The love of God may be one of the most misunderstood attributes of God’s character. Talk to an unbeliever about the wrath of God and the consequences of sin and you are likely to hear a comment something like, “My God is not like that. I don’t believe in a God who is angry; my God is a God of love.” And the inference is that because God is love, He always and only overlooks sin and never holds the sinner’s sin against him.
Yet Romans (as well as the rest of Scripture) is clear that while God’s nature is love (1 Jn. 4:8), at the same time and without contradiction to His nature of love, God is also a Judge who will pour out His wrath against all sin (e.g., Rom. 1:18-19; 2:5; 3:5; 6:23; 8:9).
So is God really a God of love? Indeed He is. He is loving enough to hate all sin and provide a plan of redemption for sin so that sinners can be freed from the penalty of His wrath against their sin and also liberated from the power of sin that binds them. And He makes this provision when these sinners are still against him — helpless, ungodly, sinners, and enemies (Rom. 5:6-10). This act of God’s love for people who hate Him and are aggressively opposed to Him is a supreme act of love.
It is a demonstration of the pouring out of God’s love within the hearts of those who come to faith in Him (Rom. 5:5).
As I have contemplated the love of God while preaching through Romans 5 the past few weeks, I have been helped by the words of other godly men who have also thought deeply on this topic of God’s love. Use the following meditations on God’s love to stimulate your heart toward gratitude and worship of our loving God.
“To ask that God’s love should be content with us as we are is to ask that God should cease to be God: because He is what He is. His love must, in the nature of things, be impeded and repelled by certain stains in our present character, and because He already loves us He must labour to make us lovable.” [C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain; quoted in If God is Good, Why Do We Hurt?]
“Why does he not obliterate the space in which sin and rebelliousness fester? Why does he not move quickly to terminate evil? Is it that he is unaware of what is happening in life? Does he not know what is happening in the church? Does he not know that there are places in the world today where persecution rages? Is he unaware that there are countries in which atheism has been made the official ‘religion’? Is he unconcerned? No. That, of course is fallacious. Why, then, does he not act? Why does he wait? How many people, in every age, have asked themselves these questions? I have myself, many times. So, what is the answer? ‘You,’ the psalmist declared, ‘are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness’ (Ps. 85:15; Ps. 103:8; cf. Ps. 145:8).” [David Wells, God in the Whirlwind.]
“…he had long contended with a stubborn world, thrown down many a blessing upon them, and when all his other gifts could not prevail, he at last made a gift of himself, to testify his affection, and engage theirs.” [Henry Scougal, The Life of God in the Soul of Man.]
“We usually find within ourselves reasons why we think God should not love us. Such searching is…unbiblical. The Bible is quite clear that God does not look within us for a reason to love us. He loves us because we are in Christ Jesus. When He looks at us, He does not look at us as ‘stand alone’ Christians, resplendent in our own good works, even good works as Christians. Rather, as He looks at us, He sees us united to His beloved Son, clothed in His righteousness. He loves us, not because we are lovely in ourselves, but because we are in Christ.” [Jerry Bridges, Trusting God.]
“God’s love to his saints has had being from all eternity. God often in his Word is setting forth how great his love is to his saints, how dear they are to him. But this love of his to them he had before ever they had any being. There it was in the heart of God of old. In former ages, thousands of years ago, in the ages before the flood, and when God created the world, there was that love; yea, and before the foundation of the world….But his love to the particular persons is from eternity. He did as it were know them by name, and set his love in such particular saints. And therefore God is said to have foreknown particularly, and knew then as his own.” [Day by Day with Jonathan Edwards]
“The love of God is not God’s making much of us, but God’s saving us from self-centered sin so that we can enjoy making much of him forever. And our love to others is not our making much of them, but our helping them to find eternal satisfaction in making much of God. The only ultimate love is a love that aims at satisfying people in the glory of God.” [John Piper, A Godward Life, Book Two.]