What is love? Part 4

D. A. Carson, in his book entitled The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God, identifies 5 different ways in which the Scriptures of the love of God:

  • The peculiar love of the Father for the Son, and of the Son for the Father.

  • God’s providential love over all that he has made.

  • God’s salvific stance toward his fallen world.

  • God’s particular, effective, selecting love toward the elect.

  • God’s love is sometimes said to be directed toward his own people in a provisional or conditional way, based on obedience – This aspect of God’s love has nothing to do with how we enter into a relationship with him, but with how we relate to him once we become his children. Jude 21 exhorts us to “keep [ourselves] in the love of God,” suggesting that it is possible that a believer might not keep himself in the love of God. Jesus says something similar in John 15:9, “As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love.” Clearly, according to Jesus’ teaching it is possible for a disciple to fail to abide in his love, but what aspect of love is this? It cannot be God’s providential love, for that extends to all of the creation, nor his salvific love for the world or his special love for the elect, for one cannot walk away from that love. No, this aspect of God’s love informs the relationship of all those who know him, as the Psalmist declares, “the mercy [i.e. love] of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him, and His righteousness to children’s children, to such as keep His covenant, and to those who remember His commandments to do them” (103:17-18). In this sense, the love of God cannot be separated from his righteous standard of truth, for we must obey him even as Christ obeyed the Father, “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love” (John 15:10).

I have shared all of this to show that the popular understanding of love, which has been embraced by such a large segment of our society is in direct contradiction to the Scriptural teaching on the nature of love as it is revealed in God himself. To return to the original question of this series, “Does love win when men are able to marry men and women are able to marry women?” The answer clearly is no, because love defined biblically always goes hand in hand with the truth. God’s love and his wrath are both directed toward sinners at the same time, so that he simultaneously condemns and loves his rebellious creatures. Love wins when we confess that we have offended our holy and righteous Creator, turn from our sinful rebellion and trust in Christ, who lovingly sacrificed himself to provide mercy and forgiveness for all mankind. Love wins as we learn to walk in fellowship with our heavenly Father, obeying his commands and seeking to do his will, by which he transforms us into the image of his dear Son.

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