In this brief clip from Ligonier Ministries’ 2017 National Conference, R.C. Sproul answers the question, “Is it biblical to say that God loves everyone?”
“Often I hear the phrase ‘God loves you’ proclaimed to a group of people which may include both Christians and non-Christians. Is this biblical to say that phrase to just anyone?”
When we look at the concept of the love of God in Scripture, we see distinctions that have to be made. Historically and theologically we distinguish among three types of divine love. There is the love of benevolence, where God has a kind spirit to the whole world and His benevolent will, His benevolent love falls on everybody. But there’s also the sense in which in the Bible the love of God is defined in terms of God’s beneficence, that is that’s not just simply what His attitude is towards the world but how He displays that goodness universally—the rain falls upon the just as well as on the unjust. And so that universal dimension of the love of God is manifest but usually when we’re talking about the love of God in popular language, what we’re really talking about is what we call God’s love of complacency. And that term, the love of complacency, is not used in the way in which we use the term complacency in our age, in our culture. Our term of complacency means smugness, self-satisfaction, that sort of thing.
But rather when the Scriptures indicate the love of complacency, it’s that special love that God has for His Son, and all of those who are in His Son, and who are adopted into His family. And if we talk about the love of God in His terms of the love of complacency and talk about it universally, that’s blasphemy because God does not love the whole world in the love of complacency. In fact, the Scriptures tell us that there are many ways in which God is at enmity with the world. He hates the world, He hates those who are swift to shed blood, and we have to take that into account. When I hear preachers stand up and say that ‘God loves everybody unconditionally,’ I want to scream and say, ‘Wait a minute. Then why does He call us to repent? Why does He call us to come to the cross? Why does He call us to come to Christ?’ If God loves everybody unconditionally, then you can do whatever you want and believe whatever you think. And it’s just not true that God loves us unconditionally. He’s placed an absolute condition by which He requires—He doesn’t just invite people to come to His Son—He commands all men everywhere to repent of their sins and to come to Christ. And if you want to enjoy the love of complacency you have to be in Christ.