“God’s love is an exercise of his goodness toward individual sinners whereby, having identified himself with their welfare, he has given his Son to be their Savior, and now brings them to know and enjoy him in a covenant relation” (J. I. Packer).
1. God’s love is an exercise of his goodness.
The Bible means by God’s goodness his cosmic generosity. Goodness in God, writes Berkhof, is ‘that perfection in God which prompts him to deal bountifully and kindly with all His creatures. It is the affection which the Creator feels towards His…creatures as such’ (Systematic Theology, p. 70, citing Ps. 145:9, 15-16; compare Luke 6:35; Acts 14:17).
Of this goodness, God’s love is the supreme and most glorious manifestation. ‘Love generally,’ wrote James Orr, ‘is that principle which leads one moral being to desire and delight in another, and reaches its highest form in that personal fellowship in which each lives in the life of the other, and finds his joy in imparting himself to the other, and in receiving back the outflow of that other’s affection unto himself’ (Hastings Dictionary of the Bible, III, 153). Such is the love of God.
2. God’s love is an exercise of his goodness toward sinners.
It is an outgoing of God in kindness which not merely is undeserved, but is actually contrary to desert; for the objects of God’s love are rational creatures who have broken God’s law, whose nature is corrupt in God’s sight, and who merit only condemnation and final banishment from his presence.”
“It is staggering that God should love sinners; yet it is true. God loves creatures who have become unlovely and (one would have thought) unlovable. There was nothing whatever in the objects of his love to call it forth; nothing in us could attract or prompt it.
Love among persons is awakened by something in the beloved, but the love of God is free, spontaneous, unevoked, uncaused. God loves people because he has chosen to love them (an echo of Deut. 7:7-8)—and no reason for his love can be given except his own sovereign good pleasure.”
3. God’s love is an exercise of His goodness toward individual sinners.
God’s love is not a vague sentiment of goodwill toward everybody in general and nobody in particular. The Bible says that God chose the objects of His love from before creation, individuals with names registered in the Lamb’s book of life (Rev. 13:8).
4. God’s love to sinners involves His identifying Himself with their welfare.
Such an identification is involved in all of love. Indeed, this is the test of whether love is genuine or not. If a father continues cheerful and carefree while his child is in danger, or if a husband is unmoved while his wife is in distress, we wonder if there is any love in those relationships.
5. God’s love to sinners was supremely expressed in the gift of His Son to be their Savior.
God identified Himself with our welfare by taking on a human nature and walking among us. The supreme measure of love is what it gives. God gave His Son to die in the place of sinners. The New Testament writers constantly point to the cross of Christ as the crowning proof and demonstration of God’s love. In addition to the more famous John 3:16, the Bible says plainly in I John 4:10, “This is love … that God sent His Son to be the sacrifice for our sins.”
6. God’s love to sinners reaches its goal as it brings them to know and enjoy Him in a covenant relation.
A covenant relation means that two parties are permanently pledged to each other. This is how God relates to people. He promises to be their God and Redeemer and they promise to love and serve Him alone. We cannot keep our side of this covenant, so God kept it for us in the person and work of Christ. This is Christianity. Salvation is to look away from self and toward Jesus crucified, the proof of God’s love.
|pp. 123-124, Knowing God, J. I. Packer)|