The Attributes of God
by Arthur W. Pink
The Love of God to Us
By "us" we mean His people. Although 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 food. "He is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil" (Luke
6:35), and His providence ministers unto the just and the unjust (Matt
5:45). But His love is reserved for His elect. That is unequivocally
established by its characteristics, for the attributes of His love are
identical with Himself. Necessarily so, for "God is love." In making that
postulate it is but another way to say 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 which 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 the verse must be interpreted so as not to
contradict Psalms 5:5; 6:7; John 3:36; Romans 9:13.
The chief design of God is to commend the love of God in
Christ, for He is the sole channel through which it flows. The Son has not
induced the Father to love His people, but rather was it His love for them
which moved Him to give His Son for them. Ralph Erskine 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."
"For no matter how many promises God has made, they are
"Yes" in Christ." (2 Cor 1:20). As we were chosen in Christ (Eph 1:4), as we
were accepted in Him (Eph 1:6), as our life is hidden 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 with it, he is lifted outside
of and above his wretched self. A believing apprehension fills the renewed
soul with holy satisfaction, and makes him as happy as it is possible for
one to be this side of heaven. To know and believe the love which God has
toward me is both a pledge and a 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—"worm Jacob." 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 will 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. What infinite delight the Father has as He
beholds His people in His dear Son! All our blessings flow from that
God's love to His people is not of yesterday. It did not
begin 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 His love is the
reason why He renews us after His image. This is often made to appear in the
first manifestation of it, when so far from its objects being engaged in
seeking Him, they are at their worst.
"'Later I passed by, and when I looked at you and saw
that you were old enough for love, I spread the corner of my garment over
you and covered your nakedness. I gave you My solemn oath and entered into a
covenant with you, declares the Sovereign Lord, and you became [manifestly]
Mine" (Eze 16:8).
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 also
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 the 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 an atoning sacrifice for our sins' (1 John 4:10).
It is 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 towards
Him or faith in Him; yes, while they were His enemies (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.
All the acts of God to His people in time, are the expressions of the love
He bore them from 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 bestowal 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 dispensations 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), since He has our good in view.
Let us look more closely 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" (2 Thess 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: "The Lord did not
set His love upon you, nor choose you, because you were more in number than
any people" (7:7). So again: "In love, having predestinated us unto the
adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good
pleasure of His will" (Eph l:4,5).
Second, in redeeming. As we have seen from 1 John
4:10, out of His sovereign love God made provision for Christ to render
satisfaction for their sins, though prior to their conversion He was angry
with them in respect to His violated Law. 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 (Acts 2:33). Having loved His
elect with an everlasting love, with loving-kindness He draws them (Jer
31:3), quickens into newness of life, calls them out of darkness into His
marvelous light, makes them 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, to
what purpose are those words?
Fourth, healing of backslidings: "I will heal
their backsliding, I will love them freely" (Hosea 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 to His people—invincible, unquenchable.
Not only is there no possibility of its expiring, but also the black waters
of backsliding cannot extinguish it, nor the floods of unbelief put it out.
Nothing is more irresistible in the natural world than
death. In the realm of grace, nothing is so invincible as the love of God.
Goodwin 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
wherewith He loved us, He quickened us in the grave of our corruption; even
then did God come and conquer us. After our calling, how sadly do we provoke
God! Such temptations that if it were possible the elect should be deceived.
It is so with all Christians. No righteous man but he is scarcely saved (1
Peter 4:18), and yet saved he is, because the love of God is invincible—it
overcomes all difficulties."
An application is hardly necessary for such a theme. Let
God's love daily engage your mind by devout meditations on it so that the
affections of your heart may be drawn out to Him. When cast down in spirit,
or in sore straits, plead His love in prayer, assured that it cannot deny
anything good for you. Make God's wondrous love to you the incentive of your
obedience to Him—gratitude requires nothing less.