God’s Great Love

by Mike Ratliff

4 ὁ δὲ θεὸς πλούσιος ὢν ἐν ἐλέει, διὰ τὴν πολλὴν ἀγάπην αὐτοῦ ἣν ἠγάπησεν ἡμᾶς, Ephesians 2:4 (NA28)

4 But God being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which he loved us, Ephesians 2:4 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

God’s love (ἀγάπη (agapē)) is often viewed today as some sort of shallow sentimentality, but God’s love is deeper than we can even begin to comprehend. When the average person today says “love,” they do not even know what they are saying because they do not mean “self-emptying self-sacrifice.” Love today is more “self-gratifying” than “self-emptying.”

It is interesting to note that in secular Greek  was actually rather colorless. As one Greek authority explains, agapē originally carried an element of sympathy and spoke of the the love of a person of higher rank for one of a lower rank; it even went so far as to speak of a low that was not self-seeking.1 However, the Lord Jesus transformed the word; it took on the much deeper meaning of being totally sacrificial. As the same authority says, “[It] thus creates a new people who will tread the way of self-sacrificing love that [Christ] took.”2 We, therefore, humbly offer the following definition of God’s love: “A self-emptying self-sacrifice in which God gave of Himself in the form of His only begotten Son Who gave His life for us.”

But Paul is not satisfied with using just agapē in Ephesians 2:4; he speaks of God’s “great love [πολλὴν (pollēn) ἀγάπην (agapēn)]with which he loved us.” The basic meaning of the Greek πολύς (polys) is “many, great, much.” But when used figuratively, as it is here, it conveys the idea of intensity.3 In other words, Paul is not speaking so much of the volume of God’s love as much as he is of passion. Many of us enjoy doing certain things in life at times we all pursue a hobby or other interest “intensely.” Mine at this stage of my life is photography. But if we could multiply this by infinity, we would even then only scratch the surface of the great love of God.

This truth again should immediately cause us to go deeper into our faith and ask, “Why does God love us?” I am nearly 70 years old as I write this (January 2021) and have been a Christian since January 1986. I have been a Sunday School teacher with young children then teens then as I grew more mature I became a Bible Teacher and finally a Precept Leader after several years of training. I started this ministry (or God did) when my wife and I could not go along with our Pastor taking our Church Purpose Driven. We were given no choice so we left. Since then I have found that there are a lot of believers out there who read these posts who are very solid in their faith while there are lot more who are working very had at being religious hoping to please God through that. I know all about that because I was there for awhile myself.

In all of my years of teaching and serving God through this ministry I still don’t know why God loves us. When we look at Ephesians 2:1-3 from the human perspective there is no reason God should or would love us, but, He does. This is not some syrupy sentimentality about “Jesus loving everybody,” but rather it is a deep, incomprehensible passion for those who are totally undeserving of love.

Soli Deo Gloria

1 “Little Kittle,” p. 7 (Kittle, Vol. I, pp. 36-37).

2 Little Kittle,” pp. 8-9 (Kittle, Vol I, p. 48).

3 Zodhiates, #4183, Zodhiates’s The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament referencing Strong’s number rather than a page number, and John Eadie , p 141.

3 thoughts on “God’s Great Love

  1. You said, “When the average person today says “love,” they do not even know what they are saying because they do not mean “self-emptying self-sacrifice.” Love today is more “self-gratifying” than “self-emptying.”” BOOM! I can’t count the number of times I’ve had to tell professing Christians that godly love IS NOT THE SAME as emotional, worldly love. Most of them look at me as if I am from Mars.

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  2. While I was working on this that song I hate that has the lyric about God’s Reckless Love was echoing through my head. God is not reckless about anything. His love for us is not emotional at all. It is all based on agape, not feelings.

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