Sermon #1223

          Title:            God’s Everlasting Love for His Elect

          Text:            John 17:23-24

          Reading:      I John 4:7-21

          Subject:       God’s Everlasting Love for His Elect

          Date:            Sunday Morning & Evening-February 25, 1996

          Tape #         S-28 & S-29[1]



          There are certain, specific things revealed in the Scriptures that we are called upon to behold as matters of unquestionable truth, to behold with confident faith, reverent wonder, deep gratitude, and exulting praise. Let’s look at three of these wonders of Divine Revelation.


          We will begin at John 1:29. “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” I am calling upon you this day to behold the Lamb of God as the sin-atoning sacrifice of God himself, who bore our sins, and bore them away forever, in his own body on the tree.


          Some of you are here today without Christ, lost, under the wrath of God. The weight of your guilt and sin is crushing your soul. The terror of God’s wrath is driving you crazy. You simply cannot go on like you are. You feel that you are sinking into hell, and there is nothing you can do about it. You are as helpless as you are miserable and wretched. I call you now, like that very first Baptist preacher called on his hearers, to “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” Look to Christ, like the Jews looked to the brazen serpent in the wilderness, and be saved.

·        Isaiah 45:22


          My message is the same to you who are born of God, to you who are already heirs of eternal life. Whatever your soul’s trouble is, whatever your need is, whatever your heart craves, whatever your present condition is, this is what you need to do this hour: “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.”

·        Behold the Lamb of God, and worship!

·        Behold the Lamb of God, and wonder!

·        Behold the Lamb of God, and be ravished with his mercy, love, and grace!

·        Behold the Lamb of God, and find inspiration for your soul’s devotion to him!

·        Behold the Lamb of God, and be broken over your sin and indifference!

·        Behold the Lamb of God, and be revived, renewed, and refreshed in him!

·        Behold the Lamb of God in all the Scriptures as he is prophesied, typified, identified, crucified, and glorified!


          Next, I want you to hear the Lamb of God himself, as he speaks in Lamentations 1:12, and calls for us to behold with reverence his sufferings and sorrows as our Substitute.  “Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by? Behold, and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow, which is done unto me, wherewith the Lord hath afflicted me in the day of his fierce anger.” Do you see the Son of God hanging upon the cursed tree, suffering all the horrid ignominy and terror of God’s unmitigated wrath? In his body, in his heart, and in his very soul, the Son of God was filled with sorrow, suffering the hell of God’s wrath for us!


Yonder, amazing sight I see!

Th’ incarnate Son of God

Expiring on th’ accursed tree,

And weltering in His blood.


Behold, a purple torrent run

Down from His hands and head,

The crimson tide puts out the sun;

His groans awake the dead.


The trembling earth, the darkened sky,

Proclaim the truth aloud;

And with th’ amazed centurion, cry

“This is the Son of God!”


So great, so vast a sacrifice

May well my hope revive:

If God’s own Son thus bleeds and dies,

The sinner sure may live.


Oh that these cords of love divine

Might draw me, Lord, to Thee!

Thou hast my heart, it shall be Thine!

Thine it shall ever be!

                                                                             Samuel Stennett


The enormous load of human guilt

Was on my Savior laid;

With woes as with a garment, He

For sinners was arrayed.


And in the horrid pangs of death,

He wept, He prayed for me;

Loved and embraced my guilty soul

When nailed to the tree.


Oh love amazing! love beyond

The reach of human tongue;

Love which shall be the subject of

An everlasting song.

                                                                             William Williams


“Behold, and see,” our Savior says, “if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow.”


1.     What was the source of his sorrow? It was that, he says, “Wherewith the Lord God hath afflicted me in the day of his fierce anger.” (See Isaiah 53:9-10.)

2.     What was the cause of his sorrow? The holy, immaculate, spotless,  sinless  Son  of  God  was  made  to be sin for us (II Cor. 5:21).

3.     Why did he endure such sorrow? He endured all the agony of our hell that he might redeem and save his people, “that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” The sorrow he experienced was our sorrow. The hell he endured was our hell. The death he died was our death (Isa. 53:4-6).


          It is in consideration of all these things that the apostle John calls upon us to behold, with deep gratitude and joy and exulting confidence and praise, the love of God for his elect in Christ. “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God” ( I John 3:1).


          I want to talk to you now about the love of God. Specifically, I want to talk to you about God’s Everlasting Love for His Elect.


Proposition: God’s everlasting love for his elect is the fountain of all grace and salvation and the reason for all that he does.


          I want you to turn with me to John 17:23-24. As you know, John 17 contains our Lord’s prayer for us as our great High Priest. It not only records his desires for his people, which cannot and will not be denied (What Christ desires, Christ shall have!); but this great, intercessory prayer is filled with gospel truth and is a very instructive portion of Holy Scripture. Verses 23 and 24 teach us two tremendous truths about God’s love for his elect. Let’s read the two verses together.


          “I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me. Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me; for thou lovest me before the foundation of the world.”


Divisions:    Without question, these two verses teach us much more than we will be able to consider today; but two things are here clearly and distinctly taught in these verses about the love of God. Both are stupendous, glorious, soul-comforting truths. I want so very much for our hearts to be humbled, ravished, inspired, and filled with praise to our God by these two things.

1.     God loves his elect in Christ as he loves Christ himself.

2.     God’s love for his elect is an everlasting love.


          I cannot tell you which of these facts I find more astounding. They are both glorious gospel truths, truths which could never be known except by divine revelation, and truths both honoring to our God and, to the extent that we are able to believe them, comforting to our souls.


I. First, our Savior says, “Thou hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.” Thus, he tells us that God our Father loves his elect in Christ as he loves Christ himself!


          That is such an amazing, stupendous thing that were it not written in Holy Scripture, I would not dare to think it, much less speak it. But there it stands. And, oh, how my soul rejoices in it. It is our Savior’s desire and purpose that the whole world shall know that God loves us as he loves him; and so it shall be!


          “When God’s elect have all been gathered together in one (John 11:52), when the glory which Christ received from the Father has been imparted to them, when they shall have been made perfect in one, then shall the world have such a clear demonstration of God’s power, grace and love toward His people, that they shall know that the One who died to make this glorious union possible was the sent One of the Father, and that they had been loved by the Father as had the Son, for ‘When Christ, who is our life shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory’ (Col. 3:4); then ‘he shall come to be glorified in his saints and admired in all them that that day’ (II Thess. 1:10).”                                                                    A.W. Pink


          When our Lord says, “Thou hast loved them, as thou hast loved me,” that little word “as” implies three things.


A. First,  there is a similarity of cause between God’s love for Christ and his love for us.


          1. God loves us in Christ.


          God’s love is not a universal sentiment for all men. God’s love is in Christ. Apart from Christ, God is a consuming fire. This needs to be understood. These days, men everywhere are taught and universally presume that God loves them. Nothing could be further from the truth. Until you are united to Christ by faith, you have no reason to imagine that God loves you. Our faith in Christ does not cause God to love us. Our faith is the fruit and result of God’s eternal love for us. But, until a sinner trusts Christ, only the wrath of God is revealed and known to him; and the wrath of God is upon him.

·        John 3:36

·        Ephesians 2:3


          2. God loves us for Christ’s sake.


Thomas Manton wrote, “The elect are made lovely, and fit to be accepted by God, only by Jesus Christ...The ground of all that love God beareth to us is in Christ.”


          As we saw last week, We are “accepted in the beloved.” God accepts our faith, our worship, our works, and our persons only because of Christ, because we are in Christ and because of what Christ has done for us.


          3. And God the Father loves us for the same reason that he loves his Son as our Mediator.


          Be sure you get this. It will help you. God the Father does not love us for the same reason that he loves his Son as his Son. He loves his Son as his Son necessarily because his Son is one with him in perfection and praise. He cannot but love Christ as God. Else he would cease to love himself. But God’s love for Christ as our Mediator is based upon his perfect obedience unto God as our Mediator.

·        John 10:14-17


          Do you understand what our Lord is teaching us here? God’s love for us is free and, at the same, time fully deserved! He said, “I will love them freely” (Hos. 14:4). Yet, his love, mercy, grace, and salvation flow to us upon the grounds of Christ’s obedience as our Substitute (Eph. 4:32-5:2). God the Father looked upon his Son from eternity as our perfect, obedient Mediator, and for the sake of his Son loved us with an everlasting love.


          Let me quote the puritan Thomas Manton again. “God could not love us with honor to himself, if his wisdom had not found out this way of loving us in Christ...God was resolved to manifest an infinite love to man, but he would still manifest an infinite hatred against sin; which could not be more fully manifested than by making Christ the ground of our reconciliation...How could the holy God, the just such vile and unworthy creatures as we are? The question is answered - He loveth us in Christ, and for Christ’s sake.”


B. Second, this word “as” suggests a likeness of love.


          This means that the Lord God loves his people in the same way as he loves his Son. Again, let me stress the fact that our Lord is comparing God’s love for him as our Mediator to his love for his elect. Christ, as our Mediator, is the first object of God’s love. He loved Christ as the Head of his mystical body, the church, and us as members. He loved Christ for his own sake. He loves us for Christ’s sake.


          God the Father loved Christ the God-man as “the express image of his person” (Heb. 1:3). So he loves his people who in Christ have been (and those who yet must be) renewed “after the image of him” (Col. 3:10; II et. 1:4). He loves Christ as his only begotten Son; and he loves us in Christ as his adopted sons (I John 3:1). Because the Savior says, “Thou hast loved them, as thou hast loved me,” we are assured that...


1.     God loves his elect freely. - As we have already seen, the Lord Jesus Christ earned his Father’s love as a man by his mediatoral obedience. Yet, when our Savior came into the world, the Lord God loved the child freely, delighting in him even before he had fulfilled his will (Isa. 42:1). Even so, he loves us freely (Deut. 7:7-8; Hos. 14:4).

2.     God loves us tenderly and affectionately. - As the Father’s love for his Son is a tender, indescribably affectionate love, so is his love for us (Isa. 62:5; Zech. 2:8).

3.     God’s love for his elect is immutable. - The Lord willing, I will say more about this later. For now, let me simply remind you that there is no possibility of change in our God (Mal. 3:6, James 1:17). God’s love does not change. It cannot be taken from us; and it cannot be destroyed, neither by us nor by hell itself

·        Romans 8:35-39


          The famous Arminian preacher, founder of the Christian Missionary Alliance denomination, A.W. Tozer, made these statements about the love of God. - “God must love and will love man until hell has erased the last trace of the remaining image (of God in him). Men are lost now. But they are still loved of God...I believe that God now loves all lost men...(But) the day will come when lost man will no longer be loved by God Almighty...I believe the time will come when God will no longer love lost human beings.”[2]


          Such fickle, useless love may be worthy of fickle, useless man, but not of the great and glorious Lord God. Our God does not love today and hate tomorrow! His love is unchangeable!


C. Thirdly, our Lord intends for us to understand that the effects and fruits of God’s love to him and his elect are alike.


          Love that has no effect and bears no fruit is a useless love. Love that is never known by the one loved is a frustrated passion that destroys one’s own peace and happiness. Love that never sees benefit and blessing upon its object, but only misery and woe, is a tormenting love. But that does not describe the love of God. Oh, no, a thousand times no! God’s love toward us, like his love toward his Son as our Mediator, is an effectual, fruitful, beneficial love. Here are five things mutually enjoyed by Christ and his people as the fruit and effect of God’s love.


          1. The Revelation of Secrets


          All things are open, common knowledge between people who love one another. As all things are manifest and made known to the Son as our Mediator by the Father (John 1:18; 5:20), so all things are manifest and made known to God’s elect by the Son (John 14:21; 15:15).


          2. The Bestowment of Spiritual Gifts


          God’s love is a bounteous love. He has given all things to the Son (John 3:34-35; 17:2; Eph. 4:8); and he has given all his people all spiritual, heavenly gifts in his Son (Eph. 1:3).


          3. Strength and Protection in Life


          As the Lord Jesus was upheld, strengthened, and protected throughout the days of his obedience to do his Father’s will (Isa. 53:1), so the Lord God upholds, strengthens, and protects us, the objects of his love, throughout our days of obedience in this world (I Cor. 12:9).


          4. Acceptance of All We Do for Him


          Everything that Christ did for God was accepted and well-pleasing to him because he loved him (Eph. 5:2). And everything we do for God is accepted and well-pleasing to God through the merits of Christ because he loves us as he loved him (I Pet. 2:5). God our Father accepts our paltry efforts at serving and pleasing him for two reasons.

a.      He accepts our poor, sin stained obedience upon the merit of Christ’s perfect obedience.

b.     He accepts our efforts at pleasing him because of his fatherly love for us in Christ.

          Illustration: A Boy Trying to Walk in His Dad’s Footprints


          5. Honor and Exaltation


          The Lord Jesus was honored and highly exalted by God the Father as the object of his love. He was given preeminence in, possession of, and power over all things (Ps. 2:7-8; Heb. 1:8). The Lord God, our heavenly Father, will do the same for us (John 12:26; Rev. 3:21).


          Hear the Son of God, my brothers and sisters in this world, and rejoice! “Thou hast loved them, as thou hast loved me!” What a pillow upon which to rest our heads! What a comfort for our poor, aching hearts! What a glorious theme for daily meditation! What a cause for adoration, praise, and worship! We may be despised, misunderstood, abused, and hated of men, but we are loved of God! God our Father loves us even as he loves his darling Son; and he has so loved us from eternity!

·        Romans 12:1-2


          What would you give, what would you do to have the enjoyment and assurance of such love from God? Perhaps, you are thinking, “Pastor, I would do anything to know the love of God like that.” Let me ask you this - Would you do nothing to have? That is what you must do, nothing. If you would rest in his love, simply trust the Son of God.


II. Now look at the last sentence in verse 24. Our Lord Jesus said, “Thou hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.” Here he declares, “for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world.”  With those words he teaches us that God’s love for his elect is an everlasting love.


          “The doctrine of God’s everlasting, unchangeable, and invariable love to his elect,  through every state and condition into which they come, is written as with a sun-beam in the sacred writings.”                                                                 John Gill


          I am again in water that is way over my head; but I never did like to wade around in puddles. I like to swim in deep water. When we dive into the ocean of God’s everlasting love for his elect, there is no possibility of us sounding its depths. So, when I have finished talking about it, there will be plenty of room for meditation and study. I can do nothing more than bring up a few nuggets of gold from this deep mine of infinity. Let me show you five things about God’s everlasting love for us in Christ.


A. The Eternality of It


          God’s love for us did not begin yesterday. It is not something born in time. His love for us does not begin with our love for him. “We love him because he first loved us(I John 4:19). God’s love for us springs up from eternity, and is the ground of divine predestination and of our election and redemption by Christ, and our calling by the Holy Spirit.

·        Jeremiah 31:3

·        Ephesians 1:4-6

·        Ezekiel 16:8


The Father loved us ere we fell,

And will forever love;

Nor shall the powers of earth or hell

His love from Zion move.


‘Twas love that moved Him to ordain

A Surety just and good;

And on His heart inscribe the name

Of all for whom He stood.


Nor is the Surety short of love;

He loves beyond degree;

No less than love divine could move

The Lord to die for me.


And O what love the Spirit shows!

When Jesus He reveals

To men oppressed with sin and woes,

And all their sorrows heals.


The Three-in-One, the One-in-Three,

In love for ever rest;

The chosen shall in glory be

In His love ever blessed.


          God’s acts and works of grace performed for us before the world began arise from and are demonstrations of his everlasting love for us.

1.     Election was an act of God’s eternal love (Eph. 1:4).

2.     The covenant of grace was established by the triune God in eternity because of his great, everlasting love for us (II Sam. 23:5; Rom. 8:28-29; II Tim. 1:9; Heb. 13:20).

3.     Giving us into the hands of Christ as our Surety was a work of God’s eternal love (John 6:39).


B. The Immutability of It


          God’s love, like all his gifts bestowed upon men, is without repentance. He will never cease his own to cherish. Those who are loved of God have been loved of God from everlasting and shall be loved of God to everlasting. His love is eternal both ways. He will not depart from the objects of his love or cease to do them good, for he cannot change (Jer. 32:40; Mal. 3:6; James 1:17).


          The salvation of God’s elect does not stand upon a precarious foundation of time, but upon the immutable foundation of God’s everlasting love.

1.     We change often, but there are no changes in his love.

2.     Our love is sometimes hot and sometimes cold; but his love is invariably the same.

3.     God graciously and wisely changes the dispensation of his providence toward his people, hiding his face and chastening us because of our sin; but his love never changes (Isa. 54:10; Heb. 12:5-11). His chastisements are evidences of his love.

4.     Even when we sin against him, as we often do, God’s love does not change!      (Illus: David - Peter)

5.     This is the thing I want us to get hold of - God’s love toward his elect is from everlasting, and never changes to any degree or for any reason.

·        Psalm 89:19-37

·        John 13:1


C. The Gifts of It


          Love gives. The gifts of God’s free and everlasting love are too many for us to calculate. Let me just show you three things that are clearly revealed as the gifts of God’s everlasting love to his elect. In comparison with these three all others, great as they are, must be considered to be far, far less.


1.     The Lord God has given us himself because of his great, everlasting love for us (Ezek. 37:27).

2.     The gift of his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to suffer and die as our Substitute was and is the great commendation of his love to us (John 3:16; Rom. 5:6-10; I John 3:16; 4:10). “Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift!” (I Cor. 9:15).

3.     The gift of his Spirit to regenerate, call, and seal us in his grace in “the time of love” is the gift of God’s everlasting love to us (Ezek. 16:8; Tit. 3:3-6).


          “Indeed, all that God does in time, or will do to all eternity, is only telling his people how much he loved them from everlasting.”                                                                      John Gill


‘Twas not to make Jehovah’s love

Towards the sinner flame,

That Jesus, from His throne above

A suffering man became.


‘Twas not the death which he endured,

Nor all the pangs He bore,

That God’s eternal love procured,

For God was love before.


He loved the world of His elect

With love surpassing thought;

Nor will His mercy e’er neglect

The souls so dearly bought.

                                                                                      John Kent


D. The Distinctiveness of It


          Let me spend a little time here. It is utter nonsense to talk about God loving all men. I sometimes hear preachers try to soft peddle God’s sovereignty by assuring people that there is a sense in which God loves all men with a love of benevolence though not with a love of complacency and delight. They say God loves all men as his creatures, just as he loves trees and toads. If you can get any comfort from comparing God’s love for you to his love for a frog, I guess I should not take that away from you, but it simply is not the teaching of Scripture.


          1. God loves his elect distinctively.


          God does not love all men. I would not emphasize that fact, were it not for the fact that those who teach that God’s love is universal are guilty of three horrible crimes.

a.      They make the love of God changeable.

b.     They make the love of God meaningless.

c.     They destroy the greatest motive there is for godliness and devotion. Try telling you wife that you love all women aike. See if that inspires her devotion to you!


          The Word of God tells us in the plainest terms possible that God’s love for his elect is a special, sovereign, distinctive, and distinguishing love.

·        Isaiah 43:1-5

·        Romans 8:29

·        Romans 9:11-24


          2. God loves his people delightfully.


          I mean by that that God delights, takes pleasure in, and is complacent with his elect because of his love for them. God so loves us that he smiles on us perpetually, even when he appears to be frowning upon us!


          It is high time that all attempts to divide the love of God into categories, stages, and degrees be laid aside. They do nothing to help men and only obscure the glory and grandeur of our God. If God loves me, he delights in me. If he does not delight in me, he does not love me. Again I say, try telling your wife, “Honey, I really do love you. I wish you well. I want nothing but the very best for you, and am willing to do anything I can for you. But you do not please me. You are offensive to me. I do not enjoy your company. In fact, I really do not want to look at you.” If you still have a wife tomorrow, let me know.


          Our God loves us as he loves his darling Son. That means he is well-pleased with us (Matt. 7:5). The Father and the Son are one; and the Son of God tells us that his “delights” were with us from eternity (Pro. 8:31). He could not have used a stronger word than this to express his love for us. The word “delights” expresses the most intimate, sweet, ravishing pleasure. Can you get hold of this? Our God so delights in us that he says, “Thou hast ravished my heart, my sister, my spouse: thou hast ravished my heart with one of thine eyes” (Song 4:9).


E. The Efficacy of It


          God’s love is more than a wish or desire in his heart to save sinners. God’s love for us is an effectual love. That simply means that those who are the objects of God’s love shall be saved precisely because they are the objects of his love. Otherwise the love of God is an utterly useless thing.

1.     God’s love is sovereign (Rom. 9:16-18).

2.     God’s love is sacrificial (I John 3:16).

3.     God’s love is saving (Ezek. 37:27).

4.     God’s love is steadfast (John 13:1).

5.     God’s love is for sinners (John 3:14-18).


Application: Let’s finish the day as we began it, by reading John 17:23-24 together. “I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me. Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me; for thou lovest me before the foundation of the world.”


          What an amazing, stupendous revelation of God’s love for us! Men tell me that such teaching as this promotes licentiousness and antinomianism, that it discourages godliness and good works; but that is absurd. When I think of the things we have been meditating upon today, that God loved me when I hated him, that he loved me before the world began, that he loves me as he loves my Savior, that his love for me will never cease, never change, and never vary, these thoughts compel me to love him, and lay me under the greatest obligations possible to reverence him, worship him, devote myself to his glory and his will, and serve his interests while I live in this world.

·        2 Corinthians 5:14

·        Titus 3:5-8

[1] S-28 “Thou Hast Loved Them As Thou Hast Loved Me” (John 17:23)

  S-29 God’s Everlasting Love for His Elect (John 17:24)

[2] The Tozer Pulpit, Volume 8, pp 23-25