THE ATTRIBUTES OF GOD Lesson #13
The Love Of God Romans 8:39
In Romans 8 the Apostle Paul is laying the foundation for the believer’s confidence and assurance of faith. The basis of our assurance, as it is set forth in this chapter is the purpose of God, the providence of God, and the propitiatory sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ. Resting the weight of his immortal soul upon these solid pillars of faith, Paul declares, “I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Whenever we think about the love of God we must begin here. The love of God is in Christ. We rejoice to know that “God is love.” Love is in God. Love comes from God. Apart from God there is no love. But the love of God is revealed, expressed, known, manifest, and found only in Christ. The Bible never speaks of the love of God outside of, or apart from Christ. Those who talk of the love of God toward sinners apart from Christ, the Mediator between God and men, speak in direct opposition to the Scriptures.
“The Lord is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works” (Psa. 145:9). Because of his goodness and tender mercy, God feeds the raven, clothes the lily, and sustains the beasts of the field. He is kind even to the thankless reprobate in this world (Lk. 6:35). His providence extends to all his creatures. And he sends both sunshine and rain to the just and the unjust (Matt. 5:45). But the love of God is in Christ. It is reserved for and given to his elect in Christ.
Those who declare that God loves all people alike, that he loves those who perish under his wrath in hell just as he loves those who are the heirs of eternal life, reduce the love of God to a fickle, helpless, frustrated passion. But that cannot be. God’s love is like himself, from everlasting to everlasting, immutable and unchanging. “Nothing is more absurd than to imagine that anyone beloved of God can eternally perish or shall ever experience his everlasting vengeance” (A. W. Pink).
When Paul says, nothing “shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ,” the word “us” refers to God’s elect, those sinners who are actually saved by his grace. When false prophets declare that God loves everyone in the world, they speak contrary to the Scriptures and give sinners a false hope, crying “peace, peace,” when there is no peace. The Word of God plainly declares that God does not love all people (Psa. 5:5; 11:6-7; John 3:36; Rom. 9:13). Noah’s generation, the inhabitants of Sodom, Pharaoh and the Egyptian army, and the sons of Korah all stand as monuments to the fact that some in this world are not loved of God. If the Lord’s treatment of those people is an evidence of love, we might well pray to be saved from such love! The fact is, God’s love is specifically and distinctively toward his elect alone. Is that not what he asserts in Isaiah 43:3-4? To tell sinners that God loves them regardless of their relationship to Christ is either an assurance of salvation without Christ, or a declaration that God is weak, mutable, helpless, and frustrated.
We cannot understand or appreciate the love of God unless we begin here. The love of God is in Christ. As all the grace, all the promises, and all the blessings of God are in Christ, so the love of God is in Christ. As we were chosen of God in Christ (Eph. 1:4), as we are accepted of God in Christ (Eph. 1:6), as our life is hid with God in Christ (Col. 3:3), so we are loved of God in Christ. Because the love of God toward us is “the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord,” our Head, our Husband, our Mediator, nothing can separate us from that love; for nothing can separate us from Christ. Nothing can be more profitable to our souls than for us to meditate upon and spiritually contemplate “the love of God which is in Christ.” If we are enabled to do so by the Spirit of God, as we are lifted outside of ourselves and lifted above this world of care, our souls will be filled with satisfaction in the love of God. To know and to believe the love which God has toward us is both an earnest and a foretaste of heaven. In this study I want to lead your heart in meditating upon the love of God. In doing so, I will just give you an outline for direction, and leave it to you to fill in the spaces as you are taught by God the Holy Spirit.
First, we should be aware of some of THE CHARACTERISTICS OF GOD’S LOVE, as it is revealed to us in the Scriptures. Much more needs to be said than can be said in this study; but here are three things revealed in the Bible about “the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” The love of God is free and unconditional. (Hos. 14:4) God’s love toward us is an unconditional, unqualified, unmerited, 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 calleth” (Rom. 9:13, 11). Our love to God is not the cause of his love to us, but the response of our hearts to his love revealed in us (I John 4:10, 19). God loved us when we were lost and ruined in sin, destitute of all grace, without the least particle of love toward him or faith in him. While we were yet his enemies and alienated from him, God loved us freely (Rom. 5:8, 10). Not even the death of Christ is the cause of God’s love for us. Christ’s death is the cause of our pardon and justification. Christ’s death is the cause of our redemption and salvation. But our Lord’s death on our behalf is not the cause of God’s love for us - It was the result of God’s love (John 3:160. God so loved us that he gave his Son to die for us!
The love of God is eternal. As God’s love is without a cause, so it is without beginning. “The love of God which is in Christ” is not of yesterday. It did not begin I time. It bears the date of eternity upon it. He declares, “I have loved thee with an everlasting love” (Jer. 31). Try to realize this, if you can - As God the Father loved his Son from eternity, so he loved us from eternity. And as God’s love is in Christ, his love for Christ and his love for us are the same! (Read John 17:23). 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.
And 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 conditions. Having loved us, he will never call his love back. And there is nothing we can do to destroy or even lessen “the love of God which is in Christ” (John 13:1). We did nothing to attract God’s love in the beginning. And we can do nothing to repel his love. God’s love is not dependent upon or regulated by our faithfulness. God’s love is immutable (Mal. 3:6).
Second, we should always hold in reverent, grateful memory THE OPERATIONS OF GOD’S LOVE. All the acts of God for his people in time are expressions of his love for us from everlasting. His acts of grace are the shedding abroad of his love in our hearts. 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; Deut. 7:7-9). No one believes in the love of God who does not believe in election. No one can talk about the love of God in Bible terms who does not talk about predestination.
The love of God is revealed in the redemption of our souls by the death of our Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:8; I John 4:10; 3:16). We read the love of God in the precious blood of Christ. We see the love of God revealed not in the incarnation of Christ, not in the life of Christ, not in the example of Christ, not in the doctrine of Christ, not even in the prayers of Christ, but only in the blood of Christ. Had he 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. When God would show his power, he made the world. When he would display his wisdom, he set his creation in the frame of the vast universe which he had made. When he would manifest his greatness, he made the heavens above and put angels, principalities, and powers there to surround his throne. But when God would reveal his love he gave his Son to suffer, bleed , and die to put away the sins of his people and bring in everlasting righteousness. No wonder that Paul, when realizing this, cried, “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world” (Gal. 6:14). No wonder he made this the constant theme of his preaching, saying, “I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (I Cor. 2:2).
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. Every elect, redeemed sinner is regenerated in the time of love (Ezek. 16:6-8), called to faith in Christ because of God’s everlasting love (Jer. 31:3), and caused to receive the adoption of grace as the result of that love (Gal. 4:6; 1 John 3:1).
Our preservation in grace is also the work of God’s love (John 13:1). “Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drawn 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. The floods of our unbelief cannot drawn it. With men, nothing is stronger than death. But with God nothing is stronger than love. You can measure the strength of God’s love when you can comprehend the obstacles his love has overcome. Our fall in Adam could not destroy it. God’s justice could not nullify it. Our sin, death, corruption, and eternity could not withstand it. Our temptations cannot destroy it. Not even our many falls can cause our God to withdraw his love.
Third, the Word of God assures us of ONE SURE CONSEQUENCE OF GOD’S LOVE (Eph. 1:4-5). All who are loved of God now, were loved of God from eternity, and shall be loved of God forever. And the love of God shall bring us home to heaven at last in the perfection of everlasting glory. In the end, when all things are finished, when the sons of God are in the Father’s heavenly kingdom and all the wicked are cast into hell, what will be the difference between the saints in heaven and the wicked in hell? Not our goodness! Not out free-will! Not our baptism! Not our faithfulness! Not our creed! Not our church! But “the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord!” Because he loved us God determined to save us, chose us to be his own, predestined us to be his sons, redeemed us by the precious blood of Christ, called us by his Spirit, keeps us by his grace, and shall bring us to glory. What is our response to the love of God? “We love him because he first loved us!” (I John 4:19). Let your heart filled and overwhelmed with this thought. Nothing “shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” God’s love for us is our incentive in all things: Devotion to Him (1 Cor. 6:19-20), Giving (2 Cor. 8:9), Our Confidence of Faith in Him (Rom. 8:32), and Brotherly Kindness (Eph. 4:32-5:1). “Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another” (1 John 4:11).
 The word “world” in John 3:16 is used to refer to God’s elect among the Gentiles. It no more implies that God loves every person in the world than its use in Luke 2:1 implies that everyone in the world was taxed by Caesar.