Today, I have words of hope and encouragement for the weary Christian: do not forget about the beautiful, magnificent and eternal love of God. Allow your mind to be saturated with the memories of the kind, good works that God has continually wrought for His people. Allow your heart to be warmed by the hopeful truth that all human history will culminate in the triumph of the Lamb and that all those for whom He died will reign with Him in an unshakeable, eternal kingdom. In that kingdom, we won’t forget the tears we shed in the past. Instead, the elect will experience such a weight of glory that all our former troubles will feel like a feather in comparison (II Corinthians 4:17). Those who mourn will be comforted, because it is God Himself who will wipe away all the tears from our eyes (Revelation 21:4). Never forget the beautiful love of God, for Yahweh had such a good intention for all His people that He sealed His eternal covenant with them in His own blood.
Meditating on the love of God ought to produce feelings of trust and comfort. But so many look upon God and feel anxious, doubtful thoughts stirring up instead. Why? Because for them, contemplating God produces fear as they doubt His love and question His good will and kindness. They fix their thoughts on His wrath, anger, judgment and severity in dealing with sin. The result is a terribly unhappy person who seldom has peace, rarely feels joy and ends up being robbed of the comfort Yahweh intended for His children.
Truly, God is holy, but He is also equally and fully love (I John 4:8). Particularly for His elect, the Lord is an everlasting, overflowing fountain of love. To neglect this insight results in our souls losing His company. Conversely, for the person who has a biblically grounded insight into God’s love, the result is an unshakeable happiness and an inward sense of peace that cannot be disrupted. This is the impression that our heavenly Father intended for His children to have of Him: as One who is full of eternal, free love toward us.
Accordingly, in the Old Testament, God speaks through His prophet and communicates one of the most beautiful promises in all of Scripture. In Jeremiah 31:3, He says:
I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have drawn you out with kindness.
God begins this verse by saying “I have loved you.” He is the initiator. And, because He has loved us in the past forever, He will continue to do so forever. God loves His elect because He will. There was and is nothing in us for which we should be loved, but through our union with Christ, the love the Father sets upon the Son is poured out onto us. God loved us before we were born and even before the foundation of the world was laid (Ephesians 1:3-4). This means the world was designed and created with primary emphasis on Christ and His people. God only said “Let there be light” so He could demonstrate His faithful love to His children on earth and then love them forever in Paradise, where Christ sits upon David’s throne.
It is impossible to talk about God falling out of love with His children. This is why He tells His people, “I have loved you with an everlasting love.” He can never forget about His spiritual children whom He adopted. Consequently, for the one on whom the Father fixes His love, He loves until the end. As Yahweh says through Isaiah:
Can a woman forget her nursing child and have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you. (49:15)
People change, but God doesn’t. From everlasting to everlasting, He is God (Psalm 90:2). God’s love is therefore forever, but even more than that, His love is unchanging forever. Divine love is like the sun, always the same in its heat and light. God’s love neither grows in eternity nor diminishes over time. God loves His children now as much as He will ever love them. There is nothing that God’s elect could ever do that would make Him either love them more or love them less.
Of course, there will be times in a Christian’s life when it seems as if God’s love wanes. But, although clouds may obscure the light from time to time, the sun remains the sun and shines nonetheless. Even when it appears as if God is hiding His face at times, it is for our benefit. Those things that seem to demonstrate a change in His affections proceed from love just as much as those that seem to be the most genuine demonstrations of His kindness. Because Yahweh always has our greatest long-term spiritual interest in mind, divine love refuses to allow us to take the comfortable road to hell. Even when we fall, does God love us? Yes. Does God love His people in their sinning? He never stops loving His children, even though He hates sin.
The everlasting love of God is also distinguishing. God does not love the world in general in the same way that He loves His own. A father may delight in children in general, but he has a particular interest in his own seed. This distinguishing love is so captivating because Christ did not die just to make salvation a mere possibility for all people: that would be cruel and unloving. Instead, His love guaranteed salvation for His elect whom He loved before they even knew Him. As a result, the distinguishing love of God does not animate pride but a humble reverence that makes us rejoice before Him.
Let us now examine the latter half of our verse. Again, in Jeremiah 31:3, Yahweh says:
I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have drawn you out with kindness. (italics mine)
In other words, because God loved us, He doesn’t wait for us to take the first step, because He knows we never would. Human beings would never turn their affections toward God unless the heart of God was first set upon them. So, because of love, God acts. Yahweh draws us out from the darkness and into His marvelous light. Because of His loyal love and unfailing kindness and devotion, He has pulled us up and taken us away without any exertion on our part. He has taken us up out of hell, out of sin and out of rebellion. Had He not drawn us out, we would have happily walked along the path toward our own destruction. We didn’t know God, didn’t want Him and didn’t love Him. This is why, out of love, He drew us up into heaven, righteousness and peace with our Father. As it says in Romans 5:8:
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
The only reason why a sheep runs to their shepherd is because they first hear his call. The only reason why anyone trusts in Christ is because He first nailed all their sins to a Cross and crucified them so that they would no longer doubt Him, but trust Him.
What we have learned so far is that the love of God is beautiful. How, then, do we apply this idea to our everyday lives? There are three applications.
Application number one: The beautiful love of God begets comfort.
Coming to know about God’s love isn’t a major obstacle. The big problem is that even when we know God’s love and experience it, we can never really grasp it. The love of God exceeds the capacity of our minds and hearts in both quantity and quality. You see, even though human beings can love, it is never perfect love. It is always tainted in some way by sin. Thus, we cannot fully grasp God’s love, because it is literally out of this world.
In Ephesians 3:17-19, the text says:
… [S]o that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled to all the fullness of God. (italics mine)
The text talks about “width and length and height and depth,” which carry in them something inexpressible that far outshines anything in this world. Hence, the apostle Paul was making an attempt to bring the hearers of the Word into a truth that transcends language. Truly, God is beyond “width and length and height and depth” in all His attributes, but the one attribute that warms and comforts the heart the most is His love. God loves all His children more than your heart can understand. Consequently, as John Owen once wrote in Communion with God, “the heart that is taken up with the breadth and depth of the Father’s love cannot help but be overpowered, conquered and endeared unto Him.” His love also brings the believer comfort and hope. Does the world reject you for standing for Christ? Be not discouraged, because God loves you. If you lose favor, friends or things, you cannot lose God: His everlasting covenant will never fail. Are your enemies more powerful than you? Fear not, because He who loves you is also all-powerful and will engage His might for you. Child of God, find comfort in the reality that the same God whose love fills the heavens and the earth loves you and is yours. That is your support, relief and comfort in your tribulations.
Application number two: The beautiful love of God begets more love.
In the same way that hurt people hurt people, loved people love people. A child of God is free to love because he or she is loved. A child of God does not have to hold their love back, because the source of their love is eternal and overflowing. The love of God begets more love: therefore, let us saturate our hearts with the vast ocean of divine mercy.
Even more, meditating on divine love enables us to break through all discouragements that lie in our way. That is, even if all I encounter is hatred in the world, I may always go to my refuge where I am sure of love. Even when a Christian has a sinking fit and feels as if they are descending as deep as hell, the mercy of God lies even deeper (Romans 8:38-39). Yes, sometimes mercy may seem to be asleep, but it will arise in time to assist. As David says:
For Your graciousness toward me is great, and You have saved my soul from the depths of Sheol. (Psalm 86:13)
Now, a person may say, “I trust God and know Him in my mind but seldom experience His love in my heart.” My follow-up question, then, is, “Well, have you taken the time to sit down and meditate on God’s love and drink from the river of His promises?” This is how truth is often delivered to us in the Bible: as a complete whole which we must then unpack before it gets down into our soul. So, for example, when Paul writes about the “width and length and height and depth” (Ephesians 3:17-19) of God’s love, we will never “get it” or experience the sweetness of this truth without repeatedly chewing on this heavenly morsel. So, as it has been said, do not expect to have your thirst quenched unless you take a scoop from the stream and bring the cup to your lips. The degree to which we focus on the love of God is the degree to which we are able to delight in His love. And the degree to which we delight in His love is the degree to which we are free to love others. As Jude says in verse 21:
[K]eep yourselves in the love of God, looking forward to the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life. (italics mine)
Keeping yourself in the love of God simply means focusing on Christ and renewing your mind with what God has promised in His Word. Keeping yourself fixes the heart on the reality that from eternity, God has laid down a design for our happiness (Ephesians 1:4-5). Why did God pass by the whole world and fix His love on me? On you? Why did He extend Himself in love for those who were His enemies in order to make them His friends (Romans 5:7-10)? Meditate on the heavenly fact that God rests in His love, He will not remove it, and He dwells in the soul where His love is fixed forever. Beloved, be joyful that God rejoices with singing as One who is fully satisfied in the person He has fixed His love upon (Zephaniah 3:17)!
God loves all humans who are made in His image. Therefore, whenever you purposely act for the long-term spiritual benefit of another person, you are acting with the knowledge that you are showing love to one whom God loves. How can we act with hatred for those for whom God cares?
Application number three: The beautiful love of God begets action.
The Lord has a peculiar love for His elect, those whom He died to save. Because of this particular love, we can rest, delight, reverence and obey Him. In other words, God’s love enables us to do, just as God’s love is what compelled Him to act for us (John 3:16).
Out of love, we meditate on the Word Yahweh has provided for our benefit. Out of love, we cry out to our heavenly Father who hears us when we say, “Abba! Father!” (Galatians 4:6). Out of love, we do good works and show kindness to our neighbors so that they may know the love that exceeds this world. And, above all else, we act because we begin from a place of comfort and security, knowing that in love, there is no fear (I John 4:18). The child of God rests assured that when God is mine, He is mine forever. Whatever temporary thing God may take away in this world, God never removes Himself. As the saints of old used to say, God’s grace never runs dry, and so a man can do nothing else but pour out that love in action.
Love has legs, perfectly exemplified by what Christ did for us in His life, death and resurrection. Let our hearts be pierced with the memory that Christ was pierced for our transgressions. Let us then keep our focus on Christ, and let His example be our roadmap to action. Do not forget about the beautiful, magnificent and eternal love of God.
Dr. C. H. E. Sadaphal