What Is the Meaning of 'God Is Love' from 1 John 4:8?

1 John 4:8 says "Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love." So what does it mean that God is Love?

Updated Jun 19, 2024
What Is the Meaning of 'God Is Love' from 1 John 4:8?

“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 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. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.1 John 4:7-10 NIV

When we hear the phrase "God is love," it can be both a comforting and a profound statement. This truth, found in 1 John 4:8, encapsulates the very essence of who God is. But what does it mean for us personally? How do we experience this love in our daily lives? Let's explore the depths of God's love, its implications, and how it transforms our lives.

The Nature of God's Love

At its core, the statement "God is love" means that love is an essential attribute of God's character. It is not merely one of His many characteristics but is central to who He is. According to 1 John 4:16, "God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them." This tells us that God's actions are always rooted in love, encompassing His holiness, righteousness, and justice.

God’s love is perfectly demonstrated in the sending of His Son, Jesus Christ. John 3:16 famously declares, "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." This sacrificial love shows the extent to which God is willing to go to restore a relationship with humanity. Let's take a look at some places in Scripture where we see God's love in action.

Illustrations of God's Love in the Bible

The Prodigal Son: In Luke 15:11-32, Jesus tells the parable of the prodigal son, a vivid illustration of God's unconditional love. Despite the son's reckless behavior, the father welcomes him back with open arms, symbolizing God's forgiveness and grace.

The Good Shepherd: John 10:11 describes Jesus as the good shepherd who lays down His life for the sheep. This metaphor highlights God's protective and selfless love.

God’s Covenant with Israel: Throughout the Old Testament, God's steadfast love is evident in His covenant relationship with Israel. Despite their repeated disobedience, God remains faithful. Deuteronomy 7:7-8 explains, "The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, but because the LORD loved you and kept the oath which He swore to your forefathers."

The Transformative Power of God's Love

God's love is not static; it is transformative. It has the power to change hearts and lives in ways we can't even imagine. When we truly understand and accept God's love, it doesn't just sit idly in our hearts—it propels us toward a new way of living. As 2 Corinthians 5:17 declares, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!" This powerful statement means that God's love initiates a profound transformation within us.

Think about it this way: before understanding God's love, our lives might be filled with self-centeredness, fear, and insecurity. But when we accept His love, we are filled with His grace, peace, and a sense of purpose. This transformation isn't just a one-time event; it's a continuous journey. Each day, as we live out this love, we become more patient, more forgiving, and more compassionate.

This change can be seen in how we interact with others. Instead of holding grudges, we forgive. Instead of seeking revenge, we seek reconciliation. God's love empowers us to act selflessly, putting others' needs before our own. We start to see people through the lens of God's love, understanding that everyone is valuable and worthy of love, just as we are.

Ultimately, the transformative power of God's love is about becoming who we were always meant to be—people who reflect His love and grace in every aspect of our lives. It's a beautiful, ongoing process that not only changes us but also has the power to change the world around us.

God's Unconditional Love and Suffering

One of the most challenging aspects of understanding God's love is reconciling it with the presence of suffering. How can a loving God allow pain and hardship? This question has troubled many, including myself. Yet, the Bible assures us that God's love does not negate the existence of pain; rather, it provides a foundation of hope and endurance through it all.

Romans 8:38-39 offers profound reassurance: "For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons... nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." This passage reminds us that God's love is unconditional and unwavering, even in the face of suffering.

Understanding God's unconditional love means recognizing that it is not based on our circumstances or our behavior. God loves us at our best and our worst. This kind of love is hard to comprehend because human love often comes with conditions and limits. We love others when they are kind to us, when they meet our expectations, or when they make us happy. But God's love is different. It is constant and unchanging, regardless of what we do or what happens to us.

Theologians and spiritual writers often emphasize that suffering can bring us closer to God, not because God desires our pain, but because it strips away our illusions of self-sufficiency and draws us into a deeper reliance on Him. C.S. Lewis famously wrote, "God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world." In these moments of pain, we can choose to lean into God's love and find it to be a bedrock of hope and strength.

Experiencing God's Love Today

Understanding that God is love changes how we perceive our relationship with Him and with others. Here are some practical ways to experience and reflect God's love:

  1. Personal Relationship: Engage in a personal relationship with God through prayer, reading Scripture, and worship. Romans 5:5 tells us that "God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us." This ongoing relationship nurtures our understanding of His love.

  2. Loving Others: Reflect God's love in your interactions with others. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 provides a blueprint for love: "Love is patient, love is kind... It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres." As we embody these attributes, we become conduits of God's love.

  3. Forgiveness: Embrace and extend forgiveness. Just as God forgives us, we are called to forgive others. Colossians 3:13 urges, "Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you."

The statement "God is love" is a profound truth that invites us into a deeper relationship with our Creator. It calls us to experience His love personally and to extend that love to others. As we journey through life, may we continually reflect on the depth of God's love and allow it to transform us and those around us.

God is Love - Bible Reading and Prayer of Love

1 John 4:8 Bible Commentary Explaining “God Is Love”

The following is commentary by Matthew Henry on 1 John, Chapter 4:

Verses 7-13: As the Spirit of truth is known by doctrine (thus spirits are to be tried), it is known by love likewise; and so here follows a strong fervent exhortation to holy Christian love: Beloved, let us love one another. 

Verse 7: The apostle would unite them in his love, that he might unite them in love to each other: "Beloved, I beseech you, by the love I bear to you, that you put on unfeigned mutual love.’’ This exhortation is pressed and urged with a variety of arguments: as I. From the high and heavenly descent of love: For love is of God. He is the fountain, author, parent, and commander of love; it is the sum of his law and gospel: And every one that loveth (whose spirit is framed to judicious holy love) is born of God, The Spirit of God is the Spirit of love. The new nature in the children of God is the offspring of his love: and the temper and complexion of it is love. The fruit of the Spirit is love, Gal. 5:22. Love comes down from heaven.II. Love argues a true and just apprehension of the divine nature: He that loveth knoweth God, He that loveth not knoweth not God, 

Verse 8: What attribute of the divine Majesty so clearly shines in all the world as his communicative goodness, which is love. The wisdom, the greatness, the harmony, and usefulness of the vast creation, which so fully demonstrate his being, do at the same time show and prove his love; and natural reason, inferring and collecting the nature and excellence of the most absolute perfect being, must collect and find that he is most highly good: and he that loveth not (is not quickened by the knowledge he hath of God to the affection and practice of love) knoweth not God; it is a convictive evidence that the sound and due knowledge of God dwells not in such a soul; his love must needs shine among his primary brightest perfections; for God is love (v. 8), his nature and essence are love, his will and works are primarily love. Not that this is the only conception we ought to have of him; we have found that he is light as well as love ch. 1:5 ), and God is principally love to himself, and he has such perfections as arise from the necessary love he must bear to his necessary existence, excellence, and glory; but love is natural and essential to the divine Majesty: God is love. This is argued from the display and demonstration that he hath given of it; as 1. That he hath loved us, such as we are: In this was manifest the love of God towards us.

John Gill on 1 John 4:8 KJV "God is Love"

"He that loveth not, knoweth not God" - If a man loves not the children of God, those that are born of him, he does not know, so as to love God, the Father of them; for to pretend love to God, the begetter of them, whom he sees not, and not love those who are begotten by him, and are visible objects of respect, is a contradiction, and cannot be reconciled: see ( 1 John 4:20 ). This clause is left out in the Ethiopic version, and is transposed in the Syriac version, which reads the text thus, "for God, is love, and whoever loveth not, knoweth not God". By which reading, the following reason stands in close connection with ( 1 John 4:7 ).

"For God is love" - he loves himself; there is an entire love between the three divine Persons, who are in the strictest, and in the most inconceivable and inexpressible manner affected to each other; their love is natural and essential: God loves all his creatures as such, nor does he hate any of them, as so considered; and he bears an everlasting, unchangeable, and invariable love to His elect in Christ Jesus; of which an instance is given in the following verses, and is a reason why the saints should love one another; that they might be like their heavenly Father, by whom they are begotten, and of whom they are born, and whose children they are; seeing he is love itself, and in his breast is nothing else but love.

Related Bible Verses and Scriptures about God's Love

“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

“And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:16-19

“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:6-8

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 NIV

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20 NIV

"See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him." 1 John 3:1

"Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations" Deuteronomy 7:9

Photo credit: ©GettyImages/koyu

Christianity.com's editorial staff is a team of writers with a background in the Christian faith and writing experience. We work to create relevant, inspiring content for our audience and update timely articles as necessary.


Christianity / Life / Bible / What Is the Meaning of 'God Is Love' from 1 John 4:8?