but himself. The stream of his love for you and to you flows entirely out of himself. Indeed, he is both the fountain and the stream, for he is love. John, that Apostle of love, wrote Jesus’ words to Nicodemus, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). He would later write, “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10, emphasis mine).
It is God himself, love, that moves and motivates him to reveal himself to sinful men. Therefore, he not only sent the Son, but after having received the promise of the Spirit, both the Father and the Son sent a love gift, if I may reverently refer to him, in the person of the Holy Spirit. This, Peter declared on the day of Pentecost: “Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing” (Acts 2:33). This was the fulfillment of the prophecy made by Joel (Joel 2:29). It is the Spirit’s work to pour out the love of God into the hearts of his rebellious enemies. It is the Spirit who lavishes the love of God in the sinners heart by pouring himself out—this is what God’s love means. Paul exulted, “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:38–39). You cannot be separated from the one who permanently abides within you, and he is love. Therefore, no external circumstances, no physical sufferings, and no unforeseen powers in this life, in death, or anywhere in between can come between you and the love of God because having been united to him by faith, no one and nothing is able to come between you and the God who is love.
The Motivation of Love
Brakel provides this helpful reminder and vital distinction, observing, “This love of benevolence precedes all good works of man.” This is only true because God is love. It is because he is love that he has freely chosen to give you his love, namely, himself. Before your good works, indeed, before the foundations of the world he has chosen you, in Christ, to be the apple of his eye (Zech. 2:8; Eph. 1:4, 5:25). Believer, you are beloved of God not because of who you are, but because of who he is. You have come to know and experience this love not because of the works you have done or the laws you have observed, but in spite of all your sinful and rebellious shortcomings. Although knowing every dark and dirty part of your sinful heart, God did not need to be coerced to love you. He loves you freely, fully, and forever.
In fact, Jesus reveals that he loves you just as he loves him. Jesus told his disciples, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love” (John 15:9). Jesus prayed, “The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me” (John 17:22–23). And in between these monumental revelations of love, he said, “I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you” (John 16:7). Perish the thought that the Spirit comes to you as anything less than the Father and the Son. He comes to you, believer, as love. You did not and could not earn this love, but you are not required to, because God is love. Your obedience did not secure this love and therefore your disobedience cannot forfeit this love, because God is love. In fact, God’s love for you is not about you. It is not determined by you but is determined entirely by who he is. You cannot fail so much as to cause God to love you less and you cannot obey so much as to cause God to love you more. He is love and therefore he loves you in himself, through himself, and by himself.
God’s sheep can lie down in these green pastures, they can drink beside these still waters, and in these truths their souls can be restored until the cup of gladness overflows. We are called to stay, abide, or dwell here and it is only as we see who God is, revealed most fully to our hearts by the Spirit in the crucified Christ that we will desire to. Oh, that God would answer Paul’s prayer for us all today:
That according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Eph. 3:16–21)
 A.E. Burn, The Nicene Creed. London: Rivingtons, 1909.
 The Westminster Confession: The Confession of Faith (Banner of Truth: Edinburgh, 2018), 11.
 Augustine, The Works of Saint Augustine: A Translation for the 21st Century, trans. Edmund Hill, ed. John E. Rotelle (New York: New York City Press: 1991), 5:401–402.
 Wilhelmus À Brakel, The Christian’s Reasonable Service,.ed. Joel Beeke, 4 vols. (1992 repr; Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books: 2015), 124.