5

To say something e.g. x "is" something else e.g. 5, is a way to explain x.
To say that a tower "is" tall may be just one of many features. The tower may also be square or round. i.e. one of many attributes.
To say "The tongue is a fire" [James 3v6] is not literal but contains similarity.
To say "speed is a killer" is to identify a cause. A is the cause of B. God "is" love could contain more than one of these or all of them.
It appears to me that "God is love" has four possibilities:
1. God is only love.
2. Beyond God's hatred and anger is love. i.e. love lies at the base of all His attributes.
3. Love is just one of many attributes. i.e. God is loving.
4. Only God is capable of loving. Wherever true love is found it is only because God is there.
"is" is a flexible word used in many ways. This opens up both possibilities and potential problems. What are its limits in "God is love"?

2

The basic formula is “God is [noun],” where the [noun] in Greek is anarthrous. Hence, in 1 John 4:8,1 there is the phrase, «ὁ θεὸς ἀγάπη ἐστίν»—“God is love.” Also in 1 John is the phrase, «ὁ θεὸς φῶς ἐστιν»—“God is light.”2 Regarding this latter phrase, the author continues, «καὶ σκοτία ἐν αὐτῷ οὐκ ἔστιν οὐδεμία»—“...and in Him there is no darkness whatsoever.” It is essentially impossible to apprehend God’s nature and describe His positive attributes with absolute precision. Nevertheless, perhaps these two verses mean that both love and light find their absolutely perfect expression in God’s character and/or nature.


Footnotes

1 cf. 1 John 4:16
2 1 John 1:5

2

Statements of Identity

Ordered by appearance in blueletterbible.org using NKJV and grouping some similarities. *Omitting references of Locality, his Lordship, his Super Hero Defending Attributes, references as Refuge.

  • God is not a man ... Nor a son of man ... (Num 23:19)
  • ... God is giving ... (Exo 20:12) (and lots of other places)
  • ... God is a consuming fire, a jealous God. (Deu 4:24)
  • ... God is a merciful God ... (Deu 4:31)
  • ... God is a jealous God ... (Deu 6:15)
  • ... God is testing ... (Deu 13:3)
  • God is my strength and power ... (2Sa 22:33)
  • ... God is greater than all gods. (2Ch 2:5)
  • ... God is gracious and merciful ... (2Ch 30:9)
  • God is wise in heart and mighty in strength ... (Job 9:4)
  • ... God is greater than man. (Job 33:12)
  • ... God is mighty ... (Job 36:5)
  • ... God is exalted by His power ... (Job 36:22)
  • ... God is great ... (Job 36:26)
  • God is a just judge, And God is angry with the wicked every day. (Psa 7:11)
  • ... God ... My God of mercy. (Psa 59:17)
  • ... God is the Judge ... (Psa 75:7)
  • ... God Is the salvation of Israel. (Jer 3:23)
  • ... God is righteous ... (Dan 9:14)
  • God is jealous ... (Nah 1:2)
  • God is able (Mat 3:9, Luk 3:8, 2Co 9:8)
  • ... God is not the God of the dead, but of the living. (Mat 22:32)
  • ... God is true. (Jhn 3:33)
  • God is Spirit ... (Jhn 4:24) *Said by Jesus
  • ... God is my witness ... (Rom 1:9)
  • ... God is faithful ... (1Co 1:9, 1Co 10:13, 2Co 1:18)
  • ... God is wiser than men ... (1Co 1:25)
  • ... God is not the author of confusion but of peace ... (1Co 14:33)
  • ... God is one. (Gal 3:20)
  • ... God is not mocked ... (Gal 6:7)
  • ... God is good ... (1Ti 4:4)
  • ... God is a consuming fire. (Heb 12:29)
  • ... God is light ... (1Jo 1:5)
  • ... God is greater than our heart, and knows all things. (1Jo 3:20)
  • ... God is love. (1Jo 4:8) =]
  • ... God is love ... (1Jo 4:16)

Evaluation of the Question

To say something e.g. x "is" something else e.g. 5, is a way to explain x.
You’re right, the motive of the statement "God is love" intends on explaining God.

To say that a tower "is" tall may be just one of many features. The tower may also be square or round. i.e. one of many attributes.
You’re right, from the list above we can clearly see that the descriptor "love" acts as God's feature.

To say "The tongue is a fire" [James 3v6] is not literal but contains similarity.
You’re right, fire does act as the metaphor.

To say "speed is a killer" is to identify a cause. A is the cause of B. God "is" love could contain more than one of these or all of them.
You’re right, God is the cause of one of these and the all of them.

The four possibilities:

1. God is only love.
You’re right, this is like the saying, "Light is only light." It is true, but we can see that light is the electromagnetic field, and could also say "Light is only electricity" and "electricity is only magnetic" and "magnetism is only love" and "electricity is only power" and "power is only motion" and "light is only motion" and "magnetism is only motion" and "gravity is only motion" and "temperature is only motion" and "temperature in only light". Let's call it the type of simplification.

2. Beyond God's hatred and anger is love. i.e. love lies at the base of all His attributes.
For the moment consider how the word Spirit is used in the phrase "School Spirit".

You’re right, though all emotion comes from motion God has circumcised his Spirit and has chosen to abandon hatred and anger.

for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God. (James 1:20 NKJV)

Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. (Ephesians 4:31 NKJV)

And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. (Ephesians 4:30 NKJV)

The punishment of denial that is not of faith which is acceptance:

weeping and gnashing of teeth (Mat 8:12, Mat 22:13, Mat 24:51, Mat 25:30, Luk 13:28)

3. Love is just one of many attributes. i.e. God is loving.
You’re right, one could say an attribute is regarded something as being caused, Ex: As love making love.

4. Only God is capable of loving. Wherever true love is found it is only because God is there.
You’re right, we literally need to join with him to obtain this feature.

"is" is a flexible word used in many ways. This opens up both possibilities and potential problems. What are its limits in "God is love"?
You’re right, the only limitation is sin. Like the magnet if authority faces authority they repel, but when Authority (the Author God) meets servant (the repentant, turned face image) they attract.

Summary of the English Perspective

Accept God's Authority casting down your own and he will come and attach himself. God chooses Love and punishes in spirit any Authoritarian. We were made in his image, and he still wants the control. The obedience of God's laws shows him that we are no threat to his Dictatorship. He was lonely and wanted friends, therefore he wants us.

Is as the Name of God

Many accept the name "I am", but what they should realize is how "I is" turns into Jesus. In English "I am" is the correct form for "I is".

The spelling in pronunciation of "I is" = Ies. In Greek masculine names are given the o stem making Ieso. Though three main declensions in Greek were added additionally, the translators summarized the English translation using the declension "us" forming Iesous. In the 1800's the I adopted into the letter J forming Jesous, then in final rendering giving us Jesus.

The root of the name Yahweh is the word "Was". And in English because using the three tenses past present and future adopts different words, however in Hebrew there is only two tenses: the perfect tense and the imperfect.

Conclusion as Title Usage

The word God acts as the adjective title, Is used as the noun gives the name.

  • The God Is

Love acts as the verb of the phrase.

For personal growth see how praying the name Is brings light.

Is the answer acceptable?

  • Thanks for conclusion +1 – C. Stroud Aug 27 '19 at 13:50
1

What is the meaning of "is" in "He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love in 1 john 4v8?

My short answer:
The Bible teaches that the is indicates that God literally is love.
He is the definition of love.
He is the source of love.
All of His actions are motivated by and demonstrate love.

The word "love" is used in many different ways in current culture. John is talking about the selfless, sacrificial love of God.

Let's look at the verse in context.

Just before verse 8 it says:

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.

Verse 7 tells us that love comes from God, He is the source. It instructs the church to demonstrate to whom they belong by loving like God. Everyone who loves like God is a child of God. The logic looks like this:

  • God is the source of love
  • If we are born of God
    Then, we should be loving.

Verse 8

Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.

The reverse is also true.
- God is the source of love.
- God is love
- If we are not loving
Then we are not born of God

Verse 9 says

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.

John is backing up his assertion that God is love by pointing out how God has acted in time and space to demonstrate and define what love is.

Verse 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.

The definition of love: God sacrificed for us selflessly when we did not deserve it.

Verse 11 & 12

Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

John ties points back to verse 7 here - If we love one another we demonstrate that God lives in us - that we are His children.

It's an argument from the greater to the lesser. The Father is loving therefore His children should be loving.

The passage summarizes in verse 19-21

19 We love because he first loved us. 20 Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. 21 And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.

God is love. It's literally who He is and is demonstrated in everything He does with the ultimate demonstration / revelation in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
Because God is love, God's love should flow out through the church and gives witness to the connection between God and the church.

Edit: Adding thoughts per the comments of the original questions author:

It appears to me that "God is love" has four possibilities

  1. God is only love.

Do you mean that God's only characteristic is love or that only God can love?
In the first case we know from Decrypted' s post that love is not God's only characteristic.
In the second case we are made in God's image and have the capability to love others in the selfless way John defines in some incomplete way even if we don't have a relationship with the source of love.

  1. Beyond God's hatred and anger is love. i.e. love lies at the base of all His attributes.

The Bible does not indicate which of God's many characteristics are at the "base" of His attributes. I would argue that God is completely love as well as completely holy etc. and that identifying a base attribute would be to attempt to rank the characteristics of God in a way not supported in scripture.

I would argue that hatred and anger are not characteristics of who God is. Rather they are anthropomorphisms describing God's disapproval of sinful action.

  1. Love is just one of many attributes. i.e. God is loving.

Love is one of God's attributes, it is one aspect of who God is. It's not a part of who God is, it's not some percentage of His being, God is love without measure and God is holy, just

  1. Only God is capable of loving. Wherever true love is found it is only because God is there.

God expresses His love to us - the ultimate revelation being His Christ's birth, death for our sins, and resurrection - "God so loved the world". We also know that "the rain falls on the just and unjust". God shows his love to everyone every day.
And, God expresses His love through us. As His church daily follows Christ's example Gods love is expressed and God is glorified.
Those who do not know God can express self sacrificial love as John describes but it is a shadow of the love God seeks to channel through His people.

"is" is a flexible word used in many ways. This opens up both possibilities and potential problems. What are its limits in "God is love"?

As you said "is" is a flexible word. It has several definitions in the dictionary. The way scripture uses the word "is" in reference to God varies. In my explanation above I have sought to focus on the usage of "is" as it appears in context.

  • I am concerned about your "hatred and anger are not characteristics of who God is". Rev19:15 "From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations..." may be hatred of evil but surely it is still hatred. – C. Stroud Aug 27 '19 at 14:14
  • 1
    @C.Stroud I appreciate your concern. Let me try to explain. A characteristic is an attribute of who God is, holiness, love, justice, goodness, etc. The Bible tells us that God is holy and that God is love. The Bible does tell us that God hates. We know that God hates sin - this is an emotion and not an attribute of God. No where does the Bible say "God is hate". – David D Aug 27 '19 at 19:29
1

"Is" can either be a copula, that is to say, connecting one reality with the other, describing the former with the latter, like in an expression "the girl is beautiful", "water is cold", or "New York is a megalopolis"; or it can have existential meaning and simply say that something exists, like when one answers a question "Are there leprechauns?" "They are not", with a meaning that they do not exist.

In Bible both are used. For instance, when Psalms 90:2 say πρὸ τοῦ ὄρη γενηθῆναι καὶ πλασθῆναι τὴν γῆν καὶ τὴν οἰκουμένην καὶ ἀπὸ τοῦ αἰῶνος ἕως τοῦ αἰῶνος σὺ εἶ ("Before the mountains came to be and the earth and universe was formed, and for ever and ever you are"), here in the Greek text of the Bible the σὺ εἶ means "you exist", because it is not a copula here, for it has no referent (exactly to this Psalm refers Jesus when He asserts His own divinity, for which He is nearly killed on the spot as a blasphemer: πρὶν Ἀβραὰμ γενέσθαι ἐγὼ εἰμί - "Before Abraham was, I am" (John 8:58). In both instances the verb "to be" is used not as a copula, but as signifying the absolute existence (that's why in both cases "illogically" the present tense is used, for to God's eternal changelessness usual "was" or "will be" does not apply).

But in describing God, like in the searched sentence "God is love", the "is" is a copula, describing God's feature. Not that God is only love and not wisdom, or justice, or holiness - He is all those, but in difference from creatures those features of God are His essentially, without any possibility of them not to be with Him eternally.

Exactly this is expressed by the sentence "God is love", for otherwise John could have said "God loves", which could, grammatically at least, leave a possibility of thinking that He loves and can also cease to love, whereas "God is love" implies that it is impossible for Him not to love, for His very essence entails ceaseless love; but also ceaseless wisdom, ceaseless justice, ceaseless beauty, for He is all of these.

0

In Greek, the word "is" is not the same as = . "IS" does not mean that what exists on one side of "is" reflects some exact sameness with equal weight.

Instead the idea is more of "pointing to" or "flowing from" "or originates in" or "defines."

The Greek word for "is" can be found almost a thousand times in the NT in various forms.

As an illustration, Matthew 1:20 "But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is G2076 of the Holy Ghost."

or, this may be even better Matthew 3:3 "For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight."

Here, you see that what is on one side of the connector word "is" is not equivalent, but instead it means even more. It is the fulfillment. This is that. The actual fulfillment is greater and more revelatory and more instructive than the sign that pointed to it.

God is known to us in many attributes (like justice, mercy, etc.) and each attribute is held by him in perfection and is defined by Him in His revelation and actions.

Matthew 12:8 says "The Son of man is Lord of the Sabbath." In this case, if we held to some limited idea of equivalence where both ends exhausted their identity in the other, then Jesus would be Lord of the Sabbath and that's it. Of course, we know he is much, much more. And, because He is much more, he is also able to be Lord of the Sabbath.

In Greek the word for "is" functions just like in English a very flexible, useful present tense verb connecting the action and relationship of one idea with another. As another writer mentioned above, we might say a building "is" tall.

Often some, even those who deny a literal approach to the Bible like to become extremely literal here where the Bible says "God is Love". And, we can be literal, but this is a grand case where you see that a literal approach requires a thorough and balanced study of all of God's word to define "love". For, it is certainly true that everything man calls love is not what God calls love. God always acts in love even when He brings judgment and chastening because "love" finds it origination and completeness in Him.

When we stand before the judgment seat(s) where "everyone will be judged for what was done in the body, whether good or bad" (II Cor. 5:10), we can trust that it will be just and loving because God possesses both in complete perfection.

Our knowledge of God does not exhaust who He is. He is so much more, but what He has revealed is for our salvation and edification.

So, I would suggest that the source and the full meaning of love flows from God, but does not exhaust who God is. What God hates/despises/detests flows just as much from love as what God has generously provided in mercy and grace for His children. Mercy, grace, love, and judgement all find their meaning and perfection in His being.

Notes: to support the general idea of God's attributes as discussed above: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Attributes_of_God_in_Christianity

this next is long, but for those few who wish to see the depth and breadth of what information is revealed by the Bible regarding the Being and Attributes of God, this is a good survey https://biblehub.com/library/clarke/a_discourse_concerning_the_being_and_attributes_of_god/

and a more concise dictionary read which actually expands on many of the thoughts suggested by all writers here.

https://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionary/love/

0

"God is love”. Perhaps people are overthinking this.

In this verse, the Greek word ἐστί (esti g2076) is translated into English as "is".

But the same word is translated differently in other verses. For instance, these (and others) translate the word as "have":

  • For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? — Luke 6:32.
  • Consider the ravens: for they neither sow nor reap; which neither have storehouse nor barn — Luke 12:24.
  • But ye have a custom, that I should release unto you one at the passover — John 18:39.
  • That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart — Romans 9:2.

Possibly the King James translators simply thought "God is love" was more poetic than "God has love".

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