Is It Biblical to Say That God Loves Everyone?

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.

Bold Thoughts About God’s Love For Us

love01As a pastor, Paul was very concerned for the spiritual welfare of God’s children and prayed that each one might be “rooted and grounded in love, having strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (Eph. 3:17-19)

I think many Christians feel that AT BEST, God has a grudging acceptance of us. It is as if God is saying, “I accept you but I don’t like you that much. However, seeing you accepted Christ, I guess I have to accept you too.”

That kind of idea stands in total contrast from the biblical revelation. Nothing could be further from the truth! God, for no reason known to us (and certainly not because of anything He saw in us), decided to personally elect each and every one of His saints so that they would be saved, and sent His Son to the world to accomplish their redemption. We read, “But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.” – 2 Thess. 2:13, 14. Ephesians also drives this exact same point home to us in the clearest of terms. God has gone to enormous lengths to save each of His precious sheep and He did so, because He wanted to. He actually wanted us. He actually loves us. As believers we must renew our minds to this fact.

When our emotions and even our circumstances seem to suggest something other than this, we must take such thoughts captive and believe (and rest in) the Father’s love for us. 1 John 3: 1 says, “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.” We are told to “see” something. May I ask, “do you see this?” Has your heart been awakened and enflamed because you know of God’s love for you personally?

John Owen once stated, “Men are afraid to have good thoughts of God. They think it is a boldness to eye God as good, gracious, tender, kind, loving. I speak of saints. They can judge him hard, austere, severe, almost implacable, and fierce (the very worst affections of the very worst of men, and most hated by God). Is not this soul-deceit from Satan? Was it not his design from the beginning to inject such thoughts of God? Assure yourself, then, there is nothing more acceptable to the Father than for us to keep up our hearts unto him as the eternal fountain of all that rich grace which flows out to sinners in the blood of Jesus.”

Think about that. Then think on it again. Oh, that God’s people were saturated in this truth of the love of God! I’m convinced it would change so much about us.

Ray Ortlund writes, “We might think it would be more honoring to God to hold back from bold thoughts of his love in Christ. We might think, He is so holy. I am so opposite. God must despise me. And if he does, well, it’s only right. But Owen calls that thinking “soul-deceit from Satan.” He asserts that “there is nothing more acceptable to the Father” than our seeing God above as flowing out to us in gracious love, that we believe it and receive it in Christ… If Owen is right, then we are sinfully cautious. ‘But when he came to his senses . . .’ (Luke 15:17).”

Again, precious child of God, think about that!

In all He calls us to walk through, yes, even the trials you are going through just now, there is not a single detail of it that has not come to you except through the providential rule of One who loves you with an eternal, unbreakable, immutable (never changing) love.

As we approach the Lord’s day, may I encourage you to take a little time to meditate deeply on God’s personal love for you, His child. And as you do, I pray that God would do much in your life, drawing you ever closer to Him.

You are loved and cherished. Remember that!

Understanding The Love of God

DA CARSONArticle: D. A. Carson: 5 Key Realities the Bible Teaches about God’s Love (original source edited by Christopher W. Morgan.

Some Different Ways the Bible Speaks of the Love of God

I had better warn you that not all of the passages to which I refer actually use the word love. When I speak of the doctrine of the love of God, I include themes and texts that depict God’s love without ever using the word, just as Jesus tells parables that depict grace without using that word.

With that warning to the fore, I draw your attention to five distinguishable ways the Bible speaks of the love of God. This is not an exhaustive list, but it is heuristically useful.

1. The Peculiar Love of the Father for the Son and of the Son for the Father

John’s Gospel is especially rich in this theme. Twice we are told that the Father loves the Son, once with the verb jagapaw (John 3:35), and once with oilew (5:20). Yet the evangelist also insists that the world must learn that Jesus loves the Father (14:31). This intra-Trinitarian love of God not only marks off Christian monotheism from all other monotheisms but is bound up in surprising ways with revelation and redemption.

2. God’s Providential Love over All That He Has Made

By and large the Bible veers away from using the word love in this connection, but the theme is not hard to find. God creates everything, and before there is a whiff of sin, he pronounces all that he has made to be “good” (Genesis 1). This is the product of a loving Creator. The Lord Jesus depicts a world in which God clothes the grass of the fields with the glory of wildflowers seen by no human being, perhaps, but seen by God. The lion roars and hauls down its prey, but it is God who feeds the animal. The birds of the air find food, but that is the result of God’s loving providence, and not a sparrow falls from the sky apart from the sanction of the Almighty (Matthew 6). If this were not a benevolent providence, a loving providence, then the moral lesson that Jesus drives home, viz., that this God can be trusted to provide for his own people, would be incoherent.

3. God’s Salvific Stance toward His Fallen World

God so loved the world that he gave his Son (John 3:16). I know that some try to take k´osmoy (“world”) here to refer to the elect. But that really will not do. All the evidence of the usage of the word in John’s Gospel is against the suggestion. True, “world” in John does not so much refer to bigness as to badness. In John’s vocabulary, “world” is primarily the moral order in willful and culpable rebellion against God. In John 3:16, God’s love in sending the Lord Jesus is to be admired not because it is extended to so big a thing as the world, but to so bad a thing; not to so many people, as to such wicked people. Nevertheless, elsewhere John can speak of “the whole world” (1 John 2:2),1 thus bringing bigness and badness together. More importantly, in Johannine theology the disciples themselves once belonged to the world but were drawn out of it (e.g., John 15:19). On this axis, God’s love for the world cannot be collapsed into his love for the elect.

The same lesson is learned from many passages and themes in Scripture. However much God stands in judgment over the world, he also presents himself as the God who invites and commands all human beings to repent. He orders his people to carry the gospel to the farthest corner of the world, proclaiming it to men and women everywhere. To rebels the sovereign Lord calls out, “As surely as I live . . . I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, people of Israel?” (Ezek. 33:11).2 Continue reading