When we consider the enormity of our sins, and our hearts begin to sink under the weight of a sense of the guilt that we have incurred, we must remember the eternal purposes of God in the everlasting covenant of redemption. When we begin to have hard thoughts of God, we must fix our eyes on the cross and see the infinitely beloved Son of God hanging on the tree out of the divine love of the triune God for sinners.
One of the most challenging trials for believers during our pilgrimage through this dark and fallen world is to truly believe and rest in the love that God has for us. Sinclair Ferguson once noted that the experience of so many believers is the internalizing of the thought, “He loves me, He loves me not.” Many believers lack the assurance of their salvation precisely because they focus on the enormity of their sin to the exclusion of the enormity of the love of God for sinners. God’s love superabounds to the salvation of sinners. So how should we think about the love of God toward us who believe, while we acknowledge the reality of sin in our lives?
Much can be said about the love of God toward His people. Distinctions and categories must be drawn. God has a general love for His creation, a covenantal love for the visible church, and a eternal redeeming love for the elect. Scripture distinguishes between God’s love of complacency and His love of benevolence. Then, there are marks of God’s love. For instance, the author of the Proverbs and the book of Hebrews tells us that God disciplines those He loves (Heb. 12:3–11). Spiritual discipline is a mark of the love of God for His children–not of His just punishment which He reserves for unbelievers. That being said, here are a few of the foundational, biblical truths about the love that God has for His people:
The Bible places the love of God for His people at the foundation of every blessing that God freely bestows on us in Christ. Scripture tells us that the triune God has loved us with an everlasting love (Jer. 31:3), that His love “has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Rom. 5:5), that He demonstrated his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Rom. 5:8), and that “greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13). The love of God leads Him to adopt believers into His divine family, making us sons and daughters of God (1 John 3:1). The Apostle John (the Apostle of love) summarized the principle of the love of God toward His sinful people, when he wrote, “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10).
The love of God is something upon which we can never meditate too often. It is the bedrock of our Christian continuance in the faith. If we forget the love that God has for us, we will sink under the weight of the guilt of our consciences and our own desire for legal performance. If we lose sight of the love of God, we will live in servile fear of Him, seeking to gain His approval on the basis of our works. So, what are some ways that we can rightly apprehend the security of the love of God for us, sinful though we be?