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John Calvin puts forward a very simple reason why love is the greatest gift: “Because faith and hope are our own: love is diffused among others.” In other words, faith and hope benefit the possessor, but love always benefits another. In John 13:34–35 Jesus says, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Love always requires an “other” as an object; love cannot remain within itself, and that is part of what makes love the greatest gift.
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Why Does God Love Us?

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R.C. Sproul Jr.


It might be a sound argument as to why He ought not to love us that we find this question surprising. It is because of our sin, our pride, our egos that we think ourselves worthy of His love, as if we are owed such. The truth is we are by nature rebels against His reign, would-be dei-cides, dead in our trespasses and sins.


To rightly answer the question we first must ask whom we mean by “us.” It is true enough that us can include all men everywhere. God does have a universal love for all mankind. Why? I would suggest it is because of the remains of His image in us. In ourselves, apart from His grace in bestowing on us His image, we are but dust and rebellion. But even the reprobate are not in themselves; they bear the image of God. On the other hand we need to remember that this love God has for all men, what we call the love of benevolence, does not preclude His righteous hatred of these same men. That God loves us all does not mean that He cannot hate some of us. Esau is but one example.


If, however, we look at God’s love for the elect, we still must make another distinction. The elect are divided at least this way—between those who have not yet come to faith and those who have. I acknowledge that God transcends time and that makes the following point a bit sticky. But of those who are elect, but who have not yet been blessed with the gift of regeneration, we could say that God has a love for them grounded in compassion for them, a benevolent pity. Without regeneration we are still in our sins, still in a sense under His judgment. But the very act of regeneration is an act of love, a rescuing of us in our rebellion. We are not worthy of His love, but He casts His love upon us out of His infinite compassion for us.


When we have been regenerated, however, we trust in the finished work of Christ. Our sins are covered by His blood, and His righteousness becomes ours. We are now no longer in ourselves, but are in Him. And in Him, we are loved as His own. We are now so much more than merely forgiven, more than merely the object of His sympathy. We are now the objects of His delight. He rejoices over us, even as a father delights over and rejoices in his own child. We are now the olive plants about His table (Psalm 128). We are the apple of His eye.


Just as those outside the kingdom foolishly assume a kind of love of God over them that they don’t enjoy, too often those inside the kingdom foolishly miss the depth of the love of God over them that we do enjoy. He does not merely tolerate us. He is not merely loving toward us. Rather He has made us His children, and in His joy over us, is about the business of remaking us into the image of His Son (1 John 3). Rejoice, give thanks, rest. He loves you.

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