God's Love to Us

Arthur Pink, March, 1951
 

By "us" we mean His people, for whereas we read of the love "which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom 8:39), Holy Writ knows nothing of a love of God outside of Christ.

"The LORD is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works" (Psalm 145:9), so that He provides the ravens with their food. "He is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil" (Luke 6:35), and His providence ministers unto the just and the unjust (Mat 5:45).

But His love is reserved for His own elect. That is unequivocally established by its characteristics, for the attributes of His love are identical with Himself. Necessarily so, for "God is love," and in making that postulate, it is but another way of saying God's love is like Himself from everlasting to everlasting, immutable.

Nothing is more absurd than to imagine that anyone beloved of God can eternally perish, or shall ever experience His everlasting vengeance. Since the love of God is "in Christ Jesus," it was attracted by nothing in its objects, nor can it be repelled by anything in, of, or by them, "having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them unto the end" (John 13:1).

The "world" in John 3:16 is a general term used in contrast with the Jews, and that verse must be so interpreted as not to contradict John 3:36: "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him." See also Psalm 5:5-6; 7:11; Romans 9:13.

The chief design of the Gospel is to commend the love of God in Christ, for He is the sole channel through which it flows. It is not that the Son has induced the Father to love His people, but rather was it His love for them which moved Him to give His Son to them and for them. As Ralph Erskine (1685-1752) well said, "God has taken a marvelous way to manifest His love. When He would show His power He makes a world. When He would display His wisdom He puts it in a frame and form that discovers its vastness. When He would manifest the grandeur and glory of His name He makes a Heaven, and puts angels and archangels, principalities and powers therein. And when He would manifest His love, what will He not do? God has taken a great and marvelous way of manifesting it in Christ: His person, His blood, His death, His righteousness."

"All the praises of God in him [Christ] are yes, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God" (2 Corinthians 1:20). As we were chosen in Christ (Eph 1:4), as we were accepted in Him (Eph 1:6), as our life is hid in Him (Col 3:3), so are we beloved in Him "the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus": in Him as our Head and Husband, which is why nothing can separate us therefrom, for that union is indissoluble.

Nothing so warms the heart of the saint as a spiritual contemplation of God's love. As he is occupied therewith, he is lifted outside of and above his wretched self. A believing apprehension thereof will fill the renewed soul with holy satisfaction, and make him as happy as it is possible for anyone to be this side of Heaven. To know and believe the love which God has toward me, is both a pledge and foretaste of Heaven itself.

Since God loves His people in Christ, it is not for any amiableness in, or attraction about them, "Jacob have I loved." Yes, the naturally unattractive, yes, despicable, Jacob "you worm Jacob" (Isa 41:14).

Since God loves His people in Christ, it is not regulated by their fruitfulness, but is the same at all times. Because He loves them in Christ, the Father loves them as Christ. The time will come when His prayer shall be answered, "That the world may know that you have sent me, and have loved them, as you have loved me" (John 17:23).

Only faith can grasp those marvelous things, for neither reasoning nor feelings can do so.

God loves us in Christ. Oh, what infinite delight has the Father as He beholds His people in His dear Son! All our blessings flow from that precious fountain.

God's love unto His people is not of yesterday. It began not with their love to Him. No, "we love him, because he first loved us" (1 John 4:19). We do not first give to Him, that He may return to us again. Our regeneration is not the motive of His love. Rather is His love the reason why He renews us after His image. This is often made to appear in the first open manifestation of it, when so far from its objects being engaged in seeking Him, they are at their worst.

"Now when I passed by you, and looked upon you, behold, your time was the time of love; and I spread My skirt over you, and covered your nakedness; yes, I swore unto you, and entered into a covenant with you, says the LORD God, and you became [manifestatively] mine" (Ezekiel 16:18). Not only are its objects often at their worst when God's love is first revealed to them, but actually doing their worst as in the case of Saul of Tarsus.

Not only is God's love antecedent to ours, but it was borne in His heart toward us long before we were delivered from the power of darkness and translated into the kingdom of His dear Son. It began not in time, but bears date of eternity "I have loved you with an everlasting love" (Jer 31:3). "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins" (1 John 4:10). It is very clear from those words that God loved His people while they were in a state of nature, destitute of all grace, without a particle of love to or faith in Him; yes, while they were enemies unto Him (Rom 5:8, 10).

Clearly that lays me under a thousand times greater obligation to love, serve and glorify Him than had He loved me for the first time when my heart was won by His excellence. All the acts of God unto His people in time are the expressions of the love He bore them from all eternity.

It is because God loves us in Christ, and has done so from everlasting, that the gifts of His love are irrevocable. They are the bestowments of "the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning." The love of God indeed makes a change in us when it is "shed abroad in our hearts," but it makes none in Him. He sometimes varies the dispensation of His providence toward us, but that is not because His affection has altered. Even when he chastens us, it is in love (Heb 12:6), having our good in view.

Let us now look more distinctly at some of the operations of God's love.

First, in election, "We are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God has from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit [His quickening] and belief of the truth" (1 Thessalonians 2:13). There is an infallible connection between God's love and His selection of those who were to be saved.

That election is the consequence of His love, is clear again from Deuteronomy 7:7: "The LORD did not [1] set his love upon you, nor [2] choose you, because you were more in number than any people." So again in Ephesians 1:4-5: "In love, having predestined us into the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will."

Second, in redeeming them. As we have seen above from 1 John 4:10, out of His sovereign love, God made provision of Christ to render satisfaction for their sins, though prior to their conversion, he was angry with them in respect of His violated Law, and provoked holiness by their transgressions.

And "how shall he not with him also freely give US all things?" (Rom 8:32) another clear proof that His Son was not "delivered up" to the cross for all mankind, for He gives them neither the Holy Spirit, a new nature, nor repentance and faith.

Third, effectual calling. From the enthroned Savior, the Father sends forth the Holy Spirit (Act 2:33). Having loved His elect with an everlasting love therefore with loving-kindness does He draw them (Jer 31:3), quickening into newness of life, calling them out of darkness into His marvelous light, making them manifestatively His children, "Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God" (1 John 3:1). If filiation does not issue from God's love as a sure effect thereof, to what purpose are those words?

Fourth, healing their backslidings: "I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely" (Hos 14:4) without reluctance or hesitation. "Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it" (Song 8:7). Such is God's love unto His people invincible, unquenchable. Not only is there no possibility of its expiring of itself, but the black waters of their backslidings cannot extinguish it, nor the floods of their unbelief put it out.

"Love is strong as death" (Song 8:6). Nothing more irresistible than death in the natural world, nothing so invincible as the love of God in the realm of grace. As Thomas Goodwin (1600-1680) remarked, "What difficulties does the love of God overcome! For God to overcome His own heart! Do you think it was nothing for Him to put His Son to death? ... When He came to call us, had He no difficulties which love overcame? We were dead in trespasses and sins, yet from the great love with which he loved us, He quickened us in the grave of our corruption: 'lo, he stinks' even then did God come and conquer us.

After our calling, how sadly do we provoke God! It is so with all Christians. No righteous man but he is 'scarcely saved' (1 Peter 4:18), and yet saved he us, because the love of God is invincible: it overcomes all difficulties.

Scarcely any space is left over for an application, yet one is hardly necessary for such a theme. Let God's love daily engage and engross your mind by devout meditations thereon that the affections of your heart may be drawn out to Him. When cast down in spirit, or in sore straits of circumstances, plead it in prayer, assured that His love cannot deny anything good for you. Make God's wondrous love to you, the incentive of your obedience unto Him gratitude requires nothing less.