What Is Love?
Get ready for an exciting study of one of the most beautiful subjects in the Bible!

“Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God”! the Apostle John wrote. “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:1-2).

Here is the awesome vision of the future awaiting God’s people. This is the most transcendent truth in the Bible: We are going to become God! God is doing all He can to keep this hope alive in us in the midst of a dark world.

John continues: “And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure” (verse 3). If you understand the God Family vision, here is how you will respond: by seeking God-level purity. Becoming God means more than having God’s immortality, power and glory. It means having God’s character. This needs to be our goal. But how do we achieve that?

“Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law” (verse 4). Here is how we become God: by keeping His law of love!

The Apostle John is one of the Bible’s deepest writers. He knew God in the flesh more intimately than any other man. He had a vision of the glorified Christ. He deeply understood our future.

John’s thinking was dominated by the law of God.

“Notice the way this truth is presented in these few verses,” Gerald Flurry writes in The Last Hour. “First God gives us this transcendental goal. Then He shows us how to achieve it. We must keep God’s law and follow the government that implements it. … Through God’s Holy Spirit, we capture this vision and then want desperately to keep God’s law.”

You cannot separate that vision—that future of becoming God—from the law of God! Becoming God means thinking like God—and that means coming to know, understand and love God’s law.

What Is Love?

“God is love,” John wrote (1 John 4:8, 16). Love is what God is. Love and God are virtually synonymous. Love is God’s way of life.

This is a true Bible definition of love. Anything that is contrary to God and His nature and His thinking isn’t actually love. At best, it is a counterfeit of love.

Here’s another way to define love: “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous” (1 John 5:3). God is love, so it makes sense that anything God commands is an expression of love.

Many people think they know what love is, but unless you study the law, you don’t.

Gods law is love! And so, it is also love for us to throw ourselves wholeheartedly into keeping those commandments. It is not love to begrudgingly keep them. The kind of love John is talking about includes how we feel in our heart of hearts toward the law of God.

“God’s law is, simply, love!” Herbert W. Armstrong wrote. “It is the perfect way of life. Every particle of human suffering, unhappiness, misery and death has come solely from its transgression!” (What Is Faith?).

If you truly want to become God, then you will cultivate a deep desire to purify yourself as God by wrapping your life around the law of God! “God is recreating Himself. The law is the way He thinks. Therefore, we must keep that law,” Mr. Flurry writes (op. cit.).

Further, Mr. Flurry writes, “God just took the way He thinks and made it into a law for us. We all must learn to think like God!” (The Epistle of James). The law is there to teach us to think like God. Every little piece of it is worthy of study and contemplation as a means of gaining insight into God’s thinking.

If you don’t keep God’s law, then you don’t know God. “And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him” (1 John 2:3-5). This is how to have God’s love perfected in us: Keep the law.

Any concept of love apart from the law of God is false—generally just a feeling, usually some variety of self-centered lust. For most people it is a hazy, ill-defined concept.

God’s law, on the other hand, is crystal clear, detailed, precise and specific. The way it defines love is thorough and complete. It is like a blueprint for a high-quality superstructure. To construct that building, you must regularly study, refer to and follow that blueprint in detail.

The common view of love can be likened to an attempt to build that superstructure by throwing out the blueprint and working off an artist’s rendering. That blueprint is ugly—it’s two-dimensional—weighed down with burdensome details! People say, in effect: Look at this picture! Now that’s what I want this building to look like! Thus, they ignorantly assemble materials that they think look right and throw together a compromised and unsound structure.

The Bible refers to the first five books—the Pentateuch—as “the law.” But God’s law really includes its full expression throughout the Bible, including the New Testament.

This article series will focus on the 600-plus laws spelled out in the Old Testament, since that is where it is given to us in greatest detail. But what we must aim to understand—even as they are manifested in those myriad precepts, statutes and judgments—are the eternal principles of God’s law.

Open your Bible, and let’s begin to explore the rich, beautiful detail in this blueprint of the love of God. We’ll start by seeing how this principle is reinforced within the law itself.

A Law for Kings

Read Deuteronomy 17:14-15, 18-19. God commanded Israel’s kings to write out a personal copy of His law, keep it right with them and read from it every day. This principle applies to us today. God knows that if we are to become God, we need daily instruction in His thoughts, His love. He wants His kings grounded in the law.

Why, specifically? Read verses 19-20 to see four benefits of regularly studying God’s law.

The better a man knows God’s law, the better he knows God—and the more he fears and reverences God. A king who remembers this each day remains humble in his office, recognizing that there is a great Authority above him. He studies and then applies the right standard of conduct, gaining all the blessings that come from living righteously and obeying the Creator, including prosperity, health and happiness in the whole family.

Also, by exalting the law he prepares for an eternal position, teaching this law to the world! The same law the kings of Israel were to study every day is prophesied to go forth from Zion; people from all over Earth will flow there to learn more about that law (Isaiah 2:2-3; Micah 4:2). There is real vision wrapped up in this study.

As Mr. Flurry said, when we get the vision first, that makes us want to study and keep the law. But it is also true that once you start digging into that law, it magnifies the vision in your mind. Thus, studying the law perpetuates a wonderful virtuous cycle: the vision makes you want to study and keep God’s law, and studying the law with that vision in mind causes that vision to expand!

The author of Psalm 119 set a terrific example of studying the law and thinking about it. Read this psalm to see the transformative effect that studying God’s law had on his mind.

The same can happen to you. The more you study God’s law, the greater your love for it will grow. You will grow to recognize in the individual precepts, statutes and judgments, God’s wisdom, justice, compassion, beauty—His love.

It is true that some of these laws are no longer in effect in quite the way they were within the physical nation of Israel. Some laws will no longer apply in the Millennium, when all nations will be keeping the law. But the fact remains that they all came from God’s mind. They all reflect His love! They are absolutely loaded with God’s glorious vision.

Open My Eyes

Our minds are polluted by this evil, satanic world. It is saturated with lies, and we pick up false ideas without even realizing it. Studying God’s law in a right attitude is a wonderful way to cleanse our thinking (Psalm 119:9).

Read verse 18 for a wonderful “motto” to remember in this study.

The psalmist meditated on God’s law day and night. He started with a foundation of obeying the law—whether or not he understood it. Then he would think about it, moving from specific point—to principle—to godly intent. The more he meditated on it, the more he thought like God. And the more he thought about the law, the more he loved it (verse 97). Follow that example. Think about the law. Make it your meditation.

Consider an analogy. God imbued His physical creation with intricate perfection. While the broad view of the wider landscape is beautiful, there is far more to appreciate in even the minutest, most microscopic study. Every new discovery further reveals divine artistry and perfection.

The same is true of God’s law. The more you study it, the more beauty and perfection you see. Look through the microscope at it and your appreciation will grow.

You won’t understand every detail right away, and God hasn’t yet revealed the answers to some questions as fully as He will in the future. But if you have a mind to love the law more—and to love God more and become more like Him in your thoughts and words and actions by better keeping the spirit of the law—you will find this study mind-stretching and exhilarating.

What to Do After Study

Studying God’s law is extremely exciting because it puts you in touch with God’s mind. At the same time, it is extremely corrective.

Read Psalm 119:96. This verse is saying that anyone who thinks he is perfect doesn’t understand God’s law; he doesn’t appreciate how broad and far-reaching it is! He has no idea just how much higher than his thoughts the thoughts of God really are, and how great and majestic the love of God embodied in that law is.

A successful study of God’s law will really change the way you live. As you study it, keep track of specific practical points that you want to implement personally. Contemplate the analogy in James 1:23-25 and what it says about applying what we study in God’s “perfect law of liberty.”

Read Deuteronomy 6:4-6. Getting God’s commands in your heart, making them a part of you, begins by studying them. From the beginning, God wanted these written not just on tables of stone or in a book—but in our hearts. This is a spirit-of-the-law command.

Read verse 7 to see what God expects us to do with His laws (and His truth generally) after committing them to our heart. This again points us to our role as future teachers of the law. God expects us to prepare for that role within our own homes and families today. Read verse 9 for some practical instruction on how to help make God’s laws a part of your family life.

In verse 8, God commands us to use what we learn from His law—in our deeds and our work (“upon thine hand”) and even in our thoughts (“between thine eyes”).

Read Deuteronomy 31:9-11 to see another command to study God’s law. Every seven years, during the sabbatical year when crops rested and debts were canceled, this would form the content of the sermons people heard at the Feast of Tabernacles. God wants His people grounded in the law, and knows we tend to forget it without regular review.

Read verse 12 to learn the four-part formula Moses gave for effective study of God’s law. Hearing (or reading about) the law is only the first step. As you study, take pains to follow the entire formula—which includes proving, reviewing, memorizing—and then moving beyond mere academic study and ensuring this knowledge influences the way you approach God, and the choices you make each day. Once God reveals something to you, you must act on it. That is the true measure of your success in this study: whether it changes you.

A Unique Privilege

Herbert W. Armstrong truly followed this formula. Read God’s praise for this end-time “Levi” in Malachi 2:4-6. Mr. Armstrong deeply respected God, and that proper fear motivated him to obey the law and teach that law to others.

All the foundational truths in the law, God reinforced in His end-time Church through Mr. Armstrong. Today, God’s faithful people strive diligently to keep the Ten Commandments, the Sabbath, the holy days, the laws concerning clean and unclean meats, proper government administration, the eternal principles of God’s family law, and all of God’s law in its spiritual intent—because of what God restored through Mr. Armstrong.

Read verses 8-9 to see God’s condemnation of the opposite approach to His law promoted by the ministers after Mr. Armstrong died.

Read verse 7 for God’s instruction on the proper approach to the law. Mr. Armstrong institutionalized all the principles of God’s law we need to be concerned about. Through him, Jesus Christ raised up a Church that has a fundamental respect for the law of God. A study of some of the lesser-known precepts simply builds on that solid foundation.

There is much to be learned from all of God’s law. It reveals the eternal principles of God’s love and points toward our incredible human potential and the God Family vision.

Anciently, when Moses received the law from God personally, his face glowed from being in God’s presence. The Israelites were so alarmed that Moses had to wear a veil (Exodus 34:29-35). The Apostle Paul likened their attitude to their carnal approach to God’s law and His covenant with them—a type of blindness that remains in most people who read Moses’s writings today (2 Corinthians 3:12-15).

With the aid of the Holy Spirit, however, God’s people can read Moses and apprehend its true spiritual glory! We can behold Moses’s glowing face and see the spirit behind what God revealed through him. That veil has been removed, and we can appreciate the whole picture (verse 16).

Gods people today have the opportunity to understand Gods law better than any people ever have—because we understand the God Family vision!

What a tremendous spiritual privilege for God’s Spirit-begotten people. Seize the privilege, commit your heart to it, maintain a childlike attitude and excitement for it, and God will bless you with deeper understanding. Like the psalmist, you too will come to say more and more, “O how love I thy law!”