WHAT GOD LOVES
(from a transcript of a sermon preached on 4/1/01 at Sovereign Redeemer Assembly)
For the past five sermons, I've preached on What God Hates. What I'd like to do today is to just dwell on what God loves and read Scripture in which God tells us what and who He loves. This sermon is going to be a little different than the other sermons I've preached. This is going to be more like a Scripture reading session. The reason I chose to do it this way is because I wanted this to be a time of meditation on the love of God, with Scripture upon Scripture showing us this love. We, the people of God, need to take time to meditate on God's love. I don't plan to comment very much at all. Now there's going to be a ton of Scripture, so if you're going to get distracted by having to turn the pages a lot, then just sit back and listen and meditate. Don't be thinking of the other cares of the world or what we're going to have for lunch or anything like that. Let this be a time of meditation and rejoicing in God's precious love. And let us love what God loves.
The first set of Scriptures we're going to be turning to has to do with God's love of righteousness and judgment. Before anyone can understand God's love, one must understand God's holiness. God is totally ethically perfect. He loves this perfection. He loves righteousness and the doing of righteousness. And from His perfect holiness comes His perfect judgment. He perfectly judges, and He is perfectly just in all His judgments. Let's hear what God says:
Psalm 11: (5) Jehovah tries the righteous, but His soul hates the wicked and the one loving violence. (6) He shall rain snares on the wicked; fire and brimstone and a scorching wind shall be the portion of their cup. (7) For Jehovah is righteous; He loves righteous deeds; the upright look upon His face.
Psalm 33: (4) For the Word of Jehovah [is] right, and all His works [are] in truth. (5) He loves righteousness and judgment; the mercy of Jehovah fills the earth.
Psalm 37: (27) Turn away from evil and do good and live forever. (28) For Jehovah loves judgment and does not forsake His saints; they are preserved forever; but the wicked's seed shall be cut off.
Psalm 45: (6) Your throne, O God, [is] forever and ever; the scepter of Your kingdom [is] a scepter of uprightness. (7) You love righteousness and hate wickedness; on account of this God, Your God, has anointed You with the oil of gladness more than Your fellows.
Hebrews 1: (1) In many ways and in various ways of old, God spoke to the fathers in the prophets; (2) in these last days [He] spoke to us in [the] Son, whom He appointed heir of all; through whom He indeed made the ages; (3) who being the shining splendor of [His] glory, and the express image of His essence, and upholding all things by the Word of His power, having made purification of our sins through Himself, [He] sat down on [the] right of the Majesty on high, (4) having become so much better than the angels, He has inherited a name more excellent than they. (5) For to which of the angels did He ever say, "You are My Son; today I have begotten You"? And again, "I will be a Father to Him, and He shall be a Son to Me." (6) And again, when He brought the First-born into the world, He said, "And let all the angels of God worship Him." (7) And as to the angels, He said, "Who makes His angels spirits, and His ministers a flame of fire;" (8) but as to the Son, "Your throne, [O] God, [is] forever and ever, A scepter of uprightness [is] the scepter of Your kingdom; (9) You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness; because of this God, Your God, has anointed You [with] the oil of gladness beside Your fellows."
See how God's love of righteousness and judgment is tied to the gospel in Isaiah 61:
Isaiah 61: (1) The Spirit of the Lord Jehovah [is] on Me, because Jehovah has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the meek. He has sent Me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to captives, and complete opening to the bound ones; (2) to proclaim the acceptable year of Jehovah, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; (3) to appoint to those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of the spirit of infirmity, so that one calls them trees of righteousness, the planting of Jehovah, in order to beautify Himself. (4) And they shall build old ruins; they shall raise up former desolations; and they shall restore the waste cities, ruins of generations and generations. (5) And foreigners shall stand and feed your flocks, and the sons of strangers [shall be] your plowmen and your vinedressers. (6) But you shall be called, Priests of Jehovah; it will be said of you, Ministers of our God. You shall eat the wealth of the nations, and you shall revel in their glory. (7) Instead of your shame and disgrace, double. They rejoice in their portion; for they shall possess a second time in their land; everlasting joy shall be theirs. (8) For I, Jehovah, love judgment, hating plunder in burnt offering. And I will give their work in truth; and I will cut an everlasting covenant for them. (9) And their seed shall be known among the nations, and their offspring among the peoples; all who see them shall acknowledge them, that they [are] the seed [that] Jehovah has blessed. (10) Rejoicing I will rejoice in Jehovah. My soul shall be joyful in my God. For He clothed [me] with garments of salvation; He put on me the robe of righteousness, even as a bridegroom dons as a priest [his] head-dress, and as a bride wears her ornaments. (11) For as the earth comes out with her buds, and as a garden causes that which is sown to grow, so the Lord Jehovah will make righteousness and praise to grow before all the nations.
When God saves someone, He clothes that person in the righteousness of Christ. He imputes the righteousness of Christ to that person. That person is counted as righteous, and he enters into fellowship with God. Because God is holy, righteous, and just, He loves Himself. This is especially manifested in His love for God the Son.
John 3: (35) The Father loves the Son and has given all things into His hand.
John 5: (20) For the Father loves the Son and shows to Him all things which He does. And He will show Him greater works than these in order that you may marvel.
John 10: (17) For this reason My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life, that I may take it again.
And back to the Old Testament: Isaiah 48:13-16:
Isaiah 48: (13) My hand surely founded earth, and My right hand has stretched out the heavens; I called to them, they stood up together. (14) All of you gather and hear: Who among them has declared these [things]? Jehovah has loved him. He will do His pleasure on Babylon; yea, His arm [shall be] on the Chaldeans. (15) I, I have spoken; yea, I have called him, I brought him, and he causes his way to prosper. (16) Come near to Me; hear this: I have not spoken in secret from the beginning. From its being, I was there; and now the Lord Jehovah, and His Spirit, has sent Me.
And look how God's love for His Son is inextricably linked to God's love for His people in John 17:20-26:
John 17: (20) And I do not pray concerning these only, but also concerning those who will believe in Me through their word; (21) that all may be one, as You [are] in Me, Father, and I in You, that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. (22) And I have given them the glory which You have given Me, that they may be one, as We are One: (23) I in them, and You in Me, that they may be perfected in one; and that the world may know that You sent Me and loved them, even as You loved Me. (24) Father, I desire that [those] whom You have given Me, that where I am, they may be with Me also, that they may behold My glory which You gave Me, because You loved Me before [the] foundation of [the] world. (25) Righteous Father, indeed the world did not know You, but I knew You; and these have known that You sent Me. (26) And I made known to them Your name, and will make [it] known, that the love [with] which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.
Now John 15:9:
John 15: (9) As the Father loved Me, I also loved you; continue in My love.
These are awesome passages. God the Father is in God the Son, and God the Son is in God the Father, and we, the people of God, are in God the Father and God the Son. The glory that God gave to Christ is the glory that Christ gives to His people. God the Father loves God the Son and all who are in the Son. We have fellowship in the Godhead through the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Christ. We are clothed with that righteous garment so as to be accepted by Almighty God. And this is the ONLY ground of acceptance. There is no ground of acceptance with God other than by the work of Christ alone. There is no love of God given to any human being unless that person is accepted before God. God does not love at the expense of His righteousness and judgment. The next passages will go into the people God loves. The first set talks about God's love for Israel. Some say that when God says He loves Israel, that means that He loved very person without exception in the nation Israel. But we know from God's word that this cannot be true. We see time and time again in the Old Testament where He hates certain people within the nation Israel. So what does the word "Israel" mean in this context? Well, Romans 9:6-8 answers this question:
Romans 9: (6) Not, however, that God's Word has failed. For not all those of Israel [are] Israel, (7) nor because they are Abraham's seed [are] all children, but "In Isaac a Seed shall be called to you." (8) That is: Not the children of flesh [are] children of God, but the children of the promise [are] counted for a seed.
Only the children of the promise are the Israel of God. And the children of the promise are the ones who were, are, and will be saved ACCORDING to the promise, which is God's promise to save His people conditioned on the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Christ alone.
Let us rejoice as we meditate upon these Scriptures:
Deuteronomy 7: (7) Jehovah did not set His love on you or choose you because you were more in number than any people, for you [were] the fewest of all peoples. (8) But because Jehovah loved you, and because He kept the oath which He swore to your fathers, Jehovah has caused you to go out with a strong hand, and redeemed you from the house of slaves, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. (9) Because of this, know that Jehovah your God, He [is] God, the faithful God, keeping the covenant and mercy to those who love Him, and to those who keep His commands, to a thousand generations;
Deuteronomy 23: (5) But Jehovah your God would not listen to Balaam, and Jehovah your God turned the curse into a blessing to you, because Jehovah your God loved you.
Deuteronomy 33: (1) And this [is] the blessing [with] which Moses the man of God blessed the sons of Israel before his death. (2) And he said: Jehovah came from Sinai, and rose up from Seir for them; He shone forth from Mount Paran, and He came from the myriads of holy ones. At his right hand a law of fire [went forth] to them. (3) Yes, He loves the peoples; all His holy ones [are] in Your hand; and they sit down at Your feet; He lifts up [each] at Your Words.
1 Kings 10:9:
1 Kings 10: (9) Blessed be Jehovah your God who delighted in you, putting your person on the throne of Israel, because Jehovah loved Israel forever, therefore He appointed you king, to do judgment and righteousness.
2 Chronicles 2:11:
2 Chronicles 2: (11) And Hiram the king of Tyre answered in writing, and sent to Solomon, Because Jehovah loves His people, He has given you as king over them.
2 Chronicles 9:8:
2 Chronicles 9: (8) May Jehovah your God [be] blessed, who has delighted in you, to put you on His throne to [be] king for Jehovah your God. In the love of your God toward Israel, to make it stand forever, He has put you over them as king, to do judgment and righteousness.
Isaiah 63: (7) I will mention the mercies of Jehovah, the praises of Jehovah, according to all that Jehovah has benefited us, and the great good to the house of Israel, [by] which He benefited them according to His mercies, and according to the multitude of His loving-kindness. (8) For He said, Surely they [are] My people, sons that do not lie, and He is their Savior. (9) In all their affliction, He [was] not a foe; and the Angel of his Face saved them. In His love and in His pity He redeemed them. And He bore them up, and lifted them up all the days of old.
Jeremiah 31: (1) At that time, says Jehovah, I will be the God of all the families of Israel, and they shall be My people. (2) So says Jehovah, Israel, the people, the survivors of the sword, have found grace in the wilderness, I will go to give rest to him. (3) Jehovah has appeared to me from far away, [saying], Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love! On account of this, with loving kindness I have drawn you.
Hosea 14: (1) O Israel, return to Jehovah your God, for you have fallen by your sin. (2) Take words with you and return to Jehovah. Say to Him, Lift up all iniquity and receive [us] well, that we may repay [with] the calves of our lips. (3) Assyria shall not save us; we will not ride on horses. We shall not say any more to the work of our hands, Our gods! For in You the fatherless finds mercy. (4) I will heal their backslidings; I will love them freely; for My anger has turned away from him.
Sometimes God uses the name Jacob to talk about the people of God; Jacob the person was loved by God, and Jacob, as Israel, the entirety of the election of grace, is loved by God.
Psalm 47: (4) He chooses our inheritance for us, the majesty of Jacob whom He loved. Selah.
Isaiah 43: (1) But now so says Jehovah who formed you, O Jacob; and He who made you, O Israel: Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I called [you] by your name; you [are] Mine. (2) When you pass through the waters, I [will be] with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk in the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame kindle on you. (3) For I am Jehovah your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. I gave Egypt [for] your atonement; Ethiopia and Seba instead of you. (4) Since you were precious in My eyes, you are honored, and I love you; and I give men instead of you; and peoples instead of your soul.
Isaiah 48: (12) Listen to Me, O Jacob, and Israel My called: I [am] He; I am the First; surely I [am] the Last. (13) My hand surely founded earth, and My right hand has stretched out the heavens; I called to them, they stood up together. (14) All of you gather and hear: Who among them has declared these [things]? Jehovah has loved him. He will do His pleasure on Babylon; yea, His arm [shall be] on the Chaldeans. (15) I, I have spoken; yea, I have called him, I brought him, and he causes his way to prosper.
Malachi 1: (1) The burden of the Word of Jehovah to Israel by the hand of Malachi: (2) I have loved you, says Jehovah. But you say, In what way have You loved us? [Was] not Esau the brother to Jacob? Yet Jehovah declares, I loved Jacob, (3) and I have hated Esau and have made his mountains a desolation, and his inheritance [to be] for the jackals of the wilderness.
The fact that Jacob as a person was loved by God of God's pure, free mercy is clearly shown in Romans 9:11-16:
Romans 9: (11) for [the children] not yet being born, nor having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of the [One] calling, (12) it was said to her, "The greater shall serve the lesser;" (13) even as it has been written, "I loved Jacob, and I hated Esau." (14) What then shall we say? [Is there] not unrighteousness with God? Let it not be! (15) For He said to Moses, "I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will pity whomever I will pity." (16) So, then, [it is] not of the [one] willing, nor of the [one] running, but of the [One] showing mercy, of God.
Deuteronomy 4:37 speaks of God's love to the patriarchs and their seed:
Deuteronomy 4: (37) And because He loved your fathers, and chose their seed after them, and brought you out with His presence, with His great power, out of Egypt,
In the New Testament epistles, the word "us" is used many times as the object of God's love. And in every case, "us" is talking about God's people; as evidenced by the fact that the books in which this is used are addressed to the saints. Let's turn to these passages. Notice what this love is ALWAYS connected to.
Romans 5: (5) And the hope does not put [us] to shame, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through [the] Holy Spirit given to us; (6) for we yet being without strength, in due time Christ died for ungodly ones. (7) For with difficulty one will die for a just one, (for perhaps one even dares to die for the sake of the good one), (8) but God commends His love to us in [this], that we being yet sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 8: (33) Who will bring any charge against God's elect? God [is] the [One] justifying! (34) Who [is he] condemning? [It is] Christ who has died, but rather also [is] raised, who also is at [the] right [hand] of God, who also makes intercession on our behalf. (35) Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? [Shall] tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? (36) Even as it has been written, "For Your sake we are killed all the day; we are counted as sheep of slaughter." (37) But in all these things we more than conquer through Him loving us. (38) For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, (39) nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus, our Lord.
Ephesians 2: (4) But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love [with] which He loved us, (5) even we being dead in deviations, [He] made us alive together with Christ (by grace you are being saved),
Ephesians 5:1-2, 25-26:
Ephesians 5: (1) Then become imitators of God, as beloved children, (2) and walk in love, even as Christ also loved us and gave Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for an odor of a sweet smell. ... (25) Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the assembly and gave Himself up on its behalf, (26) that He might sanctify it, cleansing [it] by the washing of the water in [the] Word,
2 Thessalonians 2:16-17:
2 Thessalonians 2: (16) But may our Lord Himself, Jesus Christ, and our God and Father, the One having loved us and having given everlasting comfort and good hope by grace, (17) encourage your hearts, and may He establish you in every good word and work.
1 John 3:1, 16:
1 John 3: (1) See what manner of love the Father has given us, that we may be called children of God. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. ... (16) By this we have known the love [of God], because that [One] laid down His life for us; and on behalf of the brothers we ought to lay down our lives.
1 John 4:10-11, 19:
1 John 4: (10) In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son [to be] a propitiation relating to our sins. (11) Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. ... (19) We love Him because He first loved us.
Revelation 1: (5) even from Jesus Christ the Faithful Witness, the First-born out of the dead, and the Ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him loving us and washing us from our sins by His blood, (6) and made us kings and priests to God, even His Father. To Him [is] the glory and the might forever and ever. Amen.
Now over to Galatians 2:20 for what Paul says about God's love for him personally:
Galatians 2: (20) I have been crucified with Christ, and I live; [yet] no longer I, but Christ lives in me. And the [life] I now live in the flesh, I live by faith toward the Son of God, the [One] loving me and giving Himself over on my behalf.
Do you see what this love is always connected to? It is always connected to the work of Christ. There is no love apart from the work of Christ. So when we see Scriptures where the word "world" or "man" are used as objects of God's love, we know that this is not talking about everyone without exception. In fact, in these very passages - the so-called "controversial passages" - love is connected to the work of Christ. Let's turn to John 3:16:
John 3: (16) For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that everyone believing into Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
God loves the world. He describes the world as those to whom He gave His Son and those who believe in him and those who will not perish but have everlasting life. Now over to Titus 3:4-7:
Titus 3: (4) But when the kindness and love of God our Savior toward man appeared, (5) not by works in righteousness which we had done, but according to His mercy, He saved us through [the] washing of regeneration and renewal of [the] Holy Spirit, (6) whom He poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ, our Savior; (7) that being justified by His grace, we should become heirs according to [the] hope of eternal life.
How did God manifest His love toward man? By saving man, by justifying man, by making man inherit eternal life. So we always read God's love in the light of Christ's work. The same goes for Mark 10:21:
Mark 10: (21) And looking at him, Jesus loved him, and said to him, One [thing] is lacking to you. Go, sell what things you have, and give to the poor. And you will have treasure in Heaven. And come, follow Me, taking up the cross.
God said that Jesus loved this man. We've already seen that those whom God loves are the same ones as those for whom Christ died. Christ died for that rich young man. John 11:1 says that "Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus." And in several passages in John, John refers to himself as "the disciple whom Jesus loved." Thus, we know without any doubt that Jesus Christ died for Martha, Mary, Lazarus, and John.
There are more ways that those whom God loves are described. They are described as His own: John 13:1:
John 13: (1) And before the Feast of the Passover, Jesus knowing that His hour had come that He should move from this world to the Father, loving [His] own in the world, He loved them to the end.
They are described as those who love Christ and keep His Word: John 14:21-23:
John 14: (21) He that has My commandments and keeps them, it is that one who loves Me; and the [one] that loves Me shall be loved by My Father, and I shall love him and will reveal Myself to him. (22) Judas said to Him, not the Iscariot, Lord, what has happened that You are about to reveal Yourself to us and not at all to the world? (23) Jesus answered and said to him, If anyone loves Me, he will keep My Word, and My Father shall love him. And We will come to him and will make a dwelling place with him.
John 16: (27) for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me, and have believed that I came out from God.
They are described as the righteous and those who pursue righteousness: Proverbs 15:9:
Proverbs 15: (9) The way of the wicked [is] hateful to Jehovah, but He loves him who pursues righteousness.
Psalm 146: (8) Jehovah opens [the eyes of] the blind; Jehovah raises those bowed down; Jehovah loves the righteous;
They are described as cheerful givers: 2 Corinthians 9:7:
2 Corinthians 9: (7) Each one as he purposes in his heart, not out of grief or out of necessity, for God loves a cheerful giver.
And finally, God says that those whom He loves, He corrects and rebukes: Proverbs 3:11-12:
Proverbs 3: (11) My son, do not reject the chastening of Jehovah, and do not loathe His correction; (12) for whom Jehovah loves He corrects, even as a father [corrects] the son [with whom] he is pleased.
Hebrews 12: (6) For whom the Lord loves, He disciplines, and whips every son whom He receives." (7) If you endure discipline, God is dealing with you as with sons; for who is [the] son whom a father does not discipline? (8) But if you are without discipline, of which all have become sharers, then you are bastards, and not sons. (9) Furthermore, indeed we have had fathers of our flesh [as] correctors, and we respected [them]. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits, and we shall live? (10) For they truly disciplined [us] for a few days according to the thing seeming good to them; but He for [our] profit, [in order for us] to partake of His holiness. (11) And all discipline for the present indeed does not seem to be joyous, but grievous; but afterward it gives back peaceable fruit of righteousness to the ones having been exercised by it.
Revelation 3:19 I, as many as I love, I rebuke and I chasten. Be zealous, then, and repent.
The love of God is precious, isn't it? Were it not for God's love, we would be headed for eternal destruction, even as the rest. But thank God that He foreknew us in Christ, that He sent Christ to live and die and rise again on our behalf, that He communes with us, and that He will take us to glory. God loves all who are in Christ. May we rest in this truth. Amen.