Thus far in our study of Knowing God, we have stipulated that to know God is to know His attributes, which are His personal characteristics. These are those qualities which make God, God. Some of God’s attributes He has chosen to share with His creation. Some of His attributes, He alone possesses.
We have seen that God is self-existent, He makes decisions and is glorious, omniscient, omnipresent, sovereign, holy, and wrathful. If, of all of God’s attributes, the one which often solicits the most controversy and debate is God’s wrath, then it could also be argued that the attribute of God which is most often misunderstood is His love.
As we have already noted, God’s love is a holy love. It is also a self-sacrificial love of the will. It is not a love like human love which tends to be self-centered, emotionally driven and inconsistent.
God’s love is also a multi-faceted love. This means it is not a love which is singularly directed but rather has multiple objects. We will look for the next couple of days at four biblical examples of God’s love.
First, there is God the Father’s love for the Son. Four times in the Gospel of John the apostle speaks of the love of the Father for the Son: John 3:35; 5:20; 15:9-10; 17:26.
Second, there is God the Son’s love for God the Father. This statement of truth is found in John 14:31.
Thirdly, there is God’s providential love for all which He has created. While the Hebrew and Greek words for love are not specifically used, God’s act of creation, and His subsequent sustenance of the same, is an example of His love.
Fourth, there is the benevolent, magnanimous love God has for rebellious sinners. This is the love of which most frequently speak of knowing and which is taken from John 3:16.
Finally, there is God’s love for the elect. This is a particular love. It is a choosing love done before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:3-6; Titus 1:1-3). It is a love which actually saves.
We witness this electing love of God for Israel. In Deuteronomy 7:1-8 the text reads, “When the LORD your God brings you into the land that you are entering to take possession of it, and clears away many nations before you, the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations more numerous and mightier than you, and when the LORD your God gives them over to you, and you defeat them, then you must devote them to complete destruction. You shall make no covenant with them and show no mercy to them. You shall not intermarry with them, giving your daughters to their sons or taking their daughters for your sons, for they would turn away your sons from following me, to serve other gods. Then the anger of the LORD would be kindled against you, but thus shall you deal with them: you shall break down their altars and dash in pieces their pillars and chop down their Asherim and burn their carved images with fire. “For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the LORD loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.”
We also witness this electing love by God for the church. Romans 9:6-18 says,” But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring. For this is what the promise said: “About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son.” And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls—she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.”
Dr. Don Carson comments that, “The striking thing about these passages is that when Israel is contrasted with the universe or with other nations, the distinguishing feature has nothing of personal or national merit; it is nothing other than the love of God. In the very nature of the case, then, God’s love is directed toward Israel in these passages in a way in which it is not directed toward other nations.”
The same can be said for the elect comprising the church of Jesus Christ. Believers in Christ can claim no special merit in order to earn or possess the love of God. God chooses to love some and to leave others to deserved and divine judgment.
Ephesians 1:3-5 says “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will.”
This love by God generates the most debate and is the most controversial. Yet, it is biblical and therefore true. We are believers in Christ due solely to God’s sovereign and electing love which existed before the foundation of the world.
If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, take time today to thank God that He chose to set His love upon you. Think about His love.
Soli deo Gloria!