Does God Love Everyone?
God’s love is without a doubt His most popular and talked about trait. People the world over know that God is love (even if they can’t tell you that this truth is found in 1 Jn 4:8) and they often rely upon that reality as a means to assuage their conscience and guilt. More narrowly within the Christian community people often debate as to wether God loves everybody.
It is true that God is love and it is also true that God loves everybody. But, a thoughtful Christian who wants to be faithful to the Word of God can’t allow the statement “God loves everybody” to stand without further nuancing what it means.
This question was recently asked of me and it reminded me of a book I had read nearly fifteen years ago by DA Carson called The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God. While this book says way more than I intend to cover here, it does helpfully nuance the way the word “love” is used in God’s Word in order to help us better understand the answer to this question. Most importantly, the answer also leads us to worship God as His love displays His glory and holiness so wonderfully.
Much like we mean different things when we say “I love pizza” and “I love my spouse,” God’s Word uses the word “love” differently. The context in which it is found helps us understand if, to keep the metaphor going, it’s love for pizza or love for a spouse. Carson contends there are five ways we see God’s love used in Scripture.
“Yes,” God does love everyone. But, He doesn’t love everyone in the same way.
The first and most important way we see the word love used in the Bible is in regards to God’s peculiar intra-trinitarian love. This is the love the Father, Son, and Spirit have for one another (Jn 3:35; 5:20; 17:5, 26; Prov 8:22-31). This is a love that has no deficiencies or defects. This is a love that lacks nothing and it is a love that is eternal. This is a perfect, blessed, eternal, and fully-content love. This love is unique to the Trinity and its overflow is what leads to the four other loves below.
The next way we see God’s love displayed is in His providential love. God’s common grace infuses all parts of life from science, to sports, to nature, etc. The Bible tells us that God makes the rain fall and the sun shine on both the Christian and the non-Christian (Matt 5:45; Ps 145:9). All people for all time experience God’s love in this way.
A third way we see love used in the Bible is in regards to God’s yearning love. This is God’s salvific position towards all mankind which can be seen in 1 Tim 2:4 where God is described as desiring ‘all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth’ (cf. 2 Pet 3:9; Ezek 33:11). The death of Jesus is sufficient to pay for the sins of all people for all time, but we all know that not everyone repents and puts their faith in Jesus Christ. All people for all time experience God’s yearning love, but this love is quite different than the next way we see God’s love in the Bible.
The fourth way we see love used in the Bible is in regards to God’s elective love. This is God’s selective, particular and effective love towards those whom He chose to put it on since before time began (Eph 1:4-5; Jn 6:37, 39; 10:28-29; Rom 9:16, 18). All those loved in this way will eventually repent, put their faith and trust in Jesus, and treasure Him forever. Only the elect of God are loved in this way.
The final way we see love used in the Bible is in regards to God’s conditional love. This love pertains only to those who are already followers of Christ. It depends, in measure, on certain things we do (Jude 21) and it involves the discipline of the Lord towards those who are His (Heb 12:7-11) kindly drawing them back into His revealed will.
Whenever we talk about anything in regards to God and theology, it is important that we define terms and know what we mean when we use those terms. God’s love, like God Himself, is a beautiful reality! But, it’s important to remember that it is only one of His glorious attributes and His love works in concert with His righteousness, His mercy, His justice, and His wrath.
So, “Yes,” God does love everyone. But, He doesn’t love everyone in the same way. Have you experienced His elective love? If not, today is the day to turn and put your faith and trust in Him. If you have experienced His love in this way, praise Him for His kindness, His sacrifice, and, of course, for His love.
Ps 106:1 – Praise the Lord! Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever!