And so we said that God’s love is unlimited in its extent. But the second proposition we started last week and we’ll continue it this morning is that God’s love is limited in degree. While He loves the whole world He does not love them to the degree that He loves His own. Those who belong to the Lord are the special objects of His love. He had for them a love that is beyond the love that He has for the world. In fact, we must remind you that the love God has for the world is temporal, that is it exists only in the framework of time. It exists only in this life.
It is temporary. And eventually, for those who refuse Jesus Christ, that love turns to hate, that hate results in eternal judgment. God does love the world in a temporal temporary way bound by space and time, in the physical realm that love turns to hate and judgment for those who reject Him. And the sad truth is that while God loves the world, extends compassion toward the world, common grace, warnings about judgment and the gospel, Jesus said you will not come to Me that you might have life. Men refuse the gift that God offers, therefore God’s love turns to hate and judgment.
…He loves His own with a love that reaches to the fullest of His capacity to love, as we saw last time. And no one has expressed that better than the Apostle John who said, “Having loved His own who were in the world,” John 13:1, “He loved them eistelos, and that phrase can mean He loves them completely, perfectly, fully, it can mean to the end, to the limit, to the max, to the last. It can mean undying, eternal, ever lasting and it means all of that…all of that. The Lord loves His own in a way that is going to be demonstrated through out all eternity, and as I said, even all eternity can’t exhaust the expression of that love.
It’s mystery. How can we ever expect to understand why He would choose to love us in such a way? Why is it that God at best didn’t just say, “Well I’m going to concede to you, you’re a bunch of wretched sinners, I’m going to let you into My heaven, you can enjoy a few things but don’t expect a lot?” And why isn’t it that there’s some minimal expression of God’s love to those of us who have sinned against His holy name? Why doesn’t He express the maximal levels of His love for the holy angels who never fell and who faithfully throughout all of time have been loyal to love the God who made them? He damned the angels who fell with no hope of redemption, why would He redeem man? We don’t know the answer to that except that He predetermined to love us and by loving us to draw us to Himself.
He loves the world with a temporal love. He loves with world with a love of compassion, a love of goodness. He loves them enough to warn them. But that love is bound by time and when time ends for them, so does that love and they enter into hell and judgment. But His own who believe in Jesus Christ and have come to Him in repentant faith, He loves them with an everlasting love that cannot ever be broken.
Gods kindness in eternity
And why did He do this? Why would He save dead sinners? Why? Verse 7 gives you the reason for all of it. “In order,” and that’s a purpose clause, “for the purpose that in the ages to come,” that’s through all eternity, “He might show the surpassing riches of His grace.” How’s He going to show the surpassing riches of His grace toward us? “In kindness.” What? What does that mean? That means God saved us when we were dead in our sins so that He might be able forever to show us His kindness. That’s astounding.
God loves us enough to discipline us. Why? To push us back into the path of blessing. Chapter 6…or chapter 12 verse 6, “For those whom the Lord loves He…what?…He chastens,” He disciplines. “And He scourges every son whom He receives.” It is for discipline that you endure. God deals with you as with sons. “For what son is there whom his father doesn’t discipline? If you are without discipline of which all have become partakers, then you’re illegitimate children and not sons.” If you’re not being disciplined by God, you don’t belong to Him because if you belong to Him He’ll discipline you because He loves you so much.
And when you do that, verse 18 says, you will be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth and you will be able to know the love of Christ which surpasses…what?…knowledge
The point is, you can only comprehend it when you’ve experienced it. That reminds me of Louis Armstrong the great jazz trumpeter who was once asked to explain jazz. And his classic answer was, “Man, if I’ve got to explain it, you ain’t got it.”
God no prisoner
…it is an absolutely essential truth to understand.
Because God loves the world does not mean that He is obligated to be an unqualified lover of everybody equally. That is not the case. He is not a prisoner of His own love nor is He a prisoner of man’s desire for that love or of man’s reasoning’s about that love. God does not have to love everyone the same no matter what, no matter who just because people expect it or men think it’s fair or equitable. And so I say again, because God loves does not mean He is obligated to be an unqualified lover of all people equally. Obviously He is not. He loves the world in one sense, He loves His own in a far-greater way.
Let me say it another way. Because God loves does not mean that His love is separated from His other attributes. It does not mean that that love exists, as it were, in isolation from everything else as if it was untouched, unmodified and unmixed and unaffected by holiness, wrath, righteousness, judgment and every other attribute.
God is neither the jailor nor is He the prisoner of any of His attributes. Each of them acts not independently but in perfect harmony with all the others. If God then is to glorify Himself, He must put all of His attributes on display. And whatever His love accomplishes can in no way obliterate His other attributes. Whatever His mercy and grace and kindness and goodness and tender-heartedness achieved cannot obliterate what will be made manifest by His hatred, His anger, His wrath, His vengeance and His justice. All of God’s attributes have a place in the demonstration that He carries out through the purposes of creation.
For God’s own sake
Verse 11, here’s the key, “For My own sake, for My own sake, I will act.” That’s the key. You ought to underline that and never forget it. Whatever God does He does for His own glory. “For My own sake, for My own sake I will act. I cannot let My name be profaned and My glory I will not give to anyone else.” I will do whatever My glory dictates I must do. And My glory is a glory manifest in wrath, it is a glory manifest in forgiveness, it is a glory manifest in restraint and patience, whatever it is I will do it if it’s consistent with My glory. We could sum it up by saying God has an unswerving commitment to act for His own glory.
His ultimate glory demands that He not save everybody or He would.
Why will you die?
You say, “What about the people on the other side?” Well the Bible addresses them and all I can say is this, to those of you who don’t know Christ the issue is always your unbelief. You can’t look around to see if your name is on a list of the chosen. There’s no list, at least in this world. You don’t need to try to talk to somebody who can find out for you from God whether you’ve been chosen. What you need to do is repent and believe cause that’s what the Bible tells you to do. In fact, the Bible says God has commanded all men everywhere to repent. And Jesus said, “Him that comes to Me I will not turn away.” And the book of Revelation ends with this invitation, “Whosoever will, let him come.” It’s not an issue of trying to find out if you belong to the ones that God has chosen to display His grace, it’s an issue of whether you’re willing to turn from your sin. And that’s what God says to you…turn from your sin. In fact, the prophet said, “Why will you die? Repent, turn, turn, why will you die?” As if to say it doesn’t have to happen.
God’s love to the world is qualified by the demands of His glory. It is qualified by the demands of His glory. That is a very important statement. I thought about it a long time before I stated it that way because there is so much at stake. God does not have an unconditional and unqualified love for the world. It is qualified and it is qualified not by the demands of people, not by the demands of human reason but by the demands of God’s own personal glory. That is to say, God defines that love consistently with all of His other attributes. And it is precisely at this point that we have to realize that because God loves does not mean that He is obligated to an unqualified love of all people equally. He is not a prisoner of that love. Or worse, He is not a prisoner of man’s assumptions about that love or man’s wishes about that love or man’s desires for that love.
Nowhere in Scripture will we find that God is an unqualified lover of all people equally.
He is not.
God’s love is qualified to the world, to all. And it is qualified by the demands placed upon Him for personal integrity. That is to be consistent with His nature. God does not love, God cannot love in a way that makes love unmixed, untouched, unmingled or unaffected by, for example, wrath, judgment, justice, holiness, righteousness.
Romans Chapter 9
In other words, God has to love in a way which is reflective of all of His other personal attributes. And that’s what we’re looking at as we come to Romans chapter 9. Here we have an incredible insight, a thorough and comprehensive insight into God, into the demands of God’s glory that involve themselves in the saving enterprise. Obviously if you have read the book of Romans you know that by the time you have completed chapter 8 you have completed the greatest treatise on salvation ever penned.
It’s all about God loving sinners and saving them through Jesus Christ. It’s all about the wonderful realities of justification and sanctification. It’s all about repentance and faith. It’s about being depraved sinner and dying and rising again in union with Jesus Christ to newness of life. It’s all about salvation. And salvation, of course, is all built on the premise of God’s love for sinners. So we could say safely that we’ve been reading for eight chapters about God’s saving love.
But when you come to chapter 9 you are introduced to a most important issue with regard to God’s saving love. And that is how God’s saving love mingles itself with all other of God’s attributes which must be considered in line with God’s saving purpose. As you go back, for example, into Romans chapter 1 you will remember that Paul says in verse 16, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Gentile.” In other words, God’s love has sent a gospel message across the earth to every person, Jew and Gentile, that says if you believe, this gospel is the power of God unto salvation. It is then that God’s love has extended to all men and provided for them a gospel invitation.
We could conclude when we come to the end of chapter 8 that the love of God has sent the gospel to the ends of the earth because God desires all to hear and believe, and that would be true.
Why is it that people aren’t saved if it’s God’s will?
But then the immediate question would come up…if God has provided a Savior for the world and a call to believe to the world and God has provided a sufficient sacrifice on the cross for all the sins of all mankind, if it is God’s desire that none perish and if God wants the Apostles to proclaim the truth from one end of the globe to the other, why is it that people aren’t saved if it’s God’s will? That really is the question that leads to Romans 9, 10 and 11. Let’s start in Romans 9 with the first five verses.
And Paul’s going to answer that here. And he starts to answer that by simply saying, “Look, I recognize that Israel’s not saved. And I recognize it so profoundly and deeply that it causes me great sorrow and unceasing grief and I could even wish myself to be damned forever if they would be saved. That’s how much I care.” He is expressing really something of the grief of God, isn’t he.
You remember that God Himself cried tears through the eyes of Jeremiah over the unbelief of Israel
And Jesus Himself cried tears over the lostness of Jerusalem.
The heart of God is grieved and sorrowful. And Paul is reflecting that as the messenger of God and an Apostle of Jesus Christ, as he calls himself. He says the thing that makes it so sad is the Israelites are the ones, verse 4, who have the adoption, who have the glory, the covenants, the giving of the Law, the temple, the promises whose are the fathers, the patriarchs and from whom comes the Messiah according to the flesh who is over all, God blessed forever.
Well the answer is in verse 6 and this is where we want to pick up the text. “But it is not as though the Word of God has failed.” No. The fact that all Jews are not converted does not mean God doesn’t tell the truth, or can’t keep His Word or is too indifferent to bother about it. It does not mean God’s Word has failed…
And here’s how he explains it. “You have to understand God’s saving power, you have to understand God’s saving love, you have to understand God’s saving purpose and plan in complete accord with every other attribute He possesses.” In other words, His love cannot spell the end of His wrath. His love cannot spell the end of His judgment, justice, vengeance, punishment, anger. Those are part of God as well. Those make up His character and His being so that whatever it is that God does with regard to love is perfectly mingled and in absolute harmony with every other attribute.
First, He is glorified in His sovereignty…He is glorified in His sovereignty. Verse 6, “It is not as though the Word of God has failed,” here’s the reasons, “for they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel.” What? What is he saying? He is saying there are two Israels, there is a descendant Israel, that’s a natural Israel, that is the Jewish race that came out of the loins of Abraham who was the man God used to found the nation. There is that natural physical Israel. But not all of that Israel is the true Israel.
In other words, within the natural Israel there is a spiritual Israel. And that is what Paul was talking about in Romans 2:28 and 29 when he said, “It is not the one who is outwardly circumcised who is a Jew, it is the one who is inwardly circumcised who is a true Jew.” But here Paul says, “Look, God never intended to save all Israel.” That’s what he’s saying.
God’s Word has not failed. It is not that He is impotent, indifferent or dishonest. God never intended all Jews to be saved in the first place…listen to me…because if God had intended all Jews to be saved, all Jews would be saved. That is a hard thing to understand but that is exactly what Scripture says and that is consistent with the sovereignty of God. Israel’s unbelief does not cancel God’s Word, it does not somehow detract from the integrity of His character, it does not mean that He is impotent, indifferent or dishonest. God never intended to save all Israel. All natural Israel is not the true Israel. God always purposed within natural Israel to save only some Jews so that the real spiritual Israel was within the nation. The nation…listen carefully…was elected to privilege but individuals were chosen for salvation. The real Israel is the Israel of faith, the elect Israel, elect to salvation.
Ishmael and Isaac
Now God made a choice when He chose Abraham, right? By the very virtue of choosing Abraham, He passed over everybody else. But then once He chose Abraham, He gave Abraham a wife by the name of Sarah, He made a promise that He would through the loins of Abraham bless and there would come not only a national Israel through the loins of Abraham but there would come a calling or an election to spiritual salvation among those people. But God was selective because Abraham had two sons…did he not? The first born son of Abraham was named Ishmael, he was not born to Sarah, he was born to Hagar, a hand maiden but nonetheless was the first born of Abraham. But God passed by Ishmael and the second son born to Abraham and Sarah was whom? Isaac. And God chose Isaac. From the very beginning what the Apostle Paul is saying, “Look, not everybody who came out of the loins of Abraham was chosen by God. God passed by Ishmael.” And that’s illustrative of God’s sovereign selective process. He always purposed to choose. Ishmael was excluded, was rejected.
Then verse 9, “For this is a word of promise, at this time I will come and Sarah shall have a son.” Now that verse 9 is quoting Genesis 18:10 where God is saying, “I’m going to pick Sarah’s son, not Hagar’s.” Why? Why did God do that? Ishmael was equally Abraham’s son and the right of primogenitor was recognized to be through the father and in some ways it didn’t really matter who the mother was in patriarchal times, as you well know. Why? Purely because God is sovereign. Purely because God selects because He is in charge. And this demonstrates His absolute uninfluenced sovereignty. It is a strong illustration of unconditional election in its most unequivocal expression. God said I’m going to pass by Ishmael and Sarah’s going to have a son and he’s going to be the one. God made the choice. Abraham had two sons, several sons, only one was God’s choice, Isaac.