UNDERSTANDING THE LOVE OF GOD – PART 1

We speak of it when we witness and evangelize. We are always eager to tell people that God loves them and therefore sent His Son to die on the cross. We are eager to say to the most hostile and the most ungodly person, “God loves you, and if you’ll come to Christ God will save you.” We have proclaimed to the world that God is love.

Scripture does give us reason to proclaim that God is a God of love. In 2 Corinthians 13:11 He is called the God of love and in 1 John 4:8 the Bible says God is love. This is truly an attribute of God and along with it comes goodness, kindness and mercy.

Jeffrey Dahmer, the mask-murdering homosexual killed 17 and cannibalized a number of them. But before he died at the hands of some fellow prisoners, he had made a confession of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and been baptized. In his will he repeatedly expressed his genuine faith in Christ, in confidence that Christ had forgiven all his sin. It would make the world very angry to think that such a murderer could be accepted into heaven. But as far as evidencing the amazing love of God, this is a classic illustration. Another was Paul who said he was the chief of sinners. He too was a blasphemer, a persecutor and a murderer.

We want to be able to say to anybody that God loves the world so much that “whoever” believes in Him will be saved and that “whoever” is unlimited.

However, people still have serious unanswered and very disturbing questions in their minds regarding God’s love. Like…if God is love why is there so much tragedy in this world and why are so many people suffering? If God is love, sovereign and in charge, then why in the world would a loving God ever allow this? If God is love why would He send people to hell to suffer forever? Shouldn’t a loving God remove all pain, evil, and sorrow and fill time and eternity only with happiness? You’re telling me that God wants everyone to be saved? Then why would He devise a plan that has most people going to hell forever? And if God is the loving Father of humanity, why doesn’t He act like a human father who loved his children, who would never allow his children to make choices that would result in their destruction if he could prevent it or overrule it? If God is a loving God why did He allow sin in the first place and death?

Those questions need answers and there are a number of suggested answers. One is the answer of universalism. Universalism is a believe that in the end everybody will be saved and go to heaven and hell will not exist.

Other people answer the question with a theory called annihilationism. Their solution is that God takes the believing people to heaven and the rest He puts completely out of existence and they experience no consciousness at all.

The problem with those two views is that you cannot defend them in the Bible.

Some others say the way to understand it is that God doesn’t love people who are not His own, He hates them. They say that anybody He damns He hates. The love of God is selective and it’s given only to those who believe in Him. And they would remind you of the Old Testament where it says God is angry with the wicked every day. They would remind you of passages in the Old Testament where God says I hate every false way, every evil way and other places where God expresses animosity toward sin and even sinners on occasion. Therefore, the love of God is limited to the elect. But, the Bible does not teach that either. The Bible says, “God so loved …the world.”

Now there is another option. Easily tell the person who asks, that we have no right to ask such questions. People who have that view would use Paul’s words in Romans 9, “Who are you, old man, who answers back to God? … why did you make me like this, …? Did you ever hear a pot ask the potter why the pot was made the way it was? Does not the potter have a right over the clay to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use?” God is God. God will do whatever He wants to do because He’s God. He’s the potter, He decides how the pot is going to be. God created as He pleased to create.”

There is truth in that … God is God. Ultimately, we are going to end up in Romans 9 and will to have to settle for the fact that God will do what God will do. We can understand the issue without being able to comprehend it fully. We can at least understand what the mystery is if we cannot solve it. Ultimately, you are going to get to the place where you have to just trust God’s judgment as the potter, but not at the very beginning.

Now in order to grasp it, we need to think around three key propositions and remember them. We are going through these during the course of this series. So do not leap to preliminary conclusions, just enjoy the trip. When you enjoy the trip you will love the destination when we reach it in part 6, the last of the series.

The three key propositions entail a very important study as it is going to answer some very penetrating and compelling issues both from a theological side and from a very pragmatic side as you deal with people.
1. GOD’S LOVE IS UNLIMITED IN EXTENT
2. GOD’S LOVE IS LIMITED IN DEGREE
3. GOD’S LOVE IS ULTIMATELY DIRECTED AT HIS GLORY

GOD’S LOVE IS UNLIMITED IN EXTENT

In this part of the series, we are going to look at the first one. God’s love is unlimited in extent. There is that love of God which Scripture clearly shows us is general, universal, indiscriminate, unconditional and unlimited and that extends to all people in all times. It is what Titus 3:4 refers to as God’s love for mankind. Scripture attests to this love in several places.

In Matthew 5:43 Jesus said, “You have heard it said, the rabbis have taught, you shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” That was the existing theology of the time, which meant, “Love Jews and hate Gentiles.” Basically, they despised the Gentile world and they loved their own. When they hated the despised Gentile or the Samaritan half-breed, they felt justified because that’s what their theologians had told them pleased God. (As we will later see, this is a verse that establishes the background to John 3:16).

But verse 44 Jesus says, “But I say to you, love your enemies.” In other words, also love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, like Jesus did when He said, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” And verse 45 tells you why. “In order that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.”

What does Jesus mean by “sons of your Father in heaven?” In order that you might manifest that you’re of the same family, that you are children of God. Ephesians 5:1, “Be imitators of God as beloved children and walk in love.” The point is this, you love your enemies because you’re the children of God and God loves His enemies. See, God doesn’t just love His family, God also loves His enemies. Jesus on the cross did not only demonstrate love toward the apostles and those who believe, His love extends to those who do not believe.

a. ADMIT THAT YOU ARE A SINNER

Look at Mark chapter 10. This is a wonderful story of the rich young ruler. The bottom line in the story is he comes to Jesus and ask what he needs to do to have eternal life. Jesus then gave him the Law. This man believes he obeys the entire law and he does not admit his sin. The first thing you have to recognize is that you are a sinner. Eternal life is for repentant people.

b. BE WILLING TO OBEY CHRIST

The second component in salvation is a willingness to obey Christ. First you admit you’re a sinner, secondly, you submit to Christ. So Jesus gives the rich man a test and says, “Look, go sell everything you have, take your money, give it to the poor and then follow Me.” No way. He wouldn’t follow Christ. It is very hard to receive eternal life. And that’s what Jesus says in verse 23.

The sad deal is the guy went away, verse 22, because he owned a lot of property and he wanted to control his life and he didn’t think he was a sinner. But verse 21 says, “And looking at him Jesus loved him.” The love of God manifest in Jesus Christ is not just reserved for His own. Here He loved the non-repentant, non-submissive rejecter.

CHRIST IS THE REDEEMER OF HIS ENEMIES

Now go to Isaiah chapter 63. Here in a micro-cosm of the nation Israel is the way to understand the unlimited extent of God’s love as manifest in Jesus Christ and in the gospel. In verse 7 the prophet Isaiah talks about the great goodness of God toward the house of Israel and His compassion. This is all about God’s love. And God’s love manifest itself in goodness, mercy, pity, kindness. Verse 8, “For He said, Surely they’re My people, sons who will not deal falsely… so He became their Savior.” God became the Savior of the nation. He was the official divinely designated Savior of Israel.

In verse 9, “In all their affliction He was afflicted. And the angel of His presence saved them.” Then it says, “And in His love and in His mercy He redeemed them.” He became their Savior. He suffered with their suffering. He lifted them. He carried them all the days of old.

In a general extensive manner God identifies himself as the Savior of the whole nation of Israel. But then verse 10 says this, “But they rebelled and grieved His Holy Spirit, therefore He turned Himself to become their enemy, He fought against them.” So here you have God defined as the Savior, the lover, the redeemer of a people who are His enemies, who have chosen a life of sin.

GOD HARDENS THE HEARTS OF HIS ENEMIES – NONE OF THEM WOULD CALL ON HIS NAME

Then to verse 16. “… Why, O Lord, dost Thou cause us to stray from Thy ways and hardened our heart from worshiping Thee?” Now God is actually hardening the hearts of a people to whom He is identified as the Redeemer. He is causing them to go.

Down to chapter 64 verse 5, “Behold, Thou wast angry for we sinned … And shall we be saved?” He is the Redeemer of the rebellious. Verse 6, “For all of us have become like one who is unclean. All our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment. All of us wither like a leaf and our iniquities like the wind remove us, destroy us. There is no one who calls on Your name, who arouses Himself to take hold of You, for You have hidden Your face from us and delivered us into the power of our iniquities.”

He described unconverted people. “But now, O Lord…verse 8…Thou art our Father. We are the clay and Thou our potter. All of us are the work of Thy hand. Do not be angry beyond measure, O Lord. Do not remember iniquity forever.” God says I’ve tried to do something with you, chapter 65 verse 2, “I’ve spread out My hands all day long to a rebellious people who walk in the way which is not good, following their own thoughts, a people who continually provoke Me to My face, offering sacrifices in gardens and burning incense on bricks, who sit among graves and spend the night in secret places, who eat swine’s flesh and the broth of unclean meat is in their pots.” In other words, you are in to idolatry.

“Who say…imagine the gaul of this…Keep to yourself, do not come near me for I am holier than you. These are smoke in My nostrils.” “Behold, it is written before Me, I will not keep silent, I will repay but I will even repay into your bosom both their own iniquities and the iniquities of their fathers together, says the Lord, because they have burned incense on the mountains and scorned Me on the hills, therefore I’ll measure their former work into their bosom.”

It is very, very obvious in this text that the indictment of the people Israel is that God was their Savior and He brought to them the offer of His blessing, goodness, kindness and His mercy, and they spurned it so that God can be the Savior of those who are His enemies, He can be the Redeemer of those who rebel against Him.

GOD REMAINS THE DESIGNATED SAVIOR OF ALL MEN

God loved the people of Israel and became their Savior, yet they refused Him, chose sin and experienced judgment. So when we say that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, we must understand that He gave His Son to be the Savior of the world in the same way that God identifies Himself as the Savior of the nation Israel, though not all Israel by any means believed in Him. He was still their officially designated Savior.

GOD SO LOVED THE WORLD …

Now let’s go to John chapter 3 verse 16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” That doesn’t say God only loved the elect, it says He loved the world. The context demands that “world” cannot be narrowed. And then you come to verse 19 “Light has come into the world and men love the darkness rather than the light.” The world is the widest possible reference and includes some who believe and some who do not believe. There are some who love the light and come to the light while others love the darkness.

In another section of John’s gospel he put it this way. “He was in the world and the world knew Him not.” In John 4 verse 42, the people in the Samaritan woman’s town believed because of her testimony. John knows what he means when he says world. The Jews had always said, “Love your neighbor and hate the outcast Samaritans and the Gentiles.” And here comes Jesus and really overturns what was at the heart of the racism of that time. That is why God can say He has no pleasure in the death of the wicked. That is why God can say He is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. That is why God can say He will have all men to be saved.

This unlimited love is manifest in four ways.

1.1 COMMON GRACE

Common grace means there are certain kindnesses and goodnesses that God does commonly and we see it in the world. You may say, “Well there’s a lot of sorrow in the world.” The reason you recognize the ugliness is there’s so much beauty. The reason you recognize the disappointment is there is so much fulfillment. At the other side of it, and understand that you are a fallen and unworthy sinner and God, the only reason God ever gives you anything to laugh at, smile at and love and rejoice with is because He is just a loving God.

In Matthew 5 and verse 45, Jesus says, “Here’s the proof of God’s love, He causes His Son to rise on the evil and the good, He sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” It rains on everybody. The sun shines on everybody. Flowers grow in everybody’s garden. Lots of people have lots of fun and lots of joy and lots of happiness and it has nothing to do with whether they know God or not. That is just how it is in life.

In Acts chapter 14 Paul is talking to the pagans in Iconium. But he says in verse 17, the God who made the heavens and the earth and all of that, didn’t leave Himself without a witness, a witness to His love and His kindness because He did good, gave you rains from heaven, fruitful seasons, satisfying your heart with food and gladness.

1.2 COMPASSION

It is a love of broken-heartedness. You hear people say, “Well, you must be very special because God loves you.” That is a psychological ego boosting that has nothing to do with the Bible. God does not love you because you are so lovable. We are despicable, vile sinners who if we are not saved by the grace of God will be thrown on the trash heap of eternity which is hell. We have no intrinsic value, no intrinsic worth, there is nothing in us to love. It is not the love of value, it is the love of pity for that which could have had value and has none. God doesn’t have any pleasure in damnation. It grieves Him that the image of God has been so marred and wasted.

In Jeremiah chapter 13 and also in chapter 48:36, Jeremiah cries the tears of God. God weeps over the marring of His creatures. Then in Matthew 23:37 , “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often I would have gathered you as a hen gathers her brood and you would not.” In Luke 19:41 Jesus looked over the city and wept. It was sadness, not love motivated by present value.

1.3 LOVE OF WARNINGS

Nothing is more evident in terms of demonstrating God’s love than the replete warnings of judgment to come throughout the pages of Scripture. Scripture is filled with warnings about judgment, followed by hell, eternal hell, the Lake of Fire, punishment. In Luke 13:3 and 5 Jesus says, “I tell you, unless you repent you will perish.” And that’s the message of both the New and the Old Testament. There is a holy God and He has a holy standard. If you do not live up to it you are on your way to hell. There is only one remedy and that is to come with a repentant heart and ask for forgiveness and plead for mercy which It is love that warns. Love is an honest concern about a person’s destiny.

1.4 THE GOSPEL OFFER

When Isaiah says come buy and eat, come buy wine and milk without money, without price, when Jesus teaches in Matthew 22:2 and 3 the Kingdom of Heaven is like a certain king which made a marriage for his son and sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding and they wouldn’t come, and then it says he went out into the highways and byways and called some others. Do you notice there that it says he went out and called those that were bidden to the wedding and they would not come? That’s very important, Matthew 22:3. The gospel call goes to people who will not come. And that’s the love of God calling them.

Luke 14 verses 16 to 18, “A certain man made a great supper. He called many. Sent his servant at supper time to say to them that were called, Come. All things are not ready, they all with one consent began to make excuse.” That’s the gospel call. That’s the King calling sinners to come to the banquet and they don’t come. In Luke 2:10 the angel said, “I bring you good news of great joy which shall be for all people. There is born this day in the city of David a Savior.” That is good news for all people.

Romans 1:18, 19 starts the path, “That which may be known of God is in them,”. “That which may be known about God is in every individual.” Creation all around you demonstrates the wonder of God. And if you don’t live up to that knowledge, Paul says in Romans 1 you are without excuse.

Romans 2 says that even the pagans who have no Scripture have the law of God written in their heart. And there’s even a conscience there to excuse or accuse you, depending on how you react to the law that’s written in your hearts.

John’s gospel chapter 1 verse 9 says, “Christ is the light that lights every man that comes into the world.” Jesus says in Matthew 28, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations.” Mark in chapter 16 and verse 15, “Go into the all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” God extended in its unlimited sense, His love for mankind. Or 1 Timothy 4:10, “He is the Savior of all men, especially those who believe.” Or, “God our Savior who will have all men to be saved, for there is one God and one Mediator, the man Christ Jesus.”

Jesus is designated as the Savior of the whole world. By the atoning work of Christ on the cross, He is identifying Himself as the Savior of the world, and it has implications to the whole world. It was designed to reveal God’s universal love for the whole guilty human race. Thereforem all sinners are called to repent and to believe and to be forgiven and if they are refused they are guilty and they will be punished.

In John 6:31, Jesus is talking to the Jews about who He is after having fed themIn verse 31 the Jews said that their fathers ate manna in the wilderness, as it is written He gave them bread out of heaven to eat. Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly I say to you, it is not Moses who has given YOU the bread out of heaven, it is My father who gives YOU the true bread out of heaven.” He is talking to unbelieving Jews. Verse 33, “For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven and gives life to the world.”

Down to verse 41 the Jews therefore were grumbling and they say they don’t want it. Verse 52, “The Jews therefore began to argue with one another, said how can this man give us His flesh to eat?” Verse 61, Jesus was conscious even some of His followers were grumbling and then down to verse 66, “As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew, were not walking with Him anymore.”

PART 2 OF 6 WILL BE PUBLISHED SOON. DO NOT MISS OUT ON THIS ENCOURAGING TOPIC.

(Main source: The Bible and some John MacArthur sermons)

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