By Elizabeth Prata
Sundays are a good time to ponder who God is. He is worthy of service and worship. We have been taking a look at God’s attributes each Sunday.
Remember, God’s attributes are not parts that make up a whole. Everything good that there is, is 100% contained in God. He is 100% beauty, 100% aseity, 100% omniscient, etc. He is complete in Himself.
I usually publish three short definitions of God’s attributes. But the love of God is an important one to ponder all by itself. We must understand the attribute of Love of God, because it has become misunderstood and abused in these past decades. As RC Sproul said,
“Regrettably for us today, however, I don’t think there’s any word in the English language that’s been more stripped of the depth of its meaning than the word love. Due to the shallow romanticism of secular culture, we tend to view the love of God in the same way popular music, art, and literature view love. Yet the Bible says God’s love is far different—and greater.”
“Whatever else God’s love is, it is holy. His love is therefore characterized by the qualities that define holiness—transcendence and purity.” RC Sproul.
With that in mind, let us take a close look at the love of God from a piece published by Don Fortner I found at GraceGems. There is a lot to say about the attribute of God’s love, so please bear with me as this is a longer podcast, since I will read Pastor Fortner’s piece on God’s love.
Don Fortner (1950-2020) pastored and faithfully declared the gospel of God’s free grace in Christ at Grace Baptist Church of Danville Kentucky for over thirty years and was a widely published author, and conference speaker.
God’s redeeming love is Particular and Distinguishing. Those who declare that God loves all people alike, the saved as well as the damned, greatly tarnish the love of God, reducing it to a fickle, helpless, frustrated passion. But that cannot be. The love of God is like himself, from everlasting to everlasting, immutable and sure.
“Nothing is more absurd than to imagine that anyone beloved of God can eternally perish (A. W. Pink).
God’s love is Effectual and Saving. When Paul says, nothing “shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” the word “us” refers to God’s elect, those sinners who are actually saved by his grace. There are some people in this world whom God does not love. The Scriptures state that fact in clear and unmistakable terms (Ps. 5:5; 11:5-7; Jn. 3:36; Ro. 9:13).
And there are some whom he does love. They are his elect, those who are chosen of God, redeemed by Christ, and called to life and faith in him by the Holy Spirit. To tell sinners that God loves them regardless of their relationship to Christ is either to assure them that God will save them without Christ, or to imply that God is weak, mutable, helpless and frustrated. Surely, God will save those whom he loves if he is able to do so. And he is able to do so!
God’s love is more than a sympathetic passion. It is his determination to save. Because the love of God is in Christ, nothing can separate us from his love, for nothing can separate us from Christ! “In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” — 1 John 4:9-10
The love of God has been, and forever is, manifested and revealed to sinners in the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ as the sinners’ Substitute. Here are three characteristics of God’s love, which set it apart from any other thing that is called “love”.
1. THE LOVE OF GOD IS FREE AND UNCONDITIONAL. God’s declaration concerning the manifestation of his love to his elect is this — “I will love them freely” (Hos. 14:4). That simply means that God’s love toward us is an unconditional, unqualified, unmerited, and uncaused love. God does not love his elect because of anything amiable and attractive in us. He says, “Jacob have I loved and Esau have I hated,” and that before either had done anything good or bad, “that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calls” (Rom. 9:13, 11). Not even the death of Christ caused God to love us. Christ’s death as our sin-atoning Substitute is the result of God’s love for his people (John 3:16; 1 John 4:10).
2. THE LOVE OF GOD IS ETERNAL. He says, “I have loved you with an everlasting love” (Jer. 31:3). Try to get hold of this. As God the Father loved his Son from eternity, so he loved his elect from eternity. And as the love of God is in Christ, God’s love for Christ and his love for us is the same! Only faith can grasp this blessed truth. It is higher than reason and emotion. God loves his elect in Christ. As he beholds his people in his dear Son, he loves us as he loves his Son, delights in us as he delights in his Son, and is pleased with us as he is pleased with his Son. This is exactly what our Savior declares in his great, high priestly prayer in John 17:23.
3. THE LOVE OF GOD IS IMMUTABLE, IRREVOCABLE, AND INDESTRUCTIBLE. God’s love is not like man’s love. God’s love does not change, ever, under any circumstances or conditions. Having loved us from eternity, he will never call back his love in time. There is nothing we can do to destroy, or even lessen, the love of God for us (John 13:1). We did nothing compel God to love us; and we can do nothing to repel God’s love. The love of God is not dependent upon, or regulated by our faithfulness to him (Mal. 3:6). The freeness, eternality and immutability of God’s love to us in Christ means that our everlasting salvation is a matter of absolute certainty.
Nothing “shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus.” “Because the Lord loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers, has the Lord brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.” – Deut. 7:8 Love is seen in its deeds. And we know the love of God by the gracious operations of his love which he has performed on our behalf. All the acts of God’s grace performed for his people in time are expressions of his love for us from everlasting.
THE VERY FIRST ACT OF GOD’S LOVE, AS IT IS REVEALED IN THE BIBLE, IS ELECTION AND PREDESTINATION (Eph. 1:3-6; 2 Thess. 2:13). No one believes in the love of God who does not believe in election. And no one can talk about the love of God in Bible terms who does not talk about predestination. Election and predestination are eternal acts of God’s amazing love toward hell deserving sinners such as we are.
Secondly, THE LOVE OF GOD IS REVEALED IN THE REDEMPTION OF OUR SOULS BY THE DEATH OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST (Rom. 5:8; 1 John 4:10; 3:16). We read the love of God clearly spelled out in the precious blood of Christ. The love of God is not fully revealed and made manifest in Christ’s incarnation, nor his example, nor his doctrine, nor his prayers, nor even his life of righteousness, but only in his blood. Had Christ done everything else and left this undone, had he not poured out his life’s blood unto death for the atonement of our sins and the redemption of our souls, we could never have known the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. But because he died for us, his love is made manifest. “Amazing love! How can it be, That You my God should die for me!”
Thirdly, THE NEW BIRTH, BY WHICH WE HAVE BEEN BORN INTO THE FAMILY AND KINGDOM OF GOD, IS THE RESULT OF GOD’S LOVE TOWARD US FROM ETERNITY. Our regeneration came in “the time of love” (Ezek. 16:6-8). The effectual call, by which we were given faith, was the fruit of God’s love (Jer. 31:3). And our adoption into the family of God was the work of our heavenly Father’s eternal love (1 John 3:1).
Fourthly, OUR PRESERVATION IN GRACE IS THE WORK OF GOD’S LOVE (John 13:1; Isa. 43:1-4; Jer. 32:38-40). “Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it” (Song of Sol. 8:7). God’s love toward his elect is invincible and unquenchable. There is no possibility that it will expire. The black waters of our sin cannot extinguish it. And the floods of our unbelief cannot drown it. With men, nothing is stronger than love. His love for us overcomes every obstacle that might stand in the way of our everlasting glory. Every sinner loved of God from eternity was redeemed by Christ at Calvary, shall be called by the Spirit in time, and shall be saved forever.