Many times I have been led to declare Christ’s love over and against the love that mere humans can express. In fact, as much as we can love anyone, Christ can love beyond our love, in a way that is pure and devoted to the glory of God! We can’t even imagine such love! We long for it, but we do not possess it… yet. The apostle John wrote that “we are God’s children now, and we know that when [Jesus] appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2). Someday we will love with the purity and God-centered focus that our awakened hearts long for!
Jonathan Edwards wrote of this love and noted that Christ has greater love for some than for others. He wrote,
“The love of the saints, one to another, will always be mutual and reciprocated, though we cannot suppose that everyone will, in all respects, be equally loved. Some of the saints are more beloved of God than others, even on earth. The angel told Daniel that he was a man “greatly beloved” (Daniel 9;23); and Luke is called the “beloved physician” (Colossians 4:14); and John, the “disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 20:2). And so, doubtless, those that have been most eminent in fidelity and holiness, and that are highest in glory, are most beloved by Christ in heaven; and doubtless those saints that are most beloved of Christ, and that are nearest to him in glory, are most beloved by all the other saints. Thus, we may conclude that such saints as the apostle Paul and the apostle John are more beloved by the saints in heaven than other saints of lower rank. They are more beloved by lower saints than those of equal rank with themselves. But then there are answerable returns of love in these cases; for as such are more beloved by all other saints, so they are fuller of love to other saints. The heart of Christ, the great Head of all the saints, is more full of love than the heart of any saint can be. He loves all the saints far more than any of them love each other. But the more any saint is loved of him, the more is that saint like him, in this respect, that the fuller his heart is of love.” – Heaven is a World of Love
It seems that many Western Christians are afraid to mention that God has special and unique love for some. We like our “equality” so much that it impacts how important “fidelity and holiness” are! But I love how Edwards does not shy back from pointing us to the glory of Christ’s love for those who are faithful and holy! Christ’s love for those who are marked by those qualities is greater than His love for those who are not faithful or holy.
Luke is a pastor-theologian living in northern California, serving as a co-lead pastor with his life, Dawn, at the Red Bluff Vineyard. Father of five amazing kids, when Luke isn’t hanging with his family, reading or writing theology, he moonlights as a fly fishing guide for Confluence Outfitters. He blogs regularly at LukeGeraty.com and regularly contributes to his YouTube channel.
Never thought about this. Purity is an important subject for the church.
So, are you saying that in order to be greatly loved by God, one needs to earn it? I believe Jesus had his closer disciples. Maybe that is like a father having a favorite child, even if they say fathers and mothers should love their children equally, are some more near and dear to their hearts? If so, is it that the child earned that by their works, their behaviour, or was it something in their character that created a special bond? How do you earn love? “For God so loved the world,”….seems to say everyone on earth is loved equally. David was a man after God’s own heart, and yet he was an adulterer and murderer in his lifetime. Could it be that examples like Luke the physician don’t mean that God loves him more but Paul loved him more? What made Luke more beloved, and Demas is just plain old Demas? But that they were mentioned with the tag “beloved”, did that mean he must have been purer or higher up on the love scale because he worked for it?
Well, I might not understand your comments, but I think Edwards was actually pointing more to the depth of Christ’s love than getting into the unique love that God has for the elect or believers. Edwards was most certainly Reformed and held to such a view, but this quote has more to do with contrasting human love with Christ’s love. Christ’s love is greater.
That being said, Edwards (and I join him) is seeing that Scripture reveals God’s pleasure in holiness and righteous and faithfulness and endurance, etc.
Edwards dealt with this in the 18th century. I think we deal with this type of thinking even more so. And I tend to think that the token “God loves us equally and regardless of how we live our lives” can be quite dangerous and disastrous because it often gives people false assurance and provides no need for repentance or sanctification. If God loves such living, why does He, as a loving God, judge people eternally apart from His presence?
The initial drawing of the Holy Spirit to experience the love and affections of Christ on the cross is certainly something we do not earn nor deserve. But Christians are not judged the same across the board. There are different rewards coming to people based off of how they steward their life. Paul mentions this and Jesus did so as well. This, in my estimation, is probably what Edwards was thinking of when he wrote of the love of Christ for those saints which treasure Christ so deeply!
Oh how great is His love in comparison with human love!
That God would love any of us is amazing! He’s so glorious!
God finding pleasure in transforming us doesn’t really seem to be the same thing as He will love you more as you are striving in your own power to be holy looking. The wages paid out to the workers in the bible from the beginning of the day til the end, were the same. And to me, that goes along with “saved by faith, not by deeds so no man can boast,” says to me that God loves us infinitely more than we can imagine and when someone or a group decides to try to measure their holiness to see if they can attain more of God’s love, something is amiss….greatly. I do not think God loves anyone because they have been saved longer or because they are living “purer” lives. We cannot judge what is going on inside a person, and I don’t think its our job.
I agree that to tell a Christian that they can live in any manner and it’s ok, is just wrong. I can’t imagine telling a non believer that they are ok and don’t need a saviour. Nor can I imagine telling anyone that they better work hard to prove and show their thankfulness to God for what He did for them. That would seem more like telling a small child they should be grateful for their parents and warm home, and they should get busy and work hard to make sure their parents know they are appreciated.
Is it wrong to emphasize God’s love for people, saved or not, for fear they think they can then live with abandon to what they are doing? At what point do we let the person next to us be governed by the Holy Spirit, speaking truth with love into their lives, but where do we let go and let God?
Why is it that to say “God loves you immeasurably” strikes fear into some hearts? Is there a control issue, an inability for us to find the Godly balance between expressing to others God’s unconditional love, and yet teaching there are still conditions in life we need to learn…? How can we teach lessons with out taking the love out of the mix?
Do we live our lives with the main concern of getting rewarded for our actions, before we live our lives thankful that God loves us? Can anyone really strive in life without the deep understanding that God’s love is immense for them ?
First, I hope you don’t mind that I placed your quotes in a way that would differentiate between your comments because it is easier to follow. In my old age (ha ha), I have a hard time reading this small font! Speaking of which… time to change the theme soon.
Secondly, interesting thoughts. Thanks for sharing!
I’m not sure that I agree with some of your conclusions, but they are certainly one perspective to consider, and can show the dangers of ignoring both sides of the coin. I’m still not sure if Edwards is being understood fully, but that’s the joy of small nuggets from different authors and theologians. We can’t always get their full disclosure.
At any rate, I see that a lot of Christians struggle with some of the Scriptures that tend to point to the rewards that we will give for remaining faithful and for doing the works related to the kingdom of God. For some reason, it seems to contradict their understanding of “saved by grace.” While I think there’s a fundamental misunderstanding of what that means, I can’t deny that the “tension” causes some to struggle.
But there are a lot of Scriptures that suggest that our works are a direct reflection of our faith. This seems to be James’ argument in 2:14-26 of his epistle. It also seems to me that a natural reading of Jesus’ offer of rewards would seem to cause an issue for some who take an absolutely “anti” works view. But why would Jesus offer rewards if we weren’t supposed to attempt to get them?
I don’t think anyone who says that we are to persevere and we will be rewarded for it does so stating that it is the main concern. That seems to be a misunderstanding. Again, the Bible has no problem emphasizing both as important aspects of sanctification. I’ve been reading a bit of John Piper’s Future Grace and it really does a great job of explaining how a lot of Evangelicals miss how the Scriptures call us to holiness based off of future rewards rather than strictly past grace. Kind of interesting, though I’m still working through it and studying it!
Anyway… good thoughts!