“Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (1 John 4:8, ESV)
I can still remember being a kid sitting in a wooden chair in Sunday school putting together a papercraft with the words, “God is Love” pasted across the bottom. In the midst of the broken crayons and chunks of dried glue, that simple phrase settled in my heart and mind.
When I got older, I would attend the church’s confirmation and youth group. It was through these experiences that I began to learn how much more complex the reality of one living and true God is.
“I believe,” the opening statement of the Apostles’ Creed says, “in God, the Father, the Almighty, creator of heaven and earth.”
This statement gives us a glimpse at understanding God. God is Parent and Almighty who is the Creator. The Genesis storyteller gives us two accounts of God creating the world in its first two chapters. Ezra, in Nehemiah 9, leads the people of God in a prayerful confession of faith that begins confessing God as Creator. We sing our confession that God is Creator when we sing, “When I in awesome wonder consider all the worlds thy hands have made. . . . How great thou art!”
God is Creator.
God the Creator is Almighty. God is omniscient (all-knowing), omnipotent (all-powerful), and omnipresent (present everywhere). The Almighty is Spirit (John 4:24) and Eternal. “‘ I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty” (Rev. 1:8).
God is Almighty.
God is the ultimate Parent. As Parent, God is just, pure, holy, caring, wise, truth, and forgiving. Randy Maddox wrote that for John Wesley, “God was essentially a relational reality.” Jesus reveals this relational reality by expressing intimacy and familiarity with God that God desires us all to have. Jesus, “deeply grieved,” cries out to God as Abba in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matt 26:39). We also see a glimpse of this intimacy when God refers to Israel as son in Exodus 4:22-23.
God is Parent.
The Exodus is evidence of God saving God’s people. God tells Moses that the cries of God’s people have reached the Holy Ears. As such God sets forth a salvation plan. As humanity continued to be enslaved by sin, God sent his only begotten son (John 3:16) to save humanity. In the form of Jesus Christ, God presented Godself as the ultimate sacrifice to redeem humanity through all time.
God is Redeemer.
“God is love,” the writer of 1 John tells us (4:16). We understand God as love because God is Creator, Almighty, Parent, and Redeemer. Wesley’s focus on the love of God has always been connected to his understanding of God’s grace. Love and grace are siblings of the Parent. Grace is the source of our creation, maintenance, and salvation. According to Wesley, this grace is evidence of God’s love.