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Among the more misunderstood attributes of God is His love.
Admittedly, God’s attributes are innumerable. God is infinite. So it stands to reason that His nature cannot fully be comprehended by our finite and limited faculties. Nonetheless, I would venture to say that among God’s myriad characteristics, His love would be the first quality to come to mind were most Christians asked to describe the God in whom they profess to believe.
To test my assumption, I recently Googled the phrase “Christian God of love” and received 737 million hits. By comparison, a search of the phrase “Christian God of wrath” returned a paltry 21.8 million hits—a difference of 715.2 million. Needless to say, those results are not scientific and neither prove nor disprove my supposition.
Nevertheless, that reality fails to mollify my curiosity about why such a gaping disparity exists.
Granted, broaching the subject of God’s love is unarguably more involved than simply conducting a word search on the internet. As the nineteenth-century “Prince of Preachers,” Charles Haddon Spurgeon said, “You can trace the beginning of human affection; you can easily find the beginning of our love to Christ, but his love to us is a stream whose source is hidden in eternity.”
Many professing Christians subscribe to a paradigm of God’s love that is as iambic and winsome as what Spurgeon described—and understandably so.
Who among us does not want assurance that we are loved by the God who created us in His image and likeness (Genesis 1:27; 5:1-2)? Our problem, however, is that as fallen human beings we tend to understand the love of God through the filter of personal experience.
In other words, when God blesses us, which is to say, when He gives us what we want, we feel treasured and apprised by Him. Conversely, when God denies or disciplines us, we often feel distant and isolated from Him.
But God is not so mercurial as to make the demonstration of His love a matter of one’s situation or circumstance. As the great Welsh expositor and theologian D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said, “Our Lord does not promise to remove difficulties and trials and problems and tribulations. He does not say that He is going to cut out all the thorns and leave the roses with their wonderful perfume. No, He faces life realistically and tells us that these are things to which the flesh is heir, and which are bound to come. But He assures us that we can so know Him that, whatever happens, we need never be frightened, we need never be alarmed.”
In Romans 5:8, the apostle Paul writes, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Two verses earlier, in Romans 5:6, he states, “For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.”
The significance of those texts is that if ever we are to comprehend the love of God to any degree, we must first come to grips with how innately unlovable we are.
That is both a difficult and unavoidable truth. And yet it is not the only truth. I say that in light of these words from the sixteenth-century Reformer, Martin Luther, who said, “God does not love sinners because they are attractive; sinners are attractive to God because he loves them.”
Such is the love of God that He would be enamored with spiritual invalids like you and me (Ephesians 2:4-5). There is no more unfathomable reality in life than that.
Perhaps that is why the apostle Paul would pray that we would be able to “comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge” (Ephesians 3:18-19)? Or why Charles Wesley, the writer of more than 6,500 hymns, would exclaim, “Amazing love! How can it be that Thou, My God, should die for me?”
He has not dealt with us according to our sins, not rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him. — Psalm 103:10-11 (NASB)
The love of God—immeasurable though it is—can not be understood to any real degree apart from an awareness of how inherently unlovable we are. It is our sinfulness that puts God’s unmerited love into proper perspective and context (Luke 5:8).
If it weren’t for the fact of our fallen existence, we wouldn’t know very much about God’s everlasting righteousness—much less be able to give Him glory for it. We wouldn’t know that He is as loving as He is if it weren’t for our sin. We wouldn’t know that He is as holy as He is if it weren’t for the reality of divine judgment. And a host of other divine attributes would be largely obscured by the heer brilliance of God’s glory if we weren’t able to see in stark contrast against the backdrop of evil. — John MacArthur, None Other: Discovering the God of the Bible, p. 64
As I close out this blog post, my prayer is that you will contemplate these words of Charles Haddon Spurgeon from his sermon titled “Faith’s Ultimatum,” “Surely there is something in you which God loves, or else he would not be killing that which he hates. If he hates the sin in you, it is a good sign; for where do we hate sin most? Why, in those we love most.”
Humbly in Christ,