Unchanging Love, Unchanging God

NASA photo of the Omega Nebula

Why does God love us? How does He love us? These seem like appropriate questions to be asking at a time of year when we are celebrating God’s love as evidenced in Christ’s Incarnation. A thousand hymns proclaim to us the love of God, and yet there is some disagreement as to exactly how and why we receive that love. Does God love everyone equally? Does He love you now as much as He ever will? Is there anything you can do to gain more of His love?

Perhaps you have heard a statement like this at some point in your life: “There is nothing you can do to make God love you more. He loves you unconditionally.” I have certainly heard such things on numerous occasions. They are typically spoken as words of comfort to doubting hearts, or words of correction to those who pursue works righteousness. However, there are some who proclaim them unbiblical.

This is a topic of great practical importance for the average believer. It is no crime to want to understand if, how, and why God loves you. If we go to great lengths to pursue the love of human beings, then we surely ought to be putting in an even greater effort to earn the love of God Almighty. But is there any amount of effort that can earn God’s love?

Some debate whether God’s love is conditional or unconditional, or if in fact it is partially one and partially the other. These terms can have different meanings for various people, but the real issues at hand are whether God loves all human beings, if He loves them all in the same way, on what basis He loves, and if there is anything we can possibly do to increase His love.

In this essay, I will focus on God’s love for those who are in Christ. Scripture makes clear that there is a special love that God has for the elect: those whom He chose before the foundation of the world to be reconciled to Himself through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.

Ephesians 1:3-6

This love of God—by which He draws us to Himself (John 6:44), makes us alive by the power of the Spirit (Ephesians 2:1-7), leads us from justification into sanctification (Romans 8:28-30), and empowers us to persevere to the end (Romans 8:37-39)—was not given to us on the basis of anything good in ourselves. God’s unconditional, electing love is demonstrated in that He acted to reconcile us to Himself before we showed any signs of repentance.

For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.

Romans 5:6-11

God does not love us because we first loved Him. His love for us existed before Creation, even as it existed both before and after the Fall. It is the product of His eternal character, and on the basis of this love we are to love one another.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

1 John 4:7-11

God does not simply feel love. He is love. This is difficult for us to understand, because we are not like God. Our love can come and go. It is only one part of who we are, and it is imperfect. Our emotions, thoughts, and actions are often contradictory, but in God there is no contradiction. That is why, as the Apostle John tells us in the passage above, His love provides the definition of the term and not ours. Any pure love that exists among human beings is due to the working of the Spirit in our lives.

It is very important to understand that God’s electing love belongs to His eternal nature, because this is what gives us the confidence that it will continue forever. It also helps us to understand that we did not earn that love. We did not receive it because of anything worthy in ourselves, but because of His gracious choice.

One of my favorite quotes about God’s love comes from Martin Luther in his 28th thesis for the 1518 Heidelberg Disputation. He wrote, “The love of God does not find, but creates, that which is pleasing to it. The love of man comes into being through that which is pleasing to it.” In the proof for this thesis, he added, “Rather than seeking its own good, the love of God flows forth and bestows good. Therefore sinners are attractive because they are loved; they are not loved because they are attractive… This is the love of the cross, born of the cross, which turns in the direction where it does not find good which it may enjoy, but where it may confer good upon the bad and needy person.”

It is a fallacy to assume that God gives His love to us because of anything pleasing in our thoughts, actions, or nature. Rather, His love is given to us freely and graciously, that we might be conformed to the image of His Son. It is God’s love that allows us to perform good works; our good works cannot make Him love us more. The love of God is essential to His eternal nature, which does not change.

Augustine of Hippo also wrote extensively about God’s love, particularly as it related to His election of sinners to salvation. Reflecting upon the Gospel of John, he wrote,

The love, therefore, wherewith God loves, is incomprehensible and immutable. For it was not from the time that we were reconciled unto Him by the blood of His Son that He began to love us; but He did so before the foundation of the world, that we also might be His sons along with His Only-begotten, before as yet we had any existence of our own. Let not the fact, then, of our having been reconciled unto God through the death of His Son be so listened to or so understood, as if the Son reconciled us to Him in this respect, that He now began to love those whom He formerly hated, in the same way as enemy is reconciled to enemy, so that thereafter they become friends, and mutual love takes the place of their mutual hatred; but we were reconciled unto Him who already loved us, but with whom we were at enmity because of our sin.

Augustine, Tractates on the Gospel of John, Tractate 10

Notice how Augustine not only mentions the eternal nature of God’s love for us, but also states that it is “incomprehensible and immutable”. The unchanging nature of God’s love must be understood in conjunction with two other facts: 1) His love for us is unconditional, and 2) He has no need of love from human beings. Consider another passage in Augustine’s writings.

For God loves us, and Holy Scripture frequently sets before us the love He has towards us. In what way then does He love us? As objects of use or as objects of enjoyment? If He enjoys us, He must be in need of good from us, and no sane man will say that; for all the good we enjoy is either Himself, or what comes from Himself. And no one can be ignorant or in doubt as to the fact that the light stands in no need of the glitter of the things it has itself lit up. The Psalmist says most plainly, ‘I said to the Lord, Thou art my God, for Thou needest not my goodness.’ He does not enjoy us then, but makes use of us. For if He neither enjoys nor uses us, I am at a loss to discover in what way He can love us.

Augustine, On Christian Doctrine, Book 1, Chapter 31

The quote within a quote is from Psalms 16:2, which reads a bit differently in the NASB: “I said to the Lord, ‘You are my Lord; I have no good besides You.’” This translation still supports Augustine’s point. When it comes to all that is good, we receive it from the Lord. There is nothing of ourselves that needs to be added to Him, as if He did not have all perfection and fullness within Himself from eternity past. We may say, “Our good works are pleasing to Him, and thus in this relationship we add something to Him through the exchange of love and giving.” However, we must remember that we ourselves are like mirrors, which do not produce light, but reflect it back. If there is anything good in us, it came from God. Therefore, when we reflect it back, we are not adding to Him, for He is the source.

Again, all of these related points work together seamlessly. It is because God’s love for us comes from His very nature and is self-giving that it is both unconditional and unchanging. This is how we can know that this love will continue to the end. When God elected us before the foundation of the world, according to that special love which He has for His children, He set in motion a chain of events that could not fail. He did not choose us based on any condition we met. Where did our faith come from? From God. By whom do we work the works of faith? By God and God alone. By whose power do we remain faithful? By God’s alone.

Here some people wish to throw up the red flag and say, “Wait a minute. If that is the case, then why does the Bible place so many commands upon us related to sanctification? Why does it say God loves those who love Him? Why does it say we will not see God unless we are holy?” Certainly, God commands that His children pursue holiness. We are not to go through the Christian life as passive receivers. Although we have been saved by grace, the Apostle Paul warns us not to use that grace as an excuse for sinful behavior.

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin.

Romans 6:1-7

Paul’s concern is not without merit. There are certainly professing Christians who ignore the commands of God and use the unconditional nature of our justification as an excuse to simply sleepwalk through the Christian life. Thus, there has always been a large segment of Christians who are hesitant to make free grace seem overly free, or to reduce it to what Dietrich Bonhoeffer famously called “cheap grace”.

That is what we mean by cheap grace, the grace which amounts to the justification of sin without the justification of the repentant sinner who departs from sin and from whom sin departs. Cheap grace is not the kind of forgiveness of sin which frees us from the toils of sin. Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship[1]

The fear of antinomianism (the belief that Christians are not bound by God’s moral laws thanks to grace) is a real one. Too many people who call themselves Christians seem to be entirely fleshly, and this is likely because they are not truly regenerate believers. They show no fruits of faith, and as James tells us, “Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.” (James 2:17) James was not denying the essential role of faith as the instrument of our justification before God, but he was pointing out that a so-called faith that has no effect on a person’s life is not really faith. Such a person is merely fooling him or herself.

Therefore, we are right to press back against the cheap grace of antinomianism. However, there are some who take things a bit farther and emphasize that while our initial justification by God is unconditional, there are other aspects of our relationship with God that are conditional—that is, they are dependent on our obedience to God’s commands. In so doing, they will sometimes speak of a conditional love of God that is added to the unconditional love we already possess. The language can get quite tricky, as “conditional” and “unconditional” take on slightly different connotations depending on the context. Nevertheless, there are some who come close to suggesting, if not outright declaring, that we must strive to earn more of God’s love through righteous living.

One verse that is brought forward to support this notion comes from Jesus’ discourse at the Last Supper. Speaking to His disciples about His oneness with God the Father, Jesus said, “He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him.” (John 14:21) The argument offered by some is that what Jesus is describing here is not the unconditional, electing love we received from eternity past, but rather a conditional love that is received by the Christian when he or she obeys God’s commands. What are we to make of this argument? A very good analysis of this passage was provided by John Calvin in his commentary on the Gospel of John, and I think it could be helpful.

And he that loveth me will be loved by my Father. Christ speaks as if men loved God before he loved them; which is absurd, for,

“when we were enemies, he reconciled us to him,”

(Romans 5:10;)

and the words of John are well known,

“Not that we first loved him, but he first loved us,”

(1 John 4:10.)

But there is no debate here about cause or effect; and therefore there is no ground for the inference, that the love with which we love Christ comes in order before the love which God has toward us; for Christ meant only, that all who love him will be happy, because they will also be loved by him and by the Father; not that God then begins to love them, but because they have a testimony of his love to them, as a Father, engraven on their hearts. To the same purpose is the clause which immediately follows: —

And I will manifest myself to him. Knowledge undoubtedly goes before love; but Christ’s meaning was, I will grant to those who purely observe my doctrine, that they shall make progress from day to day in faith; that is, “I will cause them to approach more nearly and more familiarly to me.” Hence infer, that the fruit of piety is progress in the knowledge of Christ; for he who promises that he will give himself to him who has it rejects hypocrites, and causes all to make progress in faith who, cordially embracing the doctrine of the Gospel, bring themselves entirely into obedience to it. And this is the reason why many fall back, and why we scarcely see one in ten proceed in the right course; for the greater part do not deserve that he should manifest himself to them. It ought also to be observed, that a more abundant knowledge of Christ is here represented as an extraordinary reward of our love to Christ; and hence it follows that it is an invaluable treasure.

John Calvin, Commentary on John, Volume 2, John 14:21-24

Calvin stresses that the love spoken of in John 14:21 is not a new love that the believer did not previously possess. As we have seen elsewhere in scripture, God’s love for His elect is not conditioned on our choice of Him, nor on any righteousness of our own. Rather, Christ is pointing in this passage to one of the defining traits of anyone who is truly reborn: they will love God. God the Father loves those who love His Son and keep His commandments, because the Spirit has made it possible for them do those things. While Calvin does acknowledge that there is a sense in which we grow in our knowledge of the love of God, and our communion with Him can certainly improve, this does not represent an addition of love, but rather a change in our experience of that love.

The unconditional, electing love that we have from God is not somehow compounded by a conditional love. There is nothing you can possibly do to earn the love of God. You may say, “But what about my good deeds which I have done for Him?” Yes, you did the deeds, but what makes them good? The Spirit of God working within you. Who first made you alive to do the deeds of God? The Spirit did. Who indwells you every day and enables you to perform those good works? The Spirit of God.

Therefore, when you present your good works to God, you do not present something that you achieved on your own. You present the works of God that were performed through you. This is what it means to be an instrument of God.  Nothing we do of ourselves is untainted. No good works can be performed without the Spirit. You are not adding to the work of Christ. He is adding to it through you.

It is rather strange to speak of something as “conditional” when God meets all the conditions. It is not a strictly incorrect use of the term, but it confuses the modern person, for when we hear the word conditional, we think of something that we must do of ourselves. However, there is nothing good that we can do of ourselves, and no righteousness that can be attained without the Spirit of God. Even faith must be given to us. We can speak of faith as a condition, but once again, it is a condition that has to be met by God. (Ephesians 2:8-9; Hebrews 12:2) Likewise, we can speak of good works as being necessary, but that causes some to believe that our justification is based on our own good works, our sanctification requires a certain pre-determined amount of good works to see heaven, or we can perform good works through our own power, all of which are fallacies.

Therefore, we must be very careful to explain what we mean by “necessary”: we mean that a person who is justified will necessarily increase in sanctification, because saving faith always produces fruit. Please note that this fruit is not necessary for justification, nor is there a set amount of fruit that we must produce before we are sanctified enough to enter heaven. Rather, the fruit serves as proof of our heart condition, our heart condition serves as proof of our regeneration, and our regeneration serves as proof of our justification.

Good works are necessary in that they always follow rebirth in the Spirit, but we cannot produce them without the Spirit, and we are not justified on the basis of our own good works. We are justified by having the righteousness of Christ imputed to us. (Romans 3:21-26; Philippians 3:9) Even so, if we describe any part of our salvation as conditional, we must make very clear that it is God Almighty who produces those conditions in us. We can do nothing without Him, but with Him we are guaranteed to persevere, for He does not change and His sovereign choice will be accomplished in us.

In much the same manner as Calvin, Jonathan Edwards saw God’s love for us as an unchanging fact based upon our election—a love that would carry us through to the end.

The gospel teaches us the doctrine of the eternal electing love of God, and reveals how God loved those that are redeemed by Christ before the foundation of the world; and how He then gave them to the Son, and the Son loved them as His own. The gospel reveals the wonderful love of God the Father to poor sinful, miserable men, in giving Christ not only to love them while in the world, but to love them to the end. And all this love is spoken of as bestowed on us while we were wanderers, outcasts, worthless, guilty, and even enemies. The gospel reveals such love as nothing else reveals. John 15:13, ‘Greater love hath no man than this.’ Romans 5:7–8, ‘Scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth His love towards us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.’

Jonathan Edwards, Charity and its Fruits[2]

Apart from the obvious damage that the preaching of a conditional love of God could do to a person’s assurance, it also conflicts with some of the classic, orthodox teachings about God’s nature. The ancient creeds and Reformation era confessions all held that God was immutable, meaning that His eternal nature is not subject to change. They also taught that He is “simple” in the sense that there is nothing contradictory in His nature. In Him is all fullness and perfection. His attributes do not conflict with one another, but rather are one and the same. Even as we speak of the Persons of the Trinity existing in perfect unity, so God’s eternal attributes are a perfect unity. The Reformed confessions furthermore state that God does not possess “parts” or “passions”. Consider this example:

The Lord our God is but one only living and true God; whose subsistence is in and of himself, infinite in being and perfection; whose essence cannot be comprehended by any but himself; a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts, or passions, who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; who is immutable, immense, eternal, incomprehensible, almighty, every way infinite, most holy, most wise, most free, most absolute; working all things according to the counsel of his own immutable and most righteous will for his own glory; most loving, gracious, merciful, long-suffering, abundant in goodness and truth, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin; the rewarder of them that diligently seek him, and withal most just and terrible in his judgments, hating all sin, and who will by no means clear the guilty.

1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith, Chapter 2, Point 1

When we say that God does not have passions, we do not mean that He does not have emotions (although humans often assume that emotions are subject to change, which God’s are not). As the Apostle John tells us, God not only loves, but He actually is love. (1 John 4:8) It is a constant of His character. It is for this very reason that the love of God does not change. If He defines love, and love is in His very nature, then He cannot love in one way today and another way tomorrow. That would be a changing definition and a changing nature.

Consider some of the important Bible verses that testify to God’s immutability (i.e. the fact that He does not change). God told the Prophet Malachi that His eternal nature is the source of our confidence and comfort. “For I, the Lord, do not change; therefore you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed.” (Malachi 3:6) A similar prophecy also came from the lips of Balaam. “God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent; Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?” (Numbers 23:19) This immutability  is what makes God truly eternal: He always exists in exactly the same way, without change in His nature.

As the author of Hebrews assures us regarding the second Person of the Trinity, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever,” (Hebrews 13:8) and Christ Himself said to the Apostle John, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” (Revelation 22:13) Furthermore, James tells us not only that all good things come from God, but that there is no change in the divine nature. “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.” (James 1:17)

Even as God’s nature does not change, so His attributes do not wax and wane. He is always loving and always wrathful, even as He is always holy. As we are bound by linear time (the progression of seconds, minutes, hours, etc.), we experience those things differently from day to day. When we are more in line with His will, we may feel a stronger sense of His love. Those who are deep in unrepentant sin experience His wrath. However, that is not a change in God: it is a change in us.

The believer whose sins have been forgiven and who has been credited with the righteousness of Jesus Christ is already sanctified in the eyes of God (Hebrews 10:10-14), even though he or she is still battling the sinful nature. How can that be? Because God views us in terms of the perfect righteousness of Christ that was imputed to us. You cannot get any better than perfect. Therefore, to the extent that God could be said to love us based on righteousness, His love could never increase, and the wrath He had in response to our sin is removed.

Does this mean that there is no need for us to put to death the deeds of the flesh, with which we still struggle on a daily basis? Of course not! Although we have been declared “not guilty” in heaven, our present sins still prevent us from having a right relationship with God in the here and now. It is possible for us, through our actions, to walk nearer or farther from Christ. However, Christ never actually changes through all of this. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He is always drawing us—always calling us to repentance and communion. At times, He may even discipline us, but that is a sign of His love, “For whom the Lord loves He reproves, Even as a father corrects the son in whom he delights.” (Proverbs 3:12)

God’s attributes are eternal and unchanging, but because we are bound by linear time, we experience them differently at various moments. Thus, God is always compassionate, but His compassion is also said to be “new every morning”. (Lamentations 3:23) What this means is not that God was once less compassionate and now is more compassionate, but rather that we see His compassion applied in linear time at different points and in different ways. God is not bound by time as we are. If He were, He would be subject to change. While God acts within linear time and even exists within it (for He is omnipresent), He is not bound by linear time. That is what it means to be eternal.

Therefore, God has always loved us in exactly the same manner, but we may also speak of Him giving us love at different points in linear time, such as His Incarnation. We received the fullness of grace when we were elected, but He also gives us “more grace” or a “greater grace” as we progress from day to day. (James 4:6, alternate wordings from the ESV and NASB) Was God holding back His grace before, or did His grace change? No, but we see it applied differently as linear time progresses, even as we experience it more fully when we are walking more closely with Him. These actions within linear time are a form of condescension (in the best sense of the term) that God makes toward His creatures, who cannot even comprehend the eternal.

At this point, you might be wondering, “If that is the case, then why does scripture sometimes speak as if God was relenting or otherwise changing?” Some would argue that when scripture says God repents, moves from wrath to love, or begins to be something He previously was not, we must take that literally. In order to make such an argument while still maintaining God’s immutability, they suggest that God has a kind of dual nature: He has an eternal, unchanging sense, but He also has a temporal, changing sense. That might sound reasonable enough upon first read, but even a brief analysis reveals it to be false.

God does not have two different natures. That would be a contradiction within Himself. He cannot be immutable and have any part of His nature that is subject to change. Even as you cannot make a divide within the Persons of the Godhead, you cannot make a divide within God’s nature or His attributes. Either God changes or He doesn’t, and it will do no good to isolate one part of God’s nature and say, “This part alone can change,” for that creates a contradiction within God Himself.

The very thing that separates the Creator from His creatures is the fact that in Him there is no contradiction. God is perfect unity. He is eternal, unchanging, and fully glorious. He is already perfect, so what would be the purpose of change? He Himself is the source of all that is good, so what good does He need to take from others? He is the eternal Creator, so in what sense does He need to be created? Here the Word of the LORD: “I AM that I AM.” (Exodus 3:14) That is our clue. He did not say, “I will be more than I am now.” He did not say, “I was once this way, but now I am not.” He is forever and always “I AM”—the only constant in a sea of contradiction, and the One who brings order out of chaos.

So what is happening when scripture speaks of God changing? I would suggest that it is the very same thing that happened when the Apostle John attempted to describe to human beings the wonders of heaven and was forced to resort to symbolic language. We must understand that our Creator is higher than us, and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts. When He speaks to us, He must do so in a manner of condescension: not in the sense of demeaning us, but in the sense of meeting us at our level.

We are limited in so many ways. We exist in only one physical location at a time, even as we exist at only one point on the timeline of history at any given moment. Our reasoning is flawed. Our sinful natures are still active. When the Lord of the universe speaks to us, He must do so while taking into account these limitations. The eternal must speak to the temporal. The holy must speak to the unholy. Unity must speak to contradiction. Perfection must speak to imperfection.

The scriptures often describe things from our point of view, so they speak of God changing His mind (e.g. Jonah 3:10), which is to say He comes with a wrathful message one day and a merciful one the next. What changed? God did not change. We changed. We were unrepentant one day and repentant the next. Therefore, we experienced the wrath one day and forgiveness the next. But tell me this: if God knew all along what was going to happen, did He really change His mind? No, of course He didn’t. You cannot maintain that God has perfect foreknowledge and still believe that He could genuinely change His mind. He always has the same standard of righteousness, and our experience changes to the extent that we do or do not meet that standard in linear time.

All of this has important implications for our understanding of God’s love for us. If God’s love is part of His eternal nature, and His eternal nature does not change, then His love is likewise immutable, even as Augustine suggested back in that tractate I quoted earlier: “The love, therefore, wherewith God loves, is incomprehensible and immutable.” This necessarily means that no part of God’s love comes into being as a result of our actions or heart condition. That would represent a change in one of His attributes. It would mean that God has both “parts” and “passions”. Moreover, scripture never suggests that God’s love for His elect grows as they put to death the deeds of the flesh, but rather that their experience of that love changes.

Therefore, while I certainly appreciate the concerns that some have about antinomianism, we must find some other way to motivate wayward believers than to suggest that God does not love them as much because of their sinful actions, or that righteous behavior can cause Him to love them more. While it is certainly possible to please God more or less due to our actions, this is not truly a change in His attitude toward us, but a change in how we compare to His standards. We are the ones changing. Our communion with God is hurt by our own sinful actions. Christ will never forsake those who are truly in Him, but they will certainly have their Christian walk hindered if they ignore His commands, and they may eventually become subject to discipline (either from the church or from above) in order to draw them to repentance.

Let us never suggest that the love with which God elected us was not the fullness of His love, or that the grace with which He regenerated us was not the fullness of His grace. Those aspects of His nature are eternal and unchanging. Let us rather say with the Apostle Paul, “I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus”. (Philippians 3:12b) If you cannot find motivation enough in scripture to follow God’s commands without having His love for you called into question, then perhaps you are not His child. But if you are His child, know most assuredly that His love for you will never change, for it is not based on your choice of Him, but rather His choice of you. It is based on His righteousness and not your own. Therefore, do not fear that you will lose that love, or stress over gaining more of it, for if you are in Christ, then the following is actually true: God loves you completely right now, just as you are, and that will never change.

Unless otherwise specified or contained within another author’s writings, all scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible, copyright The Lockman Foundation.

[1] Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. The Cost of Discipleship. Translated by München, Fuller, and Booth (New York: Touchstone, 1995), 44-45.

[2] Edwards, Jonathan. Charity and Its Fruits (Banner of Truth: Carlisle, PA, 1852/2000), 19-20.

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