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God’s everlasting, unchangeable, invariable love for his elect is, as John Gill put it, “written as with a sun-beam in the sacred writings.” God’s everlasting love for his elect is the fountain of all grace and salvation, and the reason for all that he does. This is a subject as vast as it is wondrous, as incomprehensible as it is divine. I cannot hope to explain it. All I can do is point out some of its most obvious and most blessed characteristics.
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” (1 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 of our calling by the Holy Spirit (Jeremiah 31:3; Ephesians 1:4-6; Ezekiel 16:8).
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. Election was an act of God’s eternal love (Ephesians 1:4). The covenant of grace was established by the triune God in eternity because of his great, everlasting love for us (2 Samuel 23:5; Romans 8:28-29; 2 Timothy 1:9; Hebrews 13:20). The Triune Jehovah giving us into the hands of Christ as our Surety was a work of God’s eternal love for us (John 6:39; Ephesians 1:12).
The Immutability of It
There is no possibility of change in our God (Malachi 3:6, James 1:17). And God’s love does not change. 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 (Jeremiah 32:40; Malachi 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. We change often; but there are no changes in his love. Our love is sometimes hot and sometimes cold; but his love is invariably the same. 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 (Isaiah 54:10; Hebrews 12:5-11). — His chastisements are but evidences of his love. Even when we sin against him, as we constantly do, God’s love does not change!
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, pale into insignificance. (1.) The Lord God has given us himself because of his great, everlasting love for us (Ezekiel 37:27). — “I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” (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; Romans 5:6-10; 1 John 3:16; 4:10). — “Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift” (1 Corinthians 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 (Ezekiel 16:8; Titus 3:3-6). “Indeed,” as Gill rightly observed, “all that God does in time, or will do to all eternity, is only telling his people how much he loved them from everlasting.”
The Distinctiveness of It
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 Holy Scripture.
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. (1.) They make the love of God changeable. (2.) They make the love of God meaningless. (3.) They destroy the greatest motive there is for godliness and devotion.
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; 9:11-24).
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 us. 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.
Our God loves us as he loves his darling Son. That means he is well-pleased with us (Matthew 17:5). The Father and the Son are one; and the Son of God tells us that his “delights” were with us from eternity (Proverbs 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 of Solomon 4:9).
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.