How wonderful to think that I am tenderly loved by God, the infinite Creator of the universe! That fact, if true, is so awesome that our finite minds are overwhelmed by the thought. But isn’t this too good to be true? How can I be sure that God loves me? And what does that really mean?
When I was a boy in Sunday school, we used to sing in simple faith,
Jesus loves the little children,
All the children of the world,
Red and yellow, black and white,
All are precious in His sight.
Jesus loves the little children of the world.
Is this favorite song of children biblical? Indeed it is!
Mothers brought young children to Jesus and the disciples drove them away. Did the stern disciples think these children were not among the “elect”? No, the disciples had never been taught such a concept by Jesus. Their problem was the same pride and lack of love with which Christ indicted the Pharisees: “ye have not the love of God in you” (Jn:5:42).
Jesus took the children and blessed them, saying, “Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God” (Mk 10:14).
Christ said, “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father” (Jn:14:9). Therefore, we know that the tender love and compassion toward these children displayed by Christ was the revelation of the Father’s own heart of love toward all.
Is it possible that these particular children were a peculiar group in special favor with God? There is no indication of that at all. What Christ did and said for them could only have reflected His love for “all the children of the world,” as the song says.
But when we are no longer innocent children—when we know we have sinned and are accountable for every thought, word, and deed—what then? Does God love us still, though we are hopelessly unworthy of His love? Could that be true? If not, there is no hope of salvation for anyone.
It is utterly impossible that finite, imperfect sinners could ever be worthy of God’s infinite, perfect, and holy love. If God is to love us at all, it cannot be because of who we are, but in spite of who we are and only because of who He is.
“God is love” (1 Jn:4:8,16). Love is the very essence of His being. Therefore, He cannot but love all. And He has proved that fact by giving the Son of His love to die for the sins of the world.
The Scripture declares that the great manifestation of God’s love is the gift of His Son: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son....God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us....In this was manifested the love of God toward us...God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him...hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us…” (Jn:3:16; Rom:5:8; 1 Jn:3:16; 4:9,10, etc).
This truth of God’s gift of a Savior to the world was announced at Christ’s birth as “good tidings of great joy [for] all people” (Lk 2:10). Yet many claim that Christ died only for the sins of a select group called “the elect.” They are thus the only ones to whom the birth of Christ could possibly be the source of “good tidings of great joy.”
This teaching, which is growing in popularity and influence in the church, declares that “so loved the world” really means, “so loved part of the world.” Clearly, if Christ did not die for all, then God couldn’t have loved all, because the manifestation of His love is the death of His Son. There is no biblical basis for saying that God loves or ever loved those for whom Christ didn’t die.
Some who hold this doctrine, however, attempt to say that God really loved everyone but not with the special love He reserved for those for whom Christ sacrificed Himself upon the Cross. But a professed “love” that does not do all it can to rescue the one loved is not truly love. It is like hypocritically saying to the “naked and destitute...depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled” but not giving them what they need (James:2:16).
Worse yet, many who hold this doctrine unashamedly declare that God predestined multitudes to eternal torment before they were even born—multitudes He could have saved had He so desired. They say that God’s love is displayed in His patience and temporal kindness toward all. No matter how much sunshine and rain, however, or other earthly blessings He might have given these non-elect, it would be irrational to say that God loved them in any way whatsoever.
Christ declared, “Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful” (Lk 6:36). There is no question that we are to be merciful to all, even to those who hate and mistreat us. This can only be because God is merciful to all. If not, then in emulating our Father in heaven we need not be merciful to all either. Nor can it be said that it is merciful for God to fail to provide salvation for all who need it. Therefore, we can be certain that God loves all and has provided salvation for the entire world.
Another children’s song says,
O if there is only one song I can sing,
When in His beauty I see the great King,
This shall my song in eternity be,
“O what a wonder that Jesus loves me!”
What a wonder indeed!
Paul exulted, “The Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Gal:2:20)! How could Paul be certain that God’s love was for him? Did He have a special revelation that he was among “the elect”? Or had he simply embraced a love that the Bible declares is for all? It is of little value to exult in God’s love unless one can be certain that this love is indeed for him.
Always a mixed multitude gathered to hear Christ. They were not confined to a select group called the elect. Many never would believe the gospel and are in hell today. Yet to all of them Christ said, “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you…” (Mat:5:44). This command was based upon the glorious truth that such is God’s attitude toward all.
Christ declared that even sinners love and are kind to those who love and are kind to them. Surely God, who is infinite in love, would be no less benevolent to sinners and to those who make themselves His enemies than He commands us to be. We see this love in Christ, who prayed to the Father to forgive those who crucified and mocked Him (Lk 23:34). For that prayer to be answered, the Father had to make Christ’s payment for sin available to all who would accept it.
Numerous scriptures declare that God loves all and desires the salvation of all. Such scriptures are adroitly sidestepped by those who deny that Christ died for all. Even such crystal clear scriptures as the following are explained away: “Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth...who gave himself a ransom for all” (1 Tim:2:4,6).
Regarding that verse, Spurgeon complained, “I was reading just now the exposition of [one] who explains the text so as to explain it away [as] if it read, ‘Who will not have all men to be saved....’[In fact], the passage should run thus—‘whose wish it is that all men should be saved....’ As it is my wish...so it is God’s wish that all men should be saved; for, assuredly, he is not less benevolent than we are” (Charles H. Spurgeon, “Salvation by Knowing the Truth,” http://www.apibs.org/chs/1516.htm, 16 January 1880).
Scripture makes it abundantly clear that the only reason all are not saved is not because there are some whom God did not desire to save, but because they refused the salvation He provided in Christ. As the Law was for all, so salvation is provided for all those who break the Law and who thereby come under God’s judgment.
Surely the Ten Commandments are not for a select group but for all mankind. Indeed, Paul declares that “the Gentiles which have not the law...shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness…” (Rom:2:14,15).
The very first commandment is, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind” (Mat:22:37-38). It is unreasonable as well as unbiblical that God should command those to love Him with all their heart for whom Christ did not die and to whom, therefore, God did not manifest His love. How can they (whom God does not love) be commanded to love Him?
The Bible declares, “We love him, because he first loved us” (1 Jn:4:19). The only way anyone can love God is in response to His love. Thus, if there are those for whom Christ did not die (and to whom, therefore, God’s love was not manifested), they are under no obligation to love God. Yet all are so commanded. Therefore, Christ must have died for all.
Scripture assures us repeatedly that Christ “is the Saviour of all...specially of those that believe” (1 Tim:4:10); that Christ “by the grace of God should taste death for every man” (Heb:2:9). The reference is not merely to physical death but to “the second death…[eternity in] the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone” (Rev:2:11; 20:6, 14; 21:8). Only God could take that punishment for the world. Only He could “[bear] our sins in his own body on the tree [Cross]” (1 Pt 2:24) and thereby “take away the sin of the world” (Jn:1:29).
This is why the Savior had to be “The mighty God, The everlasting Father” (Isa:9:6). Jesus said, “I and my Father are one” (Jn:10:30). To pay the penalty that His own infinite justice demanded for every sin from Adam to the end of the world, He had to endure the second death of eternal punishment in separation from God for all mankind who would ever exist. This He did on the Cross in those hours of darkness when He was heard to cry, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Ps:22:1; Mat:27:46)!
The Old Testament sacrifices in Israel were a picture of the sacrifice that “the Lamb of God” (Jn:1:29, 36) would make of Himself to satisfy God’s judgment upon sin. He alone could “through the eternal Spirit [offer] himself without spot to God” (Heb:9:14, 25), He “the just for the unjust [us], that he might bring us to God” (1 Pt 3:18).
God’s relationship to Israel presents a picture of the relationship God desired for all mankind. Espoused to God, Israel committed adultery with many lovers—yet He begged her to come back and He would forgive and restore her (Jer:3:1-3; 4; etc.). That He loved her and desired to bless her but could not because of her rebellion is repeatedly made clear: “Oh that my people had hearkened unto me, and Israel had walked in my ways” (Ps:81:8-16); “I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me” (Isa:1:2)!
God calls Israel His vineyard and indicts her for producing wild grapes in spite of the tender care He has showered upon her. Hear the cry of His heart: “What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it? Wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes?” (Is 5:4). Such a question would be a mockery if Israel had not acted in willful disobedience but was actually doing what God had decreed!
Christ uses the same illustration: “Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none: cut it down....And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it: And if it bear fruit, well: and if not…cut it down” (Lk 13:7-9). The rabbis knew that He was indicting them. At the same time, He was reaffirming God’s willingness to forgive if they would repent and turn to Him.
What a statement by Christ: “For God so loved the world…” (Jn:3:16)! That phrase, “so loved,” indicates a love so fervent that it is beyond expression. Christ said, “The Father loveth the Son” (Jn:3:35; 5:20), and He refers fondly to “the love wherewith thou hast loved me” (Jn:17:26). This must be an infinite love.
The love of God to all mankind also had to be infinite to cause Him to give His only begotten Son to die for us “that we might live through him” (1 Jn:4:9). Paul exults in “…the great love wherewith he [God] loved us” (Eph:2:4). As great as His love for His Son is, so great must be God’s love for all mankind to sacrifice His Son for our salvation.
John exclaims, “Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us that we should be called the sons of God" (1 Jn:3:1). How important that we revel in and understand and experience the love of God and, in the power and assurance of that love, declare it to the world.
Isaiah declares, “It pleased the LORD to bruise him” (Isa:53:10). The Father was pleased to bruise Christ with the judgment we deserved for our sins, because He so loved us. May we stand firmly upon God’s Word and declare this infinite love without compromise to all mankind through the gospel! TBC