Paul tells us in this passage that, from a human point of view, we would not have much reason to expect Jesus to die for us. We were “weak,” meaning incapacitated, unable to do anything that would merit God’s favor. We were “ungodly,” meaning irreverent and impious, failing to give God the respect and obedience due to Him. And we were sinners, turned away from God to go our own way.
Yet we see the extent of God’s love, that in spite of all that, Christ died for us.
1 John 4:8-11, 16-19
Love is not just one facet of God’s character. It is such an essential aspect of God’s nature that John says, not just once but twice in this passage, that God is love. Because that is true of God, the person who has come to know God is also characterized by love. This love displaces the fear that so often drives the behavior of those who have not known love.
John also emphasizes the fact that our love is a response to God’s love. We could not love God if God did not love us first, and make a way, through the Son, for us to be reconciled to God.
These familiar verses belong to the passage where Jesus spoke with Nicodemus the Pharisee. The Pharisees believed that God loved Israel, but Jesus came to bring God’s love to the entire world. The people of Israel traced their ancestry back to Abraham, who had been willing to sacrifice his only son Isaac, until God provided a ram in his place. So Nicodemus would have understood the significance of God giving His only Son to die in our place.